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EDITORIAL: The National Action Plan (NAP) was adopted in the wake of December 2014 carnage at the Army Public School in Peshawar, yet seven years later it remains largely unimplemented, though invoked whenever a major terror incident takes place.

A day after Tuesday’s suicide bombing on a van at the Karachi University that killed four people, three Chinese teachers and their driver, the federal cabinet met where Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif issued a directive for revisiting the NAP. Briefing journalists, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the Interior Minister has also been asked to work with all provinces and present a comprehensive plan to curb the recent rise in terrorist attacks.

The problem, however, is not lack of ideas but of political will to put them into action. One of the NAP’s 20 points, for instance, was ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organisation, yet most of them have resurfaced under new names. Another was registration and regulation of religious seminaries — some of which serve as breeding grounds of violent extremists, including suicide bombers — a large number of them continue to refuse registration as well as audit of their finances. The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was to be strengthened, but stays weak due to turf battles over its control.

What has assumed urgency in the present context is where NAP calls for fully empowering Balochistan government for political reconciliation owned by all stakeholders. Indeed, there is no denying that certain outsiders are fuelling insurgency in that province.

They make no secret of their desire to undermine the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s Road and Belt Initiative. That though becomes possible for them because of the prevailing sentiments in that restive province.

Tuesday’s suicide bombing was claimed by the Majeed Brigade of the so-called Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) which in 2020 attacked the Karachi Stock Exchange, and before that in 2018 targeted the Chinese Consulate. But the suicide bomber at the Confucius Institute of Karachi University turned out to be the least likely perpetrator: a well-educated woman and mother of two.

It speaks of the increasing sense of alienation in that part of the country, exacerbated by enforced disappearances. In fact, according to a report the bomber, Shari Baloch alias Bramsh, had sat for four years outside the Karachi Press Club demanding the recovery of her several missing relatives.

During his first visit as prime minister to Balochistan, Sharif had said he would raise the issue of missing persons with the powers that be. The statement is reflective of the uncomfortable reality that even the PM is not in a position to resolve the issues feeding insurgency as he deems fit.

Use of force is often times counter-productive in such situations. The one in Balochistan is rooted in the Baloch people’s long-standing grievances that need to be addressed through political means, as suggested by the political consensus-based NAP. For a time, a previous chief minister of the province, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, had initiated talks with the insurgents but the effort did not go far. The way forward still is the same as shown by NAP seven years ago.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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