A long drawn out war

Malik M Ashraf

IF we look at the history of countries which had to face the scourge of terrorism and how long it took them to eliminate and subdue the menace, it can be safely inferred from their experience that there was no quick fix solution to it. For them fighting terrorism invariably has been a long drawn out war with debilitating social, economic and political consequences. They not only had to fight the terrorists through their military muscles but also through effective counter narratives to the narratives of the terrorists, known as war on the ideological front. That probably is the most important aspect of the crusade against the despicable phenomenon of terrorism. It has to be fought vigorously in all its manifestations with unswerving commitment and resolve, more so to neutralize the philosophy of the terrorists that helps to swell their ranks and motivates its operatives to resort to acts like suicide bombing.
There is no denying the fact that operation Zarb-i-Azb has broken the back of the terrorist entities which have been carrying out acts of terrorism in the country, but the war is not won yet . Make no mistake it is not going to happen too soon. We still have a long way to go and the nation will have to endure this phenomenon for quite a long time. There are millions of followers of the narrative of the terrorists, their sympathizers and sleeping cells within the masses throughout the country. Then there are seminaries some of which are breeding grounds for the terrorists.
Sectarian terrorism is yet another devastating reality which derives its strength from the respective ideologies. All these factors are of very sensitive nature and require utmost care on the part of the government and the agencies engaged in curbing terrorism and sectarian violence. That probably is the reason why the progress on the elements of NAP in regards to regulating and registration of the seminaries and dealing with sectarian outfits has not been as rapid as desired, besides other administrative inadequacies and lack of effective coordination among different intelligence agencies and law enforcing departments of the government.
Nevertheless, the government and the military commanders are unanimous in their view that for fighting terrorism on the internal front, NAP was the comprehensive blueprint. There was an imperative need to reappraise the implementation of the plan with a view to remove the bottle-necks experienced in certain areas to achieve its objectives.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing a four-day International Conference on 5 January underlined the need for launching ‘Zarb-i-Qalam’ along with Zarb-i-Azb to root out terrorism and to promote harmony in the society. He said that writer, poets and intellectuals have to play a leading role in the elimination of terrorism and promotion of peace. He is absolutely right. The writers, poets and intellectuals are the brain and conscience of a society who play a significant role in its intellectual development and changing the social attitudes and behaviours. Since they have to rely on the medium of media to propagate and communicate their message and intellectual discourses, the media also has a pivotal role in this regard by making sure that those discourses are communicated to the people the way they are meant to be conveyed.
Media being the fourth pillar of the state itself is under obligation to discourage fissiparous and divisive narratives and guide the people in the right direction. It also has to show greater sense of responsibility in reporting and commenting on the incidents of terrorism, particularly during live coverage of such acts. It also needs to curb its impulsive propensity of ascribing the blame to intelligence failure and administrative inefficiency of the government notwithstanding their success in pre-empting in numerous terrorist attacks. Terrorism is a fight against an invisible and inhuman enemy. They have the advantage of un-predictability which enables them to strike at even well guarded security establishments. The phenomenon needs to be understood in this proper perspective.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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