Akbar Jan Marwat
It is an open secret that the Mian brothers did not want to involve the military and the rangers in conducting an operation in Punjab. Their refrain was, that the Punjab Police and its various organs like the CTD and Punjab Constabulary were capable enough to carry out the anti-terrorist and anti-militant operation in Punjab. After the Gulshan-e-Iqbal tragedy however, it seems that the army forced the government’s hand, to conduct a full-fledged joint civil and military operation against militants and extremists. The Punjab government was thus coaxed into a joint operation, which the latter had no choice but to accept as a fait a comply.
It was in this backdrop, that a joint operations coordination committee (JOCC) was activated with both military and civilian officers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The committee in one of its internal meetings – after the Chief Minister met the Core Commander – reiterated its resolve to conduct military and intelligence operations against banned outfits, their facilitators and all kinds of lawbreakers. The operation in Punjab has started against bands of criminals and dacoits in the “Kacha” area of South Punjab. Although these bands of dacoits may not have any direct relations with the religious militancy that has plagued Punjab, at least efforts are being made to extend government, s writ over spaces, which could easily be used by religious and sectarian militant also.
According to reports from the media, more than 1000 policemen including personal of elite police and counter terrorism Department CTD, are participating in the operation. These forces are also aided by Punjab Rangers and the Pakistan Army. It is hoped that once the Indus delta is cleared of outlaws and dacoits, the law enforcing agencies will be able to hold the cleared area, and maintain the writ of the government. This anti-dacoit operation is certainly important in its own right; however, Punjab’s real problem is religious and sectarian militarism. The nexus between terrorist groups and dacoits operating in the Kacha area has not been established Conclusively.
According to journalist and National security expert Amir Rana, conducting an operation in Punjab is imperative on two courts. (1) There are small militant groups in the province – including sleeper calls – as well as affiliated networks of regional and international terrorist organisation; (2) Punjab hosts several banned militant groups and ultra-radical religious groups with sectarian proclivities which not only serve as recruitment base for multiple militant groups, but also provide ideological guidance to militant Islamist movements.
To counter the small militant groups, a coordinated, intelligence based operation would be the best choice: as these small militant cells and network do not operate freely, and usually camouflage themselves in the community. Such operations are already taking place in various parts of the country including KPK, Karachi, and parts of Punjab. Such operations should be conducted in the whole of Punjab with greater vigor and coordination.
As far as dealing with the second category of ultra-radical religious organisation are concerned; the state has to deny them safe space to operate in. Historically the state has been reluctant to take proper action against extremist groups, which are considered to be pro-state. The latest revelations of a banned militant group, of establishing its parallel courts are a case in Point. There is strong evidence to suggest, that terrorist organisations like Islamic State; Al Qaeda; TJP and groups like Jamaatul Ahrar recruit militants from these organisations.
Some segments in the government sometimes claim that the organisation like Jamat ud Dawa and Sipah Sahaba are not against the constitution and thus not anti-Pakistan. The fact of the matter is: that these organisations may differ with terrorist organisations in their strategies, but their ultimate goal and objectives are quite similar. An important fact to observe is, that only kinetic military operations are being carried out to some success, while the non-kinetic points of the National Action Plan are not being implemented with the similar gusto. Clauses of NAP dealing with hate speech, hate material, terrorism financing and Madressah reforms are directly linked to controlling religious extremism, which in turn leads to religious radicalisation and terrorism.
To sustain the hard won successes of Zarb-i-Azb, the non-kinetic clauses of the national action plan has to be implemented with the full might of the state. The recent incident of the Beliralvi clerics of occupying the D. Check of Islamabad in support of Mumtaz Qadri— who was executed after a due judicial process – goes against the very sprit of National Action Plan. In short for the operation in Punjab to succeed, both kinetic and non-kinetic clauses of national action plan have to be implement with equal zest. The civilian and the military law enforcing and intelligence agencies also have to come on the same page, to rid Pakistan of the scourge of religious extremism and terrorism.
— The writer is author, citizen journalist and entrepreneur based in Islamabad.