The first step is to shift the focus from damage control to damage prevention. Anti-terrorism activities have to be preceded by counter and proactive strategies. Thus, as we do in any plan, we need to draw out a whole map of the pre-suicide jacket acceptance flow, the wearing of the jacket operation flow and beyond the blow up flow. This three-stage approach will identify critical points of sowing the seed, fertilising the seed and spreading the seed underground to intertwine with other roots. The time before the young mind becomes polluted enough to wear the suicide jacket has received minimum effort and resources. The polluters who in recent times have mostly quieted down and are a bit subtler in their preaching and outreach due to operations, are far from being eliminated or minimised. Points number three and seven in NAP, which specify banning militant wings and banned outfits with any name, have almost zero progress to show.
The very fact that India had to give us evidence about Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) operating under some other name and being involved in the Pathankot attack is clear evidence of the will of the state in this direction. Azhar Masood’s arrest has been made but we all know that after a while he may be back under some other name. When we knew that he was operating under the name of Saadi and publishing hate literature, why did we not take action? There have been some attempts in south Punjab to dismantle a few dens but concerted effort is lacking. The height of Punjab operations is the cracking down on the Chotu gang but the other big and famous alligators are all lurking just beneath the surface ready to attack whenever it is opportune.
Many areas of NAP have to do with substituting the terrorist narrative with an alternative narrative to make it difficult for terrorists to infiltrate these unexposed minds. The environment and the soil have to be changed for a different plant to grow. For this purpose, a counter-narrative committee was formed that comprised scholars and religious leaders who were to make this narrative and ensure that it gives an alternative thought process to the target population.
The most fertile terrorism areas of FATA and Balochistan have a long history of being deprived and alienated, leading them to become breeding grounds for terrorist dens. These have just been treated as battlegrounds where the army goes and dismantles the dens only to find them being restored with the passage of time. No reforms, no development, no education and no engagement will lead to no change. The anger and resentment in these areas is an ideal base for terrorists to make them all rebels for a wrong cause.
The route to the root of terror is much before the happening of the event. The fact that all steps on the flow chart of pre-attack have been treated with disdain by the government is itself the reason why after one year of a relative lull, the winds of terror have started blowing again. That is why more pressure is needed from all ends to make the government do what it is not doing, to crack down on internal supporters, to choke financing channels, to make reforms in FATA and other areas, to run a counter-terror narrative, to collate, disperse and ensure action on intelligence, to negotiate better with border countries, to use local governments to do community policing. However, if the two most important people to drive this agenda, i.e. the prime minister, who decides to extend his Davos trip to London for “personal reasons”, and the minister of interior, who decides to disappear due to “health issues”, then this ‘committed’ approach may be the biggest reason for having an amazingly inactive NAP.