Have we abandoned the National Action Plan?
Followers of a group of clerics kept Islamabad under siege for nearly three weeks, agreeing to end their sit-in only after army sponsored talks. Another group camped on the Mall in Lahore for seven days, causing a traffic nightmare for the commuters. As it ended the dharna conditionally, a Pir from Sargodha has threatened to hold sit-ins all over the province unless Rana Sanaullah presents himself before his ‘court’ with a resignation in hand today. Nine people including six students have been gunned down by the TTP in a hostel in Peshawar but the provincial administration wants the people to pat it on the back for keeping the casualties within a single digit.
Soon after the attack on Army Public School in Peshawar, the civil and military leadership agreed on a National Action Plan (NAP). There was a consensus that to win the fight against terrorism, there was a need to stop the spread of extremism in society. Sensing that the situation in Punjab was particularly worrisome the document stressed that greater attention needed to be paid to the province. The Plan recommended a number of concrete measures. At least six provisions of the 20 point Plan related directly to putting the genie of extremism back into the bottle.
What is happening in Punjab indicates that instead of bringing extremism under control, those who can do this are allowing the phenomenon to spread for whatever reason. Religious zealots armed with batons, pistols, machetes and rocks occupy busy roads and refuse to leave till their demands are accepted. The clerics who have developed a false sense of power issue edicts of apostasy, demand expulsion of the members of a particular denomination from key government posts, and employ foul language about rival clerics and political leaders. They demand more loudspeakers for mosques and clerics to be allowed to oversee school books. They spread hatred which threatens to further radicalise society and lead to violence against minority groups. In case the state continues to allow the drift, it would be responsible for midwifing a fresh generation of terrorists.
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