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Battling militancy
Posted:Aug 30, 2017
 
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THE fight against militancy continues to lag behind the evolution of militancy and terrorism in the country and the region. On Tuesday, the national coordinator for Nacta, Ihsan Ghani, informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior that his organisation is in the process of verifying data on Pakistani citizens who have fought in Yemen, Iraq or Syria. According to Mr Ghani, as reported in this newspaper, Nacta is working with the federal and provincial governments to determine if the individuals who have travelled to the insurgency-torn countries in the Gulf and the Middle East did so for legitimate employment purposes or to fight there. 
 
Therein lies a problem: while it is welcome that we have moved, however belatedly, to identify the threat posed inside Pakistan by the militant Islamic State group and similar outfits, it is alarming that the state is still unable to say with certainty how many and which Pakistan-based individuals have been involved in fighting in the Middle East. Surely, an effective fight against militancy, which is now widely recognised to be a long and perhaps generational war, is only possible if the threat is accurately identified in the first place.
 
The unhappy reality of Pakistan’s fight against militancy, terrorism and extremism, however, is that it continues to be fought in an ad hoc manner. Nacta has been underfunded and neglected, its potential as a coordinating body across a number of federal and provincial organisations fighting sections of the militant threat largely unfulfilled. The federal government’s continuing disinterest in the fight against militancy can be gauged from the new PML-N government’s inability to hold a NAP-specific meeting in more than a month in office. 
Meanwhile, the military continues to wage counter-insurgency campaigns and conduct counterterrorism operations in various parts of the country, but appears unwilling to publicly share the extent of the IS footprint. Tensions in civil-military relations also appear to be being papered over by both the government and the military that should have addressed them head-on. The country’s experience of fighting militancy and terrorism over the past decade suggests a disturbing truth: the longer a threat is left to fester because of the state’s failure to develop a strategy to fight it, the worse it becomes. From Al Qaeda to the TTP, and now from IS to whatever may come next, the Pakistani people suffer because the state is slow in protecting them.
 
Dawn, August 31, 2017
 
 
 
 
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