Welcome policy shift

Sep 19, 2017
During his three-nation tour to discuss US President Donald Trump’s new Afghan policy, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had accepted the failure to his government’s security policies in countering banned terrorist outfits. The FM’s statement was seen as a public admission of the need to revisit the security policy with clarity on the issue of extremist groups that pose an existential challenge to the country. Analysts hoped that an across the board and comprehensive action against these groups could be initiated.
But in came former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar — whose apologist narrative on extremism during his time as interior minister reminds us of everything that is wrong with Pakistan’s policy on religious extremism. Nisar recently issued a statement criticising FM Khawaja Asif’s remarks on banned organisations operating in Pakistan. He was quoted as saying that comments on ‘sensitive issues’ must be based on facts.
Extremist groups have posed a serious threat to the stability and security of the country, but still the apologist narrative characterised by the like of the former interior minister persists unchecked. Nisar’s soft corner for banned sectarian outfits is well known as during his ministership he had held meetings with their heads on several occasions. The former minister even had the audacity to justify his outlooktowards these groups on the floor of the House when asked to explain his position by the opposition MPs. He apparently found banned sectarian outfits as different from terrorist groups and advocated that the two should not be equated.
With Nisar no longer in charge of the country’s internal security, the current government’s approach in dealing with the menace of terrorism seems to be undergoing considerable shift. But if the ruling party is to truly reform its image and policies, it should distance itself from Nisar’s controversial statements. The ruling party ought to take a clear position on the issue of extremism especially since it is now playing the civilian supremacy card to win the support of democrats in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification. This requires it to clearly dissociate itself from Nisar’s apologist narrative as well as to ensure that this clarity-of-purpose is reflected in its actions against extremists of all stripes. 
Daily Times, September 19, 2017

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