THE controversial remarks attributed to a Supreme Court bench against the government’s lacklustre implementation of the National Action Plan are unfortunate. The specific issue before the court in that hearing had to do with NGOs, so it would also appear to be the wrong occasion for seemingly off-the-cuff remarks about NAP. Yet, there is no denying that, unfortunate though the language used may have been, there is a serious problem with NAP: namely, that there is no real progress on many of the clearly defined issues in the plan. Consider just this one, small fact – it took media reports of the criticism in the Supreme Court for the interior ministry to pledge to provide up-to-date details on NAP’s implementation. And even in the preliminary numbers of arrests and seizures mentioned by an interior ministry spokesperson, there are some obvious issues. The interior ministry has claimed, for example, that there have been over 60,000 arrests related to the plan since its implementation six months ago. That is a very large number, but is it of any significance? All too often, law-enforcement agencies simply inflate such numbers by rounding up peripheral or even innocent suspects.
What of the extremist and militant groups and their leaderships? The interior ministry has not yet released a detailed list of banned organisations in the country and the specific actions taken against each of them. Which are the groups involved, who leads them, where do they operate, what are their subsidiaries and alternate structures, how are they funded and by whom, and to what extent have specific groups been dismantled or disrupted – none of the facts are known. Without such specifics, few outside government and military circles could have the confidence that the country is moving towards the shutting down of the militant and extremist infrastructure. What the state appears to want to do is to continue with the selective push against certain kinds of anti-state militants while treating the so-called pro-state and pro-Pakistan militant and extremist organisations as a problem for another day. But that will only delay the inevitable. As years of cutting peace deals and delaying military operations in Fata eventually proved, coexistence of the state and radical Islamist militant groups is simply not possible, let alone advisable.
Finally, there is a problem that the interior ministry, the lead ministry in the NAP structure, itself faces: funding. NAP is grossly underfunded, as is Nacta, the counterterrorism authority, and as are the various programmes for building counterterrorism capabilities in the provinces, especially the urban areas. Surely, it is not the responsibility of the federal government alone to fund the entire National Action Plan. But plans can only be executed to the extent that there are funds made available, whether by the centre, the provinces or through external funding, to do so. At the very least, Nacta should be adequately funded.