Almost a year after the launch of the  grand military operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan & other areas of FATA and almost six months after the adoption of  the  National Action Plan ( NAP) in the aftermath of Peshawar tragedy, violence in Pakistan has shown no signs  to subside.  From the  massacre of Ismailies in Karachi to murder of Pashtuns in Mastung and from targeting Shi’ias in different parts of the country  to attacking Christians , the violence is still  making  headlines in the  electronic and print  media. Despite the government’s claims of thousands of intelligence based targeted operations in various areas , the back of extremism is far from broken. Even government circles concede the fact that the process of implementation of NAP has run out of steam. The talk of  madrassah reforms has become  a mere rhetoric. Whatever little reform was introduced by the previous government in  curricula  in  Pakhtunkhwa has been effectively reversed by the provincial government under the influence of JI , without attracting any  criticism from extensive political gamut or civil society. After getting mired in judicial complications and loss of focus by the government, the law to try the hardcore  terrorists who  use religion to launch  war against the state has lost  relevance. The busting of a gang of modern educated terrorists in Karachi has shocked many people as usual but not to the extent where a movement for removing hate materials from our education curricula  is launched,  convincing the state to take visible action. Most of the proscribed organizations are indulging in public political activities unchecked by law enforcement agencies. Top leadership of TTP, the only proscribed organization being targeted by military operations, remains mostly at large. As long as they are not apprehended and brought to book,  the threat of their regrouping will always be there.

The state apparatus, despite using large scale aerial bombardments, tanks and long range guns along with big number of troops in military action has not fully regained monopoly over legitimate  violence in our society.

It is not to suggest that military operation in FATA has  not had  its successes or operation in Karachi could  not  hit criminal mafias in the mega city . Operation Zarb-e-Azb has destroyed important terrorist infrastructures  and sanctuaries as a result of valiant sacrifices by the personnel of the LEAs and the people of the area.  TTP leadership is on the run,  losing its capacity to launch big  attacks against  state security installations . That is why it has tended more and more to attack soft targets. Important criminal mafias have been busted in Karachi irrespective of their political affiliation leading to reduction in the number of  extortions and target killings cases . But  is  it  enough to rid Pakistan of deeply entrenched extremist violence eating into the vitals of state and society? Is Pakistan meaningfully closer to become a “ normal state” in terms of getting rid of large scale violence? In the abovementioned scenario, Is  the cancer of extremism and terrorism  going to be  eradicated from Pakistan any time soon? The answer is unfortunately an emphatic no.

The fact is that the misguided state policies of 1980s and 1990s of turning this country into a bastion of international “Jihadist Project “,  have  been the route cause of the  problem. The US-led west wanted to defeat the Soviet communism at any cost and for them ends  justified the means. They haven’t shied away to repeat the same blunders recently in Iraq and Syria. But unfortunately for Pakistan , the military dictatorship of General Zia-Ul-Haq that had already launched an “ Islamisation “ campaign in the country to perpetuate its despotic rule  jumped at the Western  band wagon and allowed extremist ideologies and fighters from around the world to come and use  Pakistan as a base for fighting in Afghanistan. The scope of religious militancy was subsequently expanded to Indian-held Kashmir . Arabs, Chechans, Igors  and militant from several other nationalities had their own agendas pursued from their bases  in Pakistan. This led to, some what ironically, our strong security state turning into a soft state where various militant outfits functioned with or without our knowledge.

In Pakistan we all know  about our four wars with India. But there is not any talk  about the  three wars which we fought  in Afghanistan. The first one  started in 1981 and continued till 1989 against the Soviet troops. The second one commenced in 1994 in favor of Taliban and against the Northern Alliance and continued till September 2001.  The third one (recently confirmed by General Musharaf) started in 2003 in support of  Taliban that has yet to come to a close. Instead of allowing an honest and critical review  of these policies to  evolve  a strategy for  correction,  the state institutions have consistently resorted to obfuscation , a culture that has deeply penetrated  our society. Living in fiction and in a state of denial  has become a way of life. But that is not all.

The deeply  flawed governance  based on culture of  patronage and negation of  merit  has led to exclusion of weaker societal sections particularly of the young people making them vulnerable to radicalization. Social and political powerlessness of large sections of society has created space for militant and sectarian ideologies  penetrating Pakistan from the Middle East with the help of petrodollars. Our ruling elite has failed to implement part of the Constitution (from Article 8 to Article 39) that provides for the state’s responsibility for ensuring social welfare and empowerment of the citizens both vertically and horizontally. Almost 80 per cent of the annual budget is allocated to three things; debt servicing, defense and administration leaving no scope for focusing on the social sector. The crises of decline in the quality of   public education system is the most dangerous for our future. Undoubtedly,  the involvement of hostile foreign agencies in destabilizing Pakistan must be playing a role but our misguided policies have also  provided  a conducive atmosphere to  them. As state and society we must pause, take a step back and conduct an honest debate about the causes of violence that is devouring us. We have to rethink our policies and go for bold reforms to arrest and reverse the rampant violence that is threatening the very existence  of Pakistan. It may amount to entirely redefining  Pakistan in order to transform  it into a democratic, peaceful and prosperous society. We have to muster political courage to take the right course.