Wise men of the stature of Abdul Hafeez Pirzada are of the view that in the circumstances prevailing today, the military courts established by the parliament were in the national interest. If that is the case what was the point of shedding tears after voting for the 21st amendment to the Constitution? As the Prime Minister had stated, the amendment had to be viewed positively. Parliamentarians were supposed to vote in favour or against the bill, not against their conscience. Similarly, tacking a U-turn after the vote was not in good taste. Double standards of political leaders representing the people in Parliament speak loud of many reasons behind country’s crises, issues and internal and external problems. One would agree with the observation that there was a need for good governance in all branches of government that is the executive, legislature and judiciary. People vote but they do not run the government. The overall default must be checked through responsible and accountable government. There is no space, especially under the current scenario for indifference, indiscipline and in-house confrontations and conflict. Remember, Pakistan is in a state of war with enemies within and without.

Military and civil administration along with all vital organs of the state will have to provide serious input to activate the National Counter-terrorism Authority (NACTA) and commitment to ensure that no armed militias were allowed to function in the country. Countering violent extremism, hate speech and inciteful material was essential to create an environment of assimilation and accommodation in a society infested with extremism, ethnocentrism, sectarianism, fundamentalism and tribalism. It was essential for legal and economic institutions to play their role effectively. Choking financing for terrorists and their organizations was the immediate task. Terrorists, their backers and sympathizers must be denied the space to operate and flourish.

What is needed in the country’s interest is needed in full, not partially or selectively. In addition to registration and regulation of Madrassahs there is a need to look into the problem of those who qualify from these schools. Are they equipped and truly prepared to become self-supporting citizens? Are they given state of the art skills and knowledge to contribute to the mainstream of the social and economic system? It is time to improve the status and system of these schools to enhance their image. The world should know that these schools also produce scholars. A seminary deserves to be known as a place of learning and character building. It is also high time to bring the mosque under state regulation and oversight.

A very serious problem is the glorification of terrorism and terrorist groups through print and especially electronic media. There should be a ban on this trend on the part of the media. The absence of checks and balances and lack of accountability of the media shows that it is all-powerful and out of control and even neglecting its responsibility to the people.

The media needs to have a strategy in the context of Pakistan’s current situation. Greater maturity and a sense of responsibility was required in the present critical phase of the country’s history. There was need for wartime media rules as recently recommended by chairperson of National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting. PEMRA being the regulatory authority must play its role effectively to ensure that the media follows a required discipline and rules of the game especially concerning coverage of terrorism related incidents.

The real test of the national action plan will be in its implementation. The national resolve has sent a clear message to terrorists. All political parties have extended support to the government to rid the country of the menace of terrorism. Roots of terrorism are well known. Any effort to distract us from our resolve by raising questions of the definition of terrorism would be unreasonable, misleading and unacceptable. The initiative taken by the Pakistan armed forces has to be appreciated and the fight against terrorism now owned by us to produce desired results.

We need to introduce administrative reforms to civilize our tribal territories and convert the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas into settled districts with their own law and order set-up, local government and socio-economic development machinery. Doing so will help the tribal population to have a sense of ownership and responsibility for their own welfare and development. That will also help support the Government effort in dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations and provide motivation for achievement and improvement in the standard of living of the tribal population. End to poverty, ignorance and disease is their right, which they can get accepted only in an environment of peace and security.

Bold steps are needed to deal with the extraordinary situation at hand. There are so many complex issues confronting Pakistan that we can no longer wait and see – we can no longer sit idle and let things go beyond our control. If we want to be masters of our own destiny we have to be at war with the enemy within and without.

Effective implementation of the national action plan to counter terrorism and extremism has to be Pakistan’s top priority till the menace is completely wiped out. “Violence in any form is terrorism and hence intolerable”, as the Prime Minister has so loudly stated. The Government has decided to constitute a federal counter-terrorism force with immediate effect. It would work under the Ministry of Defence and deployed across Pakistan solely for countering terrorism.

While taking out terrorists is vital for our survival as a nation, we feel with heavy hearts the loss of the lives of our soldiers. Ultimately, a long term strategy will be needed to establish peace and stability. If it is not done, the power hungry, the unscrupulous corrupt elements behind the terrorist crimes will continue to exploit the poor and ignorant and use them as fuel in bomb attacks and the killing of innocent people – in our schools, work places, play grounds, homes and on the roads.

Pakistan is in a continued state of war. The cost of this war is tremendous in terms of human, material and financial resources. The sponsors and financiers and the power hungry elements behind terrorism and extremism cannot feel the hell they are playing with physiology, psychology, sociology and the economy of peace loving people. Pakistan is a glaring example of victims of terrorism and extremism, but it is not an exception. The menace of terrorism is universal. Only a coordinated and united international front can effectively defeat it.