On December 24, 2014 after a 10-hour meeting in the aftermath of Army Public School carnage in Peshawar where more than 147 lives were lost, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, addressed the nation announcing a crackdown on hate-speech, and vowing serious action against responsible newspapers and magazines. Sharif added that financial sources of terrorists and terror organizations would be cut and banned outfits would not be allowed to operate under different names.
When the National Action Plan (NAP) was launched in January 2015 by the government of Pakistan after consultation with political and military leadership, its priority was to eliminate sectarianism and extremism. The measures to be taken included declaring sectarian outfits banned, blocking their financial resources, putting seminaries under regulatory mechanism, controlling hate speech and the publication of hate literature. It also aimed to disallow the banned outfits from operating under changed names. Here is the 20-point NAP (available on the website of National Counter Terrorism Authority, Pakistan):
- Implementation of death sentence of those convicted in cases of terrorism.
- Special trial courts under the supervision of Army. The duration of these courts would be two years.
- Militant outfits and armed gangs will not be allowed to operate in the country.
- NACTA, the anti-terrorism institution will be strengthened.
- Strict action to be taken against the literature, newspapers and magazines, promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance.
- Choking financing for terrorist and terrorist organizations.
- Ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations.
- Establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force.
- Taking effective steps against religious persecution.
- Registration and regulation of religious seminaries.
- Ban on glorification of terrorists and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media.
- Administrative and development reforms in FATA with immediate focus on repatriation of IDPs.
- Communication network of terrorists to be dismantled completely.
- Measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism.
- Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab.
- Ongoing operation in Karachi to be taken to its logical end.
- Balochistan government to be fully empowered for political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders.
- Dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists.
- Formulation of a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees, beginning with registration of all refugees.
- Revamping and reforming the criminal justice system.
As per the plan, military courts were set under the constitutional cover and moratorium, enforced since 2008, on death penalty was lifted soon after the announcement of the plan. According to Amnesty International over 400 death row prisoners were executed from 2014, Peshawar school massacre, to July 2016,.
The deadly Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ) was banned but it re-emerged with the new name, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi. Similarly, Sipahe Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) surfaced with new name Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)
On July 29, 2015, Punjab police said Malik Ishaq, the key leader of LeJ was killed with his two sons and key aides in a police encounter in Muzaffargarh. This marked the beginning of a crackdown against the banned LeJ in Punjab, by a provincial government that had been accused of being soft towards them. Less than a month later, on August 16, its home minister Shuja Khanzada was killed in a revenge suicide attack in his home town of Attock. But despite the arrests of key operatives of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in recent months, Zia Ur Rehman
wrote in CentralAsiaOnline.com that the banned sectarian outfit is regrouping in the province, this time under the name ‘Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi’.
On October 21, 2016 Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met a delegation of Difa e Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defence Council, DPC) in which Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, Chief of the banned Ahle Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) was also present.
A week later, October 28, 2016, the government imposed section 144 (a law that bans assembly of more than four people) of Pakistan Penal Code in Islamabad to stop PTI workers from holding a protest rally against the government. At the same time, it however, allowed the DPC to hold its convention in Islamabad where the ASWJ’s activists openly chanted slogans and made sermons against the Shia sect. Politicians and human rights groups severely criticized the government for allowing a banned organisation to hold a rally in Islamabad on the same day when the police were comatting the supporters of its rival PTI.
To track the fulfillment of this promise, Truth Tracker contacted Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. He said, “We are effectively fighting the war against terrorism, and all the targets are being met,” he said. “The counterterrorism department is effective and dedicated.”
He added that the government has taken strict action throughout Punjab and hate speech was not tolerated.
There are more than 13,000 madrassas in Punjab, according to government figures, about 7,000 of which are in south Punjab. The southern towns of Multan, Muzaffargarh and Rahimyar Khan are among the top four cities with most madrassas. North Punjab has approximately 2,000 seminaries, and more than 4,000 are located in central Punjab.
None of them are involved in militant training, says Rana Sanaullah. “We have geo-tagged all 13,782 of the madrassas and have all their data.”
General Secretary Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Central Punjab Nadeem Afzal Chan said, “In many districts of Punjab including my constituency in Mandi Bahaud Din, banned militant groups are openly collecting donations and recruiting young people. Nobody is stopping them. They easily deliver hate speeches against different sects and nobody is there to stop them.”
Chan stressed the need for operations by the military or the Rangers. He accused the the counterterrorism department for not taking any major steps against militant groups since the prime minister announced his National Action Plan against terrorism. “Punjab police is politicised, and it doesn’t have the capacity and the equipment to deal with terrorists,” he saidadding, “What will they do with a couple of batons and a rifle with a single magazine, and nine liters of petrol a day?”
Recently, Pakistan’s news and social media criticized the government and Election Commission of Pakistan for allowing Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, son of Late Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, founder of Sipah e Sahaba, to contest a by-election in Jhang from where he comfortably won the seat for Punjab Assembly. Footage of his speeches went viral in which he was chanting slogans against Shia sect.
In an interview with Truth Tracker, ASWJ leader Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi said that, during his elections speeches, Masroor Jhangvi didn’t make harsh comments against the Shia sect. “Some Shia people also supported us in this by-elections,” he said.
Ludhianvi added that the footage of Jhangvi’s speeches were old enough and has nothing to do with his election campaign.
Talking to Truth Tracker, leading human rights activist and International Association of Human Rights Chair, Rubab Mehdi H. Rizvi said that NAP means ‘No Ahle Tashee (Shia) in Pakistan according to Masroor Jhangvi himself.
“Holocausts do not begin with gas chambers. They begin with words,” she added.
She asserted that 21,000 Shias have been assassinated in the last two decades; women and children were identified and shot at point blank range. “Police, Judiciary and security forces have been targeted. These were attacks on the heart and soul of Pakistan,” she added.
Rizvi expressed her fear saying that instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice their media faces are becoming more and more powerful in the political landscape. She said, “Jhangvi’s victory is not an unfortunate event. It is strategic. This isn’t the first time that militants have won elections”
“They have electoral pacts with almost every political party. It would be naive to believe that 150,000 madrasahs do not have an impact on societal attitudes,” she added.
”Today ASWJ holds the keys to Punjab and Punjab holds the keys to a majority in the National Assembly. The only solution is deradicalisation of Punjab and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) growing a backbone.
“Jhangvi has joined Maulana Fazlur Rahman who does not support killing Shias, yet he also believes that they should be declared infidels and a minority,” she concluded.
Recently released, Quetta Inquiry Commission Report, by Supreme Court of Pakistan also pointed out holes in the implementation of NAP (See the top story in Truth Tracker’s current issue).
The promise is compromised because government could not implement the NAP in letter and spirit.