Eradication Through Equitable Growth
Due to its devastating impact on social, economic and political order, terrorism has been the most debated topic, especially since the dawn of the current century. What actions or acts fall under the ambit of terrorism; it is still an unanswered question because no unanimous and universally-accepted definition of terrorism has been developed yet.
Pakistan has been severely affected by the acts of terrorism in terms of fatalities of civilians and security personnel as well as destruction of infrastructure. For instance, On Dec 2, 2014, Pakistan’s top spy agencies told the Supreme Court that Pakistan has lost 49,000 lives since the apocalyptic attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon in the United States on September 11, 2001. And that More than 24,000 people — both civilians and troops – were killed in terrorist attacks during the period between 2001 and 2008. On the 2014 edition of Global Terrorism Index (GTI), which systematically ranks and compares 162 countries according to the impact of terrorism, Pakistan was ranked as the third most affected country.
More importantly, terrorist attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School, which claimed more than 140 lives of innocent schoolchildren, has jolted the whole Pakistani nation. Nonetheless, this fateful incident brought all political parties and state stakeholders on one page to develop a uniform national policy to deal with the menace of terrorism. However, a better and pragmatic strategy to deal with the menace terrorism is through legal framework.
Not to speak of old enactments, the recent legal initiatives to deal with terrorism effectively include “The Protection of Pakistan Act 2014” — undoubtedly the first giant leap toward effective legislation. This piece of legislation clearly defines the alien and the militant. It empowers the authorities to use lethal force. According to this legislation, the burden of proof has been shifted on the accused to prove for being not involved in terrorist acts. More recently, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan has also presented a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) to root out terrorism from Pakistan.
Legally, a terrorist and a lawbreaker is the “one who takes the law into his hands by causing harm or punishment to another person, without any legal authority”.
The NAP has called for establishing military courts for speedy trials of those involved in acts of terrorism. However, the legitimacy of military courts in the democratic state of Pakistan, which has a functional parliamentary form of government, is always questionable.
It is also worth pondering why the state is compelled to launch a war with itself? The answer to this crucial question lies in the fact that a state must define its national purpose which must be a reflection of the core values of the society. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had given this vision to the state in the following words:
“Pakistan should be a democratic state based on Islamic principles of social justice”.
Can we say that the Quaid’s vision has been materialized even in 68 years of creation of Pakistan? Can we call it a true democratic state?
In a democracy, people have a say in government affairs and people can freely debate the issues confronted by them. The democratic regime protects people from oppression and tyranny. It ensures that people exercise their voting power independently and without any type of coercion. Does the democratic system of Pakistan depict these characteristics?
First, people in Pakistan are not allowed to exercise their political power. This is sufficiently delineated by the fact that the provincial governments do not seem interested in holding local government elections despite being aware of the fact that this is an integral part of a sound democratic system.
Second, people are not empowered economically as no effective land reforms have been implemented yet. People are forced to vote as per the wishes of the feudal lords and elites.
Moreover, we have not been able to establish a social system based on Islamic principle of social justice. Although per capita income has reached more than $1,300, yet it is not true for all people because it mostly talks about averages, which could be misleading. There are millions of people living below the poverty line — on 1-2 dollars a day.
The prevailing economic system has benefited the elites and the feudal in accumulation of wealth. Furthermore, there is no wealth tax or inheritance tax or gift tax in the country. Absence of such taxes has further helped the capitalists multiply their own wealth. Moreover, speedy justice isn’t available. The poor do not have adequate access to the judicial system. Police protect the elites only.
In addition, the rampant corruption also has denied the poor effective service delivery. The dismal situation of shortage of food and drinking water in the Tharparkar region of Sindh offers better illustration.
In past, two systems — formal and informal —were allowed to flourish. The formal system patronized by the government was better equipped with resources. On the other hand, the informal system in madrassahs was allowed to move only on donations and charities. With scant resources and meagre salaries, the economic disparities continued to widen.
Effective resource management is also important besides legal and enforcement action against terrorism. Pakistan has abundant population of youth which can be used to enhance economic growth and development. A skilled youth could be source of large inflows of remittances from foreign countries, like Japan, where the demand of Pakistani labour is increasing. Importance of skilled youth for economic growth and development could not be denied.
In a nutshell, it is essential to deal with the menace of terrorism with iron hand. For this purpose, legal enactments, though necessary, are not the only strategy; government should also make social system equitable, fair, just and transparent by reducing income inequalities, ensuring speedy justice, making growth system inclusive and bringing transparency in the fiscal system.