The PM House became the site of a full day of action on Tuesday as the top civilian and military brass huddled together to discuss both the threat of terrorism and the escalation of tensions with India. Three separate meetings were held; one of the National Security Council, one on the National Action Plan and one between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif. The meetings sent a clear message that the civilian government and military were committed to combating any threats to national security together. Moreover, that they remain committed to implementing NAP despite the ongoing tensions with India. The much ignored issues of madressah reforms, terror finance, banned outfits, judicial reforms and making Nacta operational are expected to be prioritised. The issue of terror finance has already begun to be addressed, with the recent news that around two thousand bank accounts had been frozen. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Terrorism financing operates outside formal channels, which makes it much more difficult to curb it. The NSC meeting noted correctly that any escalation of troops on the eastern border would only make the threat of internal terrorism higher. This would go against both the interests of Pakistan and the purported interests of India.
It is good to note that the tensions with India have not shifted Pakistan’s own focus towards eliminating internal terrorism. The fact that the government has sought progress reports on NAP and kept itself aware of how the fight against terrorism is going is a sign that Pakistan will not let itself be distracted by tensions with its old rival. This is the correct message to send to both the Pakistani people and the international community. India’s escalation of tensions with Pakistan is hurting Pakistan’s fight against terrorism. While Pakistan’s progress against terrorism may not be as great as our leaders would like to believe, the clarity to remain focused against terrorism is one that has been rarely seen in this country. PM Sharif himself seems to be focused on ensuring that the 20-point NAP is fully implemented by the end of his five-year term. At least that gives us a workable deadline for progress against terrorism. Timelines and milestones have been agreed between those attending the meetings. While Pakistani authorities have been good at saying the right things, they will now need to prove that they are up for handling the dual challenge of terrorism and India. In letting Pakistan not be distracted by the tensions on the eastern border, the civil and military brass of the country has shown the correct path to follow. This is a message that should be heeded by India, which has used international conflict as a way of shirking its domestic responsibilities. Focus is the need of the hour.