Pakistan stands vindicated By Malik Muhammad Ashraf

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The UN monitoring team responsible for tracking terrorist groups and their activities, in its 27th report to the UNSC has acknowledged the ongoing efforts of the Pakistan government against elements involved in terrorist activities and arresting the individuals engaged in terrorism financing and clamping down on the assets of the said designated individuals and entities. The report also mentions regrouping of splinter groups of TTP in Afghanistan and cautions that the reunification of TTP enhanced the threat of terrorism not only to Pakistan but the entire region.

It is indeed a welcome acceptance of the role that Pakistan as a frontline state has been playing in the war against terrorism as well as endorsement of the long-held stance by Pakistan regarding the use of Afghan soil for terrorist attacks against it. Pakistan stands vindicated.

Pakistan has not only dealt with the terrorist entities militarily to uproot them from its soil and taken action against their remnants and sleeper cells in the country through operation Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasad, but has also dealt with the problem on the ideological front. Developing and widely disseminating a counter-terrorism narrative, influencing and changing attitudes of the public and addressing the social faultlines which in one way or the other had some connectivity with the terror enterprise have all been a part of this effort.

While our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies deserve unqualified accolades and gratitude of the nation for the success that they have achieved in checking terrorism in its tracks, due credit also must be given to other public entities which have been striving hard to fulfil their administrative and legal responsibilities in regards to countering terrorism and have also contributed immensely to the success of the ideological crusade against the narrative of terrorist entities, which has earned the UN’s endorsement.

In this regard, the role played by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Pakistan Peace Collective (PPC), an entity under its administrative control, deserves to be acknowledged. PPC has been supporting the government in countering extremism and intolerance through research, advocacy and evidence-based strategic communication campaigns. It has a strong institutional link with other government organisations such as NACTA in strengthening their work on interventions in regards to countering violent extremism.

It runs strategic communication campaigns through government media outlets and partner networks and social media in order to reduce the factors that support extremism and terrorism. The organisation also identifies areas of collaboration with support from provincial and local governments as well as communities at the grass-root level. The PPC also designed and conducted awareness campaigns on Covid-19 and provided valuable input to the government for drawing up the Charity Act 2019 designed to scuttle the ability of the terrorist organisations to raise money from the unsuspecting philanthropist.

The painful reality is that all over Pakistan, most of the funds obtained by terrorist and militant organisations are raised through charitable organisations. Even on the international level, most of the money financing of terrorist activities is accumulated through illegal means and charities. What this means is that for any worthwhile effort to eliminate terrorism and militancy, it is imperative to put a squeeze on the sources of funding for the terrorist entities. Through bilateral and multilateral joint efforts 18 NGOs and nearly 300 other charitable organisations have been found involved in providing financial support to terrorist groups in different parts of the world.

Terrorism is probably the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century, and has affected almost the entire world and more so the countries of the Islamic bloc including Pakistan. It is a challenge that needs the support of respective populations.

PPC devised an imaginative communication campaign and ran it on the national media to create awareness among the masses about how their money was being used to sustain the enterprise of terrorism and impressing upon them to be more discreet in giving their donations. It did create a lot of impact. It also ran campaigns to highlight the role of the families and parents in inculcating tolerance among children and to promote a culture of pluralism and co-existence in the society. PPC also has been conducting capacity building courses for officials of the law enforcement agencies, relevant government departments, journalists and students on appropriate language sets and techniques to boost public resilience against violent extremism enabling them to employ integrated and unified response during any terrorism related incident. Last but not the least is the fact that PPC has also played a sterling role in developing responses to the FATF points which required to be implemented by Pakistan.

As they say credit must be given where it lies. My motivation to write this piece actually stemmed from my study of the work done by PPC which has immensely contributed to the national effort to fight terrorism. The scourge of terrorism is a formidable challenge for our country and it requires unstinted support and commitment from all segments of the society as well as government organisations to get rid of it. Though we have controlled terrorism-related activities to a great extent but the fight is not yet over as also revealed in the UN report and the sporadic incidents of terrorism.