On the occasion of Solidarity Day 2015, Aman Ittehad at its meeting at the Peshawar Press Club strongly condemned the barbaric massacre of children and staff of the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014. It expressed solidarity with those affected by this latest in a very long and painful series of horrific incidents of extremist violence that has gripped Pakistan for over a decade killing more than 50,000 citizens, law enforcement and military personnel. It demanded award of Nishah-e-Haider to acknowledge the bravery of the martyred Principal and teachers of the Army Public School. The meeting also included Amn Tehrik, Aman Mera Haq Hai, Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network, Tehreek Huqooq-e-Hazara and the Tribal NGOs Consortium.
Aman Ittehad appreciated the political and military leadership for drawing up a Counter-Terror Action Plan, which represents an important response to stem continuing violence and militancy that threatens the very existence of the state. While commending the overall tone of the 20-point Action Plan, Aman Ittehad demanded the following:
1. Acknowledge the fallout of the failed “strategic depth” policy and make a clear commitment to totally abandon it. Urgent debate and action must lead to reshaping Pakistan’s foreign policy that should be premised on peaceful co-existence with its neighbours, and proactive diplomacy that helps pursue bilateral relations based on trade. The debate must be inclusive involving all stakeholders including the country’s civil society.
2. Political parties must disband their armed militant wings, if any. Each political party must ensure that no ticket or office is given/held by any individual that is an extremist or is an apologist or supporter of extremism.
3. A strong counter-narrative to extremist violence must be given priority. It must include a clear stand against all forms of hate-mongering and call for respect and freedoms, including the freedom to practice one’s religion. Strict action must be taken against those who provoke or deliver hate speeches through mosques, media or literature of any kind. Countering hate-mongering must include a comprehensive reform of the education curricula, including that taught in madrassas.
4. Setting up special courts headed by military officials to try terrorism cases has always been controversial. The judiciary has in the past ruled such courts to be unconstitutional. “Speedy justice” has never proved to be fair and often not speedy. It undermines the legal system and shows a lack of confidence in an independent and strong judiciary. Aman Ittehad rejects these special courts. Instead, it calls for reforming and strengthening systems of investigation and prosecution, including scientific methods of investigation, witness protection programmes and better security for lawyers, judges and witnesses.
5. The right to a fair trial must not be compromised while carrying out sentences of those convicted of terrorism-related offences. The identity of the convicts must be made public before and after implementing punishment. For example, the identity of an estimated 800 convicts that are reportedly on death-row for terrorist offences must be made public along with details of their crimes.
6. A clear implementation mechanism, responsibilities and deadlines are required for the action plan. Clarity is also needed on how and who will monitor implementation. Moreover, definitions must be specified for terms such as “terrorist organizations.”
7. In addition to development and administrative reforms, constitutional reforms must be instituted in FATA. In particular, Article 247 must be repealed.
8. Registration and regularization of madrassas must include a review and reform of curriculum they teach.
9. The action plan must include proactive policies and measures to support a vibrant and progressive civil society.
10. Women and their concerns must be given space and representation in processes of negotiating and building peace.
Aman Ittehad is a citizen platform striving for peace, democracy and justice in Pakistan. Solidarity Day is an expression of the power of ordinary citizens, and a call to exercise their choice and free will. It is observed on 1st January each year.