02/13/2016, 15.33
PAKISTAN
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Lahore: activists from all religions on hunger strike against terrorism

by Kamran Chaudhry

Protesters slam the government’s inability to fight Islamic extremism. “Despite government denials, there is evidence that Daesh is active in Pakistan. Banned organisations still operate freely in Punjab." After the National Action Plan was adopted, the legal system was not reformed. Military source blames “hostile intelligence agencies” for terrorism.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Activists from different religious backgrounds went on a hunger strike to protest the government's inability to fight Islamic terrorism.

The year “2016 has just begun and already we have witnessed major terrorist attacks,” said one of them, Samson Salamat, the Christian Chairman of the Rwadari Tehreek (Movement for tolerance).

Speaking to AsiaNews, he explained that “The government’s plan seems to have failed. The National Counter-Terrorism Authority has been inactive for seven years. Despite government denials, there is evidence that Daesh* is active in Pakistan. Banned organisations still operate freely in Punjab."

The Rwadari Tehreek movement, which promotes respect for all religions, organised the protest in order to push for the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) to stop militants.

More than 20 activists held a six-hour sit-in in front of the Punjab Legislative Assembly building, shouting slogans against terrorism, hate speech, Islamisation and murder in the name of religion.

They unfolded a large banner that said, "Enough is enough!", and wore orange scarves (pictured).

The Government of Pakistan adopted the NAP to fight terrorism in the aftermath of the Taliban massacre at a military school in Peshawar, which killed 154 people, mostly children.

After the attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism-related offences. Since then, more than 300 people have been executed.

The Pakistan military has repeatedly called on the government to improve the anti-terrorism fight by monitoring hate speech and extremist propaganda, as well as choking funding and shutting down Islamic seminaries.

The "war against terrorism is complex, [and] requires [a] steadfast and unified response,” said an army officer as quoted by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), a military media directorate, in a press release on 10 February. “Terrorists are being funded externally by hostile intelligence agencies and have their sympathizers at home who provide them shelter and refuge".

Indeed, “The lives of people continue to be in danger at schools, colleges, and universities which is a question mark on the performance of the current government. There have been no reforms in the judicial system to counter terrorism even a year after the NAP” was adopted, said Central Rwadari Tehreek President Abdullah Malik.

"As a long term policy, the government must revise the syllabus, eradicate hate material, and announce a comprehensive policy to deweaponise society,” Malik said. “All sorts of weapons must be banned and the government must fulfil its constitutional responsibility to provide safety and security to all citizens".

* Daesh, which is the Arabic acronym of ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām, is also known by its English translation as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

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