I do not know whether we are in a state of a soft coup or not but I know one thing: the army and the government seem to be working well together, and at least for the moment are reading from the same page. It is also difficult to contest the perception that the page may have been dictated down by the army; it just might be so. I have nothing to support or deny the charge.

But were I to consider that the army is deep into a war that it can only win – the opposite, calamitous for the state and its people – it is only natural for it to seek and know that the political government stands behind it with the support of elements that make fighting terror an effort beyond using force alone. The police, the civilian intelligence agencies, the administration that continues to have a dominating hold over urban and rural life in the length and breadth of Pakistan, and the mandarins that sit in control over the various elements of power in Pakistan’s governance structures, will all have to stand to be counted in this hour of judgement over Pakistan’s future.

The army, the government and all the civilian structures need to work in tandem if victory of the people and their belief system for the nation is to be ensured. It had better be so because in this phase – final by my reckoning – there will be no place for a runner-up. Either Pakistan will exist or it will no longer be there. That to me is the existential nature of the moment. Just to explain myself better: when a few had to be sent to the gallows on a particular day, a couple of the administration heads thought it better to spend the day away from risky venture. The story is long and goes beyond this brief mention; but may suffice for the moment.

The prime minister’s twenty-point agenda to fight terrorism is the full complement of steps which have been enunciated ever since Pakistan became slowly embroiled in a war that now has the country firmly in its debilitating stranglehold. These are comprehensive and all-encompassing and should have been initiated at least ten years back if this war was to be fought effectively, and at least twenty years back if such challenge had to be nipped as it began. But the appreciation of the issue, and conception of its consequences, have been terribly lacking at the policy level; the operational level hardly ever thinks deep or long, anyway. The realisation that left unattended what began as a small tinder would soon engulf the entire state was nonexistent.

Clever policies that aimed to look the other way if non-state monopoly over power became obvious rather encouraged alleged manipulation of the risky resource for strategic gains. The result was only tactical gains while rendering the nation to huge strategic risks. Today, Pakistan grapples with that strategic risk. As a nation, Pakistan must come clean against such aspersions; this will need a deliberate effort to not only clean up our act in the muddying field of irregular wars, but also extend the cleansing to eliminating the curse by fighting groups across the board without discretion. Dallying with such risky ventures has only sullied Pakistan’s image across the world. It is time to come clean. There is no other way of saying it.

The National Action Plan has its detractors too – the usual suspects; the self-proclaimed liberal watch-guards from civil society, the legal fraternity, and those who habitually criticise the military. Some more, representatives of the liberal political thought, have also voiced a reluctant concurrence to the need for military courts to adjudicate on apprehended terror suspects.

Human rights groups have a professional responsibility to stand against para-constitutional legal recourse. In extending the argument, those that wish to raise the bogey of military’s domination of the civilian structures do so without weighing for a moment the result of such discursion in a society that is already confused at the sufficiency of the planned actions to fight terror. To those espousing such fears the risk is in incremental ceding of space from the civilian domain to the military, reverting the latter to its assertive nature. For the moment the fear is exaggerated and its enunciation ill-considered since military courts in a military dispensation may have an unrestrained power of trying cases and suspects, but those that are proposed to be currently constituted are solely restricted to cases of terrorism.

The legal fraternity is all up in arms. The judges feel relegated and their support base, the lawyers, obligated to stand in their support. It is more about saving respective turfs than understanding the limitations that the judicial fraternity has come up against in trying terror cases. These have included lack of sufficient evidence, unprofessional prosecution, inadequacies in laws, and the simple fear harboured by associated functionaries – from the lawyers unwilling to prosecute, to witnesses unwilling to dispose, to judges unwilling to adjudicate. That in short is the story of how Pakistan has come far, far short of the need to efficiently and speedily try the accused and proffer appropriate punishment to terror suspects as deterrence.

The recent judicial processes to grant bail to the main suspect of the 2008 Mumbai incident and the release of a major sectarian leader are inexplicable. They are also counterproductive for a nation endeavouring to make a larger point to the world of finally coming true in dealing with terror, both home-grown or externally imposed. It makes for terrible optics even though the decisions to do so may reside in reasonable legal argument. The judiciary must be empowered and tied into playing its constructive role in a mission that is now a national cry.

In constituting the military courts headed by army officers where the trial of a case follows exactly similar structures as in a normal judicial process, at least the fear of protection for the judge will not unnecessarily weigh on the minds of those adjudicating on terror suspects. Also those who have now languished in various detention centres for years can be brought to book before a constitutional court of law and justice dispensed. The defendants before all military courts will retain their right of choice for their counsel. Daily and dedicated hearings only accelerate the process of the trial courts.

The follow-up to the National Action Plan seems promising. Accountability of those empowered to bring about changes in the construct of this nation will be the key to ensuring success in this most crucial war of survival for the nation. Policy resides in four elements: outlining objectives and identifying strategies; allocating resource, both financial and manpower; identifying responsibility and nominating the office for primary responsibility for each of those strategies; and finally, bringing to account the efficient expense of those resources towards achieving the outlined objectives.

The prime minister will need to be hands-on on each of these functions and ensure the nomination of the most suitable persons in fighting this multi-faceted war. Leadership sometime means sticking to the plan and ensuring its implementation. Success is only a consequence.

The writer, a former air vice marshal, is a defence and security analyst.