Since 2001, the state has employed most of its resources in counterterrorism measures, but nothing significant has been achieved. The government’s absurdity, incompetence and sluggishness have emboldened all sorts of outlawed terrorists, militants, extremist and insurgents to shed innocent blood throughout the country.
Terrorists, with all-out cross-border assistance, have thus far killed some 70,000 people and paralysed all of society since the start of the war on terror. The most horrific terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 resulted in the loss of 141 lives including 132 schoolchildren, ranging between eight and eighteen years of age. Another terrorist attack on the Nadra office in Mardan on December 29 last year resulted in at least 26 casualties.
After the APS attacks, both civilian and military leadership came on the same page to conduct a vigorous military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, against terrorists of all strata and their sanctuaries located in the terrorism-ravaged tribal areas. A 20-point NAP was also calibrated to make the counterterrorism operation a success.
Arguably, except the army, all other state institutions have contributed almost nothing to contain the menace of terrorism and militancy from the country. Due to a corrupt, frightened and torpid civilian justice system, the army has formed its own military courts to expedite the execution of hard-core terrorists — although there are flaws and shortcomings in these courts. Even the civil administration is incapable of maintaining and fostering security after each military operation in the tribal areas: the aftermath of operations Rah-e-Rast and Rah-e-Nijat are two cases that prove civilian incompetence.
Terrorism in Pakistan is due to multifaceted factors that contribute to the ominous rise of this existential threat. The government should wake up from its lingering slumber and adopt a multi-pronged approach aimed at eliminating terrorism from the country. In this regard, all state institutions should accept the reality of their lethargy and avoid the tug of war for personal and sectional interests.
According to a string of counterterrorism research papers, our corrupt and inept political leadership — including the bureaucracy — are the major stumbling-blocks in the way of counterterrorism measures. Under the tentacles of some right-wing religio-political parties, the government has thus far dragged its feet in implementing the hitherto dormant NAP. The government also desperately lacks the expertise and courage to operationalise the latent Nacta. Since the civil administration is plagued by rampant corruption and indolence, nothing significant can be expected from it.
We should accept the reality that Afghanistan does not recognise the 2200 km-long Durand Line as an international border. The mountainous frontier is used for terror activities inside Pakistan. The ongoing Operation Zarb–e-Azb, cannot be wrapped up successfully until such cross-border terrorism continues unabated. Based on some credible sources, Indian and Afghan agencies are abetting TTP fugitive Mullah Fazlullah to organise terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s institutions.
For security, the country heavily relies on the army rather than the highly politicizsd and ineffective police force. Due to inability and sluggishness, the police have dismally failed to maintain and enhance security after military operations. Arguably, it seems that the force has been organised to provide protocol to dynastic and feudal political leaders on public expenses. Rather than busting criminal rings, much of the police department is immersed in extortion, abduction of innocent civilians and amassing abundant wealth. Evidently, such a police force itself becomes a primary cause of terrorism rather than a bulwark against it.
There is no doubt that we are producing terrorists, bigots, militants and insurgents through our outdated and jihad-centric syllabi of seminaries and other educational institution. On the other side, we have employed our all resources to wage a never-ending war against these non-state actors. How absurd is this for this nuclear power. Our compulsory Pakistan Studies and Islamiat books indoctrinate students against the ‘eternal enemy Indian’ and churn out self-styled jihadist against ourselves, respectively. More alarming is that the state seems rather reluctant to reform such outmoded school materials.
The country’s abysmal socio-economic conditions have undoubtedly afforded a mushrooming ground to terrorists to recruit well-educated and energetic youth all over the country. Almost half of the population lives below the line of poverty. Millions of school-age children are compelled to work in factories and in shops in shabby working conditions. Educated youths become old while searching relevant jobs. A poor plaintiff becomes insolvent and consequently commits suicide due to unjust and expensive justice system of ours.
The state should not waste more public money and lives by desultorily making ineffectual counter-terrorism and counter-militancy moves. It is time to ascertain the underlying causes of terrorism and seriously plan while keeping only national interests in mind. The government should begin a counterterrorism operation within itself by making the legislative, executive and judicial organs fully accountable, responsive, competent and genuine servants of the people.
Pakistan should once and for all resolve the issue of the Durand Line with the Afghan government. After demarcating the border, barbed wire and concrete walls should be put up on the Pak-Afghan border. All Afghan citizens should be properly checked by state-of-the-art technology before entering Pakistan and official records must be kept. Equally important, the PML-N must expedite the lingering process of refugee repatriation to Afghanistan.
Over and above, it is imperative to immediately shut down all unregistered seminaries engaged in churning out deadly terrorists, and their leaders must be brought to book. All jihadi and obsolete syllabi of these religious schools need to be reformed and updated calculated to inculcate pluralism and progressive ideas in students.
The state’s police force also needs to be reasonably reformed. It should be depoliticised, adequately equipped and provided with competitive salaries and reasonable facilities so that it shuns corruption and functions competently. After imparting modern training, strict checks and balances should be placed on its performance. Last but not the least, the government should empower the people politically and provide them with educational and economic opportunities so that they become responsible and contributory citizens.
Since terrorism poses an existential threat to the integrity of the country, the state should discontinue its lethargy and indifference in terms of seriously stamping out terrorism and militancy. Before it is too late, a multi-pronged counterterrorism strategy, including NAP’s 20 points, should be crafted and implemented by means of competent counterterrorism institutions.
The writer is the editor of The Asia Watch.