The Recent wave of Terrorism in Pakistan: a Critical Evaluation of NAP

Ayaz Ahmed

Introduction

“Terrorism is (largely) a psychological warfare. Terrorists try to manipulate us and change our behaviour by creating fear, uncertainty, and division in society.” —Patrick J. Kennedy

The spectre of resurgent terrorism has become the most threatening challenge of the twenty-first century. The monster of terrorism coupled with bubbling militancy has continued to wreak havoc in most of the sovereign countries stretching from the North Atlantic Ocean to the South China Sea. Though the divided international community has made mind boggling discoveries and inventions in the scientist field to facilitate life on earth, it has thus far faced a stunning failure to permanently stamp out growing terrorism by collectively inhibiting all of its primary and entrenched causes. Since Pakistan is geographically situated in close proximity to strife-torn Afghanistan and shares a long border with its sworn foe India (a regional hegemonic power supported by America to employ all disruptive forces to contain the emerging China), the country has been hard hit by the regionally-funded terrorist, insurgent, sectarian and militant outfits. Presumably, the geostrategically important country has made tremendous headways against terrorist and militant groups by means of the effective counter-terrorism operation, Zarb-e-Azb. The civilian government’s foot-dragging and blithe behaviour in terms of rigorously implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) and activating the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) have operationally helped ‘hibernated’ terrorists and militants to steadily garner power and re-launch fatal attacks on the country.

The recent spike in deadly terrorist attacks has made it patently clear that headstrong terrorists and militants have not yet been fully defeated. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has dismantled the organisational structure of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), causing it to disintegrate into splinter groups. Due to the ongoing anti-terror military operation, the TTP and its offshoots such as Jamaat-ul- Ahrar (JuA) have shifted their operational bases to terror-infested eastern Afghanistan. Under the direct sway of Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies, these outlawed terror franchises are engrossed in overtly employing the Afghan soil to mount disruptive attacks on Pakistan. The article attempts to explain in detail the recent wave of terror and to critically evaluate the selective and tardy implementation of NAP and its noxious impacts on the overall security of the country. More importantly, a way forward is also suggested to the civilian government on how to complement the Army’s continuing operations, namely, Zar-e-Azb and Raddul Fasaad through political, security and socio-economic reforms.

The Recent Spike in Terrorism- the Regional Proxy War

After a short respite, terrorists and militants have re-launched their deadly attacks in the country, especially from the terror-infested eastern Afghanistan. This year, the first major terrorist attack took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Parachinar district. On January 22, 2017, a deadly blast ripped through a vegetable market in Parachinar, killing at least 25 people and leaving 87 injured. The attack was claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the largest faction of the erstwhile Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in connection with another TTP faction led by Shehryar Mehsud.

What is important is to note here that the TTP and its minor offshoots are apparently on the run, as their operational bases and training centres have been completely dismantled and destroyed by the Army through Operation Zarb-e-Azb. “The attack was seen as a one-off, carried out by an outfit whose back had seemingly been broken by Operation Zarb-i-Azb”, writes Baqir Sajjad Syed, a seasoned journalist associated with Dawn.

 Presumably, the planning for the fatal attack was furtively carried out across the long, porous and vulnerable Durand Line. The JuA is widely believed to be freely operating from an unknown location in strife-torn eastern Afghanistan, possibly under the nose and direction of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the underperforming Afghan intelligence agency. The corruption-ridden National Unity Government of Afghanistan has provided a carte blanche to NDS to work in direct collusion with RAW, the disruptive Indian intelligence agency, to sponsor terrorist, militant and insurgent attacks in Pakistan. “The subversive nexus between RAW and NDS is a permanent source of tension for Islamabad”, remarked Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria. The underlying reason behind the noxious NDS-RAW nexus is the ongoing strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan caused by the cross-border terrorism and Indian obstructive role in Kabul.

On February 12, a police van came under fire in the North Nazimabad area of Karachi. With DSNG vans parked at the site of the incidence, unidentified men on a motorcycle opened fire at a Samaa TV van. A young camera assistant died. The outlawed TTP claimed responsibility for both attacks.

On February 13, the TTP once again carried out a suicide blast on Lahore’s Mall Road, killing13 people and injuring 85. On the same day, two Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) personnel were killed in Quetta while trying to defuse a roadside bomb at Sariab Road. After two days of the attacks on the Mall Road, five more perished as a suicide blast ripped through a government office in Mohmand Agency. The JuA claimed responsibility for these attacks.

The deadliest terrorist attack in the month of February took place at the shrine of a revered sufi in Sindh.  On February 16, when the devotees at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar were immersed in the dhamaal (dance), another suicide attacker blew himself up killing at least 85 people while leaving more than 200 injured. The attack was later on claimed by Daesh (Islamic State) — an outfit that is believed to be slowly gaining a foothold in Pakistan.

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Sadly, the civilian government has kept denying the ominous presence of the rampaging militant group in the country. In his media briefings, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan repeatedly says that: “Daesh does not exist in Pakistan. Other terrorist groups, which are involved in activities against the state are using Daesh’s name and are causing death and destruction in the country.” But Islamic State claimed the attacks on a bus in Karachi’s Safoora Goth in May 2015, Quetta’s Civil Hospital on 8 August, Police Training Centre Quetta on 24 October, Shah Noorani Shrine in Khuzdar District of Balochistan on 12 November and the recent attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. “Daesh is now taking root in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The organisation is wealthy, but it is not interested in working with small splinter groups. That is why [militant] groups are merging to be in a better position to negotiate with Daesh,” Dr Hussain Seharwardi, Professor at the International Relations Department, Peshawar University says.

On February 21, three suicide bombers attempted to storm a local court in Charsadda. Only one managed to detonate himself; the other two were killed before they could wreak havoc. Seven, including child and a lawyer, were killed. The attack was claimed, yet again, by the JuA.

A Critical Evaluation of NAP

On December 16, 2014, six Islamist terrorists belonging to the TTP Fazalullah faction, stormed the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar and massacred 145 people, including 132 children. Amid the public outcry over the APS carnage, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the National Action Plan with the purpose of curbing terrorist activities. The prime minister announced the 20-point NAP during his televised speech on December 24th, after the conclusion of the All Parties’ Conference, which was called together following the declaration of a national emergency by the government. The following are the key points of NAP as available on the website of the dormant NACTA:

  1. Implementation of death sentence of those convicted in cases of terrorism.
  2. Special trial courts under the supervision of Army. The duration of these courts would be two years.
  3. Militant outfits and armed gangs will not be allowed to operate in the country.
  4. NACTA, the anti-terrorism institution will be strengthened.
  5. Strict action against the literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance.
  6. Choking financing for terrorist and terrorist organisations.
  7. Ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organisations.
  8. Establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force.
  9. Taking effective steps against religious persecution.
  10. Registration and regulation of religious seminaries
  11. Ban on the glorification of terrorists and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media
  12. Administrative and development reforms in FATA with an immediate focus on repatriation of IDPs.
  13. The communication network of terrorists will be dismantled completely.
  14. Measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism.
  15. Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab.
  16. Ongoing operation in Karachi will be taken to its logical end.
  17. Balochistan government to be fully empowered for political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders.
  18. Dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists.
  19. Formulation of a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees, beginning with the registration of all refugees.
  20. Revamping and reforming the criminal justice system.

     The government has so far displayed an unwillingness to sternly execute the major points of NAP. The reluctance of the civilian government has indirectly helped terrorists and militants of all hue and colour to go underground during Operation Zarb-e-Azb and resurface with more power and restart attacks in the country.  To critically assess the execution of NAP, it is imperative to diagnose the major points of it in detail and the seriousness of the government in terms of impartially and strictly implementing it.

Points 1 and 2: Establishment of Military Courts and Execution of Terrorists

It is imperative to mention here that the Army is not interested in playing a judicial role in the country by settling judicial cases and awarding punishments to hardcore terrorists and militants. The civilian incompetence and apathy to reform the torpid judicial system of the country have compelled the Army to punish terrorists and militants in its courts established under the 21st Amendment. What is of paramount importance is to mention here that military courts have been set up to award punishments in certain cases. These offences include:

  • Attacking military officers or installations;
  • Kidnapping for ransom;
  • Possessing, storing or transporting explosives, firearms, suicide jackets or other articles;
  • Using or designing vehicles for terrorist attacks;
  • Causing death or injury;
  • Possessing firearms designed for terrorist acts;
  • Acting in any way to “over-awe the state” or the general public;
  • Creating terror or insecurity in Pakistan;
  • Attempting to commit any of the above-listed acts within or outside of Pakistan;
  • Providing or receiving funding for any of the above-listed acts; and
  • Waging war against the state.

Despite being engaged on the western and eastern borders to protect the country from terrorists and the Indian aggression, respectively, the Army has fared well in expediting the execution of hardened terrorists and militants. These executions have worked effectively by reducing terrorist incidents to a great level in 2016. Though with flaws and shortcomings, military courts under NAP have hanged a large number of hardcore terrorists. As per a Dawn report published in January 2017, there are roughly 11 military courts that have been set up across the country; three in KP, three in Punjab, two in Sindh and one in Balochistan. The report further spells out that since February 2015, a total of 274 individuals have been convicted in military courts. So far, the army has sentenced 161 individuals to death, 12 of whom have been executed and 169 have been given jail terms (mostly life sentence).

As seen before, terrorists often escaped from the punishment of the sluggish courts of the country.  They used intimidating tactics to browbeat judges, lawyers and witnesses to eventually evade the law of the country. Since they were fully acquainted that they would not be brought to book by courts, terrorists kept mounting attacks in every nook and corner of the country. As timely and stringent punishment serves as an effectual deterrence against varied crimes, the role of military courts has immensely helped decrease the level of destabilising terrorist and militant attacks in the country. But, all this does not mean that the government keeps disregarding needed judicial reforms in the country.

These courts under the direction of the Army are only meant to bring the level of terrorism and militancy under control for a short time so that the counterterrorism successes achieved during Operation Zarb-e-Azb do not go in vain. The civilian government should come forward and farsightedly play its constitutional role with regard to bringing in effective reforms in the lethargic criminal justice system at both lower and higher levels in the country. More delay in this context will further embolden terrorists and militants to fearlessly continue orchestrating deadly attacks, thus further complicating the terror landscape of the country.

Points 3, 7 and 15: Eliminating Militant Outfits

Under NAP, the government is chiefly responsible for taking stringent measures against all banned militant groups freely operating in the country, especially from southern and central Punjab. Till very recently, the PML-N government had seriously delayed an effective counter military operation – on the same lines as the one in Karachi – in those districts of Punjab where battle-hardened operatives of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are believed to be hiding. These outlawed militants groups have made central Punjab the hub of disruptive militancy, thus posing a severe security threat to the country. “Though the federal and the provincial governments deny the threat, Punjab is sitting on a powder keg. The province is the hub of violent extremism with banned outfits operating freely. What is most dangerous is the ostrich-like attitude of the provincial government in the face of the grave threat,” warned writer and journalist Zahid Hussian in his opinion titled ‘Terror in the heartland again’ in Dawn on February 15 this year.

The recent by-election victory of Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, son of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founder of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), signals that the government is either apprehensive of a threatening backlash from these militant-cum-sectarian outfits or is inclined to gain their political support in the upcoming general elections in 2018. If the government continues to remain apathetic in terms of earnestly launching a comprehensive operation against all militant groups without discrimination, it will never make strides against ragtag militant outfits based in less-developed and marginalised areas of Punjab; nor will it be able to impede any uptick in terrorist attacks in the country in future. Mr Hussain convincingly cautions that: “The latest attack shows how easy it is for the militants to regroup and launch spectacular attacks with the state still reluctant to act against the major sources of militancy without exception.”

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Such political expediency and outright indifference of the ruling party is mainly responsible for the ongoing non-cooperative civil-military relations. The prime minister along with the Punjab chief minister should have empowered and equipped the Punjab police and the provincial Counter Terrorism Department to flush out these disruptive groups. Since the Army has already deployed a large number of troops in the terror-stricken tribal areas against terrorists, it would be quite unwise to engage them in central Punjab against militants.

It is welcoming to absorb that the Army has launched a countrywide counter-terrorism operation, namely Raddul Fasaad. Through this operation, it is likely that all hotbeds and sanctuaries of militants in Punjab will be destroyed and militants flushed out. What is important is that the Punjab government should not create ‘political constraints’ (approval letters from the Punjab government to launch crackdowns against militants) so that the Army will successfully eliminate the organisational structures of militants in central Punjab. But during the military operation, the Punjab government should reform its police force so that it will keep the militants at bay after the operation.

Points 4 and 8:  Strengthening NACTA

Though created in 2009, the PPP-led federal government took three years to finally approve a draft bill providing legal cover to NACTA in March 2013.  NACTA is calculated to curb terrorism, streamline intelligence gathering and plan counter-terrorism strategies. According to point four of NAP, NACTA would be fully strengthened and empowered to play a pivotal role in eradicating terrorism and militancy. So, NACTA is essentially supposed to be the main executive authority entrusted with the task to execute NAP in letter and spirit. Before the attack on Charing Cross in Lahore, NACTA performed its assigned task well by informing the government of a possible terrorist attack in Punjab.

But, it can be argued that the authority still does not have competent counterterrorism professionals. The competence and professionalism of NACTA can be gauged from its working methods. Whenever it issues a warning to the government about a possible terrorist attack, the letter of warning reaches social media, creating fear in people. This can also help terrorists change the venue of their attacks. The clumsy counter-terror methods of the government have greatly assisted terrorists and militants to go underground and resurface to organise attacks.

Due to the government’s incompetence and negligence, NACTA has remained toothless, thus unable to play its role in countering terrorism in the country. Owing to nepotism of the ruling party, NACTA has been staffed with inexperienced persons having little or no expertise of counter-terrorism and counter-militancy. “Without autonomy, NACTA is likely to be consigned to yet another ineffective section of the interior ministry and become a new source of employment for ruling party loyalists,” warned Mr Hussain. The vexing question thus is: when will the country’s corrupt, incompetent and self-centered politicians learn a lesson and begin pondering over the national interests of the country?

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security enjoys considerable autonomy so that it can function effectively in maintaining security in the country. A department or authority requires enough functional autonomy so that it can take strict measures against any person or organisation (when they pose a security threat) while disregarding political affiliations. In Pakistan, whenever the civilian government establishes an institution to deal with the security matters, wings of the same institution or authority is systematically clipped so that it cannot expose “the nexus between politics and terrorism” in the country as stated by former Army chief general (retd) Raheel Sharif. Since some parliamentarians of the ruling parties have intricate links with some militant groups, the power of NACTA has been deliberately curtailed so that it cannot expose these Politicians-cum-militants.

What is more worrying and surprising is that NACTA works under the direction and authority of the Ministry of Interior.  It goes without saying that the Ministry of Interior under Chaudhry Nisar is embroiled in its own non-security issues that it has thus far dismally failed to resolve them. In such a confused situation, how can the same ministry gather its guts, exercise prudence and sagacity to make dormant NACTA active and fully operational against assorted terrorists and militants?

Point 10: Registration and Regulation of Seminaries

Undoubtedly, madrassahs have played a pivotal role in catering educational needs of the underprivileged sections of society; who cannot afford to acquire education from expensive private schools, and are unwilling to join public educational institutions due to their bad performance. Seminaries have produced a large number of learned persons who are engaged in leading prayers, giving informative religious and ethical sermons and preaching Islamic teachings within and outside of the country.

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However, some of these unregistered religious schools are believed to be involved in indoctrinating their students for misguided jihadist’s purposes. Reportedly, they are linked with the TTP, the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups. Since a raft of students is taught the value and importance of martyrdom and jihad in a wrong way, after completing their studies, they flock to join terrorist and militant outfits in order to receive martyrdom. One can easily observe young suicide bombers who blow themselves up in mosques, shrines and other public places.

To prevent the suspected seminaries from producing terrorists and militants, the government is required to regulate and register them. Sadly, the civilian government has by far turned a blind eye to one of the main points of NAP about regulating and reforming over 35,000(according to a report of Express Tribune) seminaries operating across the country.  As mentioned above, some of these unregulated religious schools are reportedly involved in radicalising their students and supplying them to terrorist and militant groups. Apart from some dummy measures, the state has done nothing concrete to reform the outdated syllabi of seminaries and choke the funding of those madrassahs which are involved in producing terrorists and extremists.

Why has the government continued to avoid reforming and controlling seminaries in the country? Firstly, the ruling party direly needs the all-out support of some mainstream religiopolitical parties to shore up its crumbling political setup from the whirlwind of corruption cases against the first family. Secondly, the government does not have well-qualified professionals who can be tasked to propose feasible changes in the outdated curricula of seminaries. Thirdly, the political leadership is highly fearful of the disruptive street power of some religiopolitical parties which run their own madrassahs.

Point 12: Administrative Reforms in FATA and Repatriation of IDPs

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has been ravaged by terrorist attacks, and, therefore, a large number of people in the area have been internally displaced. Since FATA is contiguous to terror-infested eastern Afghanistan, major regional terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the Afghan Taliban and the TTP had established their sanctuaries in the area. Owing to successive military operations since 2008, these groups have either shifted their operational bases to Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan and Badakhshan, or to some unprotected urban centres in Pakistan.

Point 12 of NAP lays stress on the importance of socio-economic, political and administrative reforms in FATA. To keep terrorism and militancy at bay in the tribal areas, the army has built some training centres for technical education and initiated a process of de-radicalisation of the long-deprived youth in the area. Despite its engagement against terrorists and militants, the Army has played a significant role in repatriating the IDPs. The role which the civilian government should do is being performed by the Army.

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The performance of the civilian government as far as the introduction of the needed administrative and socio-economic reforms in FATA are concerned, has been questionable. The recommendations of the FATA Reforms Committee have ended in a fiasco on account of the non-seriousness of the government to empower the terror-weary tribal people on the administrative and economic fronts. The state should be aware that terrorists often exploit deep-rooted political and economic grievances of people and indoctrinate them to join their groups.

Point 16: Continuity of Karachi Operation

The ongoing Rangers’ operation has by far reduced the crime level by 80 percent in Karachi. Before the operation, the unruly city was a hub of criminals and militants who had been immersed in acts of extortion, targeted killings, and abduction for ransom etc. The corrupt PPP regime along with coalition partner MQM did not pay heed to empower and reform the underperforming police so that it could root out criminals and maintain peace in the city.

It is welcoming to note that the government has allowed the Sindh Rangers to continue the operation in the city. The continuing operation by the Rangers has brought about relative normalcy in Karachi by dismantling budding organisational structures of ragtag criminal rings and militant franchises. During the operation, the Rangers has found a close nexus between politics and militancy in the city. Therefore, it has begun investigating into the alleged complicity of some politicians with criminal, militant and terrorist groups. This has brought to the limelight a new problem in the operation.

As Dr Asim’s case has revealed, some politicians of the PPP have links with terrorists and militants. So, the core leadership of the PPP has dragged its feet in terms of extending cooperation with the Rangers for the early and successful completion of the operation. What should be kept in mind is that the Rangers needs the support of the Sindh government against the politicians-cum-militants in Karachi in particular and in Sindh in general. Moreover, the provincial judiciary should punish those hardened criminals who the Rangers arrest and hands over the civilian law-enforcement agencies for transparent, speedy and fair trials.

Point: 18 Empowering the Government of Balochistan to Utilise Resources

Balochistan is not only rich in precious natural resources, it possesses an exceptional geostrategic and geo-economic location. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is so designed as it stretches from the Gwadar Port in Baluchistan to Kashgar in China. So, this has increased the economic and strategic importance of the province and is expected to make Baluchistan the regional trade hub in the near future.

But, the province is beset with burgeoning political, socio-economic and security issues. It has been ravaged by a low-intensity insurgency funded by India with the covert support of Afghanistan. Besides this, the provincial government has miserably failed to provide quality education and economic opportunities to the people so that they refrain from supporting insurrectionist and insurgent movements in the resource-rich province. In a nutshell, Baluchistan is plagued by bad governance and massive corruption coupled with reckless misapplication of the dwindling natural resources.

A question can be raised: should the corruption-ridden government of Balochistan be provided with full freedom over its natural and economic resources? The recent case of former finance secretary Mushtaq Raisani has made it crystal clear that the so-called nationalist leaders and the provincial bureaucracy have joined hands to loot and embezzle the financial resources of the province. The erstwhile finance secretary misappropriated millions of rupees meant for the powerless local bodies of the province. Though not arrested, former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik is widely believed to have been involved in plundering the resources of Balochistan. It would prove futile to hand over all resources of Balochistan to the provincial politicians who are busy looting the exchequer of the province. Before any measure, effective and comprehensive reforms in the provincial governance and accountability system are needed.

Point 19: Registration and Repatriation of Afghan Refugees

Since the 1980s, Pakistan has borne the burden of millions of Afghan refugees. According to an estimate, 1.5 million of these refugees have been living in Pakistan without registration. Apart from becoming an economic burden, the said refugees have continued to pose a constant threat to the security of the country. On account of their religious orientation and socio-economic deprivation, they have shown proclivity to support the

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Source: UNHCR

nefarious designs of terrorists and militants. A significant number of them have been brainwashed and recruited by non-state actors to carry out disruptive attacks in the country. That is why it has become imperative to expedite their early documentation and repatriation to their home country, conflict-stricken Afghanistan.

With the support of the UNHCR, the government has sent 380,000 refugees back to Afghanistan in 2016 and is determined to repatriate more by the end of this year. But, the crisis-ridden Afghan government is unprepared to provide homes and economic assistance to the returning refugees. Though the UN has given $ 400 to each person, this amount seems inadequate because the Afghan expats do not have homes and businesses to restart a new life in a comfortable manner. Ominously, the Taliban would exploit their grievance and ultimately employ them in terrorist activities against Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What is alarming is that a large number of Afghan refugees have illegally received national identity cards with the support of corrupt NADRA officials in the country. The Interior Ministry has evolved some ill-conceived measures to have CNIC of Afghan expats cancelled. A new and pragmatic measure need to be crafted with regard to annulling the illegal identity cards owned by the Afghan citizens. In this regard, the provinces should cooperate with the federal government so as to speed up the proposed process.

Point 20: Reforming the Criminal Justice System

  The government has also dragged its feet with regard to reforming the torpid criminal justice system of the country.  In the trial of violent criminals and terrorists, the country’s investigation agencies and courts have miserably failed to probe cases in a scientific manner and deliver verdicts based on irrefutable evidence. This has resulted in low conviction rates of hardened terrorists and militants. Since the terrorists know that they can easily escape punishment, they keep attacking the country.

The way forward

Terrorism is a complex problem which needs a multi-pronged approach to eliminate it root and branch. Besides the ongoing military operation, the government should evolve a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy encompassing political, socio-economic and security reforms.

 First and foremost, it is time to realise that the lingering delay in implementing NAP has emboldened terrorists and militants to carry out their disruptive activities in the country. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to make NACTA fully functional and implement NAP without further delay. But, it should be kept in mind that NACTA should be staffed with professionals of counter-terrorism and counter-militancy. Political favourites sorely lacking required expertise will further impede the authority from playing a role in eradicating terrorism.

Furthermore, the state should realise that terrorism is mainly a psychological warfare being nimbly waged to create fear so as to divide and weaken the country. In this ideological warfare, the state needs to counter the distorted narrative of terrorists with a well-calibrated ideology which should prevent people from joining non-state actors. The government ought to develop a clear-cut counter-narrative with the assistance of main religious leaders of all sects and disseminate it with the help of the media. Syllabi of educational institutions need to be reformulated in such a way that students should know the difference between the genuine jihadi of Islam and that of misguided as being propagated by terrorist and militant groups.

Moreover, the government should reform the police and ensure round-the-clock intelligence coordination between the civilian and military agencies. These measures should be complemented with the provision of educational and economic opportunities to people so that they do not end up joining non-state actors. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi Nobel laureate, opines that: “We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time…. I believe putting resources into improving the lives of poor people is a better strategy”.

Over and above, seminaries are required to be brought under mainstream education system of the country. Reading materials of religious institutions need to be modified to include teachings of pluralism and liberalism. Those seminaries which are reportedly involved in producing extremist students should be sealed and their funding must be chocked. The government should not permit religious persons to use sermons to teach and spread hatred and bigotry in the country.

 Besides, the Punjab government ought to grant full authority to the Rangers so that it can take actions against varied militant groups in the province. This is also equally significant to expose and arrest those provincial politicians who are allegedly linked to militants. Hardcore Militants should not be left to operate and play havoc to the country for the sake of gaining votes. Both Punjab police and Counter Terrorism Department should be reformed, empowered and equipped with all necessary tools and resources so that they will keep militants at bay and inhibit their resurgence in future after the Ranger’s operation in central Punjab.

Last but not least, the PML-N with the support of the Army should raise the issue of cross-border terrorism and militancy with the Unity Government of Afghanistan. Since the beginning of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the Indian spy agency with the support of its Afghan counterpart has unremittingly provided financial resources and sophisticated equipment to those Pakistani terrorists, militants and insurgents ensconced in Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan and Badakhshan. The Afghan government should be convinced to coordinate with the Pakistan Army in destroying these terrorist sanctuaries.

Conclusion

Being the frontline country in the war on terror, Pakistan has borne the brunt of terrorist and militant attacks. Despite losing over $ 118 billion and sacrificing more than 50,000 lives, the country is still facing the spectre of terrorism as seen in the recent wave of militancy and violence. The Army has launched another Operation Raddul Fasaad to consolidate the gains made during Operation Zarb-e-Azb.   It is the time the civilian government should come forward and reform the political, administrative, educational and socio-economic systems and spheres of the country. Former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon aptly says that: “Missiles may kill terrorists. But good governance kills terrorism. Free and independent societies- free from sufferings, oppression and occupation- this is what will kill terrorism.”

The writer edits The Asia Watch.

This is an abridged version of a detailed research article carried by Defence Journal, March 2017. 

 

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