Lahore Attack, Pakistan, Counter Terrorism ,

After the recent spate  of unfortunate events of Terror in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Mohmand Agency, Peshawar and now Sehwan, questions are being raised on the effectiveness and sincerity of Pakistan’s efforts to weed out terrorism from its soil. Most of the people see this war as a corollary of classical set piece battles where a well-equipped army is way too strong to overpower zealots. Such analyses are farcical at best and hence it is important to understand that kinetic operations against these miscreants are a difficult preposition for standing armies. There are a host of reasons to put forth this assertion , to include difficulty in differentiating while roughing it out in built up areas. However , assessing the hitches at the tactical and operational levels is beyond the purview of this piece. For the consumption of this write up , we must focus on the other non-kinetic  legs of counter terrorism .

Military operations are carried out to break the fighting resolve and the ability of the miscreants to pose a threat to a state. By no means are military operations the be-all and the end-all of counter terrorism. Pakistan, after applying military power along with untenable peace agreements, the state flexed its muscle to repose its monopoly on violence.  Operation Zarb-e-Azb was  initiated in mid-2014 after Karachi Airport Attack and the National Action Plan was promulgated after the most gruesome attack on the Army Public School took place on December 16, 2014. Both actions were reactive in nature and led by Armed Forces of Pakistan in co-ordination with half-hearted support of the Civil Leadership.

There are broadly three planks to fight this war:

  • Hard (Kinetic ) Power
  • Legislation
  • Ideology.

Operation Zarb E Azb was a full scale military engagement aimed to clear and hold North Waziristan Agency, primarily. Soon the objectives were achieved and the area was cleared and now normalcy has been restored. However, due to a variety of factors , the terrorists were not dealt with a severe blow. They weren’t dispossessed of their actual centre of gravity: leadership. The kinetic front was further taken care of by operations in Khyber Agency and also in Karachi. Their foot soldiers were killed but their ability to replenish them with fresh rookies remained largely intact; something which is beyond the ambit of military operations.

The State of Pakistan was very successful in hard power despite the dilemma of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and restored its writ. And it is due to these  operations that  Pakistan was  able to re-gain lost control on FATA, areas bordering Afghanistan and destroy safe havens of militants on its soil. On one hand, a full scale military operation was going on in FATA and on the other hand, Intelligence based Operations were going on in rest of the country  resulting in arrests of not hundreds but thousands of abettors and financier of Terrorism. In very less time period with very few losses, the Armed forces of Pakistan in conjunction  with other Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), dismantled most of the terror factories in Pakistan but few of them were able to escape to NATO-led war torn Afghanistan, which itself is  facing serious problems to sustain its control over Kabul, and is unable to dismantle  safe havens of Terrorists attacking Pakistan on its soil. Despite the prophylactic operations , the state has been unable to completely root out the menace, this is simply because the infliction of casualties is not a cost for non-state actors .

National Action Plan foisted in December 2014 was a wishful list and provided the foundation for war on Terrorism but unfortunately we failed in terms of Legal War against Terrorism. Our legislators in Parliament and Senate were busy in petty issues and unable to come up with any pro-active approach. Despite the successful arrests, prosecution was failed by none other than our own system. Till  date, Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 is in place to prosecute terrorist themselves, their abettors & financiers and consequently we have seen people like Malik Ishaq getting bail from Courts. The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) was put in place but after its 2 year expiry it was not re-enacted  neither any new law was introduced to prosecute Terrorists, instead questions were raised on Military Courts, their decisions and their legality.

The ideology of Terrorism in Pakistan is smartly put in place to declare Pakistan as an apostate state and allowing foot soldiers of factions to declare war on Pakistani State, its Institutions and its civilians. Unfortunately to counter this ideology we come up with a couple of movies, a few songs and a handful of TV-Dramas, these fanatics won’t go to Cinema to watch our propaganda movie or Download YouTube to listen to our propaganda songs and dramas. There is a dire need to facilitate Scholars from all school of thoughts to bring the true face of Islam, expose Takfeeri Ideology and clear the misconceptions of declaring Pakistan as an apostate state. The ideological work against Takfeeri Ideology may not be allowed to be projected as action against any specific sect and should adopt wholesome and inclusive approach. Instead of fearful and halfhearted action against religious seminaries, the State of Pakistan is required to take these seminaries on board against the extremist ideology. A low level cadre who is radicalized with false interpretations of Quran and Hadith can only be deradicalized with true interpretations of the same. There is a huge gap in Ideological response to the Terrorism in Pakistan and until this gap is minimized it will be hard to stop future attacks on Pakistan.

Perhaps , the most noteworthy thing  is that why citizens ready themselves to confront the very state they belong to ? The state must deprive the challengers of this resource by assuaging the fears of its citizens and ensuring that they become positive contributors and stakeholders in state and nation building.

The recent wave of attack may be considered as a wakeup call for Pakistani State, intelligentsia and academics to re-think of their strategy against Terrorism and come up with something solid to clear the menace of Terrorism. This scenario against Pakistan is manipulated, financed and harbored by enemies of Pakistan to destabilize the state for their own vested interests. The recent Chinese investment in Pakistan in form of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and others need a safe and secure environment to flourish and develop, and as an all-weather friend it is responsibility of Pakistan to neutralize all the threats on its soil timely.

Anas Abdullah

Anas Abdullah

is Executive Director, CSCR. His expertise includes ‘Domain Militancy and Counter Militancy’ with a particular emphasis on Counter Narrative, Kashmir Conflict and Middle East emerging scenarios. He tweets at @_AnasAbdullah

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