As defined by Robert E. Goodin, terrorism is a form of political violence in a population with an aim to achieve some objectives by creating a climate of fear and apprehension. However, in the current century, terrorism has emerged as a meaningful term that can reliably be distinguished from other forms of political violence. Martha Crenshaw, in her book titled ‘Terrorism, Legitimacy and Power: The Consequences of Political Violence’ describes terrorism as “an unrealistic possibility of prevailing against one’s opponents in an orthodox armed conflict.” Hence, terrorism, as suggests, has been an accurate example of new warfare. Pakistan, for that matter, has been witnessing terrorism to its utmost potential over the last over a decade.
The inception of terrorism in Pakistan was more or less a clichéd one. With the concept of strategic depth looming in, Pakistan had to venture it out because of its geographically narrow structure as a country. Pakistan’s constricted demographics in contrast to India’s put it in an extremely vulnerable position. Thus military strategists during Zia era were of the opinion that the Afghan territory could provide strategic depth to Pakistan, helping it encounter any aggression from India. The concept of strategic depth was a sound and safe one for Pakistan, until the time Pakistan and Afghanistan knotted demographic, cultural and political ties in such a wholly manner that an emphasis was laid on common national interests, and on both countries’ mutual cooperation to face the menace created by Taliban. This wholly alliance between the countries was reiterated in a rather heinous manner when after the 9/11, USA launched a war on terror in Afghanistan. The 9/11, therefore, along with the looming setbacks of strategic depth, engulfed Pakistan as much as they encapsulated Afghanistan, and it is no later than now that Pakistan faces the repercussions.
The hurling of Mujahideen after 9/11 further ingrained within Pakistan the seeds of terrorism and it was not later that the Madrassa culture propelled in making terrorist groups and organizations. UNESCO’s 2009 Education for All report portrays Pakistan as a miserable case with over 3.6 million out-of-school children – a figure that has likely doubled by 2016. For reasons like these where majority of Pakistan’s children seem to be nurturing themselves on Madrassa education, it is highly inevitable that Madrassas don’t become the scapegoat. The Madrassa system in Pakistan is organized through varying ideologies and schools of thought such as Deobandi, Wahabi, etc. The Deobandi schools that cover 70 percent of all registered Madrassas tend to garner respect and tradition, but the setbacks they carry are rather huge ones; they are criticized for giving a rise to militancy and hence words like fundamentalism or extremism are perpetually attached to Madrassas. Moreover, the internal conflicts within Madrassas has given rise to more extremist notions, and has helped recruit militants for organizations like al-Qaeda.
However, what essentially has led to terrorism being incorporated into the daily lives of Pakistanis is the strategic shift in the mindset of people living here, through the changing political environment. The bipolarity that Pakistan has witnessed since the onset of the altering political systems; from Zia’s extremist authoritarian regime to Bhutto’s liberalist mindset to the polarization that Pakistan witnessed in Musharaf era, contribute to the religious intolerance that is rife in Pakistan today. (insert Lal Masjid episode)
Moreover, the Defence Minister Khawaja Asif recently criticized Afghan President for installing Afghan refugees in Pakistan as ‘terrorists’, and hence the unregulated movement of these refugees has become a discreet security issue for Pakistan lately. In another recent interview he said: “Five million refugees came here, along with drugs, guns, bringing instability to Pakistan.” The constant assailing of the Afghan refugees by the incumbent government is a clear indication of how militants are being born and bred on borders creating distinct terrorist threats for Pakistan as well.
Even more distressing for Pakistan has been the Kashmir issue which even though has been the reason for a constant rift between India and Pakistan since ages, but it is now that the issue has ignited more fire. This perpetuating fight between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has become a shape-shifter lately; it has given a way too state-sponsored terrorism which India seems to be practicing in Pakistan. Balochistan and Sindh have been RAW’s continuous targets, spreading violence and fear all across the country.
The continuous issue of terrorism in Pakistan has caused detrimental effects on Pakistan’s economy and culture. Whilst the APS attack has been Pakistan’s 9/11 causing unrelenting fear and sorrow in the heart of each Pakistani, the money that the government has spent on operations like Zarb-e-Azb has curtailed the consumer spending of the government, also lessening the revenue the government would generate that could have been spent on the health and education sector. What has been largely affected by terrorism lately has been the financial account of Pakistan which has been facing a deficit since eons now. The foreign direct investment in Pakistan has curtailed to such an extent that even those who have previously invested in Pakistan are taking back their money to either their own states, shutting down franchises here, or to countries like UK and Spain. This has also led to unemployment and impoverishment because of which Pakistan’s economic growth seems stunted. What is even more disturbing for Pakistan has been the human loss terrorism has cost us. From 2002-2013, the number of martyred in suicide terrorist attacks has increased from 102 to 62,157. This huge increase is a clear signal of the sorrowful impact of terrorism that our country has sustained.
The issue of terrorism is deeply rooted in our country and therefore it is imperative to know the counter-terrorism strategies that Pakistan has or needs to be equipped so as to eradicate this evil. The National Action Plan initiated by the government of Pakistan after the APS attack in 2014 where the government decided to counter terrorism religiously, militarily and politically. Where at one end the army fought militants, the government announced lifting moratorium on executions. Moreover, through Zarb-e-Azb over 90% area of Waziristan has been declared free of terrorists, but it is important the government now evolves a robust counter terrorism policy. The terrorism that is being acted out in the country by India’s agencies and other state-sponsored actors needs to be eradicated simultaneously. For that the policies need to be reevaluated from the core with substantial reforms in FATA, the Madrassa education, as well as the government needs to assure that there is no discrimination between any terrorist group and all are held equally accountable. All these reforms and measures will make the anti-terrorism law stronger, and hence terrorism could be eradicated in a more pro-active manner rather than reactive.