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Counterterrorism Models for Pakistan

Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism since many years now. Besides some separatist groups in Balochistan, Tehrik-a-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is the major terrorist network operating against the state and its people.

Nevertheless, a strong desire is present among both at Federal and KPK Provincial Government to hold talks with TTP to bring about peace in Pakistan.

Generally, the term ‘terrorism’ means the use of violence or violent means by individual(s) or a group. The counterterrorism, thus, means the actions or methods used by a community or a State to stop the activities of those who resort to violence to achieve political or other ends. Counterterrorism may also be defined as the political or military activities, designed to prevent or thwart terrorism.

Unfortunately, there appears no breakthrough in the wishful Government policy of dialogue with TTP. The primary hurdle is the fanatic mindset which the TTP has reflected over years. Dialogue with the TTP remains non-productive as the group continues to challenges the writ of the State. This is surprising that in previous three agreements, the state gave some sort of recognition to presence of TTP and undergone a brief dialogue process.

Two broad models are present for ending the terrorism from Pakistan.


First is the elimination of the terrorist group(s), the way Sri Lankan Government did against the protracted insurgency of the LTTE which cost thousands of lives besides, social, political and economic disruption of Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009. Except reservations of Tamil population which suffered the most, generally, the peace is prevalent in Sri Lanka. Pakistan supported this South Asian island country in this war, whereas the LTTE was fully supported by Sri Lanka’s neighbour i.e. India. It is worth-mentioning that most of insurgencies and terrorist networks in South Asian countries are financed, and supported militarily, by India.

Another model is the dialogue process; the peaceful way of settling the disputes. In history, many insurgencies have been resolved through dialogue between the opposing parties. The most recent example is the political and negotiated settlement of the Northern Ireland in 1998. IRA fought a long war against the UK. The British Government had announced huge bounties on the heads of IRA members. However, during the dialogue, same members were negotiating with the British Government and Her Majesty to resolve the issue. Now, there is peace and prosperity prevalent in Northern Ireland.

 It is worth-mentioning that most of insurgencies and terrorist networks in South Asian countries are financed, and supported militarily, by India.
 The most important aspect here is that the LTTE was representing an ethnic group; the Tamils having Indian origin, who wanted their separate identity vis-à-vis the majority Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. In the case of IRA, it was fighting for the rights of Northern Ireland, having huge popular support. But when it comes to TTP, they neither represent any ethnic group nor any defined religious entity. They have no roots among the local populace. Rather, the people hate them even in the areas of their forced influence.

Besides, two above-mentioned models, there are successful precedents of countering the terrorism and insurgencies in various parts of the world. Some of these include: the Philippines (1899-1902), El Salvador (1980-1992), Malaysia (1948-1960) and Guatemala (1963-1993). All these models offer insight as to overall success. The conflicts in Vietnam (1959-1972) and Algeria (1954-1962) offer great examples of military operational successes that were ultimately thwarted by a disconnected overall strategy. Additionally, the operations in Columbia (1963-present) and Iraq (2005-present) offer current, real-time counterinsurgency measures with significant positive effects.

All of these counterinsurgency efforts are pregnant with research methods and lessons readily available for analysis. Every insurgency has its own dynamics. While no counterterrorism situation is the same and there is no prescribed template for success, it is beneficial to look at successful measures from past counterinsurgency operations and determine their applicability to Pakistan’s current situation. With a compilation of the lessons learnt, their analyses and applicability as a starting point, we can deduce four things:

(1) For a successful counter-terrorism strategy, the utmost importance must be given to the security of the civilian populace and cultivation of a positive relationship with the local people.

(2) Successful counterinsurgencies require measures to deny insurgents the operating space. This includes logistics lines as well as territory to operate from.

(3) Successful counterterrorism strategy simultaneously embarks on socio-political development to take advantage of security gains. Projects like infrastructure, health and education significantly improve the populations association with state identity.

(4) The most important long-term, successful counterterrorism measure is to develop a “whole of government” integrated strategy to establish strategic stability through addressing root causes of the insurgency.

There is no defined counter-terrorism strategy in practice in Pakistan. Indeed, it is the responsibility of the Government to formulate a counterterrorism strategy to be implemented by the security forces. In the absence of such strategy, there is always an ambiguity about what to do. Will the military operation provide the final solution or the negotiation and dialogue is the alternative way forward?

In case of military operations, the security forces would clear an area from the terrorists, but, what about its sustainability; the ultimate holding by the political and civil administration. The examples are there in the cases of Swat and SWA. Let us have a pragmatic counterterrorism strategy to combat this menace. Indecisiveness at state level would allow TTP more manoeuvring space and enhanced strength.

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