Do we have a Sound Counter Terrorism Strategy?

By Amir Hayat

Pakistan has made a great progress in contending internal terrorism for the last three years. Pakistan Army has conducted series of operations starting from “Zarb-e-Azb” to “Operation Raadul Fassad”. Due to these military actions, most of the terroristz absconded to neighboring Afghanistan or killed when showed confrontation. Now the regime has extended its control to tribal areas and is trying to establish the rule of law with strong presence of army. The suicide attacks and bombings in urban parts of the country have reduced significantly.

Prior to the start of military actions, the government tried to engage these terror groups for a dialogue and peaceful surrender. At that time, both segments of the society, liberals and conservatives came up with different views. Liberals wanted military actions straight away while conservatives desired to bring these “angry brothers” back into the mainstream society and address their grievances. When negotiation strategy failed and the extremists continued their malicious activities, the public realized that now this issue can only be dealt with gun not tongue. Although the government failed in bringing them to negotiation table but it helped to build public opinion in favour of military action, which was actually a great success, as in past, the military operations were not that successful due to public resistance at large.

After these series of operations, should we now safely believe that we have eliminated terrorism, heading towards a progressive future and going to be a respectable country in the world? Unfortunately, the answer is still a “NO

The current insurgency in Pakistan is not a political or ethnic conflict like there was Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka or now Kashmir Issue between India and Pakistan, which can be resolved with political and military strategies. This issue is actually an ideological conflict sugar coated with religious beliefs. This is a mind-set who believes in such goals and objectives which, as per them, divinely right and obligated. They believe that strict adherence to their ideology is a divinely responsibility conferred on them by God.

This needs ideological interventions with counter narrative at the strategic level. Our current strategies are like curing a contagious disease while killing the infected patient. The infection is not only exists but rapidly spreading to others as well. Unfortunately, we are still not convinced that terrorism is a mind-set, which we have cultivated and still doing so through our education system and social structure. We are still teaching our children that, “Islam is spread with the might of sword” and “it can only be propagated through Jihad”. We drive the names of all our war nukes from Quran, Hadith and Muslim warriors and indirectly giving a message that tanks and missiles are divinely means of protecting Islam and the country. On all national days and events, we display weapons and missiles and indirectly inspiring our young generation towards extremism. This also gives an impression that the one and only success of Pakistan, as a nation, is making an “ATOM BOMB” and pile of other nukes.

Now-a-days our great minds in establishment have started believing that mainstreaming of terror lords will further strengthen the gains in war against terrorism. This shows that we have not learned a single lesson from Zia era and its consequences to our society. With this strategy, a bad Ehsanullah Ehasan becomes a good one over nightly when he blames India for all his deeds. A man on WANTED posters in the United Nations is on campaign posters in Pakistan. He is contesting elections with his own ideology of violence and Jihad. You will find so many such characters if you go through the profiles of candidates contested the recent by elections in NA 120 Lahore.

If we sincerely want to eliminate terrorism, we need to transform our curriculum, which is actually breeding the extremist mind-set in our educational institutions. Recent arrests of students in Karachi University and last year in IBA are some of the stunning example. We have to reforms the madrassah system, which is a parallel educational system with no control mechanism by the state. We should revisit our internal and foreign policies and align them with the progressive world. Now it is high time to realize that the whole world cannot be wrong when they say that we need to be serious in our efforts in combating this issue. We should not use these elements for political and military gains and it should be clear that we cannot counter India and Afghanistan with such partners. We need to counter Indian interference with logical and diplomatic means not through Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed.