Countering Terrorism with a Strategy

Countering Terrorism with a Strategy

By N. Elahi

After a brief lull in the streak of terrorist activities the hydra of terrorism has once again raised its ugly head in Pakistan.  Besides many other recent terrorist incidents, the most glaring were the massacre of 43 Ismailis in Karachi on 13th May and of 20 Hazaras in MastungBalochistan on 29th May 2015.

The resurgence of terrorism, which is predominantly sectarian in nature, has undermined the short lived relief people of Pakistan had just started to enjoy. Terrorism has struck again at a time when situation seemed to be limping back to normalcy.

It is more perplexing that these killings can be linked with globalisation of sectarian violence in the Muslim world. Nevertheless it is more important to look at the resurgence of this phenomenon in the indigenous settings for the sake of tackling the sectarian terrorism at home which is not new and has raged here since 1980s in this form. Sectarian terrorism in fact has become a weapon in the hands of national and international terrorists to add lethality and sort of sectarian legitimacy to their modus operandi. It needs tough and tenacious tackling.


Terrorism is a complex phenomenon confounded with obscure characters, elusive objectives, strange alliances and astounding resilience. This cobweb is even more complex in Pakistan. For nearly last one and a half decade, local and international terrorists have been wreaking havoc here. Al Qaeda had found a foothold in FATA after being displaced from treacherous Torabora mountains of Afghanistan in 2002. Its offspring Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) emerged as the most formidable force of terrorists and insurgents that has effectively challenged the writ of the government.  Religious extremism, sectarianism and three decade long jihadi culture that flourished due to flawed state policies and debilitated writ of the successive governments, provide them succour and support to thrive. In case of state retaliation they change their forms and join forces to stay afloat and to keep operating.

Countering this sort of terrorism is a  gigantic task requiring cogent, comprehensive and coherent strategy involving plethora of agencies that could relentlessly play the allotted roles with vigour and discipline, in unison. Surprisingly successive governments of Pakistan have not bothered to formulate a   strategy to tackle terrorism. They have mostly depended on fragmented and frail responses. Those who consider it a strategy, though unwritten, should realise that the intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies have failed to operate on all four burners due to absence of clear mandate and specific role defined by a national counter terrorism strategy.


This is not the first time that the graph of terrorism has gone up after a brief dip. A number of times during the one and a half decade  long battle with terrorists we have been deceived by temporary phases of peace that soon shatter into smithereens. Naturally if it happens time and again, the fog of dismay thickens and the militants seem more invincible.

A careful analysis of the apparent resilience of the terrorists exposes state’s inability to apply required amount of momentum in an organised manner to annihilate them. The only powerhouse that can generate this momentum is a comprehensive national counter terrorism strategy which warrants a  systematic and sustained approach to achieve desired results. Unfortunately there has been an inexplicable resistance against  developing a strategy all along these years of fight against the terrorists. Experts and media have cried themselves hoarse to draw attention of successive governments towards it but in vain.

All quarters, political and military, had reached a consensus to go all out against the evil of terrorism after the ghastly terrorist attack on Army Public School Peshawar on 16th December 2014. As a result National Action Plan (NAP) was formulated that is being pursued under Prime Minister’s oversight. It is a resolve to respond to 20 facets of terrorism and extremism. Sixteen committees were formed to oversee the execution of NAP. Nevertheless the Prime Minister has recently expressed dissatisfaction over the progress made on NAP. A quick review of NAP also confirms that it has not been able to deliver as per expectations of the government and the people of Pakistan.

The problem is that NAP is primarily an outline that has only identified the areas to be countered; it is not a strategy. Strategy clearly states objectives, the stakeholders, the departments responsible to play their allotted roles and approaches to achieve the objectives in a given time. It is revised periodically and updated in light of its successes and failures. To top all it should be a written document like a penal code or civil code.  It can ensure to hold the departments, mentioned in the strategy, responsible for waywardness, slackness or failure. Equally important is enactment of new laws and amendments in the existing ones to propel the strategy effectively.

In short, in absence of counter terrorism strategy we cannot think of eliminating terrorism and extremism of all sorts from our soil, including the one linked with globalisation of sectarian violence in the Muslim world.

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