In search for a national terrorism policy


A country can never be fully prepared to meet the challenges that terrorism, be it of any kind or in any shape, brings. In the Information Age, methods and techniques of terrorism are continuously evolving and the danger keeps escalating. Pakistan faces a unique challenge, for it is the battlefield for fighting terrorists which have caused great human losses across the globe. Since 9/11 it has had to deal great pressure from western powers to curb militants who have targeted foreign nationalities and even Pakistanis. With an economy in distress and meager welfare facilities, all of which are plagued with corruption, insecurity and cases of terrorism have stretched thin the allocation of resources. However, policy makers and analysts feel some of this stress can be relieved if Pakistan deals with security crisis in a systemic and organized manner. Twelve years into the War on Terror and Pakistan still lacks a universal narrative on terrorism. The attack on 14 year old Malala Yousafzai on October 9th uncovered the political rifts in the Pakistani government over counter terrorism.

The world hurled its condemnation on the Taliban militants who targeted Malala, an act that symbolizes the existence of an oppressive mindset that violates basic human rights. Pakistani politicians reacted strongly, some calling for the immediate enactment of the North Waziristan Operation to eliminate the militants. MQM expressed great disapproval with Altaf Hussain urging the army to immediately begin the Waziristan operation. Repeated failure of dialogue with the Taliban has convinced him of the need for a military response. Although ANP and MQM do not see eye to eye on all matters, the former’s failure against Taliban in Peshawar caused it to support a military response. The ruling party, PPP, was not far behind in denouncing the attack. Its senior leaders including the PM vowed to root out extremism but they were hoping the Army or the parliament would take the initiate by approving of an operation. However, the Army threw the ball in the government’s court by necessitating its approval for any such action while resistance from opposition parties thwarted a parliamentary endorsement. The government finally decided to play safe by promising that such a decision will be taken if the need arises with the backing of the political and military leadership.

Even though all political parties criticized the attack to some degree or another, some parties chose to disagree with a military reaction against terrorists. The JI and JUI, for instance, urged the government not to misuse this incident to gain some political advantages and support for a military operation. At the same time, various conspiracy theories regarding the role of Malala as a spy and the wider interest of America in exploiting Pakistan sprung up. Significant opposition also came forth from Imran Khan, leader of PTI and the savior of Pakistan according to its rapidly growing supporters. He believed a military action to be premature which if carried out would aggravate the security crisis. Khan suggested a three point strategy: detachment from the American War on Terror, dialogue with the militants and as a last resort, military action. He particularly stressed on the participation of the locals in these decisions so that they did not feel alienated.

PML-N is a step ahead of many parties as they not only differ with other parties but their own members also have conflicting viewpoints. Although they have opposed the government’s plan for a military operation in Waziristan, their leaders haven’t explicitly favored dialogue either. PML-N members claim this to be a political trick to delay elections. Still we have Marvi Memon propagating a forceful response while Zafar Ali Shah, Khurram Dastgir and Saad Rafiq have been open to the option of cooperation as part of a multidimensional approach.

If this wasn’t enough, the matter of a terrorism policy was muddled with pro-Malala and anti-Malala discourses. Phrases like “You are either with the Taliban or against the Taliban” were being used to determines one’s loyalty to the state or the militants. A national terrorism policy cannot be simplified to just the Taliban, the drones or US intervention in Pakistani affairs. In fact they are the constituents of that policy.

A difference in opinion over the Waziristan operation should guide debate and discussion over other issues to eventually reach a state policy against terrorism. This is however only the first part of the process; the policy must then be implemented. Malala’s attack was most unfortunate but when seen in the context of the upcoming elections and worldwide outrage, it may be just the right amount of push needed to ensure that political parties come up with policy agreeable to all and sundry.


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