Current State of Terrorism and Counter-terrorism measures of Pakistan

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by Basma Khalil  12 March 2020

Lately, there have been numerous reports and indicators that hint at the improved security situation across the country. According to the report of Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies’ (PIPS), over the decade terrorist activities in Pakistan have plummeted by more than 85 %. This could be attributed to the determination and resilience of the Pakistani nation. Simultaneously, the Government of Pakistan and military made commendable efforts in fighting against the menace of terrorism. A National Action Plan was devised combined with foreign and domestic policy initiatives aimed to detect, pursue and prosecute terrorist organizations while providing protection to the vulnerable across the country. National Action Plan is a well-structured and coordinated state response against terrorism, which has received unprecedented level of support and co-operation across the country.  Military operations such as the Operations Zarb-e-Azab and Rad-ul-Fasaad added to the credibility of NAP in countering terrorism. Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Antonio Guterres during his recent visit lauded Pakistan’s efforts and termed it as a journey from terrorism state to a tourism state. He called for the need to recognize and appreciate this at the global level.

While this is a moment of pride for the whole nation, one should still stay objective and not turn a blind eye to the reality. The menace is not yet fully over. As is evident from the monthly security review of Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies’ (PIPS), 21 terrorist attacks took place in Pakistan during the first month of 2020. These were mostly confined to the province of Balochistan and KPK.  Terrorism-related casualties for any one region of the country happened in Balochistan with 19 causalities. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 13 reported attacks killed 10 people. After terrorist attacked a Sikh shrine in Southern Punjab, Prime Minister Imran Khan promised zero tolerance for extremists. Most recent attacks carried out in 2020 were perpetrated by religiously inspired militant groups including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hizbul Ahrar, Jamaatul Ahrar, local Taliban, and the Islamic State (IS) terrorist groups.

Major reason for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to confront the terror attacks is that both share borders with Afghanistan and Iran. Due to the presence of porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, infiltration of non-state-actors is easy inside Pakistan’s border area provinces such as KPK and Balochistan. However, 25th constitutional amendment, which merged the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with adjacent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is one of preeminent initiative by government of Pakistan which resulted in better law and order situation of KP. Along with this, solidification of Pak-Afghan border through cross-border fencing, terrorist incidents are gradually decreasing.  There is a firm resolve within the security forces which would continue taking action against anti-state elements operating from within and the other side of border and prevent their infiltration.

Along with targeting terrorist elements and prevention of non-state actors to cross into the borders of Pakistan, government of Pakistan also took the initiatives of rehabilitation centres operating under the military in KP and the Peaceful Balochistan Package, which is also running with the support from security agencies. Out-come of  the KP centers has been reported by Dawn news last year that 110 former militants had been de-radicalized under the army-led Sabawoon project. ‘This was the seventh batch to complete the course during which the de-radicalized militants were taught Islamic teachings, basic schooling, psychological and psychiatric treatment’. They were also trained in different useful trades to enable them to become useful and peaceful citizens.

Reintegration programme Peaceful Balochistan Package has been underway in Balochistan for many years, with the aim to provide incentives to Baloch insurgents to quit violence and help them reintegrate into the society. In recent years several hundred of Baloch insurgents have surrendered their arms under the programme. The incumbent provincial government of Balochistan has also reiterated to provide complete financial and rehabilitation support to those Baloch insurgents who quit violence, abandon militancy against the state, and join the mainstream under the Peaceful Balochistan Package. Last year, a compensation distribution ceremony in that regard was held in Sui area of Dera Bugti where compensation amount was distributed among 32 former militant commanders and sub commanders.

 As nature of war is changing, revision of the current counter-terrorism and counter extremism framework is required to address the minor fragilities left over that allowed terrorist to re-launch the terror attacks. Modification of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, proclamation of the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014, and approval of the 21st Constitutional Amendment has provided a sufficient framework for apprehension, trial, and conviction of terrorist. Consequently, as part of a vigilant counterterrorism initiative, Pakistan fulfilled fourteen points out of twenty seven provided by FATF which has been recognized and duly appreciated by the FATF.

The writer is working as Research Affiliate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad, a non-partisan based out of Islamabad. 

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