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Pakistan Reader# 495, 3 January 2023

Fighting Militancy: What Pakistan should, but will do



D. Suba Chandran

Yesterday (02 January 2023, Monday), Pakistan’s National Security Council met in the background of terror threat emanating from the TTP, and also violence from across the border (the western one, from Afghanistan, across the Durand Line). Dawn, quoted a NSC statement: “Pakistan’s security is uncompromisable and the full writ of the state will be maintained on every inch of the (sic) Pakistan’s territory…No country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists and Pakistan reserves all rights in that respect to safeguard her people…”

Dawn also referred to a statement for Pakistan’s PM office on the NSC deliberations: “The National Security Committee reiterated its commitment to ‘zero tolerance’ for terrorism in Pakistan, and reiterated its commitment to root out all forms of terrorism. Terrorism will be tackled with the full force of the state. State rule will be ensured on every inch of Pakistan’s land.”

The above two statements from the NSC and the PM office, highlight how Pakistan sees terrorism as a primary threat. Rightly so. Given the recent attacks led by the Pakistan Taliban and instability in Chaman following Pakistan-Afghan skirmishes, Pakistan has identified the TTP as a major threat, and sanctuaries and facilitation (by Afghanistan, though the statements do not directly refer to Kabul) as a source of concern.

The diagnosis of the problem is right. But what about the prescription? How is Pakistan likely to respond? It refers to “zero tolerance” for terrorism and maintaining the “writ of the state.” The most important question is: will Pakistan pursue a strategy of “zero terrorism” against “all forms of terrorism,” and more importantly “all forms of terrorists”? 

First, establishing the writ of the state. All states should establish control over their territory in its entirety. Pakistan, in the past, used the British legacy and the tribal practicalities as an excuse to allow the writ of the state to shrink in the tribal regions – from Swat in the north to Waziristan in the south. In the heart of Punjab and in part of Sindh and Balochistan, sectarian militancy was allowed as a part of a strategy to deal with certain political questions. Worse, the State refused to accept the rise of jihadis who would go on to fight on both sides of Pakistan’s border. The State yielded its territory to be allowed to be abused as a part of a larger strategy. Is Pakistan ready to recover all parts of its territory from all versions of non-state actors? Pakistan should, but will it?

Second, establishing the writ of the state – should it be only the territorial writ, or should it include the ideological writ as well? Should the State look only at the militants and jihadis as perpetrators, but should also go after all forms of ideology that promote violence, militancy and terrorism? Establishing the writ should be not only legal, but also political and social. Both - the political parties and civil society should ensure that they establish their writ over the State in terms of what they want to achieve politically and socially and not yield any space to non-political and non-social actors, undermining the political and social writ. Establishing the writ is not only the responsibility of the State but also that of the politics and society. Pakistan should, but will it?

Third, the most important issue – going after “all forms of terrorism.” This means Pakistan will stop differentiating between terrorism, jihad, sectarian violence, and even those perpetrated against gender and minority communities. Pakistan should also look at going after “all forms of terrorism” not only its own soil, but also on any other soil. The State in Pakistan has every right to make the above-mentioned statement, reproduced despite duplicating it: “No country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists and Pakistan reserves all rights in that respect to safeguard her people.” If Pakistan does not want other countries to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists, it should also practice it. It should desist from providing sanctuaries – territorial and ideological to non-state actors who will act against the other states. Pakistan should, but will it?

A larger section inside Pakistan believes that the State should take it seriously now. A section believes Pakistan has learned its lesson and now takes the threat seriously. The proof should be not in terms of expectations and beliefs but in practice. Will the State pursue and practice what it has stated in public? There is a global expectation that Pakistan should. But will it?
 

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