FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 09

Terrorism raises its ugly head again

The resurgence of the TTP has created a worrisome situation for Pakistan. In recent months, there have been widespread protests in the Swat valley as well as the erstwhile FATA, especially Waziristan, Bajaur, Wana, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, and D I Khan against the re-emergence of terrorists in their areas. The people of these areas have demanded the government take immediate action to drive the terrorists out of their areas and re-establish its writ there.

Before coming to the solution part, we must analyse the latest terrorism phenomenon. As pointed out by several analysts, in recent years, we failed to notice and assess the impact of the unification of all TTP factions under Noor Wali Mehsud, who became ameer in 2018. According to media reports he greatly strengthened the organisation and enhanced its strike capability. He reorganised the TTP’s support network inside Pakistan, which had become dormant in the wake of the government’s counter-terrorism drive. After the American exit from Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban’s support also boosted the TTP.

The re-emergence of the TTP has much to do with our faulty, one-track counter-insurgency strategy. According to security experts, while combating terrorism during 2010-20, we only focused on short-term tactics and did not make any long-term policy. Terrorism is a multi-dimensional problem which calls for a holistic approach for its solution.

After we had defeated the terrorists militarily and smashed their networks, we should have focused more on non-kinetic measures to neutralize the threat at its root. That is, we should have addressed the factors which breed militancy. Another mistake was that we tried to appease the TTP through negotiations in 2022, which allowed the militants to return to their former strongholds and become active again.

In the given circumstances, we need to develop a multidimensional policy to tackle the menace of terrorism. On one hand, we should expose India’s sponsorship of terrorism against Pakistan in connivance with other hostile agencies and, on the other, a diplomatic and media campaign should be launched to make the public both here and abroad better aware of the threat posed by the TTP. In going about the task, Pakistan should also enlist the cooperation of the Afghan Taliban government and ask it to not allow its soil to be used for terrorist attacks across the border.

A carefully worked out counter-narrative is also the need of the hour which should be propagated with the help of our religious, religious-political, and political leaders to counter the edict by religious leaders of KP. Simultaneously, a new operation on the pattern of the Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad should be launched to strike deep into the terrorist dens.

There is an urgent need to create a unified anti-terrorism apex body at the national level with the capacity to detect, counter all external and internal sources, threats of terrorism. Simultaneously, an intelligence coordination centre should be set up at the national and provincial levels to collect crucial information from various sources and process it for coordinated action on the ground.

The National Action Plan was formulated in 2014 with the consensus of all political parties and the establishment. It laid out policy guidelines on how to deal with terrorism in all its manifestations in Pakistan. A principal NAP recommendation was to strengthen the Nacta but it was not implemented in its true spirit. On Jan 5, 2023, the Senate Committee on Defence recommended that a “coherent counterterrorism policy with the Nacta in the lead role” be devised to deal with the terrorist threat. But no action has so far been taken to give it concrete shape.

The TTP poses an existential threat to Pakistan and needs to be dealt with an iron hand. Learning from our past mistakes, we must adopt both long- and short-term measures to deal with it. The policy of appeasement and holding negotiations should be abandoned and we should banish the threat of terrorism from our soil forever. It is now-or-never moment for Pakistan. We must seize it and destroy the elements who at the behest of their foreign masters are playing the dirty game of destabilizing and weakening Pakistan.