Syed Ali Zia Jaffery*
Pakistan is fighting its own War on Terror since the past 15 years. The menace has been once an existential threat to the sinews of the state. Initially, the state dithered; their policy oscillated from the application of military power and negotiations. There are two things fundamentally wrong with states trying to talk with non-state actors. One that the state by entering into dialogue gives militants a position equal to that of the state. Secondly, the state concedes that it no longer has a monopoly of violence.
Peace accords and talks provided militants breathing space and time to reorganize. They revoked the agreements and hit back the state with full force. We see that all major military operations launched till date, to include Operation Zarb-e-Azb were successful in attaining the set military objectives. The aims of kinetic operations carried out by Pakistan were to clear areas, destroy sanctuaries and dent the war-waging capabilities of the militants. Not only were places like Swat and the Tribal Areas cleared, but normalcy was also restored. However, the civil administration has not supplanted the army, which means the state is holding instead of consolidating.
After the successful conduct of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a different kind of military operation, Radd Ul Fasad was launched country-wide. The idea behind this operation is to build upon the success of the preceding campaign by the targeting the remaining remnants of terror outfits. This is tipped to the last of Pakistan’s kinetic efforts
Pakistan has been quite successful in militarily defeating terrorism. This can be corroborated by the great reduction in the frequency of attacks in the country. Moreover, the terrorists are mostly operating from Afghanistan, implying that Pakistan has done enough to deny them space.
Outsourcing Counter-Terrorism to the military is certainly not a good idea. Force is just a plank, albeit an important one, but not the be-all and the end-all of Counter Terrorism. The non-kinetic side of Counter Terrorism needs to be duly focused upon. Fighting is tactical; it cannot translate into strategic success if efforts are not made to address the root causes of terrorism.
Implementation of the 20-point National Action Plan is essential to lasting peace in the country and it has been done in conjunction with the use of force.
The non-state actors have waged a war against the state and they find it less costly to inflict damage to the state. These disruptive forces can be defeated only if the state increases their fighting costs and if they are dispossessed from their sources of strength.
Terrorists exploit the inherent hatred for the state; adding religious zest to it, they ensure that people hate the state to such an extent that they willingly die to cause damage. The state has to build citizens’ trust in it. This can be done when the government takes steps to undertake political, social and educational reforms. If citizens are made stakeholders in nation and state building then militants will soon be deprived of an important conduit of strength
A well-thought out counter-narrative must be produced and disseminated in order to deride radical ideologies. Terrorism in all forms and manifestations must be dealt with punitively by using the “all of nation “ approach.
In sum, the use of force has and will continue to remain an important cog in Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism drive. However considering it the only way to end the epidemic is a flawed assertion. The state has to focus on perhaps other all-important aspects to include social and political reforms. It is a long war which cannot be won by the mere implementation of tactics.
* Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Associate at the Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR), Islamabad. He frequently writes on defense, foreign policy and counter-terrorism.