Pakistani politics cannot be analysed without taking into account civil-military relations. This equation alone determines the tone of politics and state of affairs in Pakistan. Hence, the country is in a perpetual struggle to finding the perfect equilibrium for the two types of leaderships to coexist. The military and civilian leadership has in several public meetings repeatedly expressed its resolve and reaffirmed its solidarity in fighting terrorism.

Recent deaths and injuries in terrorist attacks have shone a spotlight, once again, on the issue of growing terrorism in province of Balochistan. The legal fraternity was still recovering from Quetta’s Civil Hospital terrorist attack that killed at least 73 people and left scores injured when another attack on the legal community hit the Police Training Centre in Quetta on Monday, killing at least 61 people and wounding at least 117.

The counter-insurgency operation, Zarb-e-Azb, proved itself as pivotal in curbing terrorism in certain key pockets of Pakistan; however Zarb-e-Azb is not a one-time fix. Military efforts are only one factor in the many imperative to end terrorism. To succeed in the long run, military efforts need to be a part of a larger counter-insurgency campaign inclusive of political and social considerations, as well as the regional and global constraints.

The current government’s recommendations in the “three-point strategy to tackle the jihadi organisations” represent an interesting shifting of gears with regards to curbing terrorism; the government has introduced ways by which large militant organisations can be regulated. The plan involves disarming terrorist groups, stopping their funding and getting militant outfits involved in mainstream politics. However, tackling the social and ideological aspects of growing militancy and extremism is a complicated matter and needs a greater show of resolve.

Building a clear national narrative against extremism, radicalism and militancy is the need of the hour; one of the greater difficulties lies in monitoring the bodies and institutions responsible for nurturing extremist discourse.

Considering that each neighbourhood in every town of Pakistan has a mosque of its own and its own understanding of Islam, letting these mosques operate independent of state oversight means the risk has been amplified. A lack of governmental focus on access to and quality of marginalised and underprivileged children's education has resulted in the proliferation of madrassas, some of which are highly radicalised.

In the long run only the educated and literate population is likely to build an internal social coherence which is tremendously lacking in the current system. Pakistan needs to improve its literacy rate by declaring the country’s failure to meet educational standards a threat to its already fragile democracy and peace.

Pakistan’s experience suggests that its courts also need to go through an intensive process of reform; the justice system has had most civilians face a lifetime of never ending civil and criminal litigation before getting their issues resolved. It is inevitable for a state which doesn’t provide justice to ultimately break down due to injustice.

Any plan for the nation will not work until and unless the endemic corruption, poor enforcement of the rule of law, and the presence of criminal, drug and land mafias are taken to court.

The non-democratic approach of provincial governments towards local governance institutions leads to individuals often finding themselves to be acting as little more than stooges responsible for upholding of so called democratic norms. Citizens’ inspiration of self-rule must be realised by empowering local governance institutions to address their development and grass root democratic issues without interference from provincial governments.

Pakistani youth today makes up the largest chunk of the total population: estimates suggest 63% to 70% of the Pakistani population consists of the young. Unfortunately, due to limited livelihood opportunities, the youth looking for a livelihood often have no other choice but to join armed forces of militant and extremist organisations and become enforcers of a radical narrative or get involved in drug trade.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has opened up as a good opportunity to prepare the Pakistani youth for upcoming livelihood opportunities. It has opened up new gateways for the young by providing them with on the job skills training and experience.

Pakistan faces acute internal and external security challenges. Until a comprehensive action plan targeting social coherence through education and livelihood is not established, the mania of radical and extremist mindset can’t be eradicated. Changing the narrative lies at the heart of any long-term effort to eradicate terrorism and permanently cleanse society. This requires involvement of both civil and military leadership and careful deliberation on drawing up a holistic plan of action. There is no quick fix to countering terrorism, thus the nation must be patient and the leaderships must put aside political differences to work together towards a common goal. Surely, as in the words of Winston Churchill, “Evils can be created much quicker than they can be cured.”

 

The writer is a rights activist and development consultant.