A bloody wave of terror has just swept across the country, leaving more than one hundred Pakistanis dead and many other injured. All the four provincial capital cities came under the terrorist attacks within one week. The terrorists first made the ‘Heart of Pakistan’ bleed through a suicidal attack near the Punjab Assembly building in Lahore. Later, some 88 devotees lost their lives at the shrine of Sufi Saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwann Sharif in one the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country. In these terror incidents, besides a large number of ordinary citizens, two senior and able police officers, one judge, one media person and two bomb disposal squad officials have embraced martyrdom. Meanwhile, in a border incident, three Pakistani soldiers were martyred by the Indian security forces. Moreover, three soldiers, including a Captain, embraced Shahadat when a powerful IED exploded on army convoy in Awaran, Baluchistan.

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For a short while, the state of security in Pakistan improved a bit after the successful conclusion of Operation Zarb-e-Azb last year. But seemingly, now the ‘broken-backed’ militants have recovered from the disability within a short period of time by getting re-united and reorganised to launch terrorist attacks in the country afresh. However, this time, they have shifted their focus from the security forces and defence installations to civilian law enforcing agencies and general public. Pakistan has been an active theater of a sophisticated war that has claimed the lives of more than 60 thousand Pakistanis. But regrettably, despite staying in a state of war for more than a decade, we have miserably failed to evaluate and comprehend the exact nature, magnitude and dynamics of this complex war. Consequently, we lack any comprehensive strategy to actively fight this war.

At present, there exist two significant schools of thought which have evolved two distinct narratives explaining the nature of the phenomenon of terrorism in Pakistan. The first one is essentially based on somewhat an as-you-sow-so-shall-you-reap principle after adopting the typical blame-the-victim approach. It attributes the current violent and volatile state of affairs in the country to Pakistan’s failures as a state and its fading writ to overcome the extremism and other sectarian and ethnic cleavages. Therefore, Pakistan is, now, reaping the harvest of the ‘wild oats’ it has constantly been sowing in the past. This school of thought recognises terrorism as purely a home-grown and localised problem, and recommend certain domestic counter-terror measures to put ‘house in order’.

On the other hand, there is another school of thought which emphasises on the so-called external factor of terrorism in Pakistan. It believes that some anti-Pakistan states are planning, financing and executing the terror activities in Pakistan through their hostile intelligence apparatus. Therefore, it favours the adoption of a proactive external policy and diplomacy to effectively contain terrorism in Pakistan.

Undeniably, the ‘terror narrative’ evolved by the first mentioned school of thought appeals to many. But noticeably, there are a lot contradictions, inconsistencies and flaws in this narrative. Mostly, it fails to plausibly explain some aspects and logical questions necessarily associated with the typical form of terrorism faced by Pakistan at the moment. To begin with, it fails to answer why Pakistan is the only country that is experiencing the wrath of anti-American Jihadists while some 28 countries, including India, actively participated in the UN mandated Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan following 9/11 incident. Why has the focus of militancy and insurgency in this region been shifted from the disputed Himalayan state of J&K to Pakistan in the post 9/11 period? There exists a visible Shia-Sunni divide or schism in all over the Muslim world since centuries, so are in Pakistan and other countries in this region like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, India and IHK. So why has only Pakistan been worst hit by the sectarian strife?

The recognised rules of engagement in Islam strictly prohibit attacking and killing non-combatants. Ironically, the innocent civilians have become the primary target of these ‘Jihadists’. The terrorist attack on innocent school children in APS Peshawar has significantly exposed the dirty faces of these beasts in human clothing. Their beliefs and acts have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. It shows how sincere and committed they are to impose Islamic Sharia in Pakistan. One may also absolutely fail to understand why has the so-called ‘Fort of Islam’ been declared and treated as a ‘citadel of infidelity’ by those who called themselves Islamic Jihadists? Why these ‘Mujahedeen’ are trying to destroy the only Muslim nuclear and military power in the world?

Initially, the adherents to the second school of thought were marginalized after being dubbed as conspiracy theorists. However, now as things are rapidly unfolding, their narrative is gaining currency. This narrative provides the logical explanation of current volatile security situation in Pakistan that otherwise can hardly be understood by viewing things in the typical jihadist perspective. Indeed, an armed insurgency, participated by thousands of militants, cannot be initiated and maintained without a state-level sponsorship. Without an extensive monetary, military and logistic support, these apparently isolated miscreants cannot act in a systematic and coordinated fashion. This narrative has frequently been endorsed by our senior political leaders and military commanders, including General Pervez Musharraf and General Raheel Sharif. This narrative is further reinforced when a number of Indian officials and politicians like PM Modi, Ajit Doval, Manohar Parrikar and General Bikram sigh openly acknowledged to harm Pakistan through the non-state actors. Similarly, the capture of high-profile Indian intelligence operative Kulbhushan Yadav in Pakistan simply authenticates this narrative.

India’s failure to conduct ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistan despite the repeated assertions made by it following last year’s Uri attack has utterly exposed that India is militarily disable to launch any major offensive against Pakistan. Now India is not capable of maneuvering against Pakistan beyond resorting to cross-border shelling inside Pakistan. In the face of balance of power between the two countries vis-à-vis the conventional military as well as nuclear strength, India has chosen to impose a proxy fourth generation war on its arch foe through a number of pseudo-Jihadists and pseudo-nationalists. Therefore, Instead of indulging in controversies regarding the nomenclature and morphology of these militant and terrorist groups, Pakistan should focus on the commonalty of their agenda, and the singularity of their objective.

Similarly, there have been some conspiracies theories that the US is desirous of undermining the conventional military strength and nuclear capacity of Pakistan as part of its ‘Greater Middle East’ initiatives. It was believed that the US is playing a game of run-with-the-hare-and-hunt-with-the-hound in this region in the name of War on Terror. Now Pakistan is also an important component of its current so-called China containment policy since the CPEC, a flagship project of China’s One-Belt One-Road (OBOR) initiative, is just situated in Pakistan. In fact, the broader US strategic interests have somehow converged with India’s security doctrine in this region. Therefore, we can observe both ‘strategic partners’ jointly calling the shots in Afghanistan to the disadvantage of Pakistan. It is a fact that militancy has mushroomed in Pakistan since the US invasion in Afghanistan.

Observably a number of states are readily using terrorism as an instrument to articulate and achieve their respective national and strategic goals in the region. Therefore, I believe, there is no such thing as the non-state actors at least in this region. Instead, there are only state’s unconventional or informal actors, who are actively acting on behalf of their ‘paying state’. Through these proxy militants and terrorists, these states are advancing their national agenda. So the bad terrorist for one country is simply good terrorist for the other.

Presently, all the ongoing counter-terror measures in the country are being judged on the very touchstone of National Action Plan, the “Bible of counter-terrorism in Pakistan.” Undoubtedly, this plan comprises some practical measures which can go a long way in containing terrorism in Pakistan. But at the same time, it will hardly help us completely overcome the particular form of terrorism currently experienced by the country. In order to nip terrorism in the bud, Pakistan seriously needs to evolve a comprehensive external strategy in the region in addition to its current domestic counter-terror maneuvering. It will have to offset or neutralise all anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. Pakistanis will have to proactively confront and counter India- the godfather of all the ‘resident evils’ in Pakistan.