A typical blame game is usually played after every major terror incident in Pakistan. The civilian government is severely criticised for the insufficient or non-implementation of National Action Plan in the country. ‘Security lapse’ and ‘intelligence failure’ are alleged in a knee-jerk reaction. At the same time, the institutional capacity of our security and civilian law enforcement agencies to tackle terrorism is also openly questioned. The propriety, utility and efficacy of various kinetic military actions conducted by our security forces are also thoroughly discussed and debated. Besides this, the military is also somehow ridiculed in the context of statement made by the former COAS Raheel Sharif regarding ‘breaking the back of terrorism’. So we observed similar things after the recent terror wave in the country.

As a matter of fact, no intelligence agency in the world can precisely anticipate and pre-empt every single terror attack. In Pakistan’s case, the scope of intelligence is further marginalised as most of the terror attacks are planned on the foreign hostile soil. Since the role of intelligence in any counter-terror maneuvering is generally specific and limited, therefore it should be taken as such. Similarly, every terrorist attack is not necessarily a result of security lapse. In fact, it is not humanely possible for any country to secure every nook and cranny against all potential terror attacks. So our law enforcing and security agencies too can’t fully protect every public building, educational institution, mosque, public park and market etc. in the country.

When it comes to selecting the targets by the potential terrorists, there exists a sort of ‘hierarchy of targets’- a series of targets right from the hard and medium to soft ones. They always have the option to strike at a relatively soft target in case they find it difficult to attack a hard target. Moreover, the very capacity of the personnel of law enforcing agencies to prevent a terror attack is further minimised in case of a suicidal attack. Generally, the intelligence and preventive security apparatuses have the limited role in countering terrorism. These are indeed the micro tools to counter terror in terms of their relative impact. Therefore, it is quite advisable to tackle the phenomenon of terrorism through the macro-management i.e. striking at the very root of terrorism by destroying is originating source.

I my previous column titled Battleground Pakistan Part 1, I tried to evaluate the two significant narratives, which are presently prevalent, explaining the nature of terrorism in Pakistan. So primarily based on these two distinct narratives, the phenomenon of terrorism in Pakistan can be viewed in the typical macro-economic perspective of demand and supply- the local demand against the external supply of terror in Pakistan. Therefore, resembling the well-known demand/supply side debate, there can be evolved two counter-terror strategies in Pakistan; the demand-side strategy, and the supply-side strategy.

The so-called demand-side strategists recognise the terrorism as purely a home-grown and localised problem, and recommend certain domestic counter-terror measures to effectively curb this menace. Generally, they consider certain kinetic military actions like Operation Zarb-e-Azb, IBO’s and combing operations etc., besides the recently-devised preventive counter-terror measures in the form of National Action Plan, sufficient to eradicate terrorism in Pakistan.

On the other hand, the so-called supply-side strategists see the hostile intelligence agencies of some anti-Pakistan states behind the terrorist activities in Pakistan. Therefore, they favour to control the external supply of terror in Pakistan through adopting a proactive external security policy. There is well-known macro-economic principle that ‘supply creates its own demand’. Therefore, the external supply of terror has long been creating its own demand in Pakistan. Certainly, one cannot keep its house clean and in order, if someone in the nighbourhood keep throwing garbage in the backyard.

Undeniably, there is a visible reduction in the intensity of terror incidents in consequence of Pakistan’s domestic counter-terror measures. However, these measures have yet not succeeded in completely eliminating this menace from the country. Most of the miscreants fled to Afghanistan as soon as Pakistan military formally launched Operation Zarb-e- Azb in June 2014. Now these ‘broken backed’ terrorist have recovered to attack Pakistan afresh, thanks to numerous ‘rehabilitation facilities’ in Afghanistan.

The primary focus of NAP is on containing the sectarianism and religious extremism in Pakistan. In fact, sectarianism is just one of many aspects of the phenomenon of terrorism. Noticeably, the pattern of terrorism has transformed from the traditional sectarian and jihadist model to an anti-state model, which primarily aims at destabilising Pakistan. Moreover, most of the suicidal attackers are not the students of religious seminaries, but usually are the tender-minded young boys who have been brained-washed for this particular purpose. Similarly, their facilitators are generally the rouge criminal elements who only work for money.

Pakistan now direly needs to focus on the so-called supply-side of terror in the country. It should seriously evolve a multi-prong external strategy to adequately tackle the geo-strategic dimension of terrorism. For this purpose, it will have also to extensively employ some conventional as well as unconventional tools of diplomacy.

India has proactively launched a full-fledged diplomatic onslaught against Pakistan. It openly blames Pakistan for ‘exporting’ terrorism to India and Afghanistan. For this purpose, it is readily exploiting all the potential multilateral forums, ranging from the UN to BRICS, SAARC, HoA-IP etc. In fact, India has somehow succeeded in putting Pakistan on the back foot through its anti-Pakistan diplomatic propaganda. The recent crackdown on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its chief Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan speak volumes about this. Pakistan has miserably failed to properly communicate and propagate its own ‘terror narrative’ in the world. Despite the fact that tens of thousands of Pakistanis have fallen a prey to terrorism, Pakistan is being widely recognised in the world as an aggressor rather than an unfortunate victim of terror.

Indeed Pakistan’s case is much stronger than that of India when it comes to ‘cross-border terrorism’. Therefore, Pakistan should aggressively launch an all-out diplomatic onslaught against India internationally rather than becoming apologetic and defensive to the terror allegations levelled by India. It should actively utilise all international forums to highlight the dirty role played by India in planning, promoting and supporting terrorism in Pakistan. The world community must know how India has imposed a proxy Fourth Generation War on Pakistan through its hostile intelligence apparatus. And how it is fanning separatist movements in Baluchistan by supporting the exiled Baloch separatist leaders.

At this stage, the Prime Minister of Pakistan should issue strong warning to India requiring it to abandon its nefarious designs against Pakistan. Moreover, preferably at the NSA-level, a back-channel diplomacy with India is also advisable to negotiate the terms of peace on reciprocal basis. Obviously India also has a number of vulnerabilities and internal security challenges in the form of certain separatist movements in various Indian states like held Kashmir, Nagaland, and Punjab etc. So, Just like India, Pakistan can also fan these separatist flames. India must know that this region can’t be stabilised while Pakistan is burning. Since Pakistan and India are in a state of undeclared war, therefore Pakistan can also tactically threaten to sever its diplomatic relations with India, thereby making India as well as the world community realise the gravity of this situation. Surely, at the moment, the internal security should be primary concern for Pakistan.

Pakistan needs to initiate a ‘strategic dialogue’ with the US to bring peace in this region. The US has visibly failed to accomplish it desired objectives in Afghanistan. So now the US-India ‘strategic partnership’ would also get it nowhere. Instead, the US may lose the confidence of its important ‘non-NATO ally’ in this region. Pakistan also direly needs to revive its long-strained relations with Iran. Being an important regional player, Iran can help Pakistan resolve its underlying security woes.

After every major terror attack, Pakistan usually mounts pressure on the Afghan government for taking action against anti-Pakistan miscreants there. In reality, the incumbent Kabul regime is mere a puppet in the hands of Americans and Indians. Therefore, Pakistan should directly talk to the US and India for the redressal of its terror-related grievances. In a nutshell, without focusing on the supply-side of terror, I am afraid Pakistan can’t completely eliminate terrorism from its soil through domestic counter-terror measures alone. And after every terror incident, we would continue to discuss the NAP, ‘security lapse’ and ‘intelligence failure’ till doomsday.


The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.