What do the physicians do when the cancer metastasizes in the body? They try every bit of the skill to rid the body of the insidious prowler inside. For any remedy to work in such situations internal resilience of the body plays its supportive role more than any other factor. The good cells have to kill the bad cells to stem their killing tide. Is our new fangled “Rad ul Fasad” preparing the nation to take on the depredations of terrorists and criminals aided and abetted by external and internal sponsors? Was National Action Plan not the first attempt at strengthening the national sinews for such an undertaking? It certainly was and was expected to douse the fires of extremism through administrative, legal, educational, and economic reforms. Despite impressive figures of madressahs registered, militants eliminated, and terrorism attempts foiled can anyone claim that the root causes of “fasad” or the mischief have been addressed?

The answer to above would be a big no if one considers the implacable rise in the incidence of religiously incited violence ala blasphemy killings by frenzied mobs. What could therefore cure us of this “fasad” unleashed upon us through our deeply ingrained prejudices and sectarian biases? Our 21 point National Action Plan lies adrift without a sustained will to root out the causes and enablers of terrorism. Welching out of our anti terror commitments and displaying pusillanimity where courage was required we have desultorily lurched from crisis to crisis instead of following a coherent strategy to eliminate terrorism. The physical violence visited upon people and the state institutions has been begotten out of soft state mentality that baulks at countering the criminals in religious raiment. The typical bullies on the block i.e the religious mountebanks, sectarian charlatans, and their political patrons have spawned a culture of violence against the vulnerable segments of the society like minorities, intellectuals and conscientious dissenters.

Johan Galtung defines cultural violence as an aspect of the culture that can be employed to legitimize direct or structural violence against vulnerable communities. While direct violence is self evident the structural violence is “the impairment of the basic human needs’ through an iniquitous social system. The way we are treating our minorities and dissenters like Mashal, is a sad testament to our propensity towards structural violence. The bigger question then rises about the nature and scope of the current Army led and police, para military and intelligence supported operation aimed at taking out terrorist cells, and crime hatcheries throughout the length and breadth of the country. The focus is on busting terror networks and crime syndicates by attacking sleeper cells of terrorists and their enablers along with active terrorists. With Army in the lead role as the most puissant state institution to fight militancy some questions about the strategy and approach towards fighting terrorism emerge.

What is the overall objective and strategy? Can a pathology be countered through a military operation alone? With a military weaned on the Clausewitzean notions of “Grand Strategy”, “Centers of Gravity”, “Shwerpunkt” (focus of effort), and “Balance”, fighting an amorphous threat thriving on epistemic violence is a difficult undertaking, unless the nation stands up marshalling all resources in operation. Army is groomed on Clausewitzean concept of Trinitarian warfare based on three elements i.e army, people, and the government. In conventional warfare it therefore knows where to concentrate the “Schwerpunkt” against an army, people, or government based center of gravity. In a non Trinitarian war however, where non state actors instead of states are the main combatants the Clausewitzean notions of strategy become irrelevant. According to eminent military scholar Martin Van Creveld the answers about the nature of non state actors, their motivations, their strategy, and relationship between them and society attain primacy in such warfare.

Our national response has remained lacking in direction and resolve while tackling the above questions. For example we do know the roots of the epistemic violence emanating from our antediluvian madressahs and medieval age textbooks, hostage to either sectarian or politicized Islam. Who for instance is attacking that epistemic violence while Army leads the charge along with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the current Rad ul Fasad operation? The buckets of blood being shed by our gallant soldiers and intelligence operatives are evident through concrete statistics. In a short span of a little over two months the Army led operation has accounted for 108 hardened terrorists in 15 major operations. A total of 4535 intelligence based operations (IBOs) have been launched apprehending 4510 militants including 1859 unregistered Afghans. Weapon caches comprising 4083 weapons and 622191 ammunition pieces were seized in a country wide deweaponization and explosive control campaign.

“Rad ul Fasad” is a great idea that needs public support and state resolve. As opposed to Zarb e Azb, that essentially was a counter insurgency operation, Rad ul Fasad is a counter terrorism operation. By its nature it has to be multi dimensional and holistic. It should not remain confined to nabbing terrorists and capturing weapons and explosives alone. For a comprehensive victory over this scourge we need to attack the narrative that nourishes the monster. The epistemic violence visited daily upon young impressionable minds through madressahs, websites sub standard educational institutions, and unenlightened religious scholars is nurturing brainwashed individuals with a solipsistic viewpoint ,only one provocative call away from violence. Rad ul Fasad will truly deliver when it attacks intolerance, bigotry, ignorance, and sectarianism concurrently with the kinetic operations being launched by law enforcing apparatus of the state.

With fifteen martyrdoms since the start of the operation, the Army has blazed another altruistic trail in the service of the nation. National consensus, public support, and the political sincerity are de rigueur for success of the operation. Beset with external threats on two fronts a house divided would offer easy picking for the terrorists and their external sponsors. Any individual or political entity that sows the seeds of dissension and mars the national consensus against countering extremism and terrorism at this juncture should be shown no mercy. Soft states have never prevailed over non state actors and Pakistan would be no exception. No quarters should be given neither to any militant engaged in terrorism nor to any cleric engaged in hate peddling. Rule of law, pluralism, and zero tolerance for hate narrative should be the foundation sans which Rad ul Fasad will meet the fate of several temporary palliatives that we have been administering to fight the cancer of militancy.

 

n             The writer is a PhD scholar at NUST.