Saving Pakistan: Devising an Agenda for Counter Terrorism Strategy

The three recent incidents, namely, Raymond Davis Affair (January 2011), capture of Osama Bin Laden from Abbottabad (May 2nd), and attack on Mehran Naval Base (May 22nd) in Karachi have shaken the foundations of Pakistani security establishment and alarmed public on the vulnerability of Pakistani State. It has created skepticism about the professional capabilities of the armed forces to protect their physical infrastructure, Pakistani air space and citizens. This has highlighted fissures within, and cast aspersions on the organization, command structure and capability of Pakistan military to respond and manage the terrorist challenge. These incidents have not only exposed the vulnerability but also raised questions about the competence, credibility and gaps in the chain of command of armed forces leadership. It has jolted China-Pakistan project on Gawadar and also produced vibrations between the already complex, multilayered and painfully enduring US and Pakistan relations. This manifest vulnerability demands a fresh look at our strategic goals and defense policies. Is it the flawed policies and jaundiced strategic vision that has made Pakistan vulnerable? Is it time to re-imagine and rethink security? I would argue for a five steps pronged approach; first, abandon Religious Militancy/ Extremism as a policy tool, second, adopt peace as policy tool for internal harmony and regional collaboration, third, stay engaged with US and foster relations with China, fourth, shift away from ‘India centric’ to Chinese modal of realist pragmatism—avoiding conflict and pursuing trade. Finally, prioritize developing a framework for national counter terrorism strategy.

America, Afghan War and its Impact on Pakistan

As American and NATO forces make a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan starting summer of 2011 leading to a declared total disengagement by 2014; radicalism and governance are likely to gain new regional salience– improving transnational governance and security will increasingly fall upon Afghanistan, its neighbors and near neighbors (Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia and Central Asian States). These regional actors had been engaged in the Afghan war and its spillover effects–civil war, cross border terrorism and civil strife since the late 1970s. Pakistan has been and for the foreseeable future is likely to be a key player in the region. Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan has led to transformative political, economic and social consequences at home. Breeding religious militancy, escalation in suicide attacks disrupting societal peace and harmony and deepening the crisis of governance. Over three million Afghan refugees moved into Pakistan and changed the demographic composition and culture of many parts of Pakistan: heroine trade, drug addiction, proliferation of portable arms and cross border terrorism emerged as serious new governance challenges. Consequently, over these decades a complex web of jihad, sectarianism and extremist groups become a potent force, changing the complexion of Pakistani State and society.

Is it the flawed policies
and jaundiced strategic
vision that has made
Pakistan vulnerable?

A number of policy analysts have argued and conducted evidence based studies to expose the involvement of Pakistani state in cultivating and patronizing the religious right and militant groups. In the post 9/11 period Pakistan came under enormous pressure from the US and the Western Powers to break its ‘perceived’ and ‘real’ connections with the militant groups. Reluctantly and half heartedly, when the Pakistani State tried to rein in these groups under intense international pressure, a full scale insurgency erupted leading to more than 253 suicide attacks since 2002. Resultantly the socio-economic fabric of Pakistani State and society has been ruptured and disrupted. Under these conditions, the year 2011 could become a defining year for Pakistan to help stabilize Afghanistan and formulate a policy response to disrupt, destroy and dismantle Al Qaeda and Taliban led militant networks and ensure regional security. Are Pakistan and its policy makers ready to make such a strategic shift? That remains a critical question and demands dialogue, deliberation and actionable policy research.

Historically and current trends clearly show that for Pakistan and its policy makers defense and security concerns remain ‘India centric’. There is considerable body of literature, which articulates that in pursuit of its security goals the Pakistani state has been cultivating and maintaining inks with militant religious groups. Pakistan has yet to demonstrate that it has made a clean break from its previous pattern. There is a growing awareness and realization among the civil society, academia and media circles that Pakistan needs to redefine its national security paradigmmove away from ‘India centric’ to a broader formulation of counter terrorism and combat home based radicalism. That would imply re-defining national interest and broadening the scope of national security framework—a framework which explores the modalities of engaging with India and opens up new avenues of academic research, policy dialogues and deliberation. That calls for developing some minimal consensus on an alternative policy framework by engaging all stakeholders including civil bureaucracy, political and military leadership, academia, researchers and civil society.

Let me sketch an outline of alternate policy framework that centerpieces on peace.

Pursuing Peace brightens Prospects of Internal Reform and Development

In the Realist world view State has primacy in the international system, invariably the prospects of peace are linked with resolution of external conflict—thus perpetual rivalry and prospects of war make conflict endemic. Ironically in South Asia and many other cases the states themselves have used the instrument of ‘external enemy’ to perpetuate rivalry and deflect and curb inner peace and societal reform. Consequently, internal culture of peace, tolerance and harmony has suffered stagnation. Lack of culture of peace has been used by states to perpetuate insecurity syndrome, animosity and hatred of the other. Thus the notion of ‘external enemy’ has often been used to create an impression of domestic order and internal peace, but this has neither curbed social injustices nor led to sustainable development. While at times, external conflicts have forced leaders to restrict the needed reforms for internal peace. For example, In the 1920’s British India witnessed two models of peaceful reform; first the Gandhian Model which propounded non-violence and communal harmony; second E. V. Ramasawami Naiker’s model of Self-Respect, calling for restoring the dignity of the lowest of the low and marginalized– the Adivasis. Neither was particularly successful. But looking at growth, development, innovation and relative peace in South India it appears Naiker’s model has provided better development dividend to South India, which appears to have an edge in education, innovation and development and offers better opportunity for peace, growth and sustainable development.

“Pakistan needs to redefine its
national security paradigm- move
away from ‘India centric’ to a
broader formulation of counter
terrorism and combat home based
radicalism.”

The examples of Britain vs. Germany vs. France and France vs. Britain as perpetual rivals and ‘enemies’ until the end of Second World War is yet another and often quoted historical narrative. Was it death, destruction, and demolition of their economies as a result of the two World Wars or internal peace, growth, reconstruction and rejuvenation of their communities in the post World War period that brought home the salience of peace and creation of the European Union? There is considerable evidence to suggest that more than perpetual rivalry and animosity, its internal reform and conditions enabling the promotion of culture of peace that encouraged regional cooperation and led to the founding of the European Union.

Modern China offers another example, where internal peace and reform have paved the way for economic growth and rise of China. A China that opposes cross border violation and encourages cross border cooperation—a China that is at peace within, in the region and globally.

These examples clearly show that for peace, internal reforms are a necessary pre-condition. It is thus important for both Pakistan and India to rethink their current relationship of perpetual conflict and animosity. Both countries are confronted with internal insurgencies, violence and terrorism and yet continue to make exorbitant defense expenditure to combat an ‘external enemy’. Changing this mind set demands a structural change – a change from an economy of war to an economy of peace and that implies internal reform. This also means cross border and proxy wars must be replaced by cross-border cooperation. The negotiations and troubles for Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline continue, while the recent signing of Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan=India (TAPI) energy pipeline agreement is a step in the right direction.

“…important for both Pakistan
and India to rethink their current
relationship of perpetual
conflict and animosity”

For internal peace, expanding economic opportunity and improving social justice needs to be recognized which takes quality of manpower as a pre-requisite and requires investments in human resources. Citizen security, citizen welfare and drive for promoting internal harmony and peace would encourage a culture of peace. By incentivising peace for self growth, community development, internal reform and prosperity, a culture of peace and economic growth would gain momentum. It is only improvement in quality of life which instills the value for life, respect for the well being of fellow citizens and possibly curbing and deflating tendency towards violence and terrorism. But most importantly, it is the democratic process which promotes evolutionary change through negotiated settlements and resolves conflicts on resource allocation that eventually leads to internal peace. That is where Pakistan and South Asia need a Cultural Revolution, where peace is cherished and conflict is abhorred, where upholding cultural values and territorial integrity gains respect, where intractable conflicts are managed and resolved through negotiation and non-violence and brutal force of the State is curbed. With out internal reforms, promoting a culture of peace will remain a distant goal. Imagining new South Asia demands imagining a culture of peace and that implies dismantling, disrupting and destroying the nexus of poverty, social injustice and economic inequities.

Is there a Way Forward? Yes,

• First, it is time to review and abandon any and all backing of Militant/Jihadi groups/networks. Pakistani State has to make a clean break on this issue. • Second, any and all sanctuaries for militant groups must be destroyed and dismantled. Both the State and Civil Society need to act in concert to demonstrate zero tolerance for any form of terrorist activity/group. • Third, Kerry-Lugar Act demands a more robust consultation and debate among Pakistani civil society to effectively utilize the support for democratic and social sector development that the Act offers. Pakistani Government needs to develop a broad consensus on Energy, Governance, Education and Health as key areas for cooperation with the US on priority basis. Through internal political consultation, a priority list of areas on which the country needs support be created and a shared vision for cooperation and support in social sector is developed with the US.

• Fourth, Pakistan needs to initiate a national dialogue on reviewing the status of the Durand Line and that implies assessment of entire FATA policy. Through consultative process in KPK and at the federal level we need to embark on a policy where by Durand line is defined as a boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is going to be a cumbersome and tedious process and we will need to show patience and prudence to achieve our goal. A well defined border with Afghanistan would be a step forward in curbing cross border terror and terrorist sanctuaries

• Finally, on Baluchistan we need to come clean on providing sanctuaries to Afghan Taliban leadership and the issue of ‘missing persons’—its alleged that Intelligence Agencies have been involved in human rights violations and abducting opponents of the military in the province. Many analysts point out that there is a low level ‘separatist insurgency’ and that needs to be addressed politically. Baluchistan Package was a good beginning but the implementation process has yet to take off, therefore it is time to take into cognizance the issue of rights, representation and protecting the interests of Baluchs of different tribes and origins. Over the years a policy of benign neglect in Baluchistan has alienated the people from the Pakistani state and that demands a comprehensive and sustainable development plan for the province.

Next Steps: Strategic Vision and Counter Terrorism Strategy

To pursue this alternate framework, Pakistan needs to develop a counter terrorism strategy. At the global level that implies despite challenges and agonizing differences, staying engaged with the US and consolidating relations with China. Taking cognizance of primacy of relations with the US, Pakistan needs to develop a strategic vision that explores at least five areas of mutual cooperation and shared understanding; First, institutional development, second, intra-governmental and civil-military institutional coordination, third, data sharing, fourth, international institutional collaboration and fifth, assessing shared needs and developing a research agenda based on the needs and threats identified. In defining the principles and guidelines of its counter terrorism strategy, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) needs to assess extremism and terrorism at three levels; the local level and its domestic context; regional level includes neighboring countries in the analysis to appraise the regional situation; and lastly the global level, the global context is the most intricate and troublesome; which increasingly perceives and identifies Pakistan as the epicenter of terrorism

“Lack of culture of peace has
been used by states to perpetuate
insecurity syndrome, animosity
and hatred of the other.”

In terms of research and policy prescription, the initial step towards devising a counter terrorism strategy requires an in depth study on threat assessment for Pakistan emerging from domestic and external sources. To initiate a process of consultation and policy formulation, following ten areas are suggested:

1. Demographic: It explores the nexus between youth bulges, poverty and inequality and how a combination of these makes large populations in general and youth in particular vulnerable to conflict. Given 67% of the Pakistani population is under the age of 30 with limited prospects of employment increases the possibility of conflict. The hugely unequal class structure of society further aggravates social, ethnic and economic tensions, which promotes politics of protest, agitation and mass mobilization

2. Ideology, Infrastructure & the Cold War: The proliferation of religiosity; politicization and later militarization of Islam has changed the ideological nature of religious practice; both have created space for extremism in society; producing a small but belligerent cadre of ideologically motivated militants (who have captured the madrassa system and penetrated in the public and private sector educational institutions ) who have built a vast religious infrastructure to promote their brand of militant Islam

3. Psychological: An all encompassing religious identity had led to a belief based world view, viewing social and political issues in terms of contrasting belief system thus requiring defense of one’s belief against non-believers. Thus religious belief not only shapes narrow identity but also influences the understanding of worldly and scientific matters through the prism of belief, inducing violence against the ‘other’ and trivializing evidence based, rational and scientific knowledge. What is inexplicable through belief is explained through conspiracy syndrome; increasingly the challenge in Pakistan is developing credence for knowledge base.

4. Hate Literature & Curriculum: More than 80% of the student population is enrolled in public schools and there is growing evidence that their world view is shaped by the curricula that is taught to them. This curriculum and other hate literature need to be assessed carefully to understand if it is tied to the ideology promoted by the state. Specific policy choices and Shariah Laws that the state promulgated need to be examined methodically to assess the severity of threat arising from this problem (refer to 8th Amendment).

5. Hate Speech & Media: The advent of private electronic media roused hope and expectation of freedom of speech, diversity of information and knowledge and the making of an effective watch dog. It has increasingly become a powerful instrument of indoctrination. In the absence of established rules and ethics of journalistic professionalism and ineffective regulation of programming guidelines, it has at times led to blatant hate speech and promotion of a particular ideology.

6. Urban Growth & Unregulated Territories: In South Asia, Pakistan is considered to be the most rapidly urbanizing state (35% of Pakistan is urban). Urban centers are becoming breeding grounds of urban insurgency (Karachi since the 1990s and more recently). This demands better understanding of urban centers, laws and institutions that govern them. Increasingly, the unplanned and unequal growth of cities has left them wide open for criminality. Similarly peripheral territories where either State regulation is lacking by design (PATA, FATA) or writ of the State is minimal are turning into sanctuaries for ‘abandoned fighters’, militants and even criminals. At least four cities, namely, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar are important entry and exit points for migration and international travel and this flow needs to be carefully researched

7. Expatriates & Global Networks: A large number of Pakistanis reside outside the country in alien cultures. Depending on the country of residence, their stay could lead to indoctrination in a harsher brand of religious ideology (Saudi Arabia), a born again religious worldview in reaction to the perceived moral laxity of society or militant Islamist worldview in reaction to the perceived injustices of the world order perpetrated by the host country (West). The global networks providing linkages among expatriates and various domestic and international groups’ need to be assessed.

8. Proxy Wars: As a consequence of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution (1979), the territory of Pakistan and adjacent areas have been used for proxy wars by Saudi Arabia, Iran, US, Britain and India either in competition with activities of Pakistani intelligence agencies in their respective country or in competition with one another. The impact of events of 1979 and intelligence wars needs to be scrutinized dispassionately.

9. Weaponization & Privatization of Security: With the rise of insecurity in the country, there has been privatization of security functions leading to proliferation of portable weapons and increased weaponization of society. A lack of legislation and regulation has further enhanced the problem. Private armed guards and private militias have become a way of life for the powerful and privileged. This demands careful examination.

10. State Role: The role of the state is changing in Pakistan or is it? It is adapting and changing according to global demands. Pakistani state has the dubious distinction of ‘sponsoring terrorism’. It has been alleged, insinuated and sometimes researchers and reporters have provided evidence that Pakistani state has ‘cultivated particular religious groups’, promoted ‘fundamentalist ideology’, sponsored specific religious groups and organizations and continues to follows a policy of ‘deliberate ambiguity’ on its role and relationship with militant groups. A systematic examination of these dimensions of state could help us in appraising the severity of threats allegedly emanating from its role and thereby assist in re-strategizing the role of the state.

“Pakistan and South Asia need
a Cultural Revolution, where
peace is cherished and conflict
is abhorred, where upholding
cultural values and territorial
integrity gains respect, where
intractable conflicts are managed
and resolved through
negotiation and non-violence,
and brutal force of the State is
curbed.”