Home Contact Us  

Army - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4867, 1 May 2015


Has Peshawar Changed Pakistanís Approach to Tackle Terrorism?
Rana Banerji
Member, Executive Committee, IPCS

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP)  terrorist attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, on December 16, 2014, killing 132 children and several teachers, many from Army background, was traumatic; its intensity and cruelty shocking civil society in Pakistan, much in the same way as the public flogging of a woman by the Taliban in Swat did in April 2009, though with far more tragic consequences this time.
The Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan was undertaken from June 2014 after a lot of dilly-dallying by politicians and abortive peace talks with the TTP. `Zarb-e-Azb’ was the Pakistan Army’s unilateral decision. The civilian government was left with no choice but to fall in line. After Peshawar, politicians found it easier to support the crackdown.

A 20 point National Action Plan (NAP) to tackle terror was announced. This too was Army-driven. It included a declaration of intent to execute convicted terrorists under a fast track process, lifting the moratorium on death sentences. It was decided to strengthen and activate the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA). Units of a Federal Counter Terrorism force were to start functioning in all four provinces. Revamping and reforming the criminal justice system is also envisaged, to strengthen counter-terrorism measures, including granting powers to provincial Criminal Investigation Departments (CIDs) to intercept terrorist communications.

Countering propagation of hate speeches and extremist publications, choking finances for terrorists and terrorist organisations, ensuring that proscribed terrorist organisations do not re-emerge under different names, taking effective steps against religious persecution, registration and regulation of madrassas, monitoring their sources of finance, banning any glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media were other facets of this `noble intent’.

However, the fragile consensus to deal with this difficult problem has dissipated from the very outset. Though nine Military Courts have been set up to function for two years by passing the 21st Amendment to the 1973 Constitution and amending the 1952 Army Act, questions about their constitutional veracity were raised. They were seen as ` a very dangerous option’ entailing risks of irreversible miscarriage of justice, wherein` a category of Pakistanis will not deserve the same rights and safeguards as normal citizens’ and `there will be no presumption of innocence’ nor` appeals to appellate courts’. `The presiding military officer will be judge and juror’. A public interest litigation challenging its validity is pending before their Supreme Court. A stay order on executions has been passed. It has even been suggested that `a fifth military coup’ may have silently taken place with the unanimous consent of the National Assembly. 

Religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JuI) joined this bandwagon of protest. Maulana Fazlur Rehman denigrated the government’s `non-serious attempt to convert an Islamic state into a secular one’.
A crackdown against criminals and terrorists in Karachi has been made part of the NAP. Apex Committee meetings were held in Karachi, associating Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,  Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, as well as other politicians and senior army commanders. The Pakistan army chief decried the continuing political interference in the functioning of the police in Karachi. He emphasised the need to allow impartial, merit based functioning of the law and order machinery in the city. On March 11, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) headquarters at 90, Azizabad, Karachi, was raided by Pakistan Rangers. Several MQM (A) party workers were arrested. 

This did symbolise a change in political realities in Pakistan. Having been unable to effectively cope with internal security issues, especially religious extremism and terrorism, the civilian federal and provincial governments have begun leaning heavily on the Army to pick their chestnuts from the fire. This has been described by political analysts in Pakistan as an `evolution of a new Civil-Military hybrid’.

Will this be temporary or permanent? 

The Nawaz Sharif government faces a peculiar dilemma. It can neither afford to alienate the Army top brass nor completely delink itself from right-wing sympathisers of militancy and the madrassa establishment. Therefore, it appears to have adopted a midway approach, conceding space to the Army for now, on counter-terrorism and other related matters, in return for letting the current civilian arrangement drift on till 2018. 

Religious hardliners and sectarians groups, especially those entrenched in Punjab do not accept these developments and may try to scuttle implementation of the counter-terrorism agenda in future.

Three imambargahs packed with worshippers were attacked in Peshawar and Rawalpindi in early 2015. Shias in Pakistan continue to be targeted single-mindedly and with a vengeance by outfits like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). 

Hazaras are fleeing Balochistan, and barricades surround segregated Shia urban neighborhoods in Quetta. Christian congregations have also been targeted in Peshawar and Lahore.

A plethora of militant organisations continue to flourish across Pakistan. A cleric-criminal alliance emerged as a product of deep-rooted social imbalances and state patronised jihad in the 1980s. Religion-based militant groups gained strength from this attitude. Over the passage of time, these militant groups got stronger and gradually became independent. Many have turned against the State and others (even Lashkar-e-Taiba?) may do so in the future.

Tribal areas in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) became important for militants to keep their networks intact and expand their infrastructure. Afghan refugee settlements in Peshawar and Quetta provided space to criminals involved in smuggling arms, explosives and communication tools, besides serving as recruitment centers for potential terrorists. Also, in many cases, militants used these settlements as hideouts. Prisons in Pakistan hold thousands of militant detainees, many of whom have not been tried in court yet. These serve as safe havens, enabling networking, recruitment and running of cells to radicalise fellow inmates. While the military aspects of `Zarb-e-Azb’, clearing and holding militancy infested areas have progressed considerably, civilian efforts to re-settle internally displaced civilians (IDPs) are wanting.

Though the need for regulating the curriculum and financing of madrassas has been recognised in the NAP as vital to control or reverse the tide of Islamic radicalisation, the policy of `enlightened moderation’ has remained on paper. Reform efforts were quietly stymied for lack of adequate political will in the face of orchestrated opposition from the ulema. 

In terror-related cases, the lower and higher judiciary has failed to dispense justice in an expeditious manner. Protection of prosecution attorneys or witnesses has been lacking. Conviction rates in charge-sheeted cases have been abysmally low. Important criminal cases involving known terrorists/terror groups were frequently adjourned on flimsy pretexts. 

In comparison to the power of the religious right, the fecklessness and lack of spirit of the liberal left stands out. Whereas half-tutored and half-lettered battalions of the religious right are ready to take to the streets at a moment’s notice, liberal activists like the recently assassinated Sabeen Mahmud wage their battles in isolation and in dwindling numbers. 

In this backdrop, it would be naïve to expect the Army to make a clean break from spawned terrorists of different hue or take the lead in reversing the religious narrative. Nevertheless, for the time being, the new politico-Army arrangement seems to have engendered hope that religious extremism, sectarianism and terrorism will somehow be brought under control. However, this may prove to be a double-edged sword if civilian institutions and processes for countering terrorism fail to emerge stronger. This will need civilian political will, which is lacking. Would the continuity of this “diffident political-will” lead again to a collapse of democracy in Pakistan? Only time will tell.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
"Pakistan in 2015: Review of IPCS Forecast," 11 February 2015
D Suba Chandran,
"Will the Genie Want to Go Back?," 29 January 2015
Sushant Sareen,
"IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015," 19 January 2015
Salma Malik,
"IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015," 17 January 2015
D Suba Chandran,
"Pakistan: The Military Courts," 8 January 2015

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Election Year in Pakistan: Key Dynamics and Prospects

Pakistan: Census Complexities

Trump's Afghanistan Strategy

Pakistan: The Nawaz Ouster

The ISI and Kulbhushan Jadhav's Second ‚ÄúConfession‚ÄĚ

India-Pakistan: Three Years of Wasted Effort?

Pakistan and the Panama Papers Verdict

In Context: Pakistan's New Army Chief Gen Bajwa

Fragility in Pakistan

Book Review: "Much Ado About Nothing"

Pakistan: Kamalís Dramatic Return and the Fate of MQM-A

Pakistan: MQM Under Siege

The Military Reshuffle in Pakistan: Is the Army Chief firming up his control?

Pakistan: A Hyper-national Security State

Talks with the Taliban: Endgame for the Military

Pakistan 2013: Civil-Military Relations

Pakistan: The Military Shuffle and Consolidation under the New Chief

Pakistan: The Hakimullah Mehsud Killing

Intrusions along LoC/IB in J&K: Pakistanís Objectives

Pakistan: Who will be the next Army Chief?

Pakistan: Civil-Military Relations and the Instrumentalisation of Political Power

Pakistan: The Abbottabad Commission of Enquiry

B. Raman (1936-2013)

Special Commentary: The Military and Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan

Pakistan Elections 2013: Caretaker Prime Minister & the Election Scenario

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.