ISSSP Reflections No. 51, March 18, 2017
Author: Niveditha RM
During last month, there were a series of terror attacks in Punjab, Khyber Paktunkhwa and Sindh, claiming more than 100 lives.
Print and Social media were full of opinions on what the problems are in Pakistan and how could they be addressed. This commentary focuses on how the Pakistanis perceive terrorism, violence and the fallouts. What do they consider as the major cause and what do they see as a possible solution?
Afghanistan and Pakistan border problems: A major cause
Most in Pakistan consider failure to address the Afghanistan issue as a primary problem for violence and terror inside Pakistan.
A section consider that Afghan policies of Pakistan and supporting militants in the past as a reason for the recent attacks. A section also question the efficacy of the National Action Plan A commentator wrote: “For decades- dating back to the Mujahideen – our (Pakistan) chief export to Afghanistan has been militancy. The Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, whether by neglect or more likely design, were low on our list of priorities. Yet we managed to summon up outrage over the leadership of TTP finding safe refuge in Afghanistan. As ye sow, so shall ye reap?”
A section within Pakistan is worried about the policies being pursued by Pakistan to address the issue. This section considers that there are no new steps and what is being done currently is the repeat of the past. This perception also underlines the failure of National Action Plan in a comprehensive manner.
A section questions the distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militant groups have prolonged the strategic decisions.
Another section looks at the failure in developing a stable diplomatic relations with Kabul. This section propagates that the army has conducted multiple military operations internally but has failed to establish friendly ties with Afghanistan. The civil and military establishments both have failed to develop effective and productive cooperation . A section also considers that the Afghan indifference terror attacks in Pakistan as another major problem.
A section also feels the growing strength of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) in the Afghan-Pak borders as a primary reason for the recent surge in violence. Of course, there are multiple strains within this thought process. While a section considers that the geography is conducive for this TTP presence in the border regions, another section accuses Afghanistan for either not taking action against the militants or coluding with them. Most in Pakistan believe that the sanctuaries and safe haven that TTP have in Afghanistan is a primary reason for the continuing attacks.
The India Factor
Few in Pakistan also consider India as a factor behind the recent surge. They project the following reasons for India supporting terrorism in Pakistan.
Undermining the CPEC: There is a general perception in Pakistan that India is unhappy with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and has been trying to sabotage it. Pakistan Foreign Office spokes person Nafees Zakaria urged the international community to take action against India, blaming for the terror attacks in Pakistan. Pakistan Muslim League-N Central Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan commented that India has carried out the attacks fearing the CPEC progress. And Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah claimed India’s hand behind the attacks. This section considers that the CPEC would help Pakistan’s economic progress which India wants to undermine.
India using Afghanistan as a Proxy: Many within Pakistan consider that India is using Afghanistan as a proxy to destabilize the country. India is held responsible for the sour relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This section considers that India wants to use Afghanistan as a proxy on Pakistan’s western border and continue sot support terrorist attacks. This section also claimed that the RAW is trying to impose on Pakistan using terror as a tool.
Bringing bad reputation to Pakistan: A section in Pakistan also consider that India support terrorism to bring bad reputation to the country. This section consider that a series of encouraged by the RAW are engaged in creating this bad image at the international level. Few even linked with the Pakistan Super League’s final to be held in Lahore at that time – that India wanted to undermine that!
Of course, not every one in Pakistan blame the outsiders for their internal problem. Some consider militancy problem in Punjab as an issue, which is yet to be acknowledged by the political leaders. PML-N has not focused adequately and not provided institutional support to counter the militant threat. A section criticizes government’s opposition to military operations in the region.
Few criticize the NAP; they consider it has goals, objectives and vision but lacks plan. According to them, the number of terrorists killed and refugees deported is impressive but is meaningless. It has become reference point for every counter-terrorism action.
Small sections do consider that the problem is being externalized. For this section, the policy challenges need to be focused on long term benefits.
Will Pakistan look inward as well to counter terrorism and combat future attacks? Or will it continue to blame the outsiders?
About the Author
Niveditha RM is a Research Intern with ISSSP, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru. She can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>