By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
Jan 27, 2014
There has been a sudden rise in terrorist attacks by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) during the last few days. The two most recent and deadly attacks of this terrorist outfit were on Security Forces (SF) personnel on January 19th and 20th, 2014. On January 19th, over two dozen SF personnel were killed in a TTP attack in the Bannu Garrison. A day later, on January 20th, TTP terrorists killed another 16 individuals, again mostly security personnel, in Rawalpindi near the Military Hospital. All this has happened since the Government of Pakistan has begun pursuing the option of a dialogue process with the TTP.
Indeed, it was the All Parties Conference (APC) held on September 9th, 2013 that mandated the Government to attempt negotiations with the TTP for bringing about an end of militancy in the country, and to give peace a chance. As per the APC resolution, “Peace, tranquility, stability and a tolerant and harmonious society are essential prerequisites for revival of the growth process for rapid socio-economic development.” This was indeed a reiteration of the mandate of the September 2011 APC meeting where it was agreed that peace should be given a real chance. The guiding principle of that meeting for the national leadership was that “dialogue must be initiated to negotiate peace with our own people in the Tribal Areas.” Similarly, the Joint Sittings of Parliament have also focused on peace and reconciliation in the country through dialogue. The TTP however responded negatively to the original offer of dialogue by the APC. Despite the pessimistic response, the Government did not relinquish its efforts and some of the later APCs held in 2013 reiterated the same idea that peace and stability can be brought in the country through dialogue with the main militant group, the TTP.
In the aftermath of the post-September 2013 APC however, the Government has been perceived to be ‘more’ willing for the dialogue process than the TTP. Despite the persistently negative response by the TTP, the Government has remained indecisive and apologetic. The TTP in the meantime, however, has not halted its terrorist activities, and within a week of the dialogue offer, i.e. on September 15th, 2013, it attacked the convoy led by Major General Sanaullah, General Officer Commanding Malakand, killing him along with Lieutenant Colonel Touseef and Sepoy Irfan using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the Upper Dir area. This was in fact the first violent reaction of the TTP to the dialogue offer by the Government. It was a great setback to the process; yet, there was no significant or lasting condemnation from the Government and its allies. The TTP spokespersons on the other hand were quick in accepting responsibility, and even reiterated that the fight against the Security Forces will be continued.
On September 22nd, 2013, the historic All Saints Church was attacked by terrorists through in suicide attacks, killing over 90 individuals of the Christian community during Sunday Mass. On October 16th, 2013, TTP killed the Law Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa KPK, Mr Israrullah Gandapur, on the eve of Eid ul Azha at his residence in a suicide attack. In another high profile terrorist attack, the TTP killed Chaudhary Aslam, SP CID Karachi. He was an incredibly efficient and brave police officer, with many successes against this terrorist outfit.
Besides these, there have been many more attacks on civilian and military personnel by TTP, killing hundreds of persons since September 9th, 2013. Indeed, ever since September 9th, the TTP has launched over sixty large and small scale attacks on high value targets, security forces, civil population, mosques, churches, religious and public gatherings. These attacks have killed over 600 people including various key national figures, politicians, senior military officers and police officials.
Analyzing the security situation in Pakistan over the last one decade, the people of the country today are frightened and faced with a situation where terrorists are knocking on their doors, and not just once but often twice a day. Indeed, nothing is safe from the reach of terrorists in Pakistan. The ongoing state of internal instability in Pakistani society, fashioned from dangerous trends of extremism, social intolerance and radicalism have broken the social and national filament, leading the country nowhere but towards an ultimate uncertain and catastrophic future, which would have detrimental effects for international community in general and the region in particular.
Commenting on the ongoing security situation and the track-record of TTP, scholars like Scott Stewart of STRAFOR envisage that “there would be no quick improvement in the situation and “terrorism may not be subdued even for another decade.” The scholar takes his direction from events of the past decade where there has been violation of various accords and ceasefires, mostly by the militants. In fact owing to variety of reasons, the state of Pakistan has been quite accommodative towards transgressions by these non-state actors like the TTP; militant organizations have taken this to be a gesture of the state’s weakness and inability to prevent aggression against itself.
For killing innocent people and defying the writ of state based on misguided and malevolent ideologues, the terrorist entities have to be combated. Their inhuman activities and attacks on national assets appear to warrant strong military action against them. However, with the exception of a few cases where it was absolutely necessary, military actions and use of the force have traditionally been the last option. Efforts have always been made by the state and its security forces to give peace a chance. It therefore seems more plausible to make use of soft power; peace through negotiations and dialogue should be the first step.
However, if these elements persist on the accomplishment of impossible demands, the state will have to employ hard power and make use of military forces to combat them, which in fact cannot defeat terrorism as a menace, as is widely perceived in Pakistan. To eliminate terrorism, one has to identify the causes and deconstruct the very mindset and ideology which results in violent extremism and terrorism. Apart from some external factors, the majority of people being used by hardcore terrorists are socially isolated, mainly owing to poverty and unemployment.
While dialogue and reconciliation is a desirable process, there has to be motivation of the concerned parties for undertaking this exercise. In the absence of such willingness and acceptance of the writ of the state by the non-state actor, the Government is forced to restore the writ of state by making use of all means at its disposal.
Regretfully so far Pakistan has no well-defined national security policy. Thus, there is no effective counter-terrorism strategy as yet either. The incumbent Government has twice announced its intention to formulate and make public a formal counter-terrorism strategy, but so far no such document has been finalized. Sequel to the tragic attacks of TTP on the security forces and attack on the Hazara Community in the surroundings of Quetta, the Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has held meetings with key cabinet members and military authorities.
The people of Pakistan today desire that rather emphasizing on the dialogue process, the Government should take stringent measures against terrorists and restore peace and stability in the country. The best way forward would be to undertake dialogue with only those who want to talk, and are ready to disarm themselves and accept writ of the state. Such elements should be subsequently segregated and absorbed into the society through various socio-economic incentives, following the successful process of negotiations. However, the detractors and hardliners who continue to not be reconciled should be dealt with hard military power. Indeed, the TTP itself has limited the prospects of dialogue with Government.