Resurgence of militancy in Pakistan: Causes and response


After a short breath of peace, terrorism is back again in Karachi. Although National Action Plan (NAP) and Operation Zarb-e-Azb resulted in significant improvement in the security, violence has been there in off and on. Recent series of contemplated attacks on law enforcement agencies across the country have raised questions on the new adapted strategies. PSX attack, in economical hub Karachi, and attacks in Balochistan have great significance and need special attention to reconsider the security policies of the country.
The new wave of militancy is a warning for us to reconsider the actions, which were left to execute in NAP. Unless the terrorist, extremists, separatists, and their sympathizers are dealt with iron hands, the peace will remain a dream. The enemy is in continuous search of opportunities to destabilize Pakistan and tarnish its improving international image. The country has achieved significant success in curbing terrorism in the last two decades as the decrease in attacks appears to be 85%, still, it is a long way to achieve sustainable peace.
The word ‘peace’ has been unknown to the people of Pakistan for years. The cold war era, Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and the use of religion in politics has made Pakistan a hotspot for terrorists. The situation further aggravated with the entrance of the country in the war on terror. It proved to be a turning point; it militarized the state and contributed to political, economic, and social devastation. It caused the human loss of more than 60000 and an economic loss of more than 100 billion dollars. Resultantly, it fueled the already existing sectarian rift, poverty, and IDPs who resulted in increased crime.
There are internal and external factors contributing in restlessness in Pakistan like the unsettled issue of Afghanistan, India’s continuous role in destabilizing Pakistan, Baloch separatists funded by foreign powers, the role of great powers for regional supremacy, and the anti-CPEC elements. Additionally, the internal factors like poverty, unemployment, the flawed judicial system, weaker prosecution, outdated policing, ethnic and sectarian rifts, issuance of CNICs to refugees, failure in sending back the refugees and incomplete action on NAP. All these factors accumulatively contributed to militancy in Pakistan.
21st century is rightly said the century of South Asia. The major international powers are trying to get regional dominance by using their allies and proxies. In the 20th century, the tug of war between two superpowers for dominance was played in the region. After 9/11, it was Afghanistan, which remained the Centre of all conflicts. Once considered the Angles, turned to be the monsters later, the Taliban, who made Pakistan a living hell. Pakistan’s role in both, the cold war and the post 9/11 Afghan war, made Pakistan a war zone. It resulted in the rise of extremism, terrorism, sectarian conflicts, and a shattered economy.
The war cost Pakistan nearly 100 billion dollars and 60 thousand human lives along with a distorted image of the country abroad. Now, after china’s plan to invest in Pakistan and benefit from its geostrategic position, china invested in Pakistan on the slogan of win-win through the CPEC project. However, china’s rise has posed a great threat to the USA’s hegemony and it will try to go all out against China. It is the reason that the USA has built close relations with India to counter China’s rise while China, Pakistan, and Russia are getting closer as well. Therefore, these new alliances will have long-lasting effects on the region and especially on Pakistan.
India has never accepted Pakistan. It has been trying to weaken Pakistan since then, but Modi’s election as PM has made the pace fast. India has been using proxies and intelligence to create fear in Pakistan. India’s role in supporting Pakistan’s ethnic-separatist groups is an open secret. Not going far, but the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav and his confessions have made the agenda of Modi and India clear. Additionally, the recent statements of Muhammad Anwar, MQM-L leader, who confessed that they (MQM and Altaf) have been taking dollars from RAW and have been meeting their officers to sabotage peace efforts in Karachi. Furthermore, Altaf’s open appeal to India to help them bears out Anwar’s claims. There are many other facts, which confirm the interference of India in destabilizing Pakistan as its love for BLA, and other Pseudo-nationalists and vice versa is no more a secret. Thus, India has been doing every effort to damage Pakistan domestically, and isolate internationally.
Internally, first and the most important factor is; the Afghan refugees. They have not only made the economy suffer but have also contributed in increasing militancy. Apart from the economy and militancy, it played a great role in changing demography, increasing extremism, sectarian rifts, poverty, and increasing unemployment.
According to a report in 2018, between 2003 and 2017, those refugees or the people who were linked with them from Afghanistan carried out the major of the attacks. In 2016, The 52 Afghans who were nabbed are said to have been involved in funneling colossal amounts of money to terrorist outfits through undocumented and unofficial hundi and hawala methods of money transactions. This is merely one instance of the profound negative security implications of hosting millions of Afghan refugees. The then chief justice of the Peshawar High Court, remarked in 2013, “There are reports that Afghan refugees in Pakistan are being used by foreign agencies and are conspiring against the country, which has given them refuge for decades in their trying times.” Therefore, refugees have burdened not only the economy but have also changed every sphere of life.
Instead of sending back the refugees, the refugees have managed to get fake CNICs and passports. Those issuances of the card is against the citizenship act of 1951 which clearly states that only those people who migrated to Pakistan before 18 April 1951 are Pakistani citizens. It is estimated that at least 200000 migrants have got the CNICs who migrated after 1951. Apart from this, some incidents could witness how these refugees are playing part in increasing crimes.
For instance, in 2007, 337 Afghan nationals were arrested for illegally traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj on fake Pakistani passports, in 2012, 278 Afghan nationals were arrested by intelligence agencies for possessing fake Pakistani CNICs. Therefore, the provision of CNIC resembles that the Pakistani government wants them to stay, and their stay will definitely cause unrest in the country politically, socially, and economically.
Another triangle that is the major factor contributing to the concern is; Flawed prosecution, weaker judiciary, and outdated policing. The outdated policing has remained the major issue in controlling crimes, especially terror-linked activities. Even if police succeed to capture the culprit, the flawed prosecution makes the terrorists win acquittals. Pakistan is a country with tribal and feudal societies, and police is used to maintain the status quo. Although the start of the war on terror brought a great chance to reform the police, the governments turned deaf ears to reforms and kept the outdated system going. A recent example of Peshawar high court is a classical example of it where over 200 accused terrorists are set free by PHC, the terrorists were convicted by the military court.
Lastly, the issue of sectarian and ethnic rifts is the major cause, which has affected Pakistan badly. Since its inception, Pakistan has been facing such issues and there is somehow the role of the ruling elite who contributed to it. Post-independence Ethnic divides trace back to one unit when interprovincial conflicts started. The situation in Balochistan was worsened when Military action was taken in Balochistan during Bhutto’s era and it kept going. Anger due to the Centre’s attitude and exploitation by foreign agencies, the pseudo- nationalist party members are claiming the recent attacks on rangers and PSX.
Pakistan needs to take steps to control the resurging militancy. It orders to do so, few steps like: (i) The peace process in Afghanistan needs to be concluded and the agreement should be respected by the parties as soon as possible for long-lasting peace in Pakistan; (ii) Pakistan needs to counter and increase its measure to contain India in its designs of sabotaging peace in Pakistan; (iii) Pakistan need not to put its nose in the matters of other countries as Pakistan did in War on Terror; (iv) Pakistan needs to differentiate between good nationalist and bad nationalist as it did between good and bad Taliban in past. In this way, those nationalists who are demanding provincial rights and are working under the constitution of Pakistan would be differentiated from those who are against the country and are being exploited by foreign powers; (v) National Action Plan is needed to be implemented fully and madrassa reforms are the need of the hour to reduce religious extremism. These reforms will not only help in countering extremism but will also help in improving FATF standing; (vi) Along with the cancellation of issued CNICs to refugees, Pakistan needs to send refugees back as they are not only burdening economy but also fueling the unrest in Sindh. The recent letter of Syed Jalal Shah, SUP leader, to UNHCR representative in Pakistan in which he demanded to send back the refugees. Apart from the letter, the multiple protests are being held in Sindh against those who refugees; and (vii) The government needs to focus on employing the youth of Sindh and Balochistan in order to keep them away from being exploited by foreign agencies.