Pakistan’s involvement in global war against terrorism now spans over a decade which has brought more harm than benefits for its polity. Therefore, the efforts to counter extremism and terrorism in Pakistan need critical assessments beyond political jargoning and point scoring among politicians. Not unconventionally enough, following global traditions we have also kept ‘use of force’ as our first option to fight this global war. However, let us accept the fact the most of our coercive strategies which we have considered as our first option have failed to provide required outcome which is stable and peaceful environment. According to South Asian Terrorism Portal’s data, there has not been a single years which could be marked as bloodless year starting from the very first Operation Al Mizan to ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azab. Indiscriminate fatalities of civilians and security personnel continued to exist with certain fluctuations throughout these years.
Principally speaking, our approach to counter terrorism suffers from fundamental and doctrinal flaw. The conventional design, training and purpose of armed forces remains targeted to fight external threats rather than the internal ones. Needless to get into deeper discourse, the dynamics of internal and external threats are significantly different in nature.
Armed forces are designed to fight external threats whereas the internal threats are dealt by other law enforcement agencies. The downside of engaging military in internal conflicts instead of creating newer or empowering existing law enforcement agencies have severely detrimental effects on people and institutions alike. From classical counter insurgency theoretical point of view, due to the lack of training and other difficulties emerging as a result of fighting insurgencies with conventional armed forces makes it considerably challenging to guarantee that such efforts will result in desirable results. It is because of this basic principle that we see that when global war of terrorism was initiated as a result of 9/11 attacks, it led to the establishment of homeland security department in the United States with allocation of huge budget in billions of dollars. However, ground realities in Pakistan draw very grim picture of law enforcement agencies. This raises series of serious questions about the competence to understand this complex war and preparedness and willingness of the government and leadership to address this challenge. A concrete and collective interdepartmental approach is required to address this challenge. Proper institutional response at the state level with proactive policymaking mindset was required as a prerequisite in this war without solely depending on our armed forces (who have done a tremendous job, despite many serious problems). Deplorable condition of law enforcement agencies points out that our civilian leadership is yet not fully prepared and willing to institutionally counter terrorism. Capabilities of police in Pakistan remain surprisingly worrisome with incredibly insufficient training as well as lack of logistical and technical capabilities. The police force does not possess land as well as aerial equipment like helicopters and professional modern arms and ammunition. Dynamics of fourth generation warfare demand extraordinary preparedness of existing law enforcement agencies like police which must be equipped with state of the art technology.
We need to overcome the technological and technical incapability of police in Pakistan and establish new force and empower and functionalize existing institutions like National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). One wonders why NACTA continues to be ineffective and why no funds have been allocated to this authority besides its pertinence in current circumstances at the policy level in Pakistan. Unfortunate events like attacks on Army Public School in Peshawar and Bacha Khan University highlight unfortunate reality of our unpreparedness and unwillingness even ten years after fighting this war. Seasoned politician like Imran Khan who is leading government in Khyber Pakhtunkha seems to lack analytical capabilities while appreciating the fact that people of Charsada have come out to fight against terrorists with guns and arms.
This event and its outcomes must alarm the policy makes in Pakistan as this act shows the fact the people have lost their faith in law enforcement agencies and that there is no proper regulation regarding arms licensing in Pakistan. The entire situation poses a huge question mark on political acumen of our leadership. Unfortunately at the policy level in Pakistan, no importance is given to academic researches and people of profound understanding as a consequence of cronyism when it comes to hiring officials and allocating strategically significant positions in governmental departments and institutions which results in poor formation and execution of policies in Pakistan. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves a very basic question, are we really willing and prepared to fight fourth generational warfare?