Pakistan has transitioned from victims of terrorism to victors against terrorism


The seeds of terrorism were sown in Pakistan long before the Afghan conflict and the war

against terror. Indecisiveness, uncertainty and procrastination by various governments

allowed terrorist and extremist agendas from across the border to take root and flourish in

different parts of the country, especially in Baluchistan, erstwhile FATA and Khyber

Pakhtunkhwa. Once the Pakistani state abrogated its role as a provider of justice and

security, the Taliban found their space and relevance and filled the vacuum that was

created. These were some of the recommendations that were put forward by speakers at

the Islamabad Policy Research Institute’s flagship series on Counter-Terrorism in

Pakistan. The first moot of this series ‘Counter-Terrorism Experience of Pakistan in

Kinetic Domain: Lessons Learnt and Way Forward’ analysed Pakistan’s domestic

counter-terrorism experience from a law enforcement lens. Practitioners and law

enforcement representatives; Former National Coordinator, National Counter Terrorism

Authority; Former Director General, Institute for Strategic Studies, Research & Analysis,

National Defence University; Former Additional Inspector General Police and senior



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officials from the Intelligence Bureau and Frontier Constabulary provided brief historical

context of Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism and enlightened the audience on the

strategic and tactical steps taken by the country to deal with the threat of terrorism and

violent extremism. The participants described how Pakistan has transitioned from victims

of terrorism to victors against terrorism, emphasizing on how important kinetic measures

have been to defeat the menace and why is it important to formulate strategy to sustain

the success against militant groups. Our policy makers must evaluate whether it is the

right time to demilitarize the police force and call our armed forces back to the barracks.

It was pointed out that the average time for counter-terrorism operations is 22-23 years,

Sri Lanka took 27 years, but Pakistan achieved the impossible by doing so in 15 years.

Regarding Pakistan’s current state of challenges and options vis-à-vis emerging scenarios

post-kinetic operations, the speakers stressed the need for constant vigilance. It was

highlighted that intelligence gathering is and should be the first line of defense. CT

policies and strategies should not be developed in a vacuum. Rational, logical

understanding of the context and realities on the ground is very vital for policy-makers.

The speakers urged that civilian law enforcement agencies and training of police as first

responders should be a high priority, along with declaring an education emergency in the


It was discussed that terrorism is a multilayered phenomenon, made more complex given

Pakistan’s diverse multi-ethnic and multi-cultural population. They lamented that there is

a deep disconnect between the state-society due to which extremist and anti-state

elements have been able to find relevance and space in the country.

Speakers outlined that intelligence gathering is not only done through technological

means but also human informants, though for the latter, public trust and confidence is

key. Citizen informants also need to be provided protection which is a weak area in

Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategies. It was suggested that every district in Pakistan

should have its self-sufficient anti-terrorist unit.

Furthermore, the participants were of the view that as a nation, Pakistan is yet to come to

terms with the psychological impacts of the conflicts it has been involved in. The country

not only needs to fight religious terrorism but also the venom of ethnic and sectarian

conflicts. Every province has its own peculiar and unique set of problems and

idiosyncrasies, therefore, a one size fits all model cannot be applied on all regions. It was

stressed that while Pakistan does have economic issues, the media and citizens in general

need to become more cognizant of the impacts terrorism has had on the country. The

wide gap between strategists, the public and intelligentsia needs to be bridged. All

stakeholders need to work together to battle the spectre of terrorism and extremist

ideologies. While 9/11 was a terrible tragedy and had huge repercussions for Pakistan,

especially in terms of the refugee crisis and creation of IDPs, it forced the government to

fix the security landscape of the country. There is need for strong madrassah reforms and

to cleanse the educational curriculum of bias and racism.

One of the speakers opined that propaganda is the main ingredient of terrorism and

terrorist organizations. For counter-terrorism initiatives to work, leadership is very

important, apart from having the courage and will to lead from the front. The job of the

police is to fight crime, not tackle terrorism or insurgency, especially when they are

neither trained nor equipped to deal with either. It was highlighted that the various socalled peace agreements that were signed between the Taliban and different governments

over the years opened the eyes of the public to the real nefarious designs of the Taliban,

subsequently shifting sympathies towards the government, and the once nameless and

faceless agents of terror and fear could be given names and faces.

The speakers paid tribute to all the police officials, citizens and LEA personnel who had

lost their lives or the lives of their families to fight valiantly against terrorism to protect

Pakistan. The moot also included participants from Islamabad Policy Research Institute,

National Defense University and Centre for Strategic & Contemporary Research.=DNA