Can Pakistan Forge Consensus on Combatting Terrorism?


There is talk of an all parties conference to come up with a comprehensive counterterrorism plan but this is something we have seen time and again and time and again. Nothing will change in Pakistan till there is consensus on the very meaning of militancy and extremism and terrorism.


Despite surge in terrorist attacks the Pakistani state has no clear plan of action or course correction of its decades old policies. Further, it is difficult to drive out militants who the Pakistani state has allowed to regain their lost space. In many areas the state has virtually surrendered to terrorist groups.


In a recent column Zahid Hussain argues “a chapter of the same group with which the state was engaged in peace talks until a few months ago has claimed responsibility for the slaughtering of the worshippers at the Peshawar mosque. The group has claimed responsibility for other major terrorist strikes in recent months.”


After the Peshawar Army Public School tragedy in December 2014 a National Action Plan was formulated at a multiparty conference but barely 20 of its action items have been implemented, and those too partially. “Almost a decade on, there is still no mechanism in place to implement the measures agreed upon by all stakeholders. Police and other civilian law-enforcement agencies, which are supposed to be on the frontlines of the battle against violent militancy, lack resources and capacity. The recent terrorist attacks in KP have exposed the vulnerability of an ill-equipped police force.”


The National Counter-Terrorism Authority, as Hussain notes, “has remained dormant, resulting in the complete breakdown of coordination among various intelligence and law-enforcement agencies which is critical to monitoring the activities of extremist groups operating in different regions. Many of the terrorist attacks could have been prevented had Nacta been activated.”

Further, there is need for “choking terror financing, madressah reforms and intensifying action against sectarian outfits. These are the issues that have to be addressed as part of a comprehensive strategy in order to win the battle against violent militancy.”


In conclusion, Hussain notes, “The nation has paid a huge cost for the state policy of appeasement and the lacklustre approach adopted by successive governments towards an existential threat. One hopes that this newfound resolve doesn’t dissipate with the passage of time as we have seen it happen on so many previous occasions.”