ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan: Violence, State’s Response And (Under)Development In Rural Areas – Analysis


Conflict or violence, regardless of the name and intensity, poses as a dangerous threat and severely affects Pakistan’s rural development industry.

It’s a proved hypothesis that rural absolute poverty, inequality and all related quantifiable and non-quantifiable factors are ends of terrorism and violence in major parts of the world.1 Yet, despite the fact that many fragile states — particularly those of the least developing countries that have large rural populations that depend on subsistence agriculture and non-farm economic activities are hit hard by consistent violence and extreme levels of terrorism — the link between deprived rural society and terrorism with regard to public fragility is less explored. Likewise, the results of states’ policies as counter strategies, the effectiveness and outcomes fail to exist.

In this regard, Pakistan’s scenario is not that different and as a popular opinion, Pakistan remains the third most affected country after Iraq and Afghanistan to face damage and destruction due to terrorism extreme violence during the last decade. The local and national economy has been destroyed, and infrastructure is ruined. Hitherto, no significant relationship has been established between the two variables in Pakistan’s scenario -– nexus between terrorism and rural development as a cause-and-effect relationship. On the contrary, the link between the two at the eve of recent Gen. Raheel Sharif’s farewell and an ever-increased institutional tyranny needs to be analyzed.

Damage to Social Services’ Infrastructure

Turmoil in the last decade on the Pakistani soil and resulting pacts and personnel (cited elsewhere)2 has also posed extreme damage to the physical infrastructure for social services’ delivery and livelihood activities in the rural areas. Dozens of educational institutions, basic health units, dispensaries and hospitals, bridges, roads, communication networks — perhaps the easiest target —  have been either damaged or completely blown-up by the militants. The people were forced by militants to leave their areas and obliged to live as IDPs or elsewhere in camps or temporary housing with little facilities, and far away from their localities. Rather than moving on the road to rural development, all earlier development activities and annual developmental programs have been halted in rural parts of the country.

Success and Setbacks

The results of counter military operations started earlier by Gen. Raheel Sharif i.e., Rah-e-Rast, Rah-e-Nijat, Tor Thunder, Zarb-e-Azb and military operations in the settled areas, under the national action plan, have had visible and appreciable results.

The said operations so-far, against the wave of terrorism, have managed the western border effectively, uprooted the militancy within the boundary, and stopped the illegal movement of militants and goods under continued surveillance provided by international partners, notably the USA.

Along with the military operations, the State has made several diversified anti-terrorism laws and revived ‘national counter terrorism authority’ to encounter the aftermaths of terrorism in the country. As for the implementation of the guidelines, ‘counter terrorism special force’ was formed and ‘military courts’ were established for speedy judicial decisions. The efficiency of the radar technology on the Pak-Afghan border, to detect the terrorists’ movement, has also its importance. All such actions are applauded and promisingly are aimed at stopping the redoubling of terrorism, which has led to terrorist violence being currently at an all-time low level.

Nevertheless, although current security measures by the law enforcement agencies are encouraging, the wasting of time in initiating economic and political development also has its reality. There has been no follow-up of developmental strategies by the State departments — no post 2015 comprehensive plan of rural development for Pakistan’s western frontier and non-legislation loosely bound areas to empower people to earn their living — argues towards the same mentality of keeping the area in a frozen state and as a buffer zone.

Most parts are still suffering from continued stagnation and destruction, particularly parts of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. There exists a causality relationship between economic growth to terrorism or vice versa. Poor economic growth in rural areas, accompanied with low opportunities to earn a livelihood, has heated emerging violence that damages the whole social services sector. This ever-growing situation, on the other hand, has also caused a 0.39 percent reduction in per capita GDP growth with a 1% increase in terrorist incidents over the years.3

Financial capital accumulation and investment has also declined in economic activities as unclear policies have made foreign investors jittery. Likewise, at the very bottom level there are continued concerns as a result of , negatively affected resource allocations, resource mis-utilization due to terrorism, and the reduction in international trade and business activities due to the fear of terrorism and non-consistent public policies, also due to political destabilization e.g., dharna (protect) culture by the opposition parties in the past three years. Besides the non-measurable loss to humans, other major economic costs of terrorism include widespread poverty, low investment and flight of capital, poor infrastructure, a reduction in exports, decreasing revenues and a diversion of the social development expenditure to law and order measures.

Meanwhile, most IDPs, both from rural and urban areas, have been motivated to move back to their homes, but the country needs policies to boost the economic development and improvement in the social sector for the provision of the basic facilities i.e., health, education, safe water, security, etc.

Despite this need,  the ground reality portrays a totally a demotivating picture that is reported on a continuous basis, particularly with regard to food insecurity and ruined social infrastructure. All human development indicators of the effected areas sharply point towards the pathetic state of development as affected areas were left administratively and politically poorly managed, if not unattended.

Terrorism remains a great hurdle for the achievement to socio-economic prosperity, political stability and geo-strategic sustainability. As all developmental programs have been halted in the last decade there must be a revision to ensure the strengthening of the public system for the safety of the general masses and providing room for the re-development of the infrastructure for social services delivery, which currently hardly exists.

Two-Way Strategy

The emphasizing point is the basic ‘cause(s)’ – counter political strategy and reasons hindering effective rehabilitation process, rather than the ‘effect’ itself. Here again, two distinct themes are analyzed; firstly, the revival of the broad-based socio-economic system and the reducing of social inequality and, secondly, analysis of the policy intentions, civic relations and emerging role of the military.

The first problem argues towards a geographical progress, and the later a counter strategy to halt the revival of the terrorist psyche among citizens. Both reinforce each other and depending on the degree of inducing, one leads or disturbs the second.

For example, it is seen currently that in the rural areas of Pakistan, economic and social service disparity has remained the influencing factor to promote militancy and terrorism. It has remained as the main reason behind the discontent among the general public and serves as opportunity to support militancy as a result of lavish funding from the terrorist organizations. Hence, effective measures to alleviate poverty and boost the economic sector in rural Pakistan has remained unconditional and needs to be a top priority, however, economic planning or pragmatic recovery programs to generate economic activity have failed to get required attention.

Hence, again it will not be wrong to say that regardless of scope, there exist two dimensions to the existing problem; State’s response in comprehensive policy formulation, federal-provincial catch-up and non-engagement of key stakeholders i.e., local community to counter militancy problems with locals power brokers. And the implementation of the rural developmental programs across the rural and effected Pakistan. Here, the insight is skewed by the intensity of the problem, leading further to an inadequate response, which just like in neighboring Afghanistan4, external actors (e.g., UN organizations) also face extreme difficulties due to a security absence for developmental interventions in un-settled areas.

As such, gearing socio-economic development in rural Pakistan remains as an unplanned activity. There exists a clear gap between State’s actions towards policy and planning. The assumption is that the (federal and provincial) State authority and capacity deficits to deliver services in rural areas are quite different from those in urban areas. Yet, there could inevitably be some overlap between the State authority, federal-provincial cooperation and capacity deficits. Whereas on the other side intolerance and the extremism psyche within Pakistani society continues increasing.

Worryingly enough the gulf among ‘seculars’ and ‘Islamists’ is being intensified and the common space in minimizing extreme polarization and politico-religious splits still exists in society. This split is widening the gap between policy formulation and the execution of such among the government institutions towards rural developmental in the most effected areas.

Here, the emerging role of a third stream; the military cannot be underestimated. Other than fighting at the forefront, the emerging role of military, particularly of Gen. Raheel Sharif, in initiating the political process in rural areas e.g., FATA, Swat and Baluchistan can be appreciated and simultaneously be interpreted as legitimacy deficits. The Army’s role can be synonymous to that of exercising authority and the State’s significant limitations to provide basic public services to affected. It has again without reservation posed negative effects on local perception about democratic government as a reflection of capacity deficit.

(Un) Clear Future

Once again Pakistan is at a crossroads. Extremists and terrorists have in the past decade threatened the territorial integrity of the State. The asymmetric consequence of  the bombings still continues to haunt us. No doubt the present governments (both national and provincial) have become sandwiched between combating under-development and international pressure to rule-out terrorism and violence completely. At this point, wild corruption, favoritism and the folding of provincial civic capacity are rising. Resulting local economic conditions, on which all human developmental indicators depend, are crumbling and together are destroying the fabric of our society.

The Provinces struggle for territorial control and the level of doubt among local populace continues to challenge the capability and viability of the State to act deeply. There is a call to involve layman into the decision-making that affects their lives. The people of Pakistan now collectively reject extremism in all its forms. They are prepared to work together to establish a tolerant and law-abiding modern society, but due to blurred politics, the rule of ignorance, stagnation, fanaticism, and destruction is spreading like a wild fire, especially in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

This militancy is caused by numerous factors; hence no single solution exists for our problems. On a national level, there is lack of sorting-out the economy, education, and civic infrastructure to facilitate a progressive and prosperous society. Whereas, at the national level, there lacks a national plan of action. The improvement of law and order and the elimination of corruption and nepotism must remain high on our priority list.

At the same time, a strict check has to be maintained on the use of religious seminaries to breed and spread sectarianism and extremism. The relative Terrorism in Pakistan: Causes & Remedies expediency and weight of any particular approach has to be decided based on ground situation and impact based on accurate feedback.

A Way Forward

Recapping the discussion, the lack of development programs and resulting poverty has no doubt frustrated the locality and let them fall into the hands of extremists to further exploit the situation and inculcate a sense of deprivation among the community to fuel further violent insurgency.

Standing on the edge of a fragile5 and stable state, Pakistan has to pay more attention than before to specific problems of governance and service delivery to diminish the chances of falling back into the ocean of terrorism and violence. This is because developmental programs alone cannot eliminate terrorism, extremism and violence from the country, rather comprehensive policies when collectively formulated, and properly and implemented can inhibit terrorism and extreme psyche among the populace. There is a need of multi-pronged approach that includes a joint State–Military–Community. If this is done, then development policies could have a noteworthy potential to reduce, and in the long run eliminate the threat of terrorism and violence.

This analysis, at this crucial point has focused on dealing with the political, economic, and social aspects projected above the pledge of the federal and provincial governments to enact efficiently the formulating of economic and social policies, based on reconciliation with the local community. The goal should be to create mechanisms for determining local socio-economic needs, joint planning of civil and military engineering cores, implementation on all stakeholders’ participation and transparent evaluation to monitor allocation of funds.


Widespread rural poverty and a deficit of socio-economic facilities in effected rural Pakistan is both related to a lack of planning, (local) stakeholders inclusion (federal-provincial fragmentation), ethnic cleavages and significant deficits in state capacity. There is a strong need to adjust timely the national direction and the crowding of investment in R&D to the aftermaths of terrorism in the society to foster a civic-military syndicate to ensure faster economic growth in rural Pakistan, which then facilitates other associated (e.g., human, social, cultural etc.) aspects to become pro-poor.

About Author:
Umer Khayyam holds MPhil in Management of NPOs (University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück) and PhD in Development Studies (University of Münster, Germany). His broader areas of interest include Rural Development Paradigm, Theories of Development, Environment and Development, and Peace and Conflict Analysis. Dr. Umer Khayyam is member of several national and international academic bodies and currently serving as Assistant Professor at the department of Development Studies, School of Social Sciences and Humanities (S3H), National University of Science & Technology (NUST) Islamabad, Pakistan.

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