Defining terrorism is not a simple matter. Till now, there is no single internationally accepted definition of what constitutes terrorism. The literature on terrorism is abundant with competing definitions; some call it extremism, however not all types of extremism are terrorism.
Regarding terrorism and extremist, an international organization, Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), annually publishes a report, titled, “Global Terrorism Index (GTI)”, that provides a comprehensive summary of salient global trends and patterns in terrorism. Like every year since 2000, GTI for 2020 is also an all-inclusive analysis of terrorism impact in 163 countries till end 2019. The GTI 2020 covers over 17000 terrorism incidents from 1970 to 2019 using data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and other sources.
As per GTI report, Pakistan’s ranking has improved from 5th (2019) to 7th (2020). In 2019, Pakistan recorded its lowest number of terror-related deaths since 2006. The report also indicates that since 2007, there is a 90% decline in deaths related to terrorism incidents in Pakistan. Most of the deaths form terrorism in Pakistan were from small-scale attacks that were not attributed to any group. The report highlights that out of 37 terror groups active in Pakistan in 2015, only 10 were partially active in 2019.
Rightly, the reduced terrorism trend in Pakistan is attributed to Counter Terrorism (CT) operations undertaken by Pakistan military and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) against terrorists’ groups. In 2015, the Government of Pakistan also implemented the National Action Plan (NAP) to crack down on militant strongholds in North Waziristan Agency/ FATA. It is worth mentioning here that the Pakistan military, mandated by the government, conducted operations in the areas of Swat and various parts of FATA to restore the writ of the state. These operations included 2007 Operation Rah-e-Haq, 2007-09 Operation Rah-e-Rast, 2009 Operation Sherdil and 2014 Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The army also undertook the de-radicalization measures. The NAP was aimed to consolidate the gains achieved by operations “Zarb-e-Azb” and “Radd-ul-Fasaad” which made Pakistan able to deal with the issue of radicalization and extremism excellently.
Since 9/11, Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism, losing over 80,000 human lives, incurring economic losses of around 102.5 billion USD along with serious damage to its cultural and religious ethos. GTI 2020 also points out that since 2014, the economic impact of terrorism has also declined by 95%. Additionally, the report also assessed that the most impacted regions of Pakistan in 2019 were Balochistan and KP; the two regions recorded 77% of attacks and 85% of deaths in 2019. The most frequent forms of terrorism in these regions were bombings and armed assaults targeting civilians, police and military personnel.
Fortunately, the number of terrorism incidents reported by GTI in Pakistan (279) is half as compared to terrorism incidents in India (558). Thus the report ranked Pakistan 7th and India 8th. It is a serious analytical concern that Indian statistics in GTI are India’s attempt to hide its nefarious designs in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan by giving it a cover of terrorism. Under the guise of fifth generation warfare India, like other states, is investing in technologies and research on how a country can be devastated through low intensity warfare using terrorism. The recent revelations by the EU DisinfoLab regarding Indian Chronicles prove Pakistan’s decade-long stance of Indian involvement in its internal affairs and cross border promotion of terrorism and extremism. Another evidence pertains to the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadev – an Indian Naval Officer and Spy – who did not only spy but also played a key role in supporting terrorist groups in Pakistan. The resulting chaos in Balochistan, Karachi and in many parts of Pakistan cost hundred of thousands of innocent lives.
The report declares religious extremism as major motivator factor of terrorism attacks in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Philippines and elsewhere. So, it still needs to be analyzed as to what is the key cause of sustenance for radicalized behaviours in Pakistani society and how these elements can be reintegrated into the system. In order to sustain Pakistan’s counter terrorism efforts, judiciary and LEAs can be further empowered to eliminate extremist elements through adoption of required legislative measures. Public perception regarding LEAs is also not encouraging that needs to be reformed through increased public-police interactions with the help of social media, mobile application and community services. The moderate majority in Pakistan rejects violence, but not essentially disagree with the extremist agenda as such, which is embedded in religious language. The active participation of religion clergy for proliferating the right meaning and concept of Jihad is of utmost importance. Lastly, the relevant stakeholders need to mitigate these issues at all levels of the spectrum; and policy measures can be taken by the state to turn challenges into opportunities. Lastly, extremist elements need to be exposed in the eyes of general public through effective media communication and strategy.
*Gulshan Rafiq is an Islamabad based researcher.