Defeating terrorism

Is Pakistan’s Afghan policy securing its vital national interests?

The people of Pakistan have spo ken. And the government must pay heed. - The widespread, spontaneous, and vociferous protests by the people of the erstwhile FATA, in particular both Waziristans, Bajaur, Wana, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, D I Khan, Swat, etc against the re-emergence of terrorists in their areas must have taken Terrorism Central (myriad terrorist groups milling around in the wildlands of Afghanistan) and the Afghan Taliban by surprise. The people have demanded that the government drive these terrorists out of their areas and re-establish its writ there. Their demands have been further reinforced by the very sound edict/fatwa by some leading religious leaders of KP that declare all acts of terrorism and unilateral declarations of Jihad as patently unIslamic. The whole nation concurs. The terrorists will henceforth have to confront a much more hostile operational environment than before. The people and their armed forces, CAF, Police, other LEAs, intelligence agencies, etc will now form a formidable, integrated bulwark against them and their macabre designs. Pakistan is clearly gravitating towards a whole-of-the-nation paradigm shift in countering terrorism. Pakistan needs to come up with a very well-considered, multidimensional policy to tackle terrorism anew. It must relaunch an exterior manoeuvre to expose RAW-India’s state sponsorship of terrorism against Pakistan in connivance with other hostile agencies. A strong, renewed, and rearticulated diplomatic and media offensive, therefore, needs to be launched. Furthermore, Pakistan must continue to engage the Afghan Taliban government albeit sans its policy of appeasement. Pakistan has multifarious leverages that it can exploit against Afghanistan. It must start conditioning its support for the Kabul Regime to its success in halting all terrorist attacks emanating from Afghan soil against Pakistan. Pakistan could quietly become more reticent in supporting the Kabul Regime in international fora; indicate revisiting the transit and bilateral trade facilities and agreements; block off all manners of cross-border smuggling, flight of foreign exchange, unrestricted movement of people, goods, foodgrains, etc. The refugees are either restricted to welldefined areas or repatriated honourably. A very delicate, subtle balance will however have to be struck between exploiting the leverages and retaining a working relationship with Kabul. Pakistan’s interior manoeuvre must bring about a counter-narrative that is truer, more realistic, and appealing than the one proffered by the terrorists. Crucially, our religious, religious-political, and political leaders and their parties must stand up and be counted against terrorism and in support of the edict/ fatwa by the religious leaders of KP. A strong, unified national stance against terrorism must emerge. Operation Radd ul Fasaad must continue to preempt and destroy sleeper cells. Pakistan must overhaul its counterterrorism (CT) policy. It needs to devise a whole-of-the-nation and wholeof-the-government policy which leads to an integrated strategy to defeat terrorism. It must create a unified CT organisation at the national level that has the capacity and capability to assess, detect, identify, pre-empt, counter, engage, defeat and destroy all external and internal sources/threats of terrorism. It must wrest the initiative from the terrorists and chase them relentlessly. Of necessity, it needs to have operations, intelligence, technological, media, legal, coordination, administration, etc divisions for it to function effectively. This CT organisation must be backed up by special laws and have special powers to deal with the extraordinary circumstances that threaten the country’s existence. Special anti-terrorism courts with special powers and witness protection programs must be created to dispense justice within a specified period (National Action Plan, Protection of Pakistan Ordinance!). It must have the unqualified support of all elements of national power. Thus, a wholesome, viable, and effective system will have to be created to deal a fatal blow to terrorism. To that end, this lead CT organisation must create the necessary, dedicated infrastructure at the national, provincial, divisional, and district levels. Two, all levels must be directly linked through safe, secure, encrypted communications networks with inherent firewalls, backups, and redundancies. Three, an intelligence coordination centre must be created at the national and lower levels to collect and collate crucial information from diverse sources and turn it into real-time, actionable intelligence. Four, a database of terrorist groups/ sub-groups, their affiliations, bases, locations, areas of operation, strengths and capacities to carry out attacks, external support mechanisms, local facilitators, if any, etc must be created. Five, a Common Intelligence Picture (CIP) thus must be created and made available at all appropriate levels, in real time. Six, all intelligence-based operations (IBOs) must be coordinated at the appropriate levels. Seven, the intelligence setup must be supported by reconnaissance and surveillance through satellites, aircraft, drones, UAVs, and human and electronic intelligence elements. This force must have the ability to detect and track the movement of bodies of terrorists astride the border(s) and at all times. Eight, similarly an operations coordination centre be created at the national and subordinate levels to coordinate all counter-terrorism operations, (CTOs). A real-time Common Operations Picture (COP) must be available at all appropriate levels for better coordination and support. Nine, the integration of real-time CIPs and COPs will create the ability to execute IBOs and CTOs in a joint, synergised, synchronised, and more effective manner. Ten, this will enable the CT forces to carry out simultaneous/near-simultaneous IBOs and CTOs, engage the terrorists on a broad front and defeat them comprehensively. If they escape across the Pak-Afghan border then we must retain the option of hot-pursuit operations. Eleven, this will help secure the CPEC too. Is Pakistan’s Afghan policy securing its vital national interests? Should its counter-terrorism policy be a part of its Afghan policy or should both be independent of one another? It might be prudent for Pakistan to keep its counter-terrorism policy detached from its overall Afghan policy. This will allow it greater freedom of action against the terrorists. Pakistan must waste no further time or efforts in pointless negotiations or pleadings, rather it must opt for decisive, pre-emptive kinetic operations. In particular, it must persistently target and reduce the leadership cadre of the terrorist groups, acquire an unassailable superior position and then impose its will upon them. Period.

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at and tweets @K846Im.

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