In the art of problem solving, the first step is defining the problem in the right terms. A problem formulated wrongly never generates the right solution, as Albert Einstein noted, “The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution.” Today, this is our great conundrum, when we talk about terrorism. The whole national discourse on terrorism is viewed in terms of US war on terror, Taliban and tribal area. The central tenant of this Taliban centric approach is that TTP is the axis of all terror and once it is dismantled - through negotiations or military action, all terrorism will taper off.

To understand the dynamics of terrorism in Pakistan, we need to look at it’s landscape, actors involved in it and its geographic dimension. According to Interior ministry, there are around 59 banned militants outfits operating in Pakistan. In KPK and FATA, apart from TTP, major terrorist entities are Haji Namdar Group, Qari Abid Group, Waliur Rehman group, Jundullah, Nizam Group, Tauheed Group etc.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, prominent terror groups are Gilgit and East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement, Tanzweem Naujawanaan-e-Ahle Sunat, Anjuman-e-Imamia Gilgit-Baltistan, Markaz Sabeel Organisation, Khana-e-Hikmat Gilgit-Baltistan.

In Baluchistan the war against the state is carried out by Balochistan Bunyad Parast Army, Balochistan Liberation Front, Baloch Musalla Difa Tanzeem, Balochistan National Liberation Army, Balochistan United Army, and Balochistan Liberation Army. Banned outfits active in Punjab are Ansarul Islam, Islamic Students Movement of Pakistan, Islamic Jihad Union, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Khuddam-ul-Islam, Tehreek-e-Islami and Jamaat-ul-Furqan etc.

Transnational terror organisations operating within Pakistan include Islam Tahafuz Hadudullah, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Abdullah Azam Brigade, Jaish-e-Islam, LeT and Al-Qaeda (to mention few). Outfits involved in sectarian violence are Tehreek-e-Jaafria Pakistan, Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. In addition, there are militant wings of political parties involved in Karachi violence.

This list of terror groups underscore three important trends. First is that terrorism is not limited to just FATA and KPK. Secondly, TTP is not the only militant organisation posing threat to the state. It may be the most potent threat, nonetheless it is not the only one. Third important trend is that with extremism, many nationalist movements and the militant wings of political parties pose a serious challenge to the writ of the state.

In other words, terrorism has now spread to many parts of the country and numerous organisations with varied aims are challenging the writ of the state. Carrying out a military operation in FATA or any other part of the country might appear alluring, as many suggest, but an operation against one entity in one region will not fix the debilitated condition of law enforcement across Pakistan.

History of modern insurgencies demonstrate a different course of action, a fact highlighted by RAND’s report “Counterinsurgency in Pakistan.” According to it “Police and intelligence units have been particularly critical against insurgent and terrorist groups. One study found that terrorist groups end for two major reasons: Members decide to adopt nonviolent tactics and join the political process (43 percent), or local law enforcement agencies arrest or kill key members of the group (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for terrorist groups to end (7 percent). Among religious groups, the percentage that ends because of police action is even higher: 73 percent of religious groups ended through policing and intelligence operations.”

The report goes on to say, “ In short, the competence of police and the quality of governance have historically affected the success — or failure — of counterinsurgency efforts. This suggests focusing more efforts in Pakistan toward better policing and intelligence, rather than relying predominantly on the army.”

To start with, we need political resolve to address terrorism. Perhaps, this is our greatest problem. We spend resources on foolish schemes but no government has ever tried to reform police because it is a convenient tool for political repression. This mindset has to change if police force has to be organised on professional and modern lines.

In addition, our legal system too has to be reformed as many culprits get out of jails using the legal loopholes. The near zero conviction rate has deprived, whatever sting the law enforcement had in Pakistan. And then there is a need to strengthen intelligence gathering and sharing, as effective policing requires credible and timely intelligence.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.” Precisely this is the problem with military operations. In short term, it may produce some results, but in long run it is unfavourable. For one operations create collateral damage as it becomes difficult to isolate militants from civilian population. It also creates a large displacement of local population in the form of IDPs. And most importantly, militants melt in the face of military juggernaut, only to regroup later- a typical tactic in guerilla warfare.

What we need is a reformed police force in settled and tribal areas of Pakistan, equipped with latest weaponry, trained to take terrorism to task. A professional force will also stamp out criminal activities through which terrorists finance their activities and will go a long way towards creating an internally secure state.

The writer is a freelance columnist and has worked as a broadcast journalist.

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