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Impact of Terrorism on Policy Making in South Asia Region

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South Asia region has been raveling terrorism from decades. Despite having potential economic growth, in bulk of natural resources along with maritime possession and vital manpower – terrorism has become one of the major impediments to augment development and regional stability in South Asia.

It is terrorism which may pale foreign investment in South Asian states and causes long term instability. For that reason, terrorism has made South Asian countries impelled to reconsideration of state and foreign policy. Even though terrorism has not embedded in entire part of South Asia like Middle East and Africa yet, some crucial segments of the region has been pervaded severely by affliction of terrorism. Tracing gravity of consequences, this article investigates state policy and foreign policy of South Asian countries concerning terrorism.

Frequent political unrest, exploitation and skirmishes edify individual’s sentiment looking forward to fostering terror activities in South Asia. Some states of South Asian region allegedly bestowing political benevolence to leverage state policy has given space various terrorist groups. Spread of extreme ideologies consigned from Middle Eastern countries via media, bogus NGOs, a few religious institutions have prolonged terrorism in South Asia. Furthermore, extreme nationalism and communism in several incisions of South Asia has provoked separationist movements which have been metamorphosis into terrorism afterwards. Moreover, Geographical flashpoints have hatched harborage for terrorist factions. Several mountainous area, hill tracts, woodlands and riparian sites are prop roots of terrorist bases. Afghanistan, India and Pakistan are egregious victims of the claws of terrorism. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives have also witnessed fatal affects. Damages of lives, wealth, economy even social and political structure are beyond controversies while the amount is being increasingly high in every minute. In the meantime, some countries have grasped policies to confront global terrorism and diminution of losses due to terrorist attacks.

India is accusing Pakistan for ”playing a proxy war against India” for years by using terrorist groups as a trump card. Late 2016 India has suffered several terrorist attacks including Uri, Pathankot and Baramulla attacks blaming Pakistan for giving shelter to terrorist groups and leaders. All the mentioned attacks left injuries and deaths of Indian military personnel. That’s why a tension had prevailed in the Line of Control (Loc) last year. India had also claimed for a successful ‘surgical strike’ in Pakistan territory. In that year Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to boycott Pakistan internationally. Eventually, 19th SAARC summit had also been postponed when Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and later Sri Lanka joined India’s convoy for boycotting Pakistan showing different issues.
 
Afghanistan has been facing severe depression while seeing no symptoms to reduction of terrorist acts in the country. US backed Afghan force has already engaged in war Taliban like insurgent groups. Being exhausted with Pakistan’s stand towards terrorist groups Afghanistan is now seeking close relations with India while accusing Pakistan to support Taliban and resemble insurgent groups. According to Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, ”India – the fifth largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan, and a power with deep expertise on governance, development, infrastructure, and commerce – could be a larger part of the international efforts to assist Afghanistan.” (Alyssa Ayres, How India can help in Afghanistan, cfr : 2017).

Unprecedented deadly attack on Dhaka Holey Artisan Bakery has shaken the whole nation. Although before this attack Bangladesh has shown terrorist attacks previously, the Holey Artisan attack resulted in death of 17 foreigners including 9 Italian, 7 Japanese and 1 Indian. From then Bangladesh has hold a strict position showing ‘zero tolerance’ to terrorism. After the devastating incident Bangladesh is carrying on routine operation regularly to destroy militant dens and networks so that her national security may protect and she can assure the international community that situation of Bangladesh is still veritable. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made clear the government’s position towards terrorism issue declaring no place for terrorist activities in the soil of Bangladesh. Bangladesh and India have consented to share intelligence report in the sake of terroristic deeds. Such positive stand has renowned her image to international community.

The Maldives is often known as tourists haven “a collection of about 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has hosted 1.2 million visitors last year” (Kai Schultz, New York Times: 2017). Recently, the Maldives is under threat of spreading terrorism – have faced an attack on tourists. UK government has issued foreign travel advice for traveling in Maldives “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in the Maldives. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers including tourists” (source) For that reason, the Maldives government has initiated the country’s state policy to demolish terrorism. In the policy Maldives consciously recognized that “Maldives will take all necessary measures against terrorism and violent extremism in accordance with the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, which was passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006, and the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which was submitted by the UN Secretary General to the General Assembly in December 2015”. (State Policy – Terrorism and Violent Extremism, Page 3)

Pakistan is reportedly accused of giving cherishment to several terrorist groups – providing them aid, armaments and launch pads – basically for spreading terror in Kashmir region and India withal. However, Pakistan government shows displeasure for these allegations. Apparently, these charges against Pakistan come in light after a media interview of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister acknowledging presence of Jamat ud Dawah (Jud) and its armed wing Lashkar e Taiba (Let) in the land of Pakistan – while previously Pakistan has refused to concede any type of terror activities of above mentioned groups. Moreover, Pakistan is internally fetters with lethal eventualities of terrorism – having a vast amount of bloodshed and screaming every single day – with a dominance of tribal and global terrorist groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al-Qaeda (AQ) in North-West Pakistan. Annunciation of President Donald Trump regarding cessation to donation and citing Pakistan as ‘terror safe havens’ has pressurized Pakistan while Pakistan is reportedly denying President Trump’s allegations and vows to help Kashmiris. Coincidentally BRICS declaration against allegedly Pakistan has propelled Pakistan to rethink about her policy towards terrorist groups. Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has said in an interview “Instead, we should impose some restrictions on the activities of elements like LeT and JeM, so that we can show the global community that we have put our house in order” (Dawn.com September 06, 2017). However, in the same occasion, President Donald Trump has asked for India’s help in the case of Afghanistan. It seems as a milestone for India’s diplomatic success towards terrorism issue.

South Asian states are concern about terrorism and terrorist activities that stampede not only development in this region but also relations between or among states. In spite of hindrances there are also anticipations to get rid of the turmoil. Confronting terrorism is not a single-way process it should be understood by South Asian countries. Multilateral configuration ought to be portrayed to face with terrorism. Massive change in political appropriation should be ensued. Mutual trust must be built up among South Asian nations. Appeasement to terrorism have to hurled. Harboring terrorism by any South Asian states should be considered as breaching of international law. Statement of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister regarding restrictions on Pakistan based terrorist groups unfolds feasibility to ameliorate current situation. Pakistan must switch her stance on terrorism through termination of political patronage to terrorist groups. There are a large number of insecure boundaries among the South Asian countries – most of them situated in forest areas, hilly or mountainous realm, riverine sites or in desert – which are being availed to basement, training, transition and launch pad for terrorist factions. Surveillance should be boost up in those outlying cantons. Terrorism financing ought to be ceased. So, States of South Asia region have to exchange intelligence informations involving terrorism with each other. A military alliance should be formed comprising South Asian states to combat terrorism in their strongholds.

Despite having ambiguous interpretations, the sequels of terrorism are palpable. Safety of lives and wealth, economic growth and development, stability in South Asian region can’t be fostered without elimination of terrorism from this region. Notwithstanding, contraction of terrorism is not enforceable except reciprocal adjuvant of South Asian states. It’s the compatible time to stand against terrorism, otherwise, terrorism may circumambulate in South Asia region by all means.

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Terrorism

Countering Terrorism: 2023 and Beyond

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(file photo) UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya

Pakistan has carried three significant issues from 2022 into 2023. These include political instability, a dwindling economy and resurging terrorism. With respect to terrorism, Afghanistan has assumed centre stage. Following the withdrawal of US forces on 15 Aug 2021, there was initial jubilation in Pakistan over Taliban’s triumph. It stemmed from the perception that US military presence in the region and drone strikes were the leading sources of regional instability.

2022 ended for Pakistan with an upsurge in terrorist activities and accordingly the New Year started with a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC). The press release following the meeting reiterated NSC’s resolve to ‘have zero tolerance for terrorism in Pakistan and reaffirmed its determination to take ‘on any and all entities that resort to violence.’ This is a welcome decision by the government and state organs.

Pakistan’s counterterrorism (CT) efforts gained momentum following the unprecedented Army Public School (APS) massacre of 2014. Some have compared it to Pakistan’s 9/11. The tragedy was relatable to all of Pakistan regardless of the so-called ethnic, regional or sectarian divides. The inhumane attacks brought the civil and military leadership together in assigning this scourge of terrorism the priority that it deserved. The most prominent outcome was a National Action Plan on countering terrorism that enjoyed broadest possible political support.

Subsequently, the united stance against terrorism enabled unprecedented successes in rooting out terrorism. However, it appears that the reduction in terrorist activities led to a sense of complacency which was further aided by growing political polarisation that had more to do with differences on domestic, economic and foreign policy issues. Unfortunately, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan occurred at a time when Pakistan was struggling with internal politics. Apparently, the eventual prevalence of Afghan Taliban against a super power that they had been resisting for two decades, emboldened the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to think that it could similarly attrite the Pakistani nation and its state organs.

TTP’s motivation seems to be misplaced for primarily three reasons. First and foremost, the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) of Pakistan are fighting this war to provide a safe and secure environment to the future generations of the country – including their own children; unlike the US and coalition forces that neither had a clear objective nor a consistent policy to follow. Second, much of Afghan Taliban’s acceptance at the domestic level was based on the fact that they were fighting a foreign occupant – which is not the case for TTP. Thirdly, the Afghan Taliban assumed power by virtue of force rather than the will of the public and that is why they struggle to gain legitimacy at home and abroad.

Pakistani political leadership might differ on the possible approaches to dealing with this issue, but there certainly is no appetite for letting the TTP and associated factions consolidate power to a degree that they are able to challenge state’s writ at a level comparable to yesteryears. However, display of a united front by the various ruling parties at the Centre and provinces will help demonstrate that there will be no tolerance for terrorist activities no matter which political party assumes power.

TTP’s threat against the leadership of two ruling parties is an attempt to exploit the current domestic political divide. Political mudslinging on this issue only helps the enemy’s cause. The ongoing struggle for power between the political parties should not enable TTP to consolidate power in the interim period. Otherwise, it will become a greater threat for the next government to deal with. During the previous election years, terrorist outfits were successful in targeting the leadership of various political parties during their election campaigns and arguably changing the election outcomes by terrorising the electorate. It is in shared interest of all the political parties to avoid a repeat of such a scenario.

While the politico-military leadership establishes a united front at home, it will be important to deny external actors the ability to exploit Pakistan’s internal situation. Pakistan has been at the receiving end of accusations even as it presents irrefutable evidence of external involvement in terrorist activities inside the country. As Pakistan continues to expose foreign involvement, it ought to simultaneously deny foreign actors fertile ground to exploit at home. Previously, the foreign threat was limited to the Eastern front but now it has expanded at an unprecedented level to the Western front where the Taliban government is either complicit or unable to check use of its territory to launch terrorist attacks against Pakistan.

2023 is likely going to be the year of General Elections in Pakistan. Whichever party assumes power, it is important that it looks at counterterrorism as a long-term operation that will require broader political support, less in-fighting and an ability to stay the course impervious of temporary gains and setbacks which will inevitably be a part of the process.

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Terrorism

A Rift Getting Deeper: TTP and IEA parting their ways?

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Image source: hindustantimes.com

A few days ago, an alleged audio of Tahreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief, Noor Wali Mehsud has caught the attention of those who keep a close eye on terrorist groups operating in Pakistan, especially Tahreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Through this audio, Noor Wali has sent a message, to TTP fighters to pick up arms against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) after its search operation in provinces along the Pak-Afghan border. Since the takeover of Kabul, some security analysts had predicted the possible collaboration of IEA with TTP. Still, the evolution of TTP strategies and its ideological shift from being a branch of IEA to being an opponent of IEA was observed. Only those who have kept a sharp eye on TTP activities know that TTP is now a threat to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The reason behind the shift in TTP’s strategies:

 What compelled TTP to give such a big statement? This question comes to everyone’s mind, the below discussion is made in context to this question. The ideological standing of both TTP and IEA is far different. Afghan Taliban are ethnic nationals. They have only fought a war against foreign forces for Afghan territory and have never claimed any region beyond the borders of Afghanistan. However, TTP has long taken inspiration from Al-Qaeda, which has expansionist objectives and deadly takfiri ideology to create a falsified identity of believers and non-believers, only to legitimize its terror activities in the name of Islam. Hence, following the footprints of such a radical organization, there is a significant possibility that TTP will join hands with ISKP against IEA.

Question of natural and forced alliance:

Since the Kabul takeover, TTP has tried to align with IEA, thus, giving it the camouflage of a natural alliance. TTP’s leadership also manifested this narrative in its statements and activities. But the ideological drift and conflicting objectives show that TTP’s so-called alignment with IEA was one-sided and enforced. After the Kabul takeover, TTP tried its well to be a part of IEA but by rigid stance, IEA always cleared in their statement that TTP and IEA are two different groups, having different inspirations and goals.

Pakistan’s role that TTP in using Afghan soil:

Pakistan has been fighting TTP since 2003. In April 2022, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) struck the hideouts of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan along the Durand Line. This strike highlighted that a group within IEA was keen on providing safe havens to TTP. Hence, diplomatic pressure was mounted on IEA to eradicate TTP from the strategic provinces of Kunar and Khost.

 Chance of Mutual tussle between TTP and IEA:

Is there another conflict going to happen in the region? Now, the battle is the same, but the opponents are different. The so-called narrative that claims IEA and TTP were on the same table is wrecking after TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud and IEA spoke’s person Zabiullah Mujahid’s statements.” They are not, as an organization, part of IEA, and we don’t share the same objectives,” Zabiullah Mujahid said in reaction to TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud’s claims of being a part of the IEA. Now, the TTP chief has alerted his fighters for war. It would create complexities in the region. IEA acted as a mediator between the government of Pakistan and TTP to make peace in the region.  Additionally, Zabiullah mujahid also mentioned that We advise TTP to focus on peace and stability in their country. This is very important so, they can prevent any chance for enemies to interfere in the region, and we request Pakistan to investigate their demands for the better of the region and Pakistan.

Mujahid added that the TTP was Pakistan’s internal matter “The IEA stance is that we do not interfere in other countries affairs. We do not interfere in Pakistan’s affairs.”  

After this emerging rift, would it be possible for IEA to counter TTP? IEA is struggling to stabilize the state after Kabul take over. Nowadays, Afghanistan’s security and economy are on the verge of chaos. It would not be able to engage in other conflicts nor do they have the power to do so. And if they engaged in battle with TTP, an alliance of ISKP and TTP can hurt Afghanistan. But if they counter them, there is a chance to get international sympathy and maybe recognition because it will endorse the Doha agreement, as Recognition has become a dire need in Afghanistan.

Conclusion:

In a nutshell, it won’t be inappropriate to assume that another war will break out, and it is likely more drastic than the last ones. Despite all the hurdles, it is an opportunity for IEA to gain global sympathy for its recognition and to legitimize its regime. If the IEA becomes successful in convincing the world by taking action against terrorist outfits and extremism in its ranks, it will not only pave the way for its recognition but also meet with the minutes of the DOHA Accord to not allow any violent non-state actor to operate within Afghan territory.

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Terrorism

Pakistan in a quagmire: Resurgence of terrorism along with its relations with Afghanistan

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When Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, a large faction of the Pakistani society including mainstream politicians amused the fact that reins of Kabul had become in control of Taliban. One obvious reason for this felicitation was the much awaited perceived stability in neighboring Afghanistan which had direct impact on Pakistan. The other reason for jubilation in some factions was about the solidarity with regards to the identity of Afghan people. As brotherly nation, perseverance of Afghan people against the scourge of prolonged war, that too against the strongest military alliance, was a matter of inspiration for many in Pakistan. However, the formal response of the government was very much aligned with the global response. Islamabad did not officially recognize the interim government of Taliban. The eventful month of August, 2021 was followed by some key developments.

Considering the geo-political change in the neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan started to rethink its strategy at the western border. Through a backdoor channel, Islamabad approached the Taliban government to ensure the security of its western border from the hideouts of TTP living in Afghanistan. In short, Pakistan wanted the Taliban government to take strong action against TTP. However, in response to that, Kabul with TTP onboard, came up with a “quid pro quo plus” approach. It urged the Pakistan’s government to have a formal agreement with TTP which later on proceeded through a back door channels. In the agreement, TTP agreed for so called cease-fire along and inside Pakistan’s territory in exchange for cessation of Pakistan’s military operation against TTP. Moreover, the strangest of demands that Pakistan agreed to, was providing, the previously expelled TTP associates, with permission to come back and reside in districts of the tribal area. On the other hand, second critical development following the fall of Kabul, was Pakistan’s stance in the international community with respect to humanitarian concerns in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s foreign minister repeatedly urged the International community to establish a meaningful dialogue and engagement with the fragile state of Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan. He frequently argued that alienation of a rouge actor prompts even harsher human rights violation by that actor. Hence the world should not neglect Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan Rather, it should accept the reality and engage with Afghanistan.

However, it is extremely unfortunate to write that, both the aforementioned developments, gave rise to a Pro-Taliban sentiment vis-à-vis Pakistan. Nevertheless, the same sentiment has often been misrepresented in the western literature, and the same narrative has also been used to demonize Pakistan at the international forums. However, in reality Pakistan had been the most affected country by terrorism and it had been fighting against the scourge of terrorism since over a decade now. What is even more unfortunate is that in the recent past, TTP announced to resume its nefarious terrorist activities in Pakistan. As a result, a spike in terrorist events specifically in KPK province has been witnessed. The December 21st,2022 military operation is a testament to aggravating law and order situation in the country, in which a group of 25 TTP associated terrorists had been killed, while holding a CTD compound, hostage in Bannu.

Because there is a resurgence of terrorism coupled with the international criticism due to perceived relations with Afghanistan under Taliban. “Pakistan is appeared to be in a quagmire.”

Now, what Pakistan can pursue to undo this, is to redevise a comprehensive plan of action against terrorism in KPK and former FATA. It should also formulate a clear strategy at the western border not to tolerate any presence as well as influx of militants from Afghanistan. Moreover, for future, the state of Pakistan should also learn from the abysmal agreement that it went in with a Non-State Actor (NSA). For NSA’s an agreement is nothing more than a concealing tool for a limited survival. It is because of the three reasons. First, an agreement is always done between two responsible actors; terrorist group like TTP has no burden of responsibility neither in a domestic setting nor at the international level. Whereas, a sovereign state has immense responsibility at the domestic and international level. Second, an agreement between two states holds significance because of the perceived repute in the international system, Whereas, for a non-state actor like TTP, International reputation never comes into the equation as such groups are already infamous for their terrorist agenda. Third, States are mostly bound to stick fast to their bilateral or multilateral agreements, because of the fear of diplomatic and economic sanctions once they pull back from the agreement. Whereas in case of Non-state actors, there exist no such incentive to remain in the agreement.

Considering all the three reasons, it is quite evident that engaging with TTP for so called ceasefire agreement was neither viable nor will it ever be, particularly because, as a state, Pakistan would have to offer a lot in exchange to absolutely nothing. Moreover, because of such an agreement, Pakistan would itself invite criticism from the already skeptical international community. Hence for Pakistan, no tolerance policy against terrorism is the only option possible in order to lower domestic and international cost simultaneously.

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