The terrorist attack on APS Peshawar in KPK on 16 Dec 2014 not only brought all the political parties on board but also led to military operations in various parts of the country. Many civilians and army personnel sacrificed their lives in the war against terrorism. It was deemed a hard-earned success that broke the backbone of militant organizations in Pakistan. However, the rise of TTP in 2020 raised various concerns among researchers and policymakers. The Taliban takeover in Kabul diminished Pakistan’s desire of having bilateral relations with Afghanistan, especially when it refused to negotiate with Pakistan regarding taking a stand against TTP. The Pakistani government’s policy of repatriating Afghan refugees as a solution to deal with terrorism came under scrutiny due to unabated terrorist attacks on security forces.
The violent extremism and radicalization are always imported and domestically grown, requiring mutual efforts and cooperation. The challenges to national security in Pakistan are due to the government’s failure to pay heed to theological differences. The madrassahs in Pakistan played an enormous role in disseminating the ideology of the Taliban, which is quite different from that of the founders of Pakistan. They don’t recognize the ruler of Pakistan’s state as an ameer and emphasize doing jihad against them. However, the founders of Pakistan wanted to have a Muslim identity state rather than a caliphate system; this has become a source of political conflict in Pakistan.
Al Qaeda was the mastermind behind planning terrorist attacks on the military in Pakistan. TTP used to provide resources, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was supplying foreign fighters. The recent attack on the Pakistan Air Force and Army base raises concerns about the activity of that network. However, Al-Qaeda is not that strong, but it is exploiting TTP to accomplish its goals. It seems the network has also changed its tactic from killing civilians to army and police personnel. It is now working with the Baluchistan Liberation Army and exploiting social media tools for provocative purposes, which is a matter of great concern for the state because Baluchistan has been under military insurgency, economic instability, and grievances , people there are more at the risk of radicalization and violent extremism. The Indian sponsored BLA is already exploiting situation and prompting people to take arms against the state which is a matter of great concern for Pakistan. The government has banned their speeches from media but this might not be enough for tackling the situation.
Furthermore, the lack of transparency in policies of the government has made people to lose trust in the writ of the state. Though military operations freed tribal areas of Pakistan from terrorists, the disappearing of missing persons who are taken on the charges of terrorism has jeopardized lives of common people. Article 10(e) of the constitution decrees to present criminals in court for a trial however they are not taken before court. Though military has put great efforts in opening schools, cadet colleges in Baluchistan to raise literacy rate and deploying soft power, people there demand justice for their loved ones more than that.
The situation in Pakistan clearly illustrates that military operations might reduce terrorism, radicalization, and violent extremism, but they cannot completely eradicate them at their roots. Additionally, Pakistan is currently unable to launch military operations due to unstable political and economic conditions, as well as an uncertain political situation. Norway provides an example through its robust policy framework that achieved the goal of upholding human rights and freedom while combating radicalization. For instance, Norway formed a delegated working group composed of representatives from the President’s Office, local government, voluntary groups, and ministries led by the Justice and Public Security Ministry, promoting coordination and cooperation between police and municipalities. Taking this into consideration, Pakistan should engage people from all provinces in policymaking, seeking insights from research institutes to define both radicalization and violent extremism. Moreover, Pakistan should collaborate with other countries to persuade Afghanistan to engage in dialogue on these matters. The madrassahs that trained militants for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) during the Soviet-Afghan War should be engaged in dialogue to negotiate with them because they follow the same ideology.
Lastly, it is essential to proactively identify individuals who may be susceptible to radicalization and extremism, ensuring that they receive the necessary support and guidance. This calls for a comprehensive strategy that involves the entire nation in fostering understanding and collaboration. To achieve this, it is crucial to build national confidence through transparent communication channels, creating a united front against the challenges of radicalization and extremism. Implementing initiatives such as extensive awareness campaigns, interactive seminars, and inclusive youth dialogues becomes pivotal in disseminating information and fostering a collective sense of responsibility. The objective is to make people fully aware of the prevailing situation and the underlying circumstances contributing to radicalization. For this purpose, there should be cooperation, coordination among concerned authorities to find facts on the matter of missing persons, and people should be made aware of the ground reality.
This heightened awareness is crucial, particularly because the nation, at this juncture, cannot afford to bear the heavy toll it experienced in the past. Therefore, it becomes imperative to invest in preventive measures, forging a united front against radicalization and extremism. Recognizing the lessons from history, the nation must take concerted efforts to address the root causes of radicalization, fostering a resilient society that actively works towards preventing the recurrence of past challenges. By doing so, we pave the way for a safer, more secure future for our nation, where the adverse consequences of radicalization and extremism are minimized through collective and informed action.