How to tackle the surging terrorism

Most of these attacks, according to the government, were planned from “terrorist sanctuaries” in Afghanistan

The author is a former Secretary to Government, Home & Tribal Affairs Department and a retired IG. He holds a PhD in Political Science and currently heads a think tank ‘Good Governance Forum’. He can be reached at


There is an alarming increase in the acts of terrorism in the country, particularly in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The intensity and frequency of attacks demonstrate the capacity of militant outfits to strike at will. The recent terrorist incidents include the Beesham attack on Chinese citizens, kidnapping of a sessions judge in Tank, killing of seven barbers in Gwadar and the attack at naval airbase near Turbat.

The current wave of terrorism in Balochistan has two dimensions: ethnic and religious. Attacks on Chinese citizens, ethnic groups other than the Baloch, and security forces in Baloch-dominated areas are mostly attributed to BLA and its lethal wing, the Majeed Brigade. While the religiously-motivated terrorism is mostly the handiwork of TTP and IS-Khorasan.

Most of these attacks, according to the government, were planned from “terrorist sanctuaries” in Afghanistan.

Pakistan Army’s spokesperson Major-General Ahmed Sharif, at a recent presser, categorically stated that the Taliban regime has failed to prevent the use of Afghan soil for cross-border terrorism despite repeated protests and sharing of “solid evidence” with them through diplomatic channels. He said Pakistan’s security forces captured and killed several Afghan nationals involved in the recent attacks, adding that the Afghan-based TTP, along with other fugitives, orchestrated the cross-border attacks.

There is no doubt that the nucleus of the organisational structure, not just of TTP but also of IS-K and ETIM, lies in Afghanistan. Reports also suggest that Al-Qaeda is silently helping TTP carry out its activities.

The deadly attack outside Moscow’s Crocus City Hall that left 140 people dead and 80 others injured was also traced to Tajik-origin Afghans affiliated with IS-K.

Since the attacks like the one in Moscow threaten the whole regional peace, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) had, in its 19th annual meeting, urged the Afghan government to fulfil its commitments towards combating terrorism. A joint statement issued there stressed that the presence of international terrorist groups and other groups based in Afghanistan posed a serious threat to SCO member states. It also called for expanding cooperation against terrorist acts, trans-national organised crime, channels financing terrorism, and illegal migration.

While there are evidences pointing towards the presence of sanctuaries for militants across the border, we also have to accept the problem lying within. Forces inimical to the country continue to pose challenges. They have crafted their strategies and set their goals according to their own world view. And they act in pursuance of these strategies and goals.

We usually start discussing a particular event at the tactical level, without taking into consideration the situation in its entirety. Combating the adversary is not possible without having a proper counterterrorism strategy. We need to find answers to how we have reached this juncture, and what we have to do now to avoid sliding further and overcome the situation.

In the aforementioned context, we first need to accept that the religiously-motivated militancy we are currently faced with is transnational, whereas the ethnic militancy is a localised phenomenon. Both require separate approaches to tackle them. The religious militancy is connected to a well-knit network with linkages across borders, and is thus a bigger challenge. We need to ponder on what course to adopt after the Afghan Taliban’s failure or unwillingness to act despite all persuasions and use of diplomatic channels.

The pattern of terrorist acts carried out in the country points to the grim reality that operatives having links across borders also exist within our own boundaries — either in the form of active cells or sleeper cells. This also suggests the existence of a supply chain and communications network. It’s is necessary to break these links with the leadership based outside so as to weaken and thwart them. This requires a robust information gathering system.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2024.

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