Fighting terror

Published: January 22, 2012
The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, and a fellow of the International House of Japan/Japan Foundation, Tokyo

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, and a fellow of the International House of Japan/Japan Foundation, Tokyo

A high-level EU delegation recently met with a number of Pakistani officials as part of the EU’s counterterrorism strategy. The EU delegates underlined the need for improving human rights conditions, judicial reforms, law-enforcement and the need for a more legal-justice approach, rather than a criminal-justice approach.

The initiation of a formal counterterrorism dialogue between Pakistan and the EU augurs well and underscores the concerns that the 27-member European bloc has on Pakistan. Until recently, and particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, most EU states usually tagged along with what the US would do with regards to Pakistan, especially on matters relating to counterterrorism. Essentially, Washington led and determined the direction of strategies in these areas.

Pakistan remains sceptical of whether the EU can separate itself from America’s predominance as far as counterterrorism is concerned. Islamabad wants the EU to look at issues such as the Afghan refugee problem and narcotics as part of a counter-terror strategy for the simple reasons a) that militants and terrorists in Afghanistan feed off the dividends that accrue from the drugs trade, and b) refugee camps are a major source of terrorism in Pakistan.

Islamabad also believes that until Afghanistan’s economy transitions from one of being driven by war to a normally-functioning economy, no counter-terror strategy will succeed. At the same time, EU member states seem to have finally woken up to the realisation that they need to chart their own way for dealing with a country as pivotal as Pakistan. Two reasons for this rethink in European capitals are the hopeless circumstances in Afghanistan and terrorist violence in Pakistan.

One would hope that the EU strategy will look at the malaise and its roots, rather than treating just the symptoms.

As for Pakistan, the police and lower judiciary require comprehensive reform. The police is the primary tool for fighting terrorists in urban centres and the courts are where they are to be prosecuted. This basically means that without adequate funding and training, a supportive legal framework and certainty of enforcement of punishments, no counter-terror or counter-insurgency strategy will work.

Finding a remedy to combat increasing radicalisation or putting up solid defences against terrorist forces cannot happen in isolation, especially when much of today’s Pakistan is the direct product of the anti-Soviet jihad.

Recently, I met a very senior civil servant in Peshawar who said that it would be difficult for us to fix our problems unless we “went back to our religion”.

A brilliant career officer, the officer’s words were surprising because while there is absolutely nothing wrong in being religious, surely the solution to the country’s problems is not as simple as that.

It showed that even senior officers of the state thought that fighting terror and militancy was as easy as practicing one’s faith. While the latter is a very admirable route for an individual, it is not a substitute for a state putting in place effective policies against terrorists.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd,  2012.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Liberalache
    Jan 23, 2012 - 12:33AM

    What we need to do is to stop the bombings….that means we need to lock down the refugee camps, cut the flow of drug money and tell Rehman Malik to stop issuing visas to CIA and blackwater criminals. When you guys keep going all the way back to the 80s to address the anti-soviet jihad…basically you’re not saying it but what you’re hoping to do is use this as an opportunity to de-islamize the perceived islamization that took place from the 80s onwards….in other words…its secret secularism that you’re hoping for. The problem is that we need the bombings to stop..not an fantasy (never gonna happen) revolution that does nothing for us in real life….and you guys don’t want to start from 2002 on wards when these bombings started taking place. 2002 makes the problem one of alignment with the USA, whereas 1980s makes the problem that we’ve got too many believers in this country.Recommend

  • John B
    Jan 23, 2012 - 1:29AM

    The senior civil servant was correct in his assessment,though. When terrorists think that their acts are Jihad, it is hard to separate the events in Afghanistan and in Pakistan committed by them. It is true the drug trade is the main source of funding but not all recruits are there for the money. As much as one would like to believe that Afghans refugee camps serve as source of terrorists, the facts indicate otherwise. The ideology and operational details of terrorism do not come from the refugee camps. Poor innocent foot soldiers , may be.

    PAK views that the operations of Taliban are justified in Afghanistan and outside of PAK but considers the same acts in PAK soil as terrorism whereas the world view is that there are no distinctions.

    At present it is uncertain even after 10 years of directly involved with PAK, what is the real unwavering position of PAK against the Jihadis. While EU may supplement and play an active role in PAK in her institutional restructuring, it is unlikely EU will separate from the US and world view on PAK politics.

    EU involvement will be considerable in PAK since the stakes are high for EU due to increasing dispatch of radicalized Jihadis from PAK soil and in their own soil. US interest is to keep them at bay. Thus, there is no separation of interests between EU and US.


  • Cautious
    Jan 23, 2012 - 9:42AM

    I met a very senior civil servant in
    Peshawar who said that it would be
    difficult for us to fix our problems
    unless we “went back to our religion”.

    Many would argue that religion is the root cause of most of the problems in the region – doubt many would agree with the solution posed by the “senior civil servant”.


  • Mirza
    Jan 23, 2012 - 9:51AM

    Mr. Jinnah would be turning over in his grave in severe pain.


  • antanu g
    Jan 23, 2012 - 4:11PM

    its not the religion but rather lack of its existence in our daily life is creating problem.


  • Aryabhat
    Jan 23, 2012 - 4:47PM

    As aptly described in the last Para of this article, may be a problem is not just drugs trade and economy but the mind set of the people who drive the Policy at top? If EU suggests de-radicalisation as part of the solution, would the Policymaker be willing to listen, understand and implement it? We all know that answer is a big fat NO. Which is same as answer of – can radicalisation and terror be eliminated from Pakistan?


  • Iron hand
    Jan 24, 2012 - 7:24PM

    Terrorism is practiced by people who consider themselves very religious, so a return to religion is not the answer. The answer is to firmly and convincingly establish that acts of terrorism, i.e. killing people for religious reasons, are contrary to Islam. Unfortunately, no one has been able to do that, and so the religious violence continues unabated.


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