The start of the new year has been brutally effective for terrorists in Pakistan: more than 60 people have already lost their lives in terror-related incidents. The Pakistani Taliban’s name has resurfaced again, which has renewed existing concerns that the Taliban insurgency–even if reduced–has survived and retained its previous ability to strike back.
The Pakistani Taliban’s resurgence has taken place at a time when other militant groups are trying to fill the vacuum left by the former–the group has been on the run due to a military operation against them. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and groups associated with it are posing a serious threat in this regard. The group has been actively looking for recruits in the country. A week ago, dozens of suspects across the country were detained by security agencies in connection with the group. Moreover, reportedly, the group has established regional chapters across the country.
The group’s ideology and propaganda tactics make it far more lethal than any other group with militant roots in the country. Its virtual presence across the globe has turned it into a successful terror brand, which every militant group wishes to follow or imitate. The recent attacks in Jakarta are an example that ISIS is rallying militants across the world under its banner.
So far, ISIS’s recruitment patterns in the country have emerged across all societal strata, raising grave concerns for what may transpire in the future. More than 100 people, including a large number of children and women, have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for the group. ISIS has reportedly vowed to unite all Pakistani militant groups under its flag.
Pakistan’s year-long military offensive against the Taliban has been put to question, along with other elements of the National Action Plan (NAP)–a 20 point plan devised to tackle militancy and extremism in Pakistan.
Under the NAP, Pakistan has tried all knee-jerk options, ranging from stiff military action to the execution of hardcore terrorists. Pakistan may have targeted some insurgents, but it has not done much to contain the ideology that breeds radicalization and drives such insurgencies across the country.
In the past, promotion of radical Islamic ideas in the country has resulted in increasing radicalization. The institutionalization and selective use of Islam by the state for segregation and control, internally and externally, has opened up several battlegrounds across Pakistan with disastrous results. In 2001, Pakistan was home to more than 50 religious political parties and 24 armed religious militias; this number has grown steadily since.
Moreover, Pakistan’s militant dilemma is like a paradox where certain militant groups are perceived as grave threat to national security while others are let off the hook, which further complicates the problem. After the 9/11 attacks, while Pakistan was willing to cooperate with the international community, particularly the United States, it didn’t perceive the Pashtun Afghan insurgents operating from its territory and their allies as a potential national security threat.
With the arrival of the Afghan Taliban in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan in 2001, war literally came home to Pakistan. Pakistan’s indigenous Taliban movement is a direct result of these policies.
After the school massacre in Peshawar last year, Pakistan vowed to target all militants, regardless of their agenda or affiliation. Many are apprehensive that Pakistan will actually give up its policy of supporting militant groups that target Indian interests. In a recent interview, U.S. President Barack Obama, while condemning the recent attacks at Pathankot, urged Pakistan that it “can and must” take more effective measures against militant groups operating from its soil by “delegitimizing, disrupting and dismantling” their terror networks.
The Pathankot attack was publicly claimed by Jaish-e-Muhammad, a militant group based in Pakistan. The group continues to operate freely despite the fact it was banned years ago. Furthermore, the United Jihad Council (UJC)–an umbrella organization comprising various militant groups–also claimed responsibility for the air base attack. UJC recently held an open really in Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir.
Unless Pakistan addresses the ideology behind radicalization and relinquishes its policy of support for those militants groups that target neighboring states, its militant problem will continue to grow worse.