Terrorism has subsisted in Pakistan since its inception in the form of religious, sectarian and ethnic violence. Various Organizations have been operating for decades, causing turmoil in the country. The 9/11 development, not only further exacerbated the situation but overall changed the dynamics of terrorism in the country. War on Terrorism in Pakistan has had two key elements- the government's combat with jihad groups proscribed after the attacks US, and the U.S hunt of Al-Qaeda, usually in collaboration with Pakistani forces. Unfortunately, the fight against the militants in Pakistan did not pan out the way as was expected. Instead of decreasing, not only the terrorism increased in the country but the number of extremist organizations also mushroomed at an exponential rate. The rise of these organizations continues to threaten the security of the citizens of the country.
Whether 1980s Afghan Jihad originated organizations or local terrorist outfits, the destruction they continue to cause and the methods they use are similar. The most lethal weapon terrorist use is suicide attacks. A person carries a bomb with him/herself and explodes wherever it is required. Since the war on terror has started, a total of 17140 citizens and 5249 security forces personnel have lost their lives to terrorism
. Mostly in suicide attacks that occurred over the period of time. On account of these attacks, Pakistan is suffering from ineffaceable loss ranging from civilian to economic. People have become mere numerical figures, blown up in numbers every now and then. Terrorists have not spared any place. Markets, mosques, educational institutes, offices, hotels, no place are safe anymore.
Pakistan’s Response to Terrorism
APS shooting and the formulation of the National Action Plan
While the ‘National Counter-Terrorism Authority’ (NACTA) was officially
formulated in 2009, it remained largely dormant during most of its
existence, resulting in a lack of formal coordination among the various
intelligence and law-enforcement agencies at the national level. The
existence and operation of such a body is immensely critical to the
monitoring of activities by extremist groups operating in different part of
the country. Its powers were formally increased under the NACTA 2013, which
defined the framework of the organization. It took an unfortunate act of
blatant violence and terrorism to demand its resurrection. On 16th of
December, 2014, seven gunmen affiliated with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
brutally attacked the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar, killing 145
people. 132 out of these were children between the ages of eight and
eighteen. According to many commentators, this was the Taliban’s deadliest
attack to date . The attack sparked widespread domestic and international
reactions and condemnations throughout Pakistan, demanding immediate action
against militancy and terrorism in the region, especially against the TTP.
On 17th of December 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the paperwork
to remove the moratorium on the death penalty in all terrorism-related cases
, which had been in place since 2008. The decision to remove the moratorium
directly brought into focus the cases of about 800 death row prisoners in
Pakistan . On 24th of December, 2014, Nawaz Sharif chaired an inclusive
political parties’ conference to deal with the challenges posed after the
Peshawar attack. A consensus was reached in favour of setting up military
courts for tackling terrorism cases in the country, alongside the
formulation of a wider, more comprehensive plan against militancy, extremism
and terrorism . The plan is known as the National Action Plan (NAP), and was
prepared in light of the key decisions taken during the All Parties’
Conference. The primary architect of the plan, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan
publicly acknowledged that there had been a ‘divide’ over the last 10-12
years between the civil and the military authorities on how the operation
against terrorism should move forward, and that the NAP was the first time
that they had worked in conjunction. The plan has brought forth
unprecedented cooperation and coordination between national and provincial
governments, and is meant to supplement the ongoing anti-terrorist military
operation in North Western Pakistan.
Salient points of the plan were as follows :
• After the Peshawar incident, government decided to
proceed with the execution of extremists convicted in
terror related cases. The Government has already started
• Special courts, headed by the officers of the armed
forces, will be established for the speedy trial of
terrorists. These courts will be established for a term
of two years.
• Formation of armed militias will not be allowed in the
• National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) will be
revived and made effective
• There will be a crackdown on hate-speech, and action
will be taken against newspapers, magazines contributing
to the spread of such speech.
• Financial sources of terrorists and terror
organizations will be cut.
• Banned outfits will not be allowed to operate under
• Special anti-terrorism force will be raised.
• Measures will be taken to stop religious extremism and
to protect minorities.
• Madrassas will be regularized and reformed.
• Print and electronic media will not be allowed to give
any space to terrorists.
• Communication systems of terrorist organizations will
• Social media and the Internet will not be allowed to
be used by terrorists to spread propaganda and hate
speech, though the exact process for that will be
• Like the rest of the country, no space will be given
to extremism in any part of the Punjab.
• Operation against terrorists in Karachi will be taken
to its logical conclusion.
• In the interest of political reconciliation,
Balochistan government will be given complete authority
by all stakeholders.
• Elements spreading sectarian violence will be
• Comprehensive policy will be formed for registration
of Afghan refugees.
• To give provincial intelligence agencies access to
communication of terrorists and to strengthen
anti-terror agencies through basic reforms in the
criminal justice system, Constitutional amendments and
legislations will be carried out.
instances of implementation
• As of 25th March, 2015, over 50 cases of terrorists
had been sent to the military courts for prosecution
• 55,000 Afghan refugees had been returned home by
between January and March 23, 2015
• By March 2015, civilian and intelligence agencies had
arrested 150 people, half of them clerics, in violation
of laws .
• By 15 March 2015, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
(PTA), has verified more than 70 million SIM’s and 11
million were blocked due to not having re-verification .
• According to a National Action Plan (NAP) meeting
chaired by the prime minister, by 14th January 2015, 251
people had been arrested for propagating hate speech .
• An anti-terrorism court sentenced a prayer leader from
Kasur to five years in jail for delivering hate speech
at a public gathering under Section 9 of the
• 21 people were convicted in 2015 till May for
delivering hate speeches. Some of these individuals have
been jailed for up to eight years .
Institutions and Agencies for CVE
Throughout most of the decade of the war on terror, the initiatives
carried out by various agencies against terrorism have been
inconsistent and un-coordinated, which as a result have not
presented the desired result. The government, addressing the
situation, has installed an authority based on the structure of the
US Homeland Security to counter the terrorist threat. While its
mandate may not be as broad as that of Homeland Security, but the
basic objective is similar. It has been mainly three years since the
first news of the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism
Authority (NACTA) by the
government popped up in the media. In July of 2010, the government
immediately put into effect this organization and assigned it with the task
of addressing the issue of prevalent terrorism threat in the country. The
function of this authority is to coordinate the efforts of various
intelligence agencies and law enforcement departments, in order to counter
the terrorist threat. So far, little is known of the progress being made by
this department apart for the acronym that has been decided upon. The
organization is so far seems to be enveloped in a cloak and out of national
limelight. It is understandable that the work carried out by NACTA is
sensitive, but the public has the right to know the progress made by the
department, as their safety is the sole concern for this organization.
Unfortunately, it took Pakistan ten years to initiate an organization, which
has been structured on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While, the
establishment for the Office of Homeland Security was announced only eleven
days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pakistan, which is at the forefront
of the coalition in the war against terror, took a much longer time to
comprehend the need of such a department. Department of Homeland Security
coordinates the activities of at least, 40 federal US agencies. The basic
activities of this department include, controlling and monitoring the US
borders and ports, working with local authorities to respond to any
emergency and coordinate the information and analysis received from various
government agencies. By the mid of 2002 the department was fully activated
and is now considered the vanguard organization for the US, in the war. The
department has gone through various changes, since its inception, as and
when required by the administration.
The terrorism incidents taking place throughout the world are either, due to
security lapse or intelligence failure. The reason cited mainly is the
inability of the security apparatus to perceive a threat, or failure to
alert the proper authorities of the danger. This has been true for most of
the major terrorist attacks, including 9/11. It is a fact that the
intelligence is present against the backdrop of such attacks, but is either
ignored, or finds itself trapped in a bureaucratic system and fails to reach
the proper people. The absence of a simple common database has generated
difficulties for law enforcing, to keep track of the culprits, or establish
their identities. Given the current scenario, this has given rise for the
need of a single umbrella organization, to facilitate efforts against
terrorism. The earliest of such broad based umbrella organizations can be
traced back to the establishment of Interpol or International Criminal
Police Organization, which has 188 member countries. Its main purpose is to
coordinate and facilitate the efforts of the law enforcement agencies of
member countries, to counter international crime. In other words, it acts as
a liaison among the police of different member countries and brings
consistency in their efforts, by providing assistance.
NACTA has been established on the resolve to counter any terrorist threat,
while working on the same level of DHS. It also shows the level of
seriousness and commitment of Pakistan in this war. The establishment of
this authority has come under serious criticism from various quarters, as
the level of power and the mandate that it has been granted have still not
been made very clear. While many of the law enforcement and intelligence
agencies work under the Interior Ministry, there are others that do not fall
under it. This has also raised considerable debate, which has hindered the
working of the organization. The authority has been basically established as
a research organization, while financial and professional assistance has
also been acquired from abroad. For now, it does not have any legal
operational authority over the law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
The main purpose of this organization is to come up with a viable,
comprehensive and coordinated strategy to deal with the law and order
situation. It will further serve as an umbrella structure to monitor and
coordinate the working of security agencies. This will not only bring in
improved coordination and end the turf wars, but will also highlight the
quality of effort put in by each organization
evolution of anti-terrorism laws in Pakistan can be traced back to
the era of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The government for the first time
used the term of “terrorist” and created special courts for acts of
terrorism. Suppression of Terrorist Activities (Special Courts) Act
1975 was introduced by the government and the definition of
terrorist acts and the list of offences were gradually increased,
resulting in targeting individuals and groups on political basis.
This is also evidently true for every consecutive law, which was
apparently promulgated for countering terrorism. The law was
applicable throughout the country and was aimed at curtailing the
acts of sabotage, subversion and terrorism. Special courts were
initiated, which were given immense powers equivalent to High Court.
The law was subject to various changes due to the demands of human
rights groups and the requirement as per the prevalent situation at
the time. This law was carried forward with amendments and remained
under implementation until 1997, when it was repealed and replaced
with a new law.
of anti-terrorism laws was a departure from standard legal procedure, where
a parallel legal system was implemented, through the establishment of
special courts. In the early 90s government also used various other legal
procedures to control the growing law and order situation within the
country, especially in Karachi. These included the Special Courts for Speedy
Trial Ordinance 1987, the Terrorist-Affected Areas (Special Courts)
Ordinance 1990, and the Terrorist-Affected Areas (Special Courts) Act 1992.
The state was unable to control the deteriorating law and order situation in
the country and as a result need arose for a new and comprehensive law for
combating terrorism. This came in the shape of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997,
which forms the basis of the law applicable today. The act was promulgated
by Nawaz government and was criticized on the basis that it subverted the
fundamental rights, while also creating a parallel justice system. The law
and courts were implemented to provide speedy decisions to cases, relating
to terrorism. Rigid deadlines were given to the law enforcement agencies and
courts, in order to expedite trials and cases. Investigation procedure was
given a time frame of seven days, while the judge was barred from adjourning
the case for more than two times.
provided that if a provincial government required the assistance of military
and civilian armed forces to prevent terrorist acts or scheduled offences it
could request the federal government. The federal government would
eventually decide which forces were required for deployment to the affected
areas. The forces deployed could take the necessary action and use the
amount of force as they were granted all powers of a police officer. Through
the later intervention of the Supreme Court, the certain provisions of the
law were declared unconstitutional. This resulted in the Anti-Terrorism
Amendment Ordinance 1998, which curtailed the power of military and civilian
armed forces, limited the special courts’ authority over conducting trial in
absentia and the accused could file an appeal in the Supreme Court. In the
same year Pakistan Armed Forces (Acting in Aid of Civil Power) Ordinance (PAFO)
was promulgated in Sindh, to handle the deteriorating law and order
situation in the province. Military courts were established to handle the
cases, pertaining to terrorism. This action by the government came under
extreme criticism, from various quarters. The courts were later declared
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, as they were deemed as performing
parallel function to the civilian legal structure.
On April 27,
1999, PAFO was revoked, but a new term ‘civil commotion’ was included in the
Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 through another ordinance. It stated, “Civil
commotion means creation of internal disturbances in violation of law or
intended to violate law, commencement or continuation of illegal strikes,
go-slows, lock-outs, vehicle snatching or lifting, damage to or destruction
of state or private property, random firing to create panic, charging bhatta,
acts of criminals trespass (illegal qabza), distribution, publishing or
pasting of a handbill or making graffiti, or wall-chalking intended to
create unrest or fear or create a threat to the security or law and order.”
Amendments were subsequently made to the law, which included a broader
classification of a ‘terrorist act’. During the Musharraf era there were
several amendments made in the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 in the year 2001,
2002, 2004 and 2005, through various ordinances.
The current law
under implementation is the continuation of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997,
known as the Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Act, 2005. Over the years,
especially after the situation developing post 9/11 attacks and Pakistan
being a partner in the war on terror, it was found necessary to strengthen
the law further, to curtail terrorist groups and their activities. All the
laws were designed towards giving further power to the state and increasing
the authority of law enforcement agencies, to take enhanced measures against
terrorists. The subsequent amendments not only have broadened the term of
terrorism, but have also increased the scale of punishments. In addition
focus has also been given to curbing the financial and logistical support of
the terrorists and their organizations. Being a member of the UN, Pakistan
is also obliged to present a report on its efforts against terrorism, to the
Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) of the Security Council. Pakistan also has
to comply with the international laws, regarding counter terrorism.
Recently, the incumbent government of Yousaf Raza Gilani deferred approval
to the Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill 2010, which proposed harsh
punishments for terrorists.
It is important
to note that whatever steps have been taken to strengthen the law regarding
terrorism, they have been utilized for selective targeting and mostly
politically motivated actions. Some sections are of the view that the law is
still too weak, as terrorists are able to exploit the loopholes in the law,
to escape justice, while the various militant organizations are easily able
to operate. There have been numerous cases, where terrorists have been
allowed to go free by the courts, on legal and technical grounds. Despite
the restrictions imposed on banned groups under this law, they are still
able to carry out their activities publicly. The law enforcement agencies
have also started resorting to unlawful methods, due to drawback in the
current law. This as a result, has created human rights violations and much
criticism has been directed towards the law enforcement mechanism, for its
Pakistan is the
greatest victim of terrorism as a result of “war on terror”. Its economy has
so far suffered huge loss of over $40 billion during the last nine years of
this war in addition to irreparable social losses. Investment is at the
lowest level. Growing poverty is affecting the whole nation, further
contributing to social evils and directly or indirectly to terrorism as
Pakistan never succeeded in
devising a comprehensive anti-terrorism policy. Although isolated efforts
were made in this regard, but to no avail. Even after the establishment of
Anti-terrorism courts, the state has failed to exert effective control over
the terrorist elements. Most of the suspects are set free due to lack of
evidence. This is a serious dilemma that the state is facing. There are a
number of contributing factors behind the inability of the state to devise
an anti-terrorism policy, which are described here.
The state of Pakistan comprises of both settled and unsettled areas. The
constitution of Pakistan applies to the entire county except the unsettled
areas of FATA i.e. federally administered Tribal areas. The notorious
Frontier Crimes Regulation, commonly known as FCR is the administration
instrument in FATA. This vast region is home to ethnic Pashtuns, who prefer
to follow a tribal culture.
Unfortunately, FATA always remained an
underdeveloped area, with minimum contribution towards development of
infrastructure and provision of basic amenities to the people. As a result a
sense of deprivation and alienation grew in the tribal people. Also, due to
the fact that a law other than the constitution of the country is
particularly designed to govern them, tribal people have become weary of the
state of Pakistan. FCR remains one of the most controversial laws ever. It
was basically enacted during British rule, as they were unable to govern the
However, unfortunately, the state of Pakistan also continued with the same
law and hardly concentrated on the development of this region. Resultantly,
an anti-state sentiment started developing in this area. Due to the fact
that state sponsored Jihadist elements were active during the so called
“Anti-Soviet” Jihad, they were able to form their bases in FATA.
Ashley J. Tellis describes that “the old tribal
tradition of extending succor to strangers who ask for protection; the
region’s history of providing foot soldiers, first, for the anti- Soviet
jihad and, later, for the war against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan;
the absence of a strong Pakistani state presence in this area; and the
utterly hostile topography consisting of remote and difficult mountain
terrain with poor lines of communication, all of which combined to bestow on
the defeated remnants a substantial measure of sanctuary and assistance.”
All these factors contribute to lack of
governance in this region. In addition to this, a number of settled areas in
Pakistan due to their sectarian leanings have also contributed to terrorism
in the country.
Religion is one of the most sensitive matters in Pakistan. A number of
people including high profile personalities lost their lives for having
liberal views over religion. Unfortunately, People from the lowest to the
highest echelon of the society exploit religion for their own benefits. It
has become a norm. Politicians, the state and even the forces have abused
religion to attain certain objectives. Resultantly, the majority population
holds a very narrow view of religion. This also gave rise to sectarianism
and presently Pakistan is suffering from a mishmash of terrorism and
sectarianism. Traditionally, Pakistan and other regional countries were home
to millions of Muslims having a very moderate approach towards Islam.
However, the import of a totally different version of Islam contributed
towards the increase in sectarianism and eventually terrorism.
A renowned Muslim scholar, Javed Ahmed Ghamdi,
argues that unless Muslim ideological theoreticians are able to admit that
the Qur’an prohibits killing all non-combatants be they in Israel,
Palestine, Pakistan, India, or the United States it will be difficult to
fight terrorism successfully. Ghamdi also believes that using religion for
terrorism is a tool of power and does not depict the reality of Islam (Ghamdi
has aired these views publicly, for which he received death threats and had
to move to Malaysia. The state was unable to provide him protection).
Another moderate religious scholar, Dr. Farooq Khan, was killed in October
2010 by the Taliban in Swat, further muffling the voices of reason and
Pakistan can be divided into various segments based on ethnicity. This
diversity, instead of being a useful trait for the country has become a
serious problem. Thousands of people have been killed as result of ethnic
violence. In Baluchistan, people are killed just because they are not ethnic
Baluchs. Karachi is also a hotbed of ethnic violence. Most of the target
killings in Karachi are result of ethnic differences between different
communities living there.
In Pakistan one can easily say that religious
and ethnic organizations representing their respective communities are
increasingly using violent methods including terrorism and even democratic
and legal tools to achieve the ends that they have set for themselves
thereby resulting in increasing incidents of violence and terrorism the last
decade. In the past ten years another important factor in the internal
strife in Pakistan has been the impact of Afghan war in South Asia.
The global financial crisis along with the war on terror has not only
affected Pakistan in terms of loss of lives, but also in terms of economics.
The economy of Pakistan suffered a serious blow when the law and order
situation started deteriorating. Foreign investors lost confidence in the
state machinery and shifted their assets to other countries.
But, due to the insurgency, the Swat valley has
been subjected to continuous attacks since 2007. According to the government
of Pakistan estimates, the loss to agriculture alone amounts to Rs. 35
billion. The local media, citing Swat-based agricultural officials has
reported that 55 to 70 per cent of the total fruit produce has gone waste.
The manufacturing sector has been hard hit by political instability and
frequent incidents of terrorism and has created an uncertain environment
resulting into low level of economic growth. According to the Ministry of
Finance as cited in the table above, Pakistan has suffered directly or
indirectly a loss of Rs. 2,083 billion in the war against terror between
2004-2005 and 2008-20009. As can be seen, at the beginning, that is, in the
fiscal year 2004-2005, it was around Rs. 259.103. However, it has increased
rapidly since then, and reached Rs. 678 billion which has affected the
country’s socio-economic development. This includes both direct and indirect
The Express Tribune. 2012. From Adiala jail to agencies:
Six minutes with ‘missing’ brothers. February 04, 2012.
Accessed from: http://tribune.com.pk/story/331738/from-adiala-jail-to-agencies-six-minutes-with-missing-brothers/.
Accessed on: February 16, 2012.