Ac­tors of in­sta­bil­ity

The Pak Banker - - EDITORIAL - Muham­mad Amir Rana

PAK­ISTAN'S se­cu­rity in­di­ca­tors have been im­prov­ing lately, mainly due to the state's en­hanced coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts. Govern­ment and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials high­light gains on the coun­tert­er­ror­ism front; sta­tis­tics sup­port their claims. How­ever, that does not mean we have won the war. We still need to de­velop ef­fec­tive ide­o­log­i­cal and political re­sponses to broaden and strengthen the on­go­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism cam­paign.

Dur­ing the last two weeks, the se­cu­rity and law-en­force­ment agen­cies claimed some sig­nif­i­cant suc­cesses. ISPR chief Lt Gen Asim Ba­jwa re­vealed that a net­work of Al Qaeda in the In­dian Sub­con­ti­nent (AQIS) and the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) had been busted in Karachi.

Karachi po­lice and the Sindh Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Depart­ment claimed the killing of some wanted ter­ror­ists and the ar­rest of Asif Chotu, head of the Lashkari-Jhangvi Al Almi, who re­or­gan­ised the vi­o­lent sec­tar­ian group, from Dera Ghazi Khan. Sev­eral other al­leged ter­ror­ists have been ei­ther killed or ar­rested across the coun­try in re­cent weeks. That in­di­cates that the law-en­force­ment agen­cies have stepped up their cam­paign to dis­man­tle ter­ror net­works in ur­ban ar­eas.

Most of the mil­i­tants ar­rested in re­cent weeks and months be­long to the LeJ. It seems that the law en­forcers are fo­cus­ing more on sec­tar­ian ter­ror­ist out­fits and their al­lies. Def­i­nitely, it will con­trib­ute to fur­ther de­creas­ing sec­tar­i­an­re­lated ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Pak­istan. The year 2015 saw a 60pc de­crease in such at­tacks com­pared with 2014. Th­ese ef­forts will also weaken sec­tar­ian groups' nexus with dif­fer­ent Tehreek-i-Tal­iban Pak­istan (TTP) fac­tions and the lat­ter's sup­port net­works in Pak­istan.

How­ever, Pak­istan's mil­i­tant land­scape is very di­verse with mul­ti­ple ac­tors of in­sta­bil­ity at work. Sec­tar­ian ter­ror­ist groups are only one pil­lar of the ex­ist­ing ter­ror­ism in­fra­struc­ture, which will take time to per­ish. Though a few other groups have also been weak­ened, their sup­port bases and op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­main in­tact. A re­view of the sta­tis­tics of 2015 sug­gests that the TTP re­mained the ma­jor ac­tor of in­sta­bil­ity, car­ry­ing out 212 ter­ror­ist at­tacks across the coun­try. The group also man­aged to carry out 12 cross-bor­der at­tacks from Afghanistan. The TTP splin­ter group Ja­maatul Ahrar fur­ther fu­elled in­sta­bil­ity by car­ry­ing out 28 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

An­other tribal ar­eas-based group, the Lashkar-i-Is­lam, was in­volved in 27 at­tacks in Khy­ber Agency and the sub­urbs of Pe­shawar. The small mil­i­tant groups in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, de­scribed as the lo­cal Tal­iban, car­ried out 56 ter­ror­ist at­tacks in 2015. Mean­while, while LJ was in­volved in 33 at­tacks in 2015; the Shia sec­tar­ian group Si­pah-i-Mo­ham­mad Pak­istan also re­mained ac­tive dur­ing the year, mainly in Karachi, Quetta and Is­lam­abadRawalpindi, and car­ried out 19 tar­geted killings. Baloch sep­a­ratist groups were an­other key ac­tor of in­sta­bil­ity, mainly in Balochis­tan. In re­cent years, new ac­tors have been emerg­ing and some old groups are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the changes. Af­fil­i­ates of the mil­i­tant Is­lamic State (IS) group ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for three at­tacks, while Jun­dul­lah man­aged four high­in­ten­sity at­tacks in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. AQIS also ab­sorbed the hu­man re­source of weak­en­ing mil­i­tant groups; it was in­volved in ab­duc­tion cases in Pak­istan.

In this con­text, the re­sponses of the law-en­force­ment agen­cies need a ded­i­cated plat­form to sci­en­tif­i­cally mon­i­tor the chang­ing be­hav­iours, trends, and emerg- ing op­er­a­tional pat­terns of groups in­volved in ter­ror­ism. This ini­tia­tive will help them broaden their threat per­cep­tion and evolve ef­fec­tive re­sponses.

So far, it has been dif­fi­cult for the se­cu­rity and law-en­force­ment agen­cies to think be­yond es­tab­lished threats. Pak­istan is a front­line state in the war against ter­ror­ism, but Al Qaeda has never been on its threat-per­cep­tion radar. In­stead, the group was al­ways con­sid­ered part of a global prob­lem, which re­sulted in the emerg­ing threats be­ing deemed in­signif­i­cant. The same is prov­ing true for the IS, which is now trans­form­ing lo­cal ter­ror­ist groups. It is a real and emerg­ing threat for Pak­istan. Un­der­stand­ing the dy­nam­ics, in­clud­ing the ero­sion of con­ven­tional mil­i­tant groups like the Ja­maatud Dawa (JuD) and the banned Jaish-e-Mo­ham­mad is also a dif­fi­cult task.

In­ter­est­ingly, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while deny­ing the pres­ence of IS in Pak­istan, has claimed that banned groups like JuD are us­ing the name of Daesh (Ara­bic acro­nym of IS) to mask their ac­tiv­i­ties. The min­is­ter has al­ways been re­luc­tant to in­clude the group on the list of banned out­fits and his new state­ment in­di­cates the con­fu­sion which per­sists within the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment about the sta­tus of cer­tain mil­i­tant groups. The prob­lem with the govern­ment is that it does not con­sider a group a threat un­less it is in­volved in ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties in­side the coun­try.

But at least it has been ac­knowl­edged that banned mil­i­tant groups have be­come re­cruit­ing bases for in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing Al Qaeda and the IS. The suc­cesses of law-en­force­ment agen­cies de­serve com­men­da­tion, but it has been seen in the past that the elim­i­na­tion of a ter­ror­ist group's lead­er­ship did not com­pletely crush the group.

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