Terrorism is ever so often elucidated as a well-planned, dangerous form of violence in response to perceived injustices. The after-effects of terrorism are usually reported without understanding the underlying psychological and social determinants of the act of terror. Terrorism has brought an enormous burden worldwide by adversely impacting the social, economic, political, and physical infrastructure. In the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan has been the flash point of terrorism.
India, USA, and many other countries are frustrated with Pakistan’s continuous support of terrorist organisations operating in various parts of the world, including Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism refers to the involvement of Pakistan in terrorism through its backing of designated terrorist organisations. Pakistan has often been accused by India, USA, UK, France, Germany etc., of spreading terrorism in their countries. Pakistan, allegedly, still provides direct military, intelligence and logistic support to terrorists who are killing people, destroying property, and destabilising world peace.
According to a report published in Brookings Institute in 2008 perhaps the world’s most active sponsor of terrorism is Pakistan, which is aiding and supporting many terrorist organisations and thus posing a direct threat to world peace. Pakistan’s north-western tribal areas, along with the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK), have been described as safe havens for various terrorist organisations. In July 2019, it was reported that roughly 30,000 to 40,000 active armed terrorists were thriving on the soil of Pakistan. These terrorists can raise funds, organise, plan, recruit, train, communicate, transient, operate, etc., probably with or without the government’s support. Pakistan has thus, played both sides- supporting the USA in its ‘war on terror’ and simultaneously aiding and abetting terrorism, especially in Afghanistan.
Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid and author Tod Galen Carpenter have blamed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of providing help to the Taliban and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. India has accused Pakistan of perpetuating terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir by providing arms, ammunition (warlike stores), financial and moral support, and sending trained terrorists across the Line of Control (LoC) to launch attacks on Indian soil. Thus, posing a direct threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. Despite of various punitive actions by India against Pakistan, it has not deterred the adversary from supporting terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.
Various terrorist organisations which are probably still active and thriving on Pakistan’s soil are Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish-ul-Adil, Al-Badr Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, ISIS-PK, Tarikh-e-Taliban Pakistan, etc. In 2009, during his visit to the US, then Indian Army Chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, asserted that more than 43 terrorist Organisations are operating from Pakistan. Terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir are generally based in POJK. These terrorist organisations are openly raising funds and carrying out recruitment among the general public in Pakistan. However, Pakistan officially denies providing any support to these terrorist groups.
The former Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, and the subsequent uprising supported by the US through Pakistan, provided a breeding ground for terrorism in the region. The importance of Pakistan to both the USSR and the US increased intensely by the mid-80s. This increase was the result of various factors. One, the revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made Pakistan simultaneously the target of and an obstacle to Soviet ambitions in the area due to its geographical position and historical ties to both countries. Two, Pakistan had started orienting itself gradually toward the Middle East and North Africa in both economic and military terms, particularly after the loss of the East Pakistan in 1971. Lastly, Pakistan’s efforts to acquire nuclear capability threatened the region’s security.
The withdrawal of the USSR altered the very character of Pakistani society, exposing it to a new form of violence and weaponization, and plaguing Pakistan with a culture of Kalashnikov and Talibanization. Pakistan exploited its goodwill with the Mujahideen and moved to have them endorse Pakistani interests, as it saw the Mujahideen as an easily exploitable alternative to achieve its intended extra-territorial objectives. It is believed that the ISI of Pakistan spotted radical Islamist Groups and armed them to the teeth while declining to distribute funds and grant aid to any other Afghan resistance groups that were not radical Islamist as per their connotation. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the most prominent Jihadist among the Mujahideen, became very close to Pakistan authorities for his robust support of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan kept other allies in the dark and gained disproportionate influence in Afghanistan through aid distribution. Outsiders did not know that the ISI’s approach to arming radical Islamic Mujahideen would have long-term consequences in the region and the world over.
The homegrown terrorism in Pakistan has now turned its attention toward the same people who patronized it a few decades ago. Pakistan does not seem too serious about fighting terrorism, and a few examples could be cited:
- As per the latest report of FATF, which is a global money laundering and terror funding watchdog, Pakistan is still under the ‘Grey List’ and will remain under strict observation of FATF. Inclusion in the ‘Grey List’ indicates strategic deficiencies in a jurisdiction’s policies to avoid money laundering and terror financing. This makes it difficult for a country to get financial aid from world bodies like the IMF.
- India has handed over substantial proof and evidence to Pakistan regarding the terrorists involved in various terror activities in India, but Pakistan has not responded positively. This reveals the lack of Pakistan’s inclination toward effectively tackling terrorism. Dr Shakil Afridi, a doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound, is paying a heavy price for his role in the operation. He is being held behind bars in Pakistan, and despite repeated requests, he has not been handed over to the US. More recently, bids by India, the US, and other western allies to blacklist Pakistan-based terrorists under the UNSC sanctions regime have been put on hold numerous times by Pakistan’s all-weather friend, China.
- As terror has tightened its grip over the country and people have become familiar with bomb blasts and suicide attacks, thousands of innocent people have been killed and countless livelihoods upended. The uptick in terrorists’ actions can be attributed to Pakistan’s inability to counter violent extremism owing to domestic political constraints such as weak governance, civilian-military divides, and economic obstacles, as well as Pakistan’s reluctance to target extremist groups that serve its strategic interests. Pakistanis’ trust in the country’s religious scholars and faith-based networks, which significantly influence the moulding of public opinion, has been severely misused by the state as it has supported many extremist groups for strategic reasons and exploited Islamic extremist movements for internal political mobilization. Furthermore, socio-economic disparities, competing for sectarian agendas, and political marginalization continue to contribute to radicalization in Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan is reaping the fruit sown for others.
- Many people believe that intolerance and extremism in Pakistan are increasing, and feelings of dread and fear are commonplace among the public as the Pakistani state continues to be besotted with the politics of terror. While the people of Pakistan are suffering the unprecedented loss of life and property due to historically catastrophic floods, the Pakistani state continues to be obsessed with its politics of terror. India’s extension of help on a humanitarian basis, in this time of crisis, has been met with animosity by the Pakistani state. Thus, perpetuating the unimaginable suffering of the people of Pakistan and adding to the human cost of the catastrophe. The Pakistani state has gone so far as to even link disaster aid to the ‘Kashmir problem.’
In the aftermath of the division of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, while India has moved on and taken significant strides forward, Pakistan refuses to move away from the concept of the two-nation theory. Both suffered for centuries due to attacks and subjugation by foreign rulers; but where India put efforts towards human and economic development (India is 5th largest global economy currently), Pakistan lagged severely. Pakistani state’s humanitarian neglect is visible through the fact that although at the time of partition in 1947, about 23 % of Pakistan’s population comprised non-Muslims; today, that has fallen to a mere 3 % approx. Furthermore, after losing three wars to India, Pakistan finally decided to export terrorism across the border and ‘bleed India by a thousand cuts.’