Pakistan can by no means leave the task of countering terrorism unaccomplished. For that, it will have to adopt a policy mechanism to control all shades of militant groups. In retrospect, Pakistan has already taken some measures that have put pressure on militants and their supporters. This pressure should remain sustained and be expanded across the board.
First, militants should not be allowed to hide behind the state’s religious-nationalist paradigm.
Second, these groups should not have any space in the political or strategic calculus of the state. As far as denying physical space to militant groups is concerned, implementing the National Action Plan and the National Internal Security Policy would do the trick. At times, changing the behaviour of some sectarian or militant groups can confuse the state’s response, especially when these groups offer complete disengagement from violence in return for entry into mainstream politics. But the leaderships of such groups cannot guarantee holding back their vulnerable mid- and low-rank cadres from committing acts of terrorism, or joining some other violent groups.
Third, the international community, including Pakistan’s key strategic partner, China, has become less tolerant towards violent non-state actors. Global economies trust only non-state actors of peace and cooperation, such as the Financial Action Task Force, the international financial watchdog that helps check money laundering and terror financing.
The emerging geopolitical and security challenges, many of them non-traditional, also make it imperative for Pakistan to develop an unconventional response framework. The proxy wars in South Asia and neighbouring regions are not a new phenomenon. The state is seen to nurture proxies with the consent and aid of its international partners. South Asia in particular has a long history of covert wars. But a proxy war, if prolonged, can trigger a conventional war.
Both India and Pakistan need a paradigm shift to move from covert warfare to strategic realism, which can enhance the chances of the resolution of conflicts between the two countries. Strategic realism stands on the concept of the authority of the state as an actor to undermine or limit the functionality of individuals or non-state actors — if both sides agree to do so.
Pakistan’s offer to India for talks was an attempt to bring these countries into the realm of strategic realism, but the Indian response remains negative. This attitude is not going to help India; it will leave it to a new collective narcissism that is growing in Indian society. The weak and marginalised communities in India have become the victims of this collective narcissism, as is evident from the response of the majority community against Kashmiris and Muslims.
Collective narcissism is as dangerous as violent extremism. Pakistan is also suffering from a certain degree of narcissism that exhibits itself in the disparate societal relationship between different religious and ethnic communities. Narcissism limits the possibilities of turning critical issues into realistic paradigms.
For instance, both sides could make the joint anti-terrorism mechanism (JATM) a permanent institutional mechanism (along the pattern of the Directorate-General of Military Operations hotline) which links both Prime Ministers’ offices. The two countries have twice agreed on a JATM, in 2006 and 2009.
Pakistan has to take its partners into full confidence about its counter-terrorism policy, especially the non-kinetic components such as deradicalisation and rehabilitation. However, first, the government needs to ensure a complete blackout of militant and sectarian groups by the media and in public domains, including cyberspace.
By arrangement with Dawn