Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Efforts: Expectations and Accomplishments

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Regional Perspective

Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal, TI (M)*

*The author is a member of the National Academic Council, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad. He is also Chair IPS committee on “Strategic aspects of National and International Security”.


(Terrorism came to haunt Pakistan in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan by a UN mandated coalition as a reaction to 9/11. The faulty military strategy by the international forces provided the opportunity to hardened Afghan fighters to escape into nearby countries. Keeping in view the unregulated border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the experience of Afghans with regard to their refugeeship tenure in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistan became their destination of first choice1. This bunch of Afghan fighters became the nucleus which soon snowballed into a powerful struggle against foreign occupation of Afghanistan.2 They adopted hit and run attacks as their strategy. The fight soon degenerated into indiscriminate terrorist attacks and counter terrorism efforts by the ISAF/NATO. For its part Pakistan launched its counter terrorism effort in its own territories and cooperated with international and regional efforts to overcome the menace. Other than Afghanistan no other country has suffered as much as Pakistan has from the fallout of the UN mandated invasion of Afghanistan. Despite mammoth sacrifices, international acknowledgment of Pakistan’s counter terrorism effort has been hard to come by.

This paper examines the current dynamics of terrorism in South Asia and adjoining regions, their impact on Pakistan and the ensuing struggle by Pakistan to combat terrorism.3 – Author)


It won’t be an overstatement that before 9/11 countering terrorism was, by and large, considered an extension of law enforcement, strictly falling in the purview of a typical nation state. It has now become everybody’s, and as a corollary, nobody’s baby. Unwittingly, it has also become a vehicle for achieving undeclared strategic objectives. This has made global and regional counter terrorism approaches increasingly suspicious, though these options continue to be relevant, they have become more difficult to implement. Most of the South Asian states are bogged down into tedious territory and resource related conflicts supported by heavy political baggage, hence they are not likely to agree on what constitutes terrorism in their region, leave aside the prospects of agreeing on joint counter terrorism efforts, at least at a tactical level.

Extent and Limit of Terrorism and Counter Terrorism

Terrorism is a global phenomenon, almost all countries of the world have suffered from this menace in one way or the other, during one time frame or the other.4 Hence, all states want to bring an end to it, at least there is an overwhelming indication of intent through supportive articulations towards this cause – even though corresponding action may be lacking or in lag.

So far, gains of counter terrorism have been scanty, high in cost, fragile and reversible. The post 9/11 terrorist is now hardened and resilient. It does not follow a hit and run strategy, the attacking element is determined to fight its way to reach the target and neutralize it. Attackers’ preference to fight and get killed in an effort to reach a heavily defended and unreachable target rather than to retrieve and survive to fight another day makes a modern day typical terrorist a distinct category of fighter from its cousin guerrilla. The situation is in so much flux that for a while one tends to think that contemporary terrorism is approaching its fag end, but is soon bewildered by another mega attack, and begins to think as if it was only in an embryonic state.

Sister Crimes

Terrorism, drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, espionage, political assassinations, and destabilization of governments have been characterized as ‘multinational systemic crimes’ (MSCs).5 These crimes are distinct from conventional crime and are transnational or international in character. MSCs are ‘crimes by various kinds of organizations that operate across national boundaries and in two or more countries simultaneously’.6 Individual acts in connection with such crimes are part of a highly complicated, well organised system that functions very much like a modern international business corporation. The concept of ‘multinational systemic crime’ is a collective reference to a variety of criminal behavior systems. Each crime is regarded as a serious threat by governments when directed against their national interests or ‘national security’. No global criminal justice system to tackle these globalized crimes has yet come into existence. With increasing terrorist threats across the world, typical narrow parochial concepts of correction and law enforcement are not relevant.7

South Asia’s Terrorism and its Counter Terrorism Mosaic

In the absence of concrete political and or topographical boundaries, adjoining trans-sub-regional problems leading to terrorism remain as relevant to South Asia as intra-South Asian fissures. South Asia offers trans-regional connectivity between all regions of Asia. Hence any event taking place in any region of Asia is likely to have its impact on South Asia; likewise, anything happening in South Asia radiates aftershocks in its neighbourhood.8

Therefore, any attempt to outline a counter terrorism matrix of South Asia is likely to throw-up attendant difficulties impacting on accuracy of such calculus. These inadequacies have resulted in popping up of other more promising counter terrorism arrangements. Notwithstanding, alongside global efforts, Pakistan has all along been a keen participant in all regional counter terrorism initiatives in South Asia. At the domestic level, the first meaningful anti-terrorism legislation by Pakistan dates back to four years prior to 9/11. It was captioned: “Anti-Terrorism Act 1997”.9

South Asia has a long history of terrorism of all shades, political, ethnic, sectarian etc. Asia in general and South Asia in particular are confronting the challenge of extremism and terrorism since many years. At least five South Asian countries—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Maldives are prone to terrorist activity of one type or another. Sri Lanka has recently overcome the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) issue. Post 9/11 Afghanistan has thrown up a unique profile of terrorist activities, impacting on the region and beyond. Typical terrorist activities are not restricted to South Asia alone; neighbouring countries like Iran, China and Russia also experience terrorist activities of varying shades and intensity. Moreover, the adjoining regions of the Middle East, South East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and North Africa are also affected by this phenomenon.

Some contemporary processes of terrorism within and around South Asia are: the arc of instability arising out of Islamist radicalism, militancy of various shades in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh; the “Red Corridor” comprising Maoist insurgency in India and Nepal; spillover of Afghan conflict to Pakistan through its Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), political rise of Hindu radicalism in India and the ensuing hype in anti-Muslim sentiment; the erstwhile LTTE in Sri Lanka, etc. Prominent terrorist entities which operate or have links in South Asia are: the Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistan & Afghanistan chapters), Al-Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic State (IS), Shiv Sena in India and numerous Afghan militant factions. South Asia has the highest concentration of militant groups in the world. India tops the list with more than 50 active or dormant terrorist organizations.10 Many of these regional outfits have ties with international organizations. The landscape of terrorism in South Asia is diverse and dynamic, making counter terrorism a complex enterprise.11

Countering terrorism has become the biggest political challenge to the national leaderships of South Asia. And if present trends are any indication, countering terrorism may remain the main political problem in the region, at least for quite some time.

Situations of conflict and cooperation on the issue of terrorism in South Asia have a conflictual bearing on the interpretation of terrorism. For example: India’s stubborn attitude towards the Kashmir dispute and its mind-set to equate the indigenous movement of Kashmiris, for exercising their right of self-determination, with terrorism is not acceptable to Pakistan and the international community, because the Kashmir dispute continues to be on the UN agenda and a permanent UN military observers group is deployed for monitoring the situation in Kashmir.12 Likewise in our region’s neighbourhood, the Myanmar government’s handling of the Rohingya issue is another grey area.

Vibes from Regional Landscape

Going beyond region, Al Qaeda announced the establishment of a new branch on the Indian subcontinent in 2014, saying it is meant to revive militant activities in the region. It vowed to “crush the artificial borders established by the English occupiers to divide the Muslims.”

Moreover, the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh, is a defacto State in Syria. It is also close to setting up similar quasi-state(s) in Libya. Intended and unintended consequences of ongoing events in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are not under anybody’s control.13 Everyone is trying to harness these to own their advantage; hence throwing up undesired effects in the immediate and extended neighbourhood – including South Asia. Some terrorist organizations across South Asia and Middle East have begun announcing their support for Daesh. Most of the terror attacks that rocked different countries, especially France and Germany during 2015-16, have been claimed by Daesh. The leadership of Daesh has made its intentions of increasing terror attacks globally in the days and months ahead clear. London police has also warned of terror attacks in Britain similar to those seen recently elsewhere in Europe. These terrorists have developed a capacity to act in any part of the world – they certainly have global reach. A few attacks in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan have also been claimed by Daesh.14

Ongoing conflicts in and around South Asia, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, which were expected to come to a ‘responsible’ end, have turned out as open-ended tragedies, with no prudent closing in sight, rather there is a likelihood of their expansion to adjoining sub-regions. Kick-offs of these conflicts may continue to radiate feelings of perpetual insecurity in South Asia, making it an instable landmass with an uneasy notional peace, pegged around fragile counter terrorism related deterrence. It is in this context that Pakistan has joined the Saudi led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT); hopefully it will provide an extended defence against proliferation of terror from MENA the South Asia region.

Some South Asian countries – mainly India and Afghanistan have a tendency to blame their neighbour – Pakistan – to cover up their own inefficiencies with regard to countering terrorism, hence marring the success of any meaningful regional approach towards countering terrorism. Unruly Afghanistan presents a political divide at the highest level, shifting focus away from counter terrorism. As a result, large swaths of rural territories are ruled by the Taliban and territories of some important urban centers often ping-pong between the government and Taliban.15

In Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood, India’s state terrorism in the occupied territories of Jammu and Kashmir, since July 08, has resulted in more than 100 deaths and over 10,000 injuries; the most significant of injuries is permanent partial(one eye) and complete (both eyes) loss of vision of nearly 1000 youth. This premeditated blinding is attributed to the barbaric use of pellet firing for dispersing peaceful protestors. Pakistan has asked India to come forward for talks on Kashmir, but India has rejected the offer. The disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir is duly recognized as a dispute by the UN, the OIC and other international organizations, as well as major world powers. Despite numerous UNSC resolutions giving out formulations to settle the dispute, India is bent upon calling the freedom fighters terrorists. Pakistan is pursuing the UN and major world powers to intervene for a peaceful solution to the conflict in line with nearly a dozen UNSG resolutions. The UNSG and important world leaders have time and again expressed their willingness to mediate the conflict but India is not budging from its untenable position of considering Kashmir as its integral part. President Donald Trump had also expressed a similar desire during his campaign days.

Moreover, there have been confessional statements and affidavits by responsible persons from within India that some of the high profile incidents blamed on Pakistan were false flag operations planned by Indian intelligence agencies for accruing political mileage at an international level and getting Pakistan declared a terror sponsoring entity. Such irresponsible acts are a major hindrance in the way of launching and sustaining a seamless counter terrorism effort in South Asia.

To succeed, a global level counter terrorism effort needs to remain launched continuously with due perseverance and tenacity. No individual state or any regional conglomeration has the capability and capacity to counter the menace of terrorism single handedly. Globalization, in terms of economic integration and speed of communication, has unwittingly served as a facilitator of terrorism; and apparently there are no effective ways to reverse the wheel, notwithstanding the trend of the rise of ultra-right political leadership in major capitals.16

Severing communication between leaders and followers and cutting off financial and logistic flow to terrorist entities and inter country movement of individuals are one of the major challenges of regional and global counter terrorism efforts. In this regard Pakistan has done meaningful banking reforms to choke terror financing.17

Expanse of terrorisms is very vast, calling for a wholehearted global counter terrorism campaign. Here, it is pertinent to quote from former US President Obama’s call for all countries around the world to take responsibility during his September 2015 address to the UNGA:18

“No matter how powerful our military, how strong our economy, we understand the United States cannot solve the world’s problems alone. In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land. Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed. And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary. Just as force alone cannot impose order internationally, I believe in my core that repression cannot forge the social cohesion for nations to succeed. The history of the last two decades proves that in today’s world, dictatorships are unstable. The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow. You can jail your opponents, but you can’t imprison ideas. You can try to control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth. Indeed, I believe that in today’s world, the measure of strength is no longer defined by the control of territory. Lasting prosperity does not come solely from the ability to access and extract raw materials. The strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity — and that, in turn, depends upon individual rights and good governance and personal security. Internal repression and foreign aggression are both symptoms of the failure to provide this foundation”.

Being mindful of limitations of such interventions in one’s own region, Pakistan did not contribute a military contingent in ISAF but permitted use of its ground lines of communications as well as air passage to sustain ISAF/NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Another dilemma is that while global and regional affirmations add to the grandiose of counter terrorism effort, ultimately it is the state which has the legal cover to implement whatever strategy it deems appropriate and then bear the responsibility of intended and unintended consequences; all other intervening entitles do so without bearing the responsibility of intended and unintended deaths and destruction”.

Also, a typical state has its own limitations with regard to accountability. One could refer to the irony that Sri Lanka is the only South Asian country, in the post 9/11 setting, that has effectively neutralized the LTTE, however, it is now facing the pressures of a UN inquiry with regard to war crimes which might have been committed during the counter terrorism campaign.19

Notwithstanding the aforementioned difficulties, a regional approach towards countering terrorism offers the advantage of enforcing containment, this however is dependent on the will of all sates of the region. And invariably, due to political reasons and local tensions, it is difficult to accrue full commitment from all the states of a particular region – and the same is true about South Asia.

With China’s significant capacity and stakes in the region, a new concept of security has emerged in Asia.20 This new paradigm encourages stake holders to find solutions to non-traditional security challenges like terrorism. Cooperation between Pakistan and China are focused on many issues including a counter terrorism effort. Moreover, Pakistan seeks to establish and sustain long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with global and regional players in Asia in the realm of counter terrorism. However, some countries in South Asia are trying to disrupt the implementation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), aimed at economic uplift and reduction of terrorism in the region. In this regard, India’s attempt to gain support from elements hostile to Pakistan are ill-advised. Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech on August 15, 2016 was a clear cut interference in the internal matters of Pakistan by encouraging separatist elements in Balochistan. On its part, within hours of this provocative speech, Pakistan made a formal offer of dialogue to India.

Pakistan’s Institutional Participation in Regional CT efforts

Terrorism in South Asia is more of a regional rather than a national challenge, therefore, besides state level effort to counter it, there is a need of a regional counter terrorism stream as well. Though a difficult and complicated task, it is inescapable but to evolve a regional approach, methodology and strategy to meet the challenge of terrorism in South Asia by ending contestation and accusations between individual states. This will pave the way to peace and stability in the region and give people a chance to enjoy the benefits of development. Being a victim of terrorism, Pakistan is cognizant of the severity of the problem and its impact. Therefore, Pakistan has always made it a point to be part of all global and regional efforts to counter terrorism. Pakistan is an active member of a number of initiatives at regional and extended regional levels.

South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

Over three decades, SAARC has built an impressive body of thought and institutional networks. It has the requisite institutional capacity to lead a regional counter terrorism effort. SAARC has taken some meaningful initiatives in the context of terrorism. For example, the 3rd SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 1987 – 14 years before 9/11 – adopted its first resolution to suppress terrorism, which was further reinforced in the Summit of 2001. SAARC has adopted several conventions on this count, these are: SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism21 (signed by all member states and came into force in 1988); Additional Protocol (2014) to the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism (2002).22 Pakistan actively participated in negotiations leading to all these counter terrorism instruments.23

SAARC could cover a lot of mileage in the context of counter terrorism like: sharing intelligence/ information; enacting a consolidated strategy to counter the financing of terrorism by enacting regional money laundering laws; regional law enforcement; regional capacity building training; setting up of a Regional Counter Terrorism framework; joint counter terrorism exercises; coordination among regional law enforcement agencies; development of Regional Strategic Communication plan, etc. All easier said than done. The biggest hurdle is that most South Asian countries are mired in serious bilateral conflicts, and their interpretation of terrorism is seldom accurate and uniform. It is indeed high time for South Asian countries to re-emphasize the role of SAARC towards an effective counter terrorism strategy and campaign. Pakistan would support adoption of each of these measures at regional levels.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing the SAARC Interior Ministers Summit held in Islamabad, on August 04 2016, called for joint efforts to curb regional challenges such as terrorism.24 He shared with the SAARC Interior Ministers Pakistan’s “remarkable gains” against terrorism through operation Zarb-e- Azb and effective implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).25 He said these gains reflected the government’s determination to eliminate the scourge of terrorism.26

However, the SAARC approach on terrorism appears less than comprehensive. SAARC has no effective mechanism for conflict resolution and peace building. Although terrorism and violent conflict remains a challenge among many of these states there is an absolute lack of coordination in terms of evidence sharing or negotiation on this matter. There is a legal and normative basis for regional counterterrorism cooperation among the SAARC nations, but traditional power politics has constrained the operational spaces for SAARC to emerge as an effective regional counterterrorism actor.27 The SAARC “concept and strategy” on terrorism needs elaboration and explication, if necessary by amending its charter.

In 2002 the Nepal Police floated the idea of SAARCPOL to provide a regional channel for the sharing of information.28 Although the idea of SAARCPOL was endorsed by the Home/Interior Ministers’ meeting in 2006, since then there has been no visible progress to institutionalize police cooperation in the fight against transnational crime and terrorism in South Asia.29

Rather than regional, a hybrid approach is more clearly visible in South Asia, whereby, Pakistan and India are focusing on bilateral partnership with the neighboring countries and adjoining regions. India has perhaps abandoned the SAARC project and is instead focused more on supporting the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).30

Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA)

Pakistan is an active member of CICA. It is an interesting organization. Being an Asia-wide entity it overcomes the limitations of other security related regional and sub-regional forums. During its fourth summit on May 21, 2014, President Xi Jinping proposed a new “Asian security concept.”31 This concept proposes zero tolerance for terrorism, separatism and extremism, and urges strengthening international and regional cooperation to counter these.32 It calls for commitment to resolve disputes through peaceful means, and rejects the practice of shifting trouble to neighbours and seeking selfish gains at the expense of others.33

CICA is the largest and most representative regional security forum of Asia, fast evolving into a security dialogue and cooperation platform that covers the whole of Asia. In the long run, CICA might evolve into a preferred multilateral body for coordinated anti-terror efforts in Asia. China also focuses on bilateral cooperation to fight terrorism as a transnational phenomenon, including extradition treaties and police and intelligence exchanges. So far China has signed 36 extradition treaties.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

The SCO is a regional security organization that has built meaningful cooperation in combating terrorism. Pakistan and India are in the process of becoming its members. The SCO has an institutional focus towards counter-terrorism, its sub-entity, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) provides a robust framework for SCO’s anti-terror efforts.34 RATS has been acting for over 12 years as a coordinating structure facilitating the fight against terrorism, extremism and separatism. The Shanghai Convention on Combatting Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism was adopted in 2001 and the SCO Convention Against Terrorism complemented it in 2009. The SCO formalized unified legal definitions of terms like ‘terrorism’, ‘terrorist act’, ‘terrorist organization’, etc.

RATS serves as a meeting platform for SCO member states’ counter-terrorism agencies and facilitates intelligence sharing in the form of a joint database and blacklists of individuals and groups linked to terrorism. In October 2015 the first ever joint anti-terrorist exercise of SCO called Xiaomen-2015, focusing on counteracting the use of internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes was conducted in China.35 The objective of the exercise was to study legal aspects, organizational and technical capacities as well as joint action plans and mechanisms for cooperation.36

SCO has established contacts and executed regulatory legal acts regarding RATS’ cooperation with numerous international organizations like the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Interpol, the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, the CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre, etc.37 With potential enlargement, the SCO could become an important player in the fight against terrorism in Eurasia.38

Heart of Asia (HoA)-Istanbul Process

Pakistan is also a member of the HoA-Istanbul Process. The Process provides an agenda for regional cooperation in the ‘Heart of Asia’ by placing Afghanistan at its center and engaging the ‘Heart of Asia’ countries for contributing to the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan and its surrounding region. The countries participating in the Istanbul Process take part in continuous and effective dialogue between Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours concerning all issues of common interest and importance for Afghanistan and the region as a whole. It also seeks to stabilize Afghanistan through infrastructural development. Pakistan is of the view that a stable prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan is a prerequisite for eliminating terrorism from South Asia. Pakistan is funding some important infrastructure related projects. Despite scarcity of finances, Pakistan is contributing generously for helping Afghanistan – infrastructural projects of half a billion dollar are at various stages of implementation.

Quadrilateral Coordination (QCG)

QCG comprises of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US. QCG is pursuing to open a new chapter in the ongoing search for a peace process for Afghanistan. So far the group has met four times. Although sustainable direct talks with the Taliban are yet to begin, behind the scene effort is continuing. Despite its slow progress, QCG is envisaged by the international community as the most suitable platform to achieve tangible results with regard to peace in Afghanistan. From this platform, Pakistan has been making strenuous efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

The Saudi Led Alliance

The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) (alternative translation Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition) is an intergovernmental military alliance of countries in the Muslim world united around military intervention against Daesh and other terrorist activities.39 Its primary objective is to protect Muslim countries from all terrorist groups. The coalition has stated that it will fight terrorists in “Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.” The IMAFT has reaffirmed that it would operate in line with the UNO and Organization of Islamic Conference’s (OIC) provisions on terrorism.40 Keeping in view the relevance, Pakistan welcomed the initiative and became its founding member. The setting up of this organization has been widely appreciated. Pakistan’s former Army Chief General (R) Raheel Sharif has been approached to head this organization,41 which is an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s contribution towards regional counter terrorism efforts.42

Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM)

Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM) was launched on August 03, during a meeting of the military leadership of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, in Urumqi.43 They aim to coordinate and provide mutual support to four countries in the fields of counter terrorism situation evaluation, clue verification, intelligence sharing, counter terrorism capacity building, counter terrorism joint training exercises and personnel training. It could help in reducing the mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan.44 The QCCM has also affirmed to adhere to the principles of the UN charter and other universally recognized principles and norms of international law. The formation of QQCM has been welcomed by the US and other counties.45

Border Management

Pakistan is keen to secure its borders with all neighboring countries. Institutional arrangements, including conflict management mechanism, are in place with all adjoining countries. Keeping in view the counter terrorism effort, border management with Afghanistan is of special significance to Pakistan.46 Since 9/11, Pakistan has been floating various proposals to Afghanistan. Despite acceptance of necessity of efficient and effective border management, Afghan government’s participation has, at best, been lukewarm.

While the Durand Line constitutes the legal international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the rubric of ‘easement rights’ to various Pashtun and other tribes has come to be misunderstood as facilitative of cross border movement at will. Based on the premise of easement rights, the Pak-Afghan border has unwittingly emerged as a soft border. It is important to understand that easement rights are only exercisable by members of the tribes divided by the Durand Line and are not available to other ordinary nationals of Afghanistan or Pakistan.47 UNSCR 1373 permits Pakistan to legitimately stop and check people sporadically crossing the international border in order to comply with its obligations to “deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens” and to “prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other states or their citizens.”48

An effective immigration mechanism at all crossing points along the Pak-Afghan border is necessary to crush terrorism. Both countries would benefit from requisite border management.

Domestic Level Efforts

Pakistan has taken numerous concrete steps at a national level which are radiating positive effects within the country as well as at the regional level. These are summarised in the following text.

National Action Plan. Pakistan has launched a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) which is a multi-disciplinary effort to curtail the space to terrorist individuals and entities. NAP combines military action, law enforcement operations, choking terrorist financing and countering extremist narrative. This strategy has produced impressive results. Year 2015 saw the lowest number of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings since 2007; however, 2016-17 witnessed high profile terrorist attacks in various cities of Pakistan. This trend was in line with the increased frequency of high profile terrorist attacks in various cities of Europe and elsewhere. After a series of attacks in February 2017, national resolve towards implementation of NAP has strengthened. Progress is monitored at the highest level of leadership, the Prime Minster chairs such meetings.

Military Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, was launched in North Waziristan in June 2014. It is the largest counter terrorism effort anywhere in the world. It has produced remarkable results. Most Terrorists’ sanctuaries, command & control centres and infrastructure have been destroyed.49 Thousands of terrorists have been killed or captured. The rest are on the run. As the operation goes into its final phase, their few remaining hideouts will be cleared. Within less than three years, the tide has turned against terrorism in Pakistan. The outcome of this operation has been widely acknowledged by the international community.

Military Operation Radd-ul-Fassad. Terrorist attacks during February 2017 were large in number as well as lethal. These were conducted in various urban centres located in all provinces. This well synchronised and wide spread terrorist activity brought forth the fact that terrorist elements still retained the capacity to conduct terrorist attacks at places and timing of their choosing. This necessitated a country wide effort.

Hence, countrywide Operations Radd-ul-Fassad was launched to counter terrorist entities and individuals.50 For the first time security forces were given political level clearance to even carry out trans-border attacks to dismantle the structures supporting terrorist activities from across Afghanistan.51

Nationwide Re-identification of Pakistani Citizens. National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has embarked upon a massive exercise to re-identify its over 200 million citizens.52 This pursuit shall help in identifying aliens/ people of dubious origin who could have obtained citizenship through deceit.

Electronic Surveillance. A plan to install tracking chips [ankle bands] on 1,700 people being monitored for terrorist links is underway as the government has introduced the relevant legislation in this regard.53 Law enforcement agencies had already identified the people last year.


Significant improvement in the security situation in Pakistan could not have been possible without the resolve of the people, parliamentary consensus and the dedication and sacrifice of the security forces. The entire nation came together to counter and confront this menace. The blood that has been shed has only strengthened the national resolve to fight until the last terrorist is eliminated. The task is not yet accomplished and a lot of space in the realm of counter terrorism is still untraversed. The silver lining is that the resolve to continue is unwavering.

However, Pakistan’s criticism at the international level, with regard to its counter terrorism effort is unwarranted. The international community must acknowledge that terrorism emerges from multiple sources. We need to address not only the symptoms, but also its root causes, which are often to be found in political or social alienation and exclusion, as well as extreme poverty. Identifying terrorism with a specific culture or group is disingenuous. It only serves to shift the responsibility, but does not mitigate the challenge of terrorism which so many societies face today.

Pakistan has taken and is taking numerous steps to counter terrorist generated violence by focusing on the activities of terrorist entities and individuals. These steps have contributed towards curtailing terrorism related violence within the country and the region. Pakistan is coordinating its counter terrorism efforts with regional and global regimes as well. Pakistan is party to and compliant of all UN resolutions on combating terrorism.

At the regional level, Pakistan actively participates in all regimes working towards countering terrorism. The menace of terrorism is neither country nor region specific, rather it has spread its tentacles everywhere and nobody is safe from it. State and regional level counter terrorism efforts are expected to yield only partial successes, that too patchy, fragile and reversible. It is time that the United Nations should convene an international convention on counter terrorism to make bold course corrections in the light of lessons learnt from global experience in countering terrorism since 9/11.


1- Zachary Laub, “The Taliban in Afghanistan”, CFR Backgrounder, Council on Foreign Relations, July 4, 2014,

2- Ibid.

3- Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal, “Countering Regional Extremism and Terrorism: Pakistan’s Perspective”, Criterion Quarterly (Islamabad), Vol 10 No 3 , June-September 2015. , (accessed on March 20, 2017).

4- Air Marshal (Retd) Ayaz Ahmed Khan, “Terrorism and Asymmetrical Warfare International and Regional Implications”, Defence Journal, February 2002. , (accessed on March 20, 2017).

5- “Regional approach needed to tackle terrorism in South Asia”, Asia Times, January 25, 2016, (accessed on March 20, 2017).

6- Ibid.

7- Ibid.

8- Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal, “Countering Regional Extremism and Terrorism: Pakistan’s Perspective”, Criterion Quarterly (Islamabad), Vol 10 No 3 , June-September 2015. , (accessed on March 20, 2017).

9- “The Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997”, ACT NO. XXVII OF 1997, Dated 20th August, 1997. Josh and Mark International, (accessed on March 20, 2107)

10- Animesh Roul, “South Asia: Hotbed of Islamic Terrorism”, The National Bureau of Asian Research, August 2008, , (accessed on March 20, 2017).

11- Ibid.

12- “UN observers to remain deployed on LoC”, Daily Excelsior, 25 May 2000. (accessed on March 20, 2017).

13- U.S. Department of the State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, “Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa Overview”, (Chapter 2). In “Country Reports on Terrorism 2009”, August 5, 2010.   (accessed on March 20, 2017).

14- Greg Botelho and Masoud Popalzai, CNN News Alert, “ISIS claims deadly attack on Pakistani Consulate in eastern Afghanistan”, January 13, 2016.  (accessed on March 20, 2017).

15- BTI 2016, “Pakistan Country Report”  (accessed on March 20, 2017).

16- Michael Miklaucic and Jacqueline Brewer.ed., “Convergence, Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization. (Center for Complex OperationsInstitute for National Strategic StudiesBy National Defense University Press Washington, D.C.2013), (accessed on March 20, 2017).

17- “Pakistan confronts extremism, Job half-done: The army and the government have taken the fight to the enemy—within limits” The Economist, December 16, 2015. ,(accessed on March 20, 2017).

18- United Nations Headquarters, New York, “Remarks by President Obama to the United Nations General Assembly”, September 28, 2015. , (accessed on March 20, 2017).

19- War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Volume 9 – Issue 3, May 5, 2014, , (accessed on March 20, 2017).

20- Mariam Shafqat, “Emerging order in Asia Pacific: Indian opposition to CPEC ill-advised: Aziz”. Express Tribune (Islamabad), November 19, 2015.

21- “SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol”,  ,(accessed on March 20, 2017)

22- Ibid.

23- Ibid.

24- “PM calls for joint efforts by SAARC to root out corruption, terrorism”, Nation(Islamabad),  August  05,  2016.

25- Ibid.

26- Ibid.

27- “Counterterrorism cooperation in South Asia”.

28- Ibid.

29- Ibid.

30- Ibid.

31- “New Asian security concept for new progress in security cooperation” (Remarks at the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia by H.E. Xi Jinping President of the People’s Republic of China, at Shanghai Expo Centre), 21 May 2014,       ,(accessed on March 20, 2017).

32- Ibid.

33- Ibid.

34- Moritz Rudolf, Marc Julienne, & Johannes Buckow, “China’s Counterterrorism Campaign Goes Global”, Diplomat, June 03, 2015.   , (accessed on March 20, 2017)

35- Yevgeniy Sysoyev, “Europeans Believe SCO RATS is a Successful Platform to Combat Terrorism”, RATS News, June 24, 2016. The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (RATS SCO).

36- Ibid.

37- Ibid.

38- Ibid.

39- “Islamic Military Alliance”,

40- Pakistan Defence  Command,  Face    (accessed on March 20, 2017).

41- “Pakistan’ex-army chief General Raheel Sharif to lead Saudi military alliance”Fast Mail Dpuf , (accessed on March 20,2017).

42- Ibid.

43- “QCCM: A new counter terrorism regional bloc of Pakistan – China – Afghanistan –Tajikistan”, Times of Islamabad, August 03, 2016.  , (accessed on March 20, 2017).

44- Ibid.

45- Ibid.

46- “Terrorism Threat In South Asia And Its Implications International Law Essay”, UK Essays, Last edited March 23, 2015. , (accessed on March 20, 2017)

47- “Measures to manage Pak-Afghan border welcomed”, Dawn, Jun 14, 2016,

48- “Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Management: A Legal Perspective”, Pakistan Institute for Legislative Development and Transparency. ISBN: 978-969-558-480-4. Published March 2015.

49- Maria Sultan, “Crushing Terrorism – National Resolve”, Hilal English, June 2015 No 12, Vol 51 (ISPR: 2015).

50- “Radd-ul-Fasaad: Pakistan Army announce nationwide operation”, Jasarat News, February 22, 2017. (accessed on March 20, 2017).

51- “Pak army destroys militant hideouts in Afghanistan in cross border attacks”, News International (Islamabad), February 18, 2017.

52- “Now re-verify your NADRA CNIC & Family Tree through SMS”, News Teller, June 27, 2016. .

53. “Pakistan Prints”, Defence News,  (accessed on March 20, 2017).