Situational Analysis

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[1].

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 [2]. 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.

State Response

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.

The Plan
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 implementation.
• 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 country.
• 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 different names.
• 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 be destroyed.
• 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 finalized.
• 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 prosecuted.
• 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.

Various 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 Anti-Terrorism Act.
• 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

Legal Context

The 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.

The formulation 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[5]. 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.

The law 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[6].

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 unruly methods

Political Context

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 well.

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 tribal people.
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 tolerance.
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[7].
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 costs[8].



[1] Moore, John. The evolution of Islamic terrorism, February 16th, 2012.

[2] Gillani, Afifa. Terrorism in Pakistan: Genesis, Causes and Solutions with History. 16 February,2012.

[3] Ibid

[4] ibid

[5] Noor, Saba. 2008. Evolution of Counter-Terrorism Legislation in Pakistan. Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Abrar, Mian. 2011. Gilani defers approving ‘draconian’ anti-terrorism law. October 05, 2011. Aceesed from: Accessed on: February 16, 2012.

[8] The Express Tribune. 2012. From Adiala jail to agencies: Six minutes with ‘missing’ brothers. February 04, 2012. Accessed from: Accessed on: February 16, 2012.