Pakistan public demands harsh acts on terror

By Aftab Hussain Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-25 22:58:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The worst-ever terrorist attack in the history of Pakistan, which took place on December 16 in the northern city of Peshawar, saddened the entire nation. The killing of at least 141 civilians, including 132 innocent children, united the whole nation against the terrorists.

Pakistan has been involved in the war against terrorism since 2001, but the major attacks on civilians started in 2006. Since then, more than 60,000 civilians, including prominent political personalities, intellectuals, scientists, social reformers and commoners, have lost their lives in target killing and suicide bombings.

The Pakistan army has been engaged in counterterrorism operations for a long time; however it was natural for a force which is trained for regular warfare to take some time to counter insurgent warfare.

So far decision-makers have adopted several strategies to deal with the problem of terrorism in the country. But in all those strategies there has always been room for peace with militants who lay down their arms, although no groups have yet surrendered. But things have changed after the Peshawar incident, and people are pressurizing the government to keep no room for terrorists and eliminate them all. The unified voice of the nation after the Peshawar incident was calling for the death of all terrorists.

After the Peshawar incident, Pakistan has brought some changes to its counterterrorism strategy. Pakistan army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan region. But the leadership has learnt that it is not the army alone that can eliminate the problem of terrorism. Army operations are important, but to eliminate terrorism in a holistic manner, the support of society is needed.

To delink terrorists and their sympathizers it has been decided that those who shelter and support a terrorist will be equally punished.

To bridge the gap between people and the law-enforcement forces, Universal Access Numbers have been established which will be easy to access so that residents can easily inform the authorities if they suspect the presence of a terrorist in their neighborhoods.

The government and all the political parties are on the same page and the immediate unanimous decision taken by all political parties was to lift the ban on capital punishment and hang the terrorists who were imprisoned. So far several terrorists have been hanged.

The religious parties and civil society agreed to cooperate with the government in the counterterrorism operations which are extended to the whole country. The new strategy is the expansion of Operation Zarb-e-Azb to the whole country, coupled with killing or capturing terrorists wherever found.

Soon after the Peshawar incident the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Chief Lieutenant-General Rizwan Akhtar visited Afghanistan and met with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the International Security Assistance Force Commander General John F. Campbell. The purpose was to seek their cooperation in capturing the highly wanted terrorist Mullah Fazlullah who is allegedly hiding in Afghanistan.

All political parties have also agreed to come with a comprehensive counterterrorism policy which will become the national narrative. On Wednesday, in a midnight address to the nation after almost 11 hours of deliberations with the leaders of political parties, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a 17-point plan of action to root out terrorism and extremism.

The new counterterrorism policy of the government includes a two-pronged strategy which focuses on the elimination of existing terrorist groups as well as destruction of the environment which leads to the creation of more terrorists.

Given the pace with which law-enforcement forces and the army are carrying out operations in the country, it is hoped that the menace of terrorism will soon be eliminated. People are hopeful that the new internal and regional approach will prove helpful in Pakistan's fight against terrorism.

The author is an Islamabad-based researcher and can be reached at

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