International Day of tribute to victims of terrorism | By Tasneem Shafiq


International Day of tribute to victims of terrorism

ON 21 August 2018, UN commemorated the first ever International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to Victims of Terrorism.

Pakistan has been the victim of terrorism and has rendered matchless sacrifices in the successful national war against terrorism.

The country has waged a relentless struggle against terrorism with conviction that terrorism needs to be curbed in all its forms and manifestations.

This article highlights Pakistan’s struggle to eradicate terrorism. After the incident of 9/11, the US declared that the world is either; “With us or against us” and after that, the world changed forever.

Before 9/11, no major wave of terrorism was seen in Pakistan. It was the post-9/11 US invasion of Afghanistan that changed the landscape and dynamics of militancy and militant groups in the region.

Pakistan’s decision to join the global war on terrorism (GWOT) was the outcome of geostrategic imperatives and the international community’s interest.

Pakistan remained the most affected by the fallout of the GWOT. The country joined the coalition in the larger global interest of defeating terrorism in the region.

Although the international community has always calculated Pakistan’s counterterrorism role through the Afghanistan angle, they have failed to recognize the deterioration of Pakistan’s internal security and economic conditions due to the GWOT.

Pakistan’s struggles with terrorism: Pakistan’s internal security had begun to break down after 2001 with the rise of Islamist assailants.

The country has been a victim of terrorism since then, at times loosing 100 lives a day. It faced economic losses of around $ 102.5 billion along with serious damage to its cultural and religious ethos.

It is one of the front-line countries in the international war against terrorism. More than 80,000 civilians and a considerable number of defence and police personnel were martyred during the ‘war on terror’ in Pakistan.

These fatalities were usually the result of terrorist activities like suicide bombing, target killing, kidnapping and airstrikes.

According to the ‘South Asia Terrorism Portal’, Pakistan encountered 319 terrorism-related incidents in 2020, and 169 associated deaths of civilians.

This data represents a decline, from nearly 4,000 such incidents in 2013, with over 2,700 civilian deaths.

On 16 December 2014, a group of six terrorists attacked the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar, Pakistan, and killed 144 innocent school children and teachers.

APS massacre was the worst form of terrorism against the innocent children. It was the highest death toll of children in the world in a single terrorist attack.

Research by ‘Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences’ found a very high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among survivors of the 10-18 years’ age-bracket.

Counter-Terror Initiatives in Pakistan: The decline in terrorist activities in Pakistan is largely due to the Pakistan’s kinetic operations against Pakistani Taliban, commonly known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

They have been responsible for the majority of deaths of civilians and security forces since 2007.

In 2014, The National Action Plan (NAP) – a 20-points agenda was formulated to curb extremist and militant elements.

It was framed under NACTA (The interior ministry) in correspondence with the other shareholders.

The government operated 5 de-radicalization camps offering corrective religious education, vocational training, counselling, and therapy.

Pakistan Army’s counterterrorism operations resulted in decrease in terrorism in the region.

In January 2018, outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump stated that Pakistan was given $33 billion for its help in war on terror.

However, Pakistan’s own expenses on war on terror, including on infrastructure, were in excess of $200 billion.

In 2012, the Pakistan military brought peace to North Waziristan. In 2013, Karachi and Balochistan got rid of terrorists due to Pakistan Rangers operations.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb focused on North Waziristan, killing 2,100 terrorists in the area till December 28, 2014.

The Khyber-I operation in Khyber Agency of FATA was against the TTP and its partner Lashkar-e-Islam.

The Khyber-II operation was initiated in March 2015 with the intent to clear Tirah valley, which had transformed into a safe-haven of TTP, Lashkar-e-Islam, and Jamaatul Ahrar.

In 2015, the National Action Plan (NAP) took the task of bringing peace back to Karachi. In 2016, Balochistan was in focus. Pakistani law enforcement acted against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and TTP-led Baloch extremist groups.

In February 2017, Operation Raddul Fasaad (Counter Turmoil/Mayhem) eliminated remaining terrorist elements from Lahore, Sehwan Sharif, KP and (former) FATA.

Operation Sher Dil in Bajaur, Rah-e-Rast in Swat and Rah-e-Nijat in SWA launched to restore writ of the state People of Swat endured historic sacrifice by vacating Swat for Pak Army to eliminate terrorists by end of 2013, Khyber and North Waziristan agencies emerged as major hubs of terrorist activities.

After series of intense terrorist attacks on Karachi Airport, Hazara pilgrims, R.A Bazaar Rawalpindi, District Courts & Vegetable Market Islamabad and amid unsuccessful peace talks with TTP, “Operation Zarb-e-Azb” was launched on 15thJune 2014.

Its main objectives were to physically clear terrorists from the area and beat the extremist narrative with a national counter narrative nationwide.

It was classified as the largest Counter Terrorism Operation in contemporary times. National Action Plan was announced after APS attack to adopt a comprehensive approach to combat terrorism in the entire country.

Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was launched on 22nd February 2017. Its aim was to make sustained progress towards a stable, peaceful & normalized Pakistan cleansing terrorists’ traces, illegal weapons & explosive control in the hinterland, thereby restoring public confidence.

In 2019, Pakistan made some progress toward meeting the action plan requirements for the FATF, allowing it to avoid being blacklisted.

Pakistani government continued to implement the Antiterrorism Act of 1997, the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) Act, the 2014 Investigation for Fair Trial Act, and 2014 amendments to the Antiterrorism Act (ATA).

All of these give law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts enhanced powers in terrorism cases.

Pakistan’s contributions in the GWOT are unprecedented and the international community, particularly the US, should acknowledge it and give due recognition to the contributions made by Pakistan to fight terrorism in the region.

Pakistan participated in several multilateral for a where CT cooperation was discussed, including the GCTF, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

—The writer has remained associated with the Institute for Strategic Studies and ISPR


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