Armed Forces

Defining Terrorism in the Context of Pakistan

The term “Terrorism Defined” carries a heavy weight, doesn’t it? And rightly so, as it signifies the utter devastation of innocence. Only those who have witnessed it firsthand truly understand its horrors, while others merely glean fragments of information from the news. In Pakistan, we often attribute these atrocious acts—suicide bombings, targeted killings, and genocide—to unidentified perpetrators or third parties. This ambiguity is what frustrates us the most: the inability to identify those responsible for the loss of our loved ones. It’s a harrowing situation to be in—unable to ascertain who tore apart our families, uncertain if we’ll ever find solace or justice.

Even more tragic is the fact that these victims are often innocent civilians. This is the harsh reality my people face every single day. In an instant, a woman becomes a widow, young children are left orphaned, a mother mourns the loss of her only child, and a father loses the light of his life. Yet, despite the overwhelming grief and pain, my people persevere. Even when all that remains is a tear in the eye or a lingering ache in the heart, they find the strength to carry on. It’s the glimmer of hope, however faint, that sustains them. And you know what? It’s all they need to endure.

Terrorism remains a significant global challenge, presenting a complex and multifaceted issue with no universally accepted definition. Various organizations offer distinct interpretations of terrorism, and its significance varies for each individual and group.
According to Robert Pape, terrorism is


Calculated use of violence for some ideological purpose is called terrorism.

According to the FBI, terrorism is defined as

Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

While there isn’t a single universally agreed-upon definition of terrorism, there appears to be a consensus that it involves acts of violence aimed at compelling governments or individuals to adopt a particular political, social, or religious ideology.

Is it right to call it a war on terror?

When discussing counterterrorism efforts, we often refer to them as the global war on terror. However, there’s a significant flaw in this terminology. A war typically implies a conflict with a known enemy that has clear objectives. However, terrorists are non-state actors, and there isn’t a defined adversary. It’s challenging to identify who exactly is being fought against, as terrorism involves sporadic and unpredictable acts. While terrorists often have political, social, or religious motives, labeling it as a “war” may not be accurate.


In South Asia, particularly in Pakistan, the origins of terrorism can be traced back to the Afghan war of the 1980s. This conflict aimed to expel the Soviet Union and led to its eventual disintegration.

Aftermath of Afghan war: Terrorism defined

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, it prompted the entire Muslim community to react out of fear that communism’s spread in Afghanistan could extend to other Muslim nations. Concurrently, the United States was engaged in a Cold War with the USSR, vying for global dominance. Pakistan played an undisclosed role as a partner of the US in this scenario.

In response to the invasion, Muslim countries provided manpower for the Afghan war effort. The US contributed significant financial resources and supplied the Mujahideen with training and advanced weaponry, including Stinger missiles to counter Russian helicopters. Pakistan played a central role by offering logistical support to the Mujahideen and facilitating communication between them and the US. The Soviet Union suffered substantial economic losses, leading to its eventual disintegration into smaller states. This outcome marked a victory for the US in the Cold War, which formally ended worldwide in 1991.

After the conclusion of the Afghanistan war, the US withdrew from the region without offering substantial support to the war-torn country. The Muslim nations that had supplied fighters disowned them, revoking their nationalities and leaving them stranded in Afghanistan. This abandonment led to a civil war, resulting in numerous casualties. Eventually, the Taliban emerged victorious and established control in 1996. Despite their victory, the Afghan people continued to suffer due to lack of recognition and isolation from the international community. Lacking experience in governance and diplomacy, they faced significant challenges.

Pakistan was the first country to recognize the Taliban government. However, after the events of 9/11, the Taliban government was given an ultimatum: surrender Osama bin Laden or face military action. Refusing to hand over Bin Laden due to tribal traditions, the Taliban’s refusal prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The proxy groups formed by Pakistan with CIA assistance during the 1980s to combat the Soviets turned against Pakistan after a shift in the Pakistani government’s stance in 2001. These groups became autonomous and ceased following directives from Pakistani intelligence agencies. Both Pervez Musharraf and President Zardari have acknowledged that had Pakistan not formed these proxies to counter India, the situation would have been different.

Pakistan A Garrison State: Terrorism defined

Asghar Khan, a highly respected figure known for his integrity, challenges Pakistan’s official anti-India stance. He argues that:

(a) India does not pose a national threat and lacks any interest in annexing Pakistan;

(b) Pakistan instigated all conflicts with India;

(c) Had Pakistan engaged in sincere negotiations, the Maharaja of Kashmir might not have chosen to accede to India;

(d) The 1971 war was strategically unsound due to the extensive lines of communication;

(e) Unlike India, Pakistan does not require nuclear weapons;

(f) Pakistan’s nuclear program poses a significant risk to its national security; and

(g) The country bears a substantial economic burden due to its atomic program.

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This interview, conducted in 2009 by Dawn, captures Khan’s perspective on these contentious issues.

Asghar Khan, is a Pakistani veteran aviation historian, peace activist, and retired military figure— a three star rank air marshal— who served as the first native Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) from 1957 until resigning in 1965 prior to the start of the air operations of the PAF during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.


Impoverished individuals often become prime targets for terrorist recruitment. Poverty fosters resentment towards the wealthy and exacerbates class divisions, which terrorists exploit to their advantage. They offer recruits promises of providing for their families, making terrorism seem like a lucrative opportunity to improve their lives. Ultimately, it’s the hope for a better future that motivates many to persevere. It’s akin to trying to fix a broken CD player: despite multiple attempts and efforts to repair it, the desire to hear a beautiful melody through the headphones keeps one going, believing that their time and sacrifices will not be in vain.


Illiteracy has significantly contributed to the escalation of terrorism in Pakistan. While the youth literacy rate in the country may appear high, the definition of literacy is often narrow, merely encompassing the ability to read and write a few lines about daily life. This limited definition fails to capture the essence of true literacy, which involves a comprehensive understanding of various issues. Properly educated individuals are less susceptible to being swayed from the right path by terrorists’ influence.


The prevalence of terrorism is notably more pronounced in underdeveloped nations compared to developed ones, where peace prevails. This disparity arises from factors such as backwardness, high unemployment rates, inadequate healthcare facilities, and overall societal underdevelopment, which foster extremist tendencies. Despite being independent for 70 years, the country remains in a state of development rather than having achieved development, as per international standards.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This succinctly captures the essence of injustice and its consequences. When individuals experience oppression and injustice, they are compelled to resist, potentially leading to insurgency or civil conflict within the country.

The Magna Carta stands as a pivotal political document from the Middle Ages, as it asserted limits on the monarch’s authority by law. While its immediate impact may not have been significant, it is widely regarded as the foundation of constitutional law in England. Regrettably, Afghanistan has not experienced the direct benefits of constitutional powers due to the influence of Talibanization.

End Game: Terrorism defined

In addition to the aforementioned factors, there are also circulating conspiracy theories about a US “End Game” aimed at destabilizing the region to potentially seize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The Pakistani government has previously accused India of supporting BLA terrorists in Baluchistan, underscoring the significance of foreign involvement in and support of terrorist groups. It’s important to acknowledge that no country is without flaws, and Pakistan is no exception. Foreign powers have historically attempted to exploit our nation due to its geo-strategic importance and access to warm waters, driven by their own self-interests.

As a nation, we are open to establishing friendly relations with foreign powers, but on the condition that they do not attempt to exert control over us. We desire friendship, not dominance. Our ultimate aspiration is peace, not war. Unfortunately, our land has been a battleground for years, yet amidst the political disputes, it’s crucial to recognize the humanity of the people living here. What we seek from our allies is steadfast support and solidarity. Any act of kindness is greatly appreciated, and our hope is for our allies to remain true allies, standing by our side without betrayal.


Reflecting on the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistan held a position of high esteem and flourished during those decades. This success stemmed from the stability of the government and the public’s trust in the public sector. At that time, authorities were not driven solely by a hunger for power or wealth; they were more responsible and accountable. However, sectarian violence has emerged as a form of terrorism in recent years. Suicide attacks and targeted killings are orchestrated to spread fear and terrorize the population. The aim is to exploit divisions within Muslim communities and undermine their unity.

Impact of Terrorism

While the global perception may paint Pakistan as a failing, corrupt nation that harbors terrorism and has no future prospects, I respectfully disagree. My stance isn’t merely rooted in patriotism; it’s based on truth. Undeniably, the negatives often overshadow the positives. We grapple with failed governmental systems, a struggling public health sector, sectarian violence, religious intolerance, illiteracy, and child labor, among other challenges.

Terrorism, akin to a slow poison, is eroding the social fabric of our society from within. Its detrimental effects on Pakistan’s economy and populace are profound:

  1. Pakistan has incurred staggering economic losses due to terrorism, estimated at $78 billion by the government.
  2. Capital flight from Pakistan has been substantial, particularly impacting Karachi, the economic hub, where over 35% of investors have relocated their capital. Industrialists have shifted operations to countries like Bangladesh, Dubai, and even India.
  3. Pakistan has witnessed a decline in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) due to the prevailing law and order situation, deterring potential investors.
  4. Security expenditures have escalated, necessitating investments in security infrastructure such as cameras and barricades to mitigate terrorist threats.
  5. Healthcare spending has risen due to the influx of casualties from terrorist attacks, leaving thousands maimed and disabled, unable to support themselves financially.
  6. The industrial sector has stagnated, with no new industries being established, and existing ones facing closure.
  7. The innovation landscape has suffered, with a dearth of new creations impacting productivity and contributing to an overall stagnation in the average Pakistani’s lifestyle.
  8. Fear pervades society, inhibiting people from venturing out, and diminishing recreational opportunities.
  9. International sports activities in Pakistan have ground to a halt since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, leading to the loss of hosting rights for significant events and dissuading international players from visiting.

These repercussions underscore the devastating toll of terrorism on Pakistan’s economy, society, and international standing.

Solutions to Terrorism defined

The issue of terrorism encompasses various dimensions, each requiring a nuanced approach tailored to the specific circumstances of different regions within Pakistan. Adopting a uniform policy to address terrorism across the board is simplistic and impractical. It’s essential to recognize that while force can dismantle terrorist organizations, their ideologies persist unless we tackle the underlying root causes.

Despite cultural diversity, Pakistanis share core moral values that endure amid the modern era’s development. These values are evident in their conduct at the dining table, respect for elders, and hospitality towards others, among other aspects of life.

Pakistanis exhibit a unique way of navigating challenges. In times of distress or trouble, one can expect assistance simply by displaying signs of distress. This innate sense of compassion and community solidarity often leads to an outpouring of support from individuals, with entire towns rallying to aid those in need. It serves as a poignant reminder that amidst the myriad wrongs, there are countless rights, showcasing the intrinsic goodness and generosity that pervades Pakistani society. Despite external portrayals, Pakistan is not merely a hub of criminal activity but a nation with a heart of gold, its populace adorned with precious virtues.

Suggestions on Terrorism Defined

  • House of sand: Fear, a sensation more potent than joy or sadness. Yet, why succumb to fear when there’s so much more to embrace? This is the ethos of these individuals. Instead of yielding to fear, they choose peace. Despite the occasional bomb blast in Karachi or drone strike in FATA claiming innocent lives, life perseveres. These individuals aren’t oblivious to their surroundings; they simply opt not to sow panic, even when it simmers within.Resumption of madrassa registration: Pakistan’s beauty lies in its diversity, a facet that warrants celebration, not neglect. It’s this very diversity that enables Pakistan to weather numerous crises and bolsters our faith in the nation through its citizenry. From the towering Himalayas to the serene Makran coast, diverse cultures coexist harmoniously. A visit to a roadside café along a highway reveals the richness of this diversity, with each café boasting a distinct ambiance and menu, reflective of its owners’ unique backgrounds.

    Recognition of clerics: Acknowledgment of clerics is essential on political, economic, and social fronts. However, the looming threat of the Taliban and incessant drone strikes cast a shadow over the land. Amid such adversity, many find themselves grappling with a recurring question: “When will peace prevail?”

    Swift justice system: In defiance of apathy, tireless efforts are underway. NGOs like The Citizen’s Foundation, Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Indus Hospital, LRBT, Taleem Sab Ke Liye, SIUT, The Orangi Pilot Project, among others, are at the forefront, tirelessly serving the nation. Despite the prevailing threats and challenges, hope remains unshaken. Driven by an unwavering spirit, individuals strive to contribute to the betterment of their homeland in whatever capacity they can.

    End to VIP culture: The pervasive VIP culture, characterized by road closures and excessive security deployments, impedes public mobility and perpetuates inequality. The working class, comprising half of Pakistan’s population, deserves equitable access to quality education. Denying children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds their fundamental rights is a disservice to Pakistan’s future. It falls upon the government to fulfill its obligations and provide for the nation’s posterity. However, the government’s actions seem confined to accumulating hefty loans and levying taxes, with little tangible progress evident.

Three D’s Strategy

The government led by Zardari’s PPP introduced a policy known as the three Ds to address terrorism: Dialogue, Development, and Deterrence.

  • Dialogue: The first step involves initiating discussions with militant groups willing to engage in negotiation. If conflicts can be resolved through dialogue, the use of force may be unnecessary.
  • Development: Addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty and lack of opportunities, is crucial. The government must focus on providing employment, healthcare, and education, as well as promoting industrial growth. This approach can help de-radicalize communities and serve as a preventive measure against radicalization.
  • Deterrence: While dialogue is preferred, the government reserves the right to use force against those who refuse to renounce violence and challenge the authority of the state. This ensures the enforcement of law and order.

Although this policy appears promising on paper and has been adopted by the current government under Nawaz Sharif, its success hinges on its effective implementation.

Devolution of Power

The primary issue we face today is the government’s neglect of public affairs. They show little interest in addressing the needs of the people and instead abuse their power for personal gain. To address this, power should be decentralized, empowering communities at the grassroots level. Concentrating power in the hands of a few breeds resentment among the populace. Developed nations have successfully decentralized power, allowing individuals to participate in decision-making processes and fostering a sense of empowerment among citizens.

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According to Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, in her book “The Threat of All Threats”

“There is no single silver bullet that can address global terrorism in all its complexity”.

Numerous measures must be taken to effectively combat terrorism, including addressing poverty, promoting social justice, improving literacy rates, and eliminating sectarianism, among others. It’s crucial not to stereotype Muslims as terrorists or assume that all terrorists are Muslim. Violence can be perpetrated by individuals of any race or religion to advance their agenda.

Counter Terrorism Force
Pakistan needs specialized forces like the Quick Response Force to swiftly counter urban terrorism. The Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) should receive comprehensive training and access to various weapons, including bomb disposal equipment, to effectively combat terrorism. Additionally, the police force should be equipped with intelligence capabilities, as exemplified by Naseerullah Baber’s intervention in resolving a bus hostage situation in Karachi. Individual coordination of intelligence, led by agencies like the Intelligence Bureau (IB), is also crucial.

The CTF should be administered at the provincial level and possibly decentralized to district levels to address overlapping jurisdictional issues. Given the extensive geographical spread of terrorism across Pakistan, coordination for inter-provincial cooperation falls under the responsibility of the Inter-Ministerial (IM) body.

  1. Specialized force : Quick Response Force to stop urban terrorism.
  2. CTF: Training and weapons of all kinds, bomb disposal, forms of IEDS and rapid response.
  3. Police with intelligence. e.g. Naseerullah Baber went to resolve bus hostage incident in Karachi.
  4. Individual coordinates intelligence. IB as an agency.
  5. CTF has to be provincially administrated. Even dissolved to district level.

i. Unsnarl: overlapping domains causing frequent snarling.

ii. Length and breadth of Pakistan is afflicted, physically impossible.

iii. IM responsible for coordinating for inter-provincial cooperation.

Pakistan embodies resilience. It represents the unity of its people, striving tirelessly to eradicate corruption and uphold ethical values. It reflects harmony in the smallest gestures and experiences, like being drenched in rain or witnessing a young boy proudly waving a large flag in the streets. Ultimately, Pakistan is not just a geographical location; it is home.

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