Radd-ul-Fasaad: Non-state actors are getting banal

After this new wave of terrorism in the last couple of weeks, Pakistan’s security apparatus is being questioned again. In retaliation to that, the state launched another nationwide operation, Radd-ul-Fasaad – fourth in the last two decades. Yet again, this brings the implementation of NAP and the state’s alleged romance with non-state actors to the fore.

This whole idea of keeping and nurturing non-state actors, as a strategic deterrence, is getting banal. The different approaches of NSAs often emerge from objective, ideology, financial support and strategy. With Pakistan, it is somewhat complex – a peculiar mixture of ideology (radical Islamism) and objective (Kashmir or against Soviet Union in the past). But these groups don’t have special loyalty with Pakistan as they garner support from hardlined version of Islam. Arab world adopted this idea of European fascism – ideas of super-state and super people known as Ba’athism –superimposed onto religious doctrines. In colonial times, it was used as a form of resistance. If anything, this means that these groups have the potential of bringing more violent groups like ISIS to Pakistan. The case studies of Erdogan’s Turkey and Assad’s Syria are evident.

Lessons should be learnt from the old good Taliban and bad Taliban approach. General Durrani, Ex-intelligence officer, proudly admitted on Al-Jazeera how they supported Taliban factions in Afghanistan. And he called repercussions at home, a collateral damage. It was always a two way street– especially with India. Underestimating the ‘perceived’ enemy is fatal. They can counter the unconventional threat by recruiting the angry birds, essentially when they have the money, and we have the environment for grooming nitwits.

With Radd-ul-Fasaad, Pakistan will have to adopt an all-out approach. After the Lal Masjid episode, the state has been very particular with the consensus among the masses. The fallout can only be catered by bringing forth the true peaceful version of Islam with help of moderate clergy.

As a long term strategy, the gap between madrassa education and conventional education should be alleviated. A number of classes should be set as a prerequisite for all the professions – no matter if it is for becoming a doctor or a cleric.

Secondly, the state will have to prioritize radicalism rather than terrorism. It provides a better paradigm and framework for a number of reasons.

First, radicalism imbibes and reflects the political and ideological dimension of the threat. Irrespective of the causes, motivations, and ideologies behind terrorism, all attempts at premeditated violence against commoners have violent radicalism as a precursor.

Second, while terrorism is a morbid security challenge, radicalism is primarily a political threat and can only be catered through non-coercive means. Focusing on the collective grievances behind radicalism is probably the most effective way of addressing the root causes of terrorism.

NAP provides a broader vision on the number of steps needed to curtail the terrorist mindset operating from Pakistan. But it lacks concrete action items and timelines. The state needs a strategy for social engineering to reap greater economic advantages coming home via China. Without addressing the issue of radicalization, the mushrooming youth under the age of 30 will become a menace for the state.

Only the state has the power to decide whether it wants to avail this window of opportunity or completely turn it into a threat.