The Challenge of Countering Violent Extremism in Pakistan

Published in Hilal English

Written By: Dr. Minhas Majeed

Violence is mostly understood and associated with religious extremism despite the fact that it has many shapes and forms – and all need to be condemned and countered. This is more so when a Muslim commits an act of violence, which as a result is associated with Islam. The widespread violent extremism in the Muslim world and the individuals or groups involved in or supporting violence has been a subject of interest for policy makers and practitioners. Unfortunately, there is dearth of comprehensive approach to explore the drivers of violent extremism in the Muslim World.
It is an accepted fact that terrorists in their anxiety for validation and justification cite religion – Islam – for justifying their acts of violence. Frustration with the local and global political milieu, besides ideologically motivated thoughts is behind violent actions. Additionally, in many cases, shared dedication to a particular vision about how a society ought to be organized and moral justification for it, bring violent extremists together.


countervoilentext.jpgAt present, besides terrorism, the phenomenon of violent extremism, in the form of religious, sectarian and ethnic strife is a major challenge that Pakistan faces today. In recent years, the incidence of violent extremism by terrorist organizations and their linkages to hostile foreign agencies are not only disrupting the social fabric but also adversely affecting national economy and development. Moreover, Pakistan is also facing the effects of crises in Syria, Yemen and other sectarian conflict-prone sub-regions in the Middle East.

Since independence, Pakistan has seen phases of diverse but inter-related conflicts of all sorts, resulting in violence. Pakistan endures the most of ethnic, sectarian and religious radicalisation that is aided by both internal and external actors who are not only providing a narrative but also funding for both religious and non-religious militancy. However, the intensity of violent extremism has increased manifold since Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. in the WoT as it has deeply shakened the social fabric of society.

The rise of terrorism after 9/11 has badly affected the security situation in Pakistan. Pakistan has suffered a great deal in terms of lives, economic opportunities and has also borne damages to schools, hospitals and other infrastructural facilities. However, the yearly losses from terrorism declined in 2014-15 by a third to U.S. $4.5 billion, in part due to military operations in tribal areas and the Karachi Operation.


However, the global image of Pakistan is largely defined by the misperceptions about its role in international terrorism. Pakistan has been rejecting these allegations, insisting on the role of foreign interferences in its territory resulting in disorder, which unfortunately, has been ignored by international community. These concerns were raised when Pakistan shared three dossiers with the UN, carrying evidences about Indian interference in Balochistan, FATA and Karachi to fuel ethnic and religious violence.


Sandwiched between Afghanistan and India, Pakistan is a geo-strategically important country in the South Asia. With its strategic importance for the U.S. and the rest of the world, Pakistan can play a constructive role with regard to CVE (countering violent extremism). Pakistan’s importance and its stance on countering violent extremism was highlighted in an article in Forbes as:

Pakistan has the potential to be a global turnaround story, and that the U.S. will need to view Pakistan not as a problem to be solved but as a potential partner. Because the Western headlines on Pakistan today gloss over the progress on the security front, the increased political stability, and incremental progress on the economic front. In spite of this potential for Pakistan, it continues to suffer from a terrible country brand that has not caught up with realities on the ground. Pakistan’s improving security dynamic is the first change to note. What has not sunk into international perceptions about the country is the tangible consensus among government, military, and Pakistani citizens against violent terrorists including the Pakistani Taliban and the alphabet soup of other terrorist groups in and around the country.

Despite heavy losses, Pakistan has remained committed to eliminating terrorism and violent extremism. Considering the factors contributing to violent extremism, countering it is a huge task that not only depends on the intent of government of Pakistan but also on international support.

Realising that violent extremism in all its manifestations poses a serious threat to national harmony in Pakistan, the Government made an effort to apply a comprehensive CVE strategy. This strategy can be said to have adopted an international model of CVE, i.e., of engagement and de-radicalisation on one hand, and counter-radicalisation in the form of use of force, on the other. Pakistan’s CVE policy is two pronged: de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation. Rehabilitation programmes for indoctrinated youth are introduced under the supervision of Pakistan Army. Similar programmes are introduced in parts of the Punjab, some supervised by Counter Terrorism Department, others are conducted in collaboration with some non-governmental organizations.

Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the National Counter-Terrorism Authority Bill in 2013. Taking another step on February 25, 2014, Pakistan announced its first ever National Internal Security Policy (NISP) based on three elements: 1) dialogue with all stakeholders; 2) isolation of terrorists from their support systems and; 3) enhancing deterrence and capacity of security apparatus to neutralise the threats to internal security of Pakistan.

Of capital importance is the decision to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb on June 15, 2014, in the tribal areas and recently Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad on February 22, 2017. These operations are proving to be successful in debasing and dismantling the organisational structure of militant outfits active in different parts of the country including FATA. It helped in improving the security situation inside the country and provided space for better regional coordination to counter-terrorism and promote stability in the region.

Another step to counter the violent extremism was initiation of National Action Plan (NAP) after the brutal attack on Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. The 20 point NAP very clearly defines the government’s counter-radicalism and counter-terrorism strategy. Various steps including raising a counter-terrorism force, conviction of the terrorists through military courts and reformation of criminal system were suggested in NAP. To counter violent extremism of all shades, madrasah reforms and scrutinising of religious material were made necessary to prevent the spread of hate speech and material. FATA reforms, issue of Afghan refugees, Balochistan reconciliation and taking the Karachi Operation to its logical conclusion were the other major steps that NAP vows to accomplish. However, the general perception is that the military component of NAP has been implemented efficaciously and there is a strong expectation that civilian aspect of the NAP be flashed out and operationalised. This would help the government to deal with the threat of violent extremism.

The government’s decision of zero tolerance with regard to hate speech and fanning of sectarianism is a step in the right direction but it is to be implemented fully and comprehensively. Moreover, auditing of madaris accounts and transfer of their fund through banks will go a long way in monitoring of madaris. In addition, the efforts of the government to block terrorists' funding through Hawala and Hundi have proved successful. Statistically speaking, the past two years showed positive trends from a security perspective as a downward trend was noted in the number of overall incidents of violence.


Realising that violent extremism in all its manifestations poses a serious threat to national harmony in Pakistan, the Government made an effort to apply a comprehensive CVE strategy. This strategy can be said to have adopted an international model of CVE, i.e., of engagement and de-radicalisation on one hand, and counter-radicalisation in the form of use of force, on the other. Pakistan’s CVE policy is two pronged: de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation. Rehabilitation programmes for indoctrinated youth are introduced under the supervision of Pakistan Army. Similar programmes are introduced in parts of the Punjab, some supervised by Counter Terrorism Department, others are conducted in collaboration with some non-governmental organizations.

The growing radicalism leading to violent extremism calls for strengthening of internal security based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders. It is because the major hurdle for Pakistan in tackling this menace is weak governance. Good governance will help in building institutions besides bringing systematic unity among all relevant institutions and society as a whole. It will also help in bringing political and economic stability, a prerequisite to meet external challenges.

All the factors discussed are interdependent, which need to be addressed as it is in the interest of Pakistan to grow economically and politically. To tackle the menace, it is the responsibility of civil, political and religious leadership to refute the notion that terrorist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda or Taliban represent Islam, because it is a misrepresentation that holds the terrorist narrative. If such ideas are not contested and condemned, extremist groups will continue to regroup no matter how many terrorists are eliminated.

It is important to introduce political, economic and educational reforms and take bold initiatives to prevent future threats. It is an accepted fact that investing in education and socio-economic development can lead to development and stability and hence a peaceful and harmonious society.

We, as Muslims, have to put our own house in order. Unless we devalue the notion that the West is at war with Islam, we will become fodder for extremists’ propaganda and will never be able to address our own problems. In nutshell, there is no magic bullet to cure the problem, but we must continue our quest for a peaceful harmonious society by investing in education and socio-economic development.


The writer is Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations at University of Peshawar, Pakistan.

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Discarding Sectarianism

Published in Hilal English Jan 2014

Written By: Brig Dr Muhammad Khan

Extremism and terrorism are the biggest threats to the state of Pakistan. These internal threats have grown over the years and now a stage has reached where this menace is challenging the national integrity and social harmony of Pakistan. Apart from the terrorist activities of the TTP, the growing trends of sectarian divide have emerged as the most pronounced and real challenge for the state and society of Pakistan. Unfortunately, every new day brings yet another and a unique security challenge to the state as well as the people of Pakistan.

In the Holy Qur’aan, (3:103), Allah Almighty clearly ordained the Muslims to, “Hold tight to the Rope of Allah (His covenant that is our allegiance to "La ilaha ill Allah Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah", all together and be not disunited among yourselves.” Elaboration of this directive is found in the Hadith of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who said, “Shall not I inform you of a better act than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: Enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”After having received clear directive from Allah Almighty and his last Prophet (PBUH), there should not be any ambiguity, as to how Muslims should spend their lives. There is no basis of division or any difference in the basic teaching and belief in Islam.

According to a survey of sectarian violence in Pakistan, from 1989 to 2013, in total 2847 incidents, 4652 people have been killed and 9030 people got injured. In 2013 alone, 106 incidents of sectarian violence took place in various parts of Pakistan, which resulted into killing of 467 people and injuring of 753 people. During first quarter of year-2013, Hazara community of Quetta remained on the hit list of opponent extremist groups, certainly based on sectarianism. Besides, there have been sporadic incidents of sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan and other parts of Pakistan. In the past, there have been bomb blasts and suicide attacks on mosques, imam barghas and processions / religious gatherings.

The recent incident of sectarian violence that took place in Raja Bazar, Rawalpindi was unique in a manner that it provoked people not only to harm each other but also to damage public property resulting in millions of rupees losses. Since judicial investigation of the incident is underway, therefore it is premature to say whether it was a planned violent activity or otherwise. However, this was addition in the already list of incidents of sectarian violence happening for many years. This incident was coupled with violence which is a new trend and certainly a very dangerous activity in the twin cities.

The unfortunate incident that took place in Rawalpindi on 10th of Muharram was a signal that there is a potential for such happenings within the society of Pakistan. The real issue, however, is the menace of sectarian violence and its rapid growth rate is fast swallowing the traditional peace and harmony that once existed in the Pakistani society with Shia and Sunny schools of thought living with great concord and respect for each other, and in many cases, even conducting intermarriages. Why that social connection was allowed to erode and subsequently degraded to the current level? Whereas, a class of so-called Muslim clerics (having made various schools of thoughts on the wishes of few to serve their personal motives) is busy in propagating and projecting their own form of Islam. Why the successive governments have allowed these elements to grow to this intolerable level? At the level of Government we can learn from our brother Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, who do not allow any such type of activities on their soil. Even people committing a minor anti-state crime, involved in sectarian divide or drug smuggling, are given exemplary punishments, death penalties in most of the cases. While taking a lead from these countries, should Pakistan tolerate these activities on its soil?

There is a need to carryout re-evaluation of ourselves before blaming external forces for causing the sectarian divide. This is a reality that many political parties have linkages with these religious organizations which in turn act as the vote bank for them. In Pakistan, these sectarian outfits belonging from any school of thoughts are involved in undesired activities. If someone is not directly sponsoring extremism, it indirectly supports militant groups of their own school of thought. At least every sectarian outfit is busy in creating a divide among the people for their own interests. These outfits are rapidly widening the cracks in Pakistani society through motivation or by use of force.

For Muslims, since Allah is one, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is one, Holy Quran is one, then should we stand divided in various religious groupings? These sectarian outfits do not serve any good for Pakistan and Muslims? It is about time that government should put a ban on such activities, causing religious divide and hate speeches against each other. Rather marching through streets and roads, creating security hazards for ourselves, why cannot we perform our religious rituals in mosques centrally?

Even at this belated stage of our history, where we have already lost too much, let us take correct decisions for: a secure, peaceful, socially knitted, economically prosperous and politically stable Pakistan where there is no internal rivalry and no external conspiracy permitted. This can be done through sincere, selfless, devoted and dedicated leadership, which can stand-up at its own feet; without the help of mislead extremist religious forces and without foreign sponsorship. Anything short of this will allow the current state of affairs to continue unabated, risking the very survival of the state.

In one of his Hadith, Prophet (PBUH) said, "Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices; do not hate one another; do not turn away from one another; and do not undercut one another, but be you, O servants of Allah, brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he neither oppresses him nor does he fail him, he neither lies to him nor does he hold him in contempt. Piety is right here-and he pointed to his chest three times. It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. The whole of a Muslim for another Muslim is inviolable: his blood, his property, and his honour." (Sahih Muslim)

The Father of Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah has given us a clear motto of: 'Unity, Faith and Discipline'. As a nation, we have to understand that, “United we stand, divided we fall.” It will be easy for our rivals to destroy us if we are split. Since sectarian divide is the worst and most dangerous of all other forms of extremism, therefore, let us discord this menace at all cost for a united and strong Pakistan.

The writer is the Head of International Relations Department at National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Public Opinion and Counter–Terrorism Strategy

Published in Hilal English Jan 2014

Written By: Lt Col Ali Raza

In democratic political settings, public opinion is essence of governance which not only facilitates rulers in implementation of their policies smoothly but can also remove irritants in political spheres. In the words of William Shakespeare, “public opinion is the mistress of success” and according to Blaise Pascal, “it is queen of the world.” Though its formalized tabulation can be traced back in the history of city-states of ancient Greece but term 'public opinion' was firstly coined in the Seventeenth century, when coffee-houses and subsequently in 18th and 19th centuries gentleman clubs played pivotal role in making and shaping the public opinion in the politics of England. Now with the invention of mass and social media, the concept of public opinion has completely revolutionized – without favourable public opinion every action of the state bound to have negative repercussions.

A critical relationship has developed between state policies and public opinion – public opinion is the true reflection of political dispensation. Abraham Lincoln has also emphasized that public opinion is everything, with it nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed. Terrorism is ideologically driven conflict with political objectives and being fought between State Actors (SAs) and Non-State Actors (NSAs) right in the public-yard. Public has become critical stakeholder in fight against terrorism and with increasing casualties and losses of people vis-à-vis SAs and NSAs, their opinion have acquired key role in the counter-terrorism meta-narrative, because an army may win thousands battles in counter-terrorism regime but cannot win the war without winning the public support.

Positive and negative perception both have significance in combating terror. Both adversaries can develop epistemic justification for launching their vilification campaign to tarnish the image of their opponents. Counter-terrorism meta-narrative has to address negative aspects which are having potentials of spoiling the image of SAs and picking up exploitable themes generated by NSAs to expose their face in the public. Ingredients of Public Perception

Centre of gravity of counterterrorism campaign rests in public opinion and NSAs' leadership, but the public opinion has relatively more significance. In counterterrorism meta-narrative, non-kinetic efforts should aim at building a favourable public opinion whereas kinetic efforts should focus on NSAs' leadership. Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Ex Ambassador and, Dr Shabnam Fayyaz, professor at Quaid-i-Azam University and expert on counterterrorism policy, have also endorsed the significance of public opinion with the unique words that the positive public opinion helped Pakistan Army to launch successful operations in Swat and South Waziristan Agency, and it is going to be precondition for extending operation to North Waziristan Agency.

Speech of Sufi Muhammad, Supreme Leader of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) about disregarding the Constitution of Pakistan, flogging incident of a girl in Swat and Malala's episode proved to be catalyst incidents in the war on terror. These incidents discredited the NSAs and the public opinion swung in favour of SAs. Public opinion has catalyzing role in War on Terror (WOT). This war cannot be won unless the public divorce the NSAs and distance itself from their narrative. This can help to dry up the bases of NSAs including sympathizers and support groups who are living in the masses and playing significant facilitating role in conduct of terrorist activities.

Cultivation of perception including making, shaping and maintaining favourable public opinion has become herculean task in obtaining antagonistic milieu. Military planners and strategists often overlook this aspect during the planning phase of operations and are unable to measure up the effect of public perception on kinetic efforts truly. Realistically, public opinion rests in justness of the cause, either of opposing forces can turn the public opinion on their side provided they can convince the masses about justness of their cause.

Sequentially, justness of the cause is linked to legitimacy of acts of state/ NSAs and legitimacy is connected to transparency in actions. These relations are fundamental in developing the public perception because it bolsters moral ascendency for winning the hearts and minds of masses. Securitization process can play a pivotal role in developing, shaping and maintaining positive public opinion before initiating kinetic prong against the NSAs. Securitization process can keep the counterterrorism effort and masses on same wavelength which should become punch line of counterterrorism meta-narrative.

Practically speaking, kinetic prongs are initiated against the NSAs and subsequently a psychological campaign is launched to win the hearts and minds of the people for building favourable public opinion.

This is a gross blunder in counterterrorism planning regime. Psychological campaign including securitization process for winning the hearts and minds of people must precede the kinetic prongs. Perception of masses ought to be managed before it is mystified by NSAs propaganda. NSAs can only win, if they are backed by public opinion because militarily they are far inferior to their adversaries. Idealistically speaking, time and space of kinetic prong against the NSAs should be determined by the public – only on their demand. However, it can also be manipulated through securitization efforts. Collateral Damage and Public Perception

Another sour point in counterterrorism regime is 'Collateral Damage' which is embedded in any type of kinetic efforts against NSAs, particularly in built up areas and directly influences the public mood. A kinetic prong without precise intelligence will be counterproductive because any military / police operation without tangible results like arrests, killings of terrorists or recoveries etc will alienate the public owing to collateral damages. It is extremely impossible to avoid collateral damages in such police/ military operations in buildup areas against NSAs. Collateral damage is catalyst in swinging the public opinion on either side.

Victims of collateral damage need prompt response which can be in shape of sympathies and compensation. A quick compensation of collateral damages should be part of military strategy and it must be made before NSAs sympathize / compensate the victims of operations. Delays and shallow promises for compensation of collateral damages will help to broaden the base of NSAs networks and it acts as catalyst in their recruiting phenomenon.

Hearts & Minds

Battle for hearts & minds can only be won, if law enforcing agencies respect civil liberties and principles of good governance. The Constitution of Pakistan has guaranteed the fundamental rights of people, which include freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to bear arms etc, which must be upheld in the fight against terror, because real security can only be achieved through respect for human rights.

SAs are far superior militarily, and during conduct of operations, may violate the fundamental rights of citizen unintentionally which provides justification and opportunities to NSAs for exploitation and helps in gaining sympathies. Violation of fundamental rights of people causes narcissistic injuries and such humiliation instigate the victims to take revenge. Vengeance promotes violence hence SAs should be careful during all operations. Respect for fundamental rights help in crafting conditions for perpetual peace in the society.

Mass Media

Mass media plays a significant role in cultivation of public perception; shaping public opinion on a variety of important issues, both through the information that is dispensed by them, and through the interpretations they make out of this information. They also play a large role in shaping modern culture, by selecting and portraying a particular set of beliefs, values, and traditions, as reality. That is, by portraying a certain interpretation of reality, they shape reality to be more in line with that interpretation. This overwhelming penetration of mass media in human lives has bolstered the role in cultivation of public opinion and reinforcing their religious and social believes. Even media can dictate the people, what to buy, wear, think, read and eat etc.

This role of media in daily lives of people can be used to mitigate the violence from the societies and promote culture of peace. Obtaining support of media should become fundamental ingredient of counterterrorism strategy for cultivation of perception to support the kinetic efforts of SAs.

Way Forward

WOT is unconventional war which has to be fought unconventionally – relatively more reliance on unconventional means than conventional tools. The public has become a major stakeholder because this war is fought right in the public-yard. Both SAs and NSAs need favourable public opinion to turn the table on their opponents, but public opinion would swing in the favour of those who convince for justness of the cause, legitimacy of acts and transparency in actions.

NSAs cannot win this war because militarily they are far inferior and only public support can strengthen their position. In democratic settings this war should be fought legitimately and despite of NSAs coercive and brutal activities, SAs should exercise strict restraint in violating the law of the land. Public support will extend morale ascendency and helps to curtail the period of violence.

Counterterrorism meta-narrative should focus on the aspects for cultivation of public perception favourable for keeping the public and SAs at same frequency. The SAs should hold regular briefings on conduct of WOT and share all the atrocities of NSAs with the public upfront. A regular press briefings on conduct of counterterrorism campaign and sharing all the details of operations conducted, arrests made and activities of the NSAs will greatly help to cultivate the positive public perception to win the hearts and minds of the general people.

The writer is a PhD scholar (Peace and Conflict Studies) at NDU, Islamabad.

Counter Violent Extremism and the Path to Reintegration

Published in Hilal English

Written By: Abdullah Khan

Reintegration of militants into the national fold is an uphill but essential task that the State of Pakistan has to accomplish. Majority of the militants fighting against us are our own citizens. We need to think seriously about how to bring those who fell in the hands of terrorist organizations back and reintegrate them into the society. The first step is to develop realization that these are our own citizens who fell in wrong hands because of various factors. Ownership of the mistakes and our citizen will lead us to the right direction.

There are several aspects of a possible reintegration program. Unless we develop customized policies and subsequent action plans for every aspect mentioned in coming paragraphs, the overall program of reintegration cannot become productive and result oriented in the long run. Following are some of the aspects our State will have to take into account while planning for a policy of reintegration of militants.

• Strategic Aspect: There are two schools of thought who blame state policies for promoting violent extremism. One school of thought believes that more than required role of religion in state as well as national affairs and Pakistan’s participation in Afghan jihad against the USSR are the major reasons for promoting religious extremism and subsequent terrorism in the country. The other school of thought believes that current wave of militancy started after 9/11 because of sudden U-turn by Pakistani state from certain policies and state’s alleged patronage of activities taking people away from religion. Although both point of views are identically opponent to each other but they have a common factor and that is Pakistan’s alliance with the United States. If siding with U.S. becomes root cause of promotion of extremism in our society then we need to do some cost-benefit analysis of our defence ties with the super power. Improvement in defence ties with Russia and investment coming through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) provides us an opportunity to lessen if not completely end our defence reliance and financial dependence on the U.S. Unless we set our strategic direction right and fix the mistakes we have made no plan of national reintegration of militants can yield long term sustainable results.


• Ideological Aspect: Militant groups fighting against the state can be classified into four categories:
a. Anti-State based on religion and foreign sponsored (TTP, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, Lashkar-e-Islam etc.)
b. Sectarian groups (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipa-e-Muhammad etc.)
c. Anti-State secular groups (BLA, BLF, BRF etc.)
d. Proxies of political parties (Lyari War Gangs, militant wing of political parties etc.)

Every category has different set of ideological tools to motivate their fighters. Militants have to be detached from their ideology before they can be merged back into the main society. Especially the militants motivated by religion need special attention as religion plays a major role in their recruitment and motivation. Most of the militant attacks and subsequent deaths in Pakistan occurred in attacks perpetrated by militants motivated by religion.

• Financial Aspect: Although militants have people from rich to poorer to the poorest but majority comes from poor class in Pakistan’s context with low education rate, almost no job opportunities, and least exposure to the modern world. When some or more of them will be ready to shun violence, we as a nation need to have sustainable financial plans for them so that they are not hijacked again by their respective militant groups.

• Social and Societal Aspect: Those militants who will be selected for reintegration into national folds, their families and relatives need to be taken on board, too. Generally, more than one person from a family is found infected with extremist ideology, however, one or two become hardcore militants while others provide them moral and financial support. For reintegration of a militant, the strategy needs to incorporate requirements of whole family. Even if none of the family member other than the militant subscribes to the militant ideology, the family can play a crucial role in persuading the militant to denounce violence and come back to normal life. Families can be encouraged to report activities of ex-militants and they need to have a trust in the system that any such thing will not create any trouble for them and it will actually be helpful to keep their loved ones away from extremist groups.

Also, one cannot overlook bitter reality that the militants supposed to be integrated into the national fold remained members of such organizations who are involved in killing thousands of Pakistani citizens. It is a tough question that whether society will accept them or not. Any reintegration plan needs to be backed by the society. Sensitivities of the society need to be taken into consideration and incorporated into national reintegration policy.

• Legal Aspect: Any reintegration policy needs to be within the legal framework of the country. Are we going to reintegrate those who were involved in killing of our citizens and law demands they must be tried in the court of law? However, there is a counter argument that if we do not detach them from militancy they can kill more citizens. Those who are known for killing and are wanted in cases of murder cannot, and should not, get away with their crimes. Such elements may not get absolute amnesty; however, State can lure them with lesser degree of sentences from court in case they surrender.

There are also militants who may have or may in future complete their prison terms. There should be a policy for them as well, as they should not fall back in the hands of militant organizations.

• Constitutional Aspect: Any reintegration program will be within the framework of constitution. Those who want to come back will have to accept Pakistan’s constitution. It is a matter of fact that Pakistan’s constitution is the best reply to militant’s narrative but unfortunately never properly presented and promoted in that context. Our constitution sets absolute sovereignty of Allah, the Almighty and no law can be promulgated against Quran and Sunnah. No logic or argument can stand in front of the fact that picking up arms against Pakistan cannot be justified by any valid teachings of Islam. Thus, Islamic aspects of our constitution need to be highlighted and presented as counter argument to those who commit Takfeer in our State and justify violence in that pretext.

Any reintegration program will also need constitutional cover so that no upcoming government reverses the program for any reasons. Any such move can endanger lives of those officials who will be associated with the program. Any reversal can also make future peace process difficult to the impossible extent.

Any reintegration of militants will definitely be in DDR order (Demobilization, Disarmament, and Reintegration). However, question is that should Pakistan target groups or individuals for reintegration? In case of individuals, it will be simply disarmament and reintegration process. While involving groups will be a complex and least productive approach in Pakistan’s context. For the time being militant groups are less likely to join a peace process for a variety of reasons. One of the sectarian extremist group Sipa-e-Sahaba (Jamat Ahl-e-Sunnat) has recently expressed its willingness to disband itself during a think tank’s activity. However, they are not operating as a militant group, thus reintegration of Sipa-e-Sahaba or Tehreek-e-Jafria does not fall in the domain of reintegration of militants. Their possible reintegration falls under reintegration of nonviolent extremist groups.

Therefore, instead of approaching to militant groups, Pakistan should approach foot soldiers and commanders of lower ranks. This will snatch base support from top leadership, which may eventually think to denounce violence in case State decides to accept them.

Role of the former militants can also play crucial role in motivating militants to denounce violence and get into the reintegration process. They can be presented as role models as well as hired to interact with those who have denounced violence and willing to come back but are skeptical of the prospects.

We have to realize the need to bring back our citizens who fell to deviant violent ideologies and traps. We have to devise a national reintegration program which has customized sub policies and action plans as per different categories of the militants. Any such program needs to take care of legal aspects as well as should have constitutional cover. The program must have backing of the society to be productive and sustainable.


The writer is Managing Director Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies. He is an expert on militancy and regional security. He tweets at


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