September Special

War On Terror: A Story of Trial and Triumph

Nadeem Khan is a young man in his early 30s. He hails from Swat. You would find him like any other young man of his time and age. However, when you sit with him for a cup of tea and listen to his story you would need a pack of tissues to deal with the tears in your eyes and you may find the urge to have some water to deal with the pain you might feel in your throat as his painful story will shake you to the core. Nadeem Khan’s family lost 15 family members at the hands of terrorists. Had it been a one-off incident, or accident, Nadeem Khan and his family could have found the patience to bear it. But the plight has spanned over one and a half decade. He lost his family members one by one, year by year, month by month. Nadeem is the grandson of late Muzaffar Khan who was a local leader of Awami National Party (ANP), the then ruling party of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2007-08. Muzaffar Khan and 14 other family members lost their lives at the hands of terrorists of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Their only fault was that they were not ready to bow in front of the TTP’s deviant ideology. TTP killed more than a dozen people of Nadeem Khan’s family but it could not kill and will never be able to subdue the courage and commitment of these valiant people of Pakistan. 
The story of Nadeem Khan is the story of our nation. We have lost thousands of our countrymen directly to the acts of terrorism while others have been indirectly affected by terrorism. If we categorize our victims of terrorism, we will find combatants and non-combatants alike. In combatants, we lost personnel from Army, Navy, Air Force, paramilitary forces like FC, Rangers, Khasadars, Levies, etc, and the force which comes in the line of fire at the very first stage, the Police. Combatants also include members of tribal Lashkars, and Peace Committees etc. Non-combatants include government officials and ordinary civilians like labourers (terrorists in Balochistan especially target tailors, labourers among other poor people who go there to earn their bread and butter), shopkeepers, teachers, traders, women, and children etc. Who could forget the innocent children of Army Public School Peshawar who were butchered by TTP terrorists on December 16, 2014? 
Those who lost their lives will for sure rest in eternal peace. However, the relatives and family members of terror victims are still spending sleepless nights. Not only have they lost their loved ones but there are also many cases where the only bread earner was killed, and the families are still facing a financial and social crisis. Young children were left with no choice but to leave schools to earn to sustain their families. There are cases where parents of children of terror victims are still facing psychological issues. The list of indirect victims of terrorism is too long and so is the plight of these people. 
Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive, centralized and coordinated mechanism to support terror victims in Pakistan on a long-term basis. Families of terror victims in most cases get some compensatory money right after their beloved ones lose their lives and after that they are left at the mercy of the circumstances. Fortunately, our armed forces have a better and sustainable approach to take care of the families of their personnel who lost their lives due to terrorism. However, the civilian victims do not have any proper system or mechanism except the initial support. One can hardly find any association or organization which works for terror victims. Perhaps, we have accepted it as our fate and moved on but that’s not the long-term solution. The plight of terror victims can be exploited by Pakistan’s adversaries at any time. 
There is a need to have a centralized body, perhaps under the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) where data of terror victims and their families is maintained. The situation and condition of the families of terror victims should be regularly reviewed and wherever required, the government should intervene to support them. These are the people who sacrificed for our future. The relative peace we are enjoying today is because of these sacrifices by our valiant soldiers and civilians. 
There is a need to pay special attention to the female segment of our society which is affected by terrorism: mothers, sisters, widows, daughters, as they have suffered in every capacity. In a male dominant society, the females who do not have grown up male members to support them are facing tough times. There is no doubt that Pakistani society as a whole is very supportive of deprived females, however, exploitation of poor and needy women is also a bitter reality of our society. In the absence of comprehensive government mechanism, the chances of exploitation of vulnerable segment of our society are very high.  
It would be unfair if we do not acknowledge the impact of sacrifices our nation has made in the fight against terrorism. It was for sure a collective effort of our entire nation that we have almost defeated terrorism from our country. A few years back, we used to face 160 attacks per month (before Operation Zarb-e-Azb, June 2014), and now we face an average of 13 militant attacks per month (first 6 months of 20201) and that too of low intensity. This would not be possible without the sacrifices of our nation. 
Economic suffering of our nation is another price we have paid. We lost over USD 100 billion during the War on Terror. Losing men and money but not losing ground to terrorists is the tagline of Pakistan’s success story.
Despite the problems highlighted earlier, our nation has shown unmatched resilience in the face of terrorism. After 9/11, perhaps there is no other nation which could contain, reduce and defeat terrorists on its soil. Whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Algeria or name any country where terrorists captured the territory and they could be defeated and eliminated. Pakistan is a unique success story. I sometimes found it surprising that some of our counter-terror experts try to introduce counter-terrorism models of other countries to Pakistan. It should be the other way around as we have the best success story and that should be presented to the world to take a page from our book. However, I doubt there can be any other nation on this planet which has such resilience, courage and determination.

The writer is a counter terror expert, and the Managing Director at the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies . 
He tweets at @Abullahkhan333 

1. PICSS Militancy Database

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