On Easter Sunday, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), killed over 72 people and wounded hundreds in an attack on a Lahore park, demonstrating that the TTP and its affiliates continue to propagate their extremist ideology despite the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, notes Daud Khattak, a Pakistani journalist currently working as a senior editor of Radio Mashaal for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014 in Pakistan’s tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, flushed out many of the Taliban located in that area. However, the consistent string of terrorist attacks in northern Pakistan and now in mainland Punjab since the beginning of 2016 signal that the Taliban is regaining its strength and that Pakistan cannot bomb its way out of this conflict, he writes for Foreign Policy:
While the trafficking of explosives (such as from the Mohmand agency to Lahore) could be restricted through conventional means, it is almost impossible to restrict the flow of ideologies and narratives spread by extremists.
Soon after the December 2014 Taliban attack at the Peshawar Army Public School, the government and opposition political parties unanimously agreed on a 20-point National Action Plan to curb terrorism, extremism, and radicalism in its all forms and manifestations. A year and a half later, Islamabad is still hesitant to adopt measures including curbing hate speech and registering religious seminaries, while the military leadership is reluctant to do away with its policy of “good” and “bad” Taliban.
“Violent extremism thrives on ideas and narratives,” Khattak notes. “As long as Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership do not agree on across-the-board measures against those spreading extremism, any degree of bombing, military operations, and security measures will ring hollow.”
Pakistan’s mullahs have continued to grow in power because they play a useful role for the security establishment — as a check on the democratic system, says Raza Rumi, a Pakistani journalist and visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy:
During the Afghan jihad project in the 1980s, scores of militias were trained in Pakistan with U.S. and Saudi assistance. These jihadists had a Salafi-Wahhabi worldview and expanded their power through a network of religious seminaries, which became a training ground for ideologues and foot soldiers. In the post-9/11 regional mayhem, these militias found a natural ally in the transnational ideology propagated by al Qaeda.
“A key lesson for the country’s elites is that short-term military action and executions, important as they are, are no substitute for structural reforms, especially of school curricula and religious institutions that breed intolerance and Islamic nationalism,” Rumi writes for The Huffington Post.
As world leaders gather in Washington, DC, for the Nuclear Security Summit, they would do well to study the shortcomings of this nuclear U.S. ally, analyst Ibne Ali writes. At the heart of the problem is not Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, but its treacherous, self-destructive and parochial, alliance with extremist elements, whose machinations are inevitably corrosive to the country’s fragile democracy.