The conflict within Pakistan has multiple dimensions. Three of Pakistan’s four provinces, Baluchistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continue to be plagued by violence, and FATA is, for the most part, outside the control of the state. With Pakistan’s Punjab province increasingly being subjected to terrorist attacks, some form of terrorist violence now affects the whole country. While terrorism within Pakistan is not a new phenomenon, what gives the current narrative reasons for increased concern is the multiplicity of threats against the state, which cannot but bode ill for its stability.
While terrorism within Pakistan is not a new phenomenon, what gives the current narrative reasons for increased concern is the multiplicity of threats against the state, which cannot but bode ill for its stability.
Insurgency and terrorism through the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has not only not been controlled, but the militants appear to be on the ascendant; sectarian violence is creating deeper schisms between the majority Sunni and minority Shia populace of Pakistan, and also between the Deobandhi and Barelvi factions within the larger Sunni group. Insurgency in Baluchistan remains worrying, with Karachi, the heart of the country’s economy, in flames. The message emanating from opinion makers and thought leaders in Pakistan appears increasingly gloomy and pessimistic. Consider just two statements from the many, which have emanated from the Pakistani media over the last fortnight.
Ejaz Haider is caustic when he states…“Let no words be minced. The rats are winning. They are winning the war psychologically and ideologically. That is always the essence in any war but more so of irregular wars.” Aasim Zafar Khan says much the same thing… ‘Thirty attacks. In 24 days. And that’s assuming there won’t be one today and tomorrow when this column appears in the paper. Must be some kind of new grisly record. And yet, the state remains deep in an opiate slumber.
But what of the thought leaders of Pakistan. As per Riffat Hussain, academic and security analyst, Pakistan’s foremost challenge in 2014 is ‘the poor health of the economy with stagnant exports, rising imports, dwindling foreign exchange reserves, a depreciating rupee, severely reduced FDIs, crippling energy shortages and galloping inflation. Unless the government makes a concerted effort to reverse these negative trends on a war footing, the country’s social stability cannot be guaranteed’.
Zahid Hussain, a senior journalist views a nightmarish scenario unfolding for Pakistan, with the country facing an existentialist threat from rising militancy that has already claimed thousands of lives. He goes on to state that, ‘it is a disturbing reality that radical Islamic elements have as much if not more power over Pakistani society than the state. While the state has failed to develop a national narrative against militancy, an obscurantist ideology still holds sway’. Najmuddin Shaikh, former foreign Secretary is of the view that the foremost principal challenge to Pakistan will be Afghanistan and the fallout from the economic slump that the country will experience in the coming year. He visualises about two million economic refugees pouring into Pakistan if the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is signed without reconciliation. According to Mahmud Ali Durrani, former NSA, Pakistan is confronted with almost half a dozen challenges, which can be classified as serious, or life-threatening. These include terrorism, poor governance, economic ills, illiteracy, an exploding population, an exodus of young talent and finally a mounting energy crisis. However, the mother of all these problems is a weak and corrupt political leadership, which in spite of its impressive rhetoric, is comprehensively incompetent. The list is endless, but perhaps one more needs to be quoted. Ashraf J Qazi, a former Pakistan ambassador considers the systemic state dysfunctionality as the foremost challenge facing Pakistan. He talks of it ‘as a progressive political condition which need not end in state demise, but in dysfunctional state equilibrium – an even worse prognosis’.
The TTP is now targeting the Pakistan military, not just in FATA, but also in Rawalpindi.
The new year has seen a spurt in sectarian violence. On 6 January, a suicide bomber killed a teenager in Hangu. In Karachi, on 7 January, the TTP slaughtered six men at a shrine in Gulshan-e-Maymar on the outskirts of Karachi. On 10 January, two workers were killed in a Sufi shrine near Peshawar. On 16 January, a blast at the Peshawar Tablighi seminary killed ten people and injured more than 60. On January 18, an attack on Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) leader left two dead in Sargodha. Next day, another ASWJ leader was killed in Mandi Bahauddin. The fourth murder of an ASWJ leader took place in the Bosal village of Mandi Bahauddin. But sectarian killings are not the only worry. The TTP is now targeting the Pakistan military, not just in FATA, but also in Rawalpindi. In addition, they continue to attack schools in FATA and have disrupted the nation’s anti-polio drive by killing the workers engaged in the task. It appears that the state, including its military has no viable strategy to combat the multiple threats it faces.
While this does not signal the demise of the state, it appears more than likely that Pakistan is unlikely to come out of the vicious circle of violence in which it finds itself. India would need to keep a careful watch over the events in Pakistan as they unfold, to avoid a spill over effect impacting on home shores. The Pakistan military has neither the capacity nor the will to defeat militancy and the state will continue to see the rise of religious fundamentalism, sectarian violence and ethnic conflict. No change is possible unless systemic malaises in Pakistan’s polity are addressed. These would involve among others, dismantling the terror apparatus created by the state as part of what it calls its strategic assets, revamping the educational syllabus, rebuilding institutions and improving governance. A tall order indeed, in the present state of Pakistan.
 Ejaz Haider, Terrorist threat and our what-abouters
 The views of the thought leaders have been obtained from Jinnah Institute Extremism Watch, available at