ISLAMABAD: Terrorists have killed at least 160 people during the new Pakistani government's first month in office, fueling concern that the country's leaders lack a coherent strategy to fight the pervasive problem of violent extremism.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) scored a resounding victory in national elections in May with a platform that promoted peace talks as the best way to quell a systematic campaign by the Pakistani Taliban which has killed thousands of people. The plan quickly fell apart after the Taliban withdrew their offer to talk in response to a US drone strike that killed the group's deputy leader at the end of May.

The government has yet to articulate an alternate strategy, and in the meantime, the attacks keep coming. ''The government is completely confused over the terrorism problem,'' said Zahid Hussain, whose books plot the rise of militancy in Pakistan. ''The government's indecisiveness and dithering has emboldened the militants.''

At least 160 people were killed in suspected militant attacks in June, according to an Associated Press count. It was the second most deaths in a month this year, following April, when there were many attacks related to the election, said Mohammed Amir Rana, head of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. Hussain and other analysts said the government failed to respond aggressively enough to the attacks over the last month. The government mostly relied on routine press releases that criticized the violence and expressed sorrow for the dead, but made no mention of who carried them out or how they would respond.

The government has taken a few public steps to show it is dealing with the attacks, which included the killing of international tourists at a scenic mountain, a suicide bombing of women university students and an attack on a funeral that killed a lawmaker. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew to Quetta, which has recently been the base for repeated attacks on the Hazara community. He brought senior security officials with him, including the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

''We will give full our attention to bring an end to the lawlessness, whether it is in Quetta and Balochistan or other parts of the country,'' Nawaz told reporters during his trip.

Last month, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also traveled to Quetta following an attack there that left 24 people dead. Khan reiterated the country's support for talks with militants, although he did say that those who refuse to renounce violence will be dealt with ''through other means. ''Sharif has announced that he plans to hold a high-level meeting with political party leaders on July 12 to discuss a national strategy to curb militancy. Analysts said Sharif's trip to Quetta was a good step, but it's the follow-through that matters. They warned that the government's attempts to form a consensus will likely flounder. Religious parties will likely blame the problem of militancy on CIA drone strikes and the US-led war in neighbouring Afghanistan, and no action will be taken, said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani army general and defense analyst.

''There's no point in them repeating the same thing that has been said that 'We will get everyone together and then formulate a policy.' The people have voted,'' he said. ''That's fine if you want to take along as many political parties, but essentially the responsibility is yours.''

Interior Ministry spokesman Omar Hameed Khan defended the government, saying officials were committed to coming up with a national security strategy within three or four months in consultation with all stakeholders, including the military. To be fair, the government has had its hands full dealing with an issue that is arguably more important than militancy for most Pakistanis – fixing the country's crippling electricity shortages.

That was the issue that propelled the new government to victory, even more so than its promise to negotiate an end to militant attacks, and failure to quickly turn the lights back on could translate into a short term for the new government.

The government has also negotiated a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and presented a new budget to parliament. Critics say even with those other concerns, the government should take a stronger line on militancy. ''Even if they are devoted to other issues, terrorism is still the most serious issue because it undermines the credibility of the state and shatters the confidence of ordinary people in the capacity of the state to protect them,'' said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani political analyst.

Neither Nawaz nor the interior minister has gone to Peshawar on a similar security-related trip, although it, too, has been hard hit by bombings and shootings. Analysts say that is partly because the killing of members of the Shia community has become such a high-profile issue that it can't be ignored. But visiting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also fraught with more political risks since it's controlled by Sharif's rival, cricket star-turned-politician, Imran Khan.

Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is even more vocal in its support for negotiations instead of military operations as a way to end terror attacks. While the federal government's stance over the last month has been defined mostly by silence on the militancy issue, PTI officials have consistently pushed their negotiations agenda in the face of repeated bombings in the province. "There is no other way," said Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, a member of Khan's party who serves as provincial spokesman. "We have been fighting for the last 10 years against these people, and terrorism activities are increasing day by day."

Critics say promoting peace talks ignores the Pakistani Taliban's history of using such negotiations as a way to gain time to consolidate their strength. And they question whether the government should negotiate with a group of militants dedicated to overthrowing the Pakistani state and enforcing Sharia law.

Analysts say the Nawaz government may be wary about launching a broad crackdown on militancy because it could trigger blowback in the ruling party's home province of Punjab, which has suffered relatively few attacks. It could also alienate religious conservatives among the party's supporters.

At the end of the day, the new government is likely finding that solving Pakistan's militancy problem is one of the most complicated challenges it faces.

"There is a hell of difference between being in government and sitting out and criticizing," said Mian Iftikhar Hussain. He should know. He's a member of the Awami National Party, which supported military operations against the militants and was voted out of office in May. He also lost his only son to Taliban gunmen.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (60)

Khalid
July 5, 2013 2:55 pm

You must be joking. Does Pakistan have a plan to halt terrorism?. Of course we have. We are going to talk to the people who have been demolishing schools, blowing innocent people up and that will resolve all terrorism problems in the country. This is according to Mr. Nawaz Sharif's party. What else can we ask for?.

Yousaf
July 5, 2013 2:54 pm

The Government will call an APC. The politicians will get together, drink tea and go home. This is the strategy the government has.

Ravi Ingale from University of Pune
July 5, 2013 4:12 pm

No, there is no plan.

vani
July 5, 2013 5:11 pm

There is no way for Pakistan to coming out from the vicious circle, there is no way to change the situation in better direction. I feel sad for the deaths of innocents human beings.

BRR
July 5, 2013 7:36 pm

While there is deliberate confusion created by the politicians for the reasons for terrorism - drones, US presence in Afpak, conspiracies of various kinds, can anyone expect them to state the problem in clear terms - eagerness by many to kill others in order to establish Sharia rule.

No one will state the problem - violence to establish Sharia.

Aamir Nawaid
July 5, 2013 7:42 pm

I don't think there is any courage in our leadership to define a strong policy against terrorist. We have shown our weakness time and again by not responding after any terrorist attack. There can be no negotiations from the position of weakness. I do not remember if we have ever carpet bombed their villages or areas of concentration, after for example, they blew up our markets, mosques and military installations. We must make them realize that they will have to pay dearly for every act of terrorism they commit. It should be eye for an eye. If they kill our women and children, then we must bomb their families and homes. We must kill their women and children. This is the only way to stop them.

G.A.
July 5, 2013 8:02 pm

These militants look like Neanderthal thugs on the surface but are a cunning adversary that has kept the sharpest minds in the army and political circles at bay. They provoke the Punjab-led government by Not attacking Punjab itself thus keeping the entire nation at a standstill.

pathanoo
July 5, 2013 8:19 pm

The emphatic answer to the article is - NO. Pakistan has NO POLICY TO DEAL WITH THE TERRORISTS. All the parties and "so called" leaders are consumed with protecting their chairs. They have no time, concern or energy left after self-preservation efforts for any thing or any one else. How does Pakistan expect a different result from the same old corrupt, incompetent, venal, feculent and self-serving charlatans masquerading as national leaders who keep doing the same things and tell people that it will produce different results. My heart bleeds for the people of Pakistan.

Mir
July 5, 2013 9:53 pm

No plan is a good plan

Agha Ata
July 5, 2013 11:07 pm

I always wonder and then I smile when i see smart soldiers or policemen standing alert after a terrorist attack when no more danger is in sight, when everything is done and is over, some people have already been wounded, and some innocents have already died, and the killers are far away from the scene, and they are not coming back soon. What these soldiers doing at the crime scene? Are they giving an impression that they are late but they are there, and nothing can happen now after all this has happened? Do they give any feeling of protection to those who have survived and their dear ones have already been killed?

V. C. Bhutani
July 5, 2013 11:26 pm

Far from having a plan, there isn't even intention.

Tariq
July 6, 2013 12:55 am

It appears not to have formulated a cohesive plan to take on the militants menace, however give Mian Sahib at least 100 days in office before we can can start to postulate on the governments policy, or lack of.

bangash
July 6, 2013 1:54 am

The plan is to wait for the US to leave Afghanistan after which everything will magically get better.

gangadin
July 6, 2013 1:55 am

Whenever there is something about 'terrorism in Pakistan', a whole lot of people make come out in favor of non-negotiations and start calling names. Here are your choices: 1. Status Quo 2. Peace through negotiations. 3. Military intervention. I think No. 3 has already failed and No. 1 in unacceptable. So what's the choice? Ask US.

G.A.
July 6, 2013 2:12 am

Of course Pakistan has a plan. Try burying your head in the sand and you will see how beautifully it works.

alfe
July 6, 2013 2:51 am

We are living in denial. This is all a foreign conspiracy!!!!!

NASAH (USA)
July 6, 2013 3:39 am

Yes leaders of PML(N) and PTI have a PLAN to defeat the Talibani terrorism -- it is called APPEASEMENT.

The same appeasement that PREVENTED the WW II in Europe.

Iqbal khan
July 6, 2013 5:11 am

Yes they do have a plan to save terrorists by demanding US to stop drone attacks.

ali
July 6, 2013 5:22 am

Thanks for your concern about Pakistan it's good to see people like you worry about Pakistan quite frankly we Pakistani's are really not that worried about the current situation because we know very well we have the ability to turn things around again thanks for your concerns

Agha Ata
July 6, 2013 5:38 am

Does Pakistan have a plan to halt terrorism? No. Not yet, but they are planning to think of a good plan of thinking about it.

Koli
July 6, 2013 9:30 am

The cream of Pakistan has left during last 25 years. The remaining Pakistanis are under educated, average or below average who are ruled by low IQ politicians. What is going on in Pakistan is worst than Somalia and Iraq and the Pakistani govt still does not want to take radical steps to eradicate terror. Good luck to Pakistanis. In the meanwhile try to leave the hell.

Nasir Ahmed
July 6, 2013 12:21 pm

I think that as a whole our direction is wrong as far as the issue of terrorism is concerned. The people of pakistan are not told the truth about the terrorism and not only the common people are confused but the government is also confused in dealing with the terrorism. I think this issue will keep on rising until and unless serious and effective measures are not taken.

naveen
July 6, 2013 1:18 pm

@vani: Yes vani, You are quiet right. Pakistan has no way to come back. Infact, Pakistan will witness worst than these petty attacks. You might be aware that Pakistan has almost HUNDRED nuclear bombs. and There are hundreds of Terrorism groups. Except this Pakistan army is facing a HUGE TASK to overcome REGIONALISM. Anytime there can be mass RIOTS because of power and water share among pakistn's states. Which will divide the army too. Terrorists leaders are seeking Nuclear bombs. IT IS HIGHLY POSSIBLE that these nuclear bombs will be exploded in Pakistan cities.

shantanu
July 6, 2013 2:19 pm

What you sow you reap.

Anuj
July 6, 2013 2:46 pm

pardon my interrupting the politician bashing....but doesn't the great army, full of macho people, have a role to play?

The fact they have thru their agencies in intelligence, kept safe some TTP factions for an Afghanistan strategic depth plan, is well rumoured.

The US says the army supports TTP or their brethren including haqqani network (difftt names, same acts).

The Afghans say the army supports TTP who are opposed to existing dispensation and a secular Afghanistan.

Heck, even pakistan's press does say the same sometimes or other.

So, what does the army say? It keeps silent, counting down days to US retreat.....but this countdown may be one towards terrorism being unleashed across Pakistan as well.

Dr Vimal Raina
July 6, 2013 4:03 pm

Christian Science Monitor- Pakistan want to talk to TTP but does not know what to say.

Dr Vimal Raina
July 6, 2013 4:02 pm

@Yousaf: No sir, at the next meeting the biscuit brand will change.

muhammad
July 6, 2013 5:54 pm

NO ! there is no plan because every successive government is afraid of extremists / fundamentalists forces they do not want to lose their vote bank they have no courage to deal with this menace they do not wanted to be labeled as infidels as Musharraf has been after Lal Masjid operation

muhammad
July 6, 2013 5:55 pm

@Yousaf: that's what we have been witnessing for the last many years

abdussamad
July 6, 2013 8:08 pm

The plan is to come up with a plan.

Mr.Shah
July 6, 2013 8:58 pm

Defeat terror with terror. The militants only understand the language of violence. The government instead of negotiating or carrying out military operations should start a proxy war that we should win. When we find a militant, instead of arresting them hang them publicly, bomb them wherever they are, behead them and show them the video when doing it, kidnap their members and send them their body parts. Incite fear in the eyes of the enemy: This should be the strategy

NASAH (USA)
July 6, 2013 10:12 pm

"Does Pakistan have a plan to halt terrorism?"

Yes it has in its possession -- an effective anti terrorism arsenal -- it's called Appeasement.

It surely will get rid the Taliban of their most effective weapon - the suicide bombing. See how 'few' suicide bombings since the inception of Imran in Peshawar and Nawaz in Islamabad!

psp
July 6, 2013 10:31 pm

@Khalid: not to forget banning movies like "Ranjhaa", because the movie can cause violence, why? because in the movie a muslim girl falls in love with a hindu guy.. Now you know how strong it Pakistan society is..

Sonal
July 7, 2013 1:10 am

By the time the plan is made and put into action, there will be very few Pakistanis left! It's absolutely shocking how many bomb blasts there are in Pakistan...it seems like at least one a day! Why isn't the government doing anything?!

Nadeem
July 7, 2013 3:30 am

STOP accepting handouts from KSA and the terrorism will halt itself!

NL
July 7, 2013 4:51 am

Does Nawaz Sharif reads this comments? since he wants to have a pact with murderes in the name of TALIBAN! with self made religious ethics....ha ha

Vikki, Pul Bangash, Dilli
July 7, 2013 6:09 am

No plan, not even an Agenda in Elections........but yeah, these Terrorists have a Big Plan, An Agenda..............at least someone has a Plan...............but dealing with these Killers, there is no Plan-B (talks with these killers)......... But they all (Paki politicians) have a Plan-C, they all CONDEMN these attacks.................

Vikki, Pul Bangash, Dilli
July 7, 2013 6:09 am

Plan-C................Condemn.........

Haroon Rooha
July 7, 2013 6:11 am

Terrorism,like any philosophy or ideation is a part of scheme,to convince others the point of view of the beholder.It occupies a central position in achieving one"s goals.When one is faced with an overwhelming opposition then one has no other way but to use well defined and detremined force that will cause maximum harm to the opposition at the minimal price .Pakistan is an Islaamic country,Yet Islaam has never been allowed to be in the seat of Political Power.People want to experience the genuin sharia law.Let them have it.Let them be faithfull muslims.That is all they want.That was the plan Pre-1947.It should be honoured ,fullfilled with greatfullness.Let True Islaam Rule the land of the Pure.

dubinski
July 7, 2013 6:27 am

there is no plan..... at least not one of any worth.

either the govt uses force against the multiple nests of murderous terrorists or the rot ... and the murders.... will continue....and the nation will grow increasingly feeble.

Mustafa
July 7, 2013 7:50 am

The greatest mistake is to say that you have power because you have been elected by majority of people. The fact is if you have no power to protect people from militants and terrorists, you are powerless and say so to all those who voted for you. Someone has to do the difficult task of protecting Pakistanis from militants and terrorists. The only alternative is Pakistan Army when civilians fail.

ahmed41
July 7, 2013 9:08 am

"There is a hell of difference between being in government and sitting out and criticizing," said Mian Iftikhar Hussain."

A hell of a difference ..........please

asfi
July 7, 2013 9:16 am

Yes, provided the govt takes the things seriously and call spade a spade. Besides, the internal failures at home, we need to talk to our neighbors too. India is actively funding terror but we don't have the courage to raise it at world fora.

asfi
July 7, 2013 9:15 am

@vani: Yes how can it do so when we have a neighbor like India.

asfi
July 7, 2013 9:17 am

@Ravi Ingale from University of Pune: So you know it.

M.saleemJavaid
July 7, 2013 9:30 am

@Yousaf:these terroisim acts must be stopped now in all cost, otherwise this Govt will also loose their creditworthiness.humen life is more important than any business.enough is enough.

muzammil ullah khan
July 7, 2013 11:14 am

Yes we do have a plan ! Submit and bow before the Taliban ! Easy isnt it ?! Let's not forget that it is a small tribe of Mehsuds who have brought our "brave" politicians like Nawaz and Imran to their knees !! We are a gutless nation .

dr vimal raina
July 7, 2013 11:50 am

plan?

Maqbool Basha
July 7, 2013 1:21 pm

I am surprised to read that the FC arrest one or two persons labeling them as terrorists, they never be killed in the encounters while these terrorists kill scores of our Army and FC personnel. What is the logic here. Whether our forces have a soft corner on these criminal gangs?

asfi
July 7, 2013 2:51 pm

@pathanoo: You have hit the bull. Excellent

JS
July 7, 2013 3:09 pm

You call it act of terrorist, but is jehad for us !

Shahji
July 7, 2013 11:32 pm

@JS: you must be afghani

Shahji
July 7, 2013 11:36 pm

@ahmed41: then dont be in government... stay out.

Shahji
July 7, 2013 11:39 pm

@gangadin: US negotiation is different, US is not under attack.....Pakistan is.

Shahji
July 7, 2013 11:41 pm

@Nasir Ahmed: such as?

Shahji
July 7, 2013 11:45 pm

@Mir: thats the worst plan

RKM
July 8, 2013 12:53 am

Pakistanis will continue to get killed in terror attacks in Pakistan as long as the Establishment continues with its "good terrorist- bad terrorist" strategy as part of the foreign policy formulation.

bombpatha
July 8, 2013 1:23 am

Government don't have a zip but these terrorist do. They are determined and never get caught. Exploding bomb everyday nationally requires serious planing. I wonder who has the machine to produce these suicide bombers everyday from the factory.

bombpatha
July 8, 2013 1:28 am

@ahmed41: when you taken a role of government, you must listen to criticism regardless.

Rao
July 8, 2013 2:22 am

Pakistan can take lessons from Sri Lanka on how to control and eliminate terrorism. They, particularly Rajapaksa did it with iron hand and I hope the problem is solved once for all

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