Counter Terrorism: The War or Narratives

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Counter Terrorism: The War or Narratives
Counter Terrorism: The War or Narratives

Terrorism is one of the worst things the world has experienced since the dawn of the 21st century. After the 9/11 attacks, US invaded Afghanistan and regional countries which as a side effect badly affected the political stability in the region and created a power vacuum which resulted in rise of terrorism, this wave of militancy also hit Pakistan. The term terrorism is defined as use of intentional violence to create an environment of fear among people for political or religious purposes. Counterterrorism is a practice used by military, government, law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies to prevent the country from such non state actors. People have only now become more familiar with the terms terrorism and counter-terrorism after 9/11 attacks. As the perpetrators were affiliates with Al Qaeda, a perception was born that having beards or belonging to the Islamic faith are terrorists in the western world. Due to these narrative Muslim countries faced many problems on international level and for Muslims living in the west the prosecutions were even worse. Meanwhile since then terrorists all over have kept using a narrative to promote their message to people especially among young generation.

To understand narrative of such terrorists, first we need to understand its definition. The definition is defined by many including Alex Shmid, Steve Corman, Goodall, and Halverson. In the book “Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism” it is stated that “Every story in a narrative need not to have the same characteristics, however they relate to one another in a way that creates a unified whole that is greater than the sum of its part. “Terrorists are able to influence the youth by its simple but well-understood narrative. The main theme of TTP’s narrative is to enforce Sharia laws as best social and political system for Pakistan. Corman, Goodall and Halverson identified 13 narratives by Jihadi extremists. The study conducted by Hedayah found four main narratives of such groups including religious or ideological, political, economic, and social-heroic narratives. Al-Qaeda has also had a single strong narrative by providing their followers a sense of identity and giving meaning to their lives. The main theme of terrorist groups in Baluchistan is economic and political discrimination in Baluchistan. Meanwhile sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi revolve around the notion that Shia Muslims are heretic and killing them is Islamic duty i.e., Jihad.

To build a counter narrative, both hard and soft powers are used. The initiative on counter narrative is conducted on national and international level. European Union and organizations of UN like Global Counterterrorism Forum initiated counter narrative. According to Rachel Briggs and Sebastien Feve, there are three types of counter-messages: government strategic communication, alternative narrative, and counter narrative. Government Strategic Communication includes public awareness activities presenting government policies in the positive way. Alternative narrative includes social values, tolerance, freedom, and democracy. Lastly, counter-narrative includes deconstructing of challenges through ideology.

Pakistan has faced many challenges when the fight against terrorism started. National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was made back in 2009 to counter terrorist activities in Pakistan. Pakistan Army has conducted many operations against TTP for example operation Zarb-e-Azb and radul fasad. The whole Pakistani nation was shocked when Army Public School (APS) was attacked by terrorists on December 16, 2014. 150 people were killed including 134 children. The government and military forces took a decision to fight against terrorism. On December 25, 2014, Pakistani Government gave National Action Plan consisting of 20 points. The law enforcement agencies were supported by government, civil society, and common people. The results were positive as the initiatives taken by government and military were multiplied. Civil society and media also play its role. A religious decree was signed by 1800 scholars named as Paigham-e-Pakistan (Pakistan’s message).

In my opinion Pakistan is the most affected country by terrorism due to its Strategic location and international intervention. After 9/11 attacks USA invasion in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees negatively affected Pakistan’s economy. Many times, Pakistan was under attack of no state actors and the most tragic attacks were the APS attack and Bacha Khan University Charsada Attack.Under Obama’s leadership, America claimed that they killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, the city of Pakistan on May 2, 2011, and this had many negative effects Pakistan-USA relations. Even in 2017 and 2018 US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of entertaining Taliban, even though Pakistan always been a frontline country in Global War on Terrorism. In term of human losses, it is more than 52000 including civilians in terrorist attacks from 2002-2013. Pakistan faces four types of terrorism i.e., religious, sectarian, communal and ethnic terrorism. To prevent Pakistan from terrorism, government should take media and civil society into confidence. The government should raise awareness programs to society regarding terrorist threats. Government should promote their counter narrative against terrorism to public. The government should focus on root cause of terrorism. The defeat of terrorist ideology is the real success. If we talk about counter narrative, there is much to be done. Beside government policies, public figures, religious scholars, media should play its role and promote counter narrative and should create awareness in public.

Author: Angbeen Pervaiz

About Author: Angbeen Pervaiz is student of bachelor’s in international Relations from NUML Islamabad. Her areas of interest include South Asia and middle eastern politics.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.

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