Pakistan is heading towards the poll on 8 February to elect a new government. The country remained in the clutches of multiple challenges. While the country had to deal with Political and Economic challenges, there was a resurgence of terrorism too. Pakistan often blames its neighbors India, Iran and Afghanistan for violence inside its borders. Similarly, these countries blame Pakistan for supporting militant groups targeting their territories. Recently, the two bordering countries Pakistan and Iran were striking each other’s territory on 17th and 18th January, calming that both attacked the safe havens of terrorists. In these circumstances, the new government will face a serious challenge of national security.
Resurgence of Terrorism in Pakistan
Terrorist attacks kill nearly 1,000 Pakistani’s in the year 2023. It was noted that 2023 was the deadliest year for Pakistani police and military forces in a decade, collectively losing more than 500 personnel in terrorist bombings and ambushes. Anti-state groups, such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, or TJP, separate Baloch insurgents, and a regional affiliate of Islamic State, known as the Islamic State Khorasan, often claim or are blamed for the violence. Bomb explosion at an election rally in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province killed at least four people and injured several others. Multiple” terrorists, including suicide bombers, attacked the Mach and Kolpur areas in southwestern Balochistan province.
Apart from attacks on security forces, and election rally there is a serious threat to educational institutes in Pakistan. Schools and universities in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, were closed indefinitely on January 22 due to the threat of a possible terrorist attack amid a surge in violence ahead of national elections. Pakistan had already witnessed the most drastic school attack of APS-Peshawar whose wounds still not yet healed.
Challenge for Forthcoming Government and policy options
Growing tide of terrorism is one of the most crucial challenge for the upcoming government. Government has to deal with Taliban’s, Baluchistan insurgency and fragile relations with Iran. Pakistan has deported nearly half of million Afghan refugees in recent months. In these circumstances, Pakistan is likely to become the victim of hostile neighbor in the form of terrorism.
Indian-sponsored terrorism is the other dynamic underlying heightened terrorist activity in Pakistan. The government announced that a dossier containing details and evidence of New Delhi’s role in a deadly 2021 car bombing in Lahore had been prepared which was to be shared with the UN. Government officials often claimed the involvement of India in the insurgencies of Baluchistan. Kashmir and water dispute are also the bone of contention between the two neighbors.
On the other hand, the upcoming government need to revive the economic turmoil in the country. For that purpose the peace and stability is a huge challenge.
Policy option for New Government
The Pakistan new government has a huge challenge in term of security. Dozens of militant groups are operating in Pakistan. Any government will come to power will do a lot.
The first and foremost policy option for the forthcoming government is to revisit the myopic Afghan policy. One of the reasons of resurgence in terrorism is due to flawed Afghan Policy. Policy stakeholders are not involved in making Afghan related security. These policies formed by apolitical forces and neither discussed in Parliament. There was always a conflict of adopting hard or soft stance towards Afghanistan. This lack of clarity costs the lives of millions.
Secondly, the new government should take on board all stakeholders and revisit the National Security Policy to curb the terrorism and crackdown on its facilitators.
Lastly, the new government should address the social and economic disparity and inequalities between provinces. The grievances of Baluchistan must address on priority by providing them social and economic justice.
The governance in Pakistan is not a bed of roses. However, through collective endeavor and visionary leadership that Pakistan can tap into its potential and construct a sustainable and prosperous future for its citizens.
Mr. Imran Yousaf is Mentor – Civil Services Examination, Pakistan.