Pakistan: Militancy, fear and Nuclear Weapons

The security dynamics for the last few years in Pakistan have demonstrated that the transnational Islamic militants possess enough political, strategic, operational and tactical clout to challenge the very existence of the state. The military and political elites of the country seem widely divided on the question: how to deal with this gigantic threat, given the fact that they all have wide and various vested interests. Since the security establishment calls the shots in national security matters, it is not willing to lose supremacy in this regard.

The recently held general elections can be viewed as an eye-opener to nullify the assumption that the hardline radical Islamic militants’ suicide bombings against the civilians and security forces are in reaction to the US drone strikes – as there is perception among the militants that the drones are operating with the connivance of the Pakistani government. Militants totally spared right-wing political parties (PML-N, PTI, JUI-F, etc.) to have full electioneering while knocked down on the left-wing liberal political parties (PPP, ANP, MQM etc.). The agenda of these militants is enormously clear now — first to establish Islamic Emirates of Waziristan, subsequently use this emirate as a launching pad to spread over the whole of Pakistan with the ultimate aim of enforcing their own interpreted Sharia (Islamic Law) over the globe.

Things are going from bad to worse with every passing day in the midst of alarmingly dangerous developments. The self-proclaimed holy warriors (Jihadists) have already manifested their will and resolve to strike in the country wherever they want – attacks on military headquarters GHQ in Rawalpindi, Mehran Base Karachi, and Kamra Aeronautical Complex are reflections of that. Furthermore, they have successfully instilled the element of extreme fear in the minds and hearts of major political leaders – one political leader (chief minister of Punjab) even once requested TTP to spare his province from their ruthless attacks. Now-a-days, the ruling political party (PML-N) along with Imran Khan and Fazl-ur-Rahman are offering the TTP a place at the negotiating table, however, [the latter is not in the mode of paying any heed to this offer.

The fair assessment of the ground realities reveals (one may differ) that the very fabric of Pakistani society, including intellectuals, academicians, media persons, journalists, civil activists, government servants and businessmen, is under intense fear from these militants. The space for the liberals in the country is fast shrinking with the extremists getting inroads in every field of life. The story does not end here, as mentioned above; the world view of these militants is based on extremely aggressive lines. As a matter of fact, they want to resolve all issues including the decades-long Kashmir dispute with India by an open war or Jihad.

Islamic militants may drag Pakistan and India into a war through their malicious acts such as replicating Mumbai (2008) like carnage. Everyone knows ‘war is a slippery road’, it may escalate to a doomsday scenario where both states could use nuclear weapons against each other. The strategic dynamics between both the countries could drift into increasingly dangerous proportions if the militants go for a major attack on Indian interests anywhere in the world. Dr. Tariq Rahman, a Pakistani national distinguished professor, believes that the militants want Pakistan to pursue a very aggressive foreign policy vis-à-vis India. His survey is reproduced below:


Militancy Among Madrassa Students in 2003 (N=142)

(In percentages)

What should be Pakistan’s Priorities?
1. Take Kashmir away from India by an open war? Yes59.86 No31.69 Don’t Know8.452
2. Take Kashmir away from India by supporting Jihadi groups to fight with the Indian army? 52.82 32.39 14.793
3. Support Kashmir cause through peaceful means  only (i.e. no open war or sending Jihadi groups across the line of Control) 33.80 54.93 11.27

The views of the Madrassa teachers were even more militant:


Militancy Among Madrassa Teachers (N=27)

(In percentages)

1. Open War Yes70.37 No22.02 Don’t Know7.412.
2. Jihadi Groups 59.26 29.63 11.11
3. Peaceful means 29.63 66.67 3.70

Source: Tariq Rahman, “Madrassa: Religion, Poverty and the Potential for Violence

The Pakistani government, especially the security establishment, needs to re-visit its policy as well as strategy to deal with these militants both in domestic and global contexts. First of all, there should not be any dialogue with these elements rather they should be dealt with an iron hand. Secondly, they should not be allowed at any cost to use Pakistani soil to replicate a Mumbai-like attack on India. Thirdly, Pakistan needs to isolate them and break their active and passive support from the ranks of common masses by using all means. And, above all Pakistan needs to make peace with India. The latter could be achieved by delinking our nuclear policy from India – starting cooperation with the international community in the realm of nonproliferation and disarmament. To let the CD start negotiations on FMCT and halting the production of weapons-grade fissile materials may be a good start in this direction.

The time has come for Pakistan that it should no longer consider India as a strategic threat — though issues are there that need to be resolved through peaceful dialogue. The newly installed democratic government in Islamabad has very rare opportunity to seize the moment by starting befriending India. India also needs to reciprocate given the fact that the lasting peace is in the larger interest of both the countries. This is the only way to save South Asia from a nuclear catastrophe.

Posted in , India-Pakistan Relations, Internal Security, Militancy, Nuclear, Pakistan, Policy, Security, Terrorism

Muhammad Sadiq

Muhammad Sadiq is a lecturer at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS), Quiad-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad, Pakistan since 2007 and a former visiting fellow (fall 2012) at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, MIIS California. He also served at Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) as an “International Relations Analyst” for a short period of time in 2007. He has M.Sc and M.Phil degrees from DSS, QAU. Besides teaching, he is pursuing his PhD from the School of Politics and International Relations, QAU. His area of research and teaching include Nuclear Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament, and Nuclear Strategy.

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22 thoughts on “Pakistan: Militancy, fear and Nuclear Weapons

  1. You are cent percent right. But, I think the problem with Pakistan is that it feels itself ontologically insecure vis-a-vis India. The identity of Pakistan (no matter how ill-formed and vague) is threatened as per the strategic soothsayer of Pakistan. I think the first and foremost issue of discussion is the ill-perceived identity of Pakistan and if it is not addressed, the Mullah-Military unholy nexus is buttered fingered with the situation as the institutional behavior will not allow any institution, including the strategic soothsayers of Pakistan, to undo what it has done so far. I think, these are we who can change the course of action, not those at the helm of affairs. The ontology of Pakistan needs redefinition and should be carved according to the political realities of the 21st century, not of Medieval era.

  2. Dear Sadiq, I really learnt from your piece of writing, however I have some differences to share. First, I think it will be unfair to call the Jihadistis self-proclaimed holy warriors particularly in the case of Pakistan. For that we have to look back into the history for two to three decade and re call cold war era. For this I have to agree and quote the work of Keith Krause, that it was the state (of Pakistan) who created these Jihadi groups and now they are out of the control of the state. Second, the under cover relations and dual use of these groups by Pakistan’s security establishment for its own vested interests, for that please read the Terrorism Analysis Report by Federation of American Scientists, which I have to agree with again. Ask a common person from targeted areas and they will give you a clearer picture. We (the political and security leadership in Pakistan) need to have consensus on how to deal with the actors, I do agree with you that there is a division not just in ideas but also in practice. Third, you have missed the foreign interventions whether friendly (KSA and Iran) or compulsory interventions (like US and India etc) who are supporting these groups, and remember this is not mere conspiracy, evidences in abundance are available cam be found online. The attacks on GHQ and Mahran base and Kamra etc, I genuinely are not possible without a proper training and intelligence information. At the same time you can not ignore to analyse the cost of these operations, whether suicide attacks or hit and run, you will realize that there is huge amount of money required to launch and execute these attacks, where this money comes from in the hands of these groups, is a question worth addressing. Fourth, Pak-India relations do not solely depend or determined by the activities of these groups. This challenge emerged if I am not wrong for the last two decades or so, and before that Pak and India had fought three wars. Though these groups were used by the security establishment of Pakistan in the case of Kashmir. What bothers us now is the disgruntled attitude of these groups and this is again a missing like in your article. I would love to read the complete research of Tariq Rahman before I comment about it. However, I must say that kind of mind-set reflected in the tables is because of fault-lines in our policies at the state level. So I agree with you that we need to re-visit our policies and shift from reactive to proactive policy orientation and formation. Fifth, the use of coercive strategy in your words ‘iron handed’ are we not using it for the last more than a decade? Do not we need to evaluate or performance against the coercive strategy? I would say two things regarding this point, one, we need to see some alternatives and I have few to share but I will limit myself here. Two, if at all, we have to use coercive strategy, we must seek consensus among all the stakeholders. Last but of course not the least, it was an amazing piece of writing and I would appreciate if you can post my point of view as an article itself instead of a comment. The the title should be “A Response to ‘Pakistan: Militancy, fear and Nuclear Weapons'”. Thank you for your time and welcome for disagreements:)

  3. Few more points to mention. Regarding Pak-India relations vis-à-vis the terrorist groups, you can not subside the recent allegations of Indian Interior Ministry official regarding the Mombai attacks, I am sure you are aware of that. And also the role of Pakistan’s security establishment in halting peace process between Pak and India. So I would say we have to focus more on limiting our military leadership in order to create peace with India instead of wrongly focusing of terrorist groups which are by product of our fundamentally flawed policies. Thank you.

  4. I agree with the nature of threat you have described but I disagree with the linkage of Mudrsa research with whole society. Keeping in view the Mudarsa culture of Pakistan, I think it very positive that some percentage of people in Mudarsa including students and teachers have voted against the typical Mullah-mentality.
    You have written about militants taking inroads to our society but you must also mention here that they are much hated. They are even hated by some reiligious factions too.
    I agree with your opinion to have good relations with India but totally disagree with the measures you have suggested like that of FMCT and Disarmament. It is strange if you suggest delinking Pakistan’s nuclear policy with India and go for unilateral Disarmament.
    It is also strange to see your recommendation regarding consideration of India as ‘no strategic threat’. There is a lot to prove India as the major strategic threat if Pakistan is disarmed (as you suggested).
    I am in complete disagreement with your suggestions regarding Pakistan’s National Security interests. It is totally impossible for Pakistan to survive without her nuclear weapons and detaching them with the Indian threat.

  5. I fail to understand that when Indians has 2/3rd of her offensive forces strategically and operationally poised against Pakistan. Plus India is actively supporting insurgencies in Balochistan and elsewhere, the proofs of which were handed over to Manmohan Singh by Yousaf Raza Gillani in 2008. How can Pakistan alter its threat perception with the given circumstances. The lines written above remind me policy of appeasement of Chamberlain vis-a-vis Hitler in 1930s and result was devastating. Writer please reconcile.

  6. Sir my compliments for such a nice works.

    Sir, there may be occasions to have an alternate view, still my focus remains on one line of the overall wonderfull piece of work / analysis:
    “The time has come for Pakistan that it should no longer consider India as a strategic threat”….
    There is off course threat, perception of the threat and then misperception of the threat but having one not considering other “the enemy” does not exclude latter’s ulterior motives to seriously challanging security of earlier. I am amazed on the discource of general media on Pakistan’s threat to be “internal” rather than “external”? On this account India remains a strategic threat while all other internal threats remain of tactical [immediate] nature. We may like to seek empiricsm on this and latest example of such a manifestation remains [again] Mumbai carnage which was according to Indians themselves an “inside job”. And there is a long list of such instances…..leaving those core issues aside. Even on internal front we keep hearing various officials mentioning “the enemy’s” hand.

    We indeed feel encouraged and boosted on seeing our teachers exhibiting excellent work at various fora – thus leading by example.

  7. Hi Sadiq,

    I came to know about this website from an Article that Appeared in The American The initiative of is highly commendable as this new website is designed to serve a new generation of young analysts in India and Pakistan to enable them to find common ground and communicate directly with each other on security issues that now divide their nations.

  8. Excellent appraisal of the situation but there remain too many ifs and buts to sort out. Pakistan’s problems start from its Theocratic Constitution, faulty rendition of History and Textbooks that promote hate for others communities, countries and religions. This hatred bred has seeped into the psyche of citizens with devastating consequences which are threatening the State. Secondly, these policies have empowered the militant mindset now threatening to tear the country apart.
    Using proxies in the form of non State actors may have hurt neighbors to some extent but more importantly it has given the Militants strategic depth, within every layer of the Government — paralyzing the Government ability to retaliate and rendering it impotent. No one outside Pakistan believes the genie can be put back into the bottle without copious blood being shed. If Pakistan does not take on and neutralize the Terror groups it has patronized the prognosis for Peace now or in the future remain dim. As rightly pointed out by the Author if terror groups based in Pakistan strike neighbors like they have repeatedly done in the past, things could get out of control. Better Pakistan does its own clean up job rather than wait for external intervention.

  9. Disagree. A member of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation had accused incumbent governments of “orchestrating” the terror attack on Indian Parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attacks, The Times of India reported on Sunday.A former Indian home ministry officer submitted his declaration in the Supreme Court of India which said that he was told by a former member of the CBI-SIT team that both the terror attacks (Parliament and Mumbai) were staged “with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation(sic).” What are you trying to Say.

  10. Disagree. A member of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation had accused incumbent governments of “orchestrating” the terror attack on Indian Parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attacks, The Times of India reported .A former Indian home ministry officer submitted his declaration in the Supreme Court of India which said that he was told by a former member of the CBI-SIT team that both the terror attacks (Parliament and Mumbai) were staged “with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation(sic).” What are you trying to Say.

  11. Out of 13 Corps, seven Indian Corps are deployed against Pakistan. Majority of its airbases are also poised against Pakistan and its Navy is geared toward blocking Karachi in the event of war. Besides equipping its forces with latest weaponry and technology, India is refurbishing the obsolete military equipment with US-Israel efforts. Indian defence budget is increasing annually at an alarming rate. India has since long been aspiring to turn Pakistan into a captive Indian market and to encircle Pakistan. It has partially encircled Pakistan after occupying two-thirds Kashmir, which overlooks AJK, and Siachen Glacier which dominates Gilgit-Baltistan, and substantially enhancing its naval presence in the Indian Ocean to turn Arabian Sea as its exclusive domain so as to quarantine Pakistan. After opening Pakistan specific consulates in Afghanistan and in Iranian provinces bordering Pakistan for the purposes of sabotage and subversion, and helping Iran in building Chahbahar Port and linking it with Indian constructed Highway Delaram-Zaranj in Afghanistan, its strategic encirclement plan is near completion. And this GooGloo author is advocating that India is not a threat. Yes India is not threat because……. India has Katrina Kaif

  12. The thoughts and wishes of the author of this article are much appreciated.
    I, however, believe that the facts are much more different and widely complex than being projected here in this article.
    A few questions to the Author of the article:
    Did the author read or heard new evidences coming out behind bombing in Mumbai?
    Does the author know what does Jihad means in actual term?
    How sure is the author that whoever is accepting the responsibility behind bombing and attack on civil and military installations are those TTP or someone else is claiming responsibility on their behalf?
    How did they acquire the capabilities to carry out these attacks? Did or do they have any foreign funding?
    Can author of this article do some research to find out who is supplying arms to terrorists in Baluchistan?
    The author here failed to realise and capture the bigger picture of what’s going on behind the scene in his overwhelming love for our eastern neighbour. In his love, he probably forgets that their intelligence agencies planned and carried out attacks in Mumbai and admitted by their official in their court of law.
    The author lacks the knowledge and basic understanding of national and international players pulling the strings in pursuit of their interests in the region.
    I would suggest the author should do some research before coming up with these funny imaginations and theoretical propositions.
    I don’t find the article credible enough to take it seriously especially when author lies about Mumbai Attacks, his wrong approach about the use of Islamic words and also his approach to project Islam as a religion of terror.
    I would like to suggest that the author should study Islam before using any Islamic term and should seriously think of implications of misusing Islamic terms.

  13. The author Mr.Sadiq seems to be in fairy world where one can see everything good. I came up with many funny Ideas like the Kashmir issue which he assumes isn’t any as in my knowledge it is the major factor of tension between both the arch rivals. The other funny thing is Mr.Sadiq is also a lecturer in Quaid-e-Azam University but the thing to worry about is that he even doesn’t know why Pakistan goes for nuclear? As Pakistani did it not because of Russia, U.S but it was just to secure its parameter from there only enemy India. Also if India and Pakistan is not the enemy why Indian’s always lags behind in peace process with Pakistan? He is thinking like an ostrich.
    If China is a strategic threat to India?
    If yes, should India stop considering it that way? He is living in a fool’s paradise.

  14. Dear Sadiq. nice piece of writing but I have to say that the comments by Ommer Abbasi, Dr. Shahid Bukahri and Ali Zaman, carry a lot of wright.
    especially if you watch todays documentary “Witness” by Aljazeera and American involvement in insurgencies in different countries.
    Please do not forget we do not find a friend on our Eastern border.
    I will also request you to be a little more careful in bringing Islam or Islamic terminologies in your writings.
    Our understanding of Islam might be very limited and may lead to propagate a Negative Islamic Image.
    It is a nice work regardless.

  15. I completely agree with the fact that terrorism is the most lethal threat Pakistan is facing in the contemporary scenario. However, in my view Pakistan has failed to counter the ideology of militants. The only solution lies in developing a concert strategy that can provide the people under the influence of terrorists ideology with an anti-thesis. Terrorism is an outcome of adaption of short term strategies (by governments), poverty and lack of education in masses. For having peace in South Asia responsibility lies on the shoulders of both Pakistani and Indian governments. The leaders of both states should join hands to address all the issues that may lead to the exploitation of poor masses by these militant groups.

  16. Ibrahim! Very appreciable observations. I totally agree with you on your point “The ontology of Pakistan needs redefinition and should be carved according to the political realities of the 21st century, not of Medieval era”.

  17. Ommar Hayat Abbasi! You raised few controversial aspects related to militancy in our region which certainly need to be debated. Given the fact that it’s a blog post essentially 400-600 words, so it’s very hard to cover all the facets of the problem. I tend to disagree with your point “foreign interventions whether friendly (KSA and Iran)…” First of all, the word “intervention” is to heavy to be used here, one might consider to use “involvement”. Second, involvement either by great powers or friendly countries (KSA, Iran) has never been in favor of Pakistan — rather it’s been fueling the problem of militancy. And thank you very for suggesting few further studies on the subject matter.

  18. Dr. Shahid! Excellent observations especially related to disliking of madarrasa extremist mentality among the ranks of common people. I wish this would have been truth but it’s certainly not the case. The extremists enjoy huge support either passive or active from a sizable portion of common people — just one example, they’ve so many recruitment (punjabi Taliban) even from the settled areas of the country.

  19. Dr. Shahid and Sagheer Sb! About my recommendation “The time has come for Pakistan that it should no longer consider India as a strategic threat”, I would like to explain further. According to available theoretical literature on Threat Perception, one has to differentiate between Actual and Potential threats. When I say Pakistan should no longer consider India as a strategic threat, it means India is no more an actual threat, however, given the fact of heavy armament both conventional and unconventional in the region still makes India as a potential threat to Pakistan.

  20. Dr. Shahid! “delinking our nuclear policy from India – starting cooperation with the international community in the realm of nonproliferation and disarmament”. I was proposing that Pakistan should have it’s independent policy vis-a-vis nonproliferation and disarmament initiatives within the global nonproliferation regime. In my point of view, letting CD start negotiations on FM(C)T would better serve Pakistan’s national interest rather having isolationist tendencies. If CD starts negotiations, perhaps it will take long time to conclude such a treaty because divergent stances among major stakeholders with regards to verification and scope of the treaty. The other main thing that Pakistan needs to be mindful is that if the FM(C)T is negotiated outside the CD without Pakistan’s participation and is finally concluded, it will further isolate it in the realm of nuclear nonproliferation — such a development could further weaken Pakistan’s case for civil nuclear technology.

  21. Dear Sadiq, I agree with you on the nature of threat, Pakistan is facing. But according to my sense and learning so far, I have belief that Pakistan has been equally withheld by jihadists and liberals. Liberals failed to deliver on their promises, especially rule of law and governance, while jihadists fully exploited the ‘legitimacy and credibility gaps’ of the former. The misdeeds of both of these poles created an effective smoke screen, which was splendidly used by the ‘security establishment’ to implement and enhance their agenda. Thus, Pakistan cannot push back jihadists and security establishment, until and unless, state run by politicians (be it from right, left or center) delivers on rule of law and governance. Moreover, history bears witness to the fact that the excellence in security and economics stem out of politics, therefore, Pakistan needs to readjust its political compass first, and without it we can wander for centuries, but with no destination.

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