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Upsurge of militancy in Pakistan: A case of self inflicted injuries
The word 'militant' is both adjective and noun. In Pakistan, this was well understood and followed by General Zia-ul-Haq. During his tenure as Head of Pakistan (1978-88) General Zia fathered the modern version of militancy in Pakistan as well as made the country a 'breeding ground' for militants.
General Zia, who was a son of a Moulvi from Jalandhar, and an alumni of St. Stephen's College, Delhi, was first the ruler of Pakistan, who zealously attempted to enforce Shariah (Islamic laws) in Pakistan, following which, till date Pakistan is in catch-22 situation and it has become epicenter of militancy.

Gen Zia's Islamic policies were aimed at strengthening Islamic character of Pakistan as well as to exploit religious sentiments to win support for his autocratic military regime. Zia also radicalised Pakistan's armed forces. Process of Islamisation in Pakistan, initiated by Gen. Zia also led to sectarian divide and about 20 per cent of Shias of the total population of Pakistan was sidelined and virtually subjugated by majority Sunni social order of the country.

Later in 1980s, sectarian rifts resulted into the emergence of sect based militant groups like Jamiat-ul-Ansar and Tehrik Nifaz-i-Fiqh Jafaria of Shias and Lashakar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba of Sunnis, respectively. Meanwhile, Gen Zia followed process of Islamisation in an undiscerning manner in civil and military establishments till he was in office.

In 1971 there were 900 Madrassas in Pakistan, and by the end of Gen Zia's regime in the year 1988 there were 8,000 registered and about 25,000 unregistered Madrassas in the country. Since there was virtual uncontrolled growth of 'Madrassas', most of such Islamic institutions were started by untrained, narrow minded and narrow sectarian 'Ulemas'. This further led to gulf between Shias and Sunnis of the country, leading to growth of militant sectarians.

Likewise, Gen Zia's rule also led to Islamisation of Pakistan military. Earlier to Zia's regime, Pakistan military's role was to protect Pakistan's borders and maintain internal security, but during Zia's regime Pakistan military's role was further extended as 'defender of Islam'.

Meanwhile, invasion of Afghanistan by erstwhile Soviet Union forces and Iranian revolution in 1979, further facilitated Gen Zia to enforce Shariah and encourage Sunni fundamentalists to elicit support from Saudi Arabia and the USA. Afghan war was taken as a 'Jihad' with the support of Saudi Arabian money and arms supplied by the USA, channeled through ISI.

After Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, several armed and well trained Jihadi groups emerged, primarily to use them against the USA and NATO forces in Afghanistan and India. Some of such militant groups, located on Pakistani side have tacit support of Al-Qaida and ISI.

Furthermore, Gen Zia led Pakistani army and ISI's ambitious plan to 'break up India by thousand cuts' by launching a secret operation viz. 'Operation Topaz', specially supporting pro-Khalistanis in Punjab and anti Indian Kashmiris in Jammu and Kashmir also gave birth to some other Pakistani and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) based militant groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. These militant outfits also enjoyed tactical support of Al-Qaeda.

Till date, these and some other deadly militants groups are operating with the support of ISI and have been targeting India at regular intervals. Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) sponsored attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and July 13, 2011 are glaring examples of militancy emanating from Pakistan to India.

Significantly, in June 2009, Pakistan for the first time officially admitted that militants and extremists were creation of Pakistan. This was conceded (July 7, 2009, Islamabad) by the then President Asif Zardari adding that such outfits were created and nurtured in Pakistan as a policy to achieve some short term tactical objectives.

Apparently this was pointed towards assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants with the support of Al-Qaida. Zardari also candidly acknowledged that Pakistan had backed militants for proxy war against India.

Of late, there is growing trend of countrywide militancy in Pakistan, which is visible. Despite the fact that the Pakistan government has imposed ban on Al-Qaeda and 25 other Pakistani militant groups belonging to country's Shias, Sunnis, anti-USA, NATO as well as anti-India militant outfits, mostly under pressure from the USA, however, they are still very much in existence and active in Pakistan, generally with the support of ISI .

Notably, the major reasons for causalities in Pakistan due to militancy are attributed to sectarians' intolerance, non-disarming of tribal groups in Waziristan Agency and their zeal for establishing Islamic government in Pakistan after end of Afghanistan war. Meanwhile, the ongoing popularity of ISIS amongst Pakistani militants particularly of Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan, in North Waziristan on Pak-Afghan border on Pakistani side is also a major cause of increased militant attacks in Pakistan.

Significantly, in the year 2013, Pakistan was placed at third position out of 162 countries in the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), after Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. According to a study carried out by the London-based Institute of Economics and Peace, a total of 1, 913 terrorist attacks took place in Pakistan in the year 2013 in which 2345 people were killed as compared to 2492 terrorist attacks killing 6382 persons in Iraq and 1148 such incidents, killing 3111 people in Afghanistan, respectively during the said year.

In Pakistan, 5035 persons were also injured and 701 properties were damaged in the year 2013. Meanwhile, between 2001-2013, a total of 48,994 people were killed, including 5,272 security personnel in Pakistan alone.

Moreover, in the year 2013, there was increase of 37 per cent in deaths and 28 per cent in killings in Pakistan due to militancy. The major reason of increase in terrorist activities is attributed to its close proximity with Afghanistan. Highest number of killings occurred in Pakistan following attacks by the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan, (TTP) whose strength is estimated between 36, 000 to 60, 000.

TTP's strength is known to be highest amongst existing terrorist outfits in the country. Between 2000-13, TTP had claimed 778 terrorist attacks, of which 12 per cent were carried by suicide bombers in Pakistan. Significantly, between 2007-2013, a total 358 suicide attacks took place in Pakistan, which was the highest in the world.

During the year 2013, while 25 per cent of militants' targets and deaths were against private citizens in Pakistan, whereas over 20 per cent such targets and deaths were amongst security men of the country. Meanwhile, over 60 per cent of fatalities in Pakistan were due to bombing and explosions and around 26 per cent from firearms in the year 2013.

Notably, deadliest militant attacks were against religious figures and institutions. Also, in Pakistan, 23 terrorist groups operated in 2013, as compared to 29 in the year 2012. Pakistan's economy too suffered to the tune of US$78 billion from year 2003-13due to militancy in the country.

Despite the fact that Pakistan, of late, is trying hard to check and control terrorist activities around the country, terrorism is going on unabated. In June 2014, Pakistan army, apparently under pressure from the USA, launched an anti-terrorist operation viz. 'Zarb-e-Azb' in North Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan and claimed that since launching of operation 1,200 militants were killed, another 230 arrested and around 132 tons of explosive recovered within short span of five month.

Nonetheless, since terrorism in Pakistan is creation of its own leadership and terrorists have been operating in a highly religious and ideological motivated environment, it is almost beyond doubt that Pakistan would not be able to tame this growing menace in days to come.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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