Economic crisis leaves Pakistan’s counter-terrorism plans in limbo

The country’s military establishment has been asked by the government to provide a plan on how they can cut their non-combat expenditure….reports Hamza Ameer

Pakistan’s dismal economic condition and its struggle to meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund (OMF), imposing taxes, increasing rate of inflation and snowballing petroleum prices have not only forced the Shehbaz Sharif-led government to introduce an austerity drive, but have also affected the capability and capacity of the military establishment to launch a counter-terrorism offensive.

The country’s military establishment has been asked by the government to provide a plan on how they can cut their non-combat expenditure, given the nature of the severe economic crisis.

Experts say that while terrorism and groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and others continue to carry out coordinated attacks in different parts of the country, the military establishment is not in a position to launch a counter-terrorism offensive, which can be allocated with enough financial assistance to sustain it.

It would also not be wrong to maintain that terror groups, who are re-organising in different parts of the country, are also aware that they have the leverage, time and space as the military establishment may keep itself limited to IBOs (Intelligence Based Operations) or small scaled offensives, due to its bad financial conditions.

In view of the current situation of the country, experts believe that launching a military offensive may just not be possible for the military establishment.

People examine a police building following an attack in Karachi, Pakistan, on Feb. 17, 2023. At least three attackers were killed and 10 people wounded on Friday night when a group of terrorists opened fire at a police building in Karachi, police and hospital officials said. (Str/Xinhua)

“Pakistan’s armed forces and its intelligence agencies are well aware of the country’s financial situation. And they would not find themselves in a position to launch operations like ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ and ‘Raddul Fasad’ to root out terrorists from its soil,” said senior analyst Javed Siddique.

“And the fact that Pakistan’s financial problems hinder the way of an all-out counter-terrorism operation by the armed forces, our neighboring Afghanistan and the Taliban regime there, along with the Pakistani Taliban can continue to enjoy each other’s support and try to make full use of this vulnerable financial condition of the country,” he added.

However, other military experts say that the resurgence of terrorism in the country does not need an all-out offensive and can be tackled through small scale operations as the militant groups have not yet been able to establishment themselves inside Pakistan and are using various sleeper cells for coordination and implementation of their terror plans.

“Pakistan armed forces have foiled tons of terror attack attempts, nabbed hundreds of TTP militants through ongoing IBOs (Intelligence Based Operations) and would continue to do so in the coming days as well,” said an official with knowledge of the ongoing military operations.

“We are well aware of our limitations and are also aware that Pakistan’s financial condition is not normal. But we should not forget that these financial gaps should not allow terrorism to prosper, and the armed forces are doing everything to ensure that terrorists do not get a single easy breath on Pakistani soil.”

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