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Rising Terrorism Requires Public Support to Eliminate it

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Terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has various causes and impacts. According to some sources, the main reasons for the increase in terrorist incidents in KP in June and July 2023 are the regrouping and resurgence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant organization that has been fighting against the Pakistani state since 2007. The TTP has reunited several breakaway factions and launched attacks on security forces and civilians in several districts of KP, such as Bajaur, North Waziristan, and Swat.

The spillover effect of the instability and violence in neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban have taken over most of the country after the withdrawal of US and NATO forces in 2021. The TTP has maintained ties with the factions of Afghan Taliban and others, and has used the border to seek refuge and support from them.
The dissatisfaction and alienation of some segments of the local population, especially the Pashtuns, who have suffered from human rights violations, economic deprivation, and political marginalization during the military operations against the militants have further deteriorated it. Some Pashtuns have joined or sympathized with the TTP, out of alienation and economic compulsions.

Accordingly, to address the root causes of terrorism in KP, Pakistan needs to adopt a comprehensive and holistic approach that combines both hard and soft measures. There is a need to ehance the capacity and coordination of the security forces to counter the threat of the TTP and other militant groups, while ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law. This may include improving intelligence-sharing, border management, counter-IED capabilities, and civilian-military relations. It is also critical to engage in dialogue and reconciliation with the moderate elements of the TTP and other groups, while isolating and eliminating the hardliners. This may involve offering amnesty, incentives, and political representation to those who renounce violence and accept the constitution of Pakistan. However, this process should be led by political governments which have the backing of the people.

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Furthermore, it is also important to address the socio-economic grievances and aspirations of the people of KP, especially the Pashtuns, by providing them with development opportunities, basic services, education, health care, and jobs. This may also entail empowering the local governments, civil society, and media to foster democracy, accountability, and transparency.

Public support is critical for eliminating terrorism because it can affect the motivation, capacity, and legitimacy of both the terrorists and the counter-terrorists. Public support can provide moral, material, and human resources to either side, as well as influence their perception of success or failure. Public support can also shape the public opinion and policy preferences of both domestic and international actors regarding terrorism-related issues .

Therefore, both terrorists and counter-terrorists need to win over or at least neutralize the public support for their cause. Terrorists may use propaganda, violence, or social services to appeal to their target audience or to intimidate their opponents. Counter-terrorists may use coercion, persuasion, or inducement to deter or dissuade potential supporters or sympathizers of terrorism. However, both sides need to be careful not to alienate or antagonize the public by using excessive or indiscriminate force or by violating their rights or values .

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