An Analysis of Counterterrorism & Gender in Pakistan (Part 1)

By December 12, 2018 No Comments

The below is Part One of Two of a noteworthy essay from our inaugural “Langley Hope Academic Excellence in Security and Defence Commentary Award Programme.” Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the publication of more winning and noteworthy submissions.

Executive Summary

Published in 2012, Paul Staniland’s typology on six wartime political orders classifies the types of relationships that can exist between States and Insurgency groups during civil war. Using research that proves women are disproportionately affected in war as violence increases, this paper introduces a gendered version of Staniland’s typology to showcase how Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has had a profoundly negative impact on the women of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. This paper, in using the new gendered typology, demonstrates how Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has operated in one of the most violent spheres of cooperation and thus, has impacted women’s mobility, access to education and healthcare, and has increased the number of internally displaced women in the province. A key policy implication is that alternative counterterrorism strategies, which forego violence in favor of more peaceful tactics, may provide for a more humanitarian solution to civil war.

Introduction: A Gendered War on Terror: Pakistan and It’s Fight Against Militancy

Sixteen years after its inception, Pakistan’s “war on terror” continues to plague the nation. It is estimated that as of 2016, the economic cost of the war had already surpassed $118 billion USD and approximately 60,000 people had been killed.[1] A total of 5.3 million people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) alone had been displaced, with educational institutions, hospitals, roads, and bridges in a state of shambles due to military operations and civil strife in the region.[2] Due to the violence that it has brought to the nation, Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has been a topic of contention amongst civilians and policy makers alike. Research has proven that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) region in the northwest, and the FATA, has borne the brunt of counterterrorism efforts, and this has compromised the security of vulnerable populations in the region.[3] In a recent survey conducted in IDP camps in the northwest, 93% of total respondents expressed that they held military operations responsible for damaging their homes and properties in the displaced areas.[4]

Existing literature criticizes Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy as ineffective and damaging, citing countless military operations as examples of failure. Khalid et. al (2016) are critical of the high cost of various operations along the Af-Pak border, and argue that despite successful missions which have wiped out thousands of militants, the resulting effect on civilian life has compromised Pakistan’s long-term security rather than improved it.[5] Socioeconomic growth in the region has faltered, and ongoing fighting has negatively affected an already unequal social structure in the region.[6] Because of this, women suffer disproportionately.

Literature published by Brohi (2008), Faraz (2017) and Khan (2016) has introduced a gendered outlook on the inefficacies of Pakistan’s post-9/11 military strategy, showcasing how the socioeconomic degradation of regions in the northwest, due to military operations, has affected women in particular.[7][8][9] Brohi describes how Pakistan in the post-9/11 era has further militarised the national security apparatus and this, in turn, has strengthened the resistance to the women’s rights movement. Faraz and Khan build on this by explaining how the destruction of homes and hospitals due to ongoing counterinsurgency efforts have left women without traditional spaces where they can seek shelter or safety. With regards to health, the loss of hospitals in the KPK has left women without the resources to access maternity care and medical services. While the literature showcases the damaging effects of Pakistan’s military campaigns on vulnerable populations in the northwest, specifically women, it does not explain why Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategies disadvantage women in such disproportionate ways. Furthermore, current literature does not critically examine Pakistan’s new 20-point counterterrorism policy through a gendered lens nor does existing research explain how Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy may have exacerbated gender tensions in the KPK.

Thus, this paper will explain why Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has negatively impacted women in the KPK region by using Paul Staniland’s typology on six distinct wartime political orders, which classify the types of relationship that exist between States and Insurgency groups during civil war.[10] Using research that proves that women are disproportionately affected in war especially as violence increases, the typology will assume that as cooperation between States and Insurgents decreases from active to non-existent, violent conflict between the two groups increases and thus, the negative impact upon women also increases. This gendered typology will showcase how Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has operated in one of the most violent spheres of cooperation and thus, has had a destructive impact on vulnerable populations in the KPK.

This argument will develop in three sections. Firstly, the gendered typology will showcase how the increased fighting between State and Insurgents has strengthened fundamentalism in the region, and this has in turn restricted female mobility and co-opted women towards violence. Secondly, the typology will demonstrate how the destruction of social services such as primary education and healthcare facilities has primarily affected young female children and women. Thirdly, the typology will showcase how the destruction of homes and land in the KPK, as a result of counterinsurgency tactics, has primarily disadvantaged women as it has led to displacement and a loss of livelihood for women.

A Gendered Understanding of Staniland’s Typology

Focused on civil war, Staniland has advanced a framework that provides a nuanced understanding of wartime political orders, with a political order being a structure that describes the relationship between insurgency group and state. This relationship implies the environment within which State and Insurgency groups find themselves operating during a period of civil strife. The political orders that exist range from structures that are cooperative, in which civilians may find themselves living in a potentially peaceful environment, to structures that are completely non-cooperative, in which violence is a part of everyday life. Staniland emphasises that it is important to understand that within any civil war, various levels of cooperation can exist at any given time between state and insurgency groups.[11] As described by Staniland:

Cooperation can be active, passive, or nonexistent. Active cooperation involves clear coordinated action towards a shared objective, whether jointly ruling territory, attacking shared enemies, or colluding over illicit economies. Passive cooperation involves live-and-let-live bargains structured around norms of acceptable violence and the creation of “red lines” by state and non-state actors below which each side is willing to restrain violence. This is a world of managing escalation and limiting lethality. Nonexistent cooperation involves intense conflict and hostility, in which norms and expectations of violence are unpredictable and fluid. This is the realm of total war, but it is only one part of the broader world of political violence.[12]

The type of political order is determined when level of cooperation is measured against the distribution of territorial control, either segmented (in which each side controls some territory), or fragmented (in which both sides have presence throughout areas of contestation).

When cooperation (active, passive and non-existent) is measured against distribution of control (segmented or fragmented), six political orders are derived. Described in Table 1.1, these six orders detail the various relationships and resulting environments countries find themselves in during a period of civil war. Staniland emphasises that most civil wars involve varying degrees of all six orders, and orders are always in a state of fluidity.[13] Under active cooperation, the orders of shared sovereignty, and collusion can exist. Within passive, spheres of influence and tacit coexistence could exist. Within nonexistent, clashing monopolies and guerilla disorder might exist. Table 1 showcases the typology. Figure 1.1 in the Appendix provides details on each political order:


Table 1.1: Staniland’s Typology of Wartime Political Orders[14]

The degree of unmitigated violence increases in severity as cooperation moves from active to non- existent. For example, during a period of guerilla disorder, which is a political order describing the least degree of cooperation and shared territory categorized under Fragmented Distribution of Control and Non-existent Cooperation, violence is embedded in every part of social, economic and political life. Violence is unrestrained, with both states and insurgency groups utilising all resources to fight each other and exert dominance.[15] Violence during guerilla disorder is the most brutal, especially when compared to the political order of shared sovereignty, where Insurgency groups and States allow for the peaceful existence of the other and negotiate terms of co- existence.[16]

However, a gendered understanding of this typology does not yet exist. How the varying degrees of violence affect women has not been researched, and the effect on vulnerable populations during different political orders has not been taken into consideration.[17] Therefore, using research that proves that women suffer disproportionately as violence increases during conflict, a gendered understanding of Staniland’s typology can be introduced. As cooperation between states and insurgents decreases from active to non-existent, from segmented control to fragmented, violent conflict between the two groups increases and thus, the negative impact upon women also increases. This gendered typology assumes that it is in the political orders of clashing monopolies and guerilla disorder that women experience the most suffering, as these two orders describe the most violent spheres of cooperation between state and insurgency group. Table 1.2 depicts this revised typology.


Table 1.2: Gendered Typology of Wartime Political Orders

When a gendered typology is introduced to this interpretation of civil war, a third actor is introduced to the relationship transpiring between state and insurgent, namely: the civilian woman. Research that has been commissioned in environments of civil war has proven that women suffer disproportionately as violence increases, since existing inequalities become magnified with the breakdown of social networks.[18] The more violent the conflict, the more likely women will become vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation and inequality. Furthermore, first round impacts for women during civil war assume that women are more likely to experience decreased schooling, forced displacement and migration.[19] The gendered typology still assumes that six political wartime orders are possible when distribution of control is measured against the level of cooperation between states and insurgents. However, the level of negative influence civilian women suffer depends on the political order that exists.

In using this modified gendered typology, this paper will showcase how Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has operated in one of the most violent spheres of cooperation and thus, has had an avoidably large destructive impact on vulnerable women in the KPK. The paper will first provide a brief history of terrorism in the country, then showcase how Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy operates in the political order of clashing monopolies, and finally, how this choice has negatively affected female populace in the KPK.

The Militarization of Pakistan’s Counterterrorism Strategy

Currently, there are over twelve state-recognized terrorist groups in Pakistan, operating independently of each other with opposing ambitions and driving ideologies.[20] Uniformity, unfortunately for the State, is not a key attribute of Pakistan’s terrorism problem and the threats are many and varied (see table 1.3). Of these various terrorist groups, there are some that have pledged allegiance to Daesh, whereas others strongly oppose all that Daesh stands for.[21] Some of these insurgents prioritise the defeat of India in Jammu-Kashmir, whereas others campaign for the implementation of Sharia Law in state government.[22] The Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda and Daesh have all reportedly created footholds within the country,[23] and Pakistani civilians, politicians, diplomats and the armed security forces alike have all been targeted by terrorism.[24] With over 62,000 killed between 2000-2017[25], terrorism has ransacked the nation and destroyed the lives of countless civilians. Pakistan’s issues with militancy can be traced back for decades, proliferating extensively after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1970s, and the training and armament of the Mujahedeen in Pakistan through the support of allies such as the United States.[26]

Sectarian Religiously motivated groups such as Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lakshar-e-Jhangvi, and the Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria.
Anti-Indian Groups focused on the Kashmir dispute that operate with the alleged support of the

Pakistani military and the intelligence agency:

Lakshar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and

Harakat ul-Mujahadeen

Afghan Taliban The original Taliban movement from

Afghanistan, with leadership centered around Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Al-Qaeda and its Affiliates The global jihadist organisation founded by

Osama-Bin Laden, and led by Ayman al-


The Pakistani Taliban Also known as the TTP. A coalition of extremist groups in the Federally

Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), led by Mullah Fazlullah

Table 1.3: Terrorist Groups in Pakistan[27]

Currently, different political orders are believed to have existed between the state of Pakistan and insurgents throughout this time period. Collusion, a political order characterised by heavy cooperation between State and Insurgent, is believed to have been arranged by the Pakistani State in various times since Pakistan’s independence. Collusion occurred in the 1940s and 1970s through the sponsoring of Sikh and Kashmiri militants against India,[28] in the 1980s through the sponsoring of Al Qaeda, Haqqani Network, and Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban,[29] and in the 1990s as well, through the sponsorship of Muttahida Qaumi Movement In Karachi.[30] Portions of the Pakistani Taliban are said to receive under-the-table funding from reportedly ‘independent’ sources in the State to this day.[31],[32] The Pakistani State and Insurgency groups within the nation have also co-operated in the political order spheres of influence, which is known as a wartime order in which the state and armed groups agree to control different territories, while engaging in low-level but recurrent communication in which certain types of violence are acceptable. Since the mid-1990s, the Pakistani central state has relinquished control of neighborhoods in the city of Karachi to the MQM as a tool for managing violence.[33] From 2009-2010, the police even left significant portions of territory in the hands of the Pakistani Taliban because it would allow for momentary peace in the region between insurgent groups and the state.[34]

Despite the various political orders that have existed over time, Pakistan’s Western border has been described as a breeding ground for fundamentalism[35] and the State has grown even more restless to end its 16-year-long war on terror.[36]

As a result, Pakistan’s counterterrorism initiatives have recently taken a hard-line attitude to wiping out insurgency. A “one-size-fits-all” approach has been utilized to counter all forms of militancy, and the primary objective has been to physically dismantle terrorist cells and eradicate them using force. In this new approach, negotiation is no longer allowed; nor is any dialogue with the enemy. Counterterrorism strategies have become primarily military-focused, rigid and reactionary in nature and assume an ‘us vs them’ mentality. Allowance for rehabilitation, and enforcement of the rule of law has been superseded by a push for the use of force as the main tool for counterinsurgency. Therefore, Pakistan’s counterterrorism initiatives have entered one of the most violent spheres of cooperation: clashing monopolies. This order is characterized by violent competition between the State and armed actors, pitting the two against each other in violent clashes across defined battle lines.

All counterterrorism efforts have been reorganised to fall under the 2015 Counter Terrorism

National Action Plan (CNAP). Triggered by the December 2014 school shooting in Peshawar (KPK), the CNAP was hastily created and introduced in 2015, with State leaders vowing to target all terror groups without distinction.[37] The CNAP relies heavily on blunt instruments, the militarisation of counterterrorism, and lethal force to fight terrorism.[38] Rather than empowering the criminal justice system and building police bodies to enforce rule of law, the army and the police force are being called to focus on the ‘wiping out’ of terrorism completely. Rather than the policing ethos of “detaining the target and prosecuting it,” this type of security mentality leads to “engaging the target and eliminating it.”[39] This attitude is echoed heavily in certain key points within the 20-point CNAP. For example, line 1 promises the execution of convicted terrorists; line 3 gives the assurance that no armed militias will be allowed to function in the country; line 18 iterates that terrorists must be dealt with ‘firmly.’

The reasoning behind Pakistan’s firm resolve to wipe out terrorism through sheer force alone can be attributed to the structure of Pakistan’s governance. The Pakistani army continues to play a huge role in dealing with major security issues, defense matters and key aspects of foreign policy.[40]

The army is responsible for controlling the military, and has claimed to be the ‘defenders of the Islamic ideology of Pakistan.’[41] Therefore, due to its overpowering role in Pakistan’s defense issues, the formation and execution of Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has been left to the hands of army leadership.[42]To date, it has been estimated that the State, in collaboration with security forces, has conducted 251 major and 735 minor operations.45 Having labelled the state of terrorism in Pakistan a national emergency, operations have been executed under extreme pressure,[43] leading to unprecedented violence in the KPK, and upheaving the socioeconomic structure of the region.

Pakistan’s response to militancy has not only been disproportionate to the threat posed but has also failed to realise the gendered implications of the strategy’s implementation in unstable regions such as the FATA. For a country that has, for the second year in a row, ranked second-worst for gender inequality on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report[44], the failure to acknowledge how women and men are impacted differently by Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategy has, potentially, devastating long-term impacts in the realm of gender equality in the nation.

By operating in this staunchly violent sphere of cooperation, the implications for the impacts upon vulnerable populations such as civilian women are profound. The gendered typology assumes that as violence increases within a civil war, so does the negative influence on women. The next section will explore how Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy, primarily existing in the sphere of clashing monopolies, has negatively impacted women of the KPK.

Appendix A:                                            

Figure 1.1: Staniland’s Typology of Wartime Political Orders[45]


Typology Description
Shared Sovereignty (Active, Segmented) Involves active cooperation between a state and its foes in which each side has bounded control over particular territory. This is a negotiated form of political order in which the insurgent organization retains autonomy and standing structures of coercive capability. The state has not shattered its foe but instead the two sides have arranged a clear division of influence and authority that satisfies both in the pursuit of mutual gains. Violence between the forces is minimized and institutionalized mechanisms for achieving joint goals are devised, even with no monopoly of violence.
Collusion (Active, Fragmented) This is a situation in which the state actively cooperates with non-state armed actors that are geographically intermeshed with its areas of operation. States provide logistics and protection, while insurgents offer intelligence and deniability. Collusion involves the coordinated pursuit of a shared goal, such as facilitating illicit smuggling, targeting common enemies, or divvying up gains from extortion.
Spheres of Influence (Passive, Fragmented) This includes segmented areas of control in which the state and its armed-group foe agree to limit the boundary violations across each sphere.65 State and insurgent leaders engage in low-level but recurrent communication over which types of violence and policy are acceptable and which will trigger an escalated response. Ceasefires, informal truces, and agreements about where state and insurgent forces will tread (and when) are intended to manage spirals of escalation. Priority is given to minimizing costs of repression and managing conflict rather than attempting to maximize a state or insurgent monopoly of violence.
Tacit Coexistence (Passive, Fragmented) involves the interweaving of state and non-state violent organizations in the context of fragmented, overlapping control. Rather than clearly delineated spheres of influence, this order involves careful attempts to limit the degree of active conflict and violence between states and non-state armed groups in intermixed daily life. Security forces do not go out at night while insurgents do not go out during the day, states accept that insurgents tax local farmers while insurgents do not target senior government officials, and neither side makes a total effort to destroy the other. This is particularly common when governments have local contacts with insurgents that allow them to communicate the limits above which it will become politically necessary to engage in increased repression, and vice versa.
Clashing Monopolies (Nonexistent, Fragmented) is an order characterized by violent competition between the state and an armed actor that each control distinct territory. Clashing monopolies pit specialists in violence against one another across clearly defined battle lines. The boundaries between state and non-state forces are rigid and easy to identify. The contest is to determine who can inflict the most pain on the other in hopes of shattering the internal organization and fighting power of its competitor. Politics shapes war aims, but this contest is a primarily military struggle with an emphasis on logistics, manpower,
  and arms. It is similar to a conventional war in which each side tries to break through into territory held by the other.
Guerilla Disorder (Nonexistent, Fragmented) This is a situation of fluid violence in which there are few clear norms or rules about the infliction of lethal violence when insurgent and state forces are intertwined in the same physical spaces. Violence is an embedded part of political, economic, and social life, lacking clear or institutionalized rules for the management of lethality. Every opportunity to impose costs is taken by each state and both sides unleash their full insurgent and counterinsurgent capabilities. States, civilians, and insurgents are locked into the production of unrestrained violence