There is a degree of unease with utilizing the human security framework at times, something which makes the social scientist shift in their seat. The social scientist refuses to look at the human security framework because it lacks the ivory tower-ism, a field which deals with the human would have: an every-man consensus which lacks posturing, postulating and defending opinions rooted in philosophical thought (this is not to deny the existence of such thoughts in the sub-discipline, of course).

To that end, the views on this article will not stray towards critical theory, and while there have been manifold responses to the way the state has handled terrorism ever since Musharraf chose to not have Pakistan bombed back to the Stone Age, they generally straddle an ‘either/or’ framework, where they are a critique of policy, or an out-right rejection of it. I too hold reservations with how civil-military responses to terrorism manifest, but for the purpose of this article they are a bit irrelevant; my friends and family would also rather not have my name somehow added to the list of disappearances in the past few weeks. To avoid both this disclaimer should suffice: this article is not a critique of army policy in how it is being carried out, but a set of normative prescriptions on how responses to terrorism can be augmented by using a human security framework.

It would be prudent to outline what such a framework entails beforehand: human security looks at security as an over-arching goal, comprised of far greater variables than those found in traditional, state centric security conceptions so prevalent today. In moving the idea of security away from considering the ‘state’ as secure and towards securing the individuals in the state, we can approach a reduction towards terrorism by looking at how education, healthcare and how the state manifests itself towards its citizenry can be tweaked, changed and overhauled to reduce instances of terrorism. As stated above, irrespective of one’s knowledge of the political science field, the idea of an increase in state capacity to provide such facilities would presumably inversely impact the proclivity of terrorist incidents. The question then would be why this does not reach the ears of policymakers, or more likely, why they still choose security conceptions that favor the ‘state’ as absolute.

It would be easy to categorize policymakers as ignorant, and some may even go so far as to term them deliberate in their rejection of human security frameworks. That would however, once more move this conversation towards a different tangent. It would not be unwise to mention how the state (here referring to all states, not just Pakistan) suffer from unenthusiastic responses towards programs aimed at dealing with infrastructure and social welfare. The connection between bringing up poverty and security is extremely relevant, but loses out on the public opinions relating to more show-y replies such as military operations, checkpoints and speeches condemning terror.

As we speak, the military is conduction operations in reply to a series of terrorist incidents in the past two weeks, and since military operations need names which create a degree of steely determination in those who say their name aloud, it has been termed ‘Operation Raddul Fasaad’. The operation promises to be in-discriminatory, with the aim to consolidate the gains made in operations past, chiefly with the previous Operation, Zarb-e-Azb.

Given what I have stated above, and given the description the ISPR provided for what this new operation entails, perhaps you can understand how my critique of it would go forth: the state’s latest response to the scourge of terrorism looks at how to respond to terrorism, not at how to effectively plug out the reasons for why terrorism may exist in society. The term ‘knee-jerk’ has been utilized by talking heads and keyboard warriors, and I find it hard to not agree with them.

This is where I state that there is a need for such operations, that the case for the success of past operations can indeed be made, both empirically and the rather more subjective sense of ‘feeling more secure’. Zarb-e-Azb made great improvements towards adopting a more human security centric approach when the end goal was stated as the development of the areas where the operation was conducted, which I would term as being one of its great successes (in methodology more so than in quantifiable ability).

It would not be an overstatement to claim that the state of Pakistan, except for a tiny, tiny minority, is a decidedly oppressive structure for the majority of its residents, a place where the state is seen as another oppressor, of many, with its representatives often providing little in the way of assistance, but as another in a series of burdens one must navigate through. Reference group theory shows us that terrorist groups have to exist alongside mainstream society, evaluating how best to ‘pitch’ themselves to the populace.

If the aftershocks from the current US President’s travel ban (the eponymous ‘Muslim’ ban) have taught us anything, it is that there is a direct relation between policy and the ability for terrorist groups to find collaborators and recruit terrorist fighters and suicide bombers. Using the framing of their values as being more relevant to those of the populace, terrorist groups promise to provide alternative systems of governance, where the inability of the state to provide for its residents is tackled. In a state where healthcare and education are insignificant priorities, where poverty relief is tackled through neoliberal frameworks, and where traditional security approaches are favoured, terrorist groups have the ability to scoop up the economically, socially and existentially disenfranchised.

Terrorism is seen as an intensely irrational act, and to find enough individuals willing to serve as willing participants, both in logistics and in the act of suicide bombing, is largely possible when lapses exist in the state safety net, when operations are seen as the end all, and when the structural inadequacies of the state are not taken into account. Focusing on individuals rather than the state does not eliminate terrorism, which is why a multi-faceted approach is considered key. But, and this is important, the framework does not promise to be all-encompassing: states which have unparalleled ability to provide for their citizenry have seen their citizens slip away to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State. The key then would be to focus on ensuring that we do not continue to alienate individuals.

Policy reform is a tempered process, and it takes time to implement. In the meantime, terrorist groups have found more and more nests to bury themselves into, and have found enough individuals who feel the state to be an oppressor to ally themselves with. If the lesson of previous operations and their inability to promise total security has not been met, then the cycle of oscillations will continue. The prescriptions mentioned above are obvious, and avoid ivory-tower-ism and possess layman resonance; it is a shame that they are lost in the maelstrom of the security state.