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Editorial: Device a counter-narrative

It has been more than 16 years since the full-fledged terrorism has been unleashed on Afghanistan and the US-led international community in the country, but we have yet to cultivate and functionalize a comprehensive and sustainable counter-narrative to the one injected by Pakistan and implemented by its war proxies for waging a punitive war against Afghanistan and its people, aimed at destabilizing our motherland and undermining interests of US-led coalition in the region. Considering the continued wrongdoings of Pakistan, collective conscience and will by the Unity Government and our regional and international partners must be spurred into actions. There should be an impregnable national, regional and international consensus on taking the fight against terrorism and terror sponsor states to its logical end. But all these efforts need to be reinforced through an ideological challenge to the narrative of the terrorists. That is where the role of religious scholars in Afghanistan and ethnic nationalist forces in Pakistan becomes imperative. The High Peace Council (HPC) has welcomed a suggestion by the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo of establishing a joint committee of religious scholars from Afghanistan, Indonesia and Pakistan to seek ways for peace in Afghanistan. The ideas came under discussion during a visit of high-ranking HPC delegation’s visit to Jakarta months back. We should be supportive to this initiative, but not optimistic, as Pakistan and its war proxies only understand the language they speak. Anyhow, HPC and NSA, with collaboration of our strategic allies should work on counter-narratives to confront and defeat terrorism and terror sponsor states. First, we have to cultivate inter-faith and inter-ethnic narratives. These alternative narratives encourage general support for peace and as well as tolerance between ethnicities and religions, as Afghanistan is diverse in terms of religious and ethnic identity. Secondly, religious and ideological counter-narratives need to be seeded. It could help us in refuting and dismantling the religious and ideological elements of the violent extremist narratives. Third, Islam as peaceful and non-violent-narrative reinforces the positive and peaceful aspects of Islam. Fourth, factual counter-narratives could underscore the incorrect components of violent extremist narratives, reinforcing factual evidence. Fifth, emotional and psychological counter-narratives mainly address the ‘pull’ factors—the emotional or psychological incentives that an individual might feel are beneficial by joining a violent extremist organization. Moreover, offensive strategy against Pakistan should a part of defense. Drone strikes—the way forward to mount pressure on terrorists and their hosting country must be increased across the Tribal Region—under the unauthorized and disputed administration of Pakistan and extend it to other parts of that country in a bid to hit out terrorists in their safe sanctuaries. Religious clerics in Pakistan should be held accountable and seminaries need to be locked up. If Pakistan does not cooperate by shunning its project of terrorism, then the US-led international community is in dire need of launching direct military actions against terror havens in Pakistan to help bringing durable peace and stability to Afghanistan and the region.

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