Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Empowering Pakistan's Civil Society to Counter Violent Extremism

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Empowering Pakistan's Civil Society to Counter Violent Extremism

Article excerpt


Pakistan is among the most strategically important countries for the United States because of its nuclear capabilities, geographic location, and its position as a frontline state in the battle against global extremism. Since 9/11, the United States has invested more than $30 billion in civilian and military assistance to Pakistan.1 However, Pakistan still remains a base for numerous U.S.-designated terrorist groups, and the threat of violent extremism has continued to increase over the last decade.

Radical ideologies continue to gain traction in Pakistan, and the risk to civilians, government institutions, and aid organizations is growing in spite of the Pakistani military's counter-extremism and deradicalization programs. According to intelligence reports, between 2001 and March 2013, 49,000 Pakistanis died at the hands of the Taliban and other militant groups.2 The situation has particularly deteriorated within the past four years, with an incr ease in ethnic and sectarian violence3 and numer ous attacks on ma jor cultural and religious sites resulting in the deaths of scores of civilians.4

The government of Pakistan (GoP) is unable to effectively counter violent extremism (CVE) because of its competing national security priorities and economic and energy crises. As a result, Pakistan's civil society has had to take a lead in peacebuilding and CVE initiatives.5 While many civil society CVE programs are effective at the grassroots level, civil society organizations (CSOs) must overcome numerous challenges to become more sustainable and replicable. The United States and the int ernational community must adopt a more systematic and integrated regional approach to empowering Pakistan's civil society to specifically address these issues.

It is more urgent than ever to support Pakistan's civil society in its peacebuilding efforts as the United States reduces its presence in Afghanistan. Since 2001, the United States has made considerable progress in establishing r ela tionships wit h Pakistan's civil society t o i mpl ement programs that specifically address drivers of violent extremism. This paper aims to equip policymakers with the tools to expand such efforts and develop a sophisticated strategy for the distribution, allocation, and implementation of assistance to Pakistan to reduce the threat of international terrorism. This CVE strategy can also ser ve as a model for stabilizing other at-risk Muslim ma jority countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Egypt.

First, this paper will explore Pakistan's civil society-led CVE programs and assess U.S. government efforts to support these initiatives since 2001. The report will then consider challenges to civil society-focused CVE work in Pakistan, including institutional obstacles and capacity limitations. Recommendations are addressed primarily t oward U.S. policymakers and CVE program implementation agencies, as well as their partners in the diaspora community and in Pakistan.6

Defining "CVE"

CVE is a broad-ranging term that describes initiatives to reduce the spread of violent extremist ideologies espoused by al-Qa'ida and similar terrorist networks.7 The Obama Administration used the phrase in 2011 with the release of its policy paper, "Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States" and the subsequent release of its Strategic Implementation Plan. Senior policyma kers from the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ) and the State Department acknowledge that protecting our nation from foreign and domestic violent extremism is a top national security priority. Accordingly, significant resources and political capital have been dedicated to advancing the CVE agenda.

The phenomenon of extremism in Pakistan is highly complex and multilayered. While this report primarily addresses Taliban and al-Qa'ida related violent extremism, radicalization may result from a multitude of "push" and "pull" factors such as poverty, ethnic or sectarian dis cord, political grievances, and extremist ideologies. …

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