Why Democratic Counterterrorism?

J. J. Baloch


Democracy’s security rationale in terms of countering terrorism needs to be explored. The premise of such democratic security is based on the presumption that it encourages all inclusive counterterrorism approach based on popular support and discourages overreliance on coercive methods, though it does not deny proportionate and sensible use of force in fighting terror.

In this context, the Democratic Counterterrorism can be defined as an ‘all-inclusive, broad-based strategy, a process and an environment to counter terrorism. Such strategy can be based on the democratic values of consultation, tolerance for diversity, respect for disagreement, pluralism, universal representation, freedoms, human rights, and rule of law, non-discrimination and the power of public mandate involving disengagement strategies and promoting socio-political and economic inclusion. Democratic counterterrorism relies not on the rule of expediency and necessity but which goes primarily for a socio-political mechanism of de-radicalization as well as for enlisting a popular support against terrorists through national unity and cohesion.

Having said that, democracy’s case against the terrorism here is, therefore, build on some key foundational presumptions. First, terrorists consider democracy something against their worldview based on religious doctrines. Secondly, the terrorist threat is used as a tool to deny people their right to the participatory system further promoting socio-economic and political non-inclusion, the condition of society friendly to violence and unrest in it. Thirdly, democracy redresses public grievances by offering them the opportunity to participate in all kinds of political, economic, and social policy decisions. Fourthly, democracy promotes moderation and tolerance for pluralism which is an antidote to terrorism.


Last but not the least, terrorism is born out of the political grievances of certain groups based on ethnicity, geography, race, religion etc. and terrorism is defined as politically motivated violence; hence its best solution can only be found in a participatory politics and an inclusive polity.

The theoretical literature on the social contracts which created the state, as presented by political thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, reveals in very clear and categorical terms that in such a speculated social contract both the individual and the state, who are primary parties to it, surrender some of their respective rights and authorities and in return both accept some duties.

For the state, it is imperative to protect fundamental rights i.e. right to freedom, the right to life, the right to property, the right to privacy, right to honour and right to progress/ prosperity etc. On the contrary, for the individual, it is essential to obey the law and pay tax together with being loyal to the country.

The success of contract depends on balance in the equation between individual liberty and state authority. If individual transgresses his liberty, it becomes anarchy and if the state uses excessive authority more than what is allowed by the law, it becomes a tyranny, authoritarianism and dictatorship where the rule of man instead of rule of law prevails.

Leonard Weinberg in his book, “Democracy and Terrorism: Friend or Foe” (2013) Routledge writes: “This struggle has been inspired in part by the belief is that by promoting democracy they will also bring an end to terrorism. Where people enjoy the blessings of liberty, they will naturally find peaceful outlets for the expression of their political views, it has been widely held. Terrorism, on the other hand, is seen largely as a consequence of repression, where citizens cannot choose rulers freely and where dissenting voices are silenced by the authorities, terrorism and other types of violence appear to follow.”[1]

Great historians of International History such as Francis Fukuyama and Michael McFaul also support the idea of democracy as an effective counterterrorism mechanism. They argue: “The transformation of powerful autocracies into democracies has served U.S. national security interests.”


Larry Diamond, a modern day scientist of democracy, is of the view that most obviously, “the end of dictatorship and the consolidation of democracy in Germany, Italy, and Japan after World War II made the United States safer…and regime change in the Soviet Union ended the Cold War and greatly reduced this once-menacing threat to the United States and its allies .” Dr Maleeha Lodhi in her book ‘Global Terrorism’ also writes: “Winning hearts and minds is an essential part of isolating Al-Qaeda’s (or any other radical) ideology and its proponents”.

Our National Action Plan (NAP) is a good and inclusive counterterrorism plan but it lacks many of the approaches as enshrined in United Nations’ Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Pakistan’s counterterrorism policy must include all aspects of fighting terror as set out in UN CT policy. UN advises fourfold approach to contain extremism and terrorism which include” Root-Cause model (poverty, non-inclusion, Rule of Law, Human Rights), Enforcement Model (Coercive methods), Good Governance Model (Building state capacity), Development model (inclusive Political, social and economic development). Our CT policy must weld together all marginalised segments of society. But to our very setback, NAP has been implemented only in parts, not in toto.

A portion of NAP, which relies on coercive tactics, has been marginally enforced; such as military courts, SIM registrations and death penalty but no other measure, including criminal justice reforms, Madrassa reforms, Balochistan reconciliation, FATA reintegration, no Media glorification of terrorists, weapon nonproliferation, disturbing terrorist communication, NACTA revival and empowerment etc, in twenty points agenda of NAP, has ever received any political attention in Pakistan. Thus, NAP relies mostly on enforcement model.

Benazir Bhutto in her last book, Reconciliation, Islam and the West, 2007, is the view that “autocratic and unstable Pakistan” is in no one’s interests. She argued that democracy is compatible with Islam and Muslim societies can be democratised. She expresses her unshakable belief in democracy as the best “environment and mechanism” to counter terror[2]. On the contrary, she makes a very strong case that extremism and terrorism grow in what she refers to “an authoritarian environment”.

The proof of this fact has been the electoral records of Pakistan. Never in Pakistan’s electoral history has any religious party won more than 14% of total votes cast. Pakistan people’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League (all factions) and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf are three leading parties and all have moderate and secular political philosophies. Similarly, the remarkable majority in Pakistan’s Pakistan’s Judiciary, as well as civil and military bureaucracy, are moderate and progressive. Even most of our religious parties are not against democracy but always stand for the rule of law and fundamental rights including freedom of expression and independent judiciary. Therefore, our socio-political environment has a great potential for democracy.

A student lifts a placard as he and others line up to take part in a march for peace in Mumbai

Very strategic point in counterterrorism in Pakistan to understand is the fact that many anti-social, anti-Pakistan and criminal elements have joined together to advance their own agenda by creating anarchy through terrorism. Among them, drug traffickers, smugglers, enemy country agents, underworld mafias, land grabbers, exporters, and weapon dealers are in the forefront as the weak state authority is always ideal for them to operate with impunity. As a result, they have started investing in terrorism. They can offer cash, vehicles, weapons, suicide bombers, and protection to the terrorists.

Most importantly such elements easily enlist public support where the legitimacy of the government is controversial and where government hardly has any legal or moral stance or roles to play, such as in FATA and GB. Such ungoverned areas should be brought under the umbrella of the constitution without any further delay and the local people of those areas must be taken on board while taking economic and political decisions affecting their lives.

Therefore, in this whole game of terrorism and counterterrorism, this essay argues, the winner will be the one who will have on his/her side what we can summarise as “Public Support”. If people of the country are on the side of the terrorists, they will win; if people side with the government, the terrorists will lose. So let us defeat terrorism with democratic counterterrorism by exploring and exploiting its potentials in Pakistan.


The Writer is a Novelist and a Law Enforcement Educator…References


[1] Leonard Weinberg, “Democracy and Terrorism: Friend or Foe”, (2013) Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, London & New York.

[2] BHUTTO, BENAZIR. 2008, Reconciliation Islam, Democracy & The West, London, Simon & Schuster




Author: PublicPolicyInsights

With MSc Criminal Justice Policy from London School of Economics, London, UK, J. J Baloch has 20 years of work experience. He has worked in National Bank of Pakistan as officer grade 2 from 1995 to 2000. From 2000 till date He is working at Police Service of Pakistan. As an author he has published three books: Introduction to sociology, 2000; On the Art of Writing Essays, 2016; and The Power of Social Media & Policing Challenges, 2016. On 17 March 2017 J.J. Baloch is launching his first novel: "Whiter Than White: The Daughter of The Land of Pure" which is being published by Matador publication from the UK. Besides this, he regularly blogs on Google, Facebook. He also writes articles in English newspaper Dawn and also in some other magazines.

2 thoughts on “Why Democratic Counterterrorism?”

  1. Dear sir very attractive your efforts are out standing my best wishes are always with u GOD Bless you my dear frend


  2. Greeting sir hope u ll be fine sir im css aspirant sir your books : Introduction to sociology, 2000; On the Art of Writing Essays, 2016
    A: Introduction to sociology, 2000; On the Art of Writing Essays, 2016
    Has not been found sir please sir can u tell me any name of shop from where i can purchase it


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