“Pakistan’s Enabling Environment Makes Terrorists Resilient” -Michael Kugelman

Posted August 11th, 2016 at 8:39 pm (UTC+0)

Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson

By Iftikhar Hussain and Niala Mohammad

Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington D.C. and a leading expert on Pakistan. Kugelman says that militants in Pakistan are resilient due to the enabling environment of extremism. Following the Quetta suicide attack, Michael Kugelman spoke with VOA Deewa on the continuous militant attacks within Pakistan, limited impact of Pakistan’s campaign against terrorism, the military’s anti-India approach, and its policy of distinguishing between good and bad Taliban. The interview with Kugelman was done by VOA’s Iftikhar Hussain. Following is a complete transcript of the Michael Kugelman’s interview:

Question: Your recent WSJ piece “Hospital Bombing in Quetta, Pakistan, Fits Pattern of Terror Attacks on ‘Soft Targets'” gives an interesting insight to why militants thrive in Pakistan. Could you elaborate on those reasons for our audience?

Kugelman Answer:  I think it’s very simple why Pakistan continues to suffer from terrorism even after two years of a heavy military offensive in North Waziristan. The issue here, the environment, the climate continues to be conducive for terrorists. You have the types of narratives, the types of ideologies that drive militancy and terror. This messaging coming from clerics, that appears in school text books, that you quite frankly hear on the television that talks about how India, the US and Israel are trying to surround and harm Pakistan and Islam. These are narratives that are everywhere across society in Pakistan. And these are the types of narratives that terrorists are able to act upon violently. So, you have that on the one hand and then of course the other issue is that you have a Pakistani state that continues to distinguish between so called good and so called bad militants. And it only goes after the terrorists that launch attacks in Pakistan. You have plenty of terror groups inside Pakistan like Lashkar e Taiba and the Haqqani network that don’t attack Pakistan they attack other places, other countries.

All of these terrorist groups regardless of who they target, they are all cut from the same cloth, and they all want to do terrible things. And most importantly you have members of these diff orgs that go back and forth between the other. This comes back to what I was saying earlier, that the climate and the environment in Pakistan is simply so enabling for extremism and allows terrorism to flourish. This is why you can kill so many terrorists as Pakistan has. And yet until you kill the ideology that drives these terrorists you are not going to make terrorism go away.

Question: Pakistan’s military chief Gen Raheel Sharif visited Quetta following the massacre stated that the attack was “an effort to destabilize CPEC”.  This statement was widely criticized because terrorism was already in existence in the region and attacks had occurred prior to CPEC being launched in the province. Why do you think General Sharif he devised his statement as such?

Kugelman Answer: I think it was really inconsiderate and inappropriate of the Pakistani military to essentially suggest that this attack was meant to sabotage CPEC and to undermine the improved security environment to sabotage CPEC. I mean, let’s face it, Baluchistan was not exactly a stable place before this attack happened. The military by pitching its argument that way, by saying this was meant to sabotage CPEC that allows the military to really subtly accuse India of being behind this attack. Because the Pakistani army for several months has been accusing India for trying to sabotage this CPEC. And of course CPEC is very important for the Pakistani military. So essentially what you have here is the Pakistani security establishment has been resorting to the same type of blame game and denial that it has so many times. It simply refuses to acknowledge that there are forces inside Pakistan that continue to have the ability to launch horrific mass causality attacks.

A group like Jamat ul Ahrar its status or connection to the Taliban is unclear. At one point it had broken off I think it is still a part of the TTP, but the bottom line is that even after two years of military offenses in North Waziristan you have a terror group like Jamat ur Ahrar that is able to stage mass causality attacks across the country as its done in the Lahore park attack, its attacked, it’s gone after churches. This is a group that staged at least 10 attacks over the last year or so. It has a lot of ability to get things done, and if the army were to acknowledge that, then it would essentially be admitting that the military has not eliminated the all of the major threats, the terrorist threats to the Pakistani state. So instead it simply resorts to the usual blaming of India and blaming outside forces which is not very helpful and of course is not very accurate.

Question: Pakistan’s anti-terrorism policy has not delivered. To put it in the words of Pakistan’s Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani “it’s like fire-fighting, the state puts out one fire and then waits for the next fire to erupt.” What type of strategy does the state of Pakistan need in order to yield results?

Kugelman Answer: I would actually agree with what Senator Rabani has had to say in this regard that Pakistan really does need a strategy, it needs a very clear strategy, a very specific strategy that lays out exactly what’s going to happen and when. But on the other hand Pakistan has come up with strategies, plenty of strategies, Pakistan has developed all kinds of policies and measures to deal with terrorism. One of the more prominent ones in recent years was the National Action Plan (NAP), which was a 20 point agenda for dealing with terrorism and violent extremism. The problem is that the measures laid out in that NAP have not been followed up on, they really haven’t been implemented. And this is the crux of the problem, I think that devising the right strategy is hard enough but the issue of implementing, and overseeing and enforcing various aspects of implementation are the challenge. And quite frankly it’s perfectly nice to have this 20 point plan that talks about the need to criminalize hate speech to remove hardline extremist narratives but, actually getting that done is very difficult. And in Pakistan the reason why it’s so hard to get that done is that you have very powerful interests such as those that I had mentioned earlier, religious forces and even elements of the state that really don’t have interest. They don’t want these enabling environments to be eliminated because let’s face you could argue that the state in Pakistan derives some benefit from propagating these hardline narratives about India and all because it essentially portrays India to threat which therefore gives the military legitimacy to essentially have a big role in the state in Pakistan to protect the country from India.

So, I would argue that the big problem and the big challenge for Pakistan is not as much with developing policies and strategies but actually implementing them and following through on them. And for that to be done you’re going to need some whole sale changes in state policy. One being the need to essentially reject all forms of terrorism and its practitioners.


33 responses to ““Pakistan’s Enabling Environment Makes Terrorists Resilient” -Michael Kugelman”

  1. tar says:

    Pakistan should deport all terrorists including the American, now held in jail. This is the only wise decision.

    • Human says:

      Who will be left in the Pakistan if you deport all terrorists from there? LOL. good one. The producer is not trying to clean up the mess there, be careful India, watch the borders !!!

      • Abdul H. Babar says:

        The biggest terrorist is India and its RAW that are sponsoring terrorism by supporting Taliban to create unrest in Baluchistan and Karachi and terrorizing millions of its own citizens in Kashmir. Financial terrorists in the west cannot swallow the creation of China Pakistan Economic Corridor and are doing their best to destabilise Pakistan. Pakistan has sacrificed more than 60,000 of its citizens and more than 6000 of its troops. How many more of its citizens have to be victims of these terrorists?

  2. Human says:

    I knew this 40 years ago.

  3. shahid hussain says:

    partly it is right but Indian role cannot be ignored because recently a spy “Kalbooshan ” is arrested in Blochistan who is in active service of Indian Navy. Presence of Indian Counsellor Offices alongside Pakistan Western Boarder & their activities to hire & fund Terrorists of TTP to wage a Proxy war inside Pakistan are enough proofs of Indian involvement.

    • Human says:

      Only 1st spy in last 70 years !? India needs to learn it from the Pakistan is so smart creating the Terrorism & Terrorists. ex The 911 master mind, Khalid Sheik Mohammad is from Pakistan and then hidden Osama Bin Laden there for 6 years. Pakistani origins man and now women too are arrested in UK, USA and EU for terrorist attacks. Great job Pakistan, no country can even come close to you on the “Terrorism” see more major list what your people did to the USA, UK, EU (Forget India)

      1. Pakistan took billions $ from USA saying with USA for the war on Terror when they kept OBL there and helped in past for years. (They also said don’t where he is but sure not in Pakistan when he was very close to their Military camp !! LOL)
      2. US journalist Mr. Daniel Pearl was killed in Pakistan
      3. The 911 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was from Pakistan
      4. The Times Square car bombing. Faisal Shahzad is a Pakistani
      5. The 7 July 2005 London bombings, 3-Pakistani origins (Ex Pak Army gen. Musharraf said those were UK citizen & Not Pakistani but their Parents were Pakis, you idiot, so they are Pakistanis) it does not matter where they born, the roots can’t go away unless you change !!?
      6. Many madrassas, terrorists camps, groups etc…on Dec 13, 2015 Paki Ambassador to US said we will eliminate them all in months…LOL
      7. Another UK Pakistani Muslim husband and wife convicted of planning bomb attack, LONDON (AP) — A husband and wife interested in helping Islamic State extremists have been convicted of planning a large-scale bombing of civilian targets in London to mark the 10th anniversary of the July 7, 2005, attacks on the city’s transit system. Mohammed Rehman, 25, and his wife Sana Ahmed Khan, 24, were found guilty Tuesday at the Old Bailey court. on December 29, 2015.
      8. The previous Taliban’s government that was acknowledged by only three nations: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
      9. John Phillip Walker Lindh is a U.S. citizen who was captured as an enemy combatant during the United States’ 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 later told what how he was trained with others into Pakistani terrorists camp to fight against Indian military, see his interview, google.
      10. Finally, the San Bernardino, CA-USA, 2-Shooters, roots from Pakistan and this time women too abroad !!
      11. Just recently at USA, California college student who stabbed four people in Nov-2015 in a campus spree
      12. On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a terrorist attack, his wife from Pakistan
      And these from# 1 to 12 above were funded by Pakistani Muslims families living/eating in USA, UK or their military or govt or their politicians or religious leaders etc and not India. stop blaming India and look at your own homes (Muslimstan is all wars, drone, military and terrorist’s zones).

      Now See what Indians did overseas,
      if you know the meaning of education, colleges and word CEO, here is the list for you
      Indira Nooyi – PepsiCo, USA
      Dinesh Paliwal – Harman International, USA
      Vikram Pandit – Citigroup, USA
      Francisco D’Souza – Cognizant Technology Solutions, India
      Surya Mohapatra – Quest Diagnostics, USA
      Shantanu Narayen – Adobe Systems, USA
      Jai P. Nagarkatti – Sigma-Aldrich, USA
      Abhijit Talwalkar – LSI, USA
      Sundar Pichai – Google, USA
      Satya Nadella – Microsoft Corporation, USA
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakshmi_Mittal, UK
      And yes, don’t forget to look on your countries from Pakistan to Palestine,
      currently ruled by Muslims but they are not happy there, they are not happy in USA, UK, EU or anywhere they live, always JIHAD, ISIS, Boko Haram, Dictators, Military take over, separations rebel groups, shiya/sunnis …..again because you born unhappy.

      • San says:

        Way to Go! The whole world should read your comment.

      • Abdul H. Babar says:

        VERY HAPPILY BORN INDIAN CANNOT HIDE HATRED AGAINST MUSLIMS AND PAKISTAN. You have more than 700,000 troops in a small state of Kashmir terrorising them for last 25 years, killing thousands and lately killing young stone throwing kids, shooting in their faces and blinding them with BB guns. Shame on you. Is this not terrorism? You kill people for eating beef, rape young girls in buses and foreign tourists. Very civilised ?

        • Human says:

          Why India has these many Muslims if they were killing then since 1947 !?
          India has around 172 million Muslims (2011 census), that means more in 2016 !!, see below or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_India
          Country Population Percentage
          Indonesia 204,847,000 12.65%
          Pakistan 175,097,000 11.00%
          India 172,245,158 10.97%
          Bangladesh 148,607,000 9.18%
          Egypt 80,024,000 4.94%
          World 1,619,300,000 100%

          What would Pak govt do with the people seeking the separation from the Pakistan in your POK, Punjab, Baluchistan, Sindh province ? Will Pakistan govt give them freedom ?

          Same in India, we have more happy Muslims than your entire Muslimstan or Pakistan, why Muslims in Kashmir creating trouble, violent protests seeking the separation from India? when we have Muslims in other 30 states of India growing faster than Hindus.

          What did you guys do with minorities and Hindus there in Pakistan since 1947 ? There was 24% Hindus in 1947 and now less than 2% in 2016 is the big proof in front of you v/s in India Muslims are growing on faster rates than Majority Hindus

          Any country, Any religion, if you are against the country you get the bullet, simple.

  4. Raman says:

    I am from India and I just cannot believe how many times the same opinion espoused by Mr. Kugelman have been advanced by other saner heads in Pakistan but to no avail. The narrative that the Judeo/Christian/Hindu are enimical to the survival of Pakistan will not change and is integrated into the DNA of its society at all levels, let alone the goverment. Recall that the people from the defence forces in Pakistan after retirement go on to represent the government at various levels and they excercise trmendous control to ensure that their narrative survives another day! A reboot will not suffice in Pakistan! A mind set change is in order and can China deliver on it? China need to understand that in a Global economy it cannot have relation with countries like N.Korea and Pakistan that is stoking problems for countries like India, Japan or the US! China need to involve and make some sense to these rabid regimes openly! Until that happens nothing is going to change.

  5. A H Shahbaz says:

    Michael is totally unaware of ground realities in Pakistan and also Afghanistan.

    Why he forgot the ground realities for which the United States is responsible for the present situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan. United States funded Taliban fighters against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and when the fighters (Mujahideen) succeeded in defeating Soviet Union the United States deserted Mujahideen which resulted in the present turmoil both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Pakistan is trying to cope with the situation within its mans and United States non cooperation.

    • Human says:

      Correction” The United States is trying to cope with the situation within its mans and Pakistan’s non cooperation” Where did you use that $14 billons took from the USA ?

      • Very wise, Hanuman.
        Forgot President Reagen praising OBL & other warlords, praising what he himself called “MUJAHIDEEN”, now discarded as terrorists, once they have been used to stop Russian advance to oil rich Arabian Sea and also end the cold war.
        So $12 Billion is a huge price for the decade in which hundreds of thousands of Afghans & Pakistanis were killed.
        Yes, $ 12 Billion is a huge price paid by USA, when 60,000 Pakistani civilians are killed in suicide attacks by RAW-funded fanatic mullahs!!

      • Abdul H. Babar says:


  6. siddiq fudda says:

    Were there any terrorist attacks in Pakistan before the entry of Russian and American forces in Afghanistan? I believe no. Did Pakistan caught any RAW agents in those days ? no. Were their any problem in Afghanistan when Taiban were the rulers? no. Was their MQM backed and funded by India and helped by U.K.? no. Do you know how many innocent people were killed by the terrorists of MQM and PPP ruling parties. The problem of Pakistan is not a Taliban, religious groups, the problem of terrorism in Pakistan are the politicians, beurocrats, that are corrupted, Landlords, Sardars, that are ruling in interior as if they own the country and making people suffer. The law does not punish criminals.

  7. Abdul H. Babar says:

    Mr. Kugleman, a so called expert on Pakistan is absolutely wrong in his pro India assessment. India has never accepted partition of sub continent since its independence in 1947 and is continuing to destabilise Pakistan. India has admittedly played a major role in separation of its Eastern half. Pakistani, state with one eighth of size of India has no options except to respond to Indian threats by developing nukes and using other available options to defend itself. United States has been an ally of Pakistan since long but has never sided with Pakistan during its conflicts with India and of late is openly helping India by ignoring Indian involvement in creating trouble in Baluchistan and Karachi. Providing India with Civil Nuclear technology, USA has pushed Pakistan further close to China. UN is also helpless in solving long standing Kashmir conflict between two nuclear armed states thus promoting radical forces within Pakistan. Pakistan is a victim of extreme terrorism and has lost over 60,000 of its civilians and over 8000 of its troops and yet continues to take blame and suggestions to do more.

  8. JP Singh says:

    What Mr Kugelman has said is to the point ? Its not just the terrorists but, Pakistan’s Military establishment has also to be reined in. Hanging on to India bogey is not going to get Pakistan anywhere. It has to act against all only then there can be peace. Stop calling terrorists ‘strategic assets’ it clearly gives out the game of Pakistan military.

  9. SAEED AHMAD says:


  10. San says:

    Kugelman or people before him should have realized this over 50 years ago when Pakistan declared itself a Islamic republic and invited all the jihadist to it’s shores funded by Saudi Arabia with Wahhabism and Salafism ideologies. However in this period the US continue to fund Pakistan with sophisticated military hardware and its’s Nuclear program. You sow reap what you sow.

  11. Gul Ahmed says:

    There is absolutely nothing new about what Michael Kugelman has said. Wll the press has to do is state “Michael Kugelman on Pakistan” and everyone will understand it is a rant against Pakistan. There is nothing objective about Michael Kugelman’s opinions on Pakistan he is a paid anti Pakistan shill. This is the problem with running our democracy’s foreign policy opinions with the help of “Think Tanks” who hire the best spokespersons to move their agenda’s.

  12. Khan says:

    In all of 2016 there was only 4 or 5 bombing took place in Baluchistan, Most of the Attacks were against the innocent civilians, the Terrorist are trying to spread fear against the people of Baluchistan, Otherwise Pakistan, & Baluchistan is very peaceful. To openly say that The General Sheriff is wrong to blame India is 100% wrong. I am sure the world know that most of the bombing In Baluchistan were done either by Afghan train by Indian. Terrorists, who were caught by Pakistani Intelligence have openly admitted that all the Training & Funding came from India through Afghanistan. The only good reason for India for these terrorist activity is to destabilize Pakistan, preventing China-Pakistan economic cooperation. the largest Economic Cooperation of its kind. The European Union and Asian Countries have recognized the sacrifices of Pakistan army has given to fight Terrorist all over Pakistan, Afghanistan. Caught & deported 100’s of Arabs & others who were using Pakistani Soil to train the Foot Solders who were later joining So called ISIS or Taliban, & spreading terror all over the world, While the USA & others Indiscriminately, blame Islam, for the bombing, & War in Mideast. As we know today The American fail Foreign policies.

  13. richard persaud says:

    the Pakistan military is in cahoots with all the terrorist organization they want to fool the world there fighting terrorist.which in they give them weapons and cash also training to attack india Israel and the us. the world know they were hiding Osama bin laden . so who they fool nobody but themselves , us cut military aid from them cause there very un trust worthy and wicked.

  14. Nasir Khan says:

    If it is true why Nato and USA unable to stabelize Afghanistan where world most organised military and equipment is present. If you decided to not accuse India, this is separate issue. Are you blind that Indian Army is killing innocent Kashmiries and you never open your lips.

  15. David Johnson says:

    I have often wondered these Pakistani terrorists who are fighting with ‘western armies’ for 12+ years very skillfully and successfully so obviously they are capable and compatible with any military force. And Pakistan dispatches these mass murderers all across the region and the word. Terrorists claim they are ‘’anti gov / establishment’’. So WHY do they always bomb hospitals, schools, markets, Shia mosques, Christian Churches etc – civilian targerts? WHY do they NOT bomb Pakistani court houses, gov buildings, military bases / personnel / buildings etc – gov targets ????

    BECAUSE Paki terrorists + Paki gov + Paki military ISI are all the same people.

    • Abdul H. Babar says:

      You are totally ignorant. These terrorists have targeted all kinds of security establishments and government buildings as well. They are basically funded by Raw, the Indian intelligence service

  16. riaz says:

    this attack on the lawyer community smells to high heaven of effort to destabilise the society,only, with out any any specific object, this tactic is classicaly employed by foreign agents,who can sit in their countries and nicely watch the mayhem they created in peace

  17. Anjan Malapaka says:

    A country formed on Islam the countries politicians military and the isi are dependent on Islamic Imams and other religious fanatics to stay in power. The number of terrorists compared to the number of decent people are negligible. The fanatics seem to be illiterate and have been raised from child hood to believe in Islam and only Islam. The so called religious fanatics do not care for their life or for other peoples lives they are puppets on a string.

  18. Mohammad Hasan Ahmad says:

    It is a very tricky situation for Pakistan and it is of their own making. The Jiny of extreme Wahabi fundamentalism is out of the bottle and it is very difficult to put it back in, especially when the average Pakistani is quite happy with it, thats why they voted Nawaz Shariff to power. Nawaz Shariff is the protege of arch fundamentalist Dictator Zia ul Haq, who forced the Hijabi culture at the behest of Saudi Arabia and the US in return for their billions of dollars in aid and debt write offs as a reward for becoming a proxy to fight Communist Soviet Union in Afghanistan.On the side lines Saudia also unleashed billions of dollars to establish and fund Wahabi Madrasas all over Pakistan. Now this continuing aid has become bread and butter for millions of Maulvis and their students in these Madrasas.These madrasas are destroying Pakistan.. Their graduating students are good for nothing except preaching Islam and killing those who will not subscribe to their teaching and that includes most of the non Sunni Pakistan.Pakistan is surviving on 5 As , Allah,Army, American Aid, Afghanistans Misery and Arabian ideology

  19. maher.m says:

    Pakistan….Fear, Hate & Terror, simple as that.

  20. riaz says:

    lets go back to the recent tragedy in quetta, lawyers are back bone of alawfull society, now when people target Lawyers, they are sending a message, we do not want a lawfull baluchistan, , but want mayhem there, only foreign agents can do that

  21. The writer is not giving real picture.
    In Pakistan, the Army, goverrnment & political leadership is much clear on the strategy to root out these fanatic mullahs who are funded & given intelligence, logistics support by RAW.
    As the situation is improving, terrorists are now targeting innocent civilians.
    The Donald Trump of South Asia – Narender Modi – is trying to cover up the hostaging of 12 Million Kashmiris with 700,000 Army for last 25 years.
    These tactics can backfire on Modi regime, as Pakistanis are now united. There are now many proofs of Indian invlovement in terrorism inside Pakistan & Afghanistan and people are increasingly wary of the Modi regime. This will not go well with India also & their saner elements must pull reigns of Modi regime.
    Just recall in 2004, India mobilised army from as far as Aasam to Pakistan border, but had to retreat when Musharraf vowed to hit back.
    There could be even harder response from Pakistan this time and a balanced approach to resolve the issues like Kashmir is needed instead of trying to create more problems to hide the real issues.

  22. Lumdheeng says:

    How many Pakistani Punjabi Sunni army are present in Pak occupied Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan? Pakistan establishment won’t give the correct figures, because it has changed the demography by settling scores of Punjabis and Afghans in Pak occupied Kashmir. Any Kashmiri who rebels for independence are charged with sedition and death, example; Sardar Shahid Arif a Kashmir activist and a politician from POK was gunned down in Rawalpindi, who rebelled for independence from Pakistan. Any terror attack in the world, there is a mole connection to Pakistan. List of Pakistanis involved in international terror attacks. Farookh Ahmed caught for planting bomb in Washington DC subway. Qazi brothers arrested in Florida, planning NY attacks. Faisal Shahzad arrested for Time Square bomb plot.Tawahur Rana arrested in Chicago along with Dawood Gilani for Mumbai 26/11 plot. Mohammad Gazi Usman arrested in Austria for Paris attacks. Gulzar Khan did suicide bombing in Jeddah Saudi Arabia.Tafsheen Malick along with her husband Syed Farookh killed 16 Americans in San Bernardino. Father and son Hayat arrested in California for terrorism material support. There are many Pakistanis caught in Canada for terrorism. ….

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