Gendered Perceptions and Impact of Terrorism / Talibanization in Pakistan
The recent surge of religious extremism along with the phenomenon of suicide bombing is relatively new to the people of Pakistan. A gradual increase in the radicalization of society has been witnessed since the 1980s; however, at that time it was not accompanied by the same level of political violence and brutality which is currently evident in suicide bombings across the country. According to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) security report in 2006, 657 terrorist attacks took place, leaving 907 people dead and 1,543 others wounded. Pakistan faced 60 suicide attacks during 2007, which killed at least 770, besides wounding another 1,574 people; in 2008, the country saw 2,148 terrorist attacks, which resulted in 2,267 fatalities and 4,558 wounded . In only the first six months of 2009, 465 people were killed and 1,121 wounded in 36 suicide bomb attacks . People are trying to make sense of this new reality of terrorism/religious extremism and crafting the meaning of the phenomenon within their own broader understanding of politics at the global, national and local level.
Pakistan’s decision to become an ally and the front line state in the war against terrorism declared after the 9/11 terrorist attack on World Trade Center and the Pentagon in USA, turned the country into a central stage where the war on terrorism is now being fought. Pakistan had to take a u-turn on its policy of support to religious Jihadi groups under the extreme pressure and threat of ‘with us or against us’ from the United States. Subsequently when the government tried to bring these militants under its control, it triggered a reaction among the religious groups and jihadi organizations (who had been enjoying the support of the establishment in the past) and pitched them against the government and its security forces. They started challenging the writ of the government by attacking civilians and security forces through the use of suicide bombers. The militants belonging to various groups and ideologies started networking with one another on the face of pressure from the government to stop cross-border interference. Nearly forty Taliban groups formed Tehreek-e-Taliban under the leadership of Baituallah Mahsud on 14th of December. Those militants identified themselves as Taliban claimed that their main objective was to expel the American and NATO forces from Afghanistan and to enforce Sharia in Pakistan. In response to the government’s effort to stop their involvement in cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan and providing protection to foreign militants, Tehreek-e-Taliban unleashed a reign of terror in the country and claimed the responsibilities of many suicide bombing incidents in which thousands of people were killed. Taliban are normally equated in public perception, with terrorism in Pakistan. Therefore, the term terrorism and Talibanization will be used interchangeably in this report.
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