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January 2, 2015

Necessity of redefining terrorism


January 2, 2015

Global Terrorism Index has pinpointed that Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the three countries that are most affected by terrorism but unfortunately, the UN and its member states have not yet arrived at a common clarity on the comprehensive, exact definition of terrorism despite mass destructions across the world, mainly in these three countries.
The fact remains that there has never been an internationally accepted, consensus definition of terrorism. The question of a consensus description of terrorism has haunted the debate among states, groups, societies and individuals for decades. A first attempt to arrive at an internationally acceptable definition was made under the League of Nations but the convention drafted in 1937 never came into existence.
It is this lack of agreement on a consensus definition of terrorism that has remained a major obstacle in the finalisation and launching of meaningful counter-measures at all the levels i.e domestic, regional and international levels. But, somehow Pakistan’s security apparatus has succeeded in making the political and social classes to come out of the mire of misleading conspiracy theories and controversial debates that had confounded the proper identification of the enemies of peace ad society categorised routinely as terrorists. In this manner, our forces have made it to the objective evaluation of the ground realities with far greater speed and clarity than any other security apparatus of the modern, advanced world could make it.
Certainly, there is no gainsaying the fact that in the struggle against terrorism, the problem of a consensus definition is a crucial element in the attempt to eradicate the menace of this non-traditional security threat and in formidably rallying domestic, regional and international cooperation, based on the currently accepted rules of traditional warfare.
It is very strange that the term terrorism has had over a hundred different definitions, since it was most

likely first coined by League of Nations in 1937. Even today, governments and terrorism experts do not agree on one definition or the exact meaning of the word.
Even in the US, different entities, while defining terrorism are in full or partial disagreement with each other on single definition, what to talk of universal conformity of the term. The American organizations that have come up, at times, with connotations of terrorism include US Federal Government, US Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism, US Congress, US Department of Defence, Inter American Juridical Committee (IAJC) and military experts and strategists.
However, US Federal Government’s definition of terrorism is: “Violent acts or act dangerous to human life that appears to be intended: 1). To intimidate or coerce a civilian population. 2) To influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion. 3) To affect the conduct of a government by assassinations or kidnapping.”
Terrorism definitions suitable to their respective security interests have also been conceived by the UN General Assembly, European Union, UK, Canada, Nato, Asian African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC), Israel and India.
Back in Pakistan, successive governments failed to devise a proper definition. But now things have started moving towards much greater clarity and towards what can be termed as unity of approach in tackling the national emergency.
Even Nacta now appears to be making serious forward movements. It is widely thought that the government, the armed forces as well as Nacta will go ahead more efficiently and clearheadedly.
At this juncture, mention of some definitions of terrorism adopted officially by the EU, UK, Nato, the US Federal Government and International Law Association (ILA) won’t be out of place.
Definition by European Union says: “Terrorism is a form of warfare in which violence is directed primarily against non-combatants (usually unarmed civilians) rather than operational military and police forces or economic assets (public or private). The active units of terrorist organizations are normally smaller than those of guerrillas, being composed of individuals organised covertly into cells. Their actions are familiar, consisting of such things as assassinations, bombings, tossing grenades, arson, torture, mutilation, hijacking and kidnapping.”
UK explains terrorism as “The use of threat of action designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.”
Nato’s agreed definition is: “Terrorism is the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property in an attempt to coerce or intimidate governments or societies to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives.”
According to International Law Association (ILA) “Acts of international terrorism include, but are not limited to atrocities, wanton killing, hostage taking, hijacking, extortion or torture committed, or threatened to be committed, whether in peace time or in war time, for political purposes, provided that an international element is involved. An act of terrorism is deemed to have an international element when the offence is committed within the jurisdiction of one country.”
Canadian definition is: “An act or omission that is committed in whole or in part for apolitical, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause and in whole or in part with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act, whether the person, government or organization is inside or outside Canada.” According to some forces’ veterans, the Canadian definition corresponds somewhat with the Pakistani situation.
It is now high time that the world community should also come forward with a prick of conscience and coin a Pakistan-specific explanation of terrorism so that our future generations can be saved from extinction.

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