The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center today launched a new issue brief entitled “Reimagining Pakistan’s Militia Policy.” Written by the Center’s US Pakistan Program Exchange Fellow Yelena Biberman, the brief argues that Pakistan’s unwillingness to crack down on all terrorist groups is more a product of cold calculation than ideological shortsightedness, and calls for powerful countries, including the United States, to lead the way to better security policy in Pakistan.

Download the brief here

If ever a turning point seemed inevitable in Pakistan’s militia policy, it was in the aftermath of the Peshawar school massacre in December 2014. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) killed 152 people, 133 of them children, in the bloodiest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history. The carnage sparked an unprecedented national dialogue about the costs and contradictions of the Pakistani political and military establishment’s reliance on violent proxies, such as the Afghan Taliban (from which the TTP originates), for security.

Pakistani leaders vowed to take serious measures to ensure that such a tragedy would never happen again. Yet last week, Peace Activist and T2F Café Director Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead after leaving a civic discussion in Karachi. Though the responsible party has yet to be identified, the fact remains that violence continues to take the lives of Pakistan’s innocent civilians.

Why does Pakistan continue to differentiate between “good” and “bad” militias in the face of the Peshawar massacre? What are the costs of playing the good-bad militia game? What can be done to end Pakistan’s dependency on armed nonstate groups? The brief seeks to answer these questions and make sense of the strategic logic through which states outsource violence. 

The South Asia Center serves as the Atlantic Council’s focal point for work on greater South Asia as well as its relations between these countries, the neighboring regions, Europe, and the United States. The US Pakistan Program was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. 

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