Tag Archives: Terrorism

Interview with Zoha Waseem: Pakistani Navy Remains Committed to Karachi

By Alex Calvo

In the Second World War, Karachi was a key component in the long logistics chain connecting unoccupied China with the United States. After decolonization and partition, the city retained her significance, at both the economic and political level. Among others, it was and still is the main base for the Pakistani Navy, as well as a shipbuilding centre. Often in the news due to a challenging security situation, no look at naval developments in the Indo-Pacific Ocean Region is complete without Karachi. We have thus interviewed Zoha Waseem, an expert in policing and counterterrorism and PhD candidate at King’s College London.

Calvo.- Is the situation in Karachi considered by the Pakistani Navy as a reason to push for further diversification away from the city, in terms of naval basing and construction?

Waseem.- The situation in Karachi in terms of the ongoing operation is linked with the need of the Military to keep investing in Karachi. The construction of military bases, infrastructure and training centres and accommodation does not appear to be decreasing. Karachi is an ATM machine, and a prime location for any stakeholder to have its assets here. Karachi is an important port, being connected to the Arabian Sea, connecting the city by water to Iran and India. That said, there does exist an alternative Naval base 200 kilometres away from Karachi (Jinnah Naval Base in Ormara, Balochistan). Heavy investments have been made into this base since the Navy came under threat in Karachi.

Railway (Karachi Port)
Railway (Karachi Port).

Calvo.- Are the demands of internal security preventing Pakistan from devoting enough funds and political attention to military modernization?

Waseem.- Military modernization is generally regarded not as falling within the domain of political actors but of the military. The Armed Forces appear to be devoting enough funds to military modernisation. Internal security operations take manpower away from the armed forces but their budgetary allocations come from different departments.

Calvo.- Are the Armed Forces, to the detriment of civilian police, seen by most citizens as the mainstay of security?

Waseem.- The general public appears to have bought into the narrative that armed forces are the only bodies capable of dealing with security issues. This is taking focus away from the police, especially in areas where armed forces have acquired policing powers of search and arrest. Nevertheless, there are voices on ground that call for the strengthening of police forces for internal security, law and order.

Karachi Port
Karachi Port.

Calvo.- What are the prospects for police reform in the mid-term? What are its main aspects, and most significant obstacles?

Waseem.- There were police reforms in 2002 which were reversed in 2011 in Sindh and Balochistan. No serious initiatives appear to be in place at the moment. Main obstacles for this are: political interferences, weak leadership, and corruption. Policing falls under the domain of the provincial governments and there will be no serious reforms implemented till the will of these governments is not present.

Calvo.- Does Beijing trust Islamabad’s promises to severely prosecute groups assisting Xinjiang activists? What about guarantees of better protection of Chinese nationals in Pakistan?

I’m not sure what Beijing is thinking at the moment, but Pakistan seems to be making efforts to curb any apprehensions on their part. For instance, both the armed forces and civilian government has decided to strengthen security measures of the Chinese in Gwadar, Balochistan. Plans for deploying 10,000 army personnel for their security and deweaponisation of Gwadar are underway too. Much of the reason for the escalation in the internal security operation in Karachi is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Zoha Waseem got her LLB from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) and her MA in Terrorism, Security and Society from King’s College London. She has studied in Karachi, Chicago, and Washington DC, and interned at different Pakistani news channels. From 2012 to 2013 she was an intern at Interpol’s Public Safety and Terrorism Sub-Directorate, in Lyon (France). She is currently working on her PhD thesis, at King’s College, on “Enforcement, Encounters and the Everyday: Contemporary Policing in Karachi, Pakistan”. Waseem’s research interests include Pakistan, policing and security, urban violence, counterterrorism, and police culture. She tweets at @ZohaWaseem and recently wrote “Darkness in the city of light” on Paris’ terror attacks.

Interview by CIMSEC member Alex Calvo.

The Language of Terror

By Joshua Tallis


Few words evoke such an instant impression of pure evil. Somehow criminal, fanatic, extremist, none of these are adequate to describe the depravity of terror.


Few words produce such a sense of dread in the pit of your stomach.

Yet, for a word with so much power, it is also incredibly contentious.

On September 11, 2012, armed men descended on the United States’ consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith were both killed in the attack. And for the last three years, the media and Washington have been in a never-ending debate over one question: was this, or was this not, an act of terror?

What was the source of this confusion? And moreover, why does it matter?

It matters because terrorism is a special word. Those emotions you feel when I write ‘terrorist,’ or when pundits speculate whether a shooting or a missing airliner was the product of terrorism, makes for a word with significant baggage.

This baggage is powerful in the political arena. It means that politicians can access deep emotions with relatively simple rhetoric.

But this baggage wreaks havoc in the academic sphere. Georgetown’s Bruce Hoffman writes that terrorism is a uniquely pejorative word, which means our use of it in scholarship is laced with normative assumptions. In other words, bias. Terrorism is universally recognized as a bad word; no one wants to be called a terrorist. Our use of the term means we are making a moral judgment about the people involved, about their cause.

We are accustomed to using terrorism predominantly as a political weapon. I call someone a terrorist because I disagree with them— vehemently. And because of the baggage this word carries, I gain the moral high ground if I can convince others to call them a terrorist as well.

And much of this isn’t wrong. Terrorism is undoubtedly a pejorative word, and using it does rightfully impart a sense of morality. But simply leaving terrorism defined as something so obscure is not too helpful, most of all because it leaves the idea of terror so nebulous that it appears up for debate.

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.’

I may disagree with this sentiment, and indeed I do, but when we limit our understanding of terrorism to its barest, good guy versus bad guy narrative, we invite a relativistic debate where there shouldn’t be one.

And in our daily lives, this is the definition of terrorism we most commonly encounter and employ. As Hoffman writes:

“Pick up a newspaper or turn on the television and—even within the same broadcast or on the same page—one can find such disparate acts as the bombing of a building, the assassination of a head of state, the massacre of civilians by a military unit, the poisoning of produce on supermarket shelves, or the deliberate contamination of over-the-counter medication in a drugstore, all described as incidents of terrorism. Indeed, virtually any especially abhorrent act of violence perceived as directed against society—whether it involves the activities of antigovernment dissidents or governments themselves, organized-crime syndicates, common criminals, rioting mobs, people engaged in militant protest, individual psychotics, or lone extortionists—is often labeled ‘terrorism.’” (Inside Terrorism 2006)

Clearly, we need to get a little more specific. So, where does anyone start when they need to look up a definition? If I’m being honest the answer is Google, but for dramatic effect let’s say the dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines terrorism as follows:

“Terrorism: A system of terror. 1. Government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the revolution of 1789–94; the system of “Terror.” 2. gen. A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized.” (Inside Terrorism 2006)

What would that mean in practice? Well, let’s see.

On June 28, 1914, Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot and killed while visiting Sarajevo. Gavrilo Princip, their assailant, has been widely regarded as a terrorist for his role in precipitating the start of the First World War. But was this really an act of terrorism? Well, it doesn’t have much to do with the French revolution, but I think it’s fair to say this murder produced widespread terror. So by the dictionary definition of terrorism, I’d have to say the death of the Archduke fits the bill.

But somehow this leaves me unfulfilled. “A system of terror—” that’s pretty vague. The reference to eighteenth century France is historically accurate, but also not very helpful. And “the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized” is like defining hunger as the act of being hungry—it doesn’t give us much new information. We need more.

In a seminar on terrorism I attended in 2014 organized by the European International Studies Association and Yale University, Tamar Meisels from Tel-Aviv University advanced a definition of terrorism I found particularly compelling. To Tamar, Terrorism is “the intentional random murder of defenseless non-combatants, with the intent of instilling fear of mortal danger amidst a civilian population as a strategy designed to advance political ends.” (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/MeiselsTheTroubleWithTerror.html)

Tamar is guided by Michael Walzer, whose 1977 book, Just and Unjust Wars, helped disentangle terrorism from other forms of revolutionary violence. Revolutionary violence, by its very nature, implies that the actors undertaking it are not state-actors, and seek to radically alter the status quo. Walzer divides such violence into three categories.

The first is guerilla warfare. Guerillas typically launch attacks against an opposing military, limiting strikes against civilians. With victory, guerilla tactics are often easily justified, especially if the cause is deemed moral, like national self-determination or anti-colonialism.

Walzer’s second category is political assassination. Assassinations are targeted, demonstrating some distinction between valid and invalid targets, however unseemly. The violence is not random.

What is left is terrorism, which by process of elimination must target innocent individuals randomly in the pursuit of some political agenda.

To make things even clearer, we can disassemble the principles of this definition into five characteristics:

  • Violence—Terrorism necessarily includes the use or threat of violence directed against a population.
  • Motivation—Terrorism is used to achieve a political objective. By political, we mean that terrorism is intended to produce some sort of change in the political regime, however unlikely that may be.
  • Victim—There is a lot of debate over who constitutes a victim of a terrorist attack. Here, victims are randomly targeted civilians, not directly related to a cause and unable to defend themselves.
  • Audience—Terrorism, without an audience, is just a crime. Terrorism is propaganda by the deed, and thus it must be witnessed. This is because, while the victims of an attack may be terrorized, they are not the intended audience. To achieve a political objective, terrorism must induce a government or powerbrokers to choose a certain course of action in line with the terrorist’s objectives.
  • Actor—Groups without the right to legitimately use violence. In traditional political science, we define state sovereignty as the monopoly over the legitimate use of force, according to sociologist Max Weber. In other words, only states hold the right to exercise violence lawfully in conventional political philosophy. Under this rubric, terrorism cannot be practiced by states. Now, as I’ve noted, terrorism is a contentious topic in academia, and among the hundreds of definitions of terror, there are those that would include notions of state terror, which is itself a robust area of study. Entertaining both modes of violence in the same category, however, widens the use of the word terrorism so much as to almost become cumbersome. In the interest of balancing simplicity with clarity, I prefer to keep state terror and non-state terrorism in two separate bins.

So, what does this mean in the real world?

Let’s apply these five principles—violence, motivation, victim, audience, and actor—to some examples and see what happens.

And let’s start with the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Number one, the use of violence, is clearly fulfilled.

Princip also fits the bill for number five, the actor. As an affiliate of the Black Hand, a militant nationalist organization, Princip was acting without legal authority to employ violence.

The incident also clearly fits number two, motivation. As a movement for self-determination, the Black Hand included many Yugoslav nationalists. And it was this broad aim that brought Princip to violence.

Number four, the audience, also seems to fit. Nineteenth and early-twentieth century terrorists, mostly anarchists, popularized ‘the propaganda of the deed,’ the idea that dramatic incidents were necessary for spreading revolution. In this regard, any public act of political violence speaks to an audience and fulfills that criterion. More specifically, the death of the heir apparent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was clearly designed to send a message about the consequences of their continued presence in the Balkans.

Yet, the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand fails to meet the benchmark for the third characteristic, the victim. Applying Walzer’s categories of revolutionary violence, Gavrilo Princip was an assassin, not a terrorist. His victim was not random or unrelated to the success of Princip’s cause. None of this is to validate Princip’s actions, neither is it to say that his actions did not stir considerable terror. But according to this conception of terrorism, the assassination of the Archduke doesn’t pass muster.

How about another case, during the Lebanese Civil War?

On October 23, 1983, 299 American and French soldiers were tragically killed when two truck bombs detonated at the U.S. barracks in Beirut. The death toll marked one of the deadliest attacks on American soldiers since World War II. The Islamic Jihad Organization took credit for the devastation, which eventually precipitate an American withdrawal from Lebanon in 1984. It is frequently regarded as one of the most significant acts of terror in the last half-century.

Is it?

As with our first case, this clearly fits the criterion for violence

This attack also fits number two, motivation. Islamic Jihad was a Shiite militia whose aim was the withdrawal of Western forces from Lebanon, a political objective.

Number four, audience, is also apparent. The soldiers targeted may have been the victims, but the message was certainly intended for Washington.

Things get a little murky with respect to the perpetrator. Iran’s fingerprints were all over this attack, and they likely provided some intelligence, training and resources to make it happen. Still, Islamic Jihad, a non-state actor, was the group that eventually carried out the bombing, so it is fair to say the attack fits this category despite a relationship with state-sponsorship.

As with the assassination of the Archduke, however, this attack also fails to meet the characteristic for victims laid out above. As soldiers stationed in a conflict zone, Marines do not fit the status of randomly targeted civilians. Again, this is emphatically not an excuse for the attack, but it is illustrative of how important it is to find more enhanced words to frame such non-state violence.

This case is particularly demonstrative, as a renowned terrorism scholar relayed to me. The scholar noted that our field is riddled not only with conflicting definitions of terrorism, but also inconsistencies within individual works. An author may define terrorism on page 10 of a book as I did above, but by page 50 he or she is already referring to the Barracks Bombing as an act of terror, even though it fails to meet all markers. Scholars of terrorism are just as susceptible to the baggage associated with the word as anyone else, and often times we fail to remain consistent in our own applications of the terminology.

You’ll probably find that, at least in some instances, this academic understanding of terrorism may not align perfectly with events we instinctively regard as such. I would consider that a good thing, cause for coming up with better terms for acts of political violence. But some may find that overly restrictive, and you wouldn’t be alone. There are myriad definitions out there. Find one that makes sense to you. What matters most is that you are consistent in your application of the definition. Without a shared understanding of what terrorism means, we cannot ensure we are all speaking the same language.

So, was the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi an act of terror? You tell me.

Joshua Tallis is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews’ Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. He is a Research Specialist at CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis organization located in Arlington, VA. The views and opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the University or CNA.

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Australia World’s Largest LNG exporter by 2018: Understanding Maritime Security Challenges

By Mohid Iftikhar

 According to the Oxford Institute for Energy studies by 2018; Australia would become world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter (LNG). It is of cardinal importance to understand Australia’s global significance both towards strategic direction and growth through its LNG exports. In an article by the Submarine Institute of Australia; “Future Long Range Submarine Force Vital…” Australian LNG trade will climb more than $60 billion by 2020. Hence, in connection it is essential to analyze maritime security dimensions for Australia’s LNG exports. According to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade;  Japan has been the largest export destination for Australia’s LNG over the last decade. In 2013, Japan was the destination for 92.4 per cent of Australia’s LNG exports by value, and 80.7 per cent by volume. Other major markets include China (4.2 per cent by value), the Republic of Korea (3.0 per cent) and Taiwan (0.4 per cent).”

The Asia-Pacific region holds great value to the Australian LNG, as it is a market with long term demands. In context of trade, global LNG industry faces competition with Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the U.S, but Australia has marked its position. Examined by Oxford Institute for Energy studies in their paper “The Future of Australian LNG Exports….” Australia aims at establishing its international position in the energy market and particularly towards the Asia-Pacific. Geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific has progressed, multidimensional forces promoting global and regional development including security ambitions. In relation, the Chinese initiative of the Silk Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route aim to connect Africa, Europe and Asia, and poses numerous questions in the field international relations and development. Chinese enterprise predicts greater demand of LNG in the region, according to the Asia Times there will be over 900 projects involving 60 countries in the New Silk Road Economic Corridor. Simultaneously, the existing conflicts in the South China and East China Seas are a potential source of maritime security predicament; asking if conflict is evitable amongst states?

Internationally, LNG will also help Australia’s goal to establish itself as a more active participant in the Asia-Pacific region, as outlined in the government’s 2012 white paper “Australia in the Asian Century.” Perhaps, Australia does have a concrete direction of international growth through LNG exports, at the same time maritime security remains equally essential. On the same course, the Australian Defense white paper from May 2009, “Defending Australia in the Asia-Pacific century: Force 2030”, does signify importance of maritime security and a self-dependent defense strategy in the oceans.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker operated by Energy Advance Co., a unit of Tokyo Gas Co., is moored at the company's Sodegaura plant in Sodegaura City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, March 22, 2012. Japan's imports of LNG rose to a record last fiscal year as utilities turned to fossil fuels after the Fukushima nuclear disaster led to the shutdown of almost all the nation's atomic reactors. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker operated by Energy Advance Co., a unit of Tokyo Gas Co., is moored at the company’s Sodegaura plant in Sodegaura City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, March 22, 2012.

Maritime security challenges are interlinked through adverse economic breakdown for LNG exports that fall under threats of terrorism and piracy. Possibly, terrorism remains a vital concern as LNG cargo can be targeted as floating bombs,  the statement is supported as quoted in the book “Organizational and psychological aspects of terrorism”  by the Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, “There is a concern amongst many maritime terrorist experts that a terrorist group could use a hijacked LNG tanker as a floating bomb. The amount of LNG held in a large tanker could generate an explosion of a similar size to a small nuclear bomb.” . Religious radicalization in the Middle East and terrorism in South Asia and Southeast Asia are both critical towards safety of Australian LNG shipments to their destinations. While transnational concerns have a firm relationship between maritime commerce and security, concurrently the 21st century has evolved geo-political concerns. The increasing power projections and geo-strategic goals in the Asia-Pacific are strongly connected to international maritime security. The wider hypothesis can be “Effect of Geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific towards Maritime Security.” The relationship between geopolitical dynamics and transnational crimes in the seas has shaped a new picture; while an important question is; would the latter capitalize on the stance? 

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U.S ambitions in the Indian and Pacific Ocean are towards deploying 60% of its naval fleet by 2020. Perhaps, sea lines of communication for Australian exports are not only critical towards intra and interregional trade, but geopolitics post 2020 will evolve the architecture of maritime security.  It is equally important to sustain international harmony in the maritime sphere of Asia-Pacific, but are China, USA and other rising powers willing to extend collaboration and coalitions for maritime security? Many experts and scholars from war studies and international relations agree towards the minimum possibility towards a military conflict in the Asia-Pacific, but they don’t completely rule out the fact. Power projections in the seas of Asia-Pacific remain a source of anxiety, and the deployment of submarines and destroyers in strategic positions produces a negative image.

Transnational criminals today have accelerated in their modus operandi by advancing in strategic intelligence through contemporary technologies. The cyber domain remains sophisticated, but has its cons that can be favorable to criminals for locating LNG shipments through GPS tracking and etc. On the same note, the Straits of Malacca remain the central route for Australian LNG shipments to pass towards East Asia; the year 2014 had accounted for 75% of the world’s piracy attacks in the area. Further, in an article from BloombergView “Islamic State Is Rapidly Expanding in Southeast Asia” quoted as Southeast Asia is a key recruitment center for ISIS, the nexus between terrorism in Southeast Asia and Jihadi extremism from the Middle East evolves a broader challenge in the maritime route for Australian LNG shipments.

It is a question of international economic security towards safety of Australian LNG shipments, in two parts. First preventing an economic breakdown for Australia and second the dependence of importer states for their national operations and productivity. International development requires a sustainable mechanism of integration between states, and the Asia-Pacific region is evolving complex dynamics that inculcate development, geopolitical, race, and transnational challenges. Demand of LNG in the Asia-Pacific will extensively grow in forthcoming years; Australia will be a significant contributor towards the same. But geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific is defining competition in facets of arms race, strength and modern imperialism. Transnational crimes such as terrorism, radicalization and piracy are a threat to Australian LNG shipments capitalizing on geopolitical objectives in a camouflaged manner. Simply, while there is a debate going on amongst great and rising powers of who is right in the Asia-Pacific, transnational criminals are emerging through the sideways planning catastrophic events. 

The Asia-Pacific region in the maritime domain requires consensus building from global and rising powers. A direction towards international development, ownership of vital ocean resources and disputes on maritime boundaries are aspects that ignite geopolitical race. First the international framework under the United Nations convention on the Law of Seas (UNCLOS) must be followed by all states, which allows interpretation of rules and laws, simplifying dimensions of the international maritime mechanism. The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) chalks out a coherent framework for safety of sea ports and vessels, uniformity applying the same particularly from maritime nations will allow combating transnational threats.  Second, to maintain international harmony in the oceans and minimizing threats from transnational challenges; stakeholders of the Asia-Pacific must devise a collective and collaborative strategy based on joint intelligence sharing. Safety and security of LNG shipments are not only important for Australia, but global operations  depend on it. Though Australia has collaborated with various states in Asia-Pacific towards maritime security, it is equally essential to initiate a productive platform towards dialogue that will allow the Asia-Pacific century to become a reality. Maritime security for Australia and other states can be strengthened by adapting the existing international framework towards laws and regulations of the seas; perhaps, this could initiate discussion and consenting on alliance and cooperation in the oceans.

Mohid Iftikhar has Masters of Philosophy in Peace & Conflict Studies from National Defence University, Pakistan and Bachelor in Business Administration from University of Southern Queensland, Australia. He has completed a short course on Defence & Security Management in collaboration with Defence Academy, UK, Cranfield University and NDU, PK.  He is a member of Center for International Maritime Security and Associate member, the Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, King’s College London. At present, he is working for the Federal Ministry of Planning Development & Reform in Pakistan.This article was prepared  by Mohid Iftikhar in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect of any Organization or Institute. 

Je Suis Charlie

As editors at CIMSEC we primarily deal with the realm of maritime security, not satire of French culture & society. However, the ultimate purpose of our study is the securing of peace – the kind of peace in which people may enjoy that bounty of freedoms, including speech and press, which we often take for granted and that are so anathema to civilization’s enemies. Those enemies murdered 12 French citizens in cold blood – 10 Charlie Hebdo staffers exercising their freedom of speech, and 2 heroic police officers, one of whom was a Muslim himself, defending it. Sometimes that speech is polite, many times it’s rude – but only our freedom’s protection, never its censure, is ever worth a fight. To that end, we publish two choice covers from the Charlie Hebdo magazine – if for no more reason than that the terrorists who went on a rampage in Paris hated them, and as a sign of solidarity with those showing they will not be pressured by such barbarity.

As we reflect, remember that though the watchwords are, “Je Suis Charlie” (We Are Charlie) – we are not. We have never had our places of businesses firebombed for what we do, and carried on nonetheless. Zealot murderers do not know most of us by name, nor do they know where to find us personally. Remember that the lessons we learned from this massacre must be more than this moment of chest-thumped, but ultimately safe, solidarity.

– Matt, Scott & Chris


*If Mohammed returned…
*I’m the prophet, idiot.
*Die, infidel



*Mohammed overwhelmed
*It’s hard to be loved by idiots