Why extremism still haunts Pakistan

Story highlights

  • At least 19 people were killed during a militant raid on a Pakistani university on Wednesday
  • Michael Kugelman: Pakistan may be killing terrorists, but it has not killed off ideology that fuels them

Michael Kugelman is the senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. You can follow him @michaelkugelman. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)In recent months, Pakistani officials have boasted of major counterterrorism successes. They cite, for example, the scores of militants killed in an ongoing military operation in the North Waziristan tribal area, and point to the considerable reductions in terrorist violence. And it's true that last year, the number of civilian deaths from terrorist violence was down about 50% from 2014.

Still, let's be clear: Despite the counterterrorism triumphs over the last year, militancy has not been muzzled in Pakistan, a reality made painfully clear on Wednesday morning, when terrorists stormed Bacha Khan University in the town of Charsadda in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 19 people.
    Michael Kugelman
    It would also be wrong to suggest that the Bacha Khan University attack shattered a relative lull in terrorist violence. On the contrary, it came soon after two other mass casualty attacks elsewhere in the country -- one on a government office and the other at an outdoor market.
    None of this should be surprising.
    Pakistan may be killing off terrorists on the battlefield, but it has not killed off the ideology that fuels them. Indeed, the reality is that the Pakistani state has failed to craft a counternarrative to combat the hardline rhetoric deeply entrenched in Pakistani society. This ideology emphasizes themes of Islam being under siege, and of India and the United States as being responsible for Pakistan's afflictions. It is propagated by religious leaders, parroted by wildly popula