Terrorism in Pakistan has become a major and highly destructive phenomenon in recent years. The annual death toll from terrorist attacks has risen from 164 in 2003 to 3318 in 2009, with a total of 35,000 Pakistanis killed as of 2010. According to the government of Pakistan, the direct and indirect economic costs of terrorism from 2000-2010 total $68 billion. President Asif Ali Zardari, along with former President ex-Pakistan Army head Pervez Musharraf have admitted that terrorist outfits were deliberately created and nurtured by past governments as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives. The trend began with Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's controversial "Islamization" policies of the 1980s under which conflicts were started against non-Muslim countries. Zia's tenure as president saw Pakistan's involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War, which led to a greater influx of ideologically driven Afghan Arabs to the tribal areas and increased availability of guns such as the AK-47 and drugs from the Golden Crescent.
The state and its Inter-Services Intelligence in alliance with the CIA encouraged the "mujahideen" to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union. Most of the mujahideen were never disarmed after the war and some of these groups were later activated at the behest of the state in the form of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and others like the Taliban who were all encouraged to achieve Pakistan's agenda in the Kashmir conflict and Afghanistan respectively. The same groups are now taking on the state itself, making the biggest threat to it and the citizens of Pakistan through the politically motivated killing of civilians and police officials by what Pakistan calls misguided holy warriors (mujahideen) and the rest of the world calls terrorists.
From the summer of 2007 until late 2012, more than 3000 people were killed in suicide and other attacks on civilians for reasons attributed to a number of causes – sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims; easy availability of guns and explosives; the existence of a "Kalishnikov culture"; an influx of ideologically driven Afghan Arabs based in or near Pakistan, who originate from any country with a Muslim population and the subsequent war against the Afghan communists in the 1980s which blew back into Pakistan; the presence of Islamist insurgent groups and forces such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba; Pakistan's thousands of fundamentalist madrassas (Islamic schools) which are thought by some to provide training for little other than jihad and secessionists movements – the most significant being the Balochistan liberation movement – blamed on regionalism, which is problematic in a country with Pakistan's diverse cultures, languages, traditions and customs.
Two of the main causal factors of terrorism in Pakistan are sectarian/religious violence and the Pakistani state's active nurturing of terrorist proxies for perceived strategic ends. Following imposition of martial law in 1956, Pakistan's political situation suddenly changed and thereafter saw dictatorship type behaviour at different levels appearing in the civil service, the army (those most culpable) and political forces or Zamindars (landlords created by the British) who claimed power, probably because the British originally did not consider Pakistan an independent state, yet did not want to intervene; this trend continued into the 21st century, when finally, the US persuaded General Pervez Musharraf to hold elections. Other causes, such as political rivalry and business disputes, also took their toll. It was estimated in 2005 that more than 4,000 people had died in Pakistan in the preceding 25 years due to sectarian strife.