ISLAMABAD: Casualties in terror attacks, which had gone down after the launch of Zarb-e-Azb military operation in mid 2014, are showing an upward trend.
Compared to April, May recorded more than 33 per cent increase in militant activities across the country, more than 60 per cent increase in number of deaths and more than 16 per cent increase in number of injuries, according to a monthly security assessment report released by the think tank, Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) on Monday.
It says the militants have changed their strategy and are now going for soft targets, like general public.
In May, it recorded 162 incidents of anti-state violence by militants and insurgents and counter attacks against them, in which altogether 311 people were killed, 136 injured and three kidnapped. At least 503 suspects were arrested by the security forces.
It attributed 75 of the 162 violent incidents to militants which caused 174 deaths and injuries to 116 others.
Except Fata, all parts of the country witnessed this increase in number of militant attacks, notably Balochistan. Fata, in fact, witnessed 21 per cent reduction in number of attacks.
In Balochistan, militant attacks increased by almost 62 per cent and resulting deaths by nearly 32 per cent and the number of wounded by more than 37 per cent.
Attacks in Sindh increased by 50 per cent and in Khyber Pakhtunkwa by 22 per cent.
The report claims that although militants are still not able to plan and execute attacks on major targets like military installations (except targeted killing of police officers in Karachi) they have been found quite active in going after soft targets like general population.
May 2015 witnessed two high profile attacks on the Ismaili community in Karachi and Pashtuns in Mastung. Son of President Mamnoon Hussain was targeted in an Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) blast in Hub (Balochistan) but remained safe.
Balochistan witnessed 34 militant activities during May that killed 44 people and injured 51.
“Given the allegations of Indian intelligence agency RAW’s involvement in Balochistan and acknowledgement of such policy by Indian defence minister,” says the PICSS’ report, “the latest upsurge in violence in the province seems to be externally driven, which is apparently aimed at sabotaging Pakistan-China Economic Corridor”. It said the massacre of ethnic Pashtun bus passengers in Mastung added a new dimension to already fragile security situation in the province.
“Targeting Pashtun population is meant to create differences between Baloch and Pasthuns which can have far reaching implications on security and social condition of the province,” the PICSS said.
It also noted that IED attacks increased from 22 in April to 28 in May, as did targeted killings from 11 to 21.
Statistics collected by PICSS show that the 87 actions the security forces conducted during May reflected a slight decline in such actions. In their actions, 137 people died and 12 were injured.
However, military operations in North Waziristan has increased, according to the PICSS.
Former DG ISPR Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, while talking to Dawn, said that the army can kill terrorists but it cannot eradicate terrorism.
There are two reasons that extremists have turned to soft targets, he said.
“First one is that the Taliban have lost the tribal territory they used to plan and rehearse before attacking installations. Now they are using their supporters in the religious and outlawed organisations for terrorism who go after soft targets because they have no place to rehearse like the Taliban.
“Second reason is that now Taliban have come out in the open and hitting public because they know they no more have public sympathy. The extremists are in a weak position and it is now for civil establishment to start eradicating terrorism as it can only be done by civil departments,” he said.
Security and defense analyst retired Brig Mahmood Shah said that Taliban are on the back foot as people have started talking against them.
“Now civilian departments have to be strengthened to eradicate terrorism. Nacta has not been activated in real terms despite many claims by the government. Departments have to be made functional to get the maximum advantage of the success got by the army,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2015