ISLAMABAD: The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) emerged as major actors of instability in Pakistan in 2019 by perpetrating 82 and 27 terrorist attacks, respectively, including some high-impact ones.
However, the incidence of terrorist violence by the militant Islamic State (IS) group declined significantly during that year, according to the statistics provided in the Pak Institute for Peace Studies’ (PIPS) annual security review of the country for 2019.
It notes that on the whole, marking a 13 per cent decrease as compared to the previous year, 2019 saw 229 terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including four suicide assaults. These attacks claimed in all 357 lives – a decline of 40pc from the number of those killed in such attacks in 2018 – and injured another 729 people.
So-called religiously inspired militant groups such as the TTP, its splinter group Hizbul Ahrar and others with similar objectives perpetrated 158 terrorist attacks, killing 239 people.
Annual security review stresses deradicalisation of members of religious outfits, fast-track mechanism on missing persons in Balochistan
Nationalist insurgent groups, mainly Baloch insurgent groups BLA and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), carried out 57 attacks, which claimed 80 lives.
Besides, 14 of the reported terrorist attacks in 2019 were sectarian-related, which caused 38 deaths.
The report further notes that those killed in terrorist attacks included 164 civilians, 163 personnel of security and law enforcement agencies as well as 30 militants.
Personnel of security and law enforcement agencies suffered significant casualties because they were targeted in 118 attacks, or about 52pc of the total terrorist attacks recorded across Pakistan.
Over all 91pc of the total recorded attacks in 2019 concentrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. In KP, 125 terrorist attacks claimed 145 lives and injured 249 others. North Waziristan remerged as a major hotspot of militant violence, which was the only district of the country with over 50 attacks in the year.
In terms of terrorism-related casualties, Balochistan was the most affected region of the country in 2019. As many as 171 people were killed – about 48pc of the total 357 people killed in terrorist attacks across Pakistan – and 436 others were injured in 84 reported attacks from the province.
Fourteen terrorist attacks took place in Sindh — 10 in Karachi alone and four in other parts of the province — which killed 18 people and injured two others.
Five terrorist attacks took place in Punjab and one in the federal capital Islamabad.
Security forces and law enforcement agencies killed as many as 113 militants in 2019 in military/security operations as well as their armed clashes and encounters with the militants – compared to 105 militants killed in such actions in 2018. The forces / agencies also apprehended 231 suspected terrorists and members of militant groups in 99 search and combing operations conducted all over the country.
“With a slight decline of over 2pc from the previous year, 128 cross-border attacks were reported from Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan (four attacks), India (123) and Iran (one attack),” the report states. These attacks claimed the lives of 91 Pakistani citizens, including 61 civilians, 29 army officials and one Rangers man.
The report also identified some critical security challenges and provided recommendations, such as despite government efforts, curbing terrorism financing stood out as one of the most critical security challenges facing Pakistan. Instead of relying on a tactical approach of merely responding to the FATF queries, Pakistan needs to develop some institutional responses to curb terror financing.
According to the report, Pakistan’s counter terrorism challenge has many aspects and deradicalisation of members of banned religious organisations is becoming critical too. Such initiative is also needed in the context of the increasing frustration among members and workers of banned militant organisations and their charities, especially after law enforcement agencies have launched a renewed campaign against them.
The problem of a lax state response to the security challenges of KP was partly linked to continuing slow transition of implementation of erstwhile Fata’s merger with KP, mainly due to multiple bureaucratic, political and legal hurdles, which need to be addressed immediately.
To deal with the Baloch insurgency, the government is advised to immediately evolve a proper plan for reintegration and mainstreaming of insurgents. The report observes that a realisation among the Baloch youth is increasing that through violence nothing can be achieved and the state has to reciprocate in a similar way.
A fast-track mechanism on missing persons in Balochistan can prove a major confidence-building measure, the report recommends.
The phenomenon of religious intolerance has its own dynamics, but in recent years it has grown through its connectivity with larger extremist discourses fanned in cyberspaces, it notes. The government has to respond through inclusive education, as well as through supporting moderate and progressive narratives in cyberspaces, media and on education campuses.
The National Action Plan (NAP) should be made into a proper plan, with clear goals, a comprehensive monitoring mechanism, and periodic reviewing. The NAP should adjust with the changing nature of the threats and it should have been a dynamic and effective policy tool.
The government has recently taken some steps to regularise madressahs. However, these measures may not prove an alternative of a regulatory authority on the seminaries to look into their financial affairs, pedagogy, hate speech, sectarian narratives and activities of radical groups in madressahs.
Such regulatory authorities can be established at the level of districts or provinces, which should have representation of educational departments, religious scholars, civil society and parents.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2020
An earlier version of this story stated that there was a 30pc decrease in terrorist attacks observed in 2019. The error is regretted.