Sharp escalation

Published May 9, 2022

THE danger is clear and present: militancy is on the upswing and matters could get worse before they get better.

As per statistics released by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, April saw a 24pc increase in militant attacks as compared to the month before. There were 34 such attacks in April with a death toll of 55. At least 25 people were injured. In March, the attacks numbered 26, but the casualty figures were much higher — 77 dead and 288 injured — largely on account of the devastating suicide blast at a Shia mosque in Peshawar on the fourth day of the month which was claimed by the Islamic State group’s Khorasan chapter.

The frequency of attacks in March was twice that in February, indicating a rapidly worsening security scenario. Most of the violence took place in the tribal districts, parts of which have become hotbeds of militancy once again, followed by the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and then Balochistan.

Editorial: Showing firmness

The second coming of the Afghan Taliban last year has had a negative fallout on Pakistan’s security landscape. In fact, militants of all stripe seem to have been emboldened by the success of the insurgent force in driving out the world’s sole superpower.

There is an eerily symbiotic connection between the new regime’s takeover of Kabul and the rise in militancy in this country. The year 2021 saw the highest number of militant attacks in Pakistan after a consistent decline of six years — with the maximum occurring in August, the very month the Afghan Taliban seized power next door.

Read: Taliban have reassured won't allow TTP to use Afghan land against Pakistan, says Sheikh Rashid

It soon became clear that, contrary to their pledges to the international community, Kabul’s new rulers were not going to take any action against the banned TTP, or any other violent extremist outfit for that matter, that are taking refuge on their soil. This was partly because they feared that such action could drive some from its own ranks towards other militant groups. But the situation also presented the Afghan Taliban with the opportunity to repay the TTP for giving them safe harbour in erstwhile Fata when they were fleeing the US forces invading Afghanistan. At most, they were willing to facilitate talks between their ideological brothers-in-arms and the Pakistani state.

After the failure of the short-lived truce that came about as a result, the TTP has not looked back. Pakistan needs to neutralise the threats emerging on its western flank without delay.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2022

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