ISLAMABAD: The number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has seen a phenomenal surge of 73pc during the first 21 months since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, compared to the corresponding period before their takeover.

Overall, incidents of terrorist violence have significantly increased inside Pakistan since August 15, 2021 when the Taliban took control of Kabul. The number of people killed in the attacks in Pakistan from August 2021 to April 2023 (21 months) has also increased by 138pc.

These are some of the key findings of the policy-oriented report titled ‘Pakistan’s Afghan Perspective and Policy Options’, launched by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) here at a local hotel. The report, which comprises significant recommendations for policymakers, is the final outcome of extensive monitoring, research and analyses, and eight expert consultations the think tank has conducted since July 2021.

Experts on security and Afghan affairs, academics, lawmakers, journalists, students, and representatives of civil society, among others, attended the launch event. A brainstorming question and answer session was held at the end of the ceremony after experts delivered their speeches.

Experts say KP, Balochistan witnessed the impact most

The report also says that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan have witnessed a marked impact of the Afghan situation in terms of terrorist violence, where the number of attacks during these 21 months surged by 92pc and 81pc, respectively. However, the number of terrorist attacks in Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad Capital Territory has posted a relative decline since the Taliban takeover as compared to corresponding 21 months pre-August 2021.

The report warns that these emerging trends of terrorism will only add to Pakistan’s persistent security challenge in terms of Taliban militancy in KP and the erstwhile tribal areas, Baloch nationalist insurgency in Balochistan, ethno-nationalist violence in Sindh, as well as growing religious extremism and radicalism. “Protracted over a longer period of time, such an environment of insecurity, militancy, and violence can pose serious threats to political and economic stability as well,” it states.

Deputy head of mission of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad Dr Maha Noor Khan said that Norway was one of the few countries of the world that has always supported dialogue with the (Afghan) Taliban. She said that promoting conflict resolution and reconciliation was the central aspect of Norwegian foreign policy.

Expressing her concerns about women’s situation in the war-torn country, she said that the Taliban government’s decision to deny women and girls of their right to education and work was a serious violation of human rights. “We underline the need for a more representative and inclusive government (in Afghanistan),” she said.

Professor of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal said that all segments of society had a consensus that Pakistan’s over five decade long Afghan policy needed to be revisited.

Defence and strategic affairs analyst retired Maj Gen Inamul Haque viewed that banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and border fencing were the two “variables” as well as irritants in Pak-Afghan relations.

“If Pakistan deals with both correctly, then it can improve its relationship with Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the banned group had the potential to spoil Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan.

Former first deputy speaker of the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament Mirwais Yasini pointed out that the core issue was to build trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He added that mistrust existed between both countries for a very long period of time.

Former senator Afrasiab Khattak in his concluding remarks said that the presence of militant organisations in Afghanistan could provoke a new conflict as well as second war of terror, which would have serious consequences for the region. He urged Pakistan to change its policy towards Afghanistan, adding that the previous one was flawed, which could create problems for it.

Earlier, PIPS Director Mohammad Amir Rana in his welcome note said that Pakistan should widen its policy options and policy framework, which should be based on inclusivity with input from all stakeholders, on the issue of Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2023

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