Pakistan Reader# 290, 5 February 2022
Since January 2022, Pakistan has witnessed an increase in the number of terrorist attacks. According to a data released by Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), violent attacks decreased from 28 to 24 during January; however, when compared to December 202, the deaths and injuries rate increased by 15 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively. The report also claims the majority of the attacks took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) followed by Balochistan and erstwhile FATA. In another report, PICSS stated that Pakistan has witnessed a 56 per cent surge in militant attacks during the year 2021, citing that the militants have carried out 294 attacks when compared to the 188 militant attacks in 2020.
January 2022 has witnessed a series of deadly attacks. These attacks have not been restricted to the usual hotspots but instead have taken place across the country, including the capital. Additionally, these attacks were carried out by both the usual terrorist groups as well as newly created groups who targeted both civilian and security personnel.
Mapping major attacks in January-February 2022
Balochistan: On 26 January, 10 soldiers were killed after terrorists attacked a security forces' check-post in Balochistan's Kech district. However, no group claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 2 February, the Inter-Services Public Relations has stated that security forces have killed 13 terrorists while “successfully” repulsing two separate attacks in the Panjgur and Naushki districts of Balochistan. The ISPR claimed that communication between the terrorists and their handlers allegedly in India and Afghanistan was also intercepted. According to a Frontier Corps (FC) spokesperson, two explosions took place near the camps at Panjgur and Naushki. The banned Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Punjab: On 22 January, three people were killed and several others were injured in an explosion at Anarkali market. The attack was claimed by the newly emerged Baloch Nationalist Army that was formed after two minor separatist groups, Balochistan Republican Army and United Baloch Army merged.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: On 11 January, a Pakistan Army soldier was killed after terrorists attacked a military post in Bannu's Janikhel.
On January 5, two soldiers and several terrorists were killed in two separate intelligence-based operations (IBOs) conducted by security forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
On 31 December, four soldiers of the Pakistan Army were killed in an exchange of fire with terrorists during an IBO in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan tribal district.
Islamabad: On 17 January, a policeman and two terrorists were killed in a shootout in Islamabad after the police personnel tried to stop two men on a motorcycle for routine checking when the riders opened fire at the police party. The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Two major triggers: Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and weak counterterrorism measures
The recent surge in attacks across the country can be attributed to two factors.
First, the instability, post the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Although militant attacks were a common in Pakistan, there has been an increase in the number and intensity since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claimed that terror incidents in Pakistan have witnessed a surge following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, claiming that such incidents are likely to continue. The instability across the border has emboldened the TTP, which has carried out several attacks in Pakistan since the Afghan Taliban took power in Afghanistan. According to a PICSS report, militancy did decrease slightly after the ceasefire with the TTP. However, it got reversed, after the TTP called off the ceasefire in December 2021. Additionally, it has been reported that the TTP has provided bases to the Baloch rebels in the Bermal district of Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktika, which is adjacent to TTP's stronghold of South Waziristan.
It was expected that the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan would help Pakistan address its militancy problems. However, there has been no substantial agreement between the Pakistani government and the Taliban on the same.
Second, Pakistan’s inefficient counterterrorism measures. One of the key factors in countering terrorism is developing an efficient plan and policy to address the issue. However, Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy and policy remains weak despite several years of battling with the issue. The following areas are still lacking: First, well-equipped police service. Pakistani police forces are underequipped to manage rising insecurity and militant violence. If changes are not made to the police and other law enforcement agencies counterterrorism efforts would go in vain. Second, a coherent national counterterrorism plan. Although the success of the National Action Plan (NAP) that was implemented to crack down on terrorism has been widely claimed, several militant and terrorist organized have continued to operate in and around Pakistan. Thus, the progress of the NAP is questionable. Additionally, the incumbent government has been accused of appeasing militant groups rather than negotiating with them. This lack of clarity in the government’s plans would not help in addressing the issue.
To conclude, with militant groups being emboldened and their lethality increasing, the government would need to devise a strategy to protect the lives of its security forces and citizens. The PTI government recently published the National Security Policy (2022-26), plans such as this would have to be thoroughly executed to help curb the threat of terrorism.
Ghalib Nihad, “ISPR says attacks repulsed in Balochistan's Naushki and Panjgur; 4 terrorists killed,” Dawn, 2 February 2022
Munawer Azeem, “Policeman martyred in shootout in capital,” Dawn, 18 January 2022
Ikram Junaidi, “Militant attacks declined slightly in January: report,” Dawn, 2 February 2022
Naveed Siddiqui, “2 soldiers martyred, as many terrorists killed in IBOs in KP: ISPR,” Dawn, 2 February 2022
Asif Chaudhry, “Bomb blast in Lahore market leaves three dead,” Dawn, 21 January 2022
Muhammad Amir Rana, “Growing terrorism threat,” Dawn, 23 January 2022
“2021: Pakistan Saw 56% Rise in Militant Attacks,” PICCS, 1 January 2022
“Pakistan saw increase in militant attacks following Taliban offensive in Afghanistan: report,” Dawn, 1 January 2022
Amir Wasim, “Ready for negotiations with TTP but no compromise on security: Rashid,” The Express Tribune, 24 January 2022