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CWA # 251, 28 March 2020

Report Review
The decline in terrorism in Pakistan in 2019

  Lakshmi V Menon

In comparison to 2018, terror attacks have declined by 13 per cent and the death toll due to terrorist attacks have dropped by 40 per cent. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (125) experienced the most attacks, followed by Balochistan (84), Sindh (14), Punjab (5) and Islamabad (1)

 

Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) published their Pakistan Security Report for the year.  PIPS’ report records a total of 229 terrorist attacks in 2019 by various militant, sectarian, and insurgent groups that killed 357 people and injured 729 more across Pakistan. The report’s main thrust is the decline in terrorism in 2019.

The report encompasses nine chapters: Overview of Security, Security Landscape, Militant landscape, State Responses, Militant Landscape of Baluchistan, Wave of Suicide Bombing (2007 to 2011), CPEC Security, Faith-based Violence and other Incidences, and Baloch Insurgency. 

An overview in 2019
In comparison to 2018, terror attacks have declined by 13 per cent and the death toll due to terrorist attacks have dropped by 40 per cent. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (125) experienced the most attacks, followed by Balochistan (84), Sindh (14), Punjab (5) and Islamabad (1). Karachi alone saw ten attacks.

‘Overview of Security’ discusses critical challenges like the FATF ruling, need for de-radicalisation and addressing violent extremism and suggests measures such as FATA’s merger into KP, regularizing Madrassas and implementing the National Action Plan. ‘Pakistan’s Security Landscape’ has provincial level comparisons of targets hit, sectarian violence, border attacks, suicide attacks, violence against workers and political leaders. The greatest number of sectarian attacks occurred in Balochistan (7), followed by Sindh (6) and KP (1). The most attacks targeting political leaders also took place in Baluchistan (on BAP, BNP-M and JUI-F leaders), followed by KP where PPP and ANP leaders were struck. 

The state’s internal security landscape faces internal and external challenges. Pulwama situation coupled with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revocation of Kashmir’s special status pose strategic threats to Pakistan’s eastern side, demanding the Centre’s attention to conventional security threats. The porous Af-Pak border further becomes complex with Baloch insurgents utilizing Iranian territory for cover.

The Militants Landscape in Pakistan
‘Militant landscape’ covers religiously-inspired militant groups (like local Taliban, TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Islam, IS, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, Jamaatul Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar and Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan SMP) and nationalist insurgent groups (like Lashkar-e-Balochistan, Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Sindhu Desh Liberation Army and unidentified militants). ‘Militant landscape of Balochistan’ elaborates on sectarian and religious extremism and nationalist insurgency while detailing on targets, tactics, advantages and internal fissures. Activities of insurgency groups like United Baloch Army, Baloch Republican Guards (BRG), BRA, and Lashkar-e- Balochistan; and extremist groups such as LeJ, SMP, ISO, Ansar Al-Furqan, Daesh, Jamaatul Ahrar, Jaishul Adl, TTP and Hizbul Ahrar are studied in detailed.

Religiously inspired militant groups like TTP, its splinters Jamaatul Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar, IS-affiliates, LeI have concentrated their activities on KP and Baluchistan; they orchestrated 158 attacks (171 in 2018) killing 239 people and injuring 489 more. Blasphemy accusations, like the incident in Ghotki in September 2019, where Hindu community was attacked and looted, exemplify intolerance promoted by religiously-inspired militant groups. Nationalist insurgency groups, primarily Baloch perpetrated 57 attacks (80 in 2018) claiming 80 lives and injuring 162 people. 14 reported attacks which were sectarian in nature (12 in 2018) killed 38 and injured 78 more. Those killed included 164 civilians, 163 security, law enforcement personnel and 30 militants. 

A Profile of Attacks
Attacks targeting security caused most casualties. 39 attacks directly targeted civilians; 11 attacks targeted Shia community, mainly Hazaras; another 11 attacks targeted diplomats, peace committee members and pro-government tribesmen; and 9 attacks hit political workers and leaders. Terrorists employed IEDs (123 attacks), suicide bombers (4), rockets (3), hand-grenades (5), bombs (2), shootouts and direct firing (92 attacks).

Operational attacks, encounters and clashes between security forces and militants, terrorists arrested in 2019 and foiled terror bids are covered in ‘State Responses’. ‘Wave of Suicide Bombing in Pakistan’ between 2007-2011 shows effects on public perceptions and opinions. ‘CPEC Security in 2019’ looks at growth of special security forces, Indian opposition, project-security, worker-security, and security discussions during JCC meetings, among others.

Despite Pakistan’s overall decline in terror attacks, incidences from KP persisted as in 2018. 42 per cent of the 125 attacks recorded in KP were in North Waziristan. The prolonged merger of FATA in KP that has caused implementation hurdles and slow state responses may be the reason. 

In 2019, anti-money laundering and controlling terror financing were critical policy requirements in Pakistan; causing long-term consequences in the security and financial sectors. In June 2018, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had put Pakistan in the ‘greylist’ and warned against black-listing. In February 2020, the global watchdog decided that Pakistan would continue in the ‘greylist’ until a further review in June 2020.

Policy Suggestions
The report makes policy suggestions to fulfil PM Imran Khan’s promise of a terror-free ‘Naya Pakistan’. First, is an open Parliament debate on future and status of banned groups coupled with the establishment of a national-level high-powered truth and reconciliation commission. Second, is the scrutiny of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) that reflects trust issues between KP’s population and security forces. Government’s indifference may worsen the brewing conflict. Third, is giving special attention to Baluchistan’s security landscape, the complexity of which has increased by both nationalist and religious non-state actors. The situation demands immediate measures for mainstreaming and reintegration of insurgents. Baloch youth seem to have realized violence is not the way; government must reciprocate. A fast-track mechanism for Balochistan’s missing persons is also suggested as a confidence-building measure. Fourth, is addressing hurdles to the effective implementation of NAP in 2019, such as lack of a dynamic, evolving, proper plan with periodic monitoring, identified goals and regular reviewing. 

In Pakistan, terror attacks and casualties have decreased gradually since 2009 (except in 2013, when sectarian violence peaked). NAP’s counter-extremism measures along with the anti-terror department’s anti-militant surveillance and operational campaigns have helped keep the trajectory low. Nevertheless, the threat of terrorism endures in virtual and physical pockets.

Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies is a non-governmental, independent, non-profit advocacy and research think-tank which has maintained a digital database with in-depth analysis on critical security and conflict issues since 2006. It provides comprehensive data regarding terror incidents, ethnopolitical violence, inter-tribal in-fighting, evolving militant tactics and targets, comparative analysis of different security factors and nature of state responses. 
 

The above was first published as an IPRI Commentary. See "Pakistan: Decline in Terrorism," IPRI # 37, 28 March 2020

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