Amidst apprehensions of a conflict between India and Pakistan after attacks on Mumbai on 26 November, as Pakistani security forces ostensibly diverted their attention from the Western to the Eastern borders, terror related violence showed an increase from 372 in November to 388 in December. Although there was no movement of troops from the Western borders to the East, Pakistani security forces allowed vast tracts of land in FATA and Swat Valley go under the control of Taliban. This was probably an attempt to put pressure on the West in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks, but only helped the militants to consolidate their position. As a result besides South and North Waziristan Agencies, the Taliban has established its writ in Orakzai Agency and Swat Valley.
As the security forces scaled down their operations against the militants, the causality figure of militants reduced significantly from 462 in November to 216 in December. Absence of any major military operations also ensured that the casualties of the security forces also reduced considerably from 56 in November to 23 in December. However, the casualties of civilians rose from 286 in November to 340 in December, as the militants utilized this breather to settle scores with pro-government tribal leaders and secular political activists. Nevertheless, the total number of deaths from violence came down from 804 in November to 579 in December, but it would be wrong to discern a durable trend from it as the reduced casualties were mainly because the security forces reduced military operations against the militants. In keeping with the militants’ policy of intimidating and in some instances eliminating allies of the government as well as those who dared to oppose their diktats, the number of abductions rose sharply from 65 in November to 271 in December.
The continuing trend of the last three months demonstrates that the NWFP witnesses the highest number of violent attacks in Pakistan. The number of violent incidents decreased from 184 in November to 178 in December, averaging almost six a day. During the month of December 307 people were killed and 209 injured as against 342 killed and 308 injured in the previous month. However, the number of injured are likely to be higher as the exact number of injured were often not reported in the media. 100 alleged militants were killed during the month as against 190 killed and 123 injured in November. The security forces arrested 248 alleged militants including 109 persons from Hangu on December 30 for their alleged involvement in sectarian violence during Muharram. On the other hand 191 civilians were killed and 172 received injuries in December, as against 111 killed and 157 injured in November. Similarly, the number of people kidnapped by the militants has also increased to 70 in December from 32 the previous month including seven security personnel kidnapped in December and three in November. During the month of November,16 security personnel were killed and 36 injured as against 41 killed and 28 injured the previous month, thereby clearly indicating a marked lull in the security forces’ operations against the militants.
Like in the past, the main targets of the militants remained security posts, police stations, schools and shops selling CDs, wine and cosmetics. However, during the month of November, the supply convoys to NATO troops in Afghanistan were added to this list. In the biggest assault ever on this vital military supply line, over 300 vehicles and container vehicles that carry goods from Pakistan for NATO troops in Afghanistan were destroyed. On 7 December, the Taliban torched more than 160 vehicles carrying NATO vehicles in Peshawar and the very next day, they again torched another 53 in Peshawar destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan. The impunity, with which the attackers could target these high value targets in the heart of Peshawar city is indicative of state complicity. It appears that the security establishment in Pakistan wanted to use these attacks to ease US pressure being put on Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. The strife between Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other tribal groups remained unabated and its cadres beheaded two followers of a rival cleric - Pir Samiullah in Gwalerai area of Matta tehsil. Militants operating in the restive Swat valley announced a unilateral ceasefire during Eid-ul-Azha. On 26 December, the Taliban in Swat district imposed a blanket ban on female education and warned the teachers of ‘severe consequences’. The militants also shot and injured a Chinese engineer and his security guard in Dargai on 24 December.
As against six suicide bombing in November, there were only three such attacks in December in NWFP, but they resulted in greater casualties. As opposed to 28 people killed and 53 wounded in November in NWFP, 56 persons were killed and 71 injured in suicide attacks in December. Two of the three attacks were directed against the security forces and the third attack was at a polling station set up for a by-election in Bunir district.
Unlike the other parts of Pakistan, there was an increase in the incidents of violence in FATA, which rose from 108 in November to 122 in December. However the casualty rates dropped significantly and against 337 killed and 109 injured in November, 201 persons were killed and 125 injured in December. 100 militants were killed and 63 injured in December as against 254 killed and 68 injured in the previous month. The security forces also arrested 31 alleged militants including Al Qaeda members as compared to 88 in November. Similarly, 87 civilian were killed and 31 injured as against 111 killed and 57 injured in the previous month. Besides, 185 (including 160 persons who were taken hostage by rival tribes in Kurram Agency on 16 December) civilians were kidnapped by the gunmen as against 23 in November. In the absence of any major operation by the security forces, only four security personnel lost their lives in the region as against eight in November. Besides, 15 security personnel were injured and one was kidnapped.
During the month of December as the security forces halted their operations against the militants, the interregnum was utilized by the militants to exterminate a number of alleged US spies. At least nine such ‘spies’ were killed in five different incidents in North and South Waziristan itself. Each dead body carried a note accusing them of spying for the US. Around four hundred alleged Taliban surrendered to the authorities during the month mainly in Mohmand agency. In accordance with the trend observed in NWFP, lorries and tankers carrying supplies for International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan were attacked while passing through the Khyber Pass and the TTP claimed responsibility for these attacks.
The region also witnessed one suicide attack in December as against two such incidents in November. On December 5, seven tribesmen were killed and eight others injured when a suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near a Jirga between Baramadkhel and Utmankhel tribes in Kalaya, the headquarters of Orakzai Agency. The tribes had joined anti-Taliban tribal militias set up by the security forces.
The number of incidents in Balochistan remained constant at 30, but the casualties dropped significantly. Barring isolated incidents, the ceasefire announced by the three Baloch nationalist outfits was adhered to in September. During the month, 11 persons were killed and 17 wounded in violent incidents as against 40 killed and 27 injured in November. Only two militants were killed in December as against 12 killed and 15 injured the previous month. However, security forces arrested 40 alleged militants as against 17 in November. Eight civilians were killed and 17 injured as against 23 killed and 11 injured in November. Besides, 14 persons were kidnapped as against two in November. Similarly, only one security personnel was killed during the month as against five killed and one injured in November. Most of the attacks during the month were on pipelines and railway lines, besides a few attacks on security posts.
Terror activities in other parts of the Pakistan remained at more or less the same level as in November. There were 58 incidents of violence in December as compared to 60 in November. 60 people lost their lives and 22 were injured in December as against 49 killed and 176 wounded in November. In December, 14 armed miscreants were killed and 96 arrested as against six killed and 37 arrested in November. Similarly, 44 civilians were killed and 20 injured in December as against 41 killed and 175 wounded in November. Two security personnel were also killed and two injured in December as against two killed and one injured in the previous month.
A number of political activists of PPP and MQM were killed in a number of incidents between 16 to 19 December in Karachi. In the recent past, criminal activities and violence in Karachi have shot up. In response a joint team of Sindh Police and Pakistan Rangers arrested more than 60 suspects, including Afghan nationals on 2 December and recovered a huge quantity of arms, ammunition. Besides Karachi, in a major crack down, the Islamabad police foiled terrorist attacks planned during Christmas, Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary and the New Year’s Eve by seizing 650 kilograms of explosives and 520 detonators on December 26. Similarly, on December 30, Police in Lahore recovered a gas cylinder packed with 10-kilograms of improvised explosive device (IED) connected to a cell phone and a detonator from bushes.
There has been a significant decrease in violence in Pakistan that can be attributed to the reduced operations by security forces and a carte blanche given to militants after the attacks on Mumbai. TTP volunteered to fight against India along side the Pakistani army and Baitullah Mehsud declared on December 24, “Despite our differences with the government, the protection of Pakistan and its people is as much our duty as it is of the armed forces” and claimed that ‘hundreds of thousands of suicide bombers’ were ready to defend Pakistan in case of war with India. He further added, “The armed forces and the nation do not need to worry about the western borders in case of an Indian attack”. These statements were meant to win the support of the Pakistani public and prove his patriotic credentials and succeeded in its aims to a large extent.
Casualties in Violence - Pakistan
Figure in parenthesis are the figures for the month of November