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Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis January 2009

T. Khurshchev Singh was Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
Captain Alok Bansal was Member, Navy at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • February 28, 2009

    The first month of the new calendar year saw a reversal of the trend of declining casualties witnessed during the last three months, whilst the incidents of violence continued to rise constantly maintaining the trend of last three months. The withdrawal of ceasefire announced by the Baloch nationalist groups in September 2008, saw a sudden spurt in casualties in Balochistan. During the month the incidents of violence increased to 430 from 388 in December 2008. These incidents resulted in the killing of 634 people and injuries to 368 during January 2009, as against 579 killed and 357 wounded the previous month.

    Like the previous four months, NWFP continued to be the arena for most incidents of violence; it also led the casualty figures, in accordance with the trend that emerged last month. During the month the militants gained immense ground as the security forces used the tensions in Indo-Pak relations to stop almost all operations against the militants. As a result the militants firmed up their hold in Orakzai Agency and eliminated collaborators of the government in Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies. Militants also made significant gains in Swat Valley. Isolated military operations were launched in Mohmand Agency and Swat Valley.

    Accordingly the number of militants killed in violence during the month reduced to 209 from 216 in December 2008. Most of the militants were killed in operations undertaken by the security forces in Mohmand Agency and Swat valley and US drone attacks in Waziristan. Similarly, with the reduction in operations against the militants, the number of militants injured and arrested during the month reduced from 64 to 18 and from 533 to 371 respectively. Fatality figures of civilians increased slightly from 340 to 346 in January, mainly on account of increased violence in Balochistan and Sindh. During the month 234 civilians suffered injuries as against 240 in December 2008. Interestingly, the kidnapping of civilians by the militants and other criminals reduced drastically from 271 in December to 52 in January. Most significant development during the month was the sharp rise in the casualty figures for security forces as the militants utilized the lull in operations to target the security forces and their collaborators. Consequently 79 security personnel lost their lives as against 23 in December and 116 were injured as against 53, the previous month.

    NWFP

    Like past few months, NWFP continued to remain the arena for maximum violence in Pakistan. Awami National Party (ANP) government was clearly at its wit’s end and vacillated between asking for army operations and trying to open negotiations with the militants through tribal jirga. The number of violent incidents in NWFP increased to 190 from 178 the previous month, but in the absence of any major military operations in the province, the casualties were lesser. 279 people were killed and 207 injured during the month as against 307 killed and 209 injured in December 2008. 53 alleged militants were killed, 12 injured and 157 arrested, as against 100 killed, 1 injured and 248 arrested in December. Number of civilians killed and injured also reduced from 191 and 172 in December to 186 and 134 respectively. However, the casualties amongst security forces rose and 40 security personnel were killed and 61 wounded as against 16 killed and 36 wounded in December.

    There were two suicide attacks in the province during the month. In the first attack on 4 January, which was directed against the Shia minority, a suicide bomber blew himself in the vicinity of a Imambargah in Dera Ismail Khan, just a few days before Muharram. Seven people including three policemen and two journalists were killed in the blast. In the second attack on 23 January, a suicide bomber drove his explosive laden vehicle in to a security check post in Swat valley killing two security personnel and injuring 25 others.

    As usual, the main targets of the militants remained security posts, police stations, schools and shops selling CDs, liquors etc. Security forces also resorted to burning the houses of alleged Taliban as part of their counter-terrorism operation. On the other hand, militants also burnt down houses of rival tribes, as well as those of the inconvenient journalists. The month also witnessed targeting of political leaders by the militants. On 16 January, Swat based Taliban bombed ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan’s ‘rest house’ in the Jari area of Swat. TTP also threatened to carry out suicide attacks on leaders of ANP for launching operations in Swat and claimed to have prepared a hit-list of ANP leaders and activists to be targeted. ANP government also initiated talks with Taliban in Swat through local tribals, who started discussions with Maulana Fazlullah for a cease fire on 12 January.

    Ashura saw a fierce clash between Shias and Sunnis in Hangu city. Local administration apprehending trouble had imposed curfew, which resulted in violent protests from Shia minority, as it traditionally takes out a mourning procession during Muharram. As Shia tribesmen from surrounding areas descended into Hangu to take out the procession, they were attacked by Sunni tribes supported by Taliban. Both sides fought each other with rocket launchers, machine guns and other light weapons for three days killing approximately 50 and injuring many others. A number of houses were torched or blown up by explosives. It took security forces backed by helicopter gunships three days to restore modicum of normalcy. Rising sectarianism in the province is a direct offshoot of growing Talibanisation and besides Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan has emerged as another major sectarian flash point within the province.

    FATA

    As the security forces virtually surrendered their writ to the Taliban, level of violence reduced drastically during the month. In the tribal areas there were only 88 incidents of violence as against 121 in December. The casualty figures for January included 189 killed and 40 wounded as against 201 killed and 109 injured in December. There were only isolated operations by security forces in the region, most of them were confined to Mohmand Agency. There were three missile attacks in Waziristan from the US drones, which targeted militants including many Arabs. During the month 129 alleged militants were killed and 6 injured as against 100 killed and 63 injured in December. 47 alleged militants were arrested as against 31 the previous month. In the absence of concerted military operations, there were fewer collateral casualties and the civilian casualties decreased from 87 killed and 31 injured in December to 50 and 18 respectively. Most of these were pro-government tribesmen, who were targeted by the militants. Also, 21 people were abducted by the militants in January as against 185 the previous month. 10 security personnel were killed and 16 injured as against 4 killed and 15 injured in December.

    In Khyber Agency, the security forces demolished at least 34 houses and hujras of the local elders and tribesmen who had alleged links to militants. In an audacious attack on 11 January, 600 heavily armed militants stormed a fort of Mohmand Rifles and two checkpoints in Lakaro subdivision near the Afghan border in Mohmand Agency. In the ensuing clash at least 40 militants and six soldiers were killed. Most of the militants were reported to be foreign nationals. During the month militants firmed up their control over Orakzai Agency and established Shariah courts to dispense justice. The government offices were closed and most of the officials escaped to the settled areas in NWFP. In what could be construed as a major success for the government, it succeeded in preventing a clash in Kurram agency during Muharram, although it has been a sectarian tinder box for a long time and had witnessed prolonged sectarian wars just a few months ago.

    Balochistan

    The month saw a sudden spurt in violence in Balochistan, as three Baloch outfits namely, Baloch Liberation Army, Baloch Liberation Front and Baloch Republican Army, unilaterally revoked the ceasefire, they had announced in September 2008. They accused the security forces of continuing their repressive campaign during the ceasefire. Accordingly the incidents of violence almost doubled to 58 from 30, which had been the average figure for the last four months. More significantly the casualties increased sharply from 11 killed and 17 injured in December to 73 killed and 87 injured in January. As the Baloch outfits recommenced their attacks on security forces, 23 security personnel were killed and 27 injured as against only one security personnel killed in December. Similarly 40 civilians were killed and 60 injured as against eight killed and 17 injured in the previous month. 10 alleged militants were killed as against 2 in December.

    There were a large number of attacks on the railway track and trains by Baloch nationalists during the month, resulting in disruption of railway traffic to the province. Gas pipelines and security installations were other favourite targets of Baloch nationalists. Quetta also continued to be affected by sectarian violence and Shias were frequently targeted. Hazaras were the main victims as they could easily be identified unlike other Shias. On 26 January, the chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) was gunned down by banned Sunni organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangavi. Consequent violence in Balochistan resulted in injuries to at least 13 people. In another targeted sectarian killing Sunni militants killed a central leader of Tehrik-i-Jaffaria Pakistan, Syed Saqlain Naqvi along with his guard in Sibi district.

    Rest of Pakistan

    Violent incidents in other parts of Pakistan increased form 58 in December to 94 in January, resulting in 93 deaths and injuries to 34 as against 60 killed and 22 wounded in the previous month. 17 armed miscreants were killed and 150 arrested as against 14 killed and 96 arrested in December. During the month 70 civilians were killed and 22 injured as against 44 killed and 20 injured in December. Similarly, 6 security personnel were killed and 12 injured as against two killed and two injured in the previous month. Most of the killings were a result of ethnic and tribal clashes in Sindh. ANP leader Agha Ashraf was killed in the Sohrab Goth police limits, Karachi on 21 January, in what appeared to be an ethnically targeted killing. His death sparked violent protests by predominantly Pakhtoon activists of ANP, who blocked the superhighway in for a number of hours.

    Coming months are likely to witness the spreading influence of Taliban and its forays into newer regions. In the absence of Pakistani operations against Taliban, US will be forced to target them in regions where it has not been doing so. Sectarian violence is likely to become endemic as Taliban gains ground. Renewed militancy in Balochistan will see increased violence, in an attempt by the Baloch nationalist outfits to attract international attention.

    Casualty Figure in Violent Incidents in Pakistan*
    January 2009


    Figure in parenthesis are the figures for December 2008

    * Predominantly based on reports published in English media

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