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Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis February 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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  • May 01, 2009

    Highlight of the month was the peace deal signed by the NWFP government with the founder of Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e- Mohammadi (TNSM), Sufi Mohammad. The deal did bring some ‘peace’ to the restive region but virtually handed over half the territory of NWFP to the Taliban by accepting Shariat laws for Malkand Division and Kohistan district of Hazara Division. As a result, the number of terror related incidents in Pakistan decreased from 430 in January to 374 in February 2009. However, the number of people killed rose sharply from 634 in January, to 813 in February. Fatalities during the month rose mainly due to the rise in the number of alleged militants slain during operations in the NWFP and FATA and this apparent success against the militants makes the Swat peace deal even more difficult to justify.

    In a significant departure from previous months, more ‘militants’ were killed than civilians and security personnel in February. The operations during the month resulted in 479 militants being killed as against 209 killed in the previous month. In addition, 597 miscreants were arrested in February as against 371 in January. On the other hand, the number of civilians killed in terrorist attacks decreased from 346 in January to 272 in February, although, the number of people kidnapped during the month increased from 52 to 101, thereby indicating some sort of criminalization of militancy. There were 62 security personnel killed and 86 injured in February as against 79 dead and 116 wounded in January.

    The month witnessed seven suicide bombings as against two in the previous month and these claimed 63 lives and injured 264 as against nine killed and 25 injured in January. Of the seven suicide attacks, five were in NWFP, one in FATA and one in Punjab. There were riots in Dera Ismail Khan, after a suicide bomber killed at least 30 Shias and injured another 180 whilst they were attending a funeral. The army had to be called in to restore order and ‘shoot-at-sight’ orders were issued.

    NWFP

    Like in the previous five months, NWFP continued to be the arena for most incidents of terrorist violence. However, consequent to the signing of the Swat peace deal there was a marked reduction in incidents of terrorist violence, which had been rising steadily in the past. Consequently there were only 128 such incidents in February as against 190 in January. As part of the deal, the militants declared a ten day ceasefire on February 15, which was extended indefinitely. The ceasefire was a result of agreement with TNSM, whereby the NWFP government agreed to implement Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in the entire Malakand Division and in Kohistan district of Hazara Division, covering more than half the territory of NWFP.

    After the ceasefire, a tenuous peace was maintained in Swat valley, but the security forces continued their operations in other parts of NWFP and gained an upper hand. Consequently, 166 militants were killed in February as against 53 in January. Similarly, 167 militants were arrested in February as against 157 in January. The civilian casualties during the month reduced to 118 killed and 129 injured from 186 killed and 134 injured in January. 12 security personnel were killed and 78 were abducted in February as against 40 killed and 22 abducted in the previous month.

    Before the deal was signed, as part of counter-insurgency operations, over 100 militants were killed in two days of operations in Swat on February 2 and 3. As usual, the main targets of the militants remained security posts, police stations, schools and shops selling CDs, liquors etc. A correspondent of Geo TV, Musa Khankhel, was killed on February 18 in Matta Tehsil of Swat, where he was covering the visit of TNSM chief after signing the peace deal. The militants continued targeting political leaders. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) central leader Sher Azam Khan was gunned down in Haripur on February 1. ANP MPA Alam Zeb Khan was killed in a suicide attack in Peshawar on February 11. In addition, armed men kidnapped ANP district leader Jehangir Khan from Hangu on February 3.

    FATA

    The incidents of violence in FATA increased marginally from 88 in January to 95 in February resulting in 294 deaths as against 189 the previous month. Security forces carried out extensive operations in Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber Agencies. Accordingly the number of ‘militants’ killed during the month increased from 129 to 242. Also the casualties of security personnel increased marginally from 10 killed and 16 injured in January to 15 killed and 19 injured in February. However the civilian casualties decreased from 50 to 37, in addition only three persons were abducted in February as against 21 in January. There was one suicide attack on February 6, which targeted NATO supplies in Tedi Bazaar area of Jamrud tehsil in Khyber Agency.

    The month witnessed the first ever attack by a US unmanned aerial vehicle in Kurram Agency. The attack on February 16 killed 26 alleged militants and injured others. Earlier all such Attacks barring one in NWFP, had taken place in Bajaur, Mohmand and North & South Waziristan Agencies. In an interesting development, security forces apprehended a New Zealand national, on February 11, who was trying to enter South Waziristan Agency. Of late there has been concern in Western countries, that some of their citizens, in particular young men of Pakistani descent, might travel to northwest Pakistan for terror training.

    The militants launched a concerted campaign against educational institutions. In fact, during the month nine such incidents were recorded in FATA. Apart from its agenda to forbid girls from schooling, it was mainly because of the extensive usage of schools by security forces as shelter. TTP threatened on February 11 to destroy all educational institutions in Bajaur, if the government did not withdraw security forces stationed in government schools within three days. On February 25, the TTP announced full support to Mangal Bagh led radical Islamic organization, Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), which has a significant presence in parts of Khyber Agency and was believed to have been propped up by the security forces to counter the Taliban. Killing of perceived US ‘spies’ continued unabated in Waziristan and six of them were killed in five such incidents during the month.

    In another significant development, on February 23, after talks with a tribal jirga, militants in Bajaur declared a unilateral ceasefire in the region. Although the security forces have not publicly responded to this declaration, they are respecting the ceasefire in letter and spirit. Incidentally, an earlier ceasefire offer by the Taliban in Bajaur on August 24 last year was rejected by the security forces.

    Balochistan

    In Balochistan, the low level insurgency continues unabated, the number of incidents declined marginally from 58 in January to 54 in February. However, the casualty figures reduced drastically and 45 people were killed and 37 injured as against 73 killed and 87 wounded in the previous month. Five militants were killed as against ten in January, but over 302 suspected ‘militants’ were arrested as against 17 in January. However, the number of arrested has increased from 17 in January to 302 in February. 22 civilians were killed and 23 injured in February as against 40 killed and 60 wounded in January. Similarly, the number of security personnel killed and injured has reduced form 23 and 27 in January to 18 and 14 respectively in February. Seven security personnel were kidnapped in February.

    As usual, the pipelines, railway tracks, and security forces were targeted by Baloch outfits. Train services to Northern Balochistan were suspended after the track was blown up near Bakhtyarabad area of Sibi district in the early hours of February 12. In a significant move NATO supplies passing through Chaman were targeted on February 8 and 9. Till now Taliban and its sympathizers had maintained a low profile in Northern Balochistan. Consequent to the attacks, security forces arrested 141 Afghan nationals from different parts of Quetta on February 13 and on February 19, Frontier Corps personnel arrested 20 Uzbek nationals from the border area near Chaman. In addition on February 28, 88 Afghan nationals were captured on the College Road while they were travelling to Quetta in a truck after crossing the border illegally.

    Other Areas

    During the month Taliban made its presence felt in parts of Punjab and it appeared that a number of Taliban foot soldiers had moved in to different parts of Punjab after the peace deals in swat and Bajaur. Although, the incidents of violence in other parts of Pakistan increased only marginally from 94 to 97 in February, the incursions of the Taliban in Punjab resulted in increased casualty figures. Accordingly, 178 people were killed and 82 wounded in February as against 93 killed and 34 injured in January. The number of militants (including armed criminals) killed increased from 17 to 66, while the number of civilians killed increased from 70 to 95 in February. Seventeen security personnel were killed in February as against six in the previous month.

    Increased Taliban activity was witnessed in the areas adjoining NWFP, as Taliban launched four attacks on security forces during the month at various posts in Mianwali district and killed a number of them. Taliban induced sectarian violence also showed its ugly face in Punjab as a suicide bomber blew himself amongst a crowd of Shia worshippers outside a mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan killing 32 and injuring 48 on February 5. Retaliatory violence by Shia outfits was also witnessed and a former secretary general of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was killed by unidentified men in Jhang on February 2. According to reports the Taliban has joined hands with sectarian Sunni outfits to spread its influence in Punjab.

    Taliban has also made incursions into Karachi and security forces claimed to arrest six of them on February 14 and seized a sizable quantity of arms and narcotics from them. Sectarian fault lines are deepening in Karachi as a result of increasing Talibanisation and on February 20, killing of Shia youth in Shah Faisal Colony, Karachi sparked large-scale sectarian violence, which resulted in burning of vehicles, shops, printing press, beauty parlor and a house.

    The month was marked by a return of peace in parts of NWFP and FATA, where peace deals with militants gave virtual autonomy in their areas of influence, but it seems to have led to an accretion in the Taliban’s presence in other parts of Pakistan and in times to come may lead to increased violence.

    Casualty Figure in Violent Incidents in Pakistan*
    February 2009


    Figure in parenthesis are the figures for January 2009

    * Predominantly based on reports published in English media

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