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Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis March 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 14, 2009

    Consequent to the peace deals signed by the Pakistani state with Taliban, the number of terror-related incidents in March came down in regions, which have been afflicted with violence in the recent past such as NWFP, FATA and Balochistan. However, there was an increase in terrorist violence in other parts of Pakistan, thereby indicating a shift of Taliban’s theatre of operations from its traditional conflict zones to the heartland of Pakistan.

    During the month, there were 312 violent incidents, including terrorist attacks, operations by security forces and ethnic clashes, as against 374 in February. Consequently, the number of people killed in these incidents reduced from 813 to 546. As a result of the deals signed with the militants to accommodate them, the number of ‘militants’ killed reduced significantly to 165 as against 479 in February. 503 ‘militants’ were arrested as against 597 in February. The casualties of security forces also remained at virtually the same level as 65 security personnel were killed and 28 injured in March as against 62 killed and 75 injured in February.

    Although, the peace deals brought succour to the ‘militants’ and security forces, the expanding reach of militancy aggravated the situation for a common man and the civilian casualties increased from 272 killed and 256 injured in February to 316 killed and 466 injured in March. During the month 59 civilians were kidnapped as against 101 in February.

    Like the previous month, there were seven suicide attacks in Pakistan during March, of these three were targeted against locations in FATA, one in NWFP one in Balochistan, one in Punjab and one in Islamabad. These seven attacks claimed 118 lives and injured 192 as against 63 killed and 264 wounded in February.

    NWFP

    Despite the Swat peace deal, like in past six months, NWFP continued to be the arena for maximum number of incidents of violence in Pakistan, although in terms of absolute numbers, the incidents of violence reduced from 128 in February to 103 in March. However, what was even more significant was the fact that the casualties reduced by over half and only 117 people were killed and another 65 were injured in March as against 296 killed and 171 injured in February. As the security forces restricted their activities, 54 militants were killed as against 166 in February. Although the number of security personnel killed increased from 12 in February to 18 in March, civilian casualties reduced significantly and only 45 civilian lives were lost against 118 in February.

    Consequent to signing of the peace deal in Swat, there was relative calm in the entire Malakand Division. The terrorist activities in March were therefore visible in other parts of NWFP, namely districts of Nowshera, Peshawar, Dera Isamil Khan, Bannu, Kohat and Karak. Within Malkand Division Taliban moved from Swat to spread its influence in adjoining Lower Dir and Upper Dir districts. The Taliban also asked all NGOs to move out of Swat accusing them of spreading vulgarity and obscenity. Their primary target still remains security posts, police stations, schools and shops selling CDs etc. Although educational institutions for boys reopened in Swat on March 2, the girls schools continued being targeted by them in other parts of the province. On March 15 and 16, militants attacked in Peshawar about 42 trucks and 34 containers/trolleys carrying supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan. In keeping with the trend set in Swat and Bajaur, even Darra Adamkhel-based Taliban militants, affiliated with TTP, agreed to a ceasefire on March 18.

    FATA

    During the month FATA topped the chart for casualties in Pakistan. Although the number of incidents more than halved to 45 from 95, the casualty figures remained more or less static. 253 people were killed and 253 others were injured in FATA in March as against 294 killed and 62 injured in February. As Pakistani security forces did not undertake any major operations after the process of accommodating militants began in Swat in February, the number of militants killed during the month reduced significantly to 84 from 242 last month. However, this interregnum was utilised by Taliban to eliminate pro-government tribal militias and the so called US ‘spies’. Consequently the civilian casualties rose almost five times and 154 civilians were killed and 198 injured in March as against 37 killed and 22 wounded in February. The number of security forces killed remained static at 15 like in the previous month. In addition two security personnel were injured and 12 were abducted by the militants.

    Although, the demand for halting attacks by US drones inside Pakistan gained momentum, the US not only refused to pay heed but targeted newer areas. A drone attack in Kurram Agency on March 12 destroyed a ‘Taliban training camp’, killing at least 25 Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists and injured 50 others. This was the second ever drone attack in Kurram Agency, the first attack having taken place on February 16. Jet fighters and helicopter gunships carried out sporadic attacks on some villages in Khwaizai and Baizai tehsils along the Afghan border and in Michinai area of Mohmand agency. Taliban continued attacking schools and destroyed a vital bridge near Landikotal, disturbing supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan. At least nine people were executed by Taliban in Waziristan for spying for the US.

    Balochistan

    The level of violence in Balochistan decreased marginally with 44 terror related incidents in March as against 54 in February. Consequently, 39 people were killed, as against 45 in February. One militant was killed and three suspects were arrested in March as against five killed and 302 apprehended in the previous month. Likewise, three security personals were killed and six injured as against 18 killed and 14 wounded in February. However, casualty figures for civilians increased from 22 killed and 23 injured in February to 35 killed and 37 wounded in March.

    As usual, pipelines, railway tracts and security posts were targeted in Baloch areas. Baloch Liberation Army and Baloch Republican Army took credit for most of these acts of sabotage. An unusual development was an attack on NATO supplies transiting through Quetta-Chaman road, when unidentified gunmen torched a truck carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan on March 10, leaving its driver and helper wounded. However, sectarian attacks on Shia minorities increased in Balochistan, especially attacks against Hazaras in Quetta.

    Other Areas

    With the signing of peace deals, many of the foot soldiers of Taliban, who became unemployed after the deal moved to newer areas and the month of March saw increased Taliban activities in newer areas. Consequently, there were 120 incidents of violence in Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad, as against 97 in February. Although, there were many high profile attacks by TTP in Punjab to show their presence, the casualty figure reduced form 178 in February to 137 in March, however, the number of injured increased from 82 to 188. The most high-profile attack was the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team on March 3, when a dozen gunmen attacked Sri Lanka’s cricket team in the heart of Lahore with rifles, grenades and rockets and simply disappeared after the attack. The attack resulted in wounding of six players, a British coach and a Pakistani umpire, besides killing of seven including police officials who encountered them, 20 others were injured in the incident. There were a number of attacks on media personnel and political leaders both in Punjab and urban Sindh. A suicide attack was carried out at the gates of police’s Special Branch headquarters near G-7 Markez, Islamabad on March 23, killing a police constable and injuring four other people. However, the most audacious attack by Taliban was carried out on March 30 when, 10 Taliban stormed Police Training Academy at Manawan, near Lahore and quite close to Indian border. At least 13 people, including five trainees, two instructors and a passer-by, were killed and another 100 wounded in this attack with guns and grenades by TTP cadres. The month also witnessed large-scale ethnic clashes and tribal conflicts in Sindh, where heavy weapons were used liberally. The month also witnessed large-scale ethnic clashes and tribal conflicts in Sindh, where heavy weapons were used liberally. This is a problem which is likely to get aggravated with passage of time, especially in Karachi, where MQM has been targeting Pakhtoons, under the garb of combating Talibanisation.

    During the month, 26 militants were killed as against 66 in February. However, the security forces rounded up a large number of suspects in the aftermath of attack on Sri Lankan cricket team. As a result, 339 suspects were arrested as against 90 in the previous month. Civilian casualties also decreased from 95 in February to 82 in March, as there was no major sectarian suicide attack, although there were many cases of selected sectarian violence. Taliban has allied itself closely with Sunni sectarian outfits to infiltrate Punjab and has made deep inroads in Southern Punjab, where Sunni peasants have traditionally resented the control of Shia landlords. The larger incidents of violence also resulted in wounding more people, even though the fatalities were low, consequently 188 civilians were injured as against 82 in February. 29 security personals were killed in March as against 17 in the previous month.

    During the month relative calm prevailed in traditional areas of terrorist violence in Pakistan, but Taliban made some spectacular attacks in Punjab to instil awe and fear in the Punjabi elite and succeeded.

    Casualty Figure by Terror Violence
    Pakistan March 2009


    Figure in parenthesis are the figures for February 2009

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