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Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis May 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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  • September 02, 2009

    The month of May 2009 was the most violent month in Pakistan in the last five years. As the security forces launched a concerted operation against the Taliban in Malakand Division, the casualties shot up almost five times. The month recorded 504 violent incidents against 332 in April, which resulted in the loss of 2,585 lives. Most of the casualties were due to Operation Rah-e-Rast launched by the security forces in Swat and adjacent districts. As the operation intensified 1,911 alleged militants were killed as against 203 in April; and over 1,025 alleged militants and sympathisers were apprehended in May as against 470 in the previous month. Large scale collateral damage resulted in the death of 367 civilians and injuries to 1,201 others. Similarly, the number of security personnel killed also increased from 83 in April to 154 in May.

    As the militants came under pressure they retaliated with suicide attacks. There were five suicide attacks during the month, four of which were in NWFP and one in Punjab. The four attacks in NWFP took 35 lives and injured 125 others. Similarly, the suicide attack on Rescue 15 building in Lahore (Punjab) killed 27 people and injured 400 others.


    With the failure of the Swat peace deal, operations against the militants in Swat, Buner and Dir began on April 26. The month of May saw pitched battles being fought in Malakand Division, as security forces supported by helicopter gunships and artillery pounded militant positions. Millions of civilians were forced to flee their homes as they found themselves caught in the crossfire. 2,096 lives were lost in NWFP as against 207 in April. Most of those killed were alleged ‘militants.

    The military operations were carried out in the whole of Malkand Division with the exception of Chitral. Besides Malkand Division, the security forces launched strikes against the militants in Hangu and Kohat districts. Many foreign militants fought along with the Taliban against the security forces. In an operation on 23 May in Darra Adam Khel, 33 Tajik, Uzbek and Afghan militants were arrested. The security forces used helicopter gunships, fighter jets and medium artillery indiscriminately during the operations, thereby killing a large number of ‘militants’ in single operation. It would be reasonable to assume that all those killed in these aerial bombings and artillery bombardments were not ‘militants’, although the security forces would like others to believe so. Taliban took control of the city of Mingora, the largest town of Swat on 4 May, but the security forces recaptured it on 30 May.

    A number of schools were blown up in the province in regions under Taliban influence, as Taliban realises that students coming out of these schools pose a long term threat to the ideology of Taliban. On 13 May, eight trailers used for transporting supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan were torched, when militants attacked two parking lots. A number of shops and houses were destroyed in the operations launched by the security forces in Malakand Division, leading to migration from the region as well as resentment against the security forces.


    With operations launched in Malakand Division, there were apprehensions about militants fleeing towards FATA; consequently, the security forces increased their activities in the region. The security forces carried out operations in North Waziristan, Mohmand and Khyber, and Orakzai agencies. As a result 305 people were killed in May as against 200 in April. Given that most of the killed were ‘militants’, the number of militants killed increased from 115 in April to 185 in May. Civilian casualties increased from 79 in April to 90 in May. Similarly, 30 security personnel were killed during the month, as against six in April. The security establishment also gave indications that an operation in South Waziristan was imminent, once Malakand operations were completed.

    Taliban continued their campaign of killing ‘spies’ and destroying schools and colleges. On 10 May, 150 heavily armed Taliban launched a midnight attack on an FC camp at Had in Mohmand Agency. Two tankers supplying oil to NATO forces in Afghanistan were partially damaged when militants attacked them near Chengai Walikhel area on the main Pakistan-Afghanistan road on 19 May.


    Balochistan continued to simmer and the low grade insurgency continued unabated. Consequently, the level of violence in Balochistan more or less remained at the same level as in April. There were 37 violent incidents in May as against 36 in April. However, the casualty figures increased from 30 in April to 38 in May. Most of these were civilians, consequently, 29 civilians were killed and 63 others injured in May as against 22 dead and 49 wounded in April. Most of these were government employees, ‘spies’ of the security forces, collaborators and Punjabis. Grenade attacks on targeted individuals, rocket attacks on security posts and attacks on oil and gas pipelines continued unabated.

    Kidnapping of and shooting at foreigners were also noticed in the region. On May 23, gunmen kidnapped a French tourist near Landi, a small town around 200 kilometres East of the Iranian border. Similarly, on May 13, a British film maker and his team were attacked near Quetta, forcing them to flee the country. Intra-ethnic clashes amongst Bugtis have become more widespread, ever since Aali Bugti was crowned the successor of Nawab Akbar Bugti. Baloch nationalists allied to Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti have been targeting supporters of both claimants to the Nawab Bugti’s seat - Shahzain Bugti and Aali Bugti. In a major intra-tribal clash between the armed supporters of the newly chosen chief of the Bugti tribe, Nawab Aali Bugti, and the Baloch militants supporting Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, on May 21, three people were killed and four injured in this first bloody clash.


    With the operations against Taliban intensifying in NWFP, the militants carried out a number of attacks in Punjab. 51 violent incidents including a suicide blast were recorded in May and most of these occurred in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. Consequently, 65 people were killed and 412 others were injured. Out of of 65 casualties, three were militants, 47 civilians and 15 security personnel. 27 people, including an ISI colonel and 15 police officials were killed and over 400 were injured, when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the Rescue 15 building in Lahore on May 27. The explosion also damaged the adjacent office of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which was probably the intended target.

    A number of killings in Punjab were possibly related to political rivalry and sectarian strife. Taliban activists have formed a close alliance with Sunni sectarian outfits. There were a few targeted killings of political leaders. On May 30, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz district president of Vehari and former MPA, Dr. Nazir Ahmad Mitho Dogar was shot dead by unidentified persons in Burewala suburbs, 50 kilometres from Vehari.


    The month saw increased violence in Sindh, specifically in Karachi, which according to MQM is getting Talibanised. 78 people were killed and 29 others were injured in 65 violent incidents recorded in May. Political violence, ethnic conflicts and sectarian killings were responsible for most of the violence. On May 2 and 15, three Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) activists were killed in Karachi and an MQM worker was shot dead in the early morning on May 16. In an ethnic clash between Pakhtoons and Katchis, in Karachi on May 16, two men were killed and over a dozen were injured in a fierce gun battle using automatic weapons. Sindh Police arrested Ghulam Nabi Sabzwai of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) from Karachi on 11 May. He was the mastermind behind the blast at Cheesal Shah shrine in Jhal Magsi District of Balochistan on March 19, 2005. On May 27, another activist of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan was shot dead in the Aziz Bhatti police limits.


    Compared to other parts of Pakistan, the federal capital territory remained relatively peaceful. 31 miscreants were arrested during the month, many of whom were believed to be members of the sleeper cells of various terrorist outfits awaiting opportunities to carry out attacks or trigger explosions. Large cache of arms was also recovered by the police in various raids from different parts of the city.

    Casualty Figures in Violent Incidents in Pakistan
    May 2009

    Figure in parenthesis are the figures for April 2009

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