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War on Terror ( 12 Feb 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: The Wages of Duplicity

By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least eight persons were killed as four suicide bombers attacked the District Police Officer's (DPO) office in Dera Ismail Khan District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on January 14, 2012. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Akbar Hoti disclosed, "Three suicide bombers detonated themselves and one was shot dead by the Army. We have recovered bodies of four militants, they were all wearing suicide vests." Three civilians and one Police official were also killed, while eight others, including a Policeman, were wounded in the attack. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Late in the night of January 12, 2012, at least seven Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) militants and three Security Force (SF) personnel were killed in an attack carried out by an estimated 150 LI cadres on a check post in Sarbanda, a suburb of Peshawar, the provincial capital of KP. Another 13 SF personnel were injured. According to the Police, the LI militants attacked the post after entering the neighbourhood from the Bara area in the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

These were far from isolated incidents. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of 1,206 persons, including 511 civilians, 364 militants and 331 SF personnel, were killed in 242 incidents of killing recorded in 2011, marginally down from 1,212 persons, including 607 civilians, 509 militants and 96 SF personnel killed in 213 such incidents in 2010. Though civilian killings in the Province declined by 18.78 per cent, they remained much higher than the civilian toll in FATA (488), often dubbed the 'most dangerous place on earth'. The 39.83 per cent drop in terrorist fatalities was, moreover, in conformity with the broad trend in the rest of Pakistan, demonstrating a growing reluctance among Pakistani SFs to engage the extremists on the ground. Worryingly, however, fatalities among SFs have increased almost three-and-a-half fold, an overwhelming proportion of these inflicted in suicide attacks and terrorist initiated engagements, rather than offensive operations by the SFs. The militants appear to have established an upper hand in the region in their fight against the state's forces.

Fatalities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 2005- 2012

Years

Civilians

SFs

Militants

Total

2005

2

0

2

4

2006

60

13

27

100

2007

393

221

372

986

2008

868

255

1078

2201

2009

1229

471

3797

5497

2010

607

96

509

1212

2011

511

331

364

1206

2012*

25

10

17

52

Total

3695

1397

6166

11258

Source: SATP, *Data till February 12, 2012

Suicide attacks remained rampant in the Province, with as many as 411 persons killed and 705 injured through 2011, in 23 such attacks. 26 suicide attacks were recorded in 2010, inflicting a total of 489 fatalities and injuring another 767. Meanwhile, the number of other bomb blasts in the Province increased from 137 in 2010 to 198 in 2011, though resultant fatalities fell from 611 to 554. In addition, the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) managed to foil several bomb blasts by recovering and diffusing the explosive devices. KP Additional Inspector General, BDS, Shafqat Malik had disclosed, on June 2, 2011, that at least 25 per cent of terror attempts had been prevented in Peshawar by diffusing bombs, suicide jackets, fuses and other explosive materials. He revealed, further, that the BDS had diffused five suicide jackets, two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 63 timed devices, 25 remote-controlled IEDs, 105 grenade IEDs and 114 rocket IEDs, in the year, till that date.

The Province accounted for 96 major incidents (resulting in three or more fatalities) in 2011, as against 86 in 2010. The most prominent among these were:

September 15: A suicide bomber blew himself up during funeral prayers in the Jandol town of Lower Dir District, killing 45 persons and injuring 63.

August 27: 31 soldiers and 20 militants were killed when some 200 to 300 Afghanistan-based militants attacked seven paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) checkposts in Chitral District. The military claimed that both TTP and the Afghan Taliban were involved in the attack.

June 5: 19 persons were killed and 45 were injured when a suicide bomber attacked an Army-run bakery on the Mall Road in the Nowshera Cantonment area, Nowshera District.

June 2: At least 30 SF personnel and three civilians were killed as TTP terrorists attacked the Shaltalo Security Post in the Upper Dir District. 45 militants were also killed in the clashes that followed. Three civilians were killed in the crossfire. Press reports, quoting the local Police chief, claimed that about 500 militants were involved in the clashes.

May 26: A suicide bomber blew up a car laden with explosives at a checkpoint close to the Hangu Police Station and Hangu DPO Office, killing 32 persons and injuring 60.

May 17: 15 militants and two SF personnel were killed during a clash when a group of 100 militants attacked a security check post in the Sangu Mera area north of Peshawar.

May 13: 90 people, including 73 paramilitary force personnel and 17 civilians, were killed when twin suicide bombers attacked a Frontier Corps (FC) unit as it was about to leave a training centre in the Shabqadar tehsil (revenue unit) in Charsadda District.

March 9: A suicide bomber killed 43 persons and injured another 52 in an attack on a funeral meeting for the wife of a volunteer of the Qaumi Lashkar (community tribal militia) in Adezai village on the outskirt of Peshawar.

February 10: A suicide bomber at an Army recruitment centre in Mardan District killed 31 persons.

January 12: At least 20 persons were killed and 16 were injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into Miryan Police Station in the Bannu town of Bannu District.

All 25 Districts of KP were variously affected by terrorism, but Peshawar, the provincial capital, was worst affected, recording at least 120 incidents in 2011, as compared to 94 in 2010. The city accounted for at least 232 fatalities in 56 incidents of killing in 2011, as compared to 135 fatalities in 35 incidents of killing in 2010.

Tribal militia and elders, who have been supporting the Government since 2008, continued to be systematically targeted by the terrorists. At least 12 tribal elders were killed in 2011, though the number fell from 40 in 2010, while an unspecified number of tribal militia members were also targeted. In the worst single attack on tribal militia, 43 persons were killed and another 52 sustained injuries, in the March 9 incident in Adezai village. Immediately after attack, on March 10, 2011, Haji Dilawar Khan, the leader of the Qaumi Lashkar, warned that the Lashkar would end cooperation with the authorities if they were not provided adequate material and financial support by the Government 'within two days'. He stated, further, that the Government's apathy had been demonstrated when KP Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, had reportedly told the media that the militia were no longer useful. Earlier, on March 3, 2011, Haji Khan had argued that the Government was pursuing "an ambiguous policy" towards the TTP, and accused local legislators of supporting the terrorist formation. Again on August 18, 2011, he claimed that extremists would be further strengthened in the suburban areas of Peshawar, because the Government had intentionally stopped supporting the Lashkar volunteers, leaving them at the mercy of the terrorists.

Meanwhile, TTP continued to target educational institutions. At least 55 schools were blown up in 2011, adding to the 35 destroyed in 2010. According to a March 18, 2011, media report by Shadab Younas, 721,392 students had been deprived of education in KP as a result of extremist violence, across the six Districts of the Province, including 371,604 girls. Significantly, the insurgents overwhelmingly target girls' schools, ordering both women teachers and girl students to stay inside their homes in conformity with their peculiar version of Islamic teachings, with a threat of grave violence for non compliance. The Government's response towards protecting the educational response remains entirely apathetic. According to an October 14, 2011, news report the Federal Government refused the funds that President Asif Ali Zardari had promised two years earlier, for the construction of 1,000 primary schools, most of them in the militancy-hit Districts of KP. Called the Crash Programme for Establishment of One Thousand Primary Schools, the project was mentioned in the Federal Government's Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for fiscal year 2009-10.

Attacks on principal NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, which pass through the Torkham border checkpost close to Peshawar, rose significantly. Partial data compiled by SATP recorded 11 attacks in KP in 2011, on oil tankers and trucks ferrying NATO supplies, up from 8 in 2010. Meanwhile, the loss of lives in these attacks rose substantially from one person in 2010 to at least 10 in 2011. While just three persons were injured in NATO related attacks in 2010, the number went up to at least 35 in 2011. The November 28, 2011, NATO aerial attacks on the two border checkposts in the Mohammad Agency resulted in the suspension of the NATO supply lines through KP.

Meanwhile, though the SFs offensive operations against the militants have substantially stalled, a significant number of arrests continue to be reported. According to SATP data, as many as 237 'top militants' were arrested in 2011, albeit, down from 469 in 2010. Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, on August 3, 2011, informed the National Assembly that, out of a total of 3,143 alleged terrorists arrested in the country, KP alone accounted for 2,103 (nearly 67 percent). However, the there is a comprehensive failure to secure any convictions in the terrorism cases in the Province. A March 24, 2011, media report indicated that, during an internal security assessment in February 2011, the KP Government was informed that, of 1,443 militants arrested, 695 had been bailed out, mostly by appellate courts, while 48 others had been acquitted by Anti-terrorism Courts (ATCs). On March 7, 2011, KP Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain observed that 98 percent terrorists, arrested after hectic efforts and sacrifices by law enforcement agencies, were released by the judiciary owing to lack of evidence. He appealed to the courts to award capital punishment to all arrested terrorists, as they became even more dangerous to society after their release. Indeed, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, an adviser to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, after his visit to a jail in Haripur District, KP, on June 8, 2011, stated that jails had become breeding grounds for extremism, because outfits like the TTP and the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) had taken their "ideological campaign" into prisons.

On some parameters, the situation in KP is even worse than initial estimates may suggest. For instance, according to Shakeel Qadir Khan, Director General Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA, KP), the PDMA carried out a survey in September and October 2011 after realising that the figure of 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in KP, used by international organisations for planning purposes, was not a true representation of situation on ground. According to the survey results, the number of IDPs stood at 4.4 million (in a total population of about 22 million).

Unless the scale of violence in KP is brought down dramatically, it is unlikely that the people will secure any enduring relief. Unfortunately, this objective is unlikely to be met, as long as Pakistan continues to pursue its offensive strategies in Afghanistan, supporting a range of terrorist proxies that are ideologically indistinguishable from the terrorist formations that now target Pakistan as well. The state's agencies have also consistently used terrorist proxies for the management of internal dissent and various political crises, as well as for the state sanctioned repression of minorities. Given the identity of interests and ideologies among the entire spectrum of Islamist terrorist groups operating in and out of Pakistan, it is unlikely that selective Government initiatives will meet with any enduring success in containing anti-state terrorist formations, as long as the state continues to create and maintain spaces for the free operation of its own terrorist proxies.

Source: South Asia Intelligence Review

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