Islamabad: An Islamabad based think Tank Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) issued its annual security repot, according to report despite a 16% decline in terrorist attacks in 2017, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its associated groups remained the most potent threat; they were followed by nationalist-insurgent groups, especially Baluchistan Liberation Army and Baluchistan Liberation Front. What has been quite alarming is the increasing footprints of Daesh, especially in Baluchistan and northern Sindh, carrying out the deadliest attacks. These realities require concerted effort and a revision of the National Action Plan, country’s counter-terror plan for yet ambiguity remains about who is responsible for NAP. It will be much better that parliament provides oversight to not only NAP, help revise it in light of new realities, but also lay down criteria for mainstreaming militants – which drew debate in 2017.
These are some of the major findings of the Pakistan Security Report 2017, released by Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think-tank specializing in security and conflict dynamics of Pakistan and the region. The organization compiled its findings on the basis of its multi-source database, coupled with interviews and articles by subject experts.
The report tallied that militant, nationalist/insurgent and violent sectarian groups carried out, in all, 370 terrorist attacks in 64 districts of Pakistan during the year 2017 – including 24 suicide and gun-and-suicide coordinated attacks, killing 815 people, besides injuring 1,736. These attacks posted a 16 per cent decrease from the total in the previous year; even the number of people killed fell by 10 per cent.
Of these attacks, as many as 213, or 58 per cent, were perpetrated by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), its splinter groups mainly Jamaatul Ahrar and other militant groups with similar objectives such as local Taliban groups, killing 186 people. Meanwhile, nationalist insurgent groups, mostly in Balochistan and a few in Sindh, carried out 138 attacks, or 37 per cent of the total, killing 140 people. As many as 19 terrorist attacks were sectarian-related, in which killed 71 people and inflicted injuries on 97 others.
The report also noted that compared to 2016, a significant surge of 131 percent was witnessed during 2017 in cross-border attacks from Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan, India and Iran. A total of 171 cross-border attacks claimed 188 lives and injured 348 others.
Furthermore, security forces and law enforcement agencies killed a total of 524 militants in 2017 – compared to 809 in 2016 – in 75 military/security operations as well as 68 armed clashes and encounters with the militants reported from across 4 provinces and FATA. At the same time, some new challenges raised their heads; these included emergence of self-radicalized individuals and small terrorist cells, growing incidence of religious extremism including on educational campuses, and, most importantly, increasing footprints of Daesh in parts of the country and
convergence of its fighters in Afghanistan near Pakistani border. In 2017, Daesh and its local affiliates/supporters claimed 6 major terrorist attacks, killing 153 people. In Balochistan, the group carried out a suicide attack on the convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in Mastung, besides abducting Chinese nationals from Quetta and killing them later. Sindh’s deadliest attack in terms of casualties was on a Sufi shrine in Sehwen Sharif, claimed by Daesh too.
An interview with National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Nasser Khan Janjua, in the report, reveals that National Security Policy has been documented and circulated internally in the government; some broad contours of this policy, which is to be launched in 2018, have been hinted at in the report; it is quite likely that the NISP will take into consideration global and regional scenarios, including the relations between Pakistan, China, and the US. Yet another interview, with National Coordinator NACTA, Ihsan Ghani, shares that National Internal Security Policy is in review at present; the new policy as well as Counter-Extremism Policy will be revealed in 2018 too.
PIPS also noted that the two interviews reiterated there are still ambiguities about which government body is responsible for implementing NAP. It suggests revising National Action Plan in light of new realities, and dividing it into two broader components, a counter-terror plank, dealing with more immediate issues, and counter-violent extremism plank, dealing with issues having affects in the longer term.
Meanwhile, taking stock of the debates surrounding mainstreaming of banned groups and individuals, the report calls for removing any ambiguity to this end, and recommends that any process to this end should be inclusive, led by parliament, which should lay down a criteria to the pre-conditions of mainstreaming such groups.