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Temperatures this month in Pakistan have soared above 50 degrees celcius, resulting in unprecedented riots over up to 18 hours of power outages across the country. Political weather has equally been hot, with the Supreme Court finally forcing Yusuf Reza Gilani out of the prime minister’s office on June 20th. Since the start of June, militants of all shades have struck at will in the strife-torn Karachi in the north, the poorly governed southwestern Balochistan and the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province bordering embattled Afghanistan. At least 98 terror strikes have left close to 300 people dead and over 230 others injured (until June 19).
Among those killed as many as 135 were civilians including women and children, 19 security forces’ men and 130 militants. Almost two-thirds of the total death toll was recorded in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and KP. The dead also included those killed in militants’ vs. military clashes, CIA-operated drone attacks and bomb blasts against civilian targets, carried out by the militants.
Meanwhile, Karachi continues to be seethe under ethno-political as well as sectarian violence. Almost three dozen people were killed in the largest metropolis of Pakistan, Karachi between Friday-Sunday, (June 15-19), averaging a dozen a day.
On Friday June 15, at least a dozen people were gunned down in different parts of the city just a day after the six people, including Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) activist were butchered in different circumstances. With the fresh wave of killings, the number of people murdered in week surpassed 50.
The north-western parts of the country, which witnessed a relative respite in violence during May, again suffered a fresh wave of violent attacks. On June 8, for instance, a bomb ripped through a bus in the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of the beleaguered KP province, leaving 19 passengers including six women dead, and injuring nearly three dozen others. The bus was rented by the provincial government to ferry employees of the civil secretariat belonging to the neighbouring Charsadda district to and from Peshawar. Moreover, on Saturday June 16, a car bomb ripped through a crowded market in Landi Kotal, which lies on the Khyber Pass of Khyber Agency, mowing down as many as 26 people and wounded over 50 people, most of them members of a Peace Committee. Later in the nearby district of Kohat, a bomb hidden in a handcart killed seven people.
No one claimed responsibility for this latest wave of blasts, killing and maiming scores of people, but suspicion fell on Pakistani Taliban who often target security forces and public places to vent their anger and take revenge of the killing of their comrades as a result of Pakistan military operation and CIA operated attacks in tribal areas of Pakistan.
Quetta – the capital of the southwestern Balochistan province – also remains embroiled in unprecedented and relentless violence, with murders, ambushes and abductions for ransom topping the violence chart. At the centre of the spate of violence are ultra-nationalist ethnic Baloch separatists as well as radical, rabidly anti-shia sectarian outfit Lashkare Jhangvi.
Militants, for instance, struck in Quetta on June 18, leaving five students dead and injuring 72 others including the citizens walking past the bus. A bomb was detonated when a university bus carrying the students of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, Quetta drove past. According to the latest media reports the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed the responsibility, and thus giving the attack a sectarian shade. Meanwhile, during the past two weeks almost 30 persons have perished in Balochistan as a result of various kinds of violence.
Terrorists Changing Tactics?
Talking to CRSS and analyzing the latest phenomenon of raging violence in the country and especially in FATA and KP former secretary FATA and a security analyst, Brigadier (Retd.), Mahmood Shah underscored that militants appear to be changing tactics. In the past suicide bombers were used to disrupt and terrorize public life ( but now they are employing remote controlled-bomb to target public transport. The location of attacks has also shifted from the south to northern Peshawar, Shah observed. “The reason of this shift is the concentration of many Tehreeke Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in the greater Peshawar region. Besides, a number of fugitive militants such as Faqir Muhammad and Wali Muhammad are reportedly hiding in Afghanistan’s Kunar province and using it as their base. Kunar’s proximity to Peshawar also makes the provincial capital vulnerable, Shah noted. The current wave of violence is thus originating in the northern parts of the provincial capital Peshawar, not from South Waziristan which used to be called the den of TTP-led terrorism.
At the heart of violence in Karachi are the militant wings of the major political parties i.e. armed gangs associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which represents the majority of the Urdu-speaking community of immigrants, Awami National Party (ANP), which draws support from ethnic Pashtoons settled in this city of over 17 million, and the ruling Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP).
Much of the violence that we witness in Karachi essentially stems from the inter-party competition for power in what is also called the commercial life-line for Pakistan.
Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador and tribal areas security analyst, the grim law and order situation in Karachi is the direct consequence of ongoing turf wars between MQM and ANP, for political control and land acquisitions. Mohmand, however, attributes the latest surge in violence in KP and FATA to the increased US drone attacks (almost 30 since early this year) in tribal regions of Pakistan, wherein almost 80 suspected militants are killed in first two weeks of June. Also, he mentioned that recent back to back military attacks against militants’ hideouts in FATA, is also among the prime reasons for the wave of bomb blasts in Peshawar.
Thus the latest surge in violence suggests that militants of all shades – ethno-political, nationalists, religious extremists, terrorists and sectarian groups – continue to prick Pakistan’s security landscape. The state security apparatus looks helpless in preemption and prevention of terrorist attacks. The intelligence apparatus’s inability to infiltrate ranks of known terrorist and criminal groups has left the population, and even state structures, vulnerable to the whims of forces that are perpetrating violence for various reasons.
If reports emerging from the FATA regions were true, then a number of Taliban factions are closing ranks, including an alliance between TTP fugitives and a local warlord Mulla Nazir in South Waziristan. Similarly, Haji Mangal Bagh, the warlord in Khyber Agency, one of the FATA districts, has reportedly struck up an alliance with a notorious TTP commander, Tariq Afridi, who used to operate in areas south of Peshawar. This is not a good omen for the security forces.
Questionable, though, is the fact that these realignments are taking place despite the special draconian powers that the security forces currently enjoy under a special decree. This decree practically empowers the forces to detain, arrest, or hold any person even on the slightest suspicion. Suspects picked up from any part of the country who can be through evidence – regardless of however questionable – linked to FATA tribal regions, can be held indefinitely or tried in summary military courts.
But despite this, violence has surged, militants groups have regrouped and security forces as well as the police across Pakistan seem helpless. Worse, political instability and uncertainty takes the governmental focus from the war against non-state actors, and thus provides the breathing space that militant groups need from the military and police operations against them.
Tags: Afghanistan, anti-shia, Baloch militants, Balochistan, Balochistan violence, bomb blasts in KPK, FATA, Karachi violence, Kohat, Kunar, Mangal Bagh, militants, Mulla Nazir, Pakistan Intelligence, Pakistan violence, Pakistani Security Apparatus, Peshawar, Quetta Landi Kotal, sectarian, suicide bombs, Taliban, Tariq Afridi, TTP, Waziristan