Pakistan

Bleak times ahead: K-P terror woes to worsen in upcoming year

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As talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) collapsed earlier during the year, the ceasefire in place was called off by the militant group and a fresh wave of terrorist incidents was witnessed across the country – which might continue into the next year as well.

Glimpses of the TTP’s resurgence were witnessed in Swat and then more recently in Bannu. This fresh wave of terrorism has put Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and its recently merged tribal districts in the spotlight as its populace will be amongst the worst affectees next year if the TTP and other militant groups, like the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), are not dealt with.

“2023 will be a terrifying year as far as terrorism is concerned,” predicted Dr Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwardi, Head of the Department of International Relations at the University of Peshawar. Dr Soherwardi was of the view that terrorism would increase near the areas bordering Afghanistan like North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Mohmand, and Bajaur.

“This new wave of militant attacks will also significantly affect areas like Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, and the province’s capital, Peshawar.”

Read PTI ‘notices’ perceptible change in army’s approach

When asked what had led to the increase in terrorist attacks in the country this year, Dr Soherwardi opined that it was our failure to realise that negotiations with any militant organisation never yield successful results.

“For instance, the negotiations with Maulana Sami-ul-Haq in Waziristan and Sufi Muhammad commander of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi in Swat, only led to an upsurge in terrorism,” said the department head.

According to Dr Soherwardi, the current delay in large-scale operations against terrorists will only see terror-related incidents expand to other cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

“This will also have a drastic impact on the already fragile economy,” he regretted.

Dr Soherwardi’s fears are not misplaced as the federal capital has already witnessed a suicide blast recently in which one policeman was martyred and at least six others were injured.

However, the Islamabad blast pales in comparison to the atrocities that were witnessed in K-P during the year as more than 300 terrorist attacks were reported, as per data obtained by The Express Tribune.

More than half of these incidents were either suicide bombings, IED attacks, hand grenade attacks, or target killings – the most significant out of all of these attacks was the Kucha Risaldar Mosque explosion back in March, which left about 62 dead and roughly 194 injured.

Counter-terrorism expert, Dr Khurram Iqbal, commenting on this year’s terror incidents, said that K-P’s border areas and tribal territories were, unfortunately, reverting to a pre-2013 situation.

“There are two primary causes for this. One, the Taliban being back in power in Afghanistan; two, the political unrest in Pakistan which has given terror outfits the space to regroup,” explained Dr Iqbal, who is also the Head of the Department of International Relations at the National Defense University (NDU).

He further said that Pakistan had great expectations from the Afghan Taliban with regards to dealing with TTP but those hopes were dashed when the Afghan government did not take any action against them.

“So now we have to have a zero-tolerance policy against the TTP and other terrorist outfits because if we do not then the violence will only spread. It is time for the military and political parties to work together to develop a successful counter-terrorism strategy,” Dr Iqbal suggested.

The Express Tribune also spoke with Barrister Dr Muhammad Ali Saif, who was part of the team negotiating with the TTP, regarding the way forward in dealing with the rise in terror incidents. “The negotiation process breaking down and attacks increasing is surely disappointing,” said Dr Saif, who is also the Spokesperson of the incumbent K-P government.

“We tried to resolve issues through dialogue but since that did not work out I want to reassure that if the writ of the State is challenged, the law enforcement agencies will give a strong response,” the Barrister remarked.

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