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No respite


By Imtiaz Gul

Friday Times , July 12, 2013


A comparison of terrorism statistics for the months of May and June shows violent attacks will continue regardless of who governs the country. 

The number of people killed in incidents of violence in May was 634. In June, casualties declined slightly to 619, but are still much higher than 500 deaths in violent attacks in April. 

The surge in casualties in various acts of terror in May and June disproves the widely-held notion that the terrorist syndicates led by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were soft on the PML-N and the PTI. Much before the May 11 general elections, various segments of the society - led by the PPP and the ANP - pilloried these two parties for being pro-Taliban for the simple reason that these two parties favored dialogue with militants.

But the painstakingly collected data compiled by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) belies these notions and points to an altogether different reality - subversion and terrorism disguised as ethnic, nationalist and religious violence continues to hurt the society.

Karachi, for instance, topped the list of terrorist incidents and deaths, with 210 casualties in May and 222 deaths in June. 

Fata lost 182 people to terrorism in May and 101 in June. For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa these figures stood at 134 and 146. 

Cumulatively, the human loss in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (northwestern regions) in May was 283, and in June 280 - a whopping 563 for the two months. These incidents include the cold-blooded execution of 10 foreign tourists at the Nanga Parbat heights on June 21, an attack that hurt Pakistan's interests and image like never before. 

The story of Balochistan is no different. There were at least 88 terrorism related deaths in May and 126 in June - mostly in suicide attacks targeting Shia Muslims, civilians and paramilitary personnel and installations. At least 229 people were gunned down in June, up from 189 in May. Suicide bombings took 101 lives in June, slightly down from 116 in May, while target-killings caused 64 deaths in June and 45 in May.

Based on the figures, it can be concluded that terrorists don't seem to be drawing any distinction between the pro and anti dialogue parties. Two PTI-affiliated members of parliament also became victims of this violence. At least 24 JUI-F activists died in attacks on election rallies. The PTI and the PML-N seem to have realized this fact, and that is why they hardly speak of talking to the Taliban any longer. 

Much of the mess flows from internal socio-political discord, grievances, institutional inefficiencies, and cold-war era policies that relied on non-state actors as instruments of foreign policy. These factors are apparently also being exploited by external dynamics - geo-political extra-territorial power politics. British historian William Dalrymple highlights these factors in his June 25 Brookings Essay: "A Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India."

"The hostility between India and Pakistan lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan... At the moment, Afghanistan is all [Gen Kayani] thinks about and all he wants to talk about. It's all he gets briefed about and it's his primary focus of attention. There is an Indo-Pak proxy war, and it's going on right now." 

Dalrymple's deduction also hints at the possible confluence of internal and external factors which may be driving the relentless wave of violence that has taken over 40,000 lives in the last decade or so.

Pakistan is clearly caught up in the consequences of a proxy war it had supported in Indian Kashmir, and its support to Afghan mujahideen and the Taliban.

But other actors are part of this proxy war too. While Pakistan needs to address Indian reservations about the "India-focused terrorist infrastructure on its soil", India itself cannot and must not feign innocence either. If its agencies are not in "hot pursuit" inside Pakistan, then are not doing their job. Agencies of both countries, in fact also of Afghanistan, need to back down from their current levels and come clean on whatever they are doing to one another's interests. This means demonstrably satisfying one another with sincere and concrete steps towards de-escalation in the proxy war.

As for Pakistan, any security strategy will not only have to treat the symptoms, but also consciously address internal causes, which are open to exploitation by external factors.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk