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Terrorist do not favour any party


By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, July 12, 2013


A comparison of statistics for the months of May and June makes it abundantly clear that violence under various covers continues to take lives – regardless of who governs the country. The number of deaths off violence during the month of May was as high as 634. In June, these casualties declined slightly to 619 (compared to roughly 500 deaths off violence in April). 

The surge in casualties due to various acts of terror in May and June also disproves the widely-held notion that the terrorist syndicates led by Tehreeke Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were soft on the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). Much before the May 11 general elections, various socio-political segments of the society – led by PPP and ANP - pilloried these two parties for being pro Taliban for the simple reason that these two parties favoured dialogue with militants. 

But the painstakingly collected data compiled by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) clearly belies these notions and points to an altogether different reality i.e. subversion and terrorism disguised in ethnicity, nationalism and religiosity continues to consume precious lives and piling socio-economic misery on multiple flashpoints inside Pakistan. 

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

Fata lost 182 and 101 people in the two months respectively, while for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, these figures stood at 134 and 146, respectively.

Cumulatively, the human loss in FATA and KP (northwestern regions) in May recorded 283 deaths and 280 in June – a whopping 563 for the two months. This also included the cold-blooded execution of ten foreign tourists at the Nanga Parbat heights on June 21st, an attack that hurt Pakistan’s interests and image like never before.

The story of Balochistan is not different either; at least 88 deaths in May and 126 in June – mostly in suicide attacks targeting Shia Muslims, civilian and para-military personnel and installations.

As far as the cause of deaths is concerned, some 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 and 45 deaths in June and May, respectively.

Based on the trends of the past two months, one can easily conclude that the terror campaign from the north-northwest to the south-southwest hardly discriminates between which party is ruling which part of the country. Terrorists don’t seem to be drawing any distinction between the pro and anti parties, borne out by the fact that two PTI-affiliated members of parliament also became victims of this violence, as well as 24 JUI-F activists in attacks on election rallies.

This empirical evidence, therefore, calls for an extremely careful and comprehensive scrutiny before passing a judgment on the violence that has been sweeping the country. It has most probably also dawned on both the PML-N and the PTI, and that is why hardly does anybody speak of talking to the TTP any more.

Of course, internal socio-political discord, grievances, institutional inefficiencies, cold-war ear policies that relied on non-state actors as instruments of foreign policy, inte alia, have played havoc with Pakistan. Much of the mess flows from these factors, which apparently are also being exploited by external dynamics - geo-political extra-territorial power politics. British historian William Dalrymple highlights those 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 gobbled up over 40,000 lives in the last decade or so.

Any security strategy will have to, not only fix symptoms, but also consciously address internal causes i.e. policies that 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