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Editorial: Rising Tide of Terrorism

Whichever new government emerges after the Feb. 8 elections will need to reckon with resurgent terrorism in addition to a struggling economy

by Editorial

File Photo. Aref Karimi—AFP

In the first month of 2024, Pakistan suffered at least 93 militant attacks nationwide, killing 90 people and injuring 135 others. Reportedly, there were also 15 people abducted. According to a report compiled by the independent Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), the resurgence of terrorism that began with the 2021 return to power of the Afghan Taliban continues to spread without respite, primarily from the western border where “hostile states” are funding and facilitating the killers. Overall, per PICSS, 2023 saw a 70 percent increase in terrorist attacks compared to 2022, with the past year proving the deadliest for security forces in a decade.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, militants targeted security forces, including police, with 423 attacks, resulting in 621 deaths, comprising 307 security forces personnel, 222 civilians and 92 militants. The regions with the largest number of attacks were Peshawar, Khyber, Thank, Orakzai, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Waziristan, Lower Dir, Swat, Bajaur, Mardan, Nowshera and Shangla. Apart from the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has claimed a majority of the terrorism, the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (Daesh) has also conducted several major attacks in the country. Authorities attribute this to its use of advanced weaponry abandoned by U.S. forces when they withdrew from Afghanistan; Washington denies this.

In addition to Daesh and TTP, Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, Ansarul Jihad and several Baloch separatist groups have also claimed several assaults on security forces and civilians alike. Thus far, the military has resisted any major operation to oust them, opting for intelligence-based operations that have netted hundreds of arrests and dozens of killings. At the same time, Islamabad has increased its calls for the interim Afghanistan government to apprehend militants using its soil against Pakistan and hand them over for prosecution. Kabul’s ongoing refusal to cooperate has proven fairly damaging for bilateral ties between the neighboring states, with relations remaining tense throughout the year, including repeated border closures and an ongoing repatriation drive to oust “undocumented” Afghans from the country.

This situation would undoubtedly prove a major challenge for whichever new government emerges from the Feb. 8 general elections. While the economy is an obvious—and very concerning—situation requiring resolution, any corrective steps are unlikely to yield fruit if they aren’t accompanied by efforts to ensure peace and oust terrorism from Pakistan once and for all.

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