A recent wave of attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, Islamabad, and other areas of Pakistan has shaken public confidence in the Pakistani leadership. Following a suicide attack by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Islamabad on December 23, 2022, several countries, including the U.S., Australia, and Saudi Arabia have issued red alerts in view of the attacks, warning their citizens not to venture out in Pakistani cities.
Then on December 25, two days after the suicide bombing in Islamabad, a wave of attacks rocked Baluchistan, a highly securitized Pakistani state in which secessionist organizations have attacked Pakistani security forces for decades. Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a separatist group fighting for independence from Pakistan, claimed one of the attacks in Kahan.
The December 25 issue of Roznama Express reported on its front page the killing in Baluchistan of a Pakistan army captain and other security personnel.
Baluchistan is geographically the largest state in Pakistan but it is sparsely populated, making it difficult for Baluchi groups to foster a mass movement against Pakistan, whereas their long-standing grievances, for instance that natural resources from Balochistan are exploited by those outside the province, particularly by the ruling elite from Punjab, Pakistan's most politically influential province, remain unaddressed.
Since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban jihadi organization) tookover Afghanistan in August 2021, attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have become frequent, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Pakistani government leaders and experts who lauded the rise to power of their protégé the Afghan Taliban are now witnessing blowback, especially since the TTP describes itself as a branch of the Islamic Emirate.
"[S]ince August 2021, Pakistan recorded 420 terrorist attacks. In the last three months alone, the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility of 141 attacks," a Pakistani media report noted. The rise in the TTP attacks is also a result of the TTP's termination of a ceasefire agreement brokered by the Afghan Taliban between the TTP and the Pakistani government. The TTP also took note of the killing in Afghanistan, possibly by Pakistani security agencies, of its commander Omar Khalid Khorasani (the chief of Jamaatul Ahrar which merged into TTP).
Following are excerpts from editorials in Pakistani dailies, examining the current wave of terror attacks, especially in Baluchistan, where the Pakistani army appears to be losing its grip.
"The Fact That Half A Dozen Attacks Involving The Use Of Explosives Took Place On The Same Day Should Be A Matter Of Grave Concern For Top Security Officials"
Following are excerpts from an editorial in The Express Tribune:
"[...] The fact that half a dozen attacks involving the use of explosives took place on the same day should be a matter of grave concern for top security officials as well as elected leaders. The raw number reflects an abject failure to bring peace to the region. Yes, many of the attacks were on security and law enforcement officials engaged in 'clearing operations,' which have a high risk of violence; but the fact that such operations are still frequently needed reflects how easy it is becoming for terrorists to reestablish a footprint, however small, within weeks of ostensibly being cleared.
"In the deadly attack in the Kahan area, five soldiers, including an officer, were martyred after an IED exploded near them. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) terrorist group took responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, despite extremely tense times along the Pak-Afghan border, the military's media wing cited cross-border support for the terrorists involved, reflecting continuing weaknesses in border security.
"The deadly shootout in Zhob was blamed on terrorists trying to flee into Afghanistan. On the other hand, no one has claimed responsibility for the five non-fatal explosive attacks, which is concerning in itself – how many groups are actively trying to blow up our civilians and security officials..."
"These Incidents Have Made The Reality Clear That Terror Attacks Are Being Carried Out Under A Formal Plan; Terrorists Are Getting Information From Within Pakistan"
Following are excerpts from an editorial in the Urdu daily Roznama Express:
"Two of Pakistan's provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, have become the targets of terrorists. In the border areas along Afghanistan, terrorists are carrying out terror attacks regularly...
"Baluchistan's Interior Minister Mir Ziaullah Langau has said, in the context of the recent terror attacks, that terrorists have returned after organizing once again in Afghanistan and are involved in the incidents of terrorism in Baluchistan. Interior Minister Mir Ziaullah Langau said that an emergency meeting on law and order has been called [to discuss the issue]; strong action will be taken against the terrorists; our intelligence institutions have reached the hideouts of the terrorists.
"The interior minister further said that we assure our public that they should remain satisfied; terrorists have caused damage to Pakistan in the past too and are once again trying to damage it; we will break their backs and very soon will establish law and order and crush the terrorists.
"These incidents have made the reality clear that terror attacks are being carried out under a formal plan. Terrorists are getting information from within Pakistan, and they are being provided resources too. Similarly, resource persons for the terrorists are also present in Afghanistan and they have been given shelters. In such a situation, Pakistan needs to pay extraordinary attention to its border security. More military camps should be established on the western border [with Afghanistan] and the number of security personnel should be increased there."
"The Responsibility For The Attack In Kahan – In Which Army Personnel Were Martyred – Was Claimed By The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)"
Following are excerpts from an editorial in The News:
"The past few weeks in the country have seen a sharp rise in terrorist attacks across Pakistan, from Bannu to Chaman to Islamabad to Quetta. Given the long fight the people and security forces of Pakistan have sustained for over a decade, and which led to a marked decrease in terror strikes, this new wave of terror should be of concern not just for the government and state institutions but for every citizen who can remember the dark days of terrorist attacks in the country.
"The incidents in Baluchistan coincide with a growth in terrorism by the TTP, the threat of which is now casting a shadow across the country. The responsibility for the attack in Kahan – in which army personnel were martyred – was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a banned militant group..."
"The post-Musharraf years saw a peak in terrorism following the Lal Masjid operation [by the Pakistani army in 2007]. We saw how Swat was first taken over by the local Taliban. The TTP kept getting stronger until the horrific APS attack [in Peshawar] that led to a political consensus to take proper action against the TTP. As a result, a huge military operation was launched. The TTP leadership was either captured, killed, or managed to cross the border into Afghanistan.
"When the Afghan Taliban came to power, the previous [Pakistani] government celebrated it as if it was Pakistan's victory somehow. However, many experts had at the time warned the Imran Khan government that they should not think that the Afghan Taliban would go after the TTP. Then came news that Pakistan was negotiating with the TTP. No reason was given for this. And now we are facing the real possibility of the TTP rising."
"The Prospect Of TTP And Baluchi Militants Combining Forces Would Be A Particularly Disturbing One For The State, As It Would Present An Even Greater Security Challenge"
Following are excerpts from the Dawn editorial:
"The prospect of TTP and Baluchi militants combining forces would be a particularly disturbing one for the state, as it would present an even greater security challenge.
"Religiously inspired militancy has a history in Baluchistan; after all, one of the most lethal chapters of the sectarian terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [LeJ] at one time operated out of the province, claiming hundreds of lives during its multiple campaigns of terror. Though LeJ has been relatively quiet in Baluchistan lately, militants belonging to this group would be natural allies of the TTP.
"Meanwhile, the porous border with Afghanistan means that armed groups of all persuasions can come and go with relative ease.
"The state needs to quickly address the emerging threat, lest Baluchistan slip back into large-scale violence. If there is an emerging nexus between the TTP and Baluchi militants, it must be broken, while if there is evidence that the Baluchi separatists are finding refuge in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, this needs to be taken up with Kabul's rulers.
"Years of policies led by the establishment to pacify Baluchistan have failed. Therefore, along with kinetic action, the state must also look at why it has been unable to socioeconomically uplift this resource-rich, but appallingly poor province."