How dangerous is the security state of affairs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and can the uptick in militant attacks actually affect the upcoming elections or disrupt them?
There are as many opinions on the general security image in KP as there are mouths, and with lower than three weeks left for election campaigns, views on the potential fallout of the rising militant attacks do diverge.
Conversations with authorities, counter-terror and intelligence officers paint a grim image, significantly in the southern belt of the province, which has seen extra violence than anyplace else in the nation.
But the figures solely inform one a part of the story, and could be deceptive. Intelligence and different official reviews point out the presence of militants or their sleeper cells in many districts throughout the province. In reality, solely 10 of the 36 districts in KP have been graded as ‘regular’.
Daily Situation Reports (DSRs), Situation Reports (Sitreps) and menace alerts issued by district administration, police and intelligence companies are sufficient to present legislation enforcement companies sleepless nights.
“We are sitting on a powder keg”, one official advised Dawn. “One massive assault and we’ve got had it.” No one is certain how the security state of affairs will unfold in the times main as much as the large day, when folks line as much as solid their votes.
South KP, tribal districts in the crosshairs
What is obvious is that militant attacks have been on the rise, and so has their frequency. The southern reaches of KP — Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat and many others — have been hit fairly onerous, as have the merged tribal districts.
North and South Waziristan have been restive for fairly a while, however now even the likes of Bajaur have seen a surge in bombings and focused killings. Sectarian-delicate Kurram can also be on tenterhooks.
The affect of this instability in the merged tribal districts compounds the state of affairs in their adjoining districts. Increased militant exercise in Peshawar’s neighbouring Khyber district casts an ominous shadow over the bustling provincial capital, whereas the districts of Charsadda, Mardan, Kohat, Hangu, Lakki, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan are additionally of specific concern in phrases of the security state of affairs.
Of the 36 districts in the province, 13 have been graded as ‘most delicate’, adopted by 12 which are designated as ‘delicate’, with solely 10 being labelled ‘regular’.
Admittedly, the general security state of affairs just isn’t as dangerous because it was through the 2008 elections, when militants dominated the roost in many elements of KP and carried out a string of bombings and suicide attacks, focusing on candidates and political leaders.
The 2018 polls have been held in a comparatively peaceable atmosphere, with fewer attacks in the weeks previous the polls. But what’s alarming this time round is that the degrees of militant exercise have already reached the extent seen in the weeks forward of the 2013 polls, which was a very troublesome time.
Official figures fluctuate, however right here is one account from a security division, evaluating the figures of the terrorist attacks in the weeks previous the 2013 polls with these occurring in the weeks main as much as February 8.
Compared to 227 terrorist incidents in the 2-and-a-half months earlier than the polls in 2013, the variety of such attacks in October and November 2023 alone has touched the 195-mark. The variety of useless in these incidents in the 2 corresponding durations can also be fairly shut – 155 in 2013 versus 118 in 2023.
Law enforcement officers fear that militants can interrupt and disrupt election campaigns and/or goal essential political figures previous to polls and on polling day, apart from focusing on on-obligation legislation enforcement personnel.
Attacks on political targets
Already, leaders of a number of the important political events have acquired warnings and menace alerts. A convoy travelling with Mohsin Dawar, chief of the National Democratic Movement, was fired upon in North Waziristan earlier this month. His security guards retaliated killing a militant of TTP-affiliated Ariana Group, and wounding one other.
The inside ministry, in a latest letter, additionally warned of a severe menace in opposition to ANP chief Aimal Wali Khan and JUI (F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, urging them to train warning and take additional security precautions.
On Saturday, KP’s Counter Terrorism Department stated it had seized an IS-Okay-linked suicide bomber and his handler from Peshawar, planning to focus on Mr. Khan.
The JUI-F, in specific, has been in the crosshairs of the of the so-known as Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-Okay) in Bajaur, the place the virulently violent group not solely carried out a lethal suicide bombing in opposition to the get together, killing 44 folks, and later posted pamphlets in the tribal district bordering Afghanistan, warning folks in opposition to attending the get together’s public conferences. This was adopted by an IED assault on its candidate in Nawagai in January.
But the JUI-F just isn’t a goal for the IS-Okay alone; the get together chief and a few of his leaders have additionally borne the brunt of attacks from the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the previous as nicely.
So worrisome is the security state of affairs for the Maulana, even in his house district of Dera Ismail Khan, that the bewildered JUI-F chief just lately advised a media outlet he had no clue who was after him.
But whereas some officers acknowledge the state of affairs is dangerous, they preserve it’s “manageable”.
“No one says it will be a bit of cake,” stated a senior police official. “We have severe security challenges and power shortages to offer [complete] security cowl through the election marketing campaign and on the polling day.”
“This goes to be an enormous endeavor,” the official concluded.
Published in Dawn, January seventeenth, 2024