Islamabad, December 31, 2020
The consistent decline in militant attacks in Pakistan could not keep its pace in 2020 and an upward trend of violence has been observed in the country. Militant attacks saw an increase in Sindh, Punjab, and tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former FATA) while Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (except tribal districts) saw a reduction in attacks. Despite an increase in attacks, the number of casualties dropped in 2020 compared with 2019. An unprecedented rise of attacks in the Rawalpindi district was observed. Statistics released by an Islamabad-based independent think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) show a 23 percent increase in reported incidents of violence (including militant attacks and security forces actions) in the year 2020 which includes a 16 percent increase in militant attacks and 32 percent increase in security forces actions against the militants. The downward trend had started in 2015 due to Operation Zarb-e-Azb and National Action Plan and average militant attacks had dropped to 13 attacks per month in 2019 which has now gone up again to 15.5 attacks per month. In 2014, the average militant attacks per month was 134.
According to PICSS-released statistics, 331 violent incidents including 185 militant attacks and 146 security forces actions were recorded during the year 2020 in which 428 people were killed and 604 were injured. Among the dead include 136 security forces personnel, 127 non-combatant civilians, and 165 militants. The injured include 441 civilians, 147 security forces personnel, and 16 militants. The security forces arrested at least 182 suspected militants from across the country while the militants kidnapped at least 22 people. If compared with 2019, an increase of 23 percent in violent incidents and a 9 percent hike in resultant deaths was observed.
The year 2020 saw a remarkable reduction in suicide attacks as the year witnessed only four suicide attacks compared with 10 such incidents in 2019. The number of IEDs also dropped from 84 to 64. However, raids and ambushes with guns (Physical militant assaults) increased from 28 to 38. A 100 percent increase was observed in Target Killing incidents as the year 2020 witnessed 48 such attacks compared with 24 in 2019. Kidnapping for ransom was one of the major sources of revenue for militants which was almost chocked in previous years however an upward trend was observed in such incidents during the year 2020.
PICSS data shows that the number of militant attacks and resultant casualties decreased in Balochistan however, high profile attacks increase slightly. Militants carried out 48 attacks in which 98 people lost their lives and 202 were injured. If compared with 2019, a 27 percent decline in attacks, 43 percent in deaths, and 53 percent in the number of injured was observed in the province. Two of the four suicide bombings in the country also happened in the troubled province.
The situation in erstwhile FATA (tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) deteriorated in 2020 as the region saw 81 militant attacks resulting in 106 deaths and 108 injured. The tribal districts saw a consistent push by the militants as all trends of violence were upward during the year. Former FATA region saw a 56 percent increase in militant attacks and a 66 percent increase in resultant deaths. The merger of Hizbul Ahrar/Jamat-ul-Ahrar was also instrumental in increasing the violence in KP’s tribal districts. North Waziristan tribal district remained the most troubled area where 50 percent of the total attacks in erstwhile FATA were recorded. Bajaur tribal district was the second most affected district of the region.
PICSS statistics show a 10 percent decline in militant attacks however an increase of 25 percent was observed in security forces action in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The militants killed 30 and injured 148 people in 27 militant attacks in the province during the year.
A visible upward trend in militant activities was observed by PICSS in Punjab where a 100 percent increase in attacks was observed. In 2019 PICSS had recorded only five militant attacks in the province which were doubled in 2020. However, the number of deaths in the province declined by 54 percent, and the number of injured increased by 40 percent. The most notable aspect is that 80 percent of the militant attacks (8 out of 10) were recorded in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, the twin city of the federal capital.
The percentage-wise highest increase in militant attacks in the year 2020 was recorded in Sindh province where an escalation of 350 percent in militant attacks and a 475 percent increase in resultant deaths was observed. In 2019, only four militant attacks were recorded in the province however in 2020, PICSS recorded 18 militant attacks in which 23 people were killed and 63 were injured. The attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange was the most high-profile incident of the year in Karachi on June 29, 2020. The main notable development in the province is Sindhu Desh Revolutionary Army’s (SRA) increased attacks and wider presence.
Federal capital saw one militant attack in which two security forces personnel were killed while no attack was recorded in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Security forces arrested two militants in an operation in Gilgit-Baltistan during the year.
Islamabad, December 31, 2020