One Year of Zarb-e-Azb: Militant Attacks down by 50 percent

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Islamabad:

Impact of Operation Zarb-e-Azb is visible from the fact that militant attacks in the country dropped to six years low after one year of operation Zarb-e-Azb. This was revealed by Islamabad based Think Tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) which monitors militant activities in South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. PICSS issued statistics of one year of the military operation in North Waziristan and simultaneous intelligence based operations (IBOs) across the country. Before start of Zarb-e-Azb, PICSS recorded average militant attacks gone up to historic high of 154 attacks per month which has now dropped more than 50 percent to 71 attacks per month. PICSS claims that the average of militant attacks after one year of Zarb-e-Azb is lowest since 2008. It is worth mentioning that militant attacks escalated in Pakistan after Lal Masjid Operation in July 2007 and then situation further worsened after formation of Tehreek-e-Taliban. Operation Zarb-e-Azb not only improved overall security situation in the country but it also caused serious dents to the unity of TTP. TTP splinted into at least three major factions. Punjabi Taliban led by Asmatullah Muawia, Mehsud militants led by Khan Saeed Sajna separated their ways from the major group at the start of the operation. Later on more than 70 key commanders of TTP defected to form Jamat-ul-Ahrar. Some key commanders further defected from Jamat-ul-Ahrar and joined Islamic State. Operation Zarb-e-Azb forced senior leadership of the militants to flee and thus cut off effective communication between top leadership with middle and low level field commanders.

PICSS stats show that during one year of  Zarb-e-Azb, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa benefitted although the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was, at that time, not in favor of the military operation. Before Zarb-e-Azb average militant attacks per month in the province was 49 which saw 75 percent decline to 12 attacks per month in first five and half months of 2015. Before Zarb-e-Azb highest number of militant attacks was being recorded from KPK.

In FATA average militant attacks before Zarb-e-Azb were 31 which have now dropped to 16 attacks per month. During last one year, Pakistani military carried out Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan and Operation Khyber 1 and Khyber 2 in Khyber Agency and cleared most of the area from militants in both agencies of FATA. After these operations very few small pockets are left under militant control and military expects to clear them soon.

To support Zarb-e-Azb and control blow back in major cities, security forces had launched Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) across the country. These operations helped in limiting the blow back though militants managed to carry out some high profile attacks in Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Shikarpur. Almost all high profile attacks targeted innocent civilians as militants failed to target military. Recently an upsurge in target killing of police officer has been observed in Karachi but it is not clear so far whether the attacks are planned and executed by TTP-Al-Qaeda linked militants or armed wing of political parties are responsible.

Karachi has also seen remarkable reduction in anti-state violence (apart from violence perpetrated by militant wings of political parties) emanating from groups like TTP, Al-Qaeda and their local affiliates. Prior to Zarb-e-Azb the average was 25 attacks per month which has dropped to 9 after 64 percent decline. Security Forces have gunned down some key commanders of Al-Qaeda in South Asia, TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi recently in the city.

Punjab witness a decline in overall number of militant attacks but the province was seen major target of high profile attacks as militants carried out Wahga Border, Two Churches in Lahore and Imam Bargahs in Rawalpindi besides targeted killing of some prominent leaders of a Sunni Sectarian group.

Despite consistent decline in militant attacks during last one year, PICSS has noticed an upward trend in militant attacks in May and first fifteen days of June 2015. There are strong indicators that militants have been trying to regroup and some regional players are suspected to be behind the escalation of militant attacks in Pakistan.