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 decline. 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. There has been almost 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.
As many as 333 violent including 187 militant attacks and 146 security forces actions were recorded during the year 2020 in which 429 people were killed and 619 were injured. Among the dead include 137 security forces personnel, 127 non-combatant civilians, and 165 militants. The injured include 454 civilians, 149 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.
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. More than 100 percent increase was observed in Target Killing incidents as the year 2020 witnessed 49 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.
The number of militant attacks and resultant casualties decreased in Balochistan; however, high profile attacks increase slightly. Militants carried out 49 attacks in which 98 people lost their lives and 217 were injured. When compared with 2019, there has been almost 25 percent reduction in militant attacks in the province with almost 42 percent reduction in casualties and almost 49 percent reduction in those injured. 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. When compared with 2019, there has been almost 56 percent increase in militant attacks, a 66 percent increase in the number of deaths and 23 percent increase in the number of those injured. The merger of Hizbul Ahrar/Jamat-ul-Ahrar was also instrumental in increasing the violence in the erstwhile FATA region. 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.
There has been almost seven percent reduction in militant attacks, 33 percent reduction in deaths but 47 percent increase in the number of injured however an increase of 25 percent was observed in security forces action in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The militants killed 31 and injured 148 people in 28 militant attacks in the province during the year.
A visible upward trend in militant activities was observed 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 and its adjoining areas.
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, as many as 18 militant attacks were reported 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.