Conflict Alerts # 156, 9 September 2020
In the news
On 7 September, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed that a mastermind of militant attacks along with four accomplices was killed during an intelligence operation in North Waziristan tribal district. The ISPR claimed that he was responsible for 30 attacks, including the targeted killing of government officials and security forces personnel.
On 6 September, an army officer and a soldier were wounded in an attack on security forces by militants in North Waziristan tribal district. According to Dawn, the militants attacked a military vehicle. On the same day, three suspected terrorists from the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were killed in an exchange of fire with members of security forces in South Waziristan district. This was the first clash between security forces and the TTP after two splinter groups of militants declared the launch of an armed struggle against Pakistan earlier last month.
Further, these attacks came a day after a soldier was martyred and three others were wounded in an attack on an army patrolling party in North Waziristan tribal district.
Issues at large
First, continuing small-scale militant attacks. They indicate that these militant organizations are still able to slip across the border, or that sleeper cells on this side of the border have become more active.
Second, the consolidation of power within the militant factions. For many years, militant organizations in Pakistan were divided due to factionalism. It appears that the Pakistani Taliban is trying to resolve their internal differences and reunify. According to reports, the TTP, led by Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, has convinced its breakaway factions Jamaatul Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar, as well as a few other commanders and small groups, to rejoin its ranks.
Third, the devasting impact of militancy on the daily lives of civilians. It has been nearly six years since the military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan to eliminate TTP; however, the militancy is continuing. People have been left with no access to clean water or facilities such as schools, hospitals or medical dispensaries; others have been displaced.
The strategy of a military solution which has been adopted in the past has not addressed the issue. Engaging with local political actors along with the provincial government to stir up a more extensive political dialogue is the missing key.
Suppose these increased militant activities continue to go unabated with the government failing to provide essential services, this could leave more residents vulnerable to recruitment by groups. It would become a bigger challenge.