Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 93, 20 May 2020

Pakistan: Violent attacks on soldiers continue in North Waziristan and Balochistan 
Abigail Miriam Fernandez

In the news

Violent attacks on political leaders and soldiers are emerging as a worrying trend in provinces of Balochistan and North Waziristan in Pakistan. On 18 May, seven soldiers of Frontier Corps (FC) were killed in two separate attacks in Balochistan. The first attack with an IED explosion took place when six soldiers were returning to their base camp. The second attack on another soldier took place in an exchange of fire in the Kech district. This is the second major violent incident in recent weeks in Balochistan. On the same day, another IED explosion took place at a market near Mirali in North Waziristan killing a soldier and injuring many. 

Issues at large

First is the return of violence since 2019. Earlier this month, attacks have taken place along the Pakistan-Iran border, killing six soldiers, including an Army Major. Further, these attacks come a few weeks after prominent PTM leader Arif Wazir was gunned down in front of his house by unidentified gunmen in Wana, North Waziristan. A report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies has shown that in 2019, Pakistan witnessed a decline in the number of terrorist incidents and consequent casualties. 

The statistics of Pakistan Security Report 2019 also showed that terrorist attacks in 2019 had decreased by around 13 per cent as compared to 2018, and the number of people killed in these attacks have dropped by 40 per cent. Thus, there was an overall decline in terrorism in the country. 

Second is the focus of violence along the border regions. The recent attacks over the past month have happened along the Pakistan-Iran border, and Pakistan-Afghanistan border. A tribal district within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, North Waziristan has remained a hotspot for militancy and violent attacks on representatives of political institutions. Similarly, the attack in Balochistan took place not far from the border.

In perspective

First, the recent spate of attacks has shown that the threat is still very real and potent, especially for those who are in the first line of defence. There has been an increase in the causalities within the Pakistani security forces. 

Second, the issue of violence in Balochistan and KP has not been seriously addressed. The two provinces are lagging back on this front. Violence in Punjab and Sindh provinces have decreased significantly as the issue has been addressed. However, the unending issue of violence in Balochistan and KP has not, and thus they continue to face the brunt of it. 

Third, the conversation on border security between Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff and Iran's Chief of Army after these recent attacks highlights the transboundary nature of the attacks. It may be required that both Iran and Pakistan would have to work together in combating this issue. 

Abigail Miriam Fernandez is a Research Assistant at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru

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