Security operations behind decline of suicide attacks in Pakistan: analysts
ISLAMABAD -- The number of suicide attacks in Pakistan has been declining during the past four years, evidence of the effectiveness of military and intelligence-based operations in countering terrorism, analysts say.
In 2013, there were 43 suicide attacks recorded, resulting in 751 people killed and 1,411 injured, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal website.
In 2014, the year the Pakistani military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb targeting various militant groups, the number of suicide attacks dropped to 25, killing 336 and injuring 601.
Nineteen suicide attacks took place in 2015 and again in 2016, while 10 suicide attacks have been recorded so far this year, through July 9.
Successful military operations
"Military operations and security measures have yielded positive results, leading to a significant decline in suicide attacks and in casualties among civilians and security personnel," security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, former security secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), told Pakistan Forward.
"Operation Zarb-e-Azb has proved the most fatal for the terrorists and not only inflicted heavy casualties on militants but also destroyed their hideouts, training camps and weapons depots in North Waziristan," he said.
"After the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the graph of terrorism has dropped to the lowest level in the country," he said.
Some 1,816 militants belonging to proscribed organisations in Pakistan were killed in operations in 2015 and 2016, while 5,611 were arrested, according to the National Action Plan Tracker Report 2016, published by the Centre for Research and Security Studies in April.
Pakistan has done remarkably well in the past few years in its fight against terrorism, the report says, as a result of which violence-related fatalities decreased across the country by 66% between 2014 and 2016.
The Pakistani military's new Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, launched in February, is also containing militancy and strengthening the gains of the previous operation, Shah said.
Targeted security operations throughout the country and the tightening of security at the border with Afghanistan, including construction of fences in porous areas, have also discouraged militancy, he said.
The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) is now using collaborators in Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Punjab-based militant group, to carry out its agenda of spilling the blood of Pakistanis, said Shah.
"Military operations and tight security measures have thwarted ISIS's attempts to penetrate into Pakistan from Afghanistan," he said.
Overall security improvement
"The decline in suicide attacks is the outcome of the overall improvement in security in recent years," said Abdullah Khan, managing director of the Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS).
"North Waziristan was the strongest base of militants, where the terrorists used to train newly recruited militants," he told Pakistan Forward. "Explosive devices were also manufactured there."
Operation Zarb-e-Azb eliminated this militant stronghold while intelligence-based operations have made it impossible for terror outfits to regroup in Pakistan, he said.
"In recent attacks, security personnel have found out that the suicide bombers were trained in Afghanistan," he said, adding that this development represents a reversal of past trends.
"A few years ago the militant outfits in Pakistan used to dispatch suicide bombers to Afghanistan, but now bombers are coming from [Afghanistan to Pakistan]", he said.
"This is evidence that banned militant outfits in [Pakistan] are no longer in a position to recruit bombers and train them," he said.
Cracking down on terror financiers
Border security and military operations alone are not enough to end militancy in Pakistan, said Murtaza Mughal, chairman of the Islamabad chapter of Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust, a research institution.
"The government and the security agencies must hold accountable the influential abettors, facilitators and financiers of terrorists in the country," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Until the financiers and facilitators of militants are given exemplary punishment, reviving a long-lasting peace in the country will remain a dream," he said.
The seizure by troops of weapon caches throughout the country indicates that militants are still receiving support from somewhere in Pakistan, he said.
Taking action against money launderers and financiers of terrorism is part of the counter-terrorism National Action Plan, Mughal said, faulting the government and its security agencies for not taking swift and decisive action against them.