Khyber Pakhtunkhwa records fewer terrorist attacks

By Javed Khan

KP Police officers June 5 in Nowshera District undergo counter-terrorism training. [Javed Khan]

KP Police officers June 5 in Nowshera District undergo counter-terrorism training. [Javed Khan]

PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has witnessed a significant decrease in terrorist attacks during the first half of 2016 as compared to the same period in many previous years, according to officials.

Ninety-nine terrorist attacks were reported in the first six months of 2016, according to official statistics collected by the Central Police Office in Peshawar.

That figure compares to 134 in the same period of 2015 and 292 in the same period of 2014.

KP authorities recorded even worse numbers in previous years, especially in 2008 and 2009, officials say.

Suicide bombings diminished in frequency as well, according to KP Police.

They logged three suicide bombings in the first half of 2016, the same as in the first half of 2015. In contrast, they recorded 13 in the same period in 2013.

From 2013 to 2016, the number of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in KP dropped by more than 80%: 183 in the first half of 2013, compared to 36 in the same period of 2016.

No vehicle-borne IED attacks took place in 2016 so far or in all of 2015.

Credit locally and nationally

KP Police take some credit for the improvement.

"Enhanced measures to seize illegal arms, search-and-strike operations by police and the co-ordinated efforts of law enforcement have greatly improved law and order in the past few years," KP Inspector General of Police Nasir Khan Durrani told Pakistan Forward.

He expressed appreciation for the efforts of police, especially the KP Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), for going after terrorists and breaking up their networks.

"Using the latest technology, the police during the past few years solved many high-profile cases," Durrani said.

However, the army's relentless fight against terrorism in the tribal belt is helping KP too. Troops launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June 2014. It continues to this day.

"Apart fromthe efforts by police, [the reduction in terrorist attacks] is mainly due to the hard stance of Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif against militants, which has improved the law-and-order situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the rest of Pakistan," Zafar Ullah Khan, a senior security consultant from Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward.

The people are breathing a sigh of relief after many years, thanks to the work of the military and of law enforcement, said Khan, who has served as chairman of the National Counter Terrorism Authority, head of the Federal Investigation Agency, police inspector general and Frontier Corps commandant.

"Operation Zarb-e-Azb in tribal areas played a key role," he said.

Numerous arrests

KP Police CTD personnel in the first half of 2016 arrested 924 suspected militants, CTD Deputy Inspector General Salahuddin Khan told Durrani in a July 13 briefing.

Recent detainees included 97 suspected terrorists with head money (rewards) offered for their capture, Salahuddin Khan said, noting the arrests of suspected militant commanders Gul Rauf and Qari Rashid.

Authorities had been offering Rs. 2m (US $20,000) and Rs. 1m (US $10,000), respectively, for their capture.

KP Police in recent months caught two most-wanted fugitives, Atiqur Rehman and Hazrat Ali, who are accused of a recent attack on police and civilians in Peshawar, Khan said.

An improving atmosphere

Civilians are noticing the greater sense of safety in an area that had been a front line in the fight against terrorism.

"That's why you can see thousands of people in trade centres, parks and public places now," Tariq Waheed, president of the Crime and Terrorism Journalists Forum of KP, told Pakistan Forward.

Law enforcement agencies in KP, rather than battling truck bombings and other causes of mass carnage suffered in past years, are likelier to be dealing with targeted killings and extortion calls, he said.

"The situation is far better in KP and the rest of Pakistan than in any year from 2007 through 2015," he said. "Still, we need to make efforts to completely restore law and order."

"It used to be that you couldn't go to the bazaar or to any other public place," Nasim Khan, a resident of suburban Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward. "But now the people feel so relieved."

The police and security forces must work further to break up all gangs and restore peace completely, he said.

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