IED blasts, deaths in Pakistan dip sharply in 2016

By Javed Mahmood

Pakistani forces search for land mines during Operation Zarb-e-Azb in an undated photo. [Courtesy of ISPR]

Pakistani forces search for land mines during Operation Zarb-e-Azb in an undated photo. [Courtesy of ISPR]

ISLAMABAD -- The number of Pakistanis killed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has dropped dramatically this year because of military operations targeting militants and terrorist networks, data show.

The number of IEDs peaked between 2009 and 2014 but plummeted once security forces launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June 2014, according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), an Islamabad-based think tank.

The most IED deaths occurred in 2013, with 718 in 426 explosions, the PICSS Militancy Database shows.

Starting in 2014, a precipitous decline began. In 2015, 268 deaths from 268 explosions occurred.

So far this year, 53 IEDs have taken 61 lives -- the fewest attacks since 2003, when 19 IEDs exploded all year.

The 3rd deadliest weapon

IEDs are the third deadliest weapon of militants in Pakistan, according to PICSS. Physical assaults and suicide bombings top the list.

Between 2004 and 2015 more than 4,650 people were killed in IED blasts nationwide, PICSS added.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb minimised the ability of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other banned groups to stage massive attacks, Peshawar-based security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah told Pakistan Forward.

"South Waziristan and North Waziristan were the hubs of the terrorists’ network," Shah said. "The military cleared those areas of militants."

During Zarb-e-Azb, troops seized weapons, explosives and other IED materials, which ended the terrorists' ability to carry out large explosions, he sid.

Now troops are combing the areas bordering Afghanistan in an attempt to wipe out terrorist strongholds, he said.

Success in Karachi too

Since September 2013, unrelenting pressure by security forces has reduced terrorists' ability to use Karachi as a base. That month, the Rangers began a crackdown that continues to this day.

"Targeted operations of the security agencies in Karachi have caused a serious blow to the Taliban and other terrorist groups," Karachi-based security analyst Col. (ret.) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt told Pakistan Forward. "It minimised their ability to hit sensitive government offices and public places."

Security personnel regularly carry out intelligence-based operations in Karachi to round up militants and foil attempted terrorist attacks, he said.

Rangers, the police and intelligence agencies must continue these operations in order to pre-empt militancy and maintain peace in Karachi.

Butt suggested widening such operations to reach rural and other urban areas, to completely uproot the militancy.

In addition, troops need to round up financiers and accomplices of militants for punishment, he said.

"Otherwise, the militant groups will once again gather their support and build up their strength, posing a threat to security and the lives of the people and security personnel," he warned.

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It is absolutely correct that Pakistan’s army is working hard and diligently. We are with the army in every situation and circumstance. With Allah’s will, the day is not far when Pak army will banish these people out.