On June 29th, four armed men opened fire in the premises of Pakistan Stock Exchange, Karachi. All four terrorists were successfully gunned down on the spot by the police, whereas one policeman and three guards were shot fighting. A representative account of Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a US-designated terrorist organization, on Twitter claimed responsibility for the attack. Prime Minister Imran Khan pinned this attack on India the very next day. This incident could further escalate the already high tensions between Pakistan and India. Apparently, the shootout lasted for only eight minutes but the context of it has been developing for ages.
BLA is a Baloch separatist militia which aims for an independent Balochistan due to ‘economic exploitation by the rest of Pakistan’. Its ultimate goal is to form an independent state of Balochistan where all the regional resources are used for the development of the Baloch nation.
Both India and BLA see Pakistan as their mutual enemy. India seems to never let go of any opportunity that leads to instability in Pakistan. RAW, leading Indian intelligence agency, has been accused of sponsoring this banned outfit on multiple occasions. In an interview in 2009, Hairbiar Marri, founder of Free Balochistan Movement (FBM), said, “We appreciate any kind of aid for BLA, be it moral or any other kind.” An alleged Indian spy, named Kulbhushan Jadhav, was arrested in 2016 on the charges of terrorist activities in Balochistan. In a video confession, Jadhav said, “These activities have been of anti-national or terrorist nature which resulted in the killing and wounding of Pakistani citizens.”
Since the formation of Narendra Modi’s far-right wing government in India, the relations between the two bitter neighbours have continued to soar. Military stand-off on the Line of Control among the two nuclear-armed states has become habitual. Lockdown in Kashmir, 2016 ‘surgical strike’ and 2019 Balakot Dogfight were some of the significant incidents occurred over the recent years. Ajit Doval, PM Modi’s current advisor on National Security, has allegedly devised what is called the ‘Doval Doctrine’ for carrying out covert operations in Pakistan, especially Balochistan. And now, the attack on the economic hub of Pakistan, claimed by BLA, exhibits a similar pattern. “We have no doubt that it [PSX attack] was planned in India”, said PM Khan while addressing the Parliament.
Earlier in June, New Delhi directed Pakistan High Commission to reduce its staff by half. India blamed Pakistani envoys of espionage. Dismissing it as a false claim, Pakistan did the same for Indian High Commission staff.
The Chinese element
With the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the BLA considers its ‘national’ identity in danger. It is repeatedly found to threaten and carry out activities against Chinese-backed projects. Chinese Engineers working in Balochistan were targeted in a suicide attack in August, 2018. In 2018, BLA also took responsibility for the attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi.
The separatists consider CPEC an underhand exploitation of the resources belonging to the Baloch. In an email to AFP, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed that the PSX attack was not only on “Pakistan’s economy” but also on “China’s exploitative plans for Balochistan”.
Dr. Moeed Pirzada, a Pakistani columnist, has analyzed that RAW is trying to market BLA’s perspective as ‘Anti-China’ militant outfit. He further draws that RAW is attempting to gain sympathy of western powers for Balochistan cause by exposing the neo-imperial mindset of China. The west is already wary of China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ for the poor, developing nations in Asia and Africa. If they get the ear of the west, things might take a new turn.
The hostility between India and China increased over the past months regarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The claims of 135,000 square kilometer area along the border is a dispute between India and China, processing via negotiations and dialogues. Years of negotiations between New Delhi and Beijing failed on June 15th when troops of either sides clashed, resulting in death of 20 Indian and several Chinese soldiers.
If the alleged BLA links with India are officially proved, the ongoing Sino-India tensions could take a new hike. This would create grave repercussions for the entire region. The state of affairs in Southeast Asia has alarmed the international society as the malice revolving around three nuclear-powered nations is catastrophic to much bigger geography.
Role of Pak-Military in Combating Terrorism: Post-2017 Analysis
Over the past 20 years, Pakistan has continued to be a target of terrorism. It has endured a great deal of hardship as a frontline nation in the fight against terrorism being led by the United States. In the past 20 years, the bloodstained war against terrorism has claimed thousands of lives, including both civilians and security force members. Pakistan adopted a comprehensive plan and carried various operations to eradicate terrorism from its territory. The importance of Pakistan’s military cannot be overstated, especially given how successful that country has been in the last five years in combating terrorism.
In reaction to an increase in “terrorist attacks,” The Pakistani government declared a nationwide military operation with the codename Radd-Ul-Fasaad on February 22, 2017. This operation was not restricted to one area, but had been carried out across whole Pakistan and succeeded in driving out terrorist elements from Lahore, Sehwan Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the former FATA. The operation included the involvement of Pakistan’s air force, Pakistan’s navy, Pakistan’s police and other civil armed forces however, the Rangers performed special tasks ‘to operate in Lahore and different parts in the province of Punjab.
Similar to this, the Pakistani army began Operation Khyber-IV in July 2017 to purge the Rajgal Valley of militants in the Khyber tribal district. The primary objective of Khyber-IV was to eliminate the threat of IS in the tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. the declared the Operation was concluded On August 21, 2017.
According to sources (PIPS), systematically compile data on militant and anti-state violence in Pakistan claim that 2018 saw an improvement in the overall security situation compared to previous years. The total number of raids and operations carried out against militants in 2018 were 31 as compared to 2017 i.e. 75. In addition to these operational assaults, security forces and militants engaged in 22 armed confrontations in 2018. This represents a 68% drop from 2017 levels.
In accordance with data from the Global Terrorism Index, terrorist attacks have decreased in Pakistan since 2018. The total number of terrorist incidents decreased from 369 in 2018 to 279 in 2019. While the number of terrorist deaths in Pakistan I.e.300, reached its lowest annual total since 2006.
The nature of the violence in 2018 was diverse the figure below presents a breakdown of the nature of violent incidents and the number of casualties’ recorded in 2018:
Source: PIPS, Pakistan Security Report 2018, 6 January 2019, p. 20
In comparison to 2018, the security situation was even better in the first half of 2019. Numerous counterterrorism operations captured several top commanders from various militant organisations, including the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). According to the data, the security forces engaged in 23 operations against militants in the first seven months of 2019. In addition to these operational assaults, security forces and militants engaged in 15 armed encounters.
There were 276 total violent incidents in the first seven months of 2019. As a result, 403 people died and 702 were hurt. A breakdown of the types of violent incidents and the number of fatalities reported in 2019 can be seen in the figure above.
In 2019, the Pakistani government also contributed positively to the US-Taliban negotiations. Moreover, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) collaborated to develop Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism (PACT) with a specific focus on Sindh in order to equip the criminal justice systems with the tools necessary to prevent and combat terrorism in a proactive manner. The goal of PACT Sindh is to improve the capabilities and coordination processes of national and local counterterrorism and criminal justice institutions. PACT Sindh’s primary goal is to enhance the criminal justice system’s investigation, prosecution, and adjudication procedures. By working with other departments, it will increase the ability of the police, prosecutors, and judiciary. These counter terrorism efforts of the security forces and especially Pakistan Army are significant indeed, considering the ratio that Pakistan faced in the last two decades.
Terrorism intensifying across Africa, exploiting instability and conflict
The growth of terrorism is a major threat to international peace and security, currently felt most keenly in Africa, the deputy UN chief told the Security Council on Thursday. “Terrorists and violent extremists including Da’esh, Al-Qaida and their affiliates have exploited instability and conflict to increase their activities and intensify attacks across the continent”, Amina Mohammed said on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres.
“Their senseless, terror-fuelled violence has killed and wounded thousands and many more continue to suffer from the broader impact of terrorism on their lives and livelihoods”.
With misogyny at the core of many terrorist groups’ ideology, women and girls in particular, are bearing the brunt of insecurity and inequality.
And over the last two years, some of the most violent affiliates of Da’esh have expanded, increasing their presence in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger as well as southward into the Gulf of Guinea.
“Terrorist and violent extremist groups aggravate instability and human suffering. And they can plunge a country emerging from war back into the depths of conflict”, reminded the senior UN official.
Meanwhile, terrorists, non-State armed groups and criminal networks often pursue different agendas and strategies, fuelled by smuggling, human trafficking and other methods of illicit financing – sometimes impersonating legitimate armed forces.
And as digital tools spread hate and disinformation, terrorists and other criminal groups are exploiting inter-communal tensions and food insecurity triggered by climate change.
Globalization of terrorism
In today’s hyper-connected world, Ms. Mohammed remined that the spread of terrorism in Africa is “not a concern for African Member States alone”.
“The challenge belongs to us all. Countering international terrorism requires effective multilateral responses”, she flagged.
From the climate emergency to armed conflict and poverty and inequality to lawless cyberspace, and the uneven recovery from COVID-19, she also pointed out that terrorism is converging with other threats.
For a holistic, comprehensive approach, the deputy UN chief cited the New Agenda for Peace – part of the Our Common Agenda report.
Amidst increasing polarization, she maintained that it proposes ways to address risks and revitalize our collective peace and security system.
Pushing back on terror
Outlining five suggestions to advance counter-terrorism efforts in Africa, Ms. Mohammed reminded that “prevention remains our best response”.
“We must address the instability and conflict that can lead to terrorism in the first place, as well as the conditions exploited by terrorists in pursuit of their agendas”.
Secondly, she called for community-based, gender-sensitive “whole-of-society” approaches.
Noting “complex links between terrorism, patriarchy and gender-based violence”, she said counter-terrorism policies needed to be “strengthened by the meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls”.
She underscored in her third point that “countering terrorism can never be an excuse for violating human rights or international law” as it would “only set us back”.
Fourth, she stressed to importance of regional organisations which can address challenges posed by terrorist and violent extremist groups in the local context.
Finally, Ms. Mohamed called for “sustained and predictable funding” to prevent and counter terrorism.
From economic deprivation to organized crime and governance challenges, “the magnitude of the problem calls for bold investment”, she told ambassadors.
In closing, the Deputy Secretary-General welcomed the planned October 2023 Summit on counterterrorism in Africa as an opportunity to consider ways to strengthen the UN’s efforts across the continent overall.
She expressed confidence that today’s debate would offer insights for the summit, and “help to build peaceful, stable communities and societies across the continent”.
Restoring authority: Ghanaian President
Chairing the meeting with his country assuming the presidency of the Council for November, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, attested to the importance of restoring effective State authority and promoting inclusive governance across the continent. He also urged the Council to support AU-led counter-terror operations, including with predictable funding.
African Union (AU) Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, drew attention in his briefing, to the daily physical and psychological damage caused by terrorism and reminded that conventional responses and old models are no longer relevant to counter evolving threats on the ground.
And as terrorism extends to new parts of the continent, Benedikta von Seherr-Thoss, Managing Director for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response with the European Union’s diplomatic wing (European External Action Service) noted the need for security support while underscoring the role of sustainable development for nourishing peace.
Comfort Ero, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, also briefed the Council, and maintained that technical and military solutions would not end terrorist threats on their own, calling for a new counter-terror toolkit that includes more dialogue with armed groups and can promote local ceasefire arrangements.
Crime and terrorism thriving again in Afghanistan amid economic ruin
Two-thirds of Afghans are going hungry, with girls’ education subject to “random edicts” of the Taliban, while crime and terrorism are thriving once more buoyed by a large spike in opium production, warned the President of the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
Csaba Kőrösi painted a near apocalyptic picture of ordinary life in the Taliban-ruled nation that has endured almost five decades of “relentless conflict”, urging the international community to make up the $2.3 billion shortfall in the UN humanitarian appeal for $4.4 billion.
In a powerful speech to ambassadors in New York, during a full session of the UN’s most representative body, he said that there was “a moral and also a practical imperative for the international community to support an inclusive and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.”
The resolution expressed deep concern over Afghanistan’s current trajectory and the volatility there since the Taliban takeover.
It urges Afghanistan to honour and fully respect and implement all treaties, covenants or conventions, bilateral or multilateral, which is has signed up to.
Drugs and terror
Beyond the disastrous humanitarian and human rights situation, he said the country was now “awash with heroin and opium.”
“Organized crime and terrorist organizations are thriving once again. Afghanistan is facing complex and interlinked challenges that the Taliban have shown they cannot – or would not – solve.”
Now is the time to come up with some concrete solutions that put the Afghan people first, he said, suggesting one concrete way the General Assembly could help right away:
“I encourage the country’s reengagement with the international science community. And to allow women who used to be respected members of the country’s science community, to resume their research and their studies.
Alone in denial
Afghanistan is now the only State in the world, denying girls the right to a full education, he added, noting that their prospects are totally uncertain, “amid seemingly random edicts from the Taliban.”
For even the most powerful women in the country, “dreams of becoming President have been replaced by the reality of child marriage. Arrests if women and girls leave their home without a male chaperone.
Protect all Afghans
“I reiterate my call for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of all Afghans, especially women and girls.”
Mr. Kőrösi urged the Taliban to ensure the safety of all Afghans – regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or politics – protection for journalists and civil society members, and the unhindered delivery of aid.
Amid the economic meltdown, he pointed out the shocking fact that narcotics constitute the biggest sector in the country, with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, revealing a 32 per cent growth in illegal opium cultivation.
“We know where these drugs are sent. And we know who profits from these drugs. The threat from drug trafficking is linked with the threat of terrorism, regional and global security.”
He said Taliban leaders needed to engage in serious dialogue about counter-terrorism to reverse the flow of foreign extremists into the country – and prevent their own from becoming foreign terrorist fighters elsewhere.
“Afghanistan must never again become a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists. I call on the Taliban, other Afghans and members of the international community to cooperate with the Special Representative (for UN Assistance Mission, UNAMA) as she implements the Mission’s mandate.
After debating the resolution, it was adopted by the General Assembly with 116 votes for, and 10 abstentions – Belarus, Burundi, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia and Zimbabwe.
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