The militants used high-tech equipment, snipers and night vision sights
Last week, a senior police officer and two constables were killed in a militant attack on a police station on the outskirts of the city.
The attack, which claimed the lives of Deputy Superintendent Sardar Hussain and his gunmen Irshad Khan and Jahanzeb, was launched in the early hours.
It has been reported that the gunmen used long-range rifles, snipers and grenades to attack the station from two sides. The assailants had modern weapons and ammunition including thermal weapon sights.
The attack, the first of its kind in Peshawar, has scared many in the city. Officials told the media that such gadgets and weapons had not been used in Peshawar before.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to the police, after the attack, the Counter-Terrorism Department conducted an intelligence-based operation in Shinwari Qila in Sarband and gunned down two men believed to be the ‘assailants.’ However, three men at the hideout escaped.
In the recent attacks in Peshawar, Bannu, Lakki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan, night vision sights were used by the militants.
Last week, in a high-level meeting with Dr Shahzad Bangash, the chief secretary of the province, Inspector General Moazzam Jan Ansari said that the provincial government had disbursed funds for the purchase of thermal weapon sights. He said that the police also planned on using thermal sight drones to spot the militants.
Last year on November 28, the TTP had announced an end to a ceasefire with the government. The banned outfit had then launched a series of attacks in various parts of the province.
The TTP is on the offensive again and the truce negotiated by the government last year in June has fallen apart.
Recently, the TTP launched an online hour-long audio bulletin in Pashto to further its agenda. In the bulletin, the banned outfit claimed that its fighters had carried out 22 terrorist attacks over the last few weeks. Most of these attacks targeted cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Almost a decade ago, the TTP had similarly used airwaves to disseminate hateful messages and propaganda in Swat and some tribal districts. Now, the banned outfit is using the internet to spread its ideology.
The KP government has decided to fight back with a dedicated broadcast of its own. Ten community radio stations will broadcast objective infotainment and awareness programmes covering almost the entire province.
When the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15, 2021, they released prisoners including some TTP militants.
It was reported that some of those militants had crossed the border and entered the tribal districts. These men were thought to be carrying out guerrilla attacks against security forces since their appearance coincided with an uptick in attacks across the province.
“The TTP is resurging in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in tribal districts, bordering Afghanistan. It is targeting security forces,” Arshad Mohmand, who reports on militancy in the tribal districts, told The News on Sunday.
“But they will be unable to gain traction like they did in 2007-2008,” predicted Mohmand.
Centre for Research and Security Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, recently released its annual security report for 2022. The report states that proxy terrorism has staged a comeback.
Security forces lost at least 282 personnel during 2022, with 40 fatalities in December alone, which was the deadliest month of the last year in terms of militant attacks. The attacks included IED ambushes, suicide attacks and raids on security posts, mostly in the border regions.
The report says the country suffered as many as 376 terror attacks last year. Outfits like the TTP, Daish (Islamic State Khorasan) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for 57 of them. KP in particular experienced an exponential rise in violence and saw a 108 per cent rise in fatalities.
Haq Nawaz, a Peshawar-based security expert covering militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, says that the recent surge in militant attacks poses a serious challenge to the security forces.
According to him, the militants have been re-organising and regrouping over the past few years. They have been emboldened by the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
“The ill-planned peace negotiations did not help either. They were not supported by people in the province,” says Nawaz. “Instead, they aggravated the situation. The militants were able to expand their networks in the meantime,” he adds
“In recent months, there has been an increase in terrorist attacks on security forces in the southern districts of KP and the Peshawar region,” he points out.
“The current year can be even more violent since we are heading into elections,” he cautions. “While, unlike the past, the militants have no strongholds, they seem to have sleeper cells in every district of the KP,” he says.
“The government should fight terrorism with the support of the public. Islamabad also needs to engage the Afghan Taliban on the issue and persuade them to stop the TTP from using Afghan soil to attack Pakistan,” says Nawaz.
Nawaz warns that the security situation may deteriorate over the coming months especially if timely decisions are not made to mitigate the threat.
The writer is a multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney