In the line of duty

February 18, 2024

Security forces foil terrorist attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan

In the line of duty


Despite serious security threats, the 2024 general elections were held peacefully throughout the country on February 8. Security forces, including the police, Rangers and the Pakistan Army, remained on alert during the polls after several deadly attacks were witnessed in the run-up to the polling day.

On February 5, three days before the polls, 10 policemen were killed and six were injured in Dera Ismail Khan when more than 30 terrorists attacked the Chodwan police station.

On February 7, the day before the polls, 28 people died in twin bombings in Balochistan. In the first attack, 16 people were killed at the office of independent candidate Asfandyar Khan Kakar in Pishin. The second explosion took place in Qila Saifullah near an office of Jamiat Ulema-i- Islam-Fazl, killing 12 people.

On February 10, a policeman died in Dera Ismail Khan’s Darazinda area in another terrorist attack. The recent terrorist attacks have been concentrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the adjoining areas in Balochistan.

In the line of duty

Earlier, during the campaign period, several candidates were attacked. Security forces, including the police, were also targeted. Unlike the 2013 and 2018 elections, this time it was not only the Awami National Party that was targeted by militants. The candidates belonging to the JUI-F and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were also targeted. This was the reason why the election campaign was affected in the KP. Almost all parties faced difficulties in organising election rallies. This time almost all the militant outfits issued statements condemning elections and democracy. All political parties and the voters were threatened and told to stay away from the election process. The number of terrorist attacks was the highest in the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In Bajaur, the election had to be postponed after the murder of an independent candidate. The international militant organisation, Daesh, claimed responsibility for the murder.

Elections were held in an atmosphere marked by fear in North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Tank, Lakki Marwat and Bannu. In Dera Ismail Khan, Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman, the head of JUI-F and his two sons, Asad and Asjad, faced difficulties ahead of the elections.

Attempts were also made by terrorists to sabotage the election process in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to a report of the Anti-Terrorism Department, 11 candidates in the elections and a senator were threatened by the militants and asked to withdraw their nomination papers.

The southern districts of the province border Balochistan. Balochistan also saw an increase in terrorist attacks ahead of the elections. However, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the duration of the campaign was longer. On February 5, a Bomb Disposal Squad official was killed while defusing a bomb in the Dir district. On February 6, a policeman was killed at a check post in Buner district. Ten kilograms of explosives were defused near an election rally of former provincial minister Malik Shah Muhammad in Bannu district.

In the line of duty

The election campaign of Malik Nasrullah, a candidate from PK-110 from the tribal district of South Waziristan, was also targeted. Five people were injured in the attack.

Hardly a day went by during the election campaign when there was no action by law enforcement agencies or a militant outfit. The security forces also carried out operations against the militants in which several key militant commanders and dozens of fighters were killed. On January 29, during one such operation, a known terrorist was killed in the tribal district of North Waziristan. The day after the election, Daesh commander Surat Gul alias Saifullah was killed in the Khyber tribal district.

The latter killing was hailed as a major success for intelligence agencies and security forces. The said militant commanders had been part of Lashkar-i-Islam before he defected to Daesh. He had carried out several targeted killings in Pakistan as well as organized some suicide bombings.

Attempts were also made to sabotage the election process. According to a report of the Anti-Terrorism Department, 11 candidates and a senator were threatened by the militants and told to withdraw their nomination papers.

Intelligence agencies warned of plans for major attacks on the polling day. However, despite the precarious law and order situation, a large number of people exercised their right to vote.

Even after a new government is formed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, such attacks are expected to continue. However, the intensity and frequency of these attacks is expected to decline. PTI founder Imran Khan, the former prime minister, is said to be popular with the Taliban. This might be a factor over the weeks and months that follow.

Much also depends on the attitude of the Taliban government across the border. If they reach a settlement with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, then the law and order situation might improve. However, if this does not happen, the establishment of peace and order in the province will be a major problem for the new government.

From a review of the literature and propaganda material of the militant organisations, it can be concluded that these organisations are unanimous against democratic systems. They can, therefore, target all pro-democracy people in Pakistan. Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam is already facing threats from the Daesh. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police and Pakistan’s security forces are already on the target lists of these militant outfits. The leading figures of the new government are also likely to face heightened terrorist threats in the days to come.

The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist, researcher and trainer. He also works for the digital media platform The Khorasan Diary

In the line of duty