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Balochistan: IEDs: The Price of Deceit

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By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least six Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and another three were injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the Shati Kandao area of Pandyali tehsil (revenue unit) in the Mohmand Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on May 24, 2014. The IED, planted on the roadside, exploded when an SF vehicle was passing by.

On May 8, 2014, at least nine Frontier Corps (FC) personnel were killed and several others were injured when terrorists triggered an IED targeting an SF convoy near the Miranshah Road in the Ghulam Khan tehsil of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) in FATA.

No terrorist group claimed responsibility for these two attacks.

On September 15, 2013, Major General, Sanaullah Khan, General Officer Commanding (GOC), Swat Division, Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef, and Lance Naik, Irfan Sattar were killed in an IED explosion in the Upper Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) along the Pak-Afghan Border. Another two soldiers were injured in the explosion. In this case, the Swat ‘chapter’ of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility in a 20-minute video released on September 29.

IED attacks have become a daily occurrence in Pakistan. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the country has witnessed at least 4,262 IED explosions since 2007, the year of the formation of the TTP, resulting in 9,588 fatalities and over 23,692 injuries (data till May 31, 2014). The first five months of current year have already recorded at least 212 incidents, resulting in 395 fatalities and over 1,158 injured.

IED Explosions in Pakistan: 2007-2014*

Years

Incidents

Killed

Injured

2007

678

1078

2484+

2008

599

1251

3073+

2009

500

1668

4312+

2010

473

1547

3581+

2011

639

1092

2633+

2012

652

1007

2687+

2013

511

1550

3764+

2014

212

395

1158+

Total

4264

9588

23692+

Source: SATP, *Data till May 31, 2014 

These numbers are likely underestimates, since media access is heavily restricted in the most disturbed areas of Pakistan, and there is only fitful release of information by Government agencies. Indeed, the then Federal Minister for Interior, Rehman Malik, on July 5, 2011, calling IEDs a “lethal weapon” that needed to be snatched from terrorists to ensure peace in Pakistan, disclosed that 11,024 people had died and another 25,291 were injured, in incidents involving IEDs. He did not, however, specify the time period. He had also indicated that 1,972 buildings, 79 bridges, 360 electric poles and 231 railway tracks had been destroyed across Pakistan by IED explosions. Similarly, citing a US report, The Express Tribune reported on February 12, 2013, that, over the preceding decade, some 33,150 IED explosions took place across Pakistan, resulting in 11,250 fatalities, and injuring another over 21,000 people.

Official sources indicate that IED related incidents have been on the rise. KP’s Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) chief, Additional Inspector General of Police Shafqat Malik, on January 5, 2012, disclosed that “During 2010, the BDS defused 390 IEDs, while about 270 exploded. In 2011, the number of IEDS defused was 664 and those which exploded were about 469. This shows the use of IEDs has almost doubled from last year...” Malik noted, moreover, that the terrorists' strategies changed during 2011, “Instead of going for big car bombings, we have seen more than 100 incidents of remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (RCIEDs), which speaks to how they changed strategy after our counter-terrorism measures... deprived them of their supplies.”

With the security establishment deeply disturbed by the IED menace, an inter-agency meeting, headed by Lieutenant General Rashad Mahmood, the then Chief of General Staff (CGS), was held on February 11, 2013.  During the meeting it was decided to create a new force to combat the increasing use of IEDs in terrorism incidents. However, no further details in this regard are available in the open media.

A March 2, 2014, media report, quoting a defence official claimed that the anti-IED Division established within the armed forces, had become fully functional in multidimensional anti-IED operations in various cities and troubled areas of the country. At the same time, comprehensive awareness campaigns were also in the process of being launched. According to the official, extra security measures had been taken at all levels and on all tiers in order to curb the incidents of IED attacks in market places, civilian gatherings and religious processions.

In 2012, the Army established the Counter-IED, Explosives and Munitions School (CIEMS) to help train responders to reduce the IED threat. The School is at the heart of the state's counter-IED measures, and, CIEMS Chief Instructor Brigadier Basim Saeed claimed, on April 22, 2014, has helped the country slash the frequency of IED incidents by 20 per cent since its establishment. SATP data confirms that year 2013 registered a decline of 21.62 per cent in IED incidents as compared to 2012. However, there is little evidence of any enduring gains in the trend, with a 70 per cent increase in attacks recorded in January 2014, as against December 2013.

Moreover, IED-related incidents have become more lethal. According to SATP data, though the number of such incidents decreased to 511 in 2013 as compared to 652 in 2012, resultant fatalities increased considerably, from 1,007 in 2012 to 1,550 in 2013, an increase of 53.92 percent. In 2011, the number of incidents and resultant fatalities stood at 639 and 1,092, respectively.

Augmenting specific counter-IED capacities and capabilities may help contain the rate of escalation in terrorist trends, but will inevitably be neutralized by improving terrorist resources as well. The Pakistani state has created vast spaces for the operation of armed terrorist formations on and from its soil. Unless the base strategy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy - both for domestic political management and external strategic extension - is abandoned, groups that have turned against their own creators in the establishment will continue to successfully exploit these spaces.

[Source: SATP]

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