ISLAMABAD: Although the American CIA has halted its drone campaign in the Pakistani tribal areas since the beginning of 2014, the Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants, have stepped up their terrorist activities in a big way, more than one a day.
According to officially compiled statistics of the terrorist attacks across Pakistan in the first 45 days of 2014 (January 1 and February 14], 361 people have been killed and 487 others injured in 46 incidents of terrorism in the country. This is despite the fact that Pakistan has not suffered even a single drone attack during the aforementioned period. During the first one and a half month of 2014, the Taliban-linked militants killed 277 civilians and 84 security forces/law enforcement agencies personnel in 46 terror strikes.
On average, eight people have been killed by terrorists every day in the aforementioned period. The Taliban used to justify the TTP’s terror spree while citing US drone attacks which have killed many of the key al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the tribal belt, the last being the TTP ameer Hakeemullah Mehsud [who was droned on November 1, 2013].
The detractors of the drone attacks were of the view that the Taliban-sponsored terrorist activities were actually retaliatory actions and the most viable way to stop terrorism in Pakistan was to put an end to the US drone strikes. As the prime minister took up the issue with President Obama in their Washington meeting followed by Sartaj Aziz who was in the US recently, his administration accepted Pakistan’s stance that these strikes have a negative impact on peace talks with the Taliban. Although CIA has halted drone attacks in Pakistan for the time being, the Americans have made it clear that there will be two exceptions: US drones will attack positions inside Fata to stop an imminent attack or to target a senior al-Qaeda figure.
In fact, the American drones have not carried out a single strike in any part of Pakistan since December 25, 2013.
On the other hand, however, the militants have intensified their terrorist activities since the beginning of 2014. Although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan have said frequently since the beginning of TTP-Govt peace talks on February 29 that terrorism and dialogue cannot go together, the fact remains that the talks are continuing despite the TTP-sponsored non-stop wave of terror which seems to be an attempt to pressurize the government into sealing a peace pact with the TTP at gun point.
According to available figures, of the 46 incidents of terrorism across Pakistan during the last 45 days, seven acts were carried out by suicide bombers, which killed 48 people. Human bombs exploded themselves on January 1 (in Quetta), January 6 (in Hangu), January 9 (in Karachi), January 20 (in Bannu), January 29 (in Karachi), February 4 (in Peshawar), February 10 (in Peshawar) and February 13 (in Karachi). But the January 20 suicide attack proved to be the deadliest, which had killed 28 soldiers in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The second deadliest suicide bombing took place on February 14 that killed 13 police commandos when a bus was targeted on National Highway in Karachi. The third such incident took place in Qissa Khwani Bazar of Peshawar where a restaurant was targeted in rush hours, killing at least nine innocent civilians.
In fact, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone has borne the major brunt of terror attacks since January 1, 2014, which has results in the killing of 133 people, of which 78 lost their lives in Peshawar only. Analysts say, the Taliban won’t be able to justify their terrorist activities in future while citing the drone attacks, which have been completely stopped. It was for the first time in two years that Pakistan saw a month without a drone strike. January 2014 marked the first full month since December 2011 that the United States did not use an unmanned aerial vehicle to fire at a target inside Pakistan, a pause that has so far continued throughout February. The gap between the last strike, on Christmas Day, and February 14 is the longest since the 42-day break between April 17 and May 29 of last year.
Even last year (2013), the CIA-led drone strikes in the tribal belt of Pakistan killed only four civilians which is the lowest ever number of civilian deaths since the drone attacks began in 2004. The claim was in fact made by the Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, thereby reinforcing the position of those who support drones in a debate over the legality, effectiveness and accuracy of the strikes compared to more traditional military operations.