Increase in high profile attacks in the country: PICSS

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Number of militant attacks decreased in March but escalation in high profile attack resulted in higher number of casualties in the country compared to February 2016. Dramatic decline in casualties in militant attacks is observed in Balochistan after busting of RAW network at the start of the month. This was stated in monthly security assessment report by Islamabad based independent think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS). PICSS’s report says that Pakistani security forces eliminated 108 militants during the month of March and arrested 983 suspects from across the country. March was the bloodiest month of the first quarter of 2016 with 151 casualties in 46 militant attacks including 120 civilians, 19 militants and 12 security forces personnel. More than three times increase in casualties in militant attacks was due to increase in high profile attacks during March. High profile attacks in March include Charsadda local courts attack, Civil Secretariat bus attack in Peshawar, and blast in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore. PICSS has observed that operational capabilities of the militants have started to improve in 2016 as their command and control structure is well intact in Afghanistan and operating with impunity. Increase in high profile attacks in urban areas suggests that financial pipelines of militants are reconnected. During intelligence based operations (IBOs) Pakistani security forces had busted their major source of finance through kidnapping for ransom.

A dramatic decline in casualties in militant attacks in Balochistan has been observed by PICSS during the month of March 2016. The decline coincides with the arrest of RAW officer Kulbhushan Yadav who was arrested on March 3, 2016.  PICSS Militancy Database (PMD) shows that the casualties in Balochistan in March 2016 were lowest since February 2010 (the lowest in last six years). The province also saw lowest number of militant attacks since March 2013 as only 10 militant attacks were recorded in which only seven people including six civilians and one security forces personnel were killed. Previously, the province was at the top of the chart of militant attacks and resultant casualties in the country for many months. PICSS recorded 45 deaths in 25 militant attacks in January and 22 deaths in 13 militant attacks in February 2016 in the province. Decline in human losses of security forces in the province is more visible as in January 27 out of 45 and in February 11 out of 22 were security forces personnel, while in March only one personnel died in militant attacks.

Pakistani security forces are also looking more focused on Balochistan than any other region perhaps due to CPEC as highest number of security forces actions were also reported from Balochistan followed by Punjab during the month of March 2016. Senior commander of Baloch Liberation Army, Aslam Achou alias Merick Baloch was killed and Sabzal Bugti, another senior commander of the banned outfit was injured in two separate incidents. Security forces have also arrested another RAW agent Rakaish Kumar from Gadani area of Lasbela. Suspects apparently belonging to Afghan Taliban were also arrested in two different operations in the province.

In FATA, 20 people were killed including 12 militants, five civilians and three security forces personnel in 13 militant attacks during the month of March 2016. 12 people were injured including 10 security forces personnel while eight workers of FATA development authority were kidnapped from South Waziristan.

Security forces have stepped up their operations in Shawal Mountains to flush out remaining militants hold up in the area. Security forces claimed to have killed 21 suspected militants in the area and captured important heights and passes along the Afghan border. Pakistan Air Force jets and gunship helicopters of Army Aviation took part in the operation along with ground troops.

Forty people including 29 civilians and 12 security forces personnel were killed and 88 including 83 civilians and five security forces personnel were injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province during the month. The province witnessed yet more high profile attacks as at least 17 people were killed in an explosion in the premises of a local court in Shabqadar tehsil of Charsadda and 14 people were killed and 55 others injured when a bomb ripped through a bus carrying government employees in Peshawar. Twenty people were killed in January in the attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda.

Security forces arrested 181 suspected militants from KP in 23 different operations while six bombs were diffused by bomb disposal squad during the month.

Punjab saw deadliest attack of the year so far when a blast in Gulshan-e-Iqbal killed 79 people and injured 340. According to PICSS Militancy Database due to this attack Punjab saw highest number of casualties in militant attacks since June 2010. The attack was claimed by Jamat-ul-Ahrar a splinter group of TTP, however a Joint Investigation Team is probing from different angles including possible involvement of a hostile agency of a neighboring country. The attack resulted in start of a military led operation against suspected militants in the province. Six hundred suspects were arrested from the province during the month, 529 of them in last four days of the month in military led operations. 24 militants were also killed in different parts of the province which saw highest number of security forces actions after Balochistan during March 2016.

Slight increase in militant attacks was observed in Sindh where five people were killed and 24 were injured in 11 militant attacks. January and February each had witnessed seven militant attacks. Twenty two suspected militants were killed in Sindh in 29 security forces actions during March 2016 while 44 suspects were arrested. Security forces claimed to have killed four commanders of Al-Qaeda in Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS) in two different operations, two of them described as ‘high value targets’. Security forces also claimed to have killed operational commander of DAESH or Islamic State in Pakistan namely Kamran Aslam in Karachi. Security forces also arrested militant commanders of Mufti Shahid and Barmi sub-groups of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

A shrine in Neelum valley of Azad Kashmir was targeted by hand grenade but no human loss was reported while a suspected militant allegedly involved in a number of high-profile terrorist attacks blew himself up while security forces were trying to arrest him in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan. His wife and a daughter and two soldiers of Pakistan Army were killed in the blast

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