Bannu Division in Pakistan: Terrorist Ferment

The 2022 tally, with over a week still to go, is the highest in a year since 2009, when fatalities peaked at 399. Fatalities in the Division have been on a rise since 2018. 

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Bannu; a city with a rich history - The British built a wall around the Bannu city with several gates in every direction. [ Artwork:]

In a daring incident on December 18, 2022, a detained terrorist overpowered a constable at the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Complex in Bannu Cantonment (Bannu District) and, after snatching the constable’s weapon, freed 34 other detained terrorists.

Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), stated, “As soon as they came out of lockup, the terrorists got more weapons from the mall and started firing.” One CTD constable was killed and another was injured. The injured constable died later. Meanwhile, Security Forces (SFs) cordoned off the area and launched an operation. “Immediately after the seizure of the complex on December 18, two terrorists were killed, three were arrested, and two security forces personnel were injured in the exchange of fire,” the DG added. “Efforts to induce the terrorists to surrender unconditionally continued for the next two days,” he disclosed, adding that the terrorists demanded a safe passage to Afghanistan. On December 20, the SFs took action against the terrorists for not surrendering. “During the operation – fierce exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces – 25 terrorists were killed. Three terrorists were arrested while seven surrendered. Three sons of the soil were martyred fighting bravely in the operation,” the DG added. 10 soldiers, including two officers, were injured in the operation.

Meanwhile, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson on December 18, 2022, claimed responsibility for the hostage incident. He ‘clarified’ that though the militants in the previous video statement while demanding safe passage “mistakenly mentioned Afghanistan”, the group in fact had spoken to government officials overnight and asked them to “shift the prisoners” to either South or North Waziristan.

On December 19, two civilians and one soldier were killed while one civilian was injured in a suicide attack in Miranshah area of North Waziristan District.

On December 18, four Policemen were killed and four were wounded, as terrorists attacked the Bargai Police Station in Lakki Marwat District. The terrorists used rockets and grenades to break into the Police Station. Militants managed to flee after killing the enforcement personnel.

On December 14, one soldier and a civilian were killed while 14 others, including nine security personnel, were injured, when a suicide attacker on a motorcycle targeted a Security Forces’ (SFs) convoy on Data Khel Road at Miranshah in North Waziristan District.

On December 7, 2022, a Policeman was killed when terrorists attacked a Police post with heavy weapons in the Kangar Pul area of Bannu District.

In a brutal incident, on December 5, 2022, a Frontier Constabulary (FC) soldier and his son were killed by unidentified assailants in the Jani Khel town of Bannu District. Around 20 armed men entered the house of the FC soldier and shot the two dead. They then beheaded the FC soldier and hung his head from a tree in the Bachki Market area. The head was spotted by tribesmen in the morning, who then informed the Police.

The Bannu Division in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) comprises three Districts: Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Bannu Division has recorded at least 343 terrorism-related fatalities (16 civilians, 76 SF personnel and 164 terrorists) in 2022, thus far (data till December 25, 2022). In 2021, there were 175 terrorism-related fatalities, including 17 civilians, 46 SF personnel and 57 terrorists.

The 2022 tally, with over a week still to go, is the highest in a year since 2009, when fatalities peaked at 399. Fatalities in the Division have been on a rise since 2018. 

SF fatalities in 2022 were the highest in a year since 2007, when 106 troopers were killed. The 2022 terrorist fatalities were the highest since 2009, when 245 terrorists were killed. Meanwhile, civilians continue to face a threat from the terrorists, though this has remained moderate over time.  

The Bannu Division accounted for a total of 2,877 fatalities (348 civilians, 594 SF personnel, 1190 terrorists, 162 Not Specified) since March 6, 2000, when SATP commenced compiling data on conflicts in Pakistan. These fatalities were recorded in 348 incidents of killing.

The District-wise distribution saw 1,416 fatalities in the North Waziristan District (48 civilians, 374 SF personnel, 842 terrorists, 152 Not Specified); 634 in the Bannu District (299 terrorists, 164 civilians, 162 SF personnel and nine Not Specified); and 244 in the Lakki Marwat District (136 civilians, 58 SF personnel, 49 terrorists and one Not Specified).  [North Waziristan was an Agency of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) till May 28, 2018, when FATA was merged with KP.]

Indeed, unsettled by the security situation, Bannu Commissioner Arshad Khan, in a meeting on July 18, 2022, asked the relevant officials to prepare a comprehensive report on Police infrastructure and working mechanisms in North Waziristan.

On December 19, 2022, a report presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the national security review meeting warned that, because of an acute shortage of staff and resources, the CTD of KP would not be able to prevent or stop terrorist attacks in the province and lacked the capacity to fight terrorism. The report noted,

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa environment remained highly volatile when compared with other provinces; in the last one year, Punjab faced 5 terrorist incidents (3 Shaheed and 30 injured) compared with 704 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (305 Shaheed and 689 injured); with 93 terrorists killed mostly by security forces. Despite facing major wrath of terrorism, focus of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on counter terrorism capacity building is absent.

Rana Sanaullah, Federal Minister of the Interior, blamed the province’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government, asserting that the province was paying the price of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s “incompetence and corruption”, adding “Imran Khan is busy dissolving assemblies and terrorists are busy killing innocent people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” Significantly, Imran Khan has threatened to dissolve KP and Punjab Assemblies, where his party is ruling.

Further, on December 23, 2022, Additional Inspector General of Police (AIDGP)-Operations, Mohammad Ali Babakhel, declared that the “southern districts, including North and South Waziristan [from among the newly-merged tribal districts] as well as Lakki Marwat and Bannu districts [from settled areas], are trouble spots.”

On November 28, 2022, the TTP declared an end to the seven month-long ceasefire and is most likely to escalate violence in the Bannu Division and elsewhere in KP, as well as in the country at large. The present political slugfest between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, and Imran Khan’s PTI can only provide the terrorists greater opportunities for violence and further destabilization.

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty is a Counter-terrorism Expert on Pakistan at Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) in New Delhi

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