Dera Ismail Khan: Terrorists torment in Pakistan

Dera Ismail Khan shares borders with the South Waziristan, Tank and Lakki Marwat Districts of KP; the Mianwali, Bhakkar and Dera Ghazi Khan Districts of Punjab, and the Zhob District of Balochistan.

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A farmer harvests a wheat crop in the Chakwal district of Punjab Province, Pakistan in 2010. [ Photographer: Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg ]

On November 13, 2023, a convoy carrying water for an Oil and Gas Company was attacked by unidentified terrorists, killing three persons and injuring 10, in the Darazinda area of Dera Ismail Khan District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

On November 7, 2023, unidentified militants attacked the Al-Haj oil and Gas Company in the Drazinda area of Dera Ismail Khan District, killing two Policemen and critically injuring another three policemen. Militants opened fire on a Police checkpoint established to protect the oil and gas company.

On November 3, 2023, a bomb blast targeting a Police patrol killed five persons and injured over 20 in the Tank Adda area of Dera Ismail Khan District. Dera Ismail Khan City Police official Mohammad Adnan stated that the target of the attack was the vehicle carrying officers of the KP Elite Force. At least seven Policemen were also injured in the explosion.

On October 28, 2023, a Policeman was killed during an exchange of fire with militants while they attacked a Police camp at the Yarak toll plaza on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route in the Dera Ismail Khan District. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in a statement sent to the media, claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Dera Ismail Khan District has recorded at least 52 terrorism-related fatalities (26 terrorists, 19 SF personnel and seven civilians) in 2023, thus far (data till November 19, 2023). During the corresponding period of 2022, the District had registered 40 terrorism-related fatalities (19 SF personnel, 17 terrorists and four civilians). In the remaining period of 2022, only three terrorist fatalities were recorded.  

Dera Ismail Khan has accounted for a total of 616 fatalities [266 civilians, 161 terrorists, 153 SF personnel and 36 not-specified (NS)] since March 6, 2000, when SATP commenced compiling data on Pakistan. These fatalities have been recorded in a total of 193 incidents of killing, of which 58 were ‘major’ (each involving three or more fatalities). Major incidents resulted in the death of 426 persons (196 civilians, 112 terrorists, 94 SF personnel and 24 NS). The current year has, so far, recorded five major incidents (till November 18). In addition to the two major incidents already mentioned, the remaining three are as follows.

July 2, 2023: Three terrorists were killed in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in the Kulachi area of Dera Ismail Khan District. The terrorists were wanted for organizing a raid on a Police check post in Kulachi on April 11, 2022, which resulted in the death of five Police constables.

May 1, 2023: SF personnel killed three terrorists, including a top TTP ‘commander’, Jabar Shah, while two of his associates were injured during an IBO in the Daraban area of Dera Ismail Khan. Jabar Shah was one of the main TTP ‘commanders’ and was involved in multiple attacks on law enforcement agencies and polio teams.

March 21, 2023: Three Army personnel and three terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire when terrorists attacked a Police checkpost in the Khutti area of Dera Ismail Khan District.

The district has recorded a total of 336 violent incidents since March 6, 2000, including 113 incidents of explosion and 17 suicide attacks. There was a suicide attack in the District on May 27, 2023, after a gap of almost four years (the last attack was on July 21, 2019).  On May 27, 2023, at least 22 SF personnel were injured when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted a convoy in the Chehkan area under Sadar Police Station in Dera Ismail Khan District. The convoy was enroute to the Minza area in South Waziristan District, when it came under attack.

Dera Ismail Khan shares borders with the South Waziristan, Tank and Lakki Marwat Districts of KP; the Mianwali, Bhakkar and Dera Ghazi Khan Districts of Punjab, and the Zhob District of Balochistan. Two of these adjoining Districts, South Waziristan and Zhob, share borders with Afghanistan, and Dera Ismail Khan has served as a major transit point for militants operating in each of these areas.

As a result of multiple operations by the Pakistan Army in the tribal areas, the District had become relatively peaceful and overall fatalities had come down to a low of six in 2020. However, with the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, the District has again recorded a surge in violence.

Since the end of the official peace talks between the TTP and the Government on November 28, 2022, TTP has escalated attacks in the tribal areas of KP. According to the list of ‘Motive Wise Terrorism Incidents’ compiled by the KP Provincial Police, there were 665 terrorist attacks, including 15 suicide bombings, reported in the province between June 18, 2022, and June 18, 2023, out of which 81 militant attacks took place in Dera Ismail Khan District, which included 70 firing incidents, seven IED and two grenade explosions, and one suicide and rocket attack each.

On October 21, 2022, Dera Ismail Khan District Police Officer (DPO) Najamul Husnain Liaqat had noted that the number of terrorists coming from Afghanistan had increased, creating a big challenge for the Police. He added that a total of 120 terrorists were on the Dera Ismail Khan Police’s ‘wanted’ list.

More recently, after the November 7, 2023, attack on the Al-Haj Oil and Gas Company in Drazinda (above), Brigadier (Retd.) Mohammad Saad observed that the militants wanted to build up their presence in this particular region so that they could move easily from KP to the southern and central parts of Punjab. He stated,

There is an entire division of the armed forces deployed in Waziristan besides the presence of paramilitaries in Khyber, Mohmand and other districts. This deployment has made it difficult for militant groups to carry out attacks [in the region]. However, the absence of the armed forces in Dera Ismail Khan has made it easier for militants to target police and other targets. Due to the concentration of militants in the area, they can easily target oil and gas exploration companies, lines of communication, and foreign investments.

In such a scenario, the district is likely to see more violence, as has been the case in other areas of KP in particular, and the country at large.

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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