The recurrent militant landscape in Pakistan

The resurgence of militant activities in Pakistan explains the deep-rooted security complexities linked with the issue of militancy. Pakistan has been facing home-grown militancy in the past, initially in the form of sectarianism and later the rise of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) brought a new security threat. But for the last two years, the external element has reshaped the militant dynamics in Pakistan.

The recent attack on the PAF base in Mianwali, attack on the Gul Imam police check post in Tank, and the attack on security forces vehicles in Gwadar resulting in the casualties of fourteen troops need to be understood by incorporating the internal and external push factors along with the gaps in the CT approach of Pakistan.Previously, Islamic State targeted an election rally of Jamiat Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F) through a suicide attack that killed 54 people.  This trend seems as an extension of the militant’s strategy of targeting the stakeholders to regain their tactical and psychological influence and to gain projection. It is pertinent to see that in 2023 militants have targeted all provinces including Balochistan, KP, Sindh, and now Punjab.

After the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan in 2021, TTP has been using safe hideouts in Afghanistan and their cross-border activities have considerably increased. In addition, Tehrek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), Islamic State, LeJ, and Baloch Separatist groups are also getting external support.

Moreover, with the use of social media spaces, they have been able to develop a knitted network in the cyberspace as well that is still properly unaddressed by the state security apparatus. The recent attacks on armed forces and military assets have reinforced their strong foothold within the region and their operational capability.

Targeting security forces has been one of the traditional modus operandi of militants as it produces a strategic and psychological impact on the state and the people. It exposes the vulnerability of counter-terrorism efforts of the state as happening in Pakistan. The weapons procured from the terrorists in the Mianwali Air Base attack include Western weapons that were left in abundance in Afghanistan during the exit. It includes Night Vision Devices (NVD), Sights, guns, and gadgetry. In this perspective, despite the fencing of the border, Pakistan needs to strengthen its border control and management system. In addition, as part of the preventive mechanisms, particularly the intelligence lapses need to be considered seriously.

 Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) which took the responsibility for the recent PAF attack is a newly formed militant group in early 2023. It has been particularly targeting the security forces in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is led by Abdullah Yaghistani, reportedly residing in Afghanistan, who intends to implement Taliban styled Shariah in Pakistan. TJP has links with TTP and Baloch separatist groups. Ideologically, these groups align with each other’s agenda.

On the other hand, the attacks on high-profile targets by TJP explicates their operational strength specifically their local connections that are crucial in organizing such intimidating attacks.

It is important for Pakistan security forces to detach and deny them from their local support along with external and internal supply line. As resultantly, this kind of persisting security situation can act as a trigger for other militant groups to operate and reinforce their presence. Therefore, Pakistan needs to re-visit its counter-terrorism strategy by focusing on intelligence based operations as well as the cyber domain.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), Lahore. 

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