Photo: Rescue 1122/Handout via the Express Tribune

Pakistan Shaken by Deadly Attacks Amid Political Crises

Several deadly attacks on Friday, November 3, in southwestern Balochistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) killed at least 17 soldiers and five civilians and injured more than 24 others. On Saturday, a Pakistani Air Base also came under attack but casualties remain unclear.

On Friday, three incidents occurred in KPK, including a remote-controlled bomb explosion in the Kulachi area of Dera Ismail Khan district that claimed the life of security personnel, the military-wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. Earlier, a suicide attack by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militants was foiled by security forces in the Rori area of the district, the military wing said, adding that in another terrorist attack in the Laki Marwat district, two soldiers were killed during a fire exchange with militants.

In restive Balochistan’s Gwadar, at least 14 Pakistani soldiers were killed after militants ambushed and targeted two security vehicles heading from the Pasni area to Ormara in the district on Friday, ISPR said in a separate statement.

Hours prior to the attack in Gwadar, at least five civilians and one soldier were killed and more than 24 others sustained injuries, among them police officials, when a series of remote-controlled bombs targeted police patrols in Dera Ismail Khan.

In the early hours of Saturday, six militants attacked an air force training base in the Mianwali area in Punjab province, damaging three grounded aircraft and a fuel tanker, ISPR said in a new statement. The statement added that the terrorist attack was neutralized “in a swift and effective response” by security forces. It did not mention any casualties among security personnel. Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, a newly formed militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

These explosions are the latest in a string of attacks against security personnel in Pakistan which has seen a sharp uptick in violence, mostly linked to the TTP which shares ideological and operational alignment with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Violence in Pakistan surged by 79% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. According to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, August this year saw the highest spate of terror attacks in a single month since November 2014, when 99 attacks killed 112 people and wounded 87 others.

Balochistan, the country’s largest province by area, KPK, and the tribal districts have been the most affected areas by the surge in violence. The former has also seen decades of insurgency by separatist groups who demand independence from the country over the province’s political autonomy and mineral resources.

Other than the rapidly deteriorating security situation, Pakistan is grappling with political tumult and economic crisis which have been complicated by staggering external debt and liabilities. While growth has declined, food, gas, and oil prices have skyrocketed in the country and the Pakistani rupee has sharply depreciated.

Since early August when the parliament was dissolved, the country’s caretaker government, led by Prime Minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, has faced mounting challenges to ensure overall law and order and announce the delayed national election, which is set for February. Amid these challenges, the caretaker government has ordered the expulsion of 1.7 million refugees from Afghanistan, a move that has drawn widespread criticism and outrage from domestic and international rights groups.