A file image of Peshawar mosque bombing site in north-western Pakistan, earlier this year (Photo: IANS)
Pakistan has overtaken Afghanistan as the country with the most terrorist attacks and deaths in South Asia, a position held by the latter since 2017.
The 10th edition of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) – a report produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) headquartered in Sydney – has revealed that while terrorism deaths fell in Afghanistan in 2022 following the Taliban gaining control of the government, Pakistan experienced a sharp increase with the toll more than doubling from 2021.
With terrorism deaths increasing from 292 in 2021 to 643 in 2022, Pakistan recorded the second largest increase (120 per cent) after Burkina Faso which accounted for 17 per cent of all terrorism deaths globally.
The GTI uses Dragonfly’s TerrorismTracker database, which contains detailed and structured event records of every terrorist incident reported in open sources since January 2007. It is comprised of four measures namely the number of attacks, the number of deaths, people wounded and hostages taken.
The report stated that the significant increase in the number of deaths from terrorism in Pakistan was predominantly driven by a rise in attacks by the “ethno-nationalist organisation” the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) which were responsible for 233 deaths, an almost ninefold increase since 2021.
The group emerged more than two decades ago in response to growing resentment in Balochistan over perceived extortion by the Pakistani government of the region’s natural resources, as well as discrimination against the Balochi people.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK) activity also drove the increase in deaths in Pakistan, with deaths by TTP doubling and ISK deaths increasing sevenfold to 131 and 76 deaths, respectively.
“This is the third consecutive year where an increase in terrorism deaths has been recorded and the largest year-on-year increase in the last decade. The number of terror-related incidents remained relatively steady, with 206 incidents in 2021 and 298 in 2022, highlighting an increase in lethality to 2.2 people killed per attack on average,” declared the GTI report.
It noted that terror attacks were largely concentrated along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and the Pakistani military remained the most common target of attacks with 55 per cent of all terror-related deaths being military personnel.
Pakistan’s deadliest terrorist attack of 2022 occurred when gunmen bombed and shot at two separate security posts for the Frontier Corps in Balochistan province in February 2022. While no official death toll was confirmed, a statement from the BLA claimed responsibility for the attacks and that they had killed 195 soldiers across both attacks.
The deadliest attack in 2022 by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK) in Pakistan occurred in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, when a suicide bombing killed at least 56 people in an attack on a Shia Mosque during Friday prayers.
The report mentioned that it is likely that terrorist activity will continue along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
It also revealed that the Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa is now the epicentre of terrorism, accounting for more terrorism deaths in 2022 than both South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) combined.
Islamic State (IS) and its affiliates also remained the deadliest terror group globally for the eighth consecutive year