Latest figures from the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) confirm that 2009 was a dreadful year for Pakistan. Their usually reliable figures show that a total of 2,586 terrorist, insurgent and sectarian related incidents of terrorism were reported across the country, killing 3,021 people and injuring 7,334.
This makes Pakistan the most dangerous country in the world for terrorism, with more people being killed here than in Afghanistan, Iraq or any other place.
The highest number of attacks was reported from the North West Frontier Province (1,137), followed by Balochistan (792) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) (559). As many as 46 attacks took place in Punjab, 30 in Sindh, 12 in Islamabad and five each in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir.
The 87 suicide attacks in 2009 were 32 percent higher than the previous year. These attacks claimed the lives of 1,299 persons and injured 3,633, says PIPS.
When you add in casualties in terrorist attacks, operational attacks by the security forces and their clashes with the militants, intertribal clashes and the cross-border attacks of the US and NATO forces in FATA are counted, overall casualties total 12,632 people dead and 12,815 injured. These figures are much higher than those published two weeks ago by Dawn newspaper (see my report of 31 Dec below).
PIPS says that government forces were able to inflict heavy damage on the terrorists’ networks and infrastructure in FATA and adjacent areas. However, some caution should be applied when dealing with official figures on terrorists killed during operations. Many journalists have reported that there is often no sign of dead bodies following some military actions.
That said, the military says 596 operational attacks were launched in 2009, compared to 313 operational attacks in the previous year. During the year, 12,866 militants were arrested, including 75 al-Qaeda and 9,739 TTP supporters and militants belonging to other banned groups and Baloch insurgents.
Compare these figures to Afghanistan. According to a report from the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan published yesterday, the number of Afghan civilians killed in violence in 2009 was 2,412, compared with 2,118 in 2008. This figure was higher than in any year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 and was a rise of 14 per cent on the previous year, but still substantially below the casualty figures for neighbouring Pakistan.
Seventy per cent of last year's civilian deaths - representing about 1,681 people - had been caused by insurgent attacks, while pro-government forces including NATO and US troops, had been responsible for a quarter of civilian deaths (596 people).
According to the report: "Suicide and other attacks involving IEDs continued to claim the most civilian lives in 2009 with an overall toll of 1,054 killed. 225 civilians were killed as a result of targeted assassinations and executions. Together, these tactics accounted for over 78 per cent of the civilian deaths attributed to 'anti-goverment element' actions."
In an email statement the Taliban challenged the credibility of UNAMA’s report and accused the organization of disseminating incorrect and biased information. “Partial judgment, and blind support of one side and condemnation of the other, only irreparably harms your credibility,” said the statement addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
UNAMA rejected the Taliban accusations and said it has a mandate to impartially report civilian casualties of war based on reliable facts and the testimonies of victims.
The UNAMA report noted that deaths attributed to allied forces dropped by nearly 30 per cent in 2009.
The UNAMA report also noted that there were 520 international Coalition troop deaths throughout the year, up from 295 for 2008.