Surge in terrorist attacks in first quarter of 2016

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The first quarter of 2016 witnessed a sharp rise in terrorist attacks across Pakistan, in spite of robust government-led attempts to implement its 20-point National Action Plan (NAP), said a press release issued by the Jinnah Institute on Friday.

According to the report, the attack on Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park on Easter Sunday topped the list of the deadliest attacks during the reporting quarter, followed by the attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in January.

The report said Punjab experienced the biggest surge in violence, with civilian casualties in the first four months almost equivalent to the total number of casualties in the province in all four quarters of 2015. The Lahore bombing on Easter Sunday prompted civil and military law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to launch a coordinated security operation, codenamed Operation Zarb-e-Ahan, against criminal gangs in Rajanpur in south Punjab.

The report revealed that militancy and violence by banned outfits increased by 34% in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. In terms of terror finances, police and provincial Counter-Terrorism Departments recorded 396 cases of extortion during the first quarter of 2016 – a figure that exceeds the total number of all extortion cases reported during 2015.

Around 167 seminaries with suspected militant ties were shut down in Sindh since the launch of the NAP. Punjab, conversely, closed only two seminaries. In efforts to choke terrorist financing, figures from January 2016 show that the FIA and State Bank of Pakistan have registered 326 cases on account of suspicious transactions.

However, suspicious transactions and money laundering through donations, extortion, ransom, Hawala and Hundi continue. Further, while detecting and investigating cases of terrorist financing is much more complex than ordinary criminal investigation, the FIA remains as of now the only state organization with a dedicated Terrorist Finance Investigation Unit, reports added.

Of particular concern to human rights observers is the number of executions carried out since the lifting of the moratorium, which crossed 390 in April 2016, placing Pakistan only next to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) estimates only around 10% of those executed since 2014 were associated with terrorism.

Official documents also show that the registration and repatriation of undocumented Afghan refugees – NAP point 19 – has yet to begin in earnest. Nor have any new organizations been banned in the first four months of 2016.

Conversely, reports of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) setting up parallel Sharia courts in Punjab have been met with grave concern, given that that the group is still listed as ‘under observation’ by the Ministry of Interior.