WASHINGTON: Pakistan remained a major victim of terrorism last year, losing 1500 lives by mid-December, as the country took a series of steps to confront various terrorist groups, a new U.S. report reviewing state of terrorism worldwide revealed Wednesday.
“As of mid-December, over 1,025 civilians and more than 475 security forces personnel had been killed in terrorist-related incidents in Pakistan during the year,” the Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 said as it noted that Pakistan’s continued efforts to counter al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban.
“Pakistan continued to experience significant terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks,” said the congressionally mandated account of worldwide terrorism trends.
“Pakistan continued to arrest terrorists and initiate prosecutions throughout 2013,” the report, released by the State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator Tina Kaidanow, acknowledged.
“Some AQ-affiliated terrorist groups were disrupted in Punjab, and some TTP leaders were killed during security operations. Security forces intercepted large stockpiles of weapons and explosives and discovered bomb-making facilities and sophisticated telecommunication networks.”
Regionally, the report said Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States held high-level meetings on regional security, including efforts to combat violent extremism in the border region and to promote an Afghan reconciliation process.
In Afghanistan, the report said, “AQ has some freedom of movement in Kunar and Nuristan provinces largely due to a lack of Afghan National Security Forces’ capacity to control certain border territories in north and east Afghanistan.”
The report said Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and other insurgent and terrorist groups.
In Pakistan, the report said during 2013 terrorist groups targeted the Pakistani government and military, engaged in sectarian violence, and perpetrated attacks against civilians.
The terrorists organized armed assaults on police stations, judicial centers, border check posts, military convoys, and polio vaccination teams. Terrorists plotted against and attacked judges, prosecutors, police officers, defence lawyers, anti-TTP peace committee members, intelligence officers, and elected officials.
On cooperation with Pakistan, the US report said, information sharing and law enforcement continued. Law enforcement cooperation continued with respect to terrorist attacks and plots against US missions.
Pakistani security services continued to actively investigate individuals and organizations behind the threats to the US Consulate in Lahore.
Pakistan continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) programme. The ATA training and equipment focused on building capacity to respond to critical terrorism-related incidents, including explosives-related incidents, and to conduct counterterrorism investigations.
Recounting the steps the country took last year, the report said Pakistan enacted additional amendments to the Antiterrorism Act of 1997, and promulgated several new laws to empower the national government to address terrorism with enhanced law enforcement and prosecutorial powers.
The Pakistan government was in the process of implementing four significant laws passed in 2013: the National Counterterrorism Authority Act, the Fair Trial Act, amendments to the Antiterrorism Act of 1997, and the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance of 2013 (PPO).
It continued to make use of the reinforced counterterrorism legislation.
Pakistan took steps in 2013 to address challenges in in interagency cooperation and coordination. In 2013, Pakistan engaged in structural reforms on counterterrorism, designed to centralize coordination and information sharing.
The National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) was empowered by new legislation in April. NACTA is envisioned as facilitating increased coordination and collection of counterterrorism intelligence among security agencies and provincial police, and providing a vehicle for national policy and strategy formulation for all aspects of counterterrorism.
The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has nationwide jurisdiction as a civilian agency, and is fully empowered under the PPO to coordinate with provincial and territorial counterterrorism units.
“Pakistan actively participated in counterterrorism efforts in both regional and international venues,” the report said. Pakistan is an active member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and attended GCTF meetings and supported GCTF initiatives.
Pakistan is a partner in the UK’s Counterterrorism Prosecution Reform Initiative (CaPRI), and provincial governments contributed to rule of law programs in Malakand and Punjab.
Pakistan participated in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meetings on counterterrorism; is a member of
Interpol and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC); and participated in multilateral groups where counterterrorism cooperation is discussed, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) (as an observer) and the D-8, a group of developing nations with large Muslim populations.
Pakistan also participated in bilateral meetings with a number of other nations on security cooperation and counterterrorism, including Turkey and the People’s Republic of China.
Pakistan participated in UN Security Council meetings on sanctions and counterterrorism, and co-hosted a UN Counter-Terrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate regional workshop for South Asian judges, prosecutors and investigators in Islamabad.
In terms of countering radicalization and violent extremism in 2013, Pakistan’s NACTA started consultations with Malaysia, Turkey, and Indonesia on strategies for countering violent extremism, integration of militants into society after peace agreements remained a major priority for the government.
Pakistan’s military and civil society worked to operate the Sabaoon Rehabilitation Center, a de-radicalization programme for youth in a military camp in Mingora, Swat. Militancy-exposed youth are rehabilitated through a combination of education and counseling. Sabaoon centers claim success in reintegrating militant youth into society, and there are now nine such centers operating in KP and FATA.
Worldwide, the report said, as a result of both ongoing efforts against the organization and senior leadership losses, Al-Qaeda’s core’s leadership has been degraded, limiting its ability to conduct attacks and direct its followers.
“Subsequently, 2013 saw the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous AQ affiliates and like-minded groups in the Middle East and Africa who took advantage of the weak governance and instability in the region to broaden and deepen their operations.”
The Report assessed that “AQ core’s vastly reduced influence became far more evident in 2013.”
“AQ leader Zawahiri was rebuffed in his attempts to mediate a dispute among AQ affiliates operating in Syria, with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant publicly dissociating their group from al-Qa’ida. AQ affiliates routinely disobeyed Zawahiri’s 2013 tactical guidance to avoid collateral damage, seen in increasingly violent attacks against civilian religious pilgrims in Iraq, hospital staff and convalescing patients in Yemen, and families at a shopping mall in Kenya, for example.”
Syria continued to be a major battleground for terrorism on both sides of the conflict and remains a key area of longer-term concern, it said.