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Suicide Terrorism in Pakistan–2007

There were 56 acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan during 2007, resulting in the death of 419 members of the security forces—the majority of them from the police and para-military forces— and 217 civilians.The most important civilian killed was Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister. As against this, there were only six incidents in 2006 in which 46 members of the security forces and 91 civilians were killed.

2. Of the 56 incidents of 2007, there were only four during the first six months of the year. The remaining 52 took place after the Pakistani commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad between July 10 and 13,2007, in which about 300 tribal girls studying in a madrasa attached to the mosque were allegedly killed.

3. Three events of the second half of 2007 led to a wave of suicide terrorism— the commando action in the Lal Masjid and the alleged death of a large number of tribal girls; the suicide committed by Abdullah Mehsud, a former inmate of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, when he was surrounded by the security forces in Balochistan on July 27,2007, and the army operation in the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in December,2007, against the members of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) headed by Maulana FM Radio Fazlullah, who had captured de facto control of it, when the NWFP was ruled by a six-party coalition of religious fundamentalist parties called the Muttahida- Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The coalition quit office in protest against Pervez Mushaaraf’s action in contesting re-election as the President from the outgoing Assemblies elected in 2002. Thereafter, the Army went into action.

4. The largest number of suicide attacks in a month was in July. There were 15 suicide strikes between July 14 and 31,2007— an average of one a day. The second largest number in a month was in December,2007. There were 10, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

5. There were eight in August, seven in September and six each in October and November,2007. One of the six in October was the unsuccessful attempt to kill Benazir Bhutto in Karachi on October 18. Of the 52 suicide attacks in the second half of 2007, five were against political leaders— two against Benazir in Karachi and Rawalpindi, one against some workers of her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in Islamabad and one each against Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a Pashtun leader of the PPP who had deserted her in 2002 and supported Musharraf, and a junior Minister of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam). Sherpao was the Interior Minister at the time of the Lal Masjid raid. He and the junior Minister escaped being killed.The PPP workers in Islamabad were targeted because Benazir Bhutto had supported the commando action into the Lal Masjid.

6. There was one directed against the Chinese working in Pakistan. In Hub, Balochistan, Chinese engineers travelling by a bus escaped death when the bus was attacked by a suicide bomber. There was no attack against American targets despite a strong anti-US feeling.

7. The remaining 46 attacks were against targets associated with the Army, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Special Services Group (SSG) and the Air Force. The police were not the primary targets, but a large number of them died because they were deployed in large numbers to protect the targets. Whenever the police guards suspected anyone and called him for frisking, he blew himself up.

8. Of the 56 attacks during 2007, 23 were in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), 21 in the NWFP, including four in the Swat Valley, nine in Punjab, two in Balochistan and one in Sindh. Of the 23 in the FATA, only two were in North Waziristan and one in the Bajaur Agency, where, according to the US, the terrorist infrastructure of Al Qaeda is located. The remaining 20 were in South Waziristan, where there are no confirmed reports of any Al Qaeda infrastructure. All the attacks in South Waziristan came from areas which are controlled by the Mehsuds. In the areas controlled by other tribes, there were no incidents of suicide terrorism. Two cantonments saw repeated suicide strikes— Rawalpindi (5), where the General Headquarters of the Army are located, and Kohat (3) in the NWFP where a training centre for middle-level army officers is located.

9. During the second half of 2007, there were two calls for suicide attacks in reprisal for the Lal Masjid raid by Pakistan Army Commandos. The first was issued by Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi of the Lal Masjid before he and his student supporters were killed by the commandos. The second was by Osama bin Laden in his message coinciding with the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 strikes in the US Homeland. The call given by Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi before his death at the hands of the Army had a greater impact on the tribal population in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley than the call of bin Laden. The death of Ghazi was followed by one act of suicide terrorism almost every day for 15 days.

10. Since the police has not been able to detect most of these incidents so far, one does not know for certain how many of these were the outcome of outpouring of anger by individuals not belonging to any organisation and how many were orchestrated and co-ordinated by organisations such as Al Qaeda or the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of which Baitullah Mehsud is the Amir.

(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail: )

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