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Jihadist threat at home, Pakistan lost 6 times more personnel to terror than India did in 2022

While insurgencies in India have diminished in lethality across past two decades, threat to Pakistan has increased, especially from jihadists operating along its northwest borders.

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New Delhi: Terrorist and insurgent attacks in Pakistan claimed the lives of 282 security forces personnel in 2022, according to figures published by the Islamabad-based non-government Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). This is six times the figure for Indian security personnel (47) as reported by the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management (ICM).

Even as insurgencies in India have diminished in lethality across the past two decades — with security force fatalities steadily falling from a peak of 883 in 2001, according to the ICM data — the threat to Pakistan has increased, especially from jihadists operating along its northwest borders.

“Levels of violence in Pakistan are still far lower than they were in 2009, at the peak of its conflict against terrorist groups in its northwest,” says Ajai Sahni, director of the ICM. “There has been a significant uptick in violence since the Taliban took power in Kabul, though.”

Little official data exists on conflicts in Pakistan, and organisations like CRSS are among the few to provide credible information. In India, the Ministry of Home Affairs releases data on internal conflicts in an annual report; last year’s report is yet to be published.

These reports for India are patchy — with the 2021-22 report omitting figures for Maoist violence altogether — but the numbers in general hew closely to statistics provided by the ICM.

There are discrepancies in the data between the CRSS and the ICM, with the latter reporting a higher number of security personnel fatalities in Pakistan last year at 379.

“The ICM gathers its information entirely from open-source data, like newspapers and digital media,” says Sahni. The CRSS data does not disclose a source, and the organisation did not respond to a request from ThePrint seeking clarification.

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Deadly December for Pakistan

The comparative scale of violence in India and Pakistan is stark, given the differences in the size of the two countries and their populations.

Violence in Pakistan, the CRSS reports, was focussed in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, overwhelmingly carried out by jihadist groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — inspired by and affiliated with the Taliban in Afghanistan — and the Islamic State.

December was the deadliest month for Pakistan. Following the end of a ceasefire with the TTP on 28 November, the report says, “an unprecedented spate of terrorist violence ensued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, with over two dozen attacks in the month of December alone”.

There were 311 civilian fatalities attributed to terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan last year according to the CRSS; ICM puts the number at 229. Both are significantly higher than India’s 97.

Kashmir, India’s most troubled region, recorded just 30 security force fatalities and another 30 civilian fatalities last year, according to ICM data.

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Historical trends

The CRSS began to publish conflict data ten years ago, but separate monitoring by the ICM shows that violence in Pakistan peaked in 2009, with 1,012 security force personnel killed, along with 2,154 civilians and 7,884 insurgents and terrorists. The violence was driven by the growth of the TTP.

Fighting in Pakistan’s northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province led to massive civilian displacement and the destruction of entire towns between 2001 and 2014, American political scientist Neta Crawford wrote in a 2015 report.

According to the CRSS, 193 security force personnel were killed in 2019 and 163 in 2020. Then, in 2021, the figure rose again to 270 — an escalation the Islamabad-based conflict monitoring organisation attributes “to the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan that had bolstered the morale of Pakistani militants operating from within and outside of the country”.

Killings in insurgencies and by terrorists in Pakistan have remained consistently higher than in India. The corresponding figures for security force losses in India, according to the ICM, were 132 in 2019, 106 in 2020, and 104 in 2021. Fatalities of civilians were also lower than in Pakistan.

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

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