The Volatile Security Situation a Challenge for Elections 2024 in Parts of KP

Sat Dec 23 2023
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Haq Nawaz Khan

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The government is confident in ensuring a peaceful environment for the scheduled general elections on February 8, 2024. However, extra security measures should be taken in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which have faced the worst kind of terrorist incidents in the outgoing year 2023.

The threat of creating unrest is there, but to keep the risk at a minimum in the susceptible regions, a counter-terrorism strategy is needed. There is continuing 24/7 surveillance and operations against the terrorists and their facilitators in KP. However, additional security measures are needed to deploy more troops and increase intelligence operations.

With the counter-terrorism strategy, a political plan should also be implemented. Instead of holding public election rallies, the political parties had already launched their campaigns indoors or within the boundary walls to avoid any terrorist attempt.

This is a huge task for the security forces to provide enough security in some of the districts in KP, where most of the terrorist attacks happened this year. The security challenge is multifaceted, as many terrorist organizations have been found involved in these terrorist attacks in southern districts of KP.

The banned outfits like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamic State of Khorasan province or ISKP, a newly emerged group Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, Ansar-ul-Jihad, Lashkar-e-Islam, Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, and some other small groups have their agendas to destabilize Pakistan. In counter-terrorism strategy, a number of their planned attacks were foiled, and many terrorists were arrested in the Intelligence operations.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections, a total of 55 seats of the National Assembly, including 45 general seats and 10 reserved seats for women, will be held.

In 2018, KP general seats for the National Assembly were 39, but now 6 seats from the merged tribal were added, reaching general seats to 45. However, the seats for the National Assembly were reduced from 12 to 6 following the merger of former Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA and the semi-tribal Frontier Region.

Elections for 115 general seats will be held for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly. With the addition of 26 reserved seats for women and 4 for minorities, the KP assembly’s total seats will be 145.

There is a security challenge across the province, but the southern districts like South Waziristan, Tank, Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, North Waziristan, and Kurram are the worst hit by the latest wave of terrorism. Khyber district, just close to the provincial capital Peshawar and Bajaur, are also affected by the violence.

Before the last general elections in 2018, several military and intelligence-based operations were carried out. The terrorists were killed and some were driven out of their stronghold areas. Thousands of Pakistani Taliban took refuge in Afghanistan across the border.

Pakistan has taken the issue with the incumbent government of the Taliban in Afghanistan to take action against the Pakistani militants based on the other side of the border.

Pakistan told Kabul that the terrorist outfits have been using the Afghan land to plan and carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan, particularly in parts of KP. The Taliban is denying reports of allowing its land to be used against Pakistan or another country.

The growing violence in KP and elsewhere tribal districts worst affected the bilateral relations between the two neighborly countries. There is some realization in Afghanistan and some measures were taken by arresting several suspected Pakistani militants. However, more steps to curb this menace are needed to normalize relations and restore peace in the Pakistani regions close to the Afghan border.

As a policy statement by the Pakistani Taliban or TTP and its affiliated groups have been insisting that it will not target any political leaders or civilians. The reality is the opposite of what the Taliban denied. The banned TTP leadership is denying any role in the attacks on civilians, but it claimed attacks on the security forces, police, and intelligence personnel.

There are different militant outfits with different names, linked to the TTP. To avoid pressure, some unknown groups claim such attacks. It is part of the strategy to befool the people that it was not against them.

In the past, only anti-militant politicians were targeted but now there are indiscriminate attacks on political parties and leaders.

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province is a serious potential threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan; however, the Afghan Taliban is fighting it in Afghanistan on its own without having a regional and international approach to eliminate it. ISKP is posing a threat to political leadership in Pakistan and is also involved in sectarian clashes.

ISKP claimed a suicide attack on worker convention of a religious political party in the Bajuar tribal district a couple of months back.

The election campaigns in the coming weeks will be a challenge in the sensitive districts of KP. How to ensure foolproof security for the election rallies and make it safe for the voters to freely cast their votes? The government needs to take all parties on board to follow the SOPs for the election campaigns and election day.

Politicians should understand the security situation and cooperate with the authorities to avert any untoward incident. The government may ask for the deployment of additional soldiers in highly sensitive regions in KP, but that could be possible with the support of the people.

The campaign is to reach out to the people, and that could be done peacefully with minimum risk.

Any negligence or just having a power show may expose people’s lives to the terrorist mishap. The terrorists are against the political process and want to take power by using violence.

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