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Militant attacks on Pakistani military: An overview
Although Pakistani military establishments and personnel have been attacked by the militants sporadically since early 2003, attack on Pakistan army's unit in Quetta (August 12, 2017) merely 48 hours before the country's 70th Independence Day celebrations (August 14, 2017), has caused ripples in Pakistan's civil and military establishments.

An on duty truck of the Pakistan army's elite Frontier Corps (FC) was attacked by a suicidal bomber in Quetta (Balochistan) on August 12, 2017, resulting into immediate death of 15 people out of whom eight were FC personnel. The attack also caused serious injuries to 40 others and damage to a number trucks of the FC.

The attack was carried out by the Islamic State (IS). Khorasan province (Afghanistan) based "The Middle East Group" which is an affiliate of the Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan issued a statement immediately after the attack and claimed responsibility for the attack carried out by a motorcycle-borne suicidal bomber of the IS. 20 to 30 kilograms of explosive was used by the attacker, which he had concealed in his vest.

Since the militant attack on Pakistan's military unit was carried out when the country was preparing to celebrate its 70th Independence Day, the attack has been condemned by the highest echelons of Pakistani rulers, including President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

General Bajwa, in a statement, described the attack as an attempt to mar the festivities of Pakistan's Independence Day celebrations and resolved not to succumb such militant attacks. He also rushed to Quetta and chaired a high-level security meeting and reviewed the security situation there. Pakistan's Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, on the directions of Prime Minister Abbasi also visited Quetta to take stock of the prevailing situation for further briefing Prime Minister Abbasi.

The most recent attack on the Frontier Corps unit in Quettta is a sequel to the recent militant attacks there. On July 13, 2017, a Superintendent of Police (SP) and his three guards were killed in Quetta by militants belonging to Tehrik-e-Taliban (Pakistan) and a blast had also occurred (July 11, 2017) near District Police Officer's (DPO's) office in Chaman (Balochistan).

Significantly, in the period from 2003 till August 12, 2017, a total of 62388 people have been killed in Pakistan in terror attacks, out of which 6795 belonged to Pakistani military or were security personnel. The remaining 21889 and 33704 killed were civilians and terrorists, respectively. While the least number (24) of Pakistani military and security personnel were killed in the year 2003, the maximum (991) deaths of Pakistani military men took place in the year 2009. This upward trend in killings of Pakistani military and security personnel started in the year 2006 and since then, 6506 of them, about 96 per cent have been killed in various terror attacks in different places in Pakistan till August 12, 2017. In the current year, 2017, till August 12, a total of 891 people have lost their lives, out of which 132 were Pakistan military-security men, 400 were civilians and the remaining 359 were terrorists.

Notably, this trend of attacking Pakistani military establishments and installations by militant organisations started in early 2003, when General Pervez Musharraf pro-actively started banning militant organisations. It was General Musharraf (12 October, 1999-18 August, 2008) who was a key ally in USA's fight against terrorism post Al-Qaeda sponsored 9/11 attack of 2001 on American soil. There after, Musharraf started a crackdown on militants in Pakistan at the behest of the US, which resulted in chain reactions and militants retaliating furiously by targeting Pakistani military establishments in the country.

After sectarian violence erupted in Pakistan in early 2002, General Musharraf banned Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, along with some other sectarian militant groups, including the Sunni radical group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its Shia rival, the Shiite Tehrik-e-Jafria. Following these bans, three attempts were made on General Musharraf's life in 2002 and another two within a span of two weeks in the year 2003. Moreover, in February 2007, a suicide bomber also attempted to kill the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and then in April 2007, the Taliban targeted the erstwhile Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao.

Since then, Pakistani military, its personnel and installations have witnessed a number of major retaliatory attacks by banned militant organisations like Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ).

The most formidable militant attack was carried out on Pakistan army's General Headquarters (GHQ) at Rawalpindi by 10 militants of the TTP's Amjad Farooqi Group on October 10, 2009. The attack was planned by Aqeel Ahmed alias Dr Usman, the then head of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan's Amjad Farooqui Group; Ustad Aslam Yasin and Ilyas Kashmiri of TTP, with the aim to take military officers hostage. During the attack, 22 civilian and military officials were held hostage by the militants in GHQ, who were later rescued by Special Service Group (SSG) commandos of Pakistan army, Army Special Forces and the 13th Regular Regiment's army men. During the attack, nine soldiers, nine militants and two civilians were killed.

Then, on May 22, 2011, Pakistan's naval base 'PNS Mehran' located in Karachi was attacked by five armed militants belonging to TTP and Al-Qaeda. Militants used rocket-propelled grenades and destroyed three warplanes; two anti-submarine and marine surveillance aircraft; and also a helicopter. During the attack, 18 Pakistani military personnel and four militants were killed and 16 others were injured. The attack and the eventual rescue operation lasted for a total of 17 hours. Earlier, on April 26 and 28, Pakistan Defense Officers Housing Authority complex at Karachi and a bus carrying navy personnel was attacked by TTP at the entrance of PNS Mehran, respectively, in which a total of 10 naval officers were killed and 56 were injured.

Later, Pakistan Air Force's Minhas airbase, located in Kamra in Attock (Punjab-Pakistan) was also attacked on August 16, 2012 by nine militants, belonging to the TTP, who were armed with automatic weapons, grenades and suicide vests. All nine militants were killed in the attack and one Pakistani soldier also lost his life. The then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had, however, claimed that more than a dozen security personnel inside the air base were killed by the TTP militants who had also destroyed three JF-17 thunder aircraft. He had also said that the airbase was attacked to take revenge of the killings of Al-Qaeda Chief Osama bin Laden, the TTP Amir Baitullah Mehsud and other fighters who had been killed by the Pakistani security forces.

TTP's militant attacks on Pakistani military establishments continued unabated and on December 15, 2012, ten terrorists belonging to the TTP and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) jointly attacked a Pakistani airbase located inside Bacha Khan International Airport, Peshawar, by firing five rockets from a nearby village named Abdra. While five terrorists and four civilians were killed, forty others were also injured. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, again claimed responsibility for the attack and warned that his organisation would carry out more such attacks in the future.

Again, on August 15, 2014, thirteen terrorists belonging to the TTP simultaneously attacked two bases at Samungli and Khalid of the Pakistan Air Force, located southwest of Quetta city. While airbases' security personnel foiled the attacks, 12 militants were killed and another 12 people were injured, including one militant. The responsibility of the attacks was taken by one Mehsud, a militant commander of Fidayeen Islam wing of TTP.

Subsequently, on 8 June, 2014, ten militants of TTP attacked Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, in which 36 people, including ten militants were killed and 18 others were left wounded. While attackers originally belonged to Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, TTP owned responsibility for the attack as a retaliation for the death of its former chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in North Waziristan in an American drone attack in November 2013.

To check the unabated terrorist attacks on its military establishments, the then Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif launched (June 15, 2014) a joint military operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' (sharp and cutting strike) in Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) bordering with Afghanistan, which virtually lasted till his retirement on November 29, 2016. It was claimed by the Pakistan army that during the operation more than 3500 militants were killed while around 490 soldiers lost their lives. It was also claimed that 992 militant hideous were destroyed; 253 tons of explosives was confiscated; 7500 bomb factories were dismantled; 2800 mines removed and 3500 rockets and mortars were recovered during the operation.

However, operation Zarb-e-Azb attracted criticism from various quarters as it was launched without political clearance from the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Human rights violations were allegedly done by the army during the course of the operation, and also, there was no independent source(s) to verify and authenticate the claims made by the Pakistan army about the success of the operation. While the number of terror attacks came down in Pakistan during the operation, the severity of militant attacks and number of causalities increased considerably, which included the killing of 132 school children of Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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