Counter Terrorism Perspectives: CTP

TM: "Hizb ul-Ahrar: Pakistan’s Cross-border Taliban Problem Remains Critical"

December 20, 2019

Following a notable lull in militant activity, Pakistan is now facing a unique militant escalation targeted against its security forces in the North Waziristan area and bordering regions. Despite the Taliban force largely being subdued following the concerted counter-terrorism efforts by Pakistan’s military, such as Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, a resurgent faction Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA) has been carrying out targeted attacks in regular intervals. Although these incidents are downplayed by the Pakistani military as being sporadic and low-scale violence, several Pakistani soldiers and police officers have been killed by HuA in daring targeted assaults in the past year.

HuA, a violent offshoot of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), claimed responsibility for at least four attacks in November 2019. On November 29, at least fourteen people were injured when a bomb planted in a stationary rickshaw detonated near Chauburji on Multan Road in Lahore (Dawn, November 30). On November 12, three Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in North Waziristan’s Miranshah. On November 14, a senior police official, Ghani Khan, was killed in the Mian Gujjar area of Peshawar city (Dawn, November 15). In early November, HuA also claimed responsibility for killing four Pakistani soldiers in North Waziristan’s Razmak area (Gandhara, November 4).

Following several military operations against the group’s strongholds in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in August, the counter-terrorism department of the provinces’ police forces claimed to have demolished HuA’s support structures and foiled several plans by arresting members of the group. However, a dramatic spike in HuA’s attacks in November 2019 rendered a completely different picture on the ground, demonstrating the remarkable resilience of this Taliban offshoot. One of the core strengths of HuA remains its cross-border presence and ability to launch attacks on Pakistani forces from Afghan soil by employing suicide bombers and hit and run tactics. Evidently, the situation in North Waziristan and larger Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remains critical, despite Pakistan’s claim to have reined in Taliban militants in the northwestern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

For Full Text, Read "Hizb ul-Ahrar: Pakistan’s Cross-border Taliban Problem Remains Critical", Terrorism Monitor, (Volume: 17 Issue: 23), December 17, 2019.