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In light of the Global Terrorism Index ratings, Pakistan weighs options on how to reverse the trend.
By Intikhab Amir
PESHAWAR – Taliban-propagated terrorism was the driving force behind Pakistan and Afghanistan being ranked as the world's second and third most terror-stricken countries, respectively, according to the recently released Global Terrorism Index.
"The Taliban can be given the dubious title of having caused the highest number of fatalities," according to the study.
The Institute for Economics and Peace put out the Index, the first annual ranking of such incidents, based on statistics collected from 158 countries. Iraq had the highest incidence of terrorism.
In 2011, Pakistan recorded 910 incidents that resulted in 1,468 deaths and 2,459 injuries, while Afghanistan saw 1,293 people killed and another 1,882 injured in 364 incidents, the study said.
The Index graded countries on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the worst frequency of terrorism. Pakistan scored 9.05, and Afghanistan scored 8.67. The scores reflect the total number of terrorist incidents, fatalities and injuries and the approximate level of property damage from terrorist attacks.
In Pakistan, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) carried out its agenda of destruction, while in Afghanistan the Mullah Omar-led Taliban killed and injured civilians and troops.
Agreement with and response to findings
Pakistani observers reacted to the Index's release by saying that Pakistan is a fitting example for the institute's assertion that "terrorism correlates with low political stability, low intergroup cohesion, human rights violations and with high levels of group grievances."
"We have been suffering because of the peculiar nature of our internal conflict as we have extreme elements, non-state actors who are do not know even the basic principles of war," said Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah, former chief of security for the Pakistani tribal areas. "They neither have nor do they believe in principles."
The militants' only wish is to "impose their agenda of destruction" through committing terrorism and trying to kill everybody who blocks their way, Shah told Central Asia Online.
"If [the institute] ranked us the most affected after Iraq, they have done so correctly," he said, predicting that terrorist data for the year 2012 likely will push Pakistan to supplant Iraq as the most terror-prone country.
Pakistani officials, taking note of the ranking, are responding.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the Awami National Party is planning an All Parties Conference where stakeholders will discuss ways to resolve the issue.
Ideas under consideration include initiating peace talks with the TTP.
"If talks can be held with the Afghan Taliban, then why can't the TTP be engaged to restore peace in the restive tribal areas?, Iftikhar asked.
If the militants are unwilling to negotiate, "then a decisive military action should be carried out to weed out terrorists from their safe havens in the tribal region," he said.
The province is also beefing up its security forces. KP received Rs. 22 billion (US $225m) for counter-terror efforts in the 2012-13 fiscal year, supporting KP's efforts in recent year to expand the police force by 40,000 officers.
The findings have also prompted calls for broader bilateral co-operation.
Afghan and Pakistani civilians suffer because their governments don't co-operate with one another in fighting the Taliban, said Idrees Kamal, who heads Aman Tehreek, a Peshawar-based rights group.
Pakistan and Afghanistan last year vowed to develop a framework for comprehensive co-operation.
Pakistani, Afghan trends
The study noted that nearly two-thirds of Pakistan's terrorist incidents were bombings and that most of the attacks took place in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Bajaur Agency, Dera Bugti, Khyber Agency and Mohmand Agency.
The geographic dispersion of violence and the immense human and property losses in Pakistan demonstrate the TTP's ferocity, Shah said.
Meanwhile, terrorism has ravaged neighboring Afghanistan for more than a decade.
"Terrorists in Afghanistan attack a wider range [of] targets with private citizens being targeted heavily," the study noted, saying that terrorist incidents mostly occurred in Kabul and Kandahar.
"The military is being attacked in less than 3% of instances," it added. "This indicates that the Taliban is also engaged in war against civil society, and is the main perpetrator of terrorist attacks, against schools, primarily aimed at girls, as well as attacks on election/polling stations, and road construction teams."