Elections 2024: Security Challenges Mount In KP As TTP, Security Forces Play Cat And Mouse Game

Multiple politicians have been targeted in recent weeks, with the TTP now issuing an ultimatum to remove tinted glasses on vehicles

Elections 2024: Security Challenges Mount In KP As TTP, Security Forces Play Cat And Mouse Game
Elections 2024: Security Challenges Mount In KP As TTP, Security Forces Play Cat And Mouse Game
Elections 2024: Security Challenges Mount In KP As TTP, Security Forces Play Cat And Mouse Game
Elections 2024: Security Challenges Mount In KP As TTP, Security Forces Play Cat And Mouse Game

With elections around the corner, the security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remains challenging. Multiple candidates have been targeted with bomb attacks as militants and security forces continue to play a game of cat and mouse.

In recent months, the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the National Democratic Movement (NDM) have faced direct attacks from militants, with the chiefs of both parties narrowly escaping direct attacks.

Last week, NDM chief Mohsin Dawar from North Waziristan came under a gun attack from unidentified militants while passing through his native Miranshah Tehsil.

Just days earlier, on New Year's Eve, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman survived a gun attack. His convoy was passing through his native Dera Ismail Khan (DI Khan) district when it came under a gun attack near the Yarik Interchange.

The attack prompted the JUI-F to point to the lack of a conducive environment to canvass ahead of next month's general elections in the province and demand a postponement of polls. 

These were not the first attacks on politicians in recent months. Last July, NDM office bearer Atiqur Rehman was assassinated in North Waziristan.

The JUI-F, too, has faced repeated attacks, with a suicide bombing tearing through a JUI-F rally in the Bajaur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in July 2023, which left over 40 people dead and some 200 injured. That attack was followed by a roadside bomb which targeted the convoy of former senator and JUI-F leader Hafiz Hamdullah in September.

Elections and security in KP

Haq Nawaz Khan, a senior security expert who has closely followed the militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, believes that the TTP has been exerting pressure to regain control in the tribal areas.

"Growing militancy in the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a serious challenge for Pakistan," he told [The Friday Times].

Haq said that the current security situation in the province is a challenge for the caretaker government — which is responsible for conducting elections. 

"Only intelligence-based operations are being conducted to fight it [militancy]," he said.

About polls in February, he said it seems that, once again, violence has returned to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and erstwhile federally administered tribal areas (Fata). The surge in terrorist attacks, he said, poses a serious threat to the conduct of elections in a peaceful way.

Haq said this would not be the first elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which are taking place under the cloud of militancy. He said that some of the deadliest attacks in the province, especially against politicians in KP, were carried out before the 2013 elections. 

"The same threat remains," he said, adding, "There are threats to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, his son, Awami National Party (ANP) provincial president Aimal Wali Khan, and other politicians."

"All these incidents, I fear, will lead to more violence before and on election day in KP, as some areas have been declared as 'highly sensitive'," he said.

TTP's tinted windows edict

Most recently, the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued an edict directing residents of North Waziristan and Bannu to remove tinted papers applied to the windows of their vehicles to avoid any untoward incidents. 

As it issued the ten-day ultimatum, TTP's Banu/Waziristan explained that the tinted glasses were causing difficulty for their fighters in identifying civilians and security forces. 

"Residents of North Waziristan should avoid travelling in vehicles with tinted glasses vehicles in the use of Pakistan institutes (security agencies)," they demanded in a statement available with [The Friday Times].

The ultimatum was issued on January 3, 2024, and is due to expire on January 13, 2024.

Asked about the latest TTP statement, Haq said the TTP was trying to exert control and influence in the border regions.

"Militant groups like TTP are exerting pressure to regain their lost control in areas like North Waziristan," he said, adding that the district used to serve as a hub for international terrorist outfits before 2014.

"Apparently, the TTP is following the model of Afghan Taliban to avoid attacking civilian targets, but ultimately, it is trying to increase its influence over the people," he explained.

A senior security expert, who did not wish to be identified for this article, said the recent statement of TTP speaks volumes about the security situation in the region.

Asked what effect this would have over the upcoming general elections, he said that the security situation was even worse in 2013 and 2018, but the elections were held in the country.