Sydney-based Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP)’s recent Global Terrorism Index (GTI) – 2023 highlighted Afghanistan and Pakistan to be amongst the ten countries most affected by terrorism in 2022, with deaths in Pakistan rising significantly to 643, a 120 per cent increase from 2021.
It referred to this significant increase as predominantly driven by a rise in attacks by the ethno-nationalist organisation the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
Deaths by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) doubled while Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) increased sevenfold in Pakistan. The BLA was responsible for a third of these deaths in Pakistan.
BLA is Pakistan’s own creation. It is the result of politics in Pakistan of the ethnic minority which turned into fighting for its own survival against the suppressive attitude of Pak authorities.
It continues to bleed the country at a time when the country is facing serious issues on economic and political fronts. Similar are the cases of TTP and ISK which are promoted for ideological reasons.
The report also stated that terrorism continues to be concentrated mainly along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, accounting for 63 per cent of attacks and 74 per cent of terrorism deaths in 2022.
Leaders of terrorist groups such as TTP are now using Afghanistan as a safe haven to carry out attacks in Pakistan. It further stated that terrorist activities are likely to continue in the area despite counter-terrorism efforts by the Pak government.
Installing the Taliban in Kabul was the dream of the Pakistani political class which now soured into a bad idea. Instead of peace and prosperity, Islamabad is now facing terror attacks.
It is surprising to note the findings of the report that despite having the largest increase in the number of terror-related deaths this year, only 3 per cent of Pakistani respondents selected war and terrorism as the biggest risk to daily safety.
This shows how the ordinary citizens in Pakistan have been brainwashed under the ideological banner.
While pointing out sources of terror funding, the report quoted a Pakistani named Saifullah Anjum Ranjha, a resident of the US involved in a network of drug trafficking, smuggling, cigarette counterfeiting and arms trafficking who was convicted of money laundering and terrorist financing in 2008.
While decoding the DNA of terror financing modules, the report said that 15-20 per cent of the budget of terrorist groups in Waziristan is derived from cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting, quoting official Pakistani sources.
The pro-Taliban tribes in Waziristan actually control production centres in several districts of the Afghan border area, including Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda, Landi Kotal and Bara.
The smuggling and counterfeit distribution channels are in the hands of the Pakistani Taliban and the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The report has quoted another module of terror financing, the D-company of India. Originally, a criminal outfit that drew its profit from the trafficking of drugs, arms and precious metals, prostitution, counterfeiting and extortion.
In the early 1990s, D-Company decided to infiltrate the Indian film industry. It now controls the bulk of the black market for counterfeit cultural products in Mumbai.
D-Company quickly developed links with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Kashmir. The report pointed out that its involvement in the 1993 Mumbai attacks, which killed 257 people, is widely acknowledged.
Its transformation into a terrorist entity, supporting other terrorist groups, coincides with its entry into the counterfeit trade, which has enabled it to significantly increase its revenues.
Instead of focusing on the development of the economy, the Pak leadership invested heavily in militarizing and promoted terrorism & Jihadi activity on an ideological plank as it suited them the most.
But now Pak’s economic conditions have become worse from bad. The Pakistan rupee is depreciating every day against the US dollar. Inflation is literally neck-breaking making day-to-day life very tough for the common man.
The foreign reserves in the country’s treasury have dried up and gone down to a bottom of USD 3 billion, not seen in recent times. If the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) next bailout tranche of USD 1.1 billion is not released soon, the country could not avert a default for long.
There are also fears/apprehensions that the world might again think about declaring Pakistan as a ‘failed state’, which it was avoiding for geopolitical sake.
A recent Bloomberg survey showed that Pakistan’s lingering political and economic turmoil, coupled with multiple delays in the IMF’s bailout programme, will likely push the nation into a recession.
The probability of the economy slipping into recession stands at 70 per cent, according to its median forecast of 27 economists. Further, it sees the economy contracting 2.2 per cent in the financial year ending June 2023 as compared to a 6 per cent expansion in the previous year.
Pakistan is under pressure from global lending agencies and despite saying yes to their harsh terms and conditions and many in the government corridors feel that “even our friendly countries like Saudi, UAE and even Qatar now say – First pact with the IMF then help”.
Many observers ask questions about the misuse of funds. “In the past, the world community was generous in giving aid to Pakistan for the betterment of education, and health facilities and for eradication of poverty. Where all this money has gone?”
IMF’s new conditions of a cut of 15 per cent in the defence budget and military expenses and abandoning the Long-Range Nuclear Missile Programmes are among the new five ‘toughest’ conditions of the multilateral lender for Islamabad.
The other conditions are international or third-party audits of Chinese loans and CPEC investments, bridging the financing gap from friendly countries and assurance of political stability from opposition leaders.
However, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar snubbed the IMF demand, calling that nobody had any right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles it could have. The tone suggests that Islamabad can accept bankruptcy but can never abandon its military and terror agenda.
Pak leaders, many observers feel, should shun their arrogance and Jihadi mindset and come to task to address the economic malaise which bears badly on common people’s lives.