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Pakistan - Dera Ismail Khan: Reviving Terrorism
  • Reviving Terrorism 
    Reviving Terrorism 
On December 6, 2022, three terrorists were killed and another was injured in an exchange of fire during an intelligence-based operation (IBO) by the Security Forces (SFs) in the Girah Mastan area of the Daraban tehsil (revenue unit) in the Dera Ismail Khan District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). 
On December 6, 2022, one Policeman sustained injuries when unidentified terrorists opened fire on the vehicle of the Dera Ismail Khan District Police Officer (DPO), Muhammad Shoaib, who was on a visit to Daraban, Darazanda and Purwa Circles to check the security arrangements of the five-day polio campaign. Terrorists fired indiscriminately at DPO Shoaib's convoy near the Khoi Behara area. The DPO remained safe in the attack, but another officer in the vehicle was injured. 
On November 15, 2022, four terrorists were killed by SFs during an IBO in the Kulachi tehsil (revenue unit) of Dera Ismail Khan District. A cache of arms and ammunition, including submachine guns and hand grenades, were recovered in the operation. 
On October 30, 2022, a Policeman and a civilian were killed and four Policemen were injured, when terrorists attacked the Daraban Police check post in Dera Ismail Khan District.
On October 29, 2022, two Army soldiers were killed during an exchange of fire with terrorists in the Darazinda area of Dera Ismail Khan District. 
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Dera Ismail Khan District has recorded at least 43 terrorism-related fatalities (20 terrorists, 19 SF personnel and four civilians) in 2022, thus far (data till December 11, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, the Province had registered nine terrorism-related fatalities (four terrorists, three civilians and two SF personnel). In the reaming period of 2021, another one fatality (a trooper) was recorded.

Militancy-related Fatalities in Dera Ismail Khan District: 2000*-2022**

YearIncidentsCiviliansSecurity ForcesMilitantsNot Specified (NS)Total

*March 6, 2000; **December 11, 2022; Source: SATP

Dera Ismail Khan has accounted for a total of 564 fatalities [259 civilians, 135 terrorists, 134 SF personnel and 36 not-specified (NS)"> since March 6, 2000, when SATP commenced compiling data on Pakistan. These fatalities have been recorded in a total of 166 incidents of killing. 52 of these 166 incidents were 'major’ (each involving three or more fatalities). These major incidents resulted in the death of 399 persons [189 civilians, 100 terrorists, 86 SF personnel and 24 not-specified (NS)">. 
The district has recorded a total of 288 violent incidents since March 6, 2000, including 103 incidents of explosion and 16 suicide attacks. Though no suicide attack has been reported since July 21, 2019, a major suicide attack was averted on October 25, 2022, when two suicide bombers were killed after an intense exchange of fire as they attempted to attack a peace committee chief, Noor Alam Mehsud, at Irfan Colony on the Dera Ismail Khan – Bannu Road in Dera Ismail Khan town. Police said the attackers, wearing explosive jackets, came on a motorcycle-rickshaw and tried to attack Mehsud’s office. 
With a population of more than 1.62 million, Dera Ismail Khan has emerged as a terrorist hotbed in 2022 due to its strategic location, and escalating Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) activities. The district shares borders with South Waziristan, Tank and Lakki Marwat Districts of KP; Mianwali, Bhakkar and Dera Ghazi Khan Districts in Punjab, and the Zhob District of Balochistan. Two of these adjoining districts, South Waziristan and Zhob, share borders with Afghanistan. Dera Ismail Khan has served as a transit point for militants operating in each of these areas.
As a result of multiple operations by the Pakistan Army in the tribal areas, the district became relatively peaceful and overall fatalities came down to a low of six in 2020. However, with the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, the District has again witnessed a surge in violence. 
Overall fatalities in Dera Ismail Khan District in the current year, with 22 days still to go, are the highest in a year since 2009, at 93. Fatalities in Dera Ismail Khan peaked in 2008, at 95. 
Worryingly, the number of fatalities recorded in the SF category (19) in the current year is highest ever in a year since 2000. The previous high of 14 in this category was recorded in 2019. Moreover, terrorist fatalities (20) in in 2022, are the highest in a year since 2008, when 37 terrorists were killed.  On October 21, 2022, Dera Ismail Khan DPO Najamul Husnain Liaqat claimed that the number of terrorists coming from Afghanistan had increased, creating a big challenge for the Police.  Moreover, the terrorists were crossing the border and attacking the Police with the “most advanced weapons”, which had been left behind by the United States’ soldiers when they fled Afghanistan. On October 31, 2022, two Policemen were shot from a long distance at a checkpost in the Daraban Tehsil of Dera Ismail Khan, using night vision rifles and thermal weapons. An unnamed senior security officer in KP confirmed the use of US weapons and thermal guns in the attack, claiming that such armaments had been employed by NATO forces and American soldiers in Afghanistan.  As ‘official’ talks between the TTP and the Government, which started in May 2022 and came to an end on November 28, 2022, have collapsed and TTP has commenced with an escalation of ‘revenge killings’, Dera Ismail khan District is likely to witness a further surge in violence, as are other areas where the TTP is active.
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management