“Terrorism has always waxed and waned, gone up and down, and it’s starting to bounce back again.”
On 30 July 2023, a suicide attack targeted an election rally in the border district of Bajaur, KPK, Pakistan, resulting in the death of 54 individuals and leaving 200 people wounded.
Given the circumstances, it was obvious that the assault would be attributed to a local Daesh-affiliated faction. This assumption was based on historical evidence demonstrating Daesh’s propensity to target selectively religious, political parties that it perceives as not rigorously adhering to its interpretation of Islamic principles.
In addition, terrorist entities like Al-Qaida regional franchise for the Indian subcontinent, AQIS, and the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan condemned the attack. They distanced themselves from it by asserting in a press release that they had no direct involvement. In addition, substantial evidence also suggested that the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) played a significant role in the attack in question. It was not surprising to witness that ISKP issued a press release claiming responsibility for the attack on JUI-F in Bajour, KPK, Pakistan.
The assault was directed at a congregation comprised of numerous JUI-F party members, prompting questions about the significance of this political faction and their ideological beliefs. Throughout its history, JUI-F has demonstrated an affinity for various religious extremist organizations, including both those engaged in violent activities and those advocating nonviolent approaches. This event may serve as an impetus for the political party to adopt a firm stance against the use of violent extremism and terrorism, thereby possibly influencing the Afghan Taliban’s attitude toward the ISKP in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State (IS) exhibits a presence within the territorial boundaries of Pakistan. The group presents a serious threat to both civilians and Taliban members within Afghanistan, while also expressing its intention to carry out attacks in other regions, such as Europe and the United States. The attention given to the group’s activities in Pakistan has been comparatively lower than the perceived threat it poses in Afghanistan, Central Asia, or the Western regions. However, the attack that occurred in Bajour KPK on July 30th serves as evidence that the group also poses a significant and deadly threat to the civilian population and the religious political parties within Pakistan.
Moreover, due to its close proximity to the Afghanistan border, the province where the assault occurred possesses significant significance. The recent increase in terrorist activities has been characterized by a 73 percent increase in attacks, with suicide bombings taking precedence. The observed phenomenon can be attributed to the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan, as they have not fully complied with their obligations under the Doha agreement to prevent international terrorist organizations from using Afghan territory as a safe haven against any state.
Despite experiencing a decrease in operational efficiency, the ISKP will likely endeavor to carry out more attacks resulting in significant casualties throughout the latter part of 2023 and extending into 2024. The lethality of ISKP attacks escalated directly with significant military pressure exerted on the group during its territorial control in Afghanistan. Presently, ISKP continues to encounter similar levels of security pressure. The group exhibits a diminished inclination or capacity to conduct assaults against security forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, making civilian areas comparatively more vulnerable than military objectives.
Concerns have been expressed regarding the potential repercussions of the attack on the upcoming elections in Pakistan, which are scheduled to take place later this year. While some argue that such attacks have the potential to disrupt the peaceful conduct of elections, it is essential to note that Pakistan has a history of successfully organizing and conducting general elections despite terrorist threats. Despite encountering terrorist acts of violence in 2008, 2014, and 2018, political parties demonstrated resilience and resumed their electoral campaigns in 2008 2014, and 2018. Despite the fact that these attacks have the potential to demoralize some political actors, it is important to note that the majority of political parties in Pakistan have developed the resilience and adaptability necessary to operate effectively under challenging conditions.
In conclusion, the recent terrorist attack elicits significant apprehension regarding the escalating threat emanating from Afghanistan, which has the potential to impact regional and international spheres. Uncertain are the potential repercussions of this incident on the upcoming elections in Pakistan. Nevertheless, historical evidence suggests that political parties in the nation have consistently demonstrated resilience in the face of acts of violence, indicating a positive outlook for the democratic process despite the current challenges.