Not the whole picture... By Maimuna
17 September, 2012
As Pakistanis sum up last year`s gains and losses, a piece of seemingly good news comes from the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. In its Security Report 2011, it finds that last year saw a significant decline in the number of suicide attacks. As compared to 87 such attacks in 2009 and 68 in 2010, Pakistan experienced 45 suicide attacks during 2011. Yet decreased violence in terms of the number of incidents is relative to the baseline goal, which is the cessation altogether of suicide and other forms of terrorist attacks, and for this very reason, it would be a mistake to read these figures as an indication that Pakistan has enjoyed success in its efforts against terrorism and militancy.
That the number of suicide attacks experienced last year was lower does not necessarily mean that problems have been addressed or threats contained in any meaningful fashion. Indeed, all the ingredients of the friction that leads to violence, including suicide bombings, remain. These include a hydra-headed insurgency in the northwest, the presence of armed militant groups with their eye on events unfolding in Afghanistan, the pressure on these groups by the country`s security apparatus, etc. The PIPS report loosely attributes the decrease in conflict-related casualties (in which it counts deaths resulting from the security forces` operations) to the military offensives undertaken and fewer drone strikes. Yet identifying the actual links would require long-term and in-depth academic research, for which, in many cases, even the baseline data is hardly available. The oft-discussed link between drone strikes and suicide bombings, for example, is tenuous. What Pakistan needs is a credible and well-researched analysis of data to explore which measures are proving useful where, so that some pattern can be established. Going by numbers alone may lead us to an erroneous and an ultimately dangerous conclusion.