The preparations for the February 8 elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) are underway. The police officials have confirmed that inspections of polling station security arrangements have commenced. According to police, personnel from the police, Frontier Constabulary, and Frontier Corps will assume responsibility for sensitive polling stations on February 6. Additionally, all provincial government employees in KPK will report for duty on February 5.
The authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been urged to implement stringent security measures as the national elections draw near. Earlier the federal government had decided to dispatch ballot papers to KPK by air, due to worsening security situation. Given its border proximity to Afghanistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has endured numerous challenges, including 23 suicide attacks. Political parties such as JUI-F and ANP, along with analysts, are expressing concerns about potential militant threats leading up to the February 8 polls. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is actively preparing for the national elections amid escalating incidents of militant attacks in the region.
History of Attacks
In January 2022, Peshawar witnessed a devastating attack. It resulted in the deaths of at least 100 individuals, predominantly policemen. The bombing occurred in a mosque. A faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar took responsibility for the attack. Analysts attribute the escalation in violence to the unilateral termination of a ceasefire by the Pakistan Taliban. They cite renewed military operations in the region as their rationale for retaliatory attacks. Key demands of the TTP include the release of their members, the reversal of the tribal region’s merger with KPK, and a stricter enforcement of their interpretation of Islamic laws.
Since its inception in 2007, the TTP has targeted civilians and law enforcement personnel, resulting in a significant loss of life. Their most infamous assault occurred in December 2014 when they attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar. The attack claimed the lives of over 130 students. Additionally, the TTP claimed responsibility for the 2012 shooting of Malala Yousafzai, who later received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2015 and is now a prominent advocate for girls’ education worldwide.
The TTP remains outlawed in Pakistan. US has also designated it as a terrorist organization. The TTP intensified its attacks in response to Pakistani military operations. Following the APS attack, the Pakistani military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb to combat these armed groups. The military asserted its success in the operation. However, the operation faced criticism from local residents and human rights organizations for alleged scorched-earth tactics and enforced disappearances. Many detainees were subjected to trials in military courts, which raised concerns regarding compliance with international legal standards.