The two terrorist attacks, against Hazara community in Quetta and a convey of Frontier Corps (FC) in Chaman on Friday indicate that the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) remains a threat, with its sleeper cells believed to be active in restive Balochistan.
Sources in National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) told Business Recorder that Balochistan was the most terror affected part of the country during 2018 despite the fact the overall terrorism in the country declined by 21 percent last year compared to 2017.
"The two terror attacks in a single day lead us to conclude that the sleeper cells of terror outfits and other anti-state elements are still hiding in Balochistan and we have been highlighting the threat perception posed by these anti-state elements time and again", said an official of NACTA on condition of anonymity.
He said that intelligence-based operations are continuing against terrorists and anti-state elements across the country, including in Balochistan, adding that the significant decrease in terror incidents in the country is a result of these operations.
At least 20 people were killed and 48 other injured in a blast targeting members of the Hazara community in Quetta's Hazarganji market on Friday morning followed by another attack in Chaman, killing two people and injuring 10 others including FC personnel.
The attacks were claimed by a splinter group of the TTP, which stated that the attacks were carried out in coordination with the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), notorious for sectarian attacks.
The NACTA, in its recent report released last month, indicated that 'despite severe manpower, territorial and financial losses, TTP remained the most significant threat to Pakistan in 2018'.
The country witnessed 584 terrorist attacks across the country which resulted in 517 fatalities with 1256 wounded during 2018; the incidents included suicide attacks, bomb blasts, sectarian violence, IEDs [Improvised explosive device] explosions, attack on law enforcement agencies, mine explosions, engagements with terrorists, grenade attacks, rockets attacks and small missiles attacks.
Out of 584 terror attacks, 288 were in Balochistan followed by 239 in erstwhile Fata, 71 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 18 in Punjab, 15 in Sindh, 8 in Gilgit-Baltistan, four in AJK and one in ICT, the NACTA report added.
In 2018, fatalities due to terror attacks decreased by 22.6 percent across the country compared to 2017. Balochistan was on the top of the fatality list with 288 killed, overtaking erstwhile Fata last year, according to the report.
Talking to Business Recorder, Aamir Rana, a security analyst and director Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), said that the terrorist elements affiliated with TTP, LeJ and Daish are believed to be hiding in the outskirts of Balochistan's provincial capital, Quetta, and other restive parts of the province.
He pointed out that the anti-state elements in coordination with the sleeper cells of terror outfits carry out terrorist attacks in the province, adding that these need to be eliminated before becoming a major threat to the country's overall security.
Responding to a question, he said that such incidents could be detrimental to the government's resolve to promote tourism in the country and attract foreign investment in Gwadar.
"Security situation of any country plays a major role in promoting tourism and economic activities. That is why decisive measures need to be taken against these elements believed to be hiding in the restive parts of not only Balochistan, but other parts of the country as well", he added.
The latest wave of terror attacks in Balochistan comes at a time when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has begun taking several anti-terror initiatives such as taking action against proscribed organizations, freezing their moveable and immovable assets, implementing anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing measures under National Action Plan in compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The government has blocked bank accounts of 4863 individuals through State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and an amount of over Rs 131.595 million has been frozen in actions against proscribed organisations.