Yearender: War on terror costs Pakistan heavily

13:35, December 14, 2010      

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Pakistan's support for the U.S.- led war on terror has left nearly 1,600 people dead in various terrorist attacks and counter-attacks so far this year, next only to the flood death toll of some 2,000 in the South Asian nation.

The twin suicide blasts targeting an anti-terror meeting of tribal elders on Dec. 6 killed over 50 people and injured more than 100 in a government compound in Mohmand tribal area bordering Afghanistan. Two days later another suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded market place in Kohat in northwest Pakistan, leaving 15 civilians dead.

The latest terrorist attacks have brought the death toll in suicide blasts so far this year to over 700 people, mostly civilians, and some 2,000 were wounded in 41 suicide bombings across the country, according to a report released by the counter terrorism wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan. However, the number of suicide attacks is about half of that in 2009 that killed over 3,000.

In 2010, 28 of the suicide attacks took place in the troubled northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, seven in eastern Punjab, and two each in southern Sindh, southwest Balochistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, and explosive-laden vehicles were used in 10 such attacks, said the report.

"Pakistan has lost 43 billion dollars in the past nine years," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a ministerial meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan in July in Islamabad when assessing the cumulative economic losses inflicted on Pakistan as a frontline state in the war against terrorism.

"Pakistan has suffered grievously from militancy and I believe that Pakistan's leadership understands very well the nature of threat and the imperative to combat it," said Daniel Benjamin, the U.S. State Department Coordinator for Counter Terrorism.

In addition, the continuing political tug-of-war, target killings and criminal gang wars claimed several hundred lives in the commercial hub and the southern port city of Karachi this year.

However, Pakistan's intelligence agency blamed vindictive foreign elements for most of Pakistan's turbulence. "The foreign powers are involved in terrorism and destabilization of the country," Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), told the National Security Committee of the Senate on July 8, 2010.

"The U.S. policy against terrorism is under consideration and the changes will be brought with time in accordance with the national interest," Pasha briefed the committee.

Meanwhile, the frustrated United States has dramatically intensified drone attacks that mainly focused on North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan, seen as stronghold and hideout of militants.

The missiles fired from unmanned aircraft known as "drone strike" have killed over 860 people in 107 raids so far this year, compared with 709 deaths in 53 strikes in 2009.

Though condemned for "breach of Pakistani sovereignty" and causing civilian casualties, the controversial U.S. drone strikes have temporarily replaced a much-desired ground operation, and a " deep understanding" was reached between Islamabad and Washington to eliminate terrorists taking refuge in the rugged tribal area, analysts said.

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