Friday, 19 October 2012

Numbers of Terror.

A while back I came across a claim regarding Pakistan’s human loss in the so called War on Terror; 43,733 Pakistanis have been killed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Nothing startling, the TTP have all the requisite appetite for mass murdering, not to mention the tools and the 40,000+ figure has been doing the rounds for a while. Yet this was not just anyone stating the figure, it was a retired army brigadier and current “security analyst”.

Here is the claim.

Since the man had some security credentials, and since he had the number down to the last digit, I thought he would be a good person from whom to inquire about the source of the figure and break down of the casualties.

Mr. Munir however instructed me to use Google and find out myself. I did what I was told, and I would like to share what I found.

Google showed that the 40,000 plus innocent Pakistanis killed by terrorists figure is used basically by the who’s who of Pakistani journalists, which meant it couldn't be true. Predictably enough, I wasn't able to find any article quoting the source. The first source I found with any detail of the data was a blog by the name of FATA Awareness Initiative.

The FATA Awareness Initiative blog has data till the mid of 2011 and claims that terrorist attacks across the country have left 10,268 civilians and 3,549 security personnel dead since 2003. Total therefore comes up to near 14,000. The method for data collection isn’t clear.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal was seemingly more credible. At the time of quoting they had data till October 14, 2012.

The SATP believe that since 2003 14,510 civilians and 4,687 security personnel have been killed in Pakistan by terrorists. This would add up for a total of around 20,000.

The SATP website claims that figures are compiled from news reports and are provisional. The website also states that for the years of 2011 and 2012, these figures include killings in Karachi.

Note that in both cases, the FATA blog and the South Asian Terrorism Portal, very high numbers of terrorist fatalities are reported. SATP reports as many as 24,930 terrorist/insurgents killed by the Pakistani security forces.

It is not clear if this number includes civilians killed by the security forces. A report titled “War Related Death and Injury in Pakistan” by Neta C. Crawford, Boston University, available on the internet could suggest so.

According to the report, in the three years of 2008, 2009 and 2010 around 12,000 Pakistani civilians died at the hands of their own military. The number of dead terrorists in the SATP data also spiked against these three years.

The report cites two sources, the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies and the US National Counter-terrorism Centre, to suggest that during the same 3 years somewhere in the range of 7,000 to 8,000 Pakistani civilians were killed by terrorists.

In short, more Pakistani civilians died at the hands of Pakistani military during the operations than by terrorist attacks, for the 3 years.

The data thus far, however well researched, is still not official and mostly based on media reports, therefore the deviations. It wasn't until I came across a report by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute for any official data to come to light. In the IPRI’s report titled “Pakistan: A Victim of Terrorism - III”, the Government of Pakistan, Interior Ministry data is presented.

According to the Interior Ministry of Pakistan statistics quoted in the IPRI report, up till January 2011, 7770 civilians and 2704 personnel of Law Enforcing Agencies had been killed by terrorists, or the TTP.

This amounts to a total of 10474 Pakistanis killed by the terrorists, till January 2011. Either they have killed over 30,000 more in the last year and a half, or some people in the media have their facts horribly wrong.

Speaking of horribly wrong facts, there are some to be found about the terrorism in Karachi, aka target killings. A conservative estimate presented in the Friday Times by A.K Chisti suggests that in the year 2011 approximately 1,891 people were killed by in the city, bringing total death toll to around 7,000 from 2007-2011.

I call it conservative because according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan 1,138 people were killed in Karachi just in the first 6 months of 2011. The figure for the first 6 months of 2012, according to HRCP, is 1,257 dead.

That means over 8 thousand people have been killed by Karachi terrorist groups. The Pakistan Body Count website tracks suicide bombings and drone attacks in the country. PBC puts the death toll from suicide bombings at 5,246 and from drone attacks at 3,028.

What that means is that the Karachi terrorists have killed roughly the same number of people as killed by suicide bombings and drone attacks, combined.

The most significant figure in all of this though is 0.

0 is the number of times drone strikes have been suggested as a way to tackle the deadly terrorists in Karachi.

0 is the number of military operations conducted during the last 5 years to flush out the terrorists from Karachi.

0 is the number of media houses, or personalities, willing to even name the Karachi terrorists.

Chances of Pakistan winning its fight against terrorism with such blatant hypocrisy crippling the discourse?



  1. Good one, I particularly love the ZERO part.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Quite an excellent and apposite piece mate. BTW on a side note, just noted the brazen hypocrisy of the "South Asian Terrorism Portal", by conveniently choosing to ignore the civilian casualties, or victims of the Indian Army agression/terrorism, in the "Indian" Kashmir!

  4. life of each human is equally important whether the number is in thousands or zero. But the point raised is valid... what is the govt, military and media doing about the attcks in karachi?

  5. Awesome,it reflects that u r working every time for new research

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