Pakistani Terrorism Study 2002-2009

by Elias Davidsson (August 2011)

The author conducted a study of all major terrorist acts committed in Pakistan between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2009.  The term major terrorist acts is defined as acts of violence that appear to have a political or ideological motive, aimed at civilians and whose consequences were the cumulative number of 10 deaths and/or wounded.  As the raw material for this study, the author relied first on a Wikipedia listing of all acts of violence committed in Pakistan listed as “terrorist acts”, and then primarily on detailed reports regarding these acts selected for the present study and published in English-language newspapers in Pakistan, particularly The Dawn and Daily Times, as well as in major U.K. and U.S. media, such as the BBC, CBS, The Guardian and Los Angeles Times. The set of acts under examination comprises 123 specific attacks listed in the Annex.

Summary of findings

One of the most remarkable finding was that of the 123 attacks examined in this study, 110 were claimed by no person or organization and were accompanied by no demand.

Of the remaining 13 attacks that were reportedly claimed by an organisation, the authenticity of these claims could not be ascertained.

The absence of claims and demands for what are presented as terrorist attacks suggests that such acts cannot be presumed to have been genuine acts of terrorism.  Acts of terrorism – as distinct from outright or guerilla warfare –  are meant to force public opinion to take cognizance of grievances and support certain justified demands.  Terrorist acts by dissident groups are not intended to defeat the military and police machinery of an oppressive state, or to force regime change. They represent a form of expression, underlined by violence. For that reason authentic terrorist acts, regardless of their wickedness, are regularly claimed by bona fida organizations and accompanied, either explicitly or implicitely, by political demands, that are usually also conveyed in parallel by peaceful means. The underlying presumption in analyzing any deliberate human endeavour is that it is meant to serve a rational purpose. If a massive killing operation is not accompanied by a claim and a demand, it means that the perpetrators did not wish their identity and their purpose to be known.  Such circumstances suggest a covert state operation.

In many cases, varying figures were provided in news reports of the number of victims. Variations were found, too, regarding the exact location of the attack, or other circumstances regarding the attack.

About half of the attacks in the study set were described in published reports as “suicide bombings”.  However,  in most reports, no eyewitnesses were quoted as having seen the alleged suicide bomber.

The author found no evidence in news reports or on English-language web sites that the alleged suicide bombers referred to in the cases under study had been celebrated in Pakistan or elsewhere as martyrs, as is often the case with genuine suicide bombers. On the other side, he found numerous cases of victims of such attacks, including Pakistani army personnel, who have been designated as martyrs.

The author noted a few cases, in which eyewitnesses to the attacks turned their rage not against the presumed perpetrators, but against the police, suggesting the belief of the public that the police either did not provide adequate protection or were in cahoots with the attackers.