Overview: Pakistan remained a critical counterterrorism partner in 2015. Numerous violent extremist groups, many of which target Pakistani civilians, officials, or members of other religious sects, operated in the country. In 2015, terrorists used both stationary and vehicle-borne remote-controlled IEDs (VBIEDs); suicide bombings; targeted assassinations; rocket-propelled grenades; and other combat tactics to attack individuals, schools, markets, government institutions, mosques, and other places of worship. Attacks by sectarian groups against minorities continued. Despite the government's massive security preparations, its interception of numerous planned attacks, and the prevention of attacks in major urban areas, the commemoration of the Ashura holiday during the Islamic month of Muharram (October 2015) was marked by two major attacks that killed at least 30 people.
In November, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Agency (PEMRA) reportedly banned media coverage of U.S.- and UN-designated terrorist organizations such as Jamaat-u-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FiF), both of which are aliases of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), but the government did not otherwise constrain those groups' fundraising activities. Pakistan took steps to support political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, but it did not take sufficient action to constrain the ability of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network (HQN) to threaten U.S. and Afghan interests in Afghanistan.
Pakistan officially designated the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a terrorist organization on July 15. Senior military officials and provincial security forces publicly warned of scattered Pakistani terrorist allegiance to ISIL and its threat to Pakistani military targets. Law enforcement agencies arrested individuals suspected of participating in ISIL-allied attacks, disseminating ISIL propaganda, and having declared allegiance to ISIL. Pakistan did not join the multilateral Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, but Pakistani officials participated in a senior level meeting of the coalition in September.
Following the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) December 16, 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in which more than 150 children and staff were killed, the government formed a committee of political, military, and intelligence representatives to produce a 20-point, whole-of-government National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism. The NAP is a mixture of judicial, law enforcement, military, and administrative goals that seek to punish established terrorists, eliminate support for terrorism, and promote the non-violent coexistence of the country's various religious sects, all to prevent future terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil. The NAP is not, in and of itself, legally binding; each component depends on existing, revised, or new legislation. The government did not formally articulate the metrics by which it measured the NAP's overall success. Most official assessments of its implementation reached the public via the media. These media reports most often followed closed door meetings of senior federal or provincial civilian and military leadership. The Minister of Interior briefed the Pakistani National Assembly on NAP implementation progress on December 17 and 18. The Minister cited a statistical reduction in terrorist attacks over 2015, but acknowledged that terrorism had not been completely eliminated from the country. Throughout 2015, the media frequently reported parliamentary criticism of the government's NAP implementation progress, as well as accusations of blame from within the federal government and the Pakistani military for implementation shortcomings. Also throughout 2015, the Pakistani military continued ground and air operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency to eliminate terrorist safe havens and recover illegal weapons caches. Paramilitary and civilian security force counterterrorism efforts included countering terrorism in urban areas and conducting preemptive raids to arrest suspected terrorists or interrupt terrorist plots, and confronting terrorists that attacked Pakistani civilians, law enforcement agencies, and military and paramilitary troops.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist attacks occurred in every month of 2015. A few representative examples include:
On January 30, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in the northern Sindh district of Shikarpur. According to Dunya News, at least 61 people were killed and provincial government officials claimed that suspects arrested in the case were affiliated with the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist groups.
On March 15, suicide bombers struck two churches in Lahore's majority-Christian Youhanabad neighborhood, killing 17 people according to government figures reported in the media. Following the attack, a mob killed two bystanders whom they believed to have been involved in the bombing.
On April 16, private U.S. citizen Deborah Lobo was shot on her way to work in Karachi. According to unnamed authorities quoted in the media, authorities found ISIL leaflets at the attack scene.
On May 13, eight gunmen attacked a bus traveling in Safoora Goth, Karachi. The shooting left at least 46 Ismaili Shia dead. Media reported that the attackers were allegedly ISIL adherents.
Attacks against Hazaras in Quetta, Balochistan remained common. For example, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, five Hazaras were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on them on a Quetta street on June 7.
On August 16, a suicide bomber killed 17 people, including Punjab provincial Home Secretary Shuja Khanzada in Attock (near Lahore), and injured at least 23 others. According to media, multiple violent sectarian groups claimed responsibility.
On September 18, a group of armed terrorists entered Pakistan's Badaber Air Base (outside of Peshawar) and killed at least 29 civilians and military personnel, including an Army captain. Media reported that TTP claimed responsibility.
On October 24, a suicide bomber killed approximately 22 people, and injured at least 40 more Shia Muslim worshippers commemorating the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussain during the Ashura period of the Islamic Month of Muharram in Jacobabad (Sindh). A second suicide bomber killed approximately 10 people, and injured 12 more, in an attack on a Shia mosque on October 22 in Bolan (Balochistan). Media reported that violent anti-Shia terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for both attacks.
On December 29, a vehicle-borne IED attack orchestrated by TTP splinter group Jamaat-ur-Ahrar killed at least 26 people and injured more than 50 at a federal government office in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Pakistan continued to implement the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997, and other laws, which empowered the government to counter terrorism with enhanced law enforcement and prosecutorial powers. The country is in various stages of implementation of the National Counterterrorism Authority Act, the 2013 Investigation for Fair Trial Act, the 2014 amendments to the ATA, and the 2014 Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA). The PPA has a sunset clause of July 2016. The government continued to make use of reinforced counterterrorism legislation. However, the judiciary moved slowly in processing terrorism and other criminal cases, likely due in part to the overly broad definition of terrorism offenses listed in the ATA. The majority of courts face long backlogs. In addition, law enforcement personnel and judicial officers involved in terrorism cases can face threats and intimidation from terrorist groups. In some provinces, Anti-Terrorism Courts have introduced reforms to reduce the backlogs, including transferring "non-true" terrorism cases to the regular District and Sessions courts, freeing the courts to conduct continuous trials within the timeframe required by the ATA.
The PPA, passed in July of 2014, sought to create a specialized system for adjudicating terrorism cases by establishing a federally empowered infrastructure with special federal courts, prosecutors, police stations, and investigation teams for the enforcement of 20 specially-delineated categories of offenses. Human rights advocates and other legal experts criticized the PPA for provisions granting broad immunity to security forces in the use of lethal force, expanding the power of arrest without a warrant, and eliminating the presumption of innocence. The provisions of the PPA, including the creation of new judicial infrastructure, have been only sporadically implemented in 2015 and the Act is set to expire in July 2016.
In response to the December 2014 Army Public School attack, Pakistan promulgated new legislation in 2015 designed to enable the prompt prosecution and adjudication of terrorism offenses. In January, the Assembly passed the 21st Amendment of the Pakistani Constitution and amended the Pakistan Army Act to allow military courts to try civilians for "offenses relating to terrorism, waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan, and prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan by any terrorist group using the name of religion or a sect and members of such armed groups, wings, and militia." In February, the government issued a presidential ordinance that amended the Pakistan Army Act to allow military courts to hold in-camera trials of terrorism suspects and to conceal the names of court officials involved in those trials, as part of a move toward "faceless justice" for "the protection of witnesses, defending officers, and other persons concerned in court proceedings." The National Assembly subsequently passed a bill codifying this presidential ordinance in November. After a series of legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the 21st Amendment in August. Both the 21st Amendment and the Amendment to the Pakistan Army Act contain sunset clauses, which provide for their expiration two years from the date of enactment.
At the federal level, Pakistan's law enforcement and national security structures need improvement. Although the various security agencies attempted to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents, the government's institutional framework is not conducive to interagency cooperation and coordination. There was only sporadic interagency information sharing, no comprehensive integrated database capability, and specialized law enforcement units lacked the technical equipment and training needed to implement the enhanced investigative powers provided in the 2012 Investigation for Fair Trial Act. Prosecutors have a limited role during the investigation phases of terrorism cases. Jurisdictional divisions among and between military and civilian security agencies continued to hamper effective investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases. Intimidation by terrorists against witnesses, police, victims, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges, as well as insufficient evidence gathering in investigations, contributed to the high acquittal rate in cases filed in the Anti-Terrorism Courts.
Devolution of law enforcement authority to the provincial level resulted in mixed assessments of law enforcement cooperation across the country. Counterterrorism operations were most often the result of varying degrees of cooperation between provincial Counterterrorism Departments (which reported to their respective Inspectors General for Police), assorted paramilitary entities (e.g., Frontier Corps, Rangers, Levies, etc.), the Pakistani military, and intelligence agencies. Some provinces demonstrated greater training, equipment, and interagency information sharing to find suspected terrorists, but needed improvement in their prosecution of suspected terrorists once apprehended. For others, the reverse applied. In Sindh, a "law-and-order" operation against terrorists and organized crime syndicates, carried out by the paramilitary Sindh Rangers and the civilian Sindh Police, continued throughout 2015. Many analysts attributed to that operation the significant reduction in violence over 2015 that the provincial capital has witnessed. Media reported allegations that operations focused disproportionately on certain political parties with a political rather than counterterrorism focus. The government denied those allegations. In December, the Sindh provincial government extended the mandate of the Sindh Rangers for 60 days, but the limits of their authority remain under discussion between the federal and provincial government.
Pakistan continued to work toward structural reforms on counterterrorism designed to centralize coordination and information sharing. The National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) received new leadership in August. Its new National Coordinator was concurrently the Director General of the National Police Bureau at the end of 2015. In November, NACTA was reportedly allocated an operational budget with which to hire additional staff for the first time since the NAP called for the organization to be "strengthened and activated." The Intelligence Bureau has nationwide jurisdiction as a civilian agency, is empowered to coordinate with provincial and territorial counterterrorism units, and seemed to take a more active role in counterterrorism operations throughout 2015. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has broad intelligence powers and fulfilled a de facto border security role along with tribal militias, provincial police, and the Frontier Corps. The Ministry of Interior has more than 10 law enforcement-related entities under its administration, though many of those agencies are under the operational control of the military.
Pakistan collected biometric information in national databases and screened travelers at border land crossings with its International Border Management Security System. The National Automated Database Registration Authority maintained a national biometric database of citizens, residents, and overseas Pakistanis, and is continually subject to upgrades. Pakistan's ability to detect and deter cross-border smuggling via air travel continued to pose a challenge, but also continued to improve as a result of regional and international training. The Federal Board of Revenue's Customs Service attempted to enforce anti-money laundering laws and foreign exchange regulations at all major airports with some coordination with the Airport Security Force and/or the Federal Investigation Agency. Pakistan's cross-border enforcement can be further improved through advanced passenger targeting strategies, improved scanning equipment, more effective officer accountability practices, additional staff, improved interagency coordination at the airports, and enforcement of existing legislation. Pakistan Customs' End Use Verification project facilitated the entry of dual-use chemicals for legitimate purposes, while also investigating and preventing the entry of chemicals intended for use in IEDs. In 2015, the U.S. government had little visibility into the results of the project, and was thus unable to gauge its effectiveness.
The military continued to conduct significant counterterrorism operations in North Waziristan and Khyber agencies in the tribal areas, and a combination of military, paramilitary, and civilian forces conducted operations in Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. Security forces intercepted large stockpiles of weapons and explosives, and discovered bomb-making facilities and sophisticated telecommunication networks. Pakistan continued to arrest terrorists and initiate prosecutions throughout 2015. However, the enhanced tools provided by the Investigation for Fair Trial Act of 2012 and the NACTA law were still in the process of being implemented by the government at year's end. These laws are designed to equip intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors with the necessary legal tools to detect, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist activities and organizations. The U.S. government had limited visibility into the NACTA law's implementation.
Anti-Terrorism Courts had limited procedures for obtaining or admitting foreign evidence. The trial of seven suspects accused in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack was ongoing at year's end, with many witnesses for the prosecution remaining to be called by the court. Security concerns and procedural issues resulted in a slow pace of trial proceedings. In December 2014, the court granted bail to the lead defendant, alleged Mumbai attack planner and LeT operational commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi. Lakhvi was released from prison on bail in April 2015 and the Government of Pakistan reports he remained under house arrest at the end of 2015.
Pakistan's cooperation with the United States on information sharing and law enforcement continued. Law enforcement cooperation continued with respect to terrorist attacks and plots against U.S. personnel, and the Embassy and Consulates General in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar. Pakistani law-enforcement officials pledged to assist in the apprehension of U.S. citizen fugitives in Pakistan, but practical implementation of this pledge has been lacking. Delays in obtaining Pakistani visas for training personnel were obstacles to counterterrorism assistance for security forces and prosecutors in 2015, though a limited number of visas of varying duration were eventually approved for some Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance program instructors to facilitate delivery of a number of ATA courses. However, other agency trainings were required to take place in third countries due to non-issuances of visas.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Pakistan is an active member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In February, FATF removed Pakistan from its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism review process due to progress made addressing the strategic deficiencies that had been identified in 2010. Despite this action, Pakistan was required to provide a report in June detailing recent action to identify and freeze property of UN-listed entities as well as efforts to monitor the non-profit organization sector, money remitters, and cross-border activity. This report was submitted on time; FATF recommended further reporting to the APG. As the release from FATF monitoring indicated, Pakistan's criminalization of terrorist financing met international standards.
The NAP conveys the government's intention to cut the financial sources of terrorists and terrorist organizations. Hundi/hawala offenses under the pre-existing Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1947 were designated as predicate offences under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2010. In January 2015, the government lowered the threshold for currency transaction reports from US $25,000 to approximately US $20,000.
Despite military and police action against certain UN-designated organizations, throughout 2015 other UN-designated organizations continued to operate within Pakistan, employing economic resources under their control, and fundraising openly. The November PEMRA ban of electronic media coverage of domestically banned organizations and UN-designated organizations may reduce the public profiles of those organizations and reduce their ability to collect donations.
Money transfer systems persisted throughout much of Pakistan, especially along Pakistan's long border with Afghanistan, and may be abused by drug traffickers and terrorist financiers operating in the cross-border area.
While Pakistani authorities did report having frozen assets of UN-designated entities during 2015, the amount was unclear. The U.S. government was not informed of any successful terrorism financing prosecutions in 2015.
According to the State Bank of Pakistan, banks and reporting entities were under legal obligation to report suspicious transaction reports wherever there is suspicion that NGOs/non-profit organizations (NPOs)/charities may be abusing the financial system for the financing of terrorism or any other criminal activity. From July 2014 to May 2015, Pakistan reportedly received 1919 Suspicious Transaction Reports, of which 855 were analyzed and 320 disseminated. The State Bank of Pakistan prescribed specific regulations for the opening of bank accounts by NGOs, non-profit organizations, and charities.
The Minister of Interior provided a list of 61 designated organizations in his December 18 brief to the Pakistani National Assembly, which various media outlets reported. Until that point, the government had only distributed updates to lists of individuals and groups designated pursuant to UNSCRs and domestic law via gazette notices ('statutory regulatory orders' and circulars). The sole use of that vehicle resulted in significant confusion and speculation among the public regarding which entities were and were not designated and/or under observation. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, banks were required to regularly access the Consolidated Lists from the pertinent UN website(s) to ensure compliance with sanctions regimes throughout 2015.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the military's Inter-Services Public Relations employed strategic communications strategies to build support for the military's counterterrorism initiatives. Reintegration of de-radicalized terrorists into society remained a priority for the government. Throughout 2015, the government operated a number of de-radicalization camps in different parts of the country. The camps reportedly offered corrective religious education, vocational training, counseling and therapy, and a discussion module that addressed social issues and included sessions with the students' families. A Pakistani NGO continued to administer the widely lauded Sabaoon Rehabilitation Center in Swat Valley, which was founded in partnership with the Pakistani military and focused on the de-radicalization of juvenile violent extremists.
In February 2015, Pakistan's Minister of Interior attended the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. Pakistan remained actively engaged with the process and attended regional summits on CVE held in Sydney, Australia (June 11-12); Astana, Kazakhstan (June 29-30), and Algiers, Algeria (July 22-23) at the ambassadorial level. It participated in the Senior Officials' Check-in Meeting on CVE held in Rome on July 29. The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs represented Pakistan at the Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, which was hosted by President Obama and convened on the margins of the UNGA in September.
International and Regional Cooperation: Pakistan participated in counterterrorism efforts in both regional and international forums. Pakistan participated in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meetings on counterterrorism and in other multilateral groups where counterterrorism cooperation was discussed, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (as an observer), and Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.
As a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), Pakistan participated in GCTF meetings and supported GCTF initiatives. Pakistan participated in UNSC meetings on sanctions and counterterrorism and in a UN Counterterrorism Committee's Executive Directorate regional workshop for South Asian judges, prosecutors, and investigators in Thailand in October. Pakistan also attended the Special Meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee on "Stemming the Flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters" held in Madrid, Spain in July. In collaboration with the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the Government of Pakistan organized a Needs Assessment Conference on Youth Engagement, Skills Development, and Employment Facilitation in Pakistan on May 13-14.