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Attacks by militants down in Pakistan
Drone strikes, military action have an effect
Peshawar, located on the edge of the tribal region and close to the Afghan border, has been the worst hit major Pakistani city.
Police, army and civilian targets were bombed almost daily toward the end of 2009 after the military carried out a major offensive in South Waziristan, the Pakistani Taliban’s main sanctuary in the tribal region.
“You can’t imagine how terrible those days were for us,” said Waris Khan Afridi, 58, president of the trader’s association in Peshawar’s Saddar bazaar. “There were times when the bazaar was deserted and even shopkeepers weren’t coming.”
Mr. Afridi and others said business has improved significantly over the last year, but is still down relative to the period before the Pakistani Taliban began their insurgency in earnest in 2007.
The Saddar and Mina bazaars were bustling during a recent trip, packed with women buying new clothes for Pakistan’s wedding season.
The last major attack in Peshawar was in mid-September, when a bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded in a market selling music and movies, killing five people.
Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani political and defense analyst, said military operations in the tribal region and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province since the spring of 2009 have disrupted the militants, making it more difficult for them to train suicide bombers and transport them outside the northwest.
“The operations have not been able to eliminate the militants altogether, but they have certainly weakened them,” said Mr. Rizvi.
The military has carried out offensives in every part of the tribal region except North Waziristan.
But no area is fully under control, and the government has struggled to undertake the kind of reconstruction and development that could address some of the root causes of militancy.
Mohammed Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, said he believes U.S. drone attacks are the chief reason behind the drop in violence.
The attacks have killed key Taliban and al-Qaida commanders, something Pakistani military operations have largely failed to do.
U.S. drone strikes killed Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009; Qari Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban’s main trainer of suicide bombers, in October 2010; and Ilyas Kashmiri, al-Qaida’s military operations chief in Pakistan, in June 2011.
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