Taliban's victory in Afghanistan fuels terror attacks in Pakistan

With the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, there are concerns in Pakistan that a spillover in terror activities could affect investments. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ISLAMABAD (BLOOMBERG) - Deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan have increased to the highest level in over four years as US troops left Afghanistan and the Taliban took power, a sign of growing instability in the region that could hurt business and investments.

Pakistan saw 35 attacks that left at least 52 civilians dead in August, the highest since February 2017, according to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Most of the violence has been attributed to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an offshoot of the Afghan militant group that has been encouraged by developments next door.

The Pakistani militant group "has been emboldened further by what happened in Afghanistan", Mr Umar Karim, a visiting fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said over the phone.

"The terrorist group had already been growing stronger much before the situation in Afghanistan, with splinter groups merging over the past year or so."

With the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, there are concerns in Islamabad that a spillover in terror activities could affect investments, including China's Belt and Road Initiative that has seen US$25 billion (S$34 billion) poured into power plants and road projects.

Pakistan is already facing pressure from Beijing, which called on the government to protect such projects after a bus explosion in July killed 12 workers, including nine Chinese citizens.

The growing instability and increased risk in the region have already prompted at least one foreign investor to hold back on acquiring a Pakistani company, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named, citing the private nature of the information.

Pakistan is not talking about it openly, but it is concerned about the re-emerging threat of the Pakistan Taliban, which had been crushed by a combination of US drone strikes and domestic military operations, said senior expert Asfandyar Mir at the United States Institute of Peace.

Pakistani Information Minister Farrukh Habib did not respond to a request for a comment.

Part of Pakistan's worries stem from the fact that many militants wanted by its government have been freed from jails in Afghanistan when the Taliban swept to power.

The Afghan militant group has assured Islamabad that its soil will not be used as a terror base but that has not been the case so far.

Militants firing from Afghanistan killed two Pakistani soldiers last month in a clash that left many injured. Another seven soldiers died in September when the army attacked terrorists in South Waziristan, according to a statement sent by the army's media wing.

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