In the early hours of Saturday, a group of nine heavily armed Islamist militants launched a brazen assault on the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Training Air Base Mianwali. Despite inflicting damage on three non-operational aircraft, their attack was promptly repelled by the vigilant PAF.
Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister, Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, applauded the valiant PAF, emphasizing its unwavering resolve in thwarting the cowardly terrorist attack. He conveyed his gratitude on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
The PAF proudly declared, “Alhumdolliah, combing and clearance operation at PAF Training Airbase Mianwali has been concluded, and all nine terrorists have been sent to hell.” Thankfully, no operational assets of the PAF were harmed, with only non-operational aircraft sustaining limited damage.
The Mianwali air force base, rebranded as ‘PAF Base MM Alam’ in 2014, holds significant historical significance. It was attended by then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Air Staff Tahir Rafique Butt. This base, often referred to as the ‘cradle of fighter pilots’ by Butt, was renamed in honor of Pakistani Air Commodore Muhammad Mehmood Alam. Alam, a distinguished air force veteran, claimed to have downed five Indian Air Force fighters within a minute during the 1965 war.
PAF Base MM Alam, which falls under the PAF’s Northern Air Command, accommodates a squadron of training aircraft, including the Karakoram 8-P (co-developed by China and Pakistan), a squadron of F-7 and FT-7PGs (developed from the MiG-21s), and a squadron of S319-B Alouette III light helicopters.
In a surprising twist, the attack has been attributed to a relatively obscure militant group, Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), as per a statement disseminated to journalists by the group’s spokesperson.
TJP is a recently formed organization that came into prominence earlier this year. It has been linked to a series of high-profile attacks, including an incident that claimed the lives of 12 soldiers in Balochistan province in July. Furthermore, a suicide attack led to the loss of three soldiers in northwestern Pakistan.
The Magadh Today t delves into the history of TJP and the escalating attacks on Pakistani security personnel throughout this year.
Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP)
TJP was purportedly established in February this year. In a communication on X dated February 24, TJP announced its formation, with Mullah Muhammad Qasim named as its spokesperson, as reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
The statement from February also outlined TJP’s objectives, citing “Sheikh-ul-Hind” as an inspirational figure for its jihadi ideology. “Sheikh-ul-Hind” refers to Mahmud Hasan Deobandi, the third principal of the Darul Uloom Deoband, an Islamic seminary located in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh.
TJP’s statement in Urdu, translated by MEMRI, stated, “We want to convey the good news to the religious circles of Pakistan that after long discussions with elder Islamic scholars and requests from sincere people, we have reached the conclusion that the objective for which the movement of Sheikh-ul-Hind emerged was destroyed after the independence of Pakistan.”
The statement added, “We have reached the conclusion that except through armed jihad, the enforcement of an Islamic system is not possible in Pakistan.” TJP introduced Maulana Abdullah Yaghistani as its emir (leader) when announcing the organization’s establishment.
Since its inception, TJP has claimed responsibility for various attacks, primarily in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan provinces. Notable incidents include an attack on the military camp of the Pakistani Frontier Corps in Balochistan in May, an attack on an under-construction college in Lakki Marwat district in KPK in April, and another attack in the town of Kabal, also in KPK.
Rising Attacks on Pakistani Security Forces
Saturday’s attacks come on the heels of 17 soldiers losing their lives in separate incidents in Balochistan and KPK provinces, as reported in the media.
The losses endured by Pakistani security personnel have reached an eight-year high in the first nine months of 2023, according to a September report by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), an Islamabad-based think tank.
The report reveals that Pakistani security forces suffered at least 386 casualties, comprising approximately 36 percent of all fatalities between January and September 2023. This includes 137 army personnel and 208 police personnel.
The current year has witnessed the highest number of security force fatalities since 2015, with 415 fatalities recorded in that year.
Balochistan observed a staggering 131 percent increase in fatalities during the third quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, rising from 73 in Q3 2022 to 169 in Q3 2023. Similarly, KPK saw a 28 percent increase in fatalities between Q3 2022 and Q3 2023, escalating from 195 in Q3 2022 to 249 in Q3 2023, as reported by CRSS.
The intensification of attacks against Pakistani security personnel underscores the evolving security challenges in the region, necessitating a closer examination of emerging militant groups like TJP and their motivations.