by Kateland Shane [ Mine Action Information Center ]
In addition to suffering from continual suicide bombings and other violent terrorist acts, residents of Pakistan must also face the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The country has had problems with mines, UXO and other terrorism since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Pakistan also has been involved in several disputes with India since 1947.
A History of Violence
In 2002, an attack on the Indian parliament led the forces of both India and Pakistan to lay mines along the Line of Control, the de facto border in the Kashmir territory.1 The two countries have disputed the territory since 1947. Pakistan and India have since signed a ceasefire, but some reports estimate that nearly 200,000 mines were laid during the standoff. Although the Pakistani military claims to have cleared 80 percent of the land, mines continue to affect the region. In June 2007, forest fires and rising temperatures triggered the explosion of over 200 mines along the Line of Control, injuring livestock and causing other damage to nearby villages.2 Residents in Kashmir also claim that there are some mined areas along the LoC that have not been properly marked or fenced.3
Mines were also used against Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan remain the most affected by the remains of these mines, many of which were dropped by helicopter or laid defensively by Soviet and Afghan forces.4
In addition to these conflicts, Pakistan also is plagued by internal violence. Militants, terrorist organizations and other armed groups have employed mines and explosives, resulting in civilian casualties. Insurgents have used mines defensively around their own camps and offensively along roads and in the mountains and plains of Pakistan.3 In March 2006, 28 people in a wedding party were killed by an anti-tank mine while crossing a stream in the Balochistan province. Authorities claim the mine was laid by tribal insurgents.5 Suicide bombings are also prevalent in Pakistan. In July 2007, suicide bombers killed over 50 people in Pakistan during a string of attacks.6
Pakistan is one of the few countries still manufacturing anti-personnel mines. Although Pakistan has not exported landmines since 1992, the country has been a major exporter in the past. According to estimates from the Landmine Monitor, Pakistan has stockpiled at least six million AP mines—the fifth largest stockpile in the world.3 While Pakistan has shown support for the international ban of AP mines, the country has not yet acceded to the Ottawa Convention.7 Pakistan has ratified Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Weapons8 and is an active participant in CCW meetings.3
In December 2006, the Pakistani government announced possible plans to mine the border with Afghanistan. Pakistani officials argued that the move would secure the border with Afghanistan and keep the Taliban from moving in and out of Afghanistan.9 After much speculation and international criticism, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri announced at a press conference in Germany that the government had decided against using landmines.10 Pakistan will instead rely on building fences and monitoring its border.10
Survey, Marking and Clearance
At present, there is no central mine-action authority or center in Pakistan. All mine/UXO clearance and marking activities are conducted by the military.3 In May 2005, Response International conducted a mine-impact survey in Pakistan. The results of the survey showed that there are about 1,200 mine/UXO victims living in Pakistan and a mine/UXO accident rate of up to 15 per month.11 Response International conducted another survey in Pakistan in early 2006, examining 7,189 households. They also implemented another survey in December 2005, set to last until November 2007. The organization is currently working on compiling a database of mine/UXO survivor information in Pakistan.3
Nongovernmental organizations have been heavily involved in mine-risk education in Pakistan, including the Pakistan Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Community Motivation and Development Organization, Response International UK, Islamic Relief and Mines Advisory Group.3 MAG works closely with Islamic Relief to provide MRE to residents in the Kashmir district along the contaminated Line of Control. Following a 2005 assessment, MAG trained 20 workers from Islamic Relief in a four-week workshop to provide MRE in Kashmir as part of a larger MRE project.12 The joint MAG/IR education project is expected to reach 70,000 people.3
The recent conflicts surrounding or involving Pakistan have left a large threat of mines and explosive remnants of war for both Pakistan and its neighbors. The continuing instability in the region and Pakistan's lack of governmental support has allowed the situation there to compound itself. The use of mines in multiple conflicts and a lack of mine-action efforts between conflicts have left multiple generations of mines and ERW. In addition, internal struggles and continued acceptance of the use of landmines has made current mine-action efforts difficult.
The present mine and UXO situation ensures continued casualties in Pakistan, particularly in the areas closest to the LoC, such as the Abbaspur and Hajira Tehsils in Poonch district.11 The Federally Administered Tribal Area along the border with Afghanistan remains contaminated as well, as evidenced by the 2,300 or more estimated mine victims currently living in the Kurram Agency.13 In Balochistan province, mine incidents occur less frequently but are still of concern.1
Future mine-action efforts will rely on the various NGOs operating in the country; help from the government seems unlikely but the possibility of renewed use of mines seems probable. Until Pakistan commits itself to abandoning the use of landmines and the establishment of national mine-action institutes, the situation will continue to claim the lives of those in the affected areas.
Kateland Shane has worked as an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Mine Action since May 2006. She graduated from James Madison University in May 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in technical communication. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in technical communication at JMU.
- "India and Pakistan Lay Mines." The Terror Trade Times. Amnesty International. http://www.amnesty.org/. Accessed 31 July 2007.
- "Kashmir in a Death Trap of Landmines." Big News Network. 24 June 2007. http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/?sid=259124. Accessed 31 July 2007.
- "LM Report 2006: Pakistan." Landmine Monitor 2006. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. http://www.icbl.org/lm/country/pakistan. Accessed 31 July 2007.
- "Pakistan: Landmine and UXOs continue to endanger life in isolated tribal belt." Laying Landmines to Rest? Humanitarian Mine Action. IRIN In-Depth. http://www.irinnews.org/InDepthMain.aspx?InDepthId=19&ReportId=62818&Country=Yes. Accessed 31 July 2007.
- "Pakistan landmine kills 28 in wedding party." World Landmine News. Landmine Survivors Network. http://www.landminesurvivors.org/news_article.php?id=544. Accessed 31 July 2007.
- Khan, Zarar. "Bombers Kill More Than 50 in Pakistan." ABC News. 19 July 2007. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=3392940&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312. Accessed 31 July 2007.
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 1 August 2007. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
- Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 October 1980. http://www.ccwtreaty.com/KeyDocs/ccwtreatytext.htm. Accessed 1 August 2007. This Convention is also referred to as the CCW or CCCW.
- "Afghanistan-Pakistan: Agencies urge rethink on border landmines plan." Relief Web. http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/KHII-6YL3ZP?OpenDocument. Accessed 31 July 2007.
- "Pakistan Will Fence, But Not Mine, Border With Afghanistan." Voice of America News. 8 February 2007. http://www.voanews.com/bangla/archive/2007-02/2007-02-08-voa11.cfm. Accessed 1 August 2007.
- "Multi-sector Mine Action Project in District Rawalakot, AJK." Response International. http://www.responseinternational.org.uk/downloads/AJK_FCO_MA_website.doc .. Accessed 1 August 2007.
- "Annual Review 2007." Mines Advisory Group. http://www.magclearsmines.org/silo/files/422.pdf. Accessed 1 August 2007.
- "Pakistan." Response International. http://www.responseinternational.org.uk/pakistan_project2.htm. Accessed 22 February 2008.
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