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Paktya is located in eastern Afghanistan and has a population of approximately 612 000. The main ethnic groups are Pashtuns, followed by Tajiks. The province is divided into 15 districts, including four temporary districts. It borders Pakistan and the provinces of Logar, Khost, Paktika, and Ghazni. The Kabul-Gardez highway connects the provincial capital to Kabul City and the Gardez-Khost highway runs to the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Paktya province is witnessing an active insurgency, which is reportedly constrained by strong tribal affiliations and cohesive local communities. The province is a stronghold of the Taliban, but the Haqqani Network has also become powerful in the province. The network allied with Al Qaeda foreign fighters in order to reach the provincial capital and potentially Kabul by demanding transit rights through Zurmat valley. The presence of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan is also reported.
LWJ considered four of the districts as contested, two districts as under Taliban control, and the remaining four districts, including the capital Gardez, under government control or undetermined.
ACLED collected data on 651 violent events in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 (average of 9.4 incidents per week), of which 450 were coded as ‘battles’, 176 as ‘explosions/remote violence’ and 25 as ‘violence against civilians’.
Example of incidents include two suicide attacks in Gardez in March and May 2020, and a long-lasting clash, in June 2019, between the Taliban and a police unit in Ahmadaba district. During the September 2019 presidential election, only five of twenty-two polling centres in Zurmat district were actually open. Afghan and foreign security forces carried out operations and airstrikes against insurgents in the districts of Ahmadabad, Zurmat and Sayedkaram, which also caused civilian casualties. Further examples of incidents include a Taliban attack on a convoy of provincial officials and the kidnapping of passengers on the Kabul-Gardez highway. It was also reported that militants allegedly belonging to the Khost Protection Force executed civilians on more than one occasions. ISKP attacked a Shia mosque and at least 38 worshippers were killed.
Further impact on the civilian population included, for example, collection of taxes by the Taliban from truck drivers going from Paktya to Ghazni, and the closure of polling centres.
UNAMA documented 218 civilian casualties (78 deaths and 140 injured) in 2019, representing 36 civilian victims per 100 000 inhabitants. This is a decrease of 49 % compared to 2018. The leading causes for the civilian casualties were ground engagements, followed by targeted/deliberate killings and search operations.
RS ranked Paktya in the category of provinces where the number of civilian casualties was between 26 and 50 or the first quarter of 2020, and between 76 and 100 for the second quarter.
In the period 1 March 2019 – 30 June 2020, 2 541 persons were displaced from the province of Paktya, mainly within the province itself. In the same period, 161 persons were internally displaced to Paktya, coming from Logar.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the province of Paktya, however not at high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 2.27