The statistics from the recent comparative study of the US State Department’s country reports on terrorism for 2014 and 2015 show what many in Pakistan have already known; the number of terrorist attacks in the country is decreasing, but the deadliness of each attack is increasing.

According to the study, there were a total of 1,009 terrorist attacks in Pakistan in 2015, compared to 1,823 in 2014, which is a 45 percent decrease. The total deaths in the attacks — 1,081 in 2015 compared to 1,761 in 2014 — went down by 39pc. However, in 2015, there were 1.10 deaths per attack, compared to 0.99 in 2014.

The 0.11 percent increase in deaths doesn’t seem like a large figure in isolation, but when we consider sheer devastation caused by individual attacks that have taken place during the past years – such as the Army Public School Peshawar attack and the Quetta National hospital attack – we can begin to appreciate the true scope of these numbers, and to understand the changing nature of terrorism in the country.

When the tribal belt was under the influence of militants and embedded terrorist groups, the objective behind attacks was to maintain that influence – hence the prime target was military personnel and installations. Smaller sporadic attacks against hard targets coupled with sectarian violence were the modus operandi – necessary to keep up the extremist ideological facade.

Since the military operation has started these spaces have been squeezed and the extremists have been forced to go underground – which usually translates to either moving across the border to Afghanistan, or to relocate to major urban centres like Karachi or Lahore where they get lost in the multitude. Since winning space back is no longer possible, the attacks have taken of a tone of retribution. Attacks now don’t need to have strategic benefits; in fact, they are picked to cause the most psychological harm possible. Killing children in APS, bombing a public park in Lahore, attacking a nationalistic gathering at Wagah border, all are meant to damage the psyche – and cause true terror.

Hence the per attack ratio of death has gone up, densely populated targets are picked and inflicting maximum causalities is the objective, and it seems this new modus operandi is here to stay.

Our anti-terror policy must change to reflect this. It is time to divert resources from the tribal belt to the protection of urban centres – that is set to be the new battleground in the war on terror.