A continuation of the two-year trend of decline in fatalities caused by violence has been reported by the Centre of Research and Security Studies. There was a 45 percent decline in violence related incidents in 2016. Credit should be given where it is due. This is definitely a result of operation Zarb-e-Azb and other efforts to counter extremism and crime in the country.

The report, however, points out several significant aspects of the overall security situation within the country. Militants might have fled their potential hubs, but they are present within other areas of the country. They have changed their tactics and evolved their techniques. While FATA, KP, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, Islamabad and Sindh have witnessed a decline in militancy; there was a marginal increase of 10 percent in militancy in Balochistan and Punjab.

This shows that militants have new targets now. The new tactics involve targeting remote areas which are more vulnerable and have less security. Attacking ‘soft’ targets has also become more commonplace. They now send two people instead of one to ensure the attack. One can recognise the need for such manoeuvres when they cannot openly function within the societal network, but the security agencies must look to evolve accordingly as well.

In Punjab, 424 people lost their lives last year. It is the highest number of casualties occurring in Punjab during the last four years. Same is the case with Balochistan, where 220 were reported dead as a result of violent attacks.

The number of fatalities might have decreased, but incidents of sectarian violence are increasing day by day. There were 35 attacks last year that resulted in the death of 137 people. However, these are just the attacks that have been categorised as sectarian violence. Several attacks go unlabelled because of the pressure from extremist groups. This results in the infiltration of extremism within society.

Just last year, over 115 people moved out of Pakistan to join the Islamic State in Syria. 172 people were found influenced by the group and were stopped from going to Syria. The trend is alarming and calls for action.

The reason is that the ideology keeps producing more militants, and the government is too nonchalant about the application of the anti-terrorism laws, or attempting to keep the country’s narrative to be controlled by the extremists. We suffer as a result. Deaths of civilians and security personnel have increased by 53 percent compared those of militants and criminals. It is high time that the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) is ensured to reform madrassahs and end funding to radical seminaries.