As the first quarter of 2016 ends, the overall law and order situation in the country does not seem to have changed on a larger scale, but has shown significant decrease in some parts.
According to the Centre for Research and Security Studies Pakistan’s (CRSS) first quarter report of 2016 which focuses on fatalities in Pakistan, Punjab saw an increase in violence whereas Sindh achieved a decline as compared to the CRSS’s annual report of 2015.
The report states that according to analysts, Punjab is predicted to be the target by extremists as their room to manoeuvre has been systematically choked in other parts of the country, particularly the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Karachi.
At least 163 people were killed in violent incidents in Punjab whereas in the first quarter of 2015 only 81 had passed. Given the bombing in Lahore on March 27 that saw 72 people dead, the focus of the anti-extremism drive finally shifted to Punjab.
The next quarter will begin to paint a better picture of the efficacy of the Punjab operation, aimed at eliminating both militants and criminals.
Sindh, on the other hand, has consistently been the most violent province in the country, with Karachi claiming thousands of lives each year. This year it claimed only 152 fatalities compared to 368 in the first quarter of 2015.
With the exception of one hand grenade attack, no incidents of suicide attacks or bomb explosions were reported from the province of Sindh during this year, the report says. Most of the fatalities resulted from security operations or target killings. Of the 107 victims of security operation, 42 belonged to banned militant organisations such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Al Qaeda in Indian Sub-continent, TTP-Abid Muchar group, and Daesh or ISIS.
In Balochistan, violence claimed 181 lives while 79 were injured during the first quarter of 2016, registering a near 20 per cent increase from the same period in 2015 which was 150. The major incident of violence in the province was the suicide attack that struck a polio office in Quetta on January 14 leaving 12 policemen, two civilians, and one soldier dead. The banned TTP had claimed the attack. One of the claimants of this attack, Jundullah said that their target was the staff of the polio office.
Across Pakistan, as many as 872 people lost their lives and 573 sustained injuries during the first quarter of the year. In the first three months of the previous year, this number was calculated around 1,360.
This number does not include 53 Pakistani militants killed in Afghanistan and Syria. Last year, 14 Pakistani militants were killed in Afghanistan.
FATA remains the region in Pakistan with the most number of casualties (239), followed by Balochistan (181), Punjab (163), Sindh (152), and KP (126).
The ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb, has slowed down now as it goes into its final phase. The epicentre of the operation still remains the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), where the victims of conflicts are reported to be the highest in the entire region during this quarter: 128 fatalities in 2015 and 176 in 2016. In fact, the NWA Agency is the most violent district in Pakistan at the moment, followed by Karachi with 140 fatalities in Q1, 2016.
The number of militants eliminated in the FATA region in security operations during this quarter was 103. The majority of them belonged to different splinter groups of the TTP. Militants belonging to the Haqqani Network of the Afghan Taliban lost their lives in a US drone attack in the border area of Kurram Agency.
Suicide attacks, armed attacks, and IED explosions were the only forms of violence that recorded higher number of fatalities during this quarter when compared to the first quarter of 2015. The fatalities from all other forms of violence were significantly lower than the figures recorded in the comparative period.