ISLAMABAD: Violence-related incidents declined in 2016 as compared to the year before, and casualties from violence were half the number of casualties in 2015, the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) annual security report revealed.

Released on Tuesday, the report recorded a 66pc fall in violence-related incidents since 2014, but noted that terrorist groups have changed their strategy for suicide attacks and instead of sending in one suicide bomber to a location, sent two.

It said militants, facing military operations and law enforcement, had begun to flee the county and had devised new strategies. The report said the targeting of geographical areas and population centres that were less protected was unprecedented, and militants also begun deploying a wider array of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers despite strong resistance from security personnel.

“Karachi has seen the most improvement, with urban crime and target killings on the decline. Compared to 1,671 people killed in target killing incidents in 2013, 183 people lost their lives in 2016,” report states.

However, the report noted that threats still exist and operate. For instance, the report said, sectarian violence has increased even if deaths resulting from it have fallen significantly.

The report also said that while many terror attacks are not categorised as sectarian violence, the motivations arise from mindsets influenced by religious hatred. It noted the surge in attacks on polio vaccination teams and the mob attack on an Ahmadi place of worship in Chakwal as examples of this trend.

According to the report, violence in Balochistan spiked while violence in Fata and Sindh fell considerably.

The report said the persistence of militancy in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reflected a rapidly evolving militancy strategy and the difficulty for law enforcement authorities to adapt to the changes.

In Sindh, two suicide attacks were foiled by security guards while no such attacks were thwarted by security forces in Balochistan or KP. The report also noted an incident of extreme negligence in Mardan, where 11 ‘hardcore terrorists’ escaped from police custody.

The new strategy in carrying out suicide attacks was a big reason for their successes, the report said. It said the multiple claims of violence by various militant outfits reflected the similarities in their approaches, and considering Islamic State or any other militant outfit to be more brutal or barbarous does not carry weight in view of the crimes they have committed.

The report also said Balochistan and Fata are two important regions in the country that continue to manifest extremism and insurgency in the form of armed conflict.

Throughout the country, nearly 2,068 suspects were arrested in 2016, some with known identities and groups.

The report said only 14 of them were apprehended in Fata, which raises a serious question about the prevailing law enforcement mechanism in the area. The report added that 349 militants were killed in the region.

The only changed observed so far in the government narrative, in the report, is the downgrading of militants from ‘disgruntled brothers’ to ‘foreign agents funded by foreign intelligence agencies’, particularly India.

The report argued that the narrative may be useful in hunting down ‘hardcore’ militants but may not be effective enough to change the mindset that gets average citizens riled up and leads to, in some cases, mob attacks.

It said long-term, softer strategies are needed to combat the root cause of terrorism, which is extremism itself.