Pakistan’s security improved significantly: UK Home Office report

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LONDON: The United Kingdom Home Office has declared Pakistan as a country where the state of security has significantly improved in 2018 as compared to previous years.

The Home Office report on Pakistan’s situation praised determination of security forces, especially Pakistan Army, saying that the military-led operations against militants were successful and the overall security situation improved compared to previous years.

The report has been based on Home Office’s own assessment as well as information gathered from media and various country reports.

Between 2014 and 2017, the total number of violence-related fatalities declined by over 73%, from 7,655 fatalities in 2014 to 2,057 in 2017; the number of fatalities in the first 3 quarters of 2018 (930) compared to the same period in 2017 (1,585) decreased by 41%, said the report.

The western provinces bordering Afghanistan, Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), remained the areas where most militant and sectarian violence (suicide attacks and targeted killings) occurred, with Sindh (outside of Karachi), and Punjab experiencing the least, said the report.

The report says that total 66 militant and affiliate supporter organisations were banned from 2001 to 2018. These include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Sipah-i-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP) Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) Laskar-e-T ayyiba (LeT) Sipah-i -Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) Tehrik-e-Jaffria Pakistan (TJP) Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammad (TNSM) Tehreek-e-lslami Al-Qa’ida Millat-e-lslamia Pakistan and dozens of other groups.

The report noted that although displacement continued in the tribal areas in 2017 and 2018, thousands of IDPs have returned to their areas of origin following improvements in the security situation, with over 83,000 returning in the first 9 months of 2018; however, many people have lost access to their homes and livelihoods.

Humanitarian aid is provided for many affected by conflict and natural disasters but recurring disasters, combined with chronic poverty, limit the ability of vulnerable persons to recover and result in additional displacement and humanitarian needs.

The Home Office’s report further described that Pakistan’s security and armed forces generally maintains control across the country.

The Government of Pakistan has undertaken counter-terrorism strategies, including numerous military operations, to confront the insurgent threat. These strategies have brought a significant reduction in insurgent activities and terrorist-related incidents although militant groups retain the capability to carry out mass-casualty attacks.

The Home Office said that the “major source for decline in violence in Pakistan has been the improving situation in Karachi”. Although the city was once considered a hub for political/religious militancy and urban crime, Karachi’s security situation has improved dramatically since 2014. Data collected by the CRSS (Centre for Research and Security Studies) Annual Security Report of 2017 confirms these trends.

The Home Office report said that new challenges have risen and some previous challenges continue.

The report noted: “Challenges in the Pakistan security situation also included the emergence of self-radicalised individuals and small terrorist cells, growing religious radicalism including on educational campuses, cross-border attacks by Pakistani militants based in Afghanistan and the growing footprint of Daesh.

“Between 2014 and 2017, the total number of violence-related fatalities (including civilians, security forces and militants) declined by over 73%, from 7,655 fatalities in 2014 to 2,057 in 2017. Casualties of violence increased in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the previous quarter, up from 521 to 964 (397 dead, 567 wounded).

“More than 50% of these casualties were recorded in Balochistan alone, followed by KP, Sindh, FATA, and Punjab. However, compared to the previous 3 quarters in 2017, the total number of fatalities during the same period in 2018 declined by 41% (1,585 in 2017 and 930 in 2018).”

The Home Office referred to the Freedom House report Freedom in the World 2018 and noted that the reduction in terrorist-related fatalities was largely due to the military’s suppression of an Islamist insurgency in KPK and the FATA and the pacification of unrest in Karachi.

It said that Karachi operation, previously under Zarb-e-Azb and now under Raddul- Fasaad, is also continuing and there has been a documented dramatic decline in violence.