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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 706, 1 January 2024

An analysis of CRSS Annual Security Report 2023



The toll on human lives was particularly pronounced among security forces, marking 2023 as the deadliest year in nearly a decade, with 500 fatalities

Dhriti Mukherjee

On 31 December, the Islamabad-based think tank, Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) released its Annual Security Report for 2023, in which it stated that in 2023, “Pakistan witnessed 1524 violence-related fatalities and 1463 injuries from as many as 789 terror attacks and counter-terror operations.” The “uptick” in violence which has been recorded since 2021, was at its highest since 2017. Of the different violent attacks, fatalities against security forces reached 500, thus continuing the three-year surge trend. Only 17 per cent of all attacks were claimed by terror groups, most prominently the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). One of the reasons cited by CRSS for the increase in violence was the use of suicide bombers, which caused 853 casualties. Further, it added that “violence stemming from political turmoil in the country has also contributed to casualties.”

Escalating numbers
The current year recorded a staggering 56 per cent surge in violence, marking a distressing departure from the previous year, with the total number of fatalities increasing from 980 in 2022 to 1524 in 2023. The report divided victims from terrorism into three categories- 31 per cent were civilians, 36 per cent were outlaws, and 33 per cent were security officials. “Nearly 65 per cent of all violence-related fatalities” were terrorist related, while “35 per cent were security force operations against the outlaws;” however, the number of terrorist attacks surpassed the latter by almost three times. Suicide attacks also drastically increased, from six in 2021 to 31 in 2023. With 2023 being the “deadliest year for security forces in nearly a decade,” CRSS observed that the reversal that began in 2021 was “coincidently the year when the Afghan Taliban had regained their control in Afghanistan.”

Regional concentrations: Hotspots and disparities
From a regional perspective, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan emerged as the primary hotspots, collectively contributing to over 90 per cent of all fatalities and 84 per cent of recorded attacks. KP recorded a 55 per cent uptick and faced 184 militant attacks, while Balochistan recorded 57 per cent and faced at least 170 militant attacks. The report also mentioned that out of the “31 suicide attacks, 25 were reported from KP and 6 from Balochistan.”

In sharp contrast, Punjab and Sindh, accounted for only 8 per cent of the total fatalities. Punjab, however, witnessed an unprecedented rise in militant attacks, which reached 14 in 2023 compared to three in 2022, killing 20 people. The regional disparities underscore the localized nature of the security challenges, highlighting the need for region-specific policies and a possible fine-tuning of counter-terrorism strategies.

The toll on lives: Security forces and civilians at risk

The toll on human lives was particularly pronounced among security forces, marking 2023 as the deadliest year in nearly a decade, with 500 fatalities. Civilians, too, faced the brunt, with close to 1,000 fatalities. Terrorism accounted for nearly 65 per cent of all violence-related deaths, while security forces’ operations against outlaws contributed to the remaining 35 per cent. Attacks targeting religious communities and places of worship resulted in 203 deaths, with Sunni Muslims suffering the highest number of fatalities. The escalating toll on lives, especially within security forces, raises critical questions about the effectiveness of the existing law and order situation highlighting the need for a recalibration of security measures to safeguard both civilian populations and those tasked with ensuring national security.

The multiplicity of terror groups

As mentioned above, only 17 per cent of a total of 586 terror attacks this year were claimed by banned terror outfits like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Daish (Islamic State Khorasan), and others. The remaining attacks were attributed to other groups such as the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT), and the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA). The TTP claimed responsibility for 49 attacks including eight suicide attacks. Baloch insurgents also “exhibited heightened activity,” and the BLA was the “most prolific insurgent outfit,” claiming 32 of the 101 terror attacks carried out by Baloch militants. A newly emerged militant group, Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), ranked second in the number of attacks it claimed.

Despite various intelligence based operations conducted by the security forces of Pakistan, the flushing out of terrorists from their strongholds has proven to be a challenging affair. The number of attacks has continued to rise with increasing intensity. Given the multiplicity of actors and the cross-border nature of some of these terror outfits, poll-bound Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategy requires a relook and recalibration.

References

Pakistan’s violence-related fatalities mark a record 6-year high, 56% surge in violence recorded in 2023: CRSS Annual Security Report,” CRSS, 31 December 2023
2023 Deadliest Year For Security Forces In Nearly A Decade,” The Friday Times, 31 December 2023
Ikram Junaidi, “Violence-linked fatalities hit six-year high,” Dawn, 1 January 2024

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