ISLAMABAD -- More than 28,000 militants have been killed in the war against terrorism in Pakistan in the past 15 years, according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS).
A remarkable decline has taken place in militant attacks in Pakistan, particularly during the past two years since the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014, a recent PICSS report said. The operation continues to this day in North Waziristan.
The security situation in Pakistan has improved to such an extent that the average number of militant attacks per month has dropped from 161 to 45, it said.
The turning tide has discouraged militancy and led to a significant improvement in the security situation across the board in Pakistan, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), according to the PICSS.
Successful counter-terrorism operations
"The Pakistani army has conducted a number of operations in different areas of KP and Waziristan in the past 15 years that led to heavy casualties among the militants," Peshawar-based security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah told Pakistan Forward.
The military first carried out operations against militants in Swat and Malakand and then extended its operations to Khyber Agency, he said.
"Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the most successful military operation, which eliminated the infrastructure, networks, training camps and bomb-making centres of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP], al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in KP and North Waziristan," he said.
Terrorist attacks and kidnapping for ransom by militants have ebbed in 2016 mainly because of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, he said.
A few years ago, links to all the terrorists' networks and major attacks were found in Waziristan, especially North Waziristan, where the terrorist groups had established their strongholds and no-go areas, he said.
"After Zarb-e-Azb, the leaders of terrorist groups moved to Afghanistan," Shah said.
The militants who attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, Quetta Civil Hospital in August and the Balochistan Police Training College in October received instructions from their leaders in Afghanistan, an indication that hard-core terrorists have been forced to leave Pakistan, he said.
The Pakistani government should further tighten security at the border with Afghanistan and take strict action against militant groups that have been supporting the TTP or the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) in Pakistan, he said.
Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif is set to retire November 29, Shah said, adding that the impending change of command will not affect the war against terrorists.
Militancy cannot be eliminated by military force alone, PICSS Managing Director Abdullah Khan said.
"The one-dimensional policy of using only hard force can never create a long-lasting impact," he told Pakistan Forward. "After clearing all of FATA from the militants, the Pakistani government is in a stronger position to open a political channel for militants who want to reconcile and shun violence."
The government must also devise a comprehensive national strategy to fight extremism and militancy on the ideological front, he said.
"Balochistan is the prime target of terrorists, and the province must have the best police force from top to bottom," he said.
The federal and provincial governments and security organisations should identify potential militant safe havens and tighten security to thwart terrorist attacks, he said.
"After FATA and KP, Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan, has been the major victim of terrorism in the past," Karachi Union of Journalists President Imtiaz Khan Faran told Pakistan Forward.
"The security operation launched in Karachi on September 5, 2013, not only restored peace in the city but also eliminated safe havens, strongholds and no-go areas of Taliban and other banned militant outfits," he said.
The dedication of the para-military Rangers, police and intelligence agencies made Karachi safe from terrorism, he said, adding that authorities have not reported a single major terrorist attack in the city in 2016.
"The provincial government and security organisations must show zero tolerance for religious and ethnic parties that pose a threat to peace in Karachi and could once again unleash terrorism in the city in the future," he said.