In 2023, Pakistan witnessed 1524 violence-related fatalities and 1463 injuries from as many as 789 terror attacks and counter-terror operations.This includes nearly 1000 fatalities among civilians and security forces personnel. The overall fatalitiesincluding those of outlaws mark a record 6-year high, exceeding the 2018 level and highest since 2017.Moreover, the country saw a surge in violence for the third consecutive year with an uptick recorded each year beginning from 2021.
KP and Balochistan provinces were the primary centers of violence, accounting for over 90% of all fatalities and 84% of attacks (including incidents of terrorism and security forces operations) recorded during this period.Punjab and Sindh were relatively peaceful as together, both these provinces suffered only 8% of all fatalities in 2023.
The year 2023also recorded an alarming surge in violence by about 56% – an unprecedented escalation in the last ten years, with the overall number of fatalities increasing from 980 in 2022 to 1524 in 2023. This includes a staggering 57% uptick recorded in Balochistan and 55% in KP. Punjab saw a 96% rise in violence though the number of fatalities was very low, followed by Sindh where the fatalities increased by 26%.
Nearly 65% of all violence-related fatalities recorded in 2023 resulted from terrorism, while the remaining 35% from the security forces operations against the outlaws.
The country suffered as many as 586 terror attacks this year, with only 17% of them claimed by the banned terror outfits such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Daish (Islamic State Khorasan) and others. The security forces conducted as many as 197 operations against outlaws leaving 537-545 of them dead.
The number of terrorist and insurgent attacks surpassed security operations against outlaws by almost three times, resulting in a higher number of casualties among both civilians and security personnel compared to the casualties among outlaws. In addition to three major types of violence – security operations, terror attacks, and insurgency – two other manifestations of violence stemming from political turmoil in the country have also contributed to casualties.
Although the fatalities among outlaws were the highest when compared to those of security officials and civilians, the combined fatalities of security officials and civilians were nearly double the number of outlaws’ fatalities. Furthermore, the security officials and civilians experienced more than twice the number of terror incidents compared to the total count of security operations conducted against the outlaws.
With over 500 fatalities and 299 terror attacks suffered, 2023 was the deadliest year for security forces in nearly a decade, exceeding the 2015 level and highest since 2014.Moreover, this year, their fatalities surged and an uptick recorded in the terror attacks they suffered for the third consecutive year beginning from 2021.
Contrary to the declining trend that had persisted since 2015, an alarming reversal occurred in 2021, which was coincidently the year when the Afghan Taliban had regained their control in Afghanistan.
Throughout the year, Baloch insurgents and jihadi militants exhibited heightened activity, with a total of 101 terror attacks claimed by them this year. Baloch insurgents claimed responsibility for 32 attacks, showcasing BLA as the most prolific insurgent outfit with 24 executed attacks. The remaining attacks were attributed to other groups such as the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT). The Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) also claimed responsibility for three attacks.
Meanwhile, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for 49 attacks, and two more attacks as its joint venture with Lashkar-e-Islami (LI), setting a new trend in its operation. The recently emerged militant group Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) ranked second, claiming responsibility for six attacks as its own crime while two more attacks it claimed along with Daish and BLA. The Islamic State (Daish) also asserted involvement in five attacks, while Ansar al-Jihad (AaJ), another recently emerged militant outfit, claimed responsibility for one attack (Table 05).
One of the major causes of escalation of fatalities of civilians and security personnel was the use of most lethal form of attacks by the militants and the insurgents – the suicide bombers. There were 853 casualties from 31 suicide attacks (287 lost their lives while 566 were wounded). The security officials were the highest victims of suicide attacks, bearing the brunt of 19 attacks suffering 150 fatalities and 310 injuries, while the civilians were targets of 10 attacks suffering 135 fatalities and 256 injuries. Two suicide attempts were thwarted by the timely action of the security forces resulting in the death of two militants when they detonated themselves.
Of the 31 suicide attacks, 25 were reported from KP and 6 from Balochistan. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its splinter groups claimed responsibility for 8 suicide attacks, while a newly formed militant outfit, Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) claimed for 2 suicide attacks. Daish (Islamic State) also claimed one attack and another one was claimed jointly by TTP and Daish in Balochistan. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) also claimed a suicide attack that was carried out by a female. This was the second incident of a suicide attack by a female activist of BLA, the first occurred last year at Karachi University targeting Chinese educationists.
The suicide attacks surged from three incidents in 2020 to 6 in 2021, with the upward trend continuing since then, reaching up to 31 suicide attacks this year, marking four times escalation.
An alarming upsurge in sectarian violence was recorded this year. In 2023, acts of terrorism directed at religious communities and their places of worship resulted in the tragic loss of 203 lives, 88 of them were security officials. Among the affected, Sunni Muslims had the highest number of fatalities, followed by Shia and Shia Hazara communities. Persons from diverse religious backgrounds like Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Ismaili communities, also fell victim to violence, targeted solely due to their religious identities (Table 07).