Efforts by Pakistan's security forces to counter terrorism are proving successful, but the government also needs to adopt a tougher approach toward terrorist facilitators, say security and political analysts.
"Now Pakistan has to make sure it will not spare those who facilitate the terrorists," said Rasul Baksh Raees, a Pakistani political scientist.
Raees told VOA that a comprehensive, 20-point "National Action Plan," involving the intelligence agencies, police, government and army, has contributed to a significant drop in attacks. Raees issued his assessment when asked about a new report which noted a significant decline in terrorism and sectarian violence in the past few years.
The report, from Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Authority, or NACTA, concluded that security forces have killed more than 1,800 militants and arrested around 5,500 suspected terrorists since the action plan went into effect two years ago.
NACTA’s progress report was presented before a committee in the National Assembly last week and based on terrorism data from December 2014 to the present.
The report recommends that concrete steps be taken to completely cut the money supply of terrorists, while highlighting NACTA’s efforts to compile the data of suspected Pakistani citizens who have traveled to war-torn countries and possibly joined the ranks of Islamic State.
"There were reports that scores of Pakistani citizens have traveled to the conflict zones to join the Islamic State. Through a data-based system, we are compiling information of such suspects; after verification we will hand it over to the federal and provincial governments," Ihsan Ghani, the director of NACTA, said in an interview with VOA. The citizens in question traveled to places such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but did not return after their visas had expired.
Ghani said the initial list for suspected militants has been compiled, adding that, "Once the verification of the data is completed, NACTA will work to devise a framework based on the recommendations." He also said, "There should be strict laws to stop these nationals from going and joining terror groups or to punish them."
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump put Pakistan "on notice" for failing to crack down on some militant groups, and for providing covert support to others such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. He threatened to reduce U.S. assistance to the country unless Pakistan did more to crack down on banned groups.
Islamic State has become a growing concern in Pakistan lately. Although IS does not have a stronghold in the country, many militant groups and individuals have pledged allegiance to the terrorist group and have conducted terror attacks on their behalf in Pakistan.
Pakistan's army recently launched a ground offensive, called Operation Khyber-4, to eradicate the Islamic State group’s militants from the semi-autonomous tribal region.
In addition to curbing extremism, authorities are making efforts to stop hate speech in the country, said the report. Officials say the government will launch a mobile phone app aimed at providing help to assess hate speeches so that the provincial and federal governments can act accordingly.
The report said a new biometric verification system was introduced to verify mobile phone SIM cards and around 93 million chips have been blocked as a result.
Hundreds of passports of suspected militants have also been blocked in an effort to curb extremism, said the report.
"Another big challenge that we are dealing with is terror financing. We want to cut all the channels through which the terrorists could possibly collect funds. It is not easy but we are heading in the right direction and have formed a task force for this purpose," Ghani said.
The statistics in the NACTA’s report say around $3 million and 5,000 bank accounts of suspected terrorists have been frozen in an effort to cut the terrorists' money supply.
But securing the country's shared borders also remains critical to Pakistan's security.
"Pakistan has to secure the porous border along Afghanistan to make sure the terrorists who find refuge on the other side of the border do not come back to resume their activities," Raees said. Bilateral relations plunged to new lows in recent months with Islamabad and Kabul accusing each other of harboring anti-state militant groups and sponsoring terrorist attacks on their respective soils.