ISLAMABAD - A leading rights group in Pakistan says deaths due to violence-related incidents, including bombings and other militant attacks in the country, fell 40 percent in 2015.
In its annual report released Friday, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) documented 4,612 deaths compared to 7,622 fatalities in the previous year.
The findings support official claims of a reduction in casualties because of successes in the army's counter-militancy operations against bases of the anti-state Pakistani Taliban near the Afghan border.
In Photos: Lahore Suicide Bombing
The report comes after Sunday’s suicide bombing in a park in Lahore that killed at least 72 people, including members of the minority Christian community, who were celebrating Easter.
Speaking to reports at the launch of the report in Islamabad, HRCP’s Kamran Arif told reporters his organization recorded 706 militant attacks in Pakistan, the lowest number since 2008.
Arif also said that violence against religious minorities, including Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, killed hundreds of people in Pakistan last year while discrimination and persecution forced “several thousand” others to leave Pakistan to seek asylum abroad.
“Blasphemy laws remained an area of concern. Twenty-two people were charged under the blasphemy laws. These included 15 Muslims, four Christians and three people following the Ahmadi faith,” he said.
Critics have long demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy laws, which carry the death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, saying influential people use them to settle personal disputes.
But Islamist parties are strongly opposed to any amendments and staged a four-day sit-in protest in the heart of the Pakistani capital this week to warn against attempts to change the blasphemy laws.
The demonstrators damaged government and private property during the protest and dispersed on Wednesday after receiving assurances that the government plans no changes in the laws, according rally leaders and key government ministers.
There was no immediate official reaction available to the HRCP report.