A fragile democratic transition faces the dual challenges of political instability and poorly designed counter-terrorism strategies that sacrifice long-term peace for perceived short-term security goals, fuelling militancy in various parts of the country. Across the border, rival India accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and even sponsoring deadly attacks on Indian soil. There is no resolution in sight to the two countries’ dispute over Kashmir, which continues to claim soldiers’ and civilians’ lives along the Line of Control. Crisis Group monitors Pakistan’s domestic politics and security, with the aim of informing Pakistani leaders and international stakeholders about effective strategies for countering instability within the country and preventing its spillover abroad. 

CrisisWatch Pakistan

Unchanged Situation

Court handed former PM Imran Khan prison sentence as govt signalled potential delay to elections, while deadly militant attacks roiled provinces bordering Afghanistan.

Authorities imprisoned Imran Khan and banned him from politics. Police 5 Aug arrested Imran Khan following court order which sentenced him to three years imprisonment for allegedly selling state gifts received in official capacity; Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called for peaceful protests but response was limited amid heavy police deployment. Citing conviction, election commission 8 Aug declared Khan banned from contesting elections for five years. Federal Investigation Authority 19 Aug registered case against Khan and former FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi under Official Secrets Act 1923, and same day arrested Qureshi, over alleged misuse of diplomatic cable at public rally. Appeals court 29 Aug suspended Khan’s three-year sentence; court next day ordered Khan to remain in judicial custody until mid-Sept pending investigation into diplomatic cable case.

Uncertainty pervaded timing of upcoming elections. Govt 5 Aug claimed upcoming general election – set to be held by Nov – must be based on new census, which implies polls could be delayed by several months; PTI 17 Aug vowed to challenge decision at Supreme Court. President 9 Aug ordered parliament’s dissolution and govt 12 Aug appointed Senator Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar as caretaker PM.

Militants continued deadly attacks in provinces bordering Afghanistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s North Waziristan district, suicide bomber 7 Aug killed two; IED 20 Aug killed 11 labourers en route to construction project; Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants 22 Aug ambushed two military vehicles, killing six soldiers and four militants. In Balochistan province, roadside bomb 7 Aug killed seven, including Balochistan Awami Party member, in Kech town. Balochistan Liberation Army 13 Aug attacked vehicles carrying Chinese engineers in Gwadar port city. Amid tensions with Afghan Taliban, FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari 1 Aug said Pakistan could act in “self-defence” in Afghanistan (see Afghanistan).

Blasphemy allegations triggered rampage in Punjab. Mob of several hundred Muslims 16 Aug attacked Christian settlement in Faisalabad district, Punjab province, after two locals were accused of “blasphemy”; mob desecrated churches and ransacked properties.

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In The News

22 Aug 2023
As Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban severed, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also gotten cold feet in their engagement [with the Taliban]. The Cradle

Ibraheem Bahiss

Analyst, Afghanistan

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