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

Iran and Pakistan launched tit-for-tat cross-border strikes on alleged insurgents, militants continued deadly attacks in provinces along Afghan border and country prepared for 8 Feb general election. 

Iran launched cross-border strikes, prompting Pakistani retaliation. Dispute erupted after Iran 16 Jan launched cross-border strikes on village in Balochistan’s Panjgur district, claiming to target “strongholds” of Jaish al-Adl – anti-Iranian Baloch militant group. Pakistan claimed strike killed two children and recalled its ambassador in Tehran. Pakistan 18 Jan launched strikes on village near Iranian border city of Saravan, claiming to target Pakistani Baloch militants. De-escalating crisis, Tehran and Islamabad 29 Jan struck agreement on FM-level coordination mechanism and stationing military liaison officers at border. 

Militant attacks continued in provinces bordering Afghanistan, including on election candidates. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants 9 Jan killed six police constables and injured 28 in Bajaur district; militants next day shot dead three constables in Kohat district. Assailants 10 Jan shot dead election candidate in North Warizistan district. In Balochistan province, bomb 13 Jan killed five soldiers in Kech district. In Turbat town, assailants 25 Jan killed police constable in attack on election official’s office. Baloch militants 30 Jan killed four security personnel and two civilians in Mach city. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry 2 Jan said over 500,000 Afghans had been “repatriated” under ongoing forcible deportation drive. Head of Deobandi party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam –Fazl (JUI-F) 8 Jan met senior Afghan Taliban officials and, reportedly, the Emir (see Afghanistan). 

Opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) faced setbacks ahead of 8 Feb elections. After former PM Imran Khan 26 Dec appealed to Supreme Court in bid to remove ban from public office ahead of polls, Khan’s main competitor Nawaz Sharif 8 Jan overcame last legal hurdle to contest polls after Supreme Court overturned lifetime ban. Supreme Court 13 Jan upheld Election Commission ruling that denied PTI its recognisable election symbol; PTI candidates will now contest election as independents. In further blow to PTI, special court 30 Jan sentenced Khan to ten years imprisonment in diplomatic cable case; Khan’s lawyers lodged appeal. In third conviction, court 31 Jan sentenced Khan to fourteen years imprisonment for illegally selling state gifts.

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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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