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.
A would-be assassin wounded former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as he led his followers in a protest march calling for snap elections. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed explains the causes and possible consequences of the country’s latest political tumult.
Political instability intensified amid failed assassination attempt on former PM Imran Khan; Pakistani Taliban continued deadly attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while border forces clashed with Afghan Taliban.
Attack on Khan further fuelled political tensions. Assassination attempt on Khan in Punjab district’s Wazirabad city 3 Nov killed one and injured Khan as well as 14 others, including leaders of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party; police arrested shooter at scene. As protests erupted in major cities, Khan next day accused PM Sharif, interior minister and senior intelligence official of “hatching a conspiracy” to kill him and urged supporters to continue protests. Military 4 Nov condemned Khan’s “baseless and irresponsible allegations”. Khan 9 Nov tweeted he would disclose name of “second officer” allegedly involved in plot. Khan’s “long march” 10 Nov resumed in Wazirabad. After govt 25 Nov announced General Asim Munir as new chief of army, Khan next day called off march and announced decision to quit all provincial legislatures; 28 Nov announced decision to dissolve PTI-led parliaments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces to have elections; govt vowed to prevent dissolution.
Pakistani Taliban continued deadly attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistani Taliban claimed series of lethal assaults: notably, militants 16 Nov killed six police in Lakki Marwat district and two soldiers in Bajaur district 15-16 Nov. Pakistani Taliban, blaming military for escalating security operations, 29 Nov ended tenuous ceasefire, calling on fighters to “carry out attacks wherever and whenever you can”. Series of unclaimed attacks continued: notably, militants 5 Nov gunned down police constable in Mardan district; militant attack 9 Nov killed two police constables in South Waziristan district. Police 19 Nov reported 151 militants in province in 2022 had killed 105 police personnel.
Deadly border firefight erupted with Afghan Taliban. Cross-border attack on Pakistani side of Chaman border crossing 13 Nov killed Frontier Corps soldier, leading to hour-long exchange of fire with Taliban fighters; local media next day reported firefight killed five Afghan Taliban militants. Clashed 15 Nov reportedly erupted in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. Afghan Taliban reportedly agreed to punish perpetrators following meeting with Pakistani counterparts 21 Nov.
Rather than punishing the Afghan people and making life difficult for them, we can restructure the sanctions regime so it targets the Taliban.
I don’t believe that Pakistan has the capability to straight out make peace happen in Afghanistan, but they definitely have the capability to make peace not [happen].
A local jihadist group and a violent protest movement are driving renewed sectarian strife in Pakistan. To prevent a slide back into violence, Islamabad should ensure those inciting or perpetrating violent acts are prosecuted while denying hardliners the civic space to propagate their hatred.
Kicked out of office, former Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps denying his successor’s legitimacy. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to help Pakistan's new government ward off violence, expand the social safety net and promote electoral reforms.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Crisis Group trustee and leading South Asia expert Ahmed Rashid talk about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster, and the domestic and foreign policy challenges facing his successor, Shahbaz Sharif.
Imran Khan has become the first Pakistani prime minister to lose office through a parliamentary no-confidence vote. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed explains that his ouster occurred by constitutional means, but his challenge to the new government’s legitimacy could lead to violence.
The renewed militancy prompted by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan threatens hard-won gains for the women of northwest Pakistan.
Women in north-western Pakistan have long been at the forefront of activism to bring peace and security to the region. More work is needed on legal, political and economic reforms for their protection and to help them make the greatest contribution possible to civic life.
Islamabad must tread carefully with its long-time Taliban allies back in power in Kabul. Pitfalls lie ahead for Pakistan’s domestic security and its foreign relations. The Pakistani government should encourage Afghanistan’s new authorities down the path of compromise with international demands regarding rights and counter-terrorism.
The Taliban’s return to power raises questions not only about how the movement will use its newfound authority but also about what Afghanistan’s neighbours will do in response. Crisis Group experts offer a 360-degree view of these countries’ initial reactions and what is behind them.
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