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.
Two large attacks on police installations have rocked Pakistan, compelling the authorities to rethink their approach to countering militancy. Their dilemma is that the insurgents’ main supporters – the new authorities in Afghanistan – are also their long-time allies.
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.
As Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban severed, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also gotten cold feet in their engagement [with the Taliban].
As Pakistan faces interlocking crises that threaten the outbreak of violence, political stability is of the utmost importance. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Spring Update, Crisis Group explains what the EU can do to help.
The Pakistani military is getting new leadership amid political turmoil centred around former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who refuses to accept the current government as legitimate. The generals promise not to get involved, but if the dispute turns violent, they may feel compelled to intervene.
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.
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.
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