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.
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.
Insecurity persisted amid surging militant attacks, political tensions remained high over timing of provincial polls, and relations with Taliban authorities in Afghanistan displayed rifts.
Pakistani Taliban and Baloch militants continued deadly attacks. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 17 Feb attacked police headquarters in Karachi city, financial hub and capital of Sindh province, killing four security personnel and civilian. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police chief 17 Feb reported 62 militant attacks in Jan. In Balochistan province, attacks continued amid reports of TTP alliance with local Baloch militant groups: notably, roadside blasts 4 Feb killed soldier in Gwadar and two soldiers in Bolan district; bomb blast 10 Feb killed two soldiers in Kohlu district. Meanwhile, TTP’s Peshawar bombing fuelled political tensions: PM Sharif 1 Feb implicitly blamed former PM Imran Khan, whose govt had backed talks with TTP, as Khan in turn blamed Sharif for security failures; senior official of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 19 Feb blamed former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Constitutional-political crisis deepened over forthcoming provincial polls. Following dissolution of legislatures in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, President Alvi (PTI loyalist) 20 Feb announced elections in both would be held on 9 April; announcement came after both provincial governors refused to set dates and election commission claimed it did not have legal authority. Sharif govt strongly rejected Alvi’s declaration, emphasising his lack of constitutional jurisdiction. Supreme Court 22 Feb took up polling date controversy; ruling coalition parties 24 Feb demanded full court hearing. Meanwhile, Khan 21 Feb announced “court arrest drive” against “attack on our constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights” and “economic meltdown” amid accusations of govt intimidation and abuses; almost 100 party activists and leaders were detained.
Govt publicly urged Afghan Taliban to address terrorism. FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari 17 Feb confirmed “uptick in terrorist activity in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul” and warned of it spreading, citing need to convince Kabul to “take on terrorism within their borders”. High-level security delegation 22 Feb met Taliban officials in Kabul to discuss TTP sanctuaries; Islamabad said authorities agreed to collaborate, but it remained unclear if engagement can stem TTP attacks.
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 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.
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.
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