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 crucial vote is drawing near in Pakistan with former Prime Minister Imran Khan behind bars and his party alleging bias in election commission and caretaker government decisions. As the country is deeply polarised, disputes could turn ugly. Authorities can still avoid the worst-case scenarios.
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.
As Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban severed, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also gotten cold feet in their engagement [with the Taliban].
Pakistan has started repatriations that could force millions of Afghans back to their crisis-wracked home country. As Crisis Group expert Ibraheem Bahiss explains in this Q&A, the policy could bring further trouble to the region, notwithstanding Islamabad’s efforts to justify itself on security grounds.
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.
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.
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.
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