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CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

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January 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban killed scores in suicide attack in Peshawar; tensions remained high as former PM Imran Khan campaigned for early polls and electoral dispute erupted in Sindh province.

Deadly bombing rocked Peshawar city amid spate of Pakistani Taliban attacks. Suicide attack – claimed and then denied by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – at mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines district 30 Jan killed more than 100 and injured over 200. Earlier, TTP maintained high-frequency attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, killing over dozen security forces. Notably: 6 Jan killed two police officers in Lakki Marwat district; 14 Jan killed three police officers in Peshawar; suicide attack 18 Jan killed three police officers in Khyber district. Attack from Iran in Panjgur district 18 Jan killed four soldiers. Security operation in South Waziristan district 5 Jan killed 11 militants, including top TTP commander. Meanwhile, interior minister 2 Jan said “Islamabad may target the TTP in Afghanistan if Kabul does not take action to dismantle them”.

Khan and allies maintained pressure on govt, dissolving two provincial assemblies. Khan ally and Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi 11 Jan won confidence vote in Punjab assembly, which was dissolved 14 Jan. In KP, chief minister – and member of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – 18 Jan dissolved assembly; elections now due in both provinces in April. Election commission 22 Jan appointed opposition nominee as Punjab’s caretaker chief minister; PTI 27 Jan challenged nomination at Supreme Court. Meanwhile, PTI embarked on new bid to push for early general elections by seeking to withdraw April 2022 resignations of 131 lawmakers in order to defeat PM Sharif in potential confidence vote; 45 PTI members 23 Jan withdrew resignations but failed to prevent speaker from 17, 20, 22 Jan accepting resignations of all PTI lawmakers; election commission 29 Jan announced by-elections for 86 national assembly seats in March.

Political tensions rose in Sindh province. During second phase of local polls 15 Jan, clashes and electoral disputes erupted between rival party activists; if Sindh’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and closest contender Jamaat-e-Islami fail to reach agreement on key positions, particularly Karachi’s mayor, instability in financial hub could further undermine fragile economy.

December 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Political turmoil continued to roil country amid standoff between govt and former PM Imran Khan, Pakistani Taliban launched major attacks, and border clashes continued with Afghan Taliban.

Khan’s bid to dissolve provincial assemblies awaited court decisions. After Khan late Nov threatened to dissolve two Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led govts in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, Khan 2 Dec demanded govt enter talks about snap polls or face elections “in almost 66 per cent of Pakistan”; govt same day rejected ultimatum. Punjab governor 22 Dec dismissed Punjab chief minister (Khan ally) for failing to obtain vote of confidence in assembly. Lahore High Court next day reinstated chief minister, providing assembly would not be dissolved until court 11 Jan resumed hearing on case, and 26 Dec put Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly on hold till decision on Punjab’s case. PTI leader 30 Dec claimed govt had discussed, and PTI rejected, interim govt of technocrats; cabinet minister same day denied plan, raising suspicions it was military-devised. PTI 31 Dec resumed countrywide anti-govt protests.

Attacks by Pakistani Taliban in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province sharply escalated. Pakistani Taliban claimed series of deadly assaults: notably, militants 6 Dec stormed police post in Bannu, killing constable; militants 14 Dec shot dead female schoolteacher in Peshawar; group 17 Dec attacked police station in Lakki Marwat district, killing four police constables. In significant escalation, Pakistani Taliban 18 Dec stormed facility run by Counter-Terrorism Department in Bannu, holding security personnel hostage; security forces 20 Dec launched operation, which defence minister claimed killed 33 militants, freed all hostages and left two soldiers dead. Suicide attack 20 Dec killed at least one soldier and two civilians in North Waziristan. In first such attack in capital in eight years, suicide attack by Pakistani Taliban 23 Dec killed one police officer. Groups’ attacks also spiked in Balochistan province.

Pakistani and Afghan Taliban border forces clashed. Taliban border forces 11 Dec launched cross-border artillery and mortars, killing at least seven civilians and wounding 17 in Chaman, one of main border crossings. Further clashes 15 Dec erupted, with Taliban forces opening fire on Pakistani military personnel repairing section of border fence in Chaman, killing civilian and injuring 15 others.

November 2022

Asia

Pakistan

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.

October 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions heightened as former PM Imran Khan began protest march toward capital Islamabad, raising prospect of further violent unrest and aggravating instability.

Khan maintained anti-govt campaign, vowing massive protests in capital. In parliamentary by-elections held 16 Oct for seats vacated by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers, PTI secured six out of eight seats, while ruling Muslim League failed to obtain any; Khan reiterated boycott of parliament, demanding early polls. In blow to Khan, Election Commission 21 Oct ruled former PM was guilty of “corrupt practices” for “false statements” on his assets and gifts from foreign govts or dignitaries, and declared his National Assembly seat vacant. Khan’s supporters same day held violent protests in major cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. Khan 25 Oct announced beginning of rally on 28 Oct to reach Islamabad on 4 Nov, raising risk of further unrest; Interior Minister 29 Oct released audio tape allegedly by top PTI leader speaking of protestors bringing arms to Islamabad, as authorities next day declared much of Islamabad off-limits to protestors. In first ever press conference by Inter-Services Intelligence chief, General Nadeem Anjum accompanied by head of military’s publicity wing 26 Oct rejected Khan’s U.S-backed conspiracy narrative as “far from reality” and denounced Khan’s attacks on army chief.

Insecurity and local protests continued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Military 4 Oct killed four militants in Tank district, as firefight on Peshawar outskirts killed three militants and two soldiers; 8 Oct killed two militants near Swat city; next day killed two militants in North Waziristan district. In Swat, locals held seventh protest against militant groups and threatened to take law into own hands if govt failed to act amid surge in attacks. National Security Council 14 Oct vowed to strengthen counter-terrorism infrastructure; defence minister called resurgence of “a few terrorists” in Swat “an expected spillover from Afghanistan”. After cross-border militant attack 23 Oct killed soldier in North Waziristan, military condemned “use of Afghan soil by terrorists”; last month, militants killed eight soldiers in districts bordering Afghanistan.

In other important developments. Food ministry 12 Oct reported monsoon had wiped out 40% of standing crops. Terrorism financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force 21 Oct removed Pakistan from so-called “grey list” after four years.

September 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban stepped up deadly attacks, killing several security forces personnel; political tensions remained dangerously elevated as former PM Khan continued to escalate rhetoric.

Pakistani Taliban launched deadly strikes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Despite “indefinite ceasefire” and ongoing negotiations between Pakistani Taliban and security forces, Pakistani Taliban claimed several deadly attacks: notably, three attacks on police 4 Sept, killing police constable in Lakki Marwat district; group stepped up strikes in Malakand division, where bomb 13 Sept killed eight people, including two police constables, and shooting 14 Sept killed local anti-Taliban leader. Rallies 15-16 Sept held against rising attacks in Malakand. Attack on convoy of leader of militant group Jamaat-ul-Ulema Islam 9 Sept left four police constables dead. Additionally, attacks by militants, including from Afghanistan, 13, 19 and 25 Sept killed eight Pakistani soldiers in Kurram, North Waziristan, Khyber and South Waziristan districts. Relations remained strained with Afghan Taliban govt as military and Taliban forces 14 Sept clashed at disputed border.

Political instability persisted as former PM Khan criticised govt and military. Khan sought to politicise appointment of new army chief ahead of Qamar Javed Bajwa’s retirement on 30 Nov. Khan 4 Sept accused PM Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and FM Bhutto’s Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) of opposing snap elections in order to make own appointment to prevent “strong and patriotic” army head. Military next day said it was “aghast at the defamatory and uncalled for” statement. Khan 6 Sept doubled down, asserting “Thieves – Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari – cannot be allowed to pick the new army chief”; 10 Sept warned “people could take to the streets to hold peaceful protests or we will hold elections by force”, accused military intelligence of conspiring against his party’s coalition govt in Punjab, calling on his supporters to combat threats with counter-threats. Islamabad’s High Court 19 Sept ruled to remove anti-terrorism clauses in case against Khan and 22 Sept dismissed contempt of court case against him.

Flood fallout continued. With around 33mn citizens affected by floods and estimated total damage at over $30bn (10% of GDP), Sharif 23 Sept appealed for debt relief from creditors, citing “vast scale & extent of destruction”; floods had left about 16,000 killed as of 20 Sept.

August 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Election Commission inflicted major setback to former PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, while Khan faced terrorism charges amid escalating rhetoric against military and officials. In case pending since 2014, Election Commission 2 Aug unanimously found Khan’s PTI party guilty of receiving prohibited funds from foreign nationals and foreign-based companies, also found Khan had filed submissions on party funding that were “grossly inaccurate and wrong” for five years. Calls from ruling party lawmakers that Khan be barred from public office grew louder after Khan 2 Aug announced he would contest nine constituencies in 25 Sept by-elections for seats of 11 PTI parliamentarians who had resigned from national assembly; petitions will be decided in court. In worrying sign of rising tensions, Khan and PTI social media activists amplified criticism of military high command. Military’s media arm 5 Aug condemned “false propaganda and insensitive comments” following deaths of six high-level military officers in helicopter crash on 1 Aug. Tensions further escalated as authorities 9 Aug arrested and charged with treason Khan’s Chief of Staff Shahbaz Gill after Gill previous day called on army’s rank and file to refuse “illegal orders” from high command. Khan 20 Aug accused military of backing Sharif govt and police of torturing Gill; authorities next day charged Khan under anti-terror laws for threatening two top police officials and female judge who authorised Gill’s police detention. FM Hina Rabbani Khar 27 Aug criticised Khan for holding anti-govt rallies during ongoing monsoon rain and floods that have submerged large parts of country, affecting 33mn people and claiming more than 1,000 lives. Negotiations between Pakistani authorities and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suffered setback when bomb blast 7 Aug killed four TTP leaders in Paktia province; suicide attack 9 Aug killed four soldiers in North Waziristan. Reports indicated potential TTP comeback in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province: inspector general 12 Aug alleged militants reached Swat district from Afghanistan. Militants targeting vehicle of PTI provincial lawmaker 6 Aug killed four in Lower Dir; 13 Aug killed two soldiers in Dir; 16 Aug shot dead two police constables in Tank district.

July 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions remained at all-time high as PM Khan continued to denounce govt and sought to take control of Punjab province in contentious and disputed votes. Govt and Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party tussled over control of Punjab. Supreme Court 1 July ordered by-elections for 20 constituencies of de-seated PTI lawmakers to precede election for chief minister. In by-elections 17 July, PTI won back 15 of 20 seats, while ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won four; vote proceeded relatively smoothly despite sporadic violence. Day after vote, Khan demanded chief election commissioner’s resignation and called for snap general elections; PM Sharif’s coalition partners 18 July, however, said parliament will complete its full five-year term lasting until Aug 2023. Election for Punjab’s chief minister went ahead 22 July. Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-e-Azam’s (PML-Q)’s Pervez Elahi, PTI’s candidate, received 186 votes while PML-N’s Hamza Sharif received 179 votes. However, assembly’s deputy speaker discounted 10 PML-Q’s votes, citing party as opposed to parliamentary head’s instructions and Supreme Court ruling on defections, allowing Hamza to be sworn in 22 July. Supreme Court 26 July struck down deputy speaker’s ruling, permitting Elahi to be sworn in as chief minister next day. Govt 14 July reached staff-level agreement with International Monetary Fund for $1.17bn bailout; public discontent likely to grow as govt takes steps to stem economic decline, including raising fuel and energy prices. Meanwhile, PM-led parliamentary committee 5 July formally approved ceasefire talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Despite “indefinite” ceasefire announced by group last month, militant attacks continued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Notably, militants 4 July killed two police in Tank district; 5 July killed two police officers in Dera Ismail district; 7 July killed one police and wounded four others at police station in Mardan district. In North Waziristan district, militants 11 and 14 July killed three Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami –Fazlur Rehman officials. In high-profile incident, Balochistan Liberation Army 12 July kidnapped lieutenant colonel and his cousin in Ziarat, Balochistan; militants next day shot dead colonel during military’s rescue operation, while operation to rescue his cousin 15 July killed nine militants and one soldier.

June 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions continued as former PM Khan threatened protests and warned of country’s split if no election held, while Pakistani Taliban and military continued to clash despite “indefinite ceasefire”. Political polarisation remained at all-time high. Khan 1 June asked why military had not defended country against “foreign conspiracy” that allegedly ousted his govt and warned that without “right decisions”, army would be destroyed and Pakistan could split “into three parts” and face “civil war”; Khan same day insisted rally demanding snap elections would be held despite abrupt cancellation in May. In response, Major General Babar Iftikhar 14 June stated National Security Council had been “informed categorically in detail by [intelligence] agencies that there was no evidence of any conspiracy”. Amid declining currency value and dwindling foreign exchange reserves, govt ended fuel subsidies, leading to 29% price growth on 15 June. Govt talks with International Monetary Fund progressed toward unlocking $6bn bailout; govt 24 June received $2.3bn Chinese loan. Khan 25 June called for protests on 2 July against rising inflation and legislation clipping anti-corruption body’s powers. Threat of political violence remained high, particularly in Punjab province and Karachi city, Sindh province, ahead of 17 July by-elections; vote in 20 Punjab constituencies will determine whether Chief Minister Hamza Sharif retains post. Separate by-election in Karachi 16 June saw clashes between supporters of Barevli hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP), killing one and injuring ten. Violence 26 June killed two during first phase of polls in Sindh province. Meanwhile, Pakistani Taliban 2 June formally announced “indefinite ceasefire” with govt; information minister 3 June welcomed ceasefire, but Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), key partner in govt, 12 June expressed concern over exclusion of parliament and political parties in talks. Indicating lack of support among some Taliban factions, separate attacks in North Waziristan 2, 3, 12 and 18 June killed three soldiers; exchange of fire 26 June killed two soldiers and seven militants. Govt grew closer to exiting global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force’s grey list as watchdog 17 June announced govt’s compliance with all action plan items.

May 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Former PM Khan called off anti-govt march to capital Islamabad but warned of more protests; Pakistani Taliban and military temporarily halted hostilities but sporadic attacks continued. Khan 22 May announced protest march against U.S. “imported government”, which would reach Islamabad on 25 May and remain there till early elections announced and parliament dissolved. Govt 23 March banned march and police same day raided homes of opposition leaders in Punjab state, leading to officer being shot dead in one such raid. Police barriers on main communication routes from Punjab to Islamabad sparked clashes with Khan’s supporters. Govt deployed military in sensitive areas housing key govt buildings and diplomatic missions in Islamabad. After barriers in Islamabad were removed following Supreme Court’s directives 25 May, demonstrators continued to clash with police, leaving at least 30 officers injured; Khan same day abruptly called off protest. Denying reports that his decision resulted from negotiations with military, Khan 27 May justified move due to fear of “bloodshed”; yet he warned of resuming his “jihad” against govt unless authorities set date for early elections within six days. Meanwhile, amid deteriorating economic situation, govt 26 May increased fuel prices, a key demand from International Monetary Fund (IMF), with finance minister warning of default in the absence of IMF $6bn bailout package agreed in 2019. Govt same day passed key legislation, reversing Khan’s decision to use electronic voting machines in next general elections and restricting powers of controversial anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau. Pakistani Taliban militants (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) and military temporarily ceased hostilities for ten days to mark Eid religious holiday starting 3 May; Pakistani Taliban Govt 16 May agreed to temporarily extend ceasefire to 30 May. Sporadic incidents however occurred during latter part of month. Notably, two separate militant attacks 15 May killed three soldiers and five civilians in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, and 17 May killed one intelligence official in Peshawar city. Meanwhile, militants launched separate bomb attacks in Sindh province’s capital Karachi, killing two and injuring 18 others 12 and 16 May; banned nationalist outfit Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army claimed responsibility for attacks.

April 2022

Asia

Pakistan

After losing no-confidence vote, former PM Khan called on supporters to reject new govt, risking further political and anti-West violence amid surge in militant attacks. Deputy speaker 3 April dismissed no-confidence vote in PM Khan and president of National Assembly same day dissolved assembly and retained Khan as interim PM; Supreme Court 7 April ruled both decisions were unconstitutional and called for no-trust vote to be held. Nine-party joint opposition spearheaded by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) 10 April ousted Khan through vote of no-confidence; assembly next day elected Shehbaz Sharif as PM in absence of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers, who, with exception of around two dozen dissidents, had resigned en masse. In attempt to undermine new govt’s legitimacy, Khan 10 April called for nationwide protests against “foreign conspiracy of regime change”; protests same day took place in Peshawar, Karachi, and Lahore cities, as large crowds chanted anti-U.S. slogans. Khan’s supporters on social media criticised military leadership for falling to prevent Khan’s ouster. Political infighting engulfed Punjab province after Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar resigned late March; PTI and aligned PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League –Quaid-e-Azam) parliamentarians rejected election of PM Sharif’s son on 16 April; Punjab governor’s refusal, despite Lahore High Court’s advice, to administer oath to Hamza Sharif left province without functional govt. Meanwhile, attacks by Pakistani Taliban militants on security personnel in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, particularly near Afghan border, escalated sharply. Notably, militant attack 14 April killed seven soldiers in North Waziristan district near Afghan border, where another attack killed three soldiers 23 April. Two separate militant attacks 11 and 12 April killed officer and soldier in South Waziristan district and five police officers in Dera Ismail Khan district. Spike in attacks and military casualties strained Islamabad’s relations with Afghan Taliban govt, which 16 April claimed that Pakistani military planes had bombed villages in Kunar and Khost provinces, resulting in dozens of civilian casualties, including women and children. Balochistan Liberation Army 26 April claimed suicide attack on Karachi university, killing three Chinese teachers and injuring another; group next day warned of more attacks on Chinese targets.

March 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Islamic State and Baloch militants launched attacks which killed dozens, while PM Khan saw most serious challenge to his premiership, raising risk of worsening political instability. In worrying signs of resurgent home-grown militancy, Islamic State Khorasan 4 March claimed responsibility for suicide attack on Shia mosque in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province’s capital Peshawar, killing 63 and wounding 200, marking most serious sectarian attack in city’s history. Local police 9 March identified suicide bomber as Afghan refugee, claimed to have killed three involved in attack; another alleged accomplice killed 24 March. Two soldiers killed in militant attack 21 March in Bajaur district; four soldiers killed overnight 23-24 March in North Waziristan district in cross-border attack claimed by Pakistani Taliban. Targeted militant attacks on police stations continued in KP; notably, militants 19 March killed police officer in Lakki Marwat district. In Balochistan province, Baloch militants continued to launch attacks on security personnel; notably, militants 2 March killed three including senior police officer in bomb blast in capital Quetta; suicide bomber 9 March killed six security personnel; bomb blast 15 March killed four paramilitary personnel in Sibi district, where another soldier killed in 26 March security operation. Global terrorist financing watchdog, Financial Action Task Force, 4 March kept Pakistan on grey list. PM Khan faced risk of ouster after nine-party opposition alliance spearheaded by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam 8 March submitted no-confidence motion amid perception that ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) no longer had military’s backing; Khan same day said “army stands with me”, while military 10 March responded “army has nothing to do with politics”. Amid govt efforts to curb party dissidents from supporting no-confidence vote and counter opposition with raids and arrests, National Assembly speaker (from ruling party) 25 March postponed debate. No-trust motion submitted in National Assembly on 28 March; legislature adjourned till 31 March, with vote due no later than 4 April. Khan, resorting to anti-U.S. rhetoric, 27 March claimed he had proof of opposition-backed “foreign conspiracy” to oust him; comments risk harming relations with West, already strained over govt’s refusal to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine.

February 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban and Baloch militants launched deadly attacks on military, mob incidents erupted in Punjab, and authorities increased prison sentences for defamation crime. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani Taliban 6 Feb launched cross-border attack which killed five soldiers in Kurram district; military same day condemned use of Afghan territory “for activities against Pakistan”, stated that Islamabad “expects that the interim Afghan government will not allow conduct of such activities against Pakistan in future”. In Balochistan, attacks by Baloch militants on security forces spiked late Jan-early Feb; in high-profile attack, Baloch militants 2 Feb killed five soldiers in two military camps in Nuskhi and Panjgur districts. In “clearing operation”, military 5 Feb claimed to have killed 20 Baloch militants in both districts; military 3 Feb attributed surge in Baloch militant attacks on elements based in Afghanistan. In apparent recognition that Baloch militants benefit from local support, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa 12 Feb emphasised importance of “breaking the nexus between terrorists and their sympathisers and support base” while visiting Panjgur district. Punjab province, main constituency of banned Sunni hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), saw several violent mob incidents. Notably, violent mobs 14 and 15 Feb stoned men in Khanewal and Faisalabad districts, accusing them of desecrating Quran, killing one. In Muzaffargarh district, mob 15 Feb attempted to lynch man accused of burning pages of Quran until police intervened. President Alvi 20 Feb issued ordinance amending Prevention of Electronics Crimes Act, broadening definition of defamation from “a person” to include any institution, authority or organisation, and making offense non-bailable with prison sentences increasing from three to five years; opposition politicians and media organisations immediately condemned move, said ordinance a bid to silence dissent. Islamabad High Court 24 Feb called ordinance “oppressive and draconian”. Anti-terrorism court in Karachi city 14 Feb called for arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement leader and federal parliamentarian Ali Wazir (who is already detained in case related to defaming state institutions). Meanwhile, PM Khan 24 Feb met President Putin in Russia’s capital Moscow, day Russia invaded Ukraine; Pakistani foreign ministry said Khan regretted “the latest situation” between Russia and Ukraine and called for diplomatic solution.

January 2022

Asia

Pakistan

Tensions over border fencing at Afghan border ran high as Pakistani Taliban continued to clash with security forces. Tensions flared over Pakistan’s construction of border fencing along Nangarhar district at Afghan border. After Afghan soldiers 2 Jan tried to remove section of fence, FM Qureshi 3 Jan declared border “confusion” would be quickly resolved through “diplomatic channels”; however, Taliban acting information minister same day said “issue of the Durand Line is still an unresolved one” and “construction of fencing itself creates rifts”. In response, Pakistani military 5 Jan said “purpose of the fencing is not to divide people but to protect them”, blamed problems on local Taliban commanders, said Pakistan has “good relations” with Afghan central govt. Use by Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) of Afghan territory as refuge became another point of contention during month, as insurgents continued to clash with Pakistani security forces. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP), unknown armed men 1 Jan shot dead police officer in Bannu district; clashes 5 Jan left two militants and two soldiers dead in Dera Ismail Khan and South Waziristan districts. Unidentified gunmen 9 Jan also shot dead Pakistani Taliban spokesman and operational commander, known as Mohammad Khorasani, in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province; Pakistani Taliban 13 Jan vowed to avenge his death. One police officer killed, three injured 17 Jan in TTP attack in capital Islamabad. Bomb blast in Lahore market 20 Jan also attributed by interior minister to TTP. In Balochistan province, counter-terrorism police 8 Jan claimed to have killed six Islamic State (ISIS) militants who had been planning major attack in Quetta city. Militant attack night of 26-27 Jan killed ten soldiers in Kech district. Military 27 Jan confirmed militant raid on base in Balochistan killed at least ten soldiers. Meanwhile, Election Commission of Pakistan’s Scrutiny Committee 3 Jan released report revealing ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had hidden millions in foreign funds. Following first phase of local polls held 19 Dec, commission 7 Jan announced final results of 41 out of 65 district councils in KP, with bulk of seats attributed to opposition as Pashtun Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam won 15 seats.  

December 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Ceasefire agreement between govt and Pakistani Taliban ended, while militant, religious and sectarian violence ran high, notably in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Pakistani Taliban Chief Nur Wali Mehsud 9 Dec refused to extend month long ceasefire, said attacks would resume; TTP accused Islamabad of violating ceasefire, including by not releasing 102 “imprisoned mujahideen” and continuing operations in KP province. Authorities same day said they had released more than 100 Pakistani Taliban prisoners in past weeks. As deal collapsed, violence surged in KP. Notably, Pakistani Taliban claimed attack in Tank district, which killed two police officers 11-12 Dec; unidentified assailants 12 Dec shot and injured police officer guarding polio vaccination team in Lakki Marwat district; bomb blast 17 Dec injured two in Bannu district. Meanwhile, military 18 Dec claimed three Pakistani Taliban militants killed and one soldier injured in KP’s Bajaur and North Waziristan districts. Authorities 31 Dec said two Pakistani Taliban militants killed during raids in Tank and North Waziristan districts; four soldiers also killed during operation. In Kunar province, missile attack on Pakistani Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad’s home 16 Dec injured two militants. In Balochistan province, militants 14 Dec killed soldier close to Iranian border; bomb blast 18 Dec killed one in Quetta city; grenade at checkpoint 24 Dec killed two soldiers in Kech district. Also in KP, attacks on polling stations 19 Dec erupted during first phase of local elections, leaving three dead in Karak and Kohat districts. In Sialkot city, Punjab province, hundreds of protesters 3 Dec beat Sri Lankan to death and set his body on fire, accusing him of blasphemy for having reportedly removed Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) religious poster. PM Khan same day decried attack, apologised to Sri Lanka; incident sparked controversy as it erupted shortly after federal cabinet’s Nov decision to revoke TLP ban. Pakistan 19 Dec hosted Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation; OIC member states concluded that they would seek to help UN unfreeze Afghan assets. Afghan Taliban soldiers same day stopped Pakistani military from erecting security fence on disputed border along Nangarhar district; Taliban defence minister reportedly resolved dispute.

November 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and top election body rose, govt reached ceasefire agreement with Pakistani Taliban, and militant attacks continued. Tensions between govt and Election Commission persisted, notably after commission 5 Nov released inquiry report accusing administration, law enforcement personnel and local elections officials of involvement in “pre-planned scheme” to falsify results of Feb National Assembly by-election in Punjab’s Daska constituency. Controversy further rose after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf 17 Nov passed controversial Elections Amendment Bill allowing use of electronic voting machines in 2023 elections. All major opposition parties, including Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), condemned bill, voicing concerns over data manipulation and govt’s alleged dismissal of top elections body’s concerns. Following widespread protests that led to deadly unrest in Oct, federal cabinet 7 Nov revoked April decision to ban Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) under anti-terrorism laws. TLP’s chief Saad Rizvi, detained since 11 April, was released 18 Nov, along with thousands of detained activists. Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain 8 Nov announced that Afghan Taliban-backed talks had resulted in month-long ceasefire agreement between govt and Pakistani Taliban; govt said “it would apply to both sides equally” and could be extended by mutual consent; army 27 Nov however revealed unidentified attackers killed two soldiers near Afghan border, in third incident since ceasefire. Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party said any agreement with banned Pakistani Taliban would have no legitimacy without parliamentary approval. Militant attacks persisted. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, armed assailants 1 Nov shot dead police officer in Peshawar city; soldier was killed 13 Nov while defusing roadside bomb in Swabi district; attack on checkpoint 27 Nov killed two soldiers in North Waziristan district. In Balochistan province, bomb blast targeting security forces 2 Nov injured at least 13 people in Kharan district; assailant 4 Nov shot dead soldier and parliamentarian security guard in Dera Bugti district. Bomb blasts 13 Nov killed two police officers in Turbat district and killed at least five, including two police officers, in Quetta. Five miners shot dead 21 Nov in Harnai district; attack on checkpoint 24 Nov killed two soldiers in Kech district.

October 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Violent clashes erupted between hardline Sunni group and law-enforcement agencies in Punjab; deadly militant attacks and military operations persisted. Calling for release of detained party chief and expulsion of French ambassador, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) 21 Oct vowed to march from Punjab’s Lahore city to capital Islamabad. In violent clashes, TLP activists killed seven police officers, including two in Lahore 22 Oct, and four 27-28 Oct some 50km away, while injuring more than 600 members of security forces in Punjab province. Holding negotiations with TLP leaders, interior ministry 24 Oct said it accepted TLP demands, including release of chief and detained activists. Protests for expelling French ambassador and deadly clashes with police however persisted, prompting paramilitary Rangers 27 Oct to deploy in Punjab. Information ministry 27 Oct said govt decided no further negotiations with “militant group” would take place until protests end; yet interior ministry same day said talks with TLP leadership ongoing. Meanwhile, militant attacks and security operations continued at high intensity. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani Taliban attack 2 Oct killed five soldiers in North Waziristan district. Militants 4, 16, 20 Oct killed two soldiers, police officer and local politician in North Waziristan, Hangu, Bajaur and Lower Dir districts. Bomb blast 7 Oct killed three people in North Waziristan district. Roadside bomb 20 Oct killed two soldiers and two police officers in Bajaur district. Militant attacks 22 Oct killed two soldiers in North Waziristan district; four police officers 26 Oct in Mianwali district, two soldiers 26-27 Oct night in Kurram district, and two soldiers 27 Oct in North Waziristan district. In Balochistan, roadside bomb 18 Oct killed police officer in Quetta district; militant attack 20 Oct killed soldier in Kech district. PM Khan 1 Oct disclosed govt was negotiating with some factions of Pakistani Taliban, Pakistani Taliban group in North Waziristan same day confirmed information. Interior minister 4 Oct however said no talks “have taken place yet”, and negotiations “will be carried out only with those who lay down arms” and abide by constitution.

September 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions persisted amid plans for new govt-controlled central media authority; authorities continued to debate ways to engage with new Afghan govt. Relations between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and Election Commission deteriorated after commission 7 Sept raised 37 objections to PTI’s proposal to introduce electronic voting machines in next general election, stressed mechanism’s inability to counter all types of fraud; in response, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry 10 Sept called commission’s logic “strange”, Federal Railways Minister Azam Swati same day accused body of taking bribes to rig election, called for such institutions to be “set on fire”. Journalist unions 11 Sept rejected govt’s proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority, which would be authorised to regulate all media, said it was “unconstitutional”, a step to “muzzle” freedoms. Members of media, lawyers’ groups and human rights activists 13 Sept held protests outside parliament as President Alvi addressed both houses; opposition and independent members boycotted Alvi’s address, vowed to vote against proposed bill; human rights minister next day said law had yet to be given “final shape”, suggesting govt could postpone placing bill before parliament. Regionally, govt had yet to decide if it will recognise newly announced acting Taliban govt (see Afghanistan); FM Qureshi 21 Sept said if Taliban want recognition “they have to be more sensitive and more receptive to international opinion and norms”. PM Imran Khan in 24 Sept virtual UN General Assembly address called on international community to “incentivize”, “strengthen and support” current (Taliban) govt and warned unstable Afghanistan “will again become a safe haven for international terrorists”. Earlier, Qureshi 15 Sept said govt would consider giving amnesty to Pakistan’s Taliban members who renounced violence; opposition leader and Pakistan Peoples’ Party chair Bhutto Zardari 17 Sept said that would be “an insult” to victims. Meanwhile, Pakistani Taliban attacks in regions near Afghan border continued; in South Waziristan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani Taliban attack 15 Sept killed seven Pakistani soldiers. Militant attack 26 Sept killed one paramilitary soldier and injured two others in Mach town, Balochistan province. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 14 Sept said U.S. would reassess its relationship with Pakistan in coming weeks.

August 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan heightened concerns regarding associated security risks for Pakistan, while deadly militant violence persisted. Following Taliban takeover of Afghan capital Kabul in mid-Aug, President Alvi 17 Aug said that Islamabad wants assurances “that Afghan territory will never be used against any other country”; govt same day said they would make decision on recognising Taliban govt “after consulting with regional and international powers”. Military 27 Aug told journalists “cordial” relations were expected with incoming Afghan govt, which would take “effective measures” against Pakistan Taliban. Cross-border gunfire from Afghanistan 30 Aug killed two Pakistani soldiers; military retaliated, claiming it killed two or three attackers. Meanwhile, militant attacks and security operations persisted. In Balochistan province, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) militants 8 Aug killed two police officers in provincial capital Quetta; security forces 10-11 Aug claimed to have killed five BLA militants in Quetta; attack on Frontier Corps vehicle 14 Aug killed one soldier in Loralai district; BLA militants 20 Aug in suicide attack in Gwadar district killed two children and injured Chinese national; bomb blast 21 Aug killed one officer and two soldiers in Gichik area; BLA militants 26 Aug killed four security personnel in Ziarat and Panjgur districts. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, militant attacks 1, 6 Aug killed three soldiers in North Waziristan and Khyber districts; 2 Aug killed police officer providing security to polio vaccination team in Dera Ismail Khan district. In South Waziristan, counter-insurgency operations 13, 18 Aug left two soldiers killed. Elsewhere, other violent attacks took place. Notably, in Sindh province’s capital Karachi, grenade attack 15 Aug killed 13 relatives of Awami National Party leader and of Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami local leader; clash between two Sunni factions 18 Aug left one dead. In Punjab province’s Bahawalgar city, grenade attack targeting Shia Muharram procession 19 Aug killed at least two and injured more than 50; counter-terrorism police 18 Aug arrested two alleged al-Qaeda members in Lahore city. Also in Punjab, Muslim mob 4 Aug vandalised Hindu temple in Bhong city after release of eight-year-old Hindu boy accused of blasphemy 24 July; 7 Aug 50 people suspected of participating in attack arrested.

July 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Top officials expressed concerns over possible spillover effects of intensifying conflict in Afghanistan, while militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued. Senior military and political leaders expressed concern about impact on security of Afghanistan’s conflict and tensions heightened with Kabul (see Afghanistan). Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and intelligence chief Faiz Hameed 1 July warned victory by Afghan Taliban would rejuvenate Pakistani Taliban and voiced concerns about potential additional influx of up to 700,000 Afghan refugees. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed 6 July said Pakistan would not allow Afghan refugees to enter but would establish refugee camps along border if situation required. Govt same day announced closure of Torkham – key border crossing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – citing COVID-19 concerns. Authorities 14 July closed border crossing in Balochistan’s Chaman district after Afghan Taliban captured bordering district, but 26 July reopened it for trade after reportedly consulting Taliban officials. FM Qureshi and National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf 9 July warned that Pakistani Taliban fighters could enter Pakistan disguised as Afghan refugees; Army spokesperson Major General Babar Iftikhar 11 July emphasised ‘‘Pakistan is only a facilitator of the Afghan peace process – not a guarantor’’. Yusuf 30 July met U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington; Sullivan said pair discussed “urgent need” for negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, militant attacks and security operations continued. Notably, in Balochistan province, counter-terrorism police 6 July killed five suspected Baloch militants on outskirts of Quetta district; militant attack 15 July killed two soldiers in coastal Pasni town in Gwadar district. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police operation 3 July reportedly killed two Pakistani Taliban militants in Dera Ismail Khan district. Militant attack 5 July killed three soldiers in North Waziristan district. Security operation 13 July killed three militants and two soldiers in Kurram district. In South Waziristan district, security operation against militants 18 July killed one soldier. In major attack on Chinese workers, suspected car bomb 14 July killed nine Chinese engineers as well as two civilians and two soldiers in Upper Kohistan district capital in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province; unidentified gunmen 28 July shot and wounded Chinese national in Karachi city.

June 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions heightened following controversial electoral reforms, while militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued. Despite opposition and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) concerns, ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party 10 June introduced new electoral bill, which National Assembly same day endorsed. ECP 16 June issued objections to at least 45 amendments (out of 72) to electoral law, as it deemed some unconstitutional, and others could undermine free and fair elections. Opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) leader 9 June questioned Supreme Court’s failure to protect judiciary during appeal of High Court judge who was removed from his post in 2018 after publicly accusing inter-services intelligence chief of interfering in corruption cases against former PM Nawaz Sharif; bar associations and councils 18 June called for independent high-level commission to look into allegations. Financial Action Task Force 25 June retained Pakistan on grey list for strategic deficiencies in counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering regimes. Meanwhile, militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued. Pakistani Taliban 3 June claimed killing two police officers in capital Islamabad. In Balochistan, counter-insurgency operation left soldier and two militants dead in Kharan district 11 June; bomb attack 14 June killed four soldiers guarding mine on Marget-Quetta road. Militant attacks 17 June killed soldier in Turbat district, five soldiers in Sibi district 25 June and one soldier in Kech district 28 June. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bomb attack 2 June killed soldier in South Waziristan district; security operations left two soldiers and four alleged Pakistani Taliban militants dead in North Waziristan 19-20 June; and militants 9 June killed two police officers in Mardan district. In Lahore city, car bomb explosion 23 June killed at least three and injured 21, including children. In Karachi city, gunman 16 June killed Jamaat-e-Islami leader; armed assailants next day injured PTI leader Isa Khan and killed his wife. Internationally, PM Imran Khan 4 June warned “Taliban feel they have won the war” ever since U.S. announced date for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. FM Qureshi 14 June urged Afghan leaders to ensure peace process succeed, emphasised Pakistan’s stake in process and denied Pakistani support to any Taliban faction.

May 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions continued to run high, and militants killed more than a dozen security forces in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Opposition remained divided over results of last month’s by-election in Karachi city, where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) rejected victory of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) despite 8 May vote recount. PML-N and PPP however same day jointly opposed presidential ordinance authorising Election Commission to procure electronic voting machines and enable overseas Pakistanis to vote in 2023 parliamentary elections. Tensions between ruling party and opposition increased when govt 8 May refused to allow opposition PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif to leave for UK for medical treatment, despite previous day’s decision by Lahore High Court to allow for one-time visit. Following Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan’s violent April anti-govt protests, Punjab counter-terrorism authorities 8 May registered four cases against senior TLP leaders for instigating new protests to oust French ambassador. In response to European Parliament’s resolution condemning blasphemy laws in late April, govt 3 May agreed to introduce new legislation to address rights issues in line with EU agreements. Militant attacks in May left more than a dozen security forces dead. In Balochistan province, road bomb blast 3 May killed two police officers in Arawan district; Pakistani Taliban 5 May killed four soldiers in cross-border attack in Zhob district; 8 May killed three soldiers in Quetta and Turbat districts; drive-by shooting 10 May killed two police in Mastung district. Seven killed in 21 May bomb explosion at Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s Palestine solidarity rally in Chaman town. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani Taliban attack 4 May left two soldiers dead in Bajaur district. Operation against Pakistani Taliban in North Wazirstan district 5 May killed four soldiers and two militants, while one soldier killed in cross-border militant attack 22 May; militants 9 May also killed police in Lakki Marwat district. Afghan President Ghani 11 May accused Pakistan of “operating an organised system of support” for Taliban and said “question of peace or hostility is now in Pakistani hands”; Pakistan 14 May summoned Afghan ambassador reportedly to protest comments.

April 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Deadly unrest erupted after political-religious group launched nationwide protests against ruling party; militant attacks continued at high intensity. Ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt faced its most serious security crisis during its two-and-a-half years in power amid violent protests throughout country. Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi 11 April announced countrywide protests planned for 20 April in protest at govt’s failure to abide by Nov 2020 agreement to deport French ambassador over cartoons deemed blasphemous; authorities next day arrested Rizvi in Lahore city. Arrest triggered violent protests, killing four police officers and injuring at least 100; TLP claimed three supporters killed. Govt 15 April banned TLP under anti-terrorismlaw. Protests ended after govt 20 April accepted most TLP demands, including discussing French ambassador’s expulsion in Parliament, and releasing detained leaders and activists. PTI parliamentarian 20 April introduced resolution in Parliament. Yet, opposition parties’ rejection of the proposal to form special parliamentary committee to discuss issue risks renewed TLP protests. Unity among Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), further fragmented after five PDM parties 3 April opted to form separate opposition block in senate. PTI candidate 11 April lost by large margin to PML-N’s candidate for seat in Punjab’s Sialkot district. Militant attacks and security operations continued. Notably, Pakistani Taliban suicide car attack on hotel in Balochistan’s capital Quetta 21 April killed five and wounded scores; attack possibly targeted visiting Chinese ambassador staying in hotel. Bomb blast 28 April killed police officer in Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah district; earlier, bomb blast at football tournament 13 April injured at least 14 civilians in Hub district. Security forces 3 and 4 April claimed to have killed two Pakistani Taliban militants in North Waziristan, and Pakistani Taliban militant 13 April in South Waziristan district. Police 11 April claimed killing previous night high-profile Pakistani Taliban militant in Rawalpindi city, Punjab province. Internationally, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 7-8 April met with PM Khan, Army Chief Javed Bajwa and FM Mahmood Qureshi; agreed on deepening defence and counter-terrorism cooperation. 

March 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Tensions continued between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition amid elections, while deadly militant violence persisted. Following the victory of the 11-party opposition alliance that includes Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in almost all Feb by-elections to the national and provincial legislatures, political tensions remained high with PM Khan’s PTI govt. In line with Feb decision from Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Supreme Court 1 March ruled Senate elections must be held under secret ballot, nullifying govt’s request to hold elections through open ballot. PML-N leadership 11 March accused govt of using state institutions, specifically security agencies, to help their candidate in election for Senate chair; PTI candidate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani next day won election. Amid ongoing tensions between the top electoral body, and the PTI govt, PTI ministers 15 March called for the resignations of the entire ECP leadership. PPP next day opposed PML-N demand to resign from federal and provincial parliaments, straining opposition’s unity; tensions heightened between them after appointment 26 March of PPP nominee as Senate opposition leader. In Balochistan province, bomb 5 March killed five in Sibi city Baloch militants next day left two Pakistan Navy officers dead in Gwadar district; Pakistani Taliban bomb attack outside paramilitary prison in Chaman city 23 March killed four. Meanwhile, security forces 8 March killed five Baloch militants in operation in Mastung district. In North Waziristan district, security forces 7 March claimed to have killed at least eight militants, including three commanders of Pakistani Taliban, in Deta Khel town; security operation 17 March killed one militant and two civilians in Swat district; bomb blast 25 March injured Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader in Bajaur district. In Punjab province, successive militant attacks 7 March killed one police officer in Rawalpindi and one in Islamabad. In Karachi city, Balochistan Liberation Army-claimed explosion 15 March killed one soldier and injured ten others in Orangi Town. Pakistani Taliban 12 March threatened organisers of International Women’s Day march; Islamist groups same day held protests demanding govt prosecute march organisers for blasphemy, which carries death sentence; Peshawar court 25 March ordered registration of case.

February 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Violent clashes erupted during local elections, and militant attacks continued at high intensity. Political tensions continued between PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance that includes Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). President Alvi 6 Feb signed Elections Amendment Ordinance 2021 to allow upcoming Senate elections to be held with “open and identifiable ballot” rather than secret ballots; PDM same day rejected ordinance, said it violated constitution while Pakistan Bar Council 8 Feb said it is based on “malicious intent”. Local by-elections held throughout Feb sparked low-level violence; notably, clashes between PTI and PML-N party workers 19 Feb killed two in one Punjab province by-election; Election Commission 25 Feb subsequently ordered re-election there on 18 March, said local polls had not been fair or transparent. Meanwhile, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, Pakistani Taliban 3 Feb killed two in North Waziristan district; militants 12 and 18 Feb killed nine soldiers in South Waziristan and 12 Feb killed Ahmadi doctor in Peshawar city; Pakistan Taliban commander 22 Feb shot dead four female aid workers in North Waziristan; security forces next day killed militant commander, and 26 Feb killed another Pakistan Taliban commander in South Waziristan. Sindh police 26 Feb killed two alleged Pakistani Taliban militants in Sukkur city. Afghan Taliban commander 28 Feb shot dead in Peshawar city (KPK). In Balochistan province, explosions targeting Kashmir solidarity rallies 5 Feb killed two and injured at least 24 in Quetta and Sibi cities. Local security forces claimed militants shot dead three Punjabi labourers 8 Feb in Kalat district; militants 14 Feb killed soldier in Kech district, and 18 Feb killed five soldiers in Quetta and Kohlu districts. Inter-governmental body Financial Action Task Force met 25 Feb, said it would keep Pakistan on “grey list” until June plenary. Internationally, Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa 19 Feb met visiting U.S. Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie, and along with FM Qureshi same day met Russia’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov to discuss Afghan peace process; FM Qureshi 26 Feb also met visiting Afghan president’s special envoy.

January 2021

Asia

Pakistan

Tensions between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition persisted while Islamic State (ISIS) claimed major attack on Hazara community. Political tensions ran high between PTI govt and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), as opposition held anti-govt rallies throughout month. Demonstrators 3 Jan gathered in Punjab province’s Bahawalpur district, calling for PM Khan’s resignation; 19 Jan held rally in capital Islamabad calling for an early ruling by Election Commission of Pakistan on 2014 case alleging PTI received funding from illegal foreign sources. Meanwhile, violence and militant attacks continued. In Balochistan province (south west), ISIS 3 Jan claimed responsibility for killing 11 miners from Hazara Shia community in Machh, small mining town. Protests by Shia political parties and other groups condemning killings were held countywide, including in Karachi city which has large Shia population. Khan 9 Jan met with Hazara delegate members in Balochistan’s capital Quetta and reiterated claims that India was backing ISIS to ferment sectarian strife (see Kashmir). Also in Balochistan, militant attack on Frontier Corps checkpost 9 Jan injured four in Turbat city. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (north west), cross-border attack by militants on checkpost 6 Jan killed one soldier in Mohmand district; attack on polio vaccination team 12 Jan killed police officer in Karak district; militant attack 15 Jan killed soldier in North Waziristan district. Across border, bomb attack in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province 28 Jan reportedly killed chief of Pakistani militant group Laskhar-e-Islami. Supreme Court same day acquitted Omar Saeed Sheikh, principal accused in 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl; in response, U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken said U.S. was ready to prosecute Sheikh. Pakistani govt continued engagement in Afghan peace process; Pakistan FM 21 Jan urged incoming U.S. administration to “persevere” with peace process. Earlier, U.S. Afghanistan peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 4 Jan met with army chief Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence director general Lt. General Hamid, day before intra-Afghan talks resumed in Qatar’s capital Doha.  In confirmation hearing, new U.S. Sec Def General Lloyd Austin 12 Jan called Pakistan “essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan”.

December 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Tensions remained high between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition alliance, while deadly militant violence persisted. Political acrimony continued between PTI govt and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Alliance 13 Dec held rally in Lahore city, defying govt’s COVID-19 ban on gatherings and disregarding police warnings of potential terrorist attacks by Pakistani Taliban. Govt 15 Dec decided to hold upcoming Senate elections in Feb instead of March 2021, when terms of 52 senators are due to expire, and decided to seek Supreme Court’s opinion on holding polls through open voting instead of secret ballot; opposition rejected both proposed changes, calling them “illegal”. Acting leader of parliamentary opposition, and Nawaz Sharif Muslim League’s former FM Khawaja Asif29 Dec detained on corruption charges; next day, Asif said arrest aimed at breaking party. Meanwhile, militant attacks continued. Police officer 2 Dec shot dead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu district; militant attack 23 Dec killed soldier in North Waziristan district. In Rawalpindi, explosion 4 Dec killed one and injured seven; counter-terrorism police 14 Dec arrested three Pakistani Taliban militants allegedly involved in explosion and claimed to have foiled an attack on Islamabad Stock Exchange. In Balochistan, five found dead 8 Dec in Kech district according to local police, allegedly resulting from clash with security forces; two civilians killed in 26 Dec bomb blast in Panjgur district, and seven soldiers same day killed in attack on check point in Harnai district; two paramilitary soldiers killed, 13 civilians injured in 29 Dec grenade attack in Kalat division. Police 17 Dec arrested three Laskhar-e-Islam terrorists accused of planning major attack on Christmas day in Peshawar; Sindhi separatist group claimed responsibility for two attacks on 15 Dec. Visiting U.S. Afghanistan peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reportedly sought govt’s help to ensure intra-Afghan negotiations would not be further delayed. Taliban delegation from Qatar-based political office 16-18 Dec visited Islamabad; FM Qureshi met delegation calling for “reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire” but placed responsibility on all stakeholders, while PM Khan called for comprehensive political settlement.

November 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions remained elevated, particularly around Gilgit-Baltistan’s election, and deadly militant violence persisted. Political acrimony continued between govt and opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance featuring 11 opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP); PM Khan 6 and 12 Nov accused alliance member and former PML-N PM Sharif of undermining army at “behest of India”; Sharif 13 Nov called Khan “puppet” controlled by undemocratic forces. Govt continued to use anti-corruption cases filed by National Accountability Bureau to suppress opposition: court 11 Nov indicted Sharif, his wife, daughters and son, Hamza, who is opposition leader in Punjab Assembly; court 16 Nov indicted former PML-N PM Abbasi and finance minister Miftah Ismail. Tensions rose further after Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party 15 Nov won 22 of 33 seats in Gilgit-Baltistan’s election, emerging as largest party; PPP and PML-N rejected results, alleging massive irregularities, and organised protests. Following three days of protests, Gilgit-Baltistan’s caretaker govt 18 Nov sought army’s assistance to control security situation. Despite govt’s 18 Nov ban on gatherings due to COVID-19, PDM 22 and 30 Nov held large-scale rally in Peshawar and Multan, respectively; PDM local leaders 30 Nov detained for holding 22 Nov rally. Meanwhile, militant attacks continued. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, gunmen 1 Nov killed Ahmadi man in regional capital Peshawar; militants 18 Nov killed two soldiers in attack on military checkpoint in South Waziristan district; security forces 23 Nov claimed they killed Islamic State operational commander in Bajaur district; four employees of military-run Frontier Works Organization 26 Nov shot dead in North Waziristan district. In Balochistan province, grenade attack in regional capital Quetta 12 Nov injured at least seven, including three police. Counter-terrorism police 24 Nov claimed to have foiled militant suicide attack on police station near Lahore city, Punjab province. Thousands 7 Nov demonstrated against publication of French cartoons deemed blasphemous in Karachi city; some 3,000 protesters 30 Nov clashed with police in capital Islamabad. Internationally, Khan, FM Qureshi and intelligence chief Faiz Hameed 19 Nov visited Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to reiterate support for reducing violence in Afghanistan, sides agreed to re-energise intelligence cooperation.

October 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Tensions escalated between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition alliance, which strongly criticised military. Opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance – formed in Sept and featuring eleven opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – held mass anti-govt rallies in several cities including Gujranwala 16 Oct, Karachi 18 Oct and Quetta 25 Oct attended by tens of thousands; PDM continued to call for PM Khan to resign and for new elections, and plan more demonstrations in Dec and mass rally in capital Islamabad in Jan. Alliance members – particularly former PML-N PM Sharif – continued to decry military’s influence in politics; Sharif 16 Oct accused army chief Javed Bajwa and intelligence chief Faiz Hameed of undermining democratic institutions; Khan next day accused Sharif of “trying to sow discord in the military”. Police 19 Oct arrested Sharif’s son-in-law in Karachi, reportedly under pressure from army; son-in-law later released on bail. Internationally, govt continued to position itself as key player in Afghan peace process; U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan 8 Oct made unannounced visit to Pakistan to reportedly ask for Bajwa and govt’s help in convincing Taliban to agree to ceasefire or reduce levels of violence. Leader of former militia Hizb-e Islami and Pakistan ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar 19 Oct met Khan, President Alvi and FM Makhdoom Qureshi in Islamabad and two days later announced he would seek talks with Taliban. Inter-governmental body Financial Action Task Force late Oct retained Pakistan on “grey list” until Feb 2021. Meanwhile, militant attacks continued: in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani Taliban 10 Oct killed two soldiers and wounded three others in North Waziristan tribal district and roadside bomb 14 Oct killed seven soldiers. Bomb blast reportedly targeting Afghan cleric 27 Oct killed eight madrasa students and injured around 120 in Peshawar city. In Balochistan province, Baloch separatists claimed 15 Oct attack on oil company convoy near Omara town in Gwadar district that killed seven soldiers and seven security guards; bomb blast 25 Oct killed three persons in Quetta. Amid inter-communal tensions in Karachi, gunmen 10 Oct killed prominent Sunni Deobandi religious leader.

 

September 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Govt continued to use anti-corruption cases to attack political opponents, sparking opposition efforts to unseat govt. Govt pursued warrants and indictments against senior opposition leaders, including former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) PM Sharif and former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) President Zardari, leading to Islamabad High Court 15 Sept issuing warrant for Sharif’s arrest and demanding he return from self-imposed exile in London by 22 Sept. In protest at govt’s use of controversial National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for political ends, 11 opposition parties including PPP and PML-N 20 Sept organised “All Parties Conference” in capital Islamabad and online, calling for Khan to resign and agreeing on anti-govt action plan that includes public meetings in Oct and mass demonstrations in Jan. At conference, in online remarks from London, former PM Sharif called military “a state above the state”, while opposition called for end to military’s political interference. In response, govt 22 Sept disclosed that opposition leaders had 16 Sept held meetings with army chief, implying they had sought his backing; NAB next day summoned opposition leader Fazlur Rehman to respond to corruption allegations and NAB 28 Sept arrested PML-N President and parliamentary leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif, and same day indicted Zardari; NAB 29 Sept remanded Sharif in custody for 14 days. Internationally, PM Khan 11 Sept welcomed start of Afghan peace talks, and FM Qureshi next day attended opening ceremony virtually, calling for continued international support, including on reconstruction and refugee return; Afghan High Peace Council chief Abdullah Abdullah late Sept visited Pakistan to discuss peace process (see Afghanistan). Militant violence continued; notably, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, Pakistani Taliban claimed 3 Sept bomb blast that killed three soldiers and wounded four others in North Waziristan tribal district, and killed army officer 27 Sept in South Waziristan; violence also ongoing in Balochistan, including 5 Sept bomb blast that injured four in provincial capital Quetta. Sectarian tensions increased following 11-12 Sept protests in Karachi city by Sunni groups claiming Shia leaders made disparaging remarks about Sunni religious figures; unidentified gunmen 15 Sept killed two Shias in KPK capital Peshawar.

August 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Tensions continued over govt use of anti-corruption cases to silence political opponents, while deadly militant violence persisted. Following Supreme Court’s July criticism of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s use of anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB), tensions remained high over body; NAB brought corruption cases against former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) PM Abbasi on 6 Aug and former President and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Zardari on 10 Aug; Mayam Nawaz, daughter of former PM Sharif, and PML-N members 11 Aug protested against targeting of PML-N leaders outside NAB office in Lahore city, leading to clashes with police and arrest of 50 members. Amid concerns over attacks on press, group of prominent female journalists 12 Aug issued statement holding govt supporters responsible for “vicious online attacks” and threats, including “sexual and physical violence”. Police 16 Aug arrested paramilitary soldier accused of killing university student on 13 Aug in Kech district, Balochistan province. Militant attacks persisted: in Balochistan, bomb blast 10 Aug killed at least five and wounded 22 others in Chaman city and grenade attack 12 Aug killed child and injured six civilians in Quetta city; in Sindh’s capital Karachi, grenade attack on rally of political party Jamaat-i-Islami 5 Aug killed an activist and wounded dozens, and unidentified gunmen 14 Aug killed police officer, fifth police casualty in city since mid-July. Internationally, tensions increased with Afghanistan following 30 July clash between Afghan and Pakistani security forces after Islamabad closed Chaman border, leaving at least three dead, and raising concerns among govt officials about their desire to play key role in Afghan peace process; foreign ministry 13 Aug rejected Kabul’s complaints over building of fence on border; govt also reportedly held Kabul and New Delhi responsible for splinter groups Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar 16 Aug merging with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan; group allegedly agreed to focus on targeting govt’s military, paramilitary and police forces. Following concerns Saudi Arabia may withdraw $3bn loan, army chief Bajwa 17 Aug visited Riyadh. Despite rising COVID-19 cases, govt 10 Aug began lifting restrictions on public transport and entertainment venues.

July 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Amid sustained militant violence, political tensions continued over govt’s use of anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against opposition. Sindh chapter of ruling-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 12 July announced it would report opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s Sindh provincial govt to NAB, alleging corruption in form of kickbacks from development schemes. NAB 14 July approved fresh inquiries into former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) PM Nawaz Sharif and PML-N chair Shahbaz Sharif in undisclosed cases. Supreme Court justice 20 July accused NAB of “trampling of fundamental rights” and being “reluctant in proceeding against people on one side of the political divide” in response to June 2019 denial of bail in case brought against former PML-N minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother; PML-N and PPP 21-22 July called for dissolution of NAB and development of new anti-corruption body. Unidentified armed men 21 July abducted journalist Matiullah Jan in capital Islamabad with some kidnappers reportedly in uniform; reporter released hours later; Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari same day described incident as “very disturbing”. Following deadly attack in June on Karachi stock exchange claimed by Baloch separatist group, police 18 July announced they prevented another attack in Karachi after arresting six militants from Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar, another separatist group; police claimed group operated from Afghanistan with Indian backing. Militant attacks continued, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province: militants 8 July killed senior police officer in Swabi district; 11 July killed two civilians and next day killed four soldiers while security forces killed four attackers in North Waziristan district; 23 July 16 persons injured in a bomb blast at a market in the predominantly Shia Kurram district’s capital, Parachinar. In Balochistan province, firefight 11 July injured two police officers in Mastung district; militant attack 14 July killed three soldiers in Panjgur district; 19 July Hindu local leader shot dead in Khuzdar district; 21 July one person killed in bomb blast at a local market in Turbat district; 25 July one soldier killed in clash with Baloch militants in Kech district; same day military killed an alleged Balochistan Liberation Army militant in another security operation in Kech.

June 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Govt used anti-corruption cases to silence political opponents, deadly militant violence persisted and govt stepped up diplomatic efforts on Afghan peace process. Ruling-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) continued targeting of opposition and critics through controversial anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB): NAB 29 May issued warrants for former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) PM Sharif and summoned former PML-N PM Abbasi, former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) PM Gillani and President Zardari. NAB 9 June questioned PML-N president and parliamentary leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif; and 26 June summoned former PML-N Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif. Balochistan National Party-Mengal 17 June withdrew support for PM Khan’s govt for violating earlier agreements, including on recovery of Baloch missing persons, reducing PTI majority to eight. Supreme Court 19 June rejected PTI govt corruption charges against Supreme Court judge Qazi Faez Isa. Militant violence continued: in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bomb blast 4 June killed two people in Bajaur tribal district. Bomb 10 June killed two police officers in North Waziristan tribal district, where, on 21 June, officer and soldier killed in militant attack. Sindhi separatist group claimed three separate attacks on 19 June on paramilitary Rangers force in three cities in Sindh province, killing three Rangers and two civilians. Militant attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange building claimed by Baloch separatist group in Karachi 29 June killed seven, including one police officer and two guards; security forces killed all four militants. Anti-terrorism court 18 June sentenced four leaders of Jamaat-ud-Dawa to prison on terror-financing charges, sentences ranging from one to five years. Police in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad 15 June briefly detained two Indian embassy employees (see India). Govt stepped up diplomatic efforts relating to Afghan peace process: govt 6 June appointed diplomat Muhammad Sadiq as Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan; Sadiq, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and director of military intelligence Faiz Hameed 9 June met Afghan President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of intra-Afghan talks, to discuss peace process; Sadiq 16-17 June met Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of Taliban’s political office, in Doha.

May 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Militant violence continued while govt handling of COVID-19 pandemic came under heavy criticism from opposition. Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari 1 May questioned Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt’s handling of COVID-19 crisis, asked PM Khan to resign if he could not perform; govt continued to focus on negative economic effect of lockdown and Khan 7 May announced end of lockdown in phases starting 9 May, citing responsibility to protect poor. National Assembly 12 May discussed for first time federal govt’s COVID-19 response; opposition attacked PTI govt with Zardari holding it responsible for undermining PPP-led Sindh provincial govt’s stringent response, while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker and former FM Asif criticised Khan for easing lockdown at time of “dangerous spike in infections”; in response Khan 15 May said Pakistan’s economy could not afford indefinite lockdown. Govt mid-May reopened two main borders with Afghanistan: Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and Chaman in Balochistan province. Militant violence continued, particularly in KPK: in Wana, South Waziristan district, unidentified gunmen 1 May shot Arif Wazir, leader of Pashtun rights group Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, who died following day; militants 7 May killed two soldiers in attack on security checkpoint in North Waziristan district; militants 22 May killed police officer in Kohat district and senior bureaucrat and two relatives 24 May in North Waziristan. Punjab’s counter-terrorism police said four Islamic State (ISIS)-linked militants who were planning attack on religious minority killed during 17 May clash in Bahawalpur district, Punjab province. Karachi police 30 May arrested alleged ISIS militant. Insurgents targeted security forces in Balochistan; Balochistan Liberation Army claimed 8 May attack that killed six members of paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) in Kech district on Iran border; six soldiers killed in bomb explosion in Mach targeting FC jeep and soldier killed in gunfight in Kech 19 May; Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa 11 May reportedly spoke to Iranian counterpart calling for cooperation in countering Baloch militants on Pakistan-Iran border. Top police official 27 May said two police officers killed by terrorists in Islamabad.

April 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Militant violence continued while govt focused on responding to COVID-19 and its relations with Afghanistan. Amid COVID-19 lockdown announced 24 March, military 3 April echoed PM Khan’s concerns that prolonged restrictions would adversely affect poor people, saying country could not afford “indefinite lockdown”. President Arif Alvi 8 April reached agreement with clerics to reopen mosques for congregational prayers. Khan 15 April relaxed restrictions, allowing some industries, businesses and shops to reopen; opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party, criticising govt’s decisions, called for stringent lockdown. Govt 2 April revealed Financial Action Task Force granted govt additional five months to implement anti-terrorism financing measures due to postponement of June review of country’s performance due to COVID-19. Sindh High Court 2 April overturned July 2002 conviction and death sentence for Ahmad Omar Sheikh for Jan 2002 kidnap and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi, acquitting three others and reducing Sheikh’s sentence to seven years served for kidnapping; hours after verdict, all four detained after Sindh govt ordered arrests under public safety law that allows three month detentions; same day, top U.S. official for South Asia called judgement “affront to victims of terrorism” and welcomed appeal; 22 April Sindh govt challenged verdict in Supreme Court. Internationally, foreign ministry 1 April welcomed Afghan govt’s announcement of negotiating team for Taliban dialogue, calling on all parties to “pursue reduction of violence”. However tensions rose after Kabul 11 April rejected Islamabad’s 9 April demand to hand over Islamic State-Khorasan Province chief, a Pakistani citizen who Afghan intelligence arrested 4 April; FM Qureshi 20 April stressed, in telephone call with acting Afghan FM Atmar, importance of “existing bilateral mechanisms” such as Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity whose working groups include one on security and intelligence cooperation. Militant violence continued, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province; in North Waziristan tribal district, soldier killed during 13 April operation against Pakistani Taliban; next day, militants killed soldier during gunfight; militant attack 20 April killed one soldier and injured three. Sindh police 19 April arrested four alleged terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent in Karachi.

March 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt continued to use corruption charges against opponents and attempted to position itself in key role in Afghan peace process. Govt targeting of opposition and critics through controversial anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB) remained issue of political concern; NAB 23 March arrested Mir Shakilur Rehman, owner and editor-in-chief of Jang-Geo media group, on charges related to real estate transaction; journalist unions held countrywide demonstrations, calling arrest attempt to silence media, while opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam 18 March criticised decision and jointly filed petition against it and crackdown on Geo TV in Islamabad High Court. High courts granted bail to various top opposition leaders detained by NAB including former PML-N railways minister on 17 March, and former PML-N PM Abbasi on 25 March. Amid COVID-19 spread, PML-N president and parliamentary leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif 18 March criticised govt for lack of preparedness in dealing with fast spreading of coronavirus. Internationally, govt welcomed U.S.-Taliban deal, claiming credit for success of negotiations and insisting on an active role in intra-Afghan negotiations; FM Qureshi 1 March acknowledged Afghan govt mistrust of Pakistan due to Islamabad’s longstanding support to Taliban but called on Kabul to talk to govt, said Pakistan had convinced Taliban to “put forward an authoritative delegation that has the capacity to implement” U.S.-Taliban deal; Qureshi 3 March called on Afghan President Ghani to “show magnanimity” and Taliban to “show flexibility” amid stalled negotiations over prisoner releases. Militant violence continued, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province: army colonel killed during operation against militants in Dera Ismail district 9 March, Pakistani Taliban killed four soldiers in North Waziristan tribal district 18 March, same day, militant attack on police station in Orakzai tribal district killed two officers.

February 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Political tensions remained high amid concerns over govt’s anti-terrorism measures and crackdown on civil society-led Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) from former Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 21 Feb gave govt four-month extension to implement anti-terrorism financing measures with FATF keeping country on “grey-list” until new June deadline; previously, anti-terrorism court 12 Feb sentenced Jamaat-ud-Dawa (formerly Laskhar-e-Tayyaba) chief Hafiz Saeed and his aide to five and a half years imprisonment on two cases relating to terrorism financing, both plan to appeal. Govt’s anti-terrorism efforts questioned following 6 Feb release to local media of audio message in which former Pakistani Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed to have escaped from custody of security forces in Jan; Ehsan claimed he surrendered to security services in 2017 under agreement that included large financial reward and complete immunity from detention and prosecution, Ehsan reportedly stayed in security safe house in Peshawar city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK). Family of children killed in 2014 terror attack on army school in Peshawar – which killed some 150 and Ehsan accepted responsibility on Pakistani Taliban faction’s behalf – 8 Feb brought proceedings to Peshawar High court against senior govt and military officials for failing to prosecute Ehsan, while opposition leaders 10 Feb called for explanation of “mysterious escape”; interior minister 17 Feb confirmed Ehsan no longer in custody but gave no further details. Following 27 Jan arrest of PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen in Peshawar on charges ranging from sedition to hate speech in five separate cases and 28 Jan detention of some thirty PTM supporters and activists demonstrating in capital Islamabad against arrest, Islamabad High Court’s chief justice 3 Feb granted bail to detainees and questioned charges of sedition and terrorism brought against peaceful protesters, while district court in KPK 15 Feb granted bail to Pashteen. Militant-related violence continued including attacks on health workers; in KPK’s Dera Ismail Khan district, police officer guarding polio vaccination team killed 18 Feb. In Balochistan’s capital Quetta, terror attack on mosque killed police officer 5 Feb and suicide attack reportedly near rally of banned sectarian group Alhe Sunnat Wal Jamaat killed at least ten 17 Feb, including two police officers.

January 2020

Asia

Pakistan

Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt obtained extension appointment of army chief after passing legislation with opposition support, while militant attacks continued. Following court ruling that govt must pass legislation within six months to allow extension of army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure, PTI govt reached out to opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party to obtain parliamentary approval; National Assembly 7 Jan passed three bills allowing for appointment, reappointment or extension for military chiefs for further three years, up to maximum age of 64; next day, Senate approved bills to take effect from 27 Nov 2019, two days before Bajwa was scheduled to retire; move raised concerns over civilian oversight of army. Lahore High Court 13 Jan indirectly overturned special court’s 17 Dec verdict sentencing former President and army chief Pervez Musharraf to death for high treason, declarin