CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Asia

Pakistan

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.

December 2023

Asia

Pakistan

In deadliest attack of 2023, jihadist militants killed almost two dozen soldiers in north west; authorities prepared for 8 February general election as opposition leaders battled legal challenges.

Militants staged deadliest assault of 2023. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, militants 12 Dec rammed explosive-laden vehicle into gate of military compound in Dera Ismail Khan district and conducted multiple suicide bombings, collapsing building and killing at least 23 soldiers and wounding over 30 – marking deadliest attack of year; Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan militant outfit claimed responsibility. Militant attack on military-police checkpoint in Khyber district 15 Dec killed two paramilitary personnel and three police officers.

Relations with Afghanistan continued to exhibit strains. Islamabad attributed spike in militant attacks to Afghan Taliban authorities’ refusal to take action against Pakistani Taliban and its affiliates. Notably, hours after 12 Dec attack, FM Jalil Abbas Jilani delivered strong demarche to Afghan chargé d’affaires, calling for Kabul to take verifiable action against perpetrators; Taliban dismissed claims of Afghan link to attack as “baseless”. Meanwhile, Pakistan continued to deport undocumented Afghans to Afghanistan, with more than 500,000 forcibly sent across border since Oct.

Political tensions continued to mount ahead of Feb elections. Supreme Court 15 Dec suspended Lahore High Court’s ruling two days earlier in favour of petition of former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against deployment of bureaucrats (as opposed to judicial officers) to oversee elections on 8 Feb. Election Commission same day issued election schedule, ruling out any further delays in election process. Continuing to criticise appointment of bureaucrats as election supervisors, PTI still vowed to contest polls; Khan’s ability to stand for public office, however, rests on whether courts will overturn his corruption conviction. Khan’s legal hurdles mounted further as special court 12 Dec indicted him in relation to case of misusing diplomatic cables. Khan’s main political opponent, former PM Nawaz Sharif, benefitted from two Islamabad High Court rulings 29 Nov and 12 Dec overturning corruption cases; to stand in election, Sharif requires Supreme Court to overturn life ban on holding office, issued in 2017.

November 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Authorities set Feb 2024 election date, deadly attacks continued in Afghan border provinces, and govt faced international rebuke for forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

Apex election body set election date amid political jostling. After weeks of delay and finally compelled by Supreme Court, Election Commission 4 Nov announced election had been set for 8 Feb 2024; all political parties welcomed decision, although former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) bemoaned unlevel playing field and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) accused caretaker govt of bias in favour of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League. PTI continued to face significant crackdown, particularly in main political battleground Punjab province, as provincial authorities refused party permission to hold public gatherings. Khan, who remained in prison, submitted petitions to Supreme Court for post-arrest bail and to overturn indictment regarding misusing diplomatic cables; Islamabad High Court 21 Nov accepted Khan’s petition ruling out trial in prison. Open trial will resume 1 Dec but within prison premises, ostensibly on security grounds.

Militant attacks and military operations continued, primarily in Afghan border provinces. In one of most lethal attacks in recent months, Baloch militants 3 Nov killed fourteen soldiers in Balochistan province’s Gwadar district. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bomb blast targeting police and military 3 Nov killed five civilians and soldier in Dera Ismail district, while militants 6 Nov killed two police constables. During military operation in Khyber district, militants 6 Nov killed four soldiers, including Lieutenant Colonel. In Punjab province, affiliate of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 4 Nov assaulted Pakistan Air Force training base in Mianwali district, leaving all nine attackers dead.

Govt continued forcible deportation of Afghans en masse. Govt had reportedly forced more hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals to Afghanistan (see Afghanistan). In attempt to justify policy, caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar blamed “illegal immigrants” for “spreading insecurity” and cited Taliban’s failure to take action against “anti-Pakistan terrorists”. International rights group Amnesty International 10 Nov condemned Pakistan’s use of Afghan refugees as “political pawn” and UN human rights chief 16 Nov expressed concern over reports of “ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention, destruction of property and personnel belongings and extortion”.

October 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Former PMs Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif sought to overturn disqualifications ahead of elections, sectarian clashes roiled Khyber Paktunkhwa, and govt sought forced returns of Afghan refugees.

Political parties intensified jockeying ahead of elections. Parties prepared for Jan 2024 elections, set to be one of most contested polls in Pakistan’s history; participation of two of main contenders – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif – depends on series of cases before courts. Khan, who is serving three-year prison sentence, 5 Oct approached Islamabad High Court to overturn his conviction in “Toshakhana” case for false statements and incorrect declarations on gifts received during his premiership, which disqualified him from contested elections; Islamabad High Court 27 Oct rejected Khan’s 11 Oct appeal against special court’s indictment in cipher case, relating to alleged unauthorised disclosure and illegal retention of diplomatic cable, as well as his bail plea. Caretaker provincial govts, particularly in Khan strongholds of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, placed curbs on PTI from holding public rallies. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif 21 Oct returned to Pakistan after four-year exile in London in hope of becoming party’s candidate should he overcome legal hurdles, which include appeals against his corruption convictions in 2018. Islamabad High Court, which had given Nawaz protective bail, 26 Oct restored pending appeals.

Sectarian violence erupted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Shia-Sunni clashes 24-29 Oct involving heavy weaponry roiled Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s Kurram district, killing at least twenty, before trial elders reportedly struck ceasefire. Meanwhile, amid counter-insurgency operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, clashes 8-9 Oct killed two soldiers in Zhob district, 16 Oct killed two soldiers in North and South Waziristan district and 18-19 Oct killed three soldiers in two districts.

Govt announced plan to forcibly deport “illegal immigrants”. Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti 3 Oct set 1 Nov deadline for all illegal immigrants to leave Pakistan or face forcible deportation, with clear signals policy was aimed at Afghans. As thousands headed to Afghan border, Amnesty International 31 Oct warned 1.4m Afghan refugees at risk of “being uprooted” ahead of harsh winter months, putting women and girls in particular “in grave danger”.

September 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Twin suicide bombings in provinces bordering Afghanistan killed scores amid spate of militant assaults, while Pakistani and Taliban forces clashed on border.

Suicide attacks killed dozens in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Two suicide bombers targeting Islamic procession in Baluchistan province’s Mastung district and Mosque in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Hangu city 29 Sept killed at least 59 people and injured dozens; Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) reportedly denied responsibility, as suspicions centred on local Islamic State affiliates. Earlier in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, TTP 6 Sept launched major offensive on two checkpoints in Chitral district that killed four soldiers and dozen militants; army alleged attack was coordinated from Afghan soil, leading Islamabad to issue demarche to Afghan Taliban authorities (see Afghanistan). Security forces 9 Sept clashed with militants in Chitral, killing seven and injuring six. Security forces 26 Sept arrested four alleged Islamic State-affiliated militants in provincial capital Peshawar. In Baluchistan province, bomb attack 14 Sept injured at least eleven in Mastung district; police suspected Islamic State of targeting Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader, Hafiz Hamdullah.

Hostilities flared between Islamabad and Taliban. Pakistani and Taliban forces 6 Sept clashed at Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, killing at least two Taliban militants and forcing crossing’s closure for nine days.

Election Commission continued preparations for polls. Amid talks with political parties on timing of election – which according to constitution must be held by 9 Nov – Election Commission 1 Sept announced that it aims to complete process of delimiting new constituency boundaries, following census conducted this year, by 30 Nov; Commission 21 Sept announced elections will be held in last week of Jan 2024. Reuters 14 Sept reported that Election Commission had privately written to caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar expressing concerns about “a general perception that the caretaker government is a continuation of the previous government”. Meanwhile, former PM Imran Khan’s lawyer 13 Sept revealed court had extended Khan’s judicial custody related to charges of publicising state secrets until 26 Sept; Court 26 Sept extended Khan’s custody until 10 Oct.

August 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Court handed former PM Imran Khan prison sentence as govt signalled potential delay to elections, while deadly militant attacks roiled provinces bordering Afghanistan.

Authorities imprisoned Imran Khan and banned him from politics. Police 5 Aug arrested Imran Khan following court order which sentenced him to three years imprisonment for allegedly selling state gifts received in official capacity; Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called for peaceful protests but response was limited amid heavy police deployment. Citing conviction, election commission 8 Aug declared Khan banned from contesting elections for five years. Federal Investigation Authority 19 Aug registered case against Khan and former FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi under Official Secrets Act 1923, and same day arrested Qureshi, over alleged misuse of diplomatic cable at public rally. Appeals court 29 Aug suspended Khan’s three-year sentence; court next day ordered Khan to remain in judicial custody until mid-Sept pending investigation into diplomatic cable case.

Uncertainty pervaded timing of upcoming elections. Govt 5 Aug claimed upcoming general election – set to be held by Nov – must be based on new census, which implies polls could be delayed by several months; PTI 17 Aug vowed to challenge decision at Supreme Court. President 9 Aug ordered parliament’s dissolution and govt 12 Aug appointed Senator Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar as caretaker PM.

Militants continued deadly attacks in provinces bordering Afghanistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s North Waziristan district, suicide bomber 7 Aug killed two; IED 20 Aug killed 11 labourers en route to construction project; Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants 22 Aug ambushed two military vehicles, killing six soldiers and four militants. In Balochistan province, roadside bomb 7 Aug killed seven, including Balochistan Awami Party member, in Kech town. Balochistan Liberation Army 13 Aug attacked vehicles carrying Chinese engineers in Gwadar port city. Amid tensions with Afghan Taliban, FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari 1 Aug said Pakistan could act in “self-defence” in Afghanistan (see Afghanistan).

Blasphemy allegations triggered rampage in Punjab. Mob of several hundred Muslims 16 Aug attacked Christian settlement in Faisalabad district, Punjab province, after two locals were accused of “blasphemy”; mob desecrated churches and ransacked properties.

July 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Govt maintained intense pressure on former PM Imran Khan as elections approached, while Islamic State killed dozens in suicide attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa amid spate of militant assaults.

Imran Khan faced raft of allegations and court cases. Islamabad High Court 4 July ruled that case alleging Khan had concealed details of gifts received during his term as PM was “inadmissible” but Supreme Court 26 July rejected Khan’s plea to halt criminal proceedings. Supreme Court Registrar 10 July rejected petition to dissolve Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party following 9 May unrest; reports continued that govt was contemplating trying Khan and other PTI leaders in military courts for alleged roles in May unrest. Prosecutor 21 July told Anti-Terrorism Court Lahore that Khan was “guilty of inciting attacks” on military installations on 9 May, per Punjab police investigation; judge extended Khan’s pre-arrest bail until 8 August. In further blow to Khan, 57 members of PTI 17 July left to form new party ahead of elections. Interior minister 20 July warned Khan could be arrested if he did not cooperate with investigations into alleged use of diplomatic channels for political purposes; defence minister 21 July said Khan could be charged with treason and disqualified from election. Supreme Court 24 July barred authorities from arresting Khan until 9 August in case pertaining to killing of lawyer.

Deadly militant attacks roiled provinces bordering Afghanistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bajaur district, Islamic State suicide bomber 30 July detonated explosives at political rally of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, killing at least 54 people and wounding 200. Elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 20 July shot dead two police officers in Peshawar’s Regi Model Town area Two TTP suicide bombers 20 July attacked govt compound in province’s Bara neighbourhood, killing four police officers. In Balochistan province, TTP 2 July killed four security personnel after storming highway checkpoint in Zhob district. Militants belonging to newly established Tehreek-e Jihad Pakistan 12 July assaulted military base in Zhob, killing nine soldiers. Amid surge in attacks, Pakistan’s army 14 July expressed concern about militant safe havens in Afghanistan, vowing “effective response” (see Afghanistan).

June 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Crackdown on former PM Imran Khan’s party deepened Khan’s isolation, insecurity persisted in provinces bordering Afghanistan and govt secured international funding amid debt default fears.

Military-led crackdown intensified on Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). After large numbers of senior PTI leaders exited party following 9 May street unrest and authorities continued to detain many others, several journalists deemed sympathetic to PTI were disappeared during month, while others were detained and charged with crimes such as sedition and mutiny against state. Military 7 June called for “noose of law” to be tightened for masterminds of “politically driven rebellion”, and reiterated intention to try civilians in military courts. Supreme Court 22 June began hearing several petitions challenging military trials of civilians. .Military spokesman 26 June announced dismissal of at least three senior officers, including lieutenant general, and disciplinary action against 15 other officers, including three major generals, for failure to protect military installations on 9 May. Khan’s isolation deepened as he faced charges that could result in disqualification from public office and his former close confidant 8 June launched Istekham-i-Pakistan Party with backing of almost 100 former PTI leaders, in likely bid to damage PTI’s electoral chances ahead of polls.

Security operations and militant attacks continued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. Pakistani Taliban 8 June claimed killing of two police constables in Swat district’s Mingora city. Militants same day killed police constable in Lakki Marwat district. Gun battle in North Waziristan district 9-10 June killed three soldiers. Security forces 28 June killed three Islamic State militants in Bajur district. In Balochistan province, militant attack along border with Iran 1 June killed two soldiers; Baluch Liberation Army suicide bomber 24 June killed police officer in Turbat city.

Govt secured International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal. PM Shehbaz Sharif 9 June presented 2023-24 budget to parliament providing tax exemptions for several sectors, including IT and agriculture. Moody’s Investor Services 14 June warned that Pakistan could fail to revive IMF program by looming expiration on 30 June, heightening risks of sovereign default. In effort to secure “standby arrangement” with IMF, govt removed subsidies and tax exemptions and reduced expenditures with revised budget passed by parliament on 25 June. IMF 30 June announced staff- level agreement with govt for $3bn fund.

May 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Arrest of former PM Imran Khan triggered deadly unrest, widening breach with govt and straining Khan’s relations with military; militant attacks continued in provinces bordering Afghanistan.

Street clashes between Khan’s supporters and security forces killed nine and injured hundreds. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 3 May informed Supreme Court that dialogue with govt on election dates had failed. Khan 6 May announced mass protests and alleged Major General Faisal Naseer was responsible for two assassination attempts against him. While at Islamabad High Court, paramilitary rangers 9 May arrested Khan for failing to join investigation on corruption charges, prompting enraged Khan supporters to take to streets in several cities and attack police and paramilitary personnel, govt buildings and military sites, including corps commander’s house in Lahore and army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Govt deployed troops in Islamabad, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and military 10 May warned of severe retaliation against “group that wants to push Pakistan into a civil war”; police arrested most of PTI leadership. Violence – which killed nine and injured almost 300 – 11 May subsided as Supreme Court invalidated Khan’s arrest and Islamabad High Court granted him bail. PTI next day renewed calls for nationwide protests, as Khan blamed army chief Asim Munir for his “abduction” and “organised conspiracy” against PTI. Military 15 May decided to try civilians involved in attacks on its sites through military courts, prompting widespread opposition. Defence minister 24 May said govt may ban PTI.

Deadly militant attacks persisted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 4 May claimed attack that killed six soldiers; shooting at school in Kurram district same day killed six Shia Turi Bangash tribe members; TTP militants 23 May attacked energy facility in Hangu district, killing six security guards. In Balochistan province, militants 12 May killed two soldiers in attack on police camp in Saifullah district; operation to clear site next day left six soldiers, six militants and civilian dead.

Relations with Afghan Taliban remained strained. After govt raised concerns about cross-border militancy, Afghan Taliban’s FM 8 May said Islamabad and TTP should “find a solution to these problems on their own”.

April 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Constitutional crisis over Punjab election dispute fuelled tensions between govt and Supreme Court, while security forces ramped up operations against militants in north west.

Tensions mounted between govt and Supreme Court over Punjab polls. Supreme Court 4 April fixed Punjab provincial polls for 14 May, ruling that Election Commission’s decision last month to delay vote until 8 Oct was “unconstitutional”; former PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party welcomed ruling, while PM Sharif called it “mockery” of constitution and rejected order to prepare for polls. National Assembly during month repeatedly rejected govt bill to allocate election funds. Compounding dispute, President Alvi (PTI member) 9 April rejected govt bill to limit Supreme Court chief justice’s powers; parliament next day, however, adopted bill but before it was enacted into law on 21 April, Supreme Court headed by chief justice 13 April halted bill – marking first time in Pakistan’s legislative history that court blocked law yet to be enacted. Parliament 14 April passed another bill granting right of appeal in specific cases. Further deepening controversy, defence ministry 18 April urged court to permit nationwide elections on 8 Oct; Supreme Court next day dismissed request and warned govt of “serious consequences” if funds and security were not provided. Court 20 April asked major parties to reach consensus within week on date for nationwide elections but backed down on deadline 27 April after National Assembly speaker 26 April denounced judicial interference. PM Sharif 27 April won vote of confidence, strengthening govt’s position as negotiations same day began with PTI on election date.

Govt ramped up military operations against militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. National Security Council 7 April reportedly agreed to launch “all-out comprehensive operation” against “terrorism”. Notably, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two military operations 5 and 15 April killed 18 militants in South Waziristan, leaving three soldiers dead. Gun battle with militants 9 April killed soldier in North Waziristan. Militants 23 April killed senior ex-army officer in Lakki Marwat district.

Relations remained strained with Kabul. Defence minister 12 April criticised Kabul’s failure in “stopping the use of their territory in attacks on Pakistan”, warning of resorting to “some measures wherever [terrorists] are”.

March 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Standoff between govt and former PM Imran Khan escalated as unrest roiled capital Islamabad and Lahore, and Election Commission postponed Punjab polls.

Delayed Punjab polls and tensions between Khan and authorities raised threat of further violence. After Supreme Court 1 March ruled that elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces should be held within 90 days, President Alvi 3 March announced polls in Punjab for 30 April. Govt warned, however, that local polls could disrupt general elections schedule; civilian and military agencies 10-14 March ruled out role in securing polls, citing militant threats and lack of personnel. Election Commission 22 March delayed Punjab polls till 8 Oct, citing security concerns. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor 24 March informed elections body that his province’s polls should also be delayed to same date. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 26 March asked Supreme Court to overrule Election Commission’s order; any court decision against elections body could fuel political tensions and have constitutional implications. Meanwhile, amid mounting tensions, police acting on warrant 6 and 13 March sought to arrest Khan at his residence in Lahore, but Khan’s supporters prevented entry and clashed with police, injuring over 60 officers. Khan 18 March attended Islamabad court alongside 4,000 PTI activists, who fought with police, leaving over 50 officers injured; unrest forced judge to adjourn case. Khan 19 March claimed he narrowly avoided assassination outside court. Khan 25 March addressed large-scale rally in Lahore, accusing govt of attempting to stop his return to power.

Pakistan Taliban continued attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistani Taliban targeted police escorting census teams, killing one officer in Dera Islmail district 9 March. Group 13 March killed two officers in attacks in Tank and Lakki Marwat district. Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 14 March highlighted challenges for polls, including “inconclusive reconciliation process” with Pakistani Taliban. In Balochistan province, Islamic State’s regional franchise 6 March killed nine police officers in Bolan district.

Govt deepened cooperation with U.S. Following counter-terrorism dialogue in Islamabad 6-7 March, foreign ministry said govt and U.S. would enhance collaboration to counter regional threats.

February 2023

Asia

Pakistan

Insecurity persisted amid surging militant attacks, political tensions remained high over timing of provincial polls, and relations with Taliban authorities in Afghanistan displayed rifts.

Pakistani Taliban and Baloch militants continued deadly attacks. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 17 Feb attacked police headquarters in Karachi city, financial hub and capital of Sindh province, killing four security personnel and civilian. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police chief 17 Feb reported 62 militant attacks in Jan. In Balochistan province, attacks continued amid reports of TTP alliance with local Baloch militant groups: notably, roadside blasts 4 Feb killed soldier in Gwadar and two soldiers in Bolan district; bomb blast 10 Feb killed two soldiers in Kohlu district. Meanwhile, TTP’s Peshawar bombing fuelled political tensions: PM Sharif 1 Feb implicitly blamed former PM Imran Khan, whose govt had backed talks with TTP, as Khan in turn blamed Sharif for security failures; senior official of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 19 Feb blamed former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Constitutional-political crisis deepened over forthcoming provincial polls. Following dissolution of legislatures in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, President Alvi (PTI loyalist) 20 Feb announced elections in both would be held on 9 April; announcement came after both provincial governors refused to set dates and election commission claimed it did not have legal authority. Sharif govt strongly rejected Alvi’s declaration, emphasising his lack of constitutional jurisdiction. Supreme Court 22 Feb took up polling date controversy; ruling coalition parties 24 Feb demanded full court hearing. Meanwhile, Khan 21 Feb announced “court arrest drive” against “attack on our constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights” and “economic meltdown” amid accusations of govt intimidation and abuses; almost 100 party activists and leaders were detained.

Govt publicly urged Afghan Taliban to address terrorism. FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari 17 Feb confirmed “uptick in terrorist activity in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul” and warned of it spreading, citing need to convince Kabul to “take on terrorism within their borders”. High-level security delegation 22 Feb met Taliban officials in Kabul to discuss TTP sanctuaries; Islamabad said authorities agreed to collaborate, but it remained unclear if engagement can stem TTP attacks.

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