A fragile democratic transition faces the dual challenges of political instability and poorly designed counter-terrorism strategies that sacrifice long-term peace for perceived short-term security goals, fuelling militancy in various parts of the country. Across the border, rival India accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and even sponsoring deadly attacks on Indian soil. There is no resolution in sight to the two countries’ dispute over Kashmir, which continues to claim soldiers’ and civilians’ lives along the Line of Control. Crisis Group monitors Pakistan’s domestic politics and security, with the aim of informing Pakistani leaders and international stakeholders about effective strategies for countering instability within the country and preventing its spillover abroad.
Pakistan has started repatriations that could force millions of Afghans back to their crisis-wracked home country. As Crisis Group expert Ibraheem Bahiss explains in this Q&A, the policy could bring further trouble to the region, notwithstanding Islamabad’s efforts to justify itself on security grounds.
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”.
As Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban severed, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also gotten cold feet in their engagement [with the Taliban].
As Pakistan faces interlocking crises that threaten the outbreak of violence, political stability is of the utmost importance. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Spring Update, Crisis Group explains what the EU can do to help.
Two large attacks on police installations have rocked Pakistan, compelling the authorities to rethink their approach to countering militancy. Their dilemma is that the insurgents’ main supporters – the new authorities in Afghanistan – are also their long-time allies.
The Pakistani military is getting new leadership amid political turmoil centred around former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who refuses to accept the current government as legitimate. The generals promise not to get involved, but if the dispute turns violent, they may feel compelled to intervene.
A would-be assassin wounded former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as he led his followers in a protest march calling for snap elections. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed explains the causes and possible consequences of the country’s latest political tumult.
A local jihadist group and a violent protest movement are driving renewed sectarian strife in Pakistan. To prevent a slide back into violence, Islamabad should ensure those inciting or perpetrating violent acts are prosecuted while denying hardliners the civic space to propagate their hatred.
Kicked out of office, former Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps denying his successor’s legitimacy. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to help Pakistan's new government ward off violence, expand the social safety net and promote electoral reforms.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Crisis Group trustee and leading South Asia expert Ahmed Rashid talk about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster, and the domestic and foreign policy challenges facing his successor, Shahbaz Sharif.
Imran Khan has become the first Pakistani prime minister to lose office through a parliamentary no-confidence vote. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Samina Ahmed explains that his ouster occurred by constitutional means, but his challenge to the new government’s legitimacy could lead to violence.
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