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. 

Read our CrisisWatch entries on India-Pakistan (Kashmir) here.

CrisisWatch Pakistan

Unchanged Situation

Fallout of disputed Feb polls continued as opposition parties reignited nationwide anti-govt protests, while insecurity plagued provinces bordering Afghanistan amid tensions with Kabul. 

Political polarisation persisted. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by imprisoned former PM Imran Khan, continued to oppose Election Commission’s refusal to allocate seats reserved for women and minorities to its proxy party Sunni Ittehad Council. In protest, PTI-dominated legislature in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province delayed administering oath to members on reserved seats, thereby disrupting 1 April election of 48 Senate seats; in response, Election Commission put on hold elections for eleven Senate seats until oath was administered. PTI called commission’s decision continuation of “mandate theft plot”. Increasing pressure, PTI 13 April announced countrywide anti-govt protest by coalition of six opposition parties to denounce alleged rigging of 8 Feb election and “illegal” govt; first protests next day commenced in Balochistan province’s Pishin city. During series of by-elections 21 April, violent clashes between PTI and PLN-N supporters at polling stations killed one in Punjab’s Narowal district; PTI launched countrywide protest against electoral irregularities after PML-N gains.

Militancy and security operations continued in provinces bordering Afghanistan. Militants early April attacked police targets across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Militants 13 April killed two soldiers during operation in Buner district and two others in suicide bombing in Dera Ismail district, where seven customs officers were killed in two attacks 21 and 24 April. In Balochistan province, Balochistan Liberation Army militants 13 April abducted and shot dead nine people from Punjab province near Noshki district. Suspected Baloch suicide attack in Sindh province’s capital Karachi 19 April appeared to target Japanese citizens, possibly mistaking them for Chinese nationals.

Tensions lingered with Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities. Following escalation in hostilities in March, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif 1 April accused Taliban of being source of resurgence of militancy in Pakistan. After senior Afghan Taliban leader 4 April urged Islamabad to negotiate peace with Pakistani Taliban, foreign ministry next day ruled out such talks. Tensions could mount further should militancy continue to surge and Islamabad follow through on threats to forcibly deport Afghan nationals (see Afghanistan). 

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In The News

22 Aug 2023
As Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban severed, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also gotten cold feet in their engagement [with the Taliban]. The Cradle

Ibraheem Bahiss

Analyst, Afghanistan

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