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. 

CrisisWatch Pakistan

Unchanged Situation

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”.

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In The News

22 خەر 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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