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

Authorities unveiled new security plan while insecurity in regions bordering Afghanistan and internal political crisis continued. 

Relations with Afghanistan remained tense. Amid mounting tensions with Kabul, Pakistan 22 June announced new anti-terrorism plan, Operation Azm-i-Istekham (Resolve for Security) to counter extremism and militancy in the country. After backlash from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pashtun nationalist parties, PM Shahbaz Sharif 24 June claimed operation was “erroneously misunderstood” clarifying that it was not all-out operation that would lead to the massive displacement of people in conflict zones. At UN 18 June Pakistan called for “concerted effort” to recover weapons from militant groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Normalcy returned to Chaman district in Balochistan after protests 7 June against mandatory visa regime for cross-border travel to Afghanistan turned violent. Security forces clashed with demonstrators as they attacked govt offices, injuring at least 40 people including 17 security personnel. Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan remained closed for seventh consecutive month, causing economic losses and hardship for traders. 

Militant attacks and faith-based violence continued, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Officials 9 June confirmed death of seven soldiers who were targeted by roadside bomb in Lakki Marwat district in KP; military 10 June claimed to have killed 11 “terrorists” suspected in attack during overnight operation between 10-11 June in Lakki Marwat District, also in KP militants were suspected of 18 June killing of prominent local journalist. News reports 16 June surfaced about death of Pakistani Taliban commander, Abdul Manan, in Afghanistan amid reports of internal strife within TTP. Faith-based violence continued. Notably, mob 20 June killed Muslim tourist from Punjab for allegedly desecrating Quran in KP’s Swat district. Police 8 June arrested man suspected of killing two men from Ahmadiyya community in Punjab’s Mandi Bahuddin district. 

Internal political deadlock continued. Islamabad High Court 3 June acquitted former PM Imran Khan and FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi in cipher case and overturned 10-year sentence. However, both faced additional charges in other cases, making likelihood of their release slim. Despite first agreeing to negotiate with govt, Khan 14 June told journalists negotiating with “powerless” govt was futile when “higher authorities” predetermined outcomes. 

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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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