The purpose of this COI Focus is to assess the security situation in Pakistan. It is a partial update of the Country of Origin Information Report Pakistan: Security situation which was drafted by Cedoca and published on 27 October 2021 by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA). This update is particularly focused on the period from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022. Events that took place during the drafting of this report in January and February 2023 are also included.
The security situation deteriorated in Pakistan in 2022, a year that saw political unrest as well as unprecedented monsoon rainfall that caused devastating floods. The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) reported a 27 % rise of ‘terrorist incidents’ in Pakistan compared to 2021. ACLED coded most security incidents in Pakistan in 2022 in the provinces Balochistan (433) and Pakhtunkhwa (KP) (423).
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 caused a significant increase in violence in KP. Cross-border movements by Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants from Afghanistan to Pakistan lead to increasing numbers of attacks, especially on Pakistan security personnel. According to PIPS, a total of 169 ‘terrorist incidents’ were registered in KP in 2022, a rise of 52 % compared to 2021. ACLED collected data on 423 violent events in KP province in 2022. Analysis of these data shows that these security incidents mainly took place in the districts of North Waziristan, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Bajaur, South Waziristan and Lakki Marwat. Further analysis shows the TTP to be the main actor of anti-state violence in KP, with North Waziristan and Dera Ismail Khan standing out as the districts where TTP is most active. To a lesser extent, ISKP is also present in KP, deploying its terrorist tactics mainly in the districts Bajaur and Peshawar. According to several sources, TTP tries to distinguish itself from the ISKP’s extremism by focusing its attacks on security and law enforcement officials and attempting to spare civilian lives. ISKP is primarily an urban phenomenon and is comprised of de-centralised units that target Shia sites rather than directly challenging the state. Its March 2022 suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar showed its capability to carry out mass-casualty attacks. TTP retracted an earlier claim of responsibility for the January 2023 suicide attack on a mosque used by security forces and government personnel in Peshawar that resulted in more than 100 fatalities. As of February 2023, no large-scale conflict-induced displacement from areas in and to KP was reported. The Pakistani army has refrained from any major new counteroffensive against TTP in KP.
In recent years, the insurgency by nationalist militants in Balochistan has been marked by destructive attacks on Pakistan security forces personnel and infrastructure. According to PIPS, a total of 79 ‘terrorist incidents’ were registered in Balochistan in 2022, a decrease of 2 % compared to 2021. According to PIPS, the majority of these terror incidents targeted personnel, vehicles and premises of security forces and law enforcement agencies. ACLED collected data on 433 security incidents in Balochistan in 2022. Analysis of these data shows that violence mainly took place in the districts Kech, Quetta, Kachhi and Panjgur. Further analysis indicates Baloch nationalist groups to be the main actors of violence in the province. Besides security forces personnel and infrastructure, Baloch insurgent groups also targeted Chinese projects and Chinese workers linked to the development of the Gwadar Port in Balochistan. TTP and ISKP carried out a limited number of attacks in Balochistan. TTP’s focus on Balochistan is explained by one source as an attempt to stretch the Pakistan security forces and to impede a Pakistani army offensive in KP. Sectarian violence is also still present in Balochistan : the Hazara community of Quetta was targeted by a number of attacks in 2022.
The number of ‘terrorist incidents’ reported by PIPS in the provinces Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad in 2022 was limited compared to the levels of violence witnessed in KP and Balochistan. Although TTP, Baloch Nationalist Groups and ISKP were responsible for violence outside of KP and Balochistan, ACLED reported low numbers of security incidents in the province of Punjab (76), in Sindh (59), in the Federal Capital of Islamabad (four) and in Gilgit-Baltistan (two). In Sindh, a number of terrorist attacks were committed by Sindhi nationalist groups.
De veiligheids- en mensenrechtensituatie in Pakistan is problematisch. Heel wat Pakistaanse burgers worden blootgesteld aan etno-politiek of sektarisch geweld, en de Pakistaanse autoriteiten zijn vaak niet bij machte of onwillig om bescherming te verlenen. Het gros van het geweld dat in Pakistan plaatsvindt, kan toegeschreven worden aan de terreurorganisaties die in het land actief zijn. De terreurorganisaties viseren voornamelijk leden van de veiligheidsdiensten en het leger, leden van religieuze minderheden en politici. Daarnaast vinden er in Pakistan soms grootschalige aanslagen plaats die als doel hebben om een maximaal aantal slachtoffers te maken binnen een bepaalde gemeenschap. Doorgaans vormen religieuze minderheden, en dan vooral de sjiitische moslims, hierbij het doelwit. Dergelijke aanslagen zijn echter eerder uitzondering dan regel. De veiligheidssituatie in het land wordt verder beïnvloed door opflakkeringen van geweld tussen extremistische elementen en regeringstroepen in het noordwesten van het land en de nationalistische opstand in Balochistan.