Updated: August 2013
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
2012 The conflict in Pakistan continued with widespread violence, including suicide bomb attacks, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings, and beheadings. The federal political leadership is in shambles as the result of deep systemic corruption and during the year the Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Gilani from holding office. The state supports several terrorist groups. More than 6,000 people died in the conflict in 2012; figures are similar to those of recent years. Continuing U.S. drone attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 222 people. In October 14-year-old activist Malala Yusufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban, but survived. The attack attracted global media attention.
2011 Suicide attacks and shootings, attributed to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network, continued this year, killing both civilians and Pakistani military forces. Clashes between government forces and insurgents also continued, resulting in similar fatality numbers to 2010. The Pakistani Army launched a new offensive in Mohmand Agency, located in in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), displacing more than 25,000 civilians. Violence, fuelled by hostility among political parties, roiled Karachi in 2011, with 240 people killed in July alone. In May, a U.S. Special Forces raid killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, a military town near Islamabad. The mission was criticized by Pakistani military leaders, who were not informed of the raid before-hand, and led to many high-profile revenge attacks against U.S. military and NATO forces. In November, 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by friendly-fire from a NATO warplane in Pakistan near the Afghan border, further damaging deteriorating U.S.-Pakistani relations. Pakistan responded by blocking NATO supply routes. Despite the drop in the number of drone attacks to almost half of the total for 2010, military officials, politicians and media commentators in Pakistan continued to condemn their use, citing civilian deaths and violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
2010 Violence between Pakistani forces and Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the northwest, as well as clashes between political rivals elsewhere in the country continued throughout the year, though fewer fatalities were reported than in 2009. In South Waziristan, the army increased its efforts against al-Qaeda, leading to an increase in militant violence in the area. The army claimed some success in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), driving out the Taliban from portions of the area. The number of U.S. drone attacks continued to rise dramatically, with the total this year reaching 118, more than twice the 2009 total. The number of terrorist attacks throughout the country increased, especially in Karachi. Officials suspected Karachi might be the new base for the Quetta Shura Taliban. Political violence, involving the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Baluch nationalists, continued throughout the year. The Pakistani government strengthened ties with the United States, while domestically the MQM threatened to back out of the governing coalition. By early 2011, the party officially did so. Despite these domestic challenges, in May, parliament officially passed the eighteenth constitutional amendment, which limits presidential powers, strengthens parliament and transfers more power to the provinces.
2009 A new operation to reclaim the Swat Valley from Taliban control was launched in January. In an effort to stop the violence in the Swat Valley and other areas, the Chief Minister of North Western Frontier Province announced that a bill had been signed to implement sharia law in the region to satisfy Taliban demands. A ceasefire followed, but conflict re-erupted in April when the Taliban violated the terms of the ceasefire and attempted an advance into Buner district. By July, the Swat Valley was back under military control. As the Swat operation wound down, a new operation was launched in South Waziristan, targeted at high-ranking Taliban leaders. This operation resulted in the death of Baitullah Mehsud, a top Taliban leader in Pakistan. The year 2009 was significant for the use of unmanned U.S. drone attacks on targets in Pakistan. By the end of 2009, 51 drone attacks had reportedly been launched, killing more than 700 people. Violent deaths in 2009 numbered between 11,000 and 12,000. In mid-March, the administration of U.S. president Barack Obama announced a new strategy for Pakistan, which included increased economic assistance for the country in return for greater co-operation in fighting terrorists along the Afghan border.
2008 Newly President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani advocated a new approach to dealing with the insurgency. Peace talks between all levels of Pakistani governments and militants were proposed but never materialized due to continued violence. The Pakistani national government sought, in late 2008, to take a forceful approach with militants in its Northwest Frontier Province in an attempt to root out insurgents and solidify control. Operations against militants in the region have displaced thousands; estimates put the civilian death toll in the hundreds and the insurgent death toll is in the thousands. U.S. drone attacks escalated late in the year, with more than two dozen airstrikes reported since August. Both the United States and the United Kingdom pledged to increase anti-insurgency measures and bolster democratic institutions by funding projects worth millions of dollars in the tribal regions.
2007 Fighting continued throughout various areas of the country while violence intensified between government security forces and foreign militants in North and South Waziristan. More than 1,300 deaths were reported due to violence, including some 250 which occurred as the result of suicide bombings. President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution from the in November, sparking an international outcry and resulting in Pakistan’s suspension from the Commonwealth. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned from exile and was assassinated on Dec. 27, postponing elections until February 2008.
2006 Conflicts in several areas of Pakistan killed upwards of 1,650 people. These took place between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the military and rebels seeking autonomy in the province of Baluchistan, and the military and Islamic militants along the porous Afghan border.
2005 Sectarian violence across Pakistan and military operations in northeastern Pakistan continued. In October, a major earthquake in northern Pakistan killed 55,000 people.
2004 Sectarian fighting continued in 2004 as attacks on civilians and security forces, bombing of mosques and drive-by shootings of politicians killed at least 190 people. Most casualties were civilians who died in the year’s two most serious attacks, both bombings of Sunni mosques. President Pervez Musharraf was entrenched as head of the government and army until at least 2007 by a bill approved by Pakistan’s lower house. Pakistan was declared a “major ally” by U.S. President George W. Bush in recognition of Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against al-Qaeda.
2003 Sectarian violence claimed approximately 100 lives this year, with Shia Muslim civilians accounting for most of the casualties. President Pervez Musharraf continued a crackdown on militant groups, which may have prompted an attempt on his life in December.
2002 Sectarian violence claimed dozens of lives this year with Islamic militants stepping up attacks against Pakistani Christians and foreigners.
2001 Sectarian violence continued in 2001 with targeted killings of prominent members of the community. In August, the Sindh provincial government initiated a crackdown on Islamic militants. According to one Pakistani media source, more than 250 people were killed in the violence during the year.
2000 Although violence has declined since the military coup of October 1999, sectarian tensions persisted between the majority Sunni and the minority Shia Muslim groups in Karachi. The killing of prominent religious leaders and political activists resulted in violent protests. At least 150 people were killed in the violence.
1999 Despite the central government’s imposition of Governor’s Rule (state of emergency) in late 1998 in response to Sindh violence, political and sectarian killings persisted in Karachi, albeit at a much reduced level. At least 75 were killed during the year, down from the estimated 1,000 conflict deaths in 1998.
1998 In 1998, reprisal killings between militants of the Muttahida Qami Movement (MQM) and a breakaway faction increased violence in the city of Karachi.
1. Government of Pakistan: Asif Ali Zardari was elected president of Pakistan on Sept. 6, 2008 with a large majority. Pakistani legislators elected Zardari weeks after his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, had resigned over threats of impeachment. After the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, in late 2007, Mr. Zardari inherited her title as head of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Zardari has pledged to resolve the long-standing issue of Islamic militancy in Pakistan.
Yusuf Raza Gilani was named Prime Minister after Pakistan’s two opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) formed a coalition government after winning a combined majority of seats in the February 2008 election. Gilani was nominated Prime Minister by the PPP with support from its coalition partners.
2. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI): Pakistan’s largest intelligence service was established in 1948. The ISI gathers domestic and foreign intelligence, is supposed to bolster intelligence sharing between the different branches of the armed forces and conducts covert offensive operations.
3. Frontier Corps (FC): a paramilitary force, it is led by army officers
4. United States: The United States provides billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan in exchange for co-operation in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The military leadership in Pakistan says this arrangement infringes on Pakistan’s sovereignty. Although they do not have a military presence in Pakistan, the United States has been launching an increasing number of drone attacks in the past few years.
Militant Groups: Several parties opposed to the government (and each other) are involved in the armed conflict in Pakistan. Most of these groups are seen to be primarily ethnic or religious groups. In addition, criminal elements, some working through the groups listed below, also contribute to the violence, a legacy of Pakistan’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan and the related drug trade. The major groups active in fighting include:
5. Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM): a Sindh nationalist group, JSQM was created in 1972 and works to liberate Sindh province to create a free Sindhudesh. Currently led by Bashir Qureshi and Asif Baladi, JSQM believes that the people of Sindh are subject to a violation of their water rights and to disproportionate economic benefits from the land’s natural resources in comparison to the Punjab province.
6. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM): The Mohajir Quami Movement first emerged in 1986 and was led by Altaf Hussain. In 1991, disagreements between the leaders and Altaf Hussain resulted in the formation of a splinter group, the MQM-H. Since the split, the MQM faction led by Altaf Hussein is known as MQM-A. Since the split, there have been many clashes within the mohajir community by the two factions. MQM-A reportedly have ties with the Shia sectarian parties. In 1997 the group changed its name to the Muttahida Quami Movement.
7. Mohajir Quami Movement Haqiqi (MQM-H): formed in 1992, and led by Afaq Ahmed, the group is fighting for a separate province because it feels that the mohajirs are faced with continuing socio-economic and political inequalities. They are reported to be allied the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).
8. Baluch Liberation Army: an insurgent group that seeks an independent Baluchistan. This group was led by 80-year-old Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, who was killed in August 2006 in a military offensive.
Sunni-based groups, some of which are funded by supporters in the Arabian Gulf states
9. Millat-e Islami-ye Pakistan (MIP): previously known as Sipah-Sabaha-Pakistan, which represents Sunni Muslims with support from fundamentalist groups in Saudi Arabia and Libya.
10. Jamaat-i-Islami (JII) and its student wing, Islamic Jamiat Tulaba (IJT).
11. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi: suspected of having links with Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkatul Muhajideen among other terrorist groups.
12. Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shiriat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM): based in the Malakand Division of the Northwest Frontier Province. Receives support from the TTP.
13. Islami Tahrik-e Pakistan (ITP): previously known as Tehrik-I-Jaffaria-Pakistan, which represents Shia Muslims with some financial support from Iran. Led by Mohammad Baqar Najfi.
Taliban and al-Qaeda
14. Taliban: A militant group that emerged in Northern Pakistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from neighbouring Afghanistan. The Taliban held power in Afghanistan until being overthrown by the United States in late 2001. The Pakistani Taliban is believed to be providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda leaders.
a. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan, TTP), the main Pakistani faction of the Taliban, led by Hakimullah Mehsud. It is considered an umbrella organization which is linked to, but independent of, the Afghan Taliban.
b. Haqqani network, a militant organization allied with the Taliban based in North Waziristan and Eastern Afghanistan led by Afghan Taliban leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani. Attacks are launched from North Waziristan into Afghanistan. The United States has repeatedly accused the Pakistan army, specifically its intelligence branch, the ISI, of supporting the Haqqani network.
c. Quetta Shura, based in Quetta, Baluchistan province, this is a militant group made up of the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. It is said to have been founded by Mullah Muhammad Omar.
15. Al-Qaeda: Arabic for the base, al-Qaeda is an international terrorist network led by Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri. Its members follow a radical version of Sunni Islam and claim to be waging a war for an Islamic form of government throughout the world.
2012 While militant and security forces deaths decreased by 12 and 5 per cent respectively, civilian fatalities increased 10 per cent from 2011. According to a report issued by the Interior Ministry, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Balochistan, Baloch Musalla Difa Tanzeem, and the Baloch Liberation Army are partly responsible for disrupting law and order in Balochistan. However, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is calling for an investigation into the state’s involvement in killings and forced disappearances in Balochistan. This conflict is related to the separatist insurgency.
Sectarian violence increased, with at least 507 recorded fatalities in 173 incidents, up from 203 killings in 30 incidents in 2011. Violence against Shias was the highest on record in 2012, with at least 396 Shias killed in 113 targeted attacks, up from 136 Shias in 24 incidents in 2011. The perpetrators of the attacks are believed to have links with the government.
Politically motivated killings were common. According to the HRCP 135 political activists were killed in the first half of 2012. Members of the Awami National Party were frequently targeted by the TTP. In December senior ANP leader and provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour was killed in a suicide bomb attack.
In October 14-year-old children’s rights activist and Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize winner Malala Yusufzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen. She survived and recovered after intensive treatment in the United Kingdom. This attack captured the attention of the world media.
Thirty-four security forces personnel were beheaded by terrorists, including 22 in one December incident in Peshawar.
According to the New America Foundation, at least 222 people were killed in 48 drone attacks in Pakistan by the United States in 2012.
2011 Suicide attacks and shootings, attributed to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network, continued this year, killing both civilians and Pakistani military forces. Clashes between government forces and insurgents also continued, resulting in similar fatality numbers to 2010. The Pakistani Army launched a new offensive in Mohmand Agency, located in in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), displacing more than 25,000 civilians. Violence, fuelled by hostility among political parties, roiled Karachi in 2011, with 240 people killed in July alone, despite paramilitary troops being deployed to the city to restore order. On May 2, a U.S. Special Forces raid killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, a military town near Islamabad. The mission was criticized by Pakistani military leaders, who were not informed of the raid before-hand, and led to many high-profile revenge attacks against U.S. military and NATO forces. In November, 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by friendly-fire from a NATO warplane in Pakistan near the Afghan border. Pakistan responded by blocking NATO supply routes. The U.S. responded to the backlash by briefly halting its drone attacks, restarting them in early 2012. Despite the drop in the number of drone attacks to almost half of the total for 2010, military officials, politicians and media commentators in Pakistan continued to condemn their use, citing civilian deaths and violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
2010 Early in the year, the military intensified its campaign in South Waziristan to root out al-Qaeda. Around the same time, security forces and local tribesmen stepped up their campaign against the Taliban in Bajaur, an agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, regaining control; a senior Taliban commander, Kalifa, and 37 militants surrendered, other militants fled and a number of key military Taliban leaders were later captured in a series of raids conducted by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, the CIA and Pakistani forces. The Taliban continued to launch attacks—including bombings and suicide attacks—against NATO and Pakistani forces, as well as NGO targets across the country. The number of terrorist attacks throughout the country increased, especially in Karachi. Officials suspected Karachi might be the new base for the Quetta Shura Taliban. The number of U.S. drone attacks continued to rise, with the total this year reaching 118, more than twice the number from the previous year. Most of these attacks were in North Waziristan and again questions were raised about the success of unmanned drones. A number of key Taliban leaders have been killed by drone attacks and the remaining leadership has largely been forced underground, but there are reports that hundreds or even thousands of civilians have been killed. In January and February, clashes between political rivals led to 50 deaths. In July, the secretary-general of the Baluchistan National Party was killed. In August, 16 Punjabis in Baluchistan were killed. Also in August, an MQM MP was killed and another member of the MQM was killed shortly afterwards. The two killings triggered political violence that killed hundreds more, mainly in Karachi.
2009 In January, the Pakistani army launched an operation to reclaim Swat Valley, a former tourist region, from Taliban control. Militants nevertheless expanded their control to nearly the entire district and began imposing strict sharia law in the region. By mid-February, the Chief Minister of the Northwestern Frontier Province announced that a bill had been signed that would implement sharia law in the Northwest Frontier Province’s Malakand Division, which includes Swat. The Taliban responded by announcing a 10-day truce to examine the bill. In late February, the Taliban extended the truce indefinitely. At the beginning of March, Major General Tariq Khan, commander of military operations in Pakistan’s tribal agencies said his paramilitary Frontier Corps had driven extremists out of Bajaur, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The conflict in Swat was reignited in late April after Taliban militants violated the peace deal by advancing into Buner district. Two million people have fled the fighting in the northwest with over one million people forced to flee their homes to escape the fighting in Swat region alone. The UN Refugee Agency warned that Pakistan is facing one of the fastest major displacements in Pakistan’s recent history. By July, the government announced Swat Valley was back under military control and began the phased return of those displaced by the fighting. The military estimates that 340 soldiers were killed along with 1,800 Taliban militants and 2,000 arrested in the Swat operation. A new military offensive was announced in South Waziristan on June 14, targeting Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in an attack by U.S. drones on Aug. 5th. Hakimullah Mehsud was named his successor. Military operations in South Waziristan continued with a major offensive launched Oct. 17 after militants stepped up the frequency of bomb and suicide attacks. This offensive involved about 28,000 soldiers battling an estimated 10,000 Taliban along with Uzbek fighters and members of al-Qaeda. More than 100,000 civilians fled South Waziristan, 32,000 of whom have fled since the most recent offensive began. By mid-November the army had managed to push militant fighters out of 90 per cent of their stronghold in South Waziristan but the operation had failed to put an end to the still increasing wave of suicide blasts carried out by militants. Nearby districts began reporting an influx of militants escaping the Pakistan army offensive in South Waziristan and beginning to set up new strongholds. In general, the number of suicide attacks in Pakistan rose in 2009 but militant attacks overall fell sharply, indicating the army’s efforts to rein in the Taliban were succeeding but at the cost of civilian lives. It could also indicate a change in tactic of the militants to instead target populations and thus fuel civilian exasperation with the government’s inability to put an end to the violence.
Unmanned drone attacks on Pakistan increased significantly in 2009. The first drone attacks of the new administration came in late January, a few days after Barack Obama’s inauguration. By the end of 2009, the United States had reportedly launched 51 drone attacks, compared with 45 during the entire eight-year administration of George W. Bush. In early December, the United States expanded its CIA drone program to Baluchistan. Pakistan has long publicly stated that drone strikes are counterproductive and a violation of its sovereignty. But speculation has suggested that Pakistani intelligence agencies are providing information to the United States to assist in the strikes. Drone strikes, which target militants, such as the drone attack on Aug. 5, which killed the commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, are heightening anti-U.S. feelings among Pakistani citizens. According to an August 2009 Gallup poll, only 9 per cent of Pakistanis approve of such attacks. In 2009, more than 700 people were killed in drone attacks. According to Pakistani news agency Dawn Media Group, statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities reported that of 51 drone attacks in 2009, only five hit their target, killing five al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. “For each al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by U.S. drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die,” the media outlet reported, indicating a civilian casualty rate of 90 per cent. By contrast, a study by the New America Foundation reported that of the 114 reported drone strikes since 2004, between 550 to 850 of the 830 to 1,210 killed were militants, indicating a civilian casualty rate of 32 per cent.
2008 There was continued violence between militant groups and the Pakistani government in 2008, especially in the Northwest Frontier Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan province. Peace talks were started but soon collapsed and fighting intensified. The number of hijackings by militants on the major Torkham highway, a supply route that feeds the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, rose. Reports indicated more than two dozen airstrikes by U.S. drones occurred in Pakistan in 2008. These airstrikes appeared to be aimed at militants, accused of attacks on ISAF troops in Afghanistan, who were in tribal regions along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
2007 Fighting between government forces and foreign militants as well as sectarian conflicts intensified in North and South Waziristan in 2007. Suicide bombings were rampant, claiming at least 230 lives throughout the country and raising fears that sectarian violence spilling over the Afghanistan border would further destabilize the country. Reports that children were being abducted by pro-Taliban militants in northern tribal areas surfaced in June. In early July, government security forces stormed the Red Mosque in central Islamabad, where radical clerics and student sympathizers advocating the imposition of sharia law had barricaded themselves. The storming of the mosque sparked numerous suicide bombings and reprisal killings, further fuelling fears of destabilization in the capital. Also in July, Taliban leader and one of Pakistan’s most wanted people, Abdullah Mehsud, committed suicide after security forces surrounded him in Zhob. In November, President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution and imposed a state of emergency, claiming the Supreme Court was aiding foreign militants. Also in November, the government deployed some 2,000 troops to the Swat Valley to fight militants linked to pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who had recently returned from exile to run in the federal elections was assassinated Dec. 27 while leaving a political rally in Rawalpindi. The assassination sparked waves of street violence, resulting in upwards of 50 the deaths.
2006 Three areas of conflict continued within Pakistan. The first, between Sunni and Shia Muslims, resulted in suicide bombings and clashes throughout the year. Secondly, the province of Baluchistan increased its efforts for political and economic autonomy from Islamabad, with rebels attacking gas pipelines, railways and power transmission lines and launching rocket attacks on military targets. The military has placed 123,000 troops in the province in an attempt to maintain control. Lastly, the regions bordering Afghanistan, North and South Waziristan, continued to see conflict between supporters of the region’s strengthening Taliban, and the Pakistani government as it continues to participate in the U.S.-led war on terror.
2005 Sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslim groups continued throughout Pakistan, claiming nearly 200 lives in a series of deadly bombings and violent street clashes. The Pakistani government also continued its offensive against al-Qaeda and allied terrorist groups and tribes particularly in Pakistan’s nothern Waziristan territories, where heavy casualties included civilians. Local elections in August were marked by violent clashes between opposing political groups that killed dozens.
2004 Armed violence continued in the form of attacks on civilians, bombings of mosques, drive-by shootings of politicians and attacks on security forces. The most serious incidents of the year were March and October bombings of Sunni mosques that killed more than 80 people and wounded hundreds more. In March, the government launched a series of military operations against “high-value” al-Qaeda targets and supporters in South Waziristan, marking a significant escalation in the military’s efforts against al-Qaeda. The military operations, which continued throughout the year, were met with armed resistance and coincided with increased U.S. military operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
2003 Fighting between Sunni and Shia Muslim communities spread to the southwestern region of the country. In most instances of violence, Shia civilians were indiscriminately attacked, allegedly by extremist Sunni militant groups. The worst such case was the July bombing of a Shia mosque in Quetta, which resulted in 60 deaths. Militants employed guerrilla tactics, such as bombings and drive-by shootings. Extremist sectarian groups opposed to President Pervez Musharraf’s policies, including his administration’s alliance with the United States in its war on terror, launched attacks on government security forces and narrowly failed to assassinate Musharraf in December.
2002 Fighting continued between Sunni and Shia Muslim communities. In addition, government officials, Pakistani Christians and foreigners were targeted by militant Muslim groups.
2001 Sectarian violence persisted in 2001 with attacks by extremists from all sides. Sunni extremists changed their strategy to targeting prominent community members such as doctors, lawyers and businessmen.
2000 Although violence has declined since the military coup of October 1999, sectarian tensions persisted between the majority Sunni and the minority Shia Muslim groups in Karachi. The killing of prominent religious leaders and political activists resulted in violent protests. In September, Pakistani police arrested 250 members of the hardline Sunni Muslim group, Sipah-e-Sahaaba. Other police and army operations targeted the two leading ethnically based parties in Sindh, the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
1999 Despite the central government’s imposition of Governor’s Rule (state of emergency) in late 1998 in response to Sindh violence, political and sectarian killings persisted in Karachi, albeit at a much reduced level. The intensity of the violence dropped further after the military assumed federal powers in an October coup.
1998 In 1998, tit-for-tat killings between the MQM and its breakaway faction increased the level of violence in Karachi.
Total: Because many regions in Pakistan are inaccessible to outsiders, it is impossible to independently verify the total number of people killed throughout the conflict. South Asia Terrorism Portal attributes 32,500 deaths to terrorist violence from 2000 to 2010. [Source: Annual Fatalities in Terrorist Violence in Pakistan, South Asia Terrorism Portal]. An official Pakistani report released in November 2009 recorded 22,128 deaths from terror-related incidents across Pakistan in the previous six years. Of this total, 7,004 were civilians, 2,637 security forces and 12,487 militants.
2012 In 2012, the South Asian Terrorism Portal reported at least 6,211 fatalities caused by terrorist attacks and military operations against militants, including 3,007 civilians, 2,472 militants, and 732 security forces personnel. As media access is heavily restricted in some areas of Pakistan and the government releases limited information, actual figures may be higher.
Refugees: The conflict in KP and FATA has created nearly 3 million IDPs. At the end of 2012 approximately 758,000 people remained displaced, according to the UNHCR.
Since 1979 Pakistan has provided protection to refugees from Afghanistan. According to the UNHCR, at the end of 2012 1.66-million registered Afghan refugees remained in Pakistan.
Pakistan does not have laws to protect IDPs, but inconsistently implements policies to assist them. In rural, conservative areas, the authorities may not recognize a woman’s right to register as a refugee.
2011 South Asia Terrorism Portal reported 6,142 deaths in 2011 related to terrorist attacks and military operations against militants. Of these, 2,580 were civilians, 1,952 were security forces, and 524 were militants. According to news sources, around 203 deaths can be attributed to sectarian violence, bringing the total of all conflict related violence in Pakistan to 6,345.
2010 South Asia Terrorism Portal reported a total of 7,435 deaths, including 1,796 civilians, 5,170 militants and 496 security forces. News media sources, with limited access to regions where most casualties occurred, placed the numbers of those killed much lower, around 1,000, with up to 90 per cent of these civilians.
2009 South Asia Terrorism Portal reported 11,585 deaths in 2009, marking a major upsurge in deaths from the previous year.
2008 South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) reported 6,715 deaths in 2008. According to SATP, the number of fatalities have doubled each year since 2006. The 2008 deaths include 2,155 civilians, 654 security forces and 3,906 militants. Estimates from Pakistani military officials, local news agencies and international human rights groups support these figures. According to international human rights groups, approximately 350,000 people have been internally displaced in the conflict. Pro-government tribal elders were targeted by militants in 2008. The number of police killed in the Northwest Frontier Province, where fatalities were more than double the previous year’s, increased significantly.
2007 International Crisis Group documented upwards of 1,300 deaths, at least 200 the result of suicide bombings. This figure included at least 350 civilian casualties. This data tends to be under-reported, so numbers were likely much higher. [Source: International Crisis Group, CrisisWatch monthly bulletins for 2007]
2006 South Asia Terrorism Portal estimated terrorist violence killed 1,471, and that sectarian violence killed 201 people. A high percentage of these casualties were civilian.
2005 Between 700 and 1,000 people were killed throughout Pakistan.
2004 At least 190 people, primarily civilians, were reported killed in sporadic inter-communal violence.
2003 Independent media reports indicate approximately 100 hundred people, the majority of them Shia Muslim civilians, were killed in 2003.
2002 A number of media reports estimate more than 100 people were killed in sectarian violence and attacks on government officials.
2001 According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, more than 250 people were killed in sectarian violence.
2000 At least 150 people were killed in Karachi, mostly due to sectarian violence.
1999 At least 75 people were killed in Karachi due to political violence.
1998 More than 1,000 people died in violence.
2012 Pakistani federal politics in 2012 were described by the BBC as a “farce” and a “soap opera”. In January Prime Minister Gilani faced charges of contempt by Pakistan’s Supreme Court for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen the corruption case against President Zardari relating to funds in Swiss accounts. He insisted that the constitution provides presidential immunity. Gilani was convicted of contempt of court in April, but refused to step down. He was subsequently disqualified from office. The Supreme Court then demanded that new Prime Minister Raja Ashraf reopen the corruption case against President Zardari. In early 2013 the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Ashraf and 15 others on charges of corruption.
In December Tahirul Qadri, founder of the pro-Communist Party Awami Tehreek (PAT), returned to Pakistan to pursue a “democratic revolution.” A rally in Lahore attracted hundreds of thousands of people.
Adnan Rasheed, the mastermind of an assassination attempt on former President Pervez Musharraf, was appointed the ”chief operational commander” of the fidayeen (suicide) unit of the Taliban. Earlier in 2012 Rasheed was freed in an unprecedented jailbreak operation. Approximately 200 Tehrik-i-Taliban militants armed with guns, grenades, and rockets attacked the high-security Central Jail in Bannu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and released 384 prisoners.
2011 Pakistan’s relationship with the United States suffered a number of blows in 2011. Raymond Davis, a U.S. contractor working for the CIA, was arrested for shooting and killing two men in Lahore in January. Although it was unclear whether the shooting was self-defence or murder, it resulted in heightened anti-American sentiment and increased suspicion of Americans, especially by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The United States’ continued use of unmanned drones also degraded the relationship between the two countries. Washington accused the Pakistani army, particularly the ISI, of supporting the Haqqani network of Taliban-aligned militants. The Haqqani network was believed to be responsible for multiple attacks against U.S. targets in 2011, including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul in September. Osama bin Laden was slain by U.S. forces in May in a military town near Islamabad where he appeared to have been living for some time, raising further suspicions of complicity between the Pakistani military and militants. U.S.-Pakistani relations took a dive in November when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by friendly-fire from a NATO warplane near the Afghan border. Pakistan responded by blocking NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. Two prominent politicians, Salman Taseer (Governor of Punjab province) and Shahbaz Bhatti (Minister for Minorities Affairs) were assassinated in January and March, respectively, for their opposition to Pakistan’s controversial and harsh blasphemy laws. In August, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were made subject to legislation that would allow political parties to operate legally in the region, giving local elected officials hitherto-denied authority to represent their constituents, who remain second-class citizens due to a colonial-era legal framework. The political conflict among the MQP, PPP and ANP, rooted in ethnic conflict, continued to stifle economic growth in the major port city of Karachi.
2010 This year, the Pakistani government strengthened ties with the United States while facing a number of domestic political challenges. Following violent clashes between political rivals early in the year, the MQM threated to leave the government coalition. In May, parliament passed the eighteenth constitutional amendment, which, among other things, limits presidential powers, strengthens parliament and transfers more power to the provinces. The amendments also included changing the name of the Northwest Frontier Province to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which resulted in ethnic clashes in Hazara. The ruling coalition and opposition all agreed to the constitutional changes, the first time such unanimity has occurred. On Jan. 2, 2011, MQM officially left the federal coalition and joined the opposition, raising concerns about the stability of the PPP-led government. Also this year, despite Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s demands for an end to U.S. drone attacks in January, relations between the United States and the Pakistani government continued to strengthen. In February, the United States proposed $1.2-billion (U.S.) in military aid, a more than 100-per-cent increase from the previous year. In March, Pakistani officials travelled to Washington where they were praised by the U.S. Defence Secretary for their fight against the Taliban. In particular, Pakistan’s capture of a number of key Taliban leaders was cited as evidence that Pakistan is taking control of Taliban safe havens in certain regions of the country. The United States continued to pressure Pakistan to enter North Waziristan.
2009 In late January, with a military offensive in Swat Valley underway, reports surfaced that the government was planning to renew talks with the militants. To meet demands of the Taliban, who had all but taken over the entire Swat Valley, the Chief Minister of the Northwest Frontier Province signed a bill that would place the NWFP’s Malakand Division, which includes Swat, under sharia law. The bill effectively would give the region a separate justice system from the rest of Pakistan. The Taliban responded by announcing a 10-day truce to examine the bill. Pakistani officials said the Swat deal was part of the government’s three-pronged approach—dialogue, deterrence and development—to deal with insurgents. NATO allies expressed alarm at the deal because Swat is a mere 160 kilometres from the capital, Islamabad, Pakistan’s nuclear-technology hub. In March, the Mamoond tribe and the Pakistani government signed a 28-point agreement to bring law and order to Bajaur, an agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. According to the terms of the agreement, all terrorist organizations in the area would be disbanded, tribes would be responsible for establishing the writ of government in their areas and no foreigners, including Afghan refugees, would be allowed to stay in the agency. Also in March, the new U.S. administration under President Barack Obama announced its strategy for Pakistan, which included increased economic assistance in exchange for greater co-operation in fighting terrorists operating along the Afghan border. The announcement raised alarm bells in Pakistan over the effect this would have on its sovereignty. In December, Pakistani officials announced the creation of a National Counter-Terrorism Authority to keep data on terrorists.
2008 The February general election resulted in a coalition government made up of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League. Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, was declared president on Sept. 6, 2008, accepting the presidency in the name of his assassinated wife. Pakistan’s government and the newly elected government in Northwest Frontier Province sought to promote peace talks and a ceasefire with militant groups operating within the tribal belt on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Peace talks were suspended by Baitullah Mehsud, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban, because his demands that government troops be removed from Waziristan and Swat Valley were not met. The Pakistani government implored Pashtun elders to assert their authority in the region in an attempt to influence militants. The opposition criticized the government for failing to take a diplomatic stand after U.S. drones hit Pakistani soil. In the aftermath of the November Mumbai attacks in India, Pakistani National Security Adviser Mahmoud Ali Durrani acknowledged that the single surviving gunman in the November Mumbai attacks was of Pakistani origin. Durrani was subsequently fired by the Prime Minister for “irresponsible behavior.”
2007 Intensified border struggles with foreign militants and Taliban supporters continued. President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution on Nov. 3 and instituted a state of emergency, claiming that the Supreme Court was aiding foreign militants. Subsequent international condemnation and Pakistan’s suspension from the Commonwealth forced Musharraf to reinstate the constitution on Dec. 15. During the state of emergency, there were reports of human-rights abuses and thousands were arbitrarily arrested. Musharraf stepped down as head of the country’s military in November and appointed General Ashfaq Kayani as his successor. Also in November, former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan after years in exile. After narrowly escaping one assassination attempt, Bhutto was assassinated on Dec. 27. Presidential elections were rescheduled for February 2008.
2006 Militant Islamists, dubbed the Pakistani Taliban, strengthened their power in the provinces of North and South Waziristan. In March, clerics in these provinces announced the enforcement of sharia law as the only means to resolve disputes. President Pervez Musharraf accused India of arming and financing Baluch rebels, a charge India denied.
2005 President Pervez Musharraf further consolidated his power as parties allied to the President fared well in disputed August local elections.
2004 A bill was passed in Pakistan’s lower house extending President Pervez Musharraf’s tenure, ensuring he would remain head of the military and government until at least 2007. Musharraf named Shaukat Aziz, a political novice, Prime Minister in August. Although the government ordered an inquiry into a March attack on civilians, several strikes were called (mainly in Sindh province) to protest government handling of the conflict. The Sindh provincial government failed to form a “coalition of national unity” with the seven opposition parties in an attempt to stem the tide of conflict. The minister of Sindh province resigned after violence escalated in June. U.S. President George W. Bush declared Pakistan a “major ally” in recognition of its contribution to the fight against al-Qaeda and allowed Pakistan access to special benefits, including expanded foreign aid and priority delivery of military equipment.
2003 The leader of the militant Sunni organization Millat-e Islami-ye Pakistan (MIP) was assassinated in October, leading to rioting in Islamabad. The government sustained a crackdown on banned Sunni and Shia militant groups and arrested their leaders. President Pervez Musharraf continued to support U.S. initiatives in the “war on terror” in neighbouring Afghanistan, a position not welcomed by many Pakistani citizens.
2002 In January, the government banned five militant Islamic groups, including the Sipah-Sabaha-Pakistan and Tehrik-I-Jaffaria. A number of groups reacted to the ban and to Pakistan’s support of the U.S.-led “war on terror” by attacking foreigners and Pakistani Christians, prompting the Christian community to demand protection from the government. The government responded by introducing new security measures around non-Muslim places of worship. Fighting continued between the Sunni and Shia communities in Sindh despite government efforts to increase security in the province.
2001 In August, the government of Sindh province initiated a crackdown on Islamic militants, arresting more than 200 people in raids.
2000 Despite increasing pressure from the international community to restore democracy, military leader Pervez Musharraf ruled out the possibility of holding general elections or reviving the suspended Pakistan parliament within the next two years.
1999 On Oct. 12, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power in a bloodless military coup led by Army Chief of Staff General Pervez Musharraf.
1998 A month after the MQM walked out of the provincial government coalition, the federal prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, declared Governor’s Rule (a state of emergency) in Karachi, called out the army to quell the violence and announced the establishment of military courts for the city.
Sectarian and ethnic instability in Pakistan can be traced to the tumultuous formation of Pakistan in 1947.
The partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan resulted in millions of Muslims migrating from India into the newly formed Pakistan and primarily into the southeastern region of Sindh. (Millions of Hindus migrated in the opposite direction.) Prior to 1947, Sindh’s urban society had been dominated by Hindus. The native Muslim population was primarily rural. The emigration of Hindus post partition left a vacuum in Sindh that was filled by the educated Muslim immigrants from India.
The immigrants came to be known as mohajirs, which in Arabic means migrant or refugee. In Pakistan, mohajir refers to a non-Punjabi immigrant from India. The distinction is made because Punjabi migrants easily assimilated with Punjabis on the Pakistan side of Punjab because of shared culture and language.
Mohajirs had a set of cultural and social values (and language) different from the native, largely rural Sindhis. They soon came to be overrepresented in the bureaucracy, media and in managerial positions in the private sector. As well, they had been in the forefront of the struggle for Pakistan in the years prior to independence and this, combined with an absence of regional allegiance, made them ardent supporters of Pakistani nationalism, as opposed to the Sindhis, Pathans and Punjabis, who identified with their respective regions. The mohajirs began to dominate Pakistan’s national political scene, supporting a strong central government.
Bengali-dominated East Pakistan separated in 1971, forming the state of Bangladesh. In the same year, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Sindhi, was elected and ushered in a federalist structure by first revising the regional quota system to the disadvantage of the mohajirs, and then by nationalizing some key financial institutions that were owned by mohajirs.
Mohajir dominance in Pakistan’s politics began gradually to erode in favour of the Punjabi bureaucratic-military elite. This was followed by Sindhi assertiveness, including provincial government initiatives, such as the imposition of the Sindhi language in education and the Sindh Act in 1972.
Throughout Pakistan, ethnic tensions increased as regional groups in Baluchistan and rural Sindh began to assert their cultural and nationalist agendas.
General Zia -ul-Haq (1977-88) who, having gained power through a military coup, lacked legitimacy, turned to right-wing Islamic elements for support. Prior to this, all Pakistani governments, beginning with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s (1971-1977), had promoted Islam as a binding force among its disparate ethnic groups. But Zia took this policy further when he began promoting Islamists in the Pakistani army, something that had never been done before in what was, until then, a secular institution. Zia’s attempt at gaining legitimacy coalesced with the national security goal of building close ties with the Afghan mujahedeen after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
As a result, during the 1980s, a complex network developed between the Afghan mujahedeen, domestic religious groups in Pakistan and the Pakistani state, with a generous supply of weapons from the United States.
In 1986, the Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) emerged, behind leader Altaf Hussain, and began to focus its attention on challenging the Punjabi-dominated state bodies in Sindh. From 1986 to 1988, the MQM sought a mohajir-Sindh alliance by aligning with Benazir Bhutto’s Sindhi-dominated Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in an effort to thwart Punjabi dominance in Pakistani politics. The MQM’s first stint in sharing power was largely ineffectual in delivering tangible improvements and the group withdrew support from the PPP government and fought the next election in an alliance with Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League. Internal strife led to the split of the MQM in 1992, with the splinter group taking the name MQM (Haqiqi – Urdu for “authentic”).
Pakistan’s involvement in and proximity to Afghanistan have fostered violent internal conflicts in Pakistan, including the following:
• The large migration of Afghan refugees to major urban centres, especially Karachi, increasing ethnic tensions.
• The establishment of a powerful network of militant madrassas, originally set up to train volunteer students (taliban), for the war in Afghanistan. These madrassas combined weapons training with a fundamentalist and violent interpretation of Islam.
• The free movement of Taliban and al-Qaeda members in the northwest, including Northwest Frontier Province, Waziristan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, all of which share a border with Afghanistan. The areas are historically independent and not easily controlled by Pakistan’s central government. The porous border plus the allegiance of the ethnic Pashtuns across the border make the regions effectively part of the current war in Afghanistan.
In 2004, the government launched a series of military operations against “high-value” al-Qaeda targets and supporters in South Waziristan, marking a significant escalation in the military’s efforts against al-Qaeda. The military operations were met with armed resistance and coincided with increased U.S. military operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The clashes continue throughout the Northwest.
From 2005 to 2009, China was Pakistan’s largest arms supplier, accounting for 37 per cent of Pakistan’s imports. The United States followed closely behind with 35 per cent. In 2009, Pakistan received the first shipment of 42 JF-17 combat aircraft from China, with plans to receive 300 of these and 36 J-10 aircraft at a later date. Also in 2009, Pakistan received 18 F-16C aircraft from the United States.
In 2010, the United States gave 12 surveillance drones to Pakistan. In general, Pakistan uses U.S. grants to purchase arms, a deal that was solidified in fall 2009 with the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act. The United States provided $700-million in aid for counterinsurgency efforts. This was to increase to $1.2-billion (U.S.) in 2011, a big increase from the $1.5-billion in aid Pakistan received from the United States from 2005 to 2009. The United States gave Pakistan approximately 15 AH-1 Cobra helicopters. Each helicopter contains two 7.62 mm multibarrel guns, two 40 mm guns and grenade launchers.
In 2010, the arms trade in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was brisk due to poor border control and the lack of legal authority in the region. The trade was closely linked to cross-border drug trade in the region.
In 2012, Pakistan was listed as the third largest importer of conventional weapons, up from eleventh in 2006. Forty-two per cent of Pakistani arms come from China. Pakistan is one of the largest importers of U.S. arms, receiving 6 per cent of all US deliveries (36 per cent of Pakistani imports). Despite increased tensions between the Pakistan and the United States, transfers of weaponry continue, including one frigate and two antisubmarine warfare aircraft in 2011.
In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the arms trade is poorly controlled. It is linked to the cross-border drug trade in the region.
Economic factors are at the heart of the discontent in the province of Baluchistan, which has the majority of Pakistan’s natural resources, including natural gas, uranium, copper and oil. Despite this, Baluchistan is one of Pakistan’s poorest provinces, receiving only 12 per cent of the royalties it is due from gas sales. Plans by President Pervez Musharraf to further develop Baluchistan’s oil resources have aggravated these already existing tensions.
Drug trafficking of hashish, opium and heroin fund Taliban salaries and arms purchases. Drugs and arms are said to come across the poorly monitored Afghan-Pakistani border.
The economy is in a recession, which has caused devaluation of the currency, leaving the country unable to meet costs for imported fuel and food. The lowered value of the rupee has caused the price of some staple foods to skyrocket.
War in the Federally Appointed Tribal Areas has created serious barriers to economic development, particularly in the industrial sector. Business and trade are down, there is a shortage of raw materials, female factory owners and managers are unable to go to work, the IMF has pressured the government to remove subsidies which has multiplied the effects felt from the energy shortage, and many businesses have been forced to shut down due to militant violence.
map: CIA Factbook