Islamist Militancy in Pakistan

Islamist Militancy in Pakistan

Increased internal violence and political instability in Pakistan stemming from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militancy

Recent Developments

Pakistan continues to face significant threats to its internal security from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups. In November 2015, an American drone strike in North Waziristan killed Khan Sayed, a senior TTP commander who led a breakaway faction of the movement. Although TPP attacks have slowed in 2015, reports indicate that TTP members have fled to other tribal regions and across the border into Afghanistan to regroup and join the fight there.

Background

After Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the TTP unraveled and militants attacked an international airport in Karachi, the government launched an offensive in June 2014 against militant strongholds in North Waziristan. Air strikes continued throughout 2015, and Pakistani military officials report that more than three thousand militants have been killed. However, the operations have spurred an internal refugee crisis from North Waziristan and Khyber, and peripheral TTP elements have reportedly formed violent splinter organizations due to disagreements about whether to continue targeting the Pakistani state. 

The TTP responded to the offensive with several attacks, including a suicide bombing at a checkpoint near Lahore in November 2014 that killed more than fifty people and injured more than one hundred. In December 2014, TTP militants launched an attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, killing more than 140 people, mostly schoolchildren, in the deadliest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history. 

In response, Pakistani political parties agreed on a comprehensive National Action Plan to combat terrorism and extremist ideology across the country, and Prime Minister Sharif lifted a death penalty moratorium to allow the execution of terror convicts. However, the military, which is historically dominant over civilian governments, is believed to still be providing support to the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other militant proxy groups that often collaborate with the TTP.

Concerns

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan could increase regional instability by allowing militants from Pakistan to establish a safe haven in a fragile Afghanistan. Additionally, acute instability in Pakistan has security implications for neighboring countries Afghanistan and India. The TTP is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban in its battle against Afghan troops and India fears that anti-state and state-sponsored Pakistani militants could carry out cross-border terrorist attacks. Moreover, the vulnerability of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to attack or theft by nonstate actors remains a major concern for U.S. and India policymakers.

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