Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Update Special Edition: Protests in Pakistan May 9, 2023

Authors: Peter Mills, Kathryn Tyson, and Brian Carter

Data Cutoff: May 9, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Figure 1. Protests and Salafi-Jihadi Attacks in Pakistan

Source: Kathryn Tyson and Peter Mills.

Violent protests erupted across Pakistan after the arrest of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 9.[1]  These protests targeted Pakistani military facilities and institutions across Pakistan. Protesters stormed the Pakistani Army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the regional parliament building for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Peshawar. Protesters also burned the IV Corps commander’s residence inside the military cantonment in Lahore. Protests against the Pakistani military are uncommon and represent a decline in public trust in the Pakistani military and state institutions.[2] Khan accused the United States and Pakistan military of a conspiracy to remove him from office after the Pakistani parliament voted him out of office in April 2022.[3]  Khan and his Tehrik-e-Insaf Party (PTI) led several large-scale marches across Pakistan against the government to protest the vote of no confidence in 2022.[4] Unknown attackers attempted to assassinate Khan in November 2022, leading to three weeks of widespread protests by PTI supporters who demonstrated outside military and government sites.[5] Protesters did not storm military and government sites during the unrest in November 2022.[6]

The Pakistani security establishment’s decision to suppress these protests will constrain its ability to address the multiple security threats currently facing Pakistan. The Pakistani government deployed security forces, banned public gatherings in Islamabad, Punjab, and Balochistan Provinces, and cut internet access to quell the protests.[7] These actions will present new opportunities for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic State’s provinces in Pakistan. Salafi-jihadi groups in Pakistan have strengthened since the Afghan Taliban rose to power in August 2021.[8] Islamic State branches in Afghanistan and Pakistan--the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and Islamic State Pakistan Province (ISPP)--maintain attack zones across large swaths of territory in Pakistan, including in diplomatic areas in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.[9] The TTP, an umbrella organization of anti-Pakistani state militant groups, has increased attacks and expanded the scope of its operations since 2021.[10] Afghan Taliban and Pakistani security operations have degraded IS groups in recent years. However, these groups continue to exploit gaps in security to attack and leverage widespread discontent with the Pakistani state to recruit.[11] Pakistani security service's focus on suppressing unrest will likely distract Pakistani commanders’ attention from operations against Salafi-jihadi groups, especially if the unrest continues, and could offer dangerous opportunities for those groups.

Protests in Pakistan, May 9, 2023:

Punjab Province

Lahore, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters breached the Lahore military cantonment and burned IV Corps Commander’s residence.[12] PTI supporters attacked Pakistani army patrols in Lahore.[13] Pakistani security forces fired on PTI supporters to clear them from the Lahore military cantonment and other sensitive military sites.[14] Central Military Hospital Lahore reported one civilian killed and 26 injured including 19 policemen, five military personnel, and three civilians.[15] 

Mianwali, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters stormed a Pakistan Air Force base and set fire to a “dummy jet.”[16]

Sialkot, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors clashed with local Pakistani police.[17]

Multan, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters blocked roads and protested outside II Corps Commander’s residence.[18] PTI politicians claimed Pakistani security forces fired on protestors.[19]

Gujranwala, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors marched on Gujranwala military cantonment.[20] PTI accounts claim Pakistani security forces fired upon them.[21]

Faisalabad, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors attempted to storm local Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) offices.[22] PTI supporters claimed ISI forces fired upon them.[23]

Bahawalpur, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI protesters block the N5 Highway to Multan across the Sutlaj River.[24] PTI accounts claim that Pakistani security forces fired on them.[25]

Hasilpur, Punjab Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters blocked roads and protested the detention of Imran Khan.[26]

Rawalpindi, Punjab Province

  • Notes: Imran Khan supporters stormed the Pakistani Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The General Headquarters is the main Pakistani Army headquarters.[27]
  • Notes: PTI supporters protested against the arrest of Imran Khan in Faizabad Chowk, Rawalpindi.[28]
  • Notes: PTI supporters demonstrated in front of an ISI headquarters in Rawalpindi. An Indian journalist reported the ISI fired warning shots at the demonstrators.[29]

Khyber-Pakhtunkwa Province

Peshawar, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters breached the regional parliamentary assembly for Khyber-Pakhtunkwha province and Frontier Corps’ headquarters at Bala Hisar, Peshwar.[30] PTI supporters also protested outside the XI Corps’ commander’s residence and entered the Peshawar military cantonment.[31]

Swat-Mardan highway, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters burned an interchange and checkpoints on the Swat-Mardan highway.[32]

Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters protested outside a recruitment center for the Punjab Regiment.[33]

Dir, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

  • Notes: PTI supporters protested against the Pakistani military and burned down a Frontier Corps’ school.[34]

Chakdara, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors stormed a Frontier Corps’ fort.[35] Pakistani Frontier Corps fired upon protestors and killed at last 1 PTI supporter.[36] PTI supporters claim Pakistani security forces killed at least 10 PTI supporters after which they burned Pakistani military barracks.[37]

Banu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors breached the Pakistani military cantonment despite warning shots from Pakistani security forces.[38] PTI supporters reportedly burned down checkpoints.[39]

Khairabad, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors blocked the road connecting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Provinces.[40]

Sindh Province

Karachi, Sindh Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors set fire to buses and shut down Shahra-e Faisal highway in Karachi.[41] Karachi police used tear gas to clear PTI protestors.[42] Pakistani police arrested PTI’s leader for Sindh Province in Kala Pul, Karachi.[43]

Balochistan Province

Quetta, Balochistan Province

  • Notes: PTI protestors blocked highways around Quetta and protested outside the Pakistani military cantonment in Quetta.[44] Pakistani security forces fired upon PTI protesters killing at least 4 protestors.[45]







[6] Author’s research.






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