Country Profile



Religious conflict is nothing new in Pakistan – it has been present in the state since its inception – and most observers know that there are links between the security establishment and terrorist groups. The country faces conflict on various fronts – those it created and those it did not: separatists, pro-regime jihadists, Islamist revolutionaries and sectarians. The country which harboured Osama bin Laden towards the end of his life is in a perpetual state of tension with India and is fighting a war with militant Islamist groups on its Afghan border. Fundamentally, the state can be said to be a victim of its own policies, although it does not face an existential threat from extremism.

1Many of the roots of today's conflict can be traced to the Islamisation policies of the 1970s: the attempt to subordinate local identities to a national Islamic vision, driven by the secession of East Pakistan in 1971.

2The state has long attempted to use groups committed to religious violence for its own ends, in conflict with India and against separatists. However, its ability to control jihadi networks of its own creation has become strained.

3A further theatre of religious violence is the separatist movement of Balochistan. Though the separatists are not themselves particularly religiously motivated, the conflict has been defined by resistance to the Islamisation policies of the government.

Situation Report

Pakistan is not the victim of a single conflict, but rather a series of localised conflicts of different natures, which, due to the nature of the actors and the policy of the state, are unlikely ever to coalesce into a single threat. Moreover, violence is hugely variable across the country, and even within provinces.

As such, despite the deaths of over 50 000 people in the past decade through political violence, much of it with religious dimensions, such violence does not pose a threat to the Pakistani state. Neither political violence nor its religious dimension are new phenomena. They were intrinsic to Pakistan's creation and independence. All four provinces and the Northern Territories have suffered, but in recent years the hardest hit have been Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Large parts of the state are unaffected, and poor governance makes it hard to identify the weakness of state institutions with violence. However, its persistence - exacerbated by the use of violent proxies by the security establishment - undermines the confidence of citizens in their government.

As it has progressed, the religious causes of violence have become unclear, as loose religious ideologies serve as rallying points rather than drivers of violent action. This ambiguity is made more so by most Pakistani Islamist schools of thought sharing the aim of building an Islamic state by means of jihad. As such, the differentiation between Islamist groups lies in their pro- or anti-state leanings, in either case articulated on theological lines.

  • Global Overview
  • 1. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: September 2016 11
  • 2. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: August 2016 4
  • 3. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: July 2016 2
  • 4. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: June 2016 5
  • 5. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: May 2016 9
  • 6. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: April 2016 7
  • 7. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: March 2016 10
  • 8. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: February 2016 6
  • 9. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: January 2016 17
  • Extremism
  • Fatalities: Civilians: September 2016 49
  • Fatalities: Extremism: September 2016 10
  • Fatalities: Security Forces: September 2016 10
  • Counter-Extremism
  • Counter-Extremism Incidents: September 2016 14
  • State Counter-Extremism: Arrests: September 2016 9
  • State Counter-Extremism: Statements: September 2016 6
  • State Counter-Extremism: Use of Force: September 2016 8