December 22, 2023

Pakistan Harden its Stance on Afghanistan; Interim Afghan Government Under Pressure (15-21 December 2023)

The week under review witnessed a concerning surge in militant attacks, with particular
attention on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) region. A total of 13 militant attacks were reported,
resulting in 17 fatalities and 20 injuries. The majority of these incidents occurred in KP, with seven
attacks, while three attacks took place in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA). Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh each experienced one attack. Notably, Sarfraz Ahmed
Bungulzai, a ‘commander’ of the banned militant group Baloch National Army (BNA), made a
significant surrender alongside 70 associates in Balochistan.
The Supreme Court’s intervention has injected optimism for timely elections in Pakistan.
Following the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) plea, the Supreme Court suspended a
Lahore High Court order, allowing the ECP to announce a schedule for the February 8, 2024,
general elections. Separately, the court clarified that objections to constituency delimitation
would be deemed inadmissible after the election schedule is announced. However, dissent
emerged from legal circles, with bar associations expressing concerns about the Chief Election
Commissioner’s ability to ensure free and fair polls.
The Islamabad High Court’s dismissal of ex-premier Imran Khan’s petition in the
Toshakhana case and challenges to the PTI’s electoral symbol add complexities to the electoral
landscape.
Pakistan has hardened its stance on Afghanistan, asserting the continuation of the “onedocument regime” for Afghan citizens entering Pakistan. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq
Kakar defended Pakistan’s repatriation policy, emphasizing its migrant burden and concerns
about Afghans’ involvement in suicide bombings. Pakistan urged a UN panel to investigate how
the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) acquires modern weaponry, highlighting the threat posed
by such groups. Pakistan’s new conditions for engagement with the Afghan Taliban, emphasizing
action against the TTP, mark a departure from previous unconditional engagement approaches.
Meanwhile, the interim Afghan government grapples with balancing relations with the TTP and
Pakistan, with reduction of attacks in bordering districts seen as a key indicator of the Taliban
government’s seriousness.
In response to a militant attack in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province, Iranian Interior
Minister Ahmad Vahidi called on Pakistan to protect their common border and prevent terrorist
groups from establishing bases. Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to combat terrorism in
collaboration with Iran, recognizing it as a shared challenge. Enhanced cooperation between
Pakistan and Iran on counter-terrorism is considered crucial for improving overall diplomatic and
trade relations between the two nations.

To access the complete security assessment report
(15 – 21 Dec 2023)

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