Since independence, the Pakistani military has fought three wars against India, several border skirmishes with Afghanistan, and an extended border skirmish with India in 1999 and is currently conducting military operations against armed groups along the border areas of Afghanistan. There have also been occasional reports of skirmishes between Pakistani and Afghan forces patrolling their respective borders, which could reach the status of an international armed conflict.
There have been non-international armed conflicts and internal disturbances and tensions in Pakistan for many years. According to the Ploughshares report, conflicts in several areas were said to have killed upwards of 1,650 people in 2006, 1,300 in 2007 and between 11,000 and 12,000 in 2009, when the operation in the Swat Valley began (see below). These took place between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims; between the military and armed groups seeking autonomy in the province of Baluchistan; and between the military and Islamic militants along the porous Afghan border.
Thus, there are four areas of conflict within Pakistan:
The first conflict, between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, resulted in suicide bombings and clashes throughout the years.
More recently, the city of Karachi not only has been seen as having become the home of the Quetta Shura Taliban, but has seen increased violence. The Government ordered 1,000 extra troops to the city in 2011 and gave them an order to "shoot on sight" - a move described by Amnesty International as "effectively declaring Karachi a war zone". 2012 has brought reports of armed groups freely roaming through the city linked to rival ethnic and political groups. The death toll in politically motivated attacks in Karachi has been placed at at least 800 throughout 2011.
Second, the province of Baluchistan increased its efforts for political and economic autonomy from Islamabad, with armed groups attacking gas pipelines, railways and power transmission lines and launching rocket attacks on military targets. The military is said to have placed 123,000 troops in the Province in attempts to maintain control. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported that government forces (the military, intelligence agencies and the paramilitary Frontier Corps) have engaged in "kill and dump" operations, targeted killings of opposition leaders and activists and enforced disappearances (Human Rights Watch placed the number of those killed and abducted at 150 in the first six months of 2011). Baluch armed groups have also been accused of killing civilians and destroying private property and have claimed a series of bombings on the gas infrastructure. Teachers and other government workers seem to have been particularly targeted. Also, the Hazara Shi'a community in Baluchistan has claimed to have had hundreds of its members killed by Taliban and Sunni extremists since 2004.
Third, the regions bordering Afghanistan, North and South Waziristan, continued to see conflict between supporters of the region’s strengthening Taliban, and the Pakistani government. In early 2008, for example, there were reports that up to 90 fighters were killed in clashes in the tribal region of South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, where militants have been openly challenging the army. Clashes continued with a report in mid-January of Uzbek fighters being killed in an assault on the house of a local administrator. It was claimed by AFP that Pakistan had deployed more than 90,000 troops to the tribal belt to combat Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants who fled Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion by US-led forces invaded the country.
In April 2007, President Pervez Musharraf admitted publicly for the first time that the army was helping tribal fighters battling foreign militants. In late January 2008, Pakistan sent reinforcements to the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border to target an Islamic rebel commander accused of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Shortly afterwards, the army claimed to have killed 40 Islamic militants and arrested 30 more during two days of fighting along its border with Afghanistan. In 2009, there were reports of helicopter gunships stepping up attacks aimed at suspected militant hideouts in Waziristan. The USA has offered to train Pakistani security forces in their fight against Al-Qaeda-linked militants. American drone attacks have also taken place in Waziristan, with their number estimated at 51 in 2009 and increasing to 118 in 2010. In 2012, Pakistani lawmakers called on the US to stop its drone incursions in the country.
Further reading: "'As if Hell Fell on Me': The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan", Amnesty International, 10 June 2010
Fourth, beginning in April 2009, the Pakistani army conducted a sustained offensive against Taliban militants in the Swat valley, in the north of the country. This came after sharia law was imposed in the region as part of a deal between authorities and the Taliban, with the latter failing to disarm completely and even spreading to neighbouring regions. Early in the fighting, Human Rights Watch called on the Pakistani army to stop its use of landmines and human shields as they placed civilians at unnecessary risk. In July 2009, the Government declared the operation a success and refugees began returning to the region. Several militants surrendered. However, pockets of resistance remained, including revenge suicide attacks, and accusations of extrajudicial killings of suspected militants by army forces continued to surface. Human rights groups and local residents have also reported findings of mass graves. Moreover, as of spring 2011, Pakistan continued to deny that it was involved in a non-international armed conflict in the northern part of the country and consequently refused to grant detainees there the rights afforded them by international law.
Last updated: 13 April 2012