Salafi-Jihadi Movement Update Special Edition: Protests in Pakistan, May 16, 2023

Authors: Kathryn Tyson

Data Cutoff: May 16, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Figure 1. Timeline of Political and Salafi-Jihadi Responses to Protests in Pakistan

Source: Kathryn Tyson.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to incite a new wave of protests in Pakistan. Khan called on members from his Tehrik-e-Insaf Pakistan (PTI) party to protest on May 14.[1] Khan has escalated his rhetoric against the Pakistani military since his arrest on May 9. Khan accused the Chief of the Army Staff General Asim Munir of being responsible for his arrest multiple times since the Supreme Court declared his arrest illegal on May 12.[2] Khan has previously criticized the Pakistani political and military leadership but has not hitherto singled out the army chief.[3] Khan also said in an address that Pakistani authorities would hold him for 10 years if he was arrested, and claimed that authorities would ban the PTI.[4] Khan called for protests near Lahore on May 18 and said he would announce a new “plan of action” at the protests.[5]

The Pakistani military is attempting to prevent renewed protests through arrests of the PTI leadership and threats against protesters. The military continues to arrest the PTI leadership, including members who called for and participated in protests.[6] The arrests could weaken the PTI's ability to plan future protests.[7] Pakistani authorities have also arrested thousands of the PTI supporters since May 9.[8] The Pakistani government is stifling protests by cutting access to social media. Social media sites were down in Pakistan on May 13 after being temporarily restored on May 12.[9] Pakistani authorities blocked mobile services and social media sites on May 9 in response to widespread protests.[10] The new disruption of social media access may have been a response to Khan’s remarks against the army chief on May 12.[11] Munir said on May 15 that the military would no longer exercise restraint toward individuals who attack military infrastructure, indicating the military could respond to renewed protests with increased severity.[12] A high-level meeting between civilian and military leadership reiterated Munir’s statements on May 16.[13]

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is using the crisis to incite attacks against the Pakistani military and recruit from disaffected protestors. A senior TTP commander criticized the protests in Islamabad against Khan’s release on May 15, adding that armed struggle is the only way to establish an Islamic state in Pakistan.[14] The TTP may be trying to draw recruits from the Islamist political party Jamiat-ul-Islam Fazul (JUI-F), which participated in the May 15 protest. The TTP commander specifically called out JUI-F leader Maulana Fazl Rahman for protesting rather than violently attacking the state. JUI-F and the TTP share ideological and historical links, and both have ties to the Afghan Taliban.[15]

[4] https://www dot thehindu dot com/news/international/pakistans-military-plans-to-keep-me-in-jail-for-10-years-under-sedition-charges-imran-khan/article66852505.ece

[7] https://www dot geo dot tv/latest/487787-pti-leader-shireen-mazari-rearrested-shortly-after-being-released;

[14];; https://www dot cnbctv18 dot com/world/pakistan-protest-imran-khan-arrest-islamabad-red-zone-pdm-juif-shehbaz-sharif-watch-video-supreme-court-16666181.htm


File Attachments: