Pakistan Project

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

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. 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. Khan has previously criticized the Pakistani political and military leadership but has not hitherto singled out the army chief. 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. Khan called for protests near Lahore on May 18 and said he would announce a new “plan of action” at the protests.

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Update Special Edition: Protests in Pakistan, May 12, 2023

Protests in Pakistan decreased on May 12 but may surge again if Pakistani authorities rearrest or try Prime Minister Imran Khan at the end of May. CTP has observed a decrease in protests since May 11. There were two protests on May 11 and one on May 12. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party celebrated the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to release Khan and grant him a two-week bail on May 12. The Supreme Court said authorities cannot arrest Khan until May 17 for charges filed against him after May 9. If the Pakistani government rearrests Khan, it will likely spark another round of protests across Pakistan. Khan warned of more protests after authorities delayed releasing him for several hours after the bail announcement.

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Update Special Edition: Protests in Pakistan, May 11, 2023

Unrest may continue in Pakistan despite efforts by the Pakistani government and former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to deescalate the protests. The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled on May 11 that the government’s arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 9 was illegal, while Khan separately urged calm from his supporters on May 11. CTP observed two protests in Pakistan on May 11, down from 24 protests on May 10, but the Pakistani government continued to target former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrek-e Insaf (PTI) to suppress its protest movement. Pakistan has also arrested thousands of PTI supporters and several senior PTI leaders, and clashes between the PTI and Pakistani security forces have killed and injured dozens of protestors. An anonymous senior Pakistani official told CBS News that at least eight people had been killed in the protests, but the PTI says the number of killed is in the dozens, which could fuel continued or renewed protests. The poor economic and political conditions that led to the current crisis persist and may worsen as Pakistan begins to prepare for elections in October. Khan and his PTI supporters and the Pakistani security establishment remain at odds, and the recent round of protests will exacerbate this situation.

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Update Special Edition: Protests in Pakistan, May 10, 2023

The crisis resulting from the arrest of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and the eruption of violent protests against the Pakistani military is deepening. Hostility between Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf Party (PTI) and the Pakistani military is causing PTI protesters to deliberately target military and police infrastructure across Pakistan. Demonstrators set fire to multiple police stations in Islamabad and exchanged small arms fire with Pakistani security forces outside the Frontier Corps’ headquarters in Peshawar on May 10. Relations between Imran Khan and the Pakistani military have deteriorated since at least late 2021 when Imran Khan refused to approve senior Pakistani military appointments. Khan claimed that the Pakistani military and United States helped to remove him from office after an April 2022 vote of no-confidence, and separately accused Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Major General Faisal Naseer of an assassination attempt against Khan in November 2022. PTI supporters burned down Naseer’s home on May 10.

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

Violent protests erupted across Pakistan after the arrest of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 9. 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. 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. 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. 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. Protesters did not storm military and government sites during the unrest in November 2022.

Dr. Kimberly Kagan


Kimberly Kagan is the founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a nonprofit, non-partisan organization with a unique, dual mission: provide real-time intelligence to help leaders make informed decisions in conflict zones around the world, and educate the next generation of national security leaders. ISW is globally recognized and cited for its daily analysis and maps of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.