Attacks against Minorities Understanding Intercommunal Violence in Pakistan

Since gaining independence nearly 70 years ago, Pakistan has suffered from intercommunal tension that has boiled over into violent conflict. The dynamics of this conflict are extremely complex, as motives of politics, sectarianism, economics, and crime overlap with historical forces.
Pakistani police officers and rescue workers gather at the site of a bomb explosion in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, earlier this year in March 2016 [K.M. Chuadary/AP Photo]

This report explores the dynamics of intercommunal conflict in Pakistan, looking at the forces driving violence against Pakistan’s religious and ethnic minority groups. The report examines the overlapping factors of migration, economics, sectarian politics, doctrinal difference, xenophobia, and crime, and charts how violent attacks are perceived and responded to by the state, the media, and the public.


Since gaining independence nearly 70 years ago, Pakistan has suffered from intercommunal tension that has occasionally boiled over into violent conflict. The dynamics of this conflict are extremely complex, as motives of politics, sectarianism, economics, and crime overlap with historical forces of migration, doctrinal disputes, and a legacy of a violent, exclusionary political culture.

The current wave of militancy represents this toxic mix as myriad armed groups pursue hard-line ideological agendas in support of various sectarian political movements.(1) The violence in recent years—often designed as a public spectacle to gain attention—is directed at religious sects, ethnic minorities, politicians, military personnel, civilians, and site of cultural significance. Despite the avowed ideological agenda, however, this violence is not always strictly political; in many instances, sectarian ideology provides a cloak for criminal activity, such as extortion or land grabs.

Pakistan is a Muslim majority country. Roughly four percent of its population is non-Muslim. Sunnis form the majority of the population, and a small minority is comprised of various Shia sects, as well as the banned Ahmadiyya movement, which the government in 1984 officially declared to be non-Muslim.(2)

In addition to differences of religion, the fault lines of Pakistan’s conflict are also drawn along ethnic lines. The widespread displacement of millions of people—a consequence of conflict and natural disaster as well as economic migration—has changed the ethnic make-up of Pakistani cities in recent years, and created new tension in many places. The most prominent site of ethnic violence has been in Karachi, a megacity with an estimated population of 15 to 20 million people and where ethnic politics is dominant. Ethnic conflict has also been seen in the province of Balochistan, where a separatist movement has driven violence against “outsiders.”

Disharmony exists between many communities in Pakistan, and this disharmony is frequently exploited for political gain. As such, the conflict in Pakistan crosscuts ethnicity, religion, and local politics. This report explores this context to understand intercommunal strife and why militants target minority groups.

Religious Violence in Pakistan

Historic roots

Religiously-motivated militancy has existed in Pakistan for decades and is rooted in the country’s history of religious, political, economic, and social disputes.

Religious violence must be seen in the context of the violence that encircled the creation of Pakistan in 1947, after it gained independence from British rule and separated from India. The rationale for the creation of Pakistan was based in its pro-independence leadership’s argument that Muslims would be a marginalised minority in an independent India. In the run up to the division of India, communal riots broke out among the Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim populations on both sides of the new border.

The conflict was a complicated product of antagonism over the distribution of resources, the flux in social structures as communities migrated to new states, and a newfound sense of identity defined by religion. This increasing polarization and hostility between religious communities, fuelled by insecurity and defensiveness, grew into targeted violence against religious communities, neighborhoods, and women, and would later filter into ethnic and sectarian politics.

By the early 1950s, sectarian conflict was becoming cemented in Pakistani society. A continuation of the violence from the late 1940s, the conflict was driven by religious agitation, political antagonism, economic discontent, and various cultural pressures as religious communities competed for resources—such as newly-arrived Sunni communities settling in historically Shia-dominated districts. These tensions were often expressed in theological terms, exacerbating pre-existing doctrinal disputes.

The blueprint for Pakistan’s modern religious violence is exemplified by the riots against the Ahmadiyya sect in the 1950s. The violence was prompted by political and religious hostility against the influential foreign minister, Sir Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan, who was a leading member of the Ahmadiyya sect. Many overlapping factors sparked the violence: extensive protests and violence by the right-wing religious-political group, the Majlis-e-Ahrar; leading Sunni clerics’ long-running doctrinal dispute with the Ahmadiyya sect; and the sect’s growing influence in politics and society. The protesters’ demands conflated the political, economic, and religious spheres: they demanded that Sir Khan and all Ahmadi officials be removed from the government, and that the sect be declared heretical. The protests were supported implicitly by members of the government and the government-aligned press.(3)

The anti-Ahmadiyya movement established a blueprint for religious violence directed at minority groups. Indeed, many of the leaders who would later become influential in national and local sectarian politics, were influenced by or involved in this 1950s movement. This era in Pakistan played a powerful role in how politics, religion, and sectarian violence became interlinked.

Modern resurgence of religious violence

Since 2007 Pakistan has seen a new wave of sectarian attacks perpetrated by an ever-growing constellation of militant groups. (For a list of banned groups, see Appendix 1.) In terms of ideology and tactics, these groups are essentially the heirs of the 1950s anti-Ahmadiyya violence. Thousands of people have been targeted on account of their faith, including minorities like Christians and Muslim minority sects. In one notable incident in 2016, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (an offshoot of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) attacked a park in Lahore on Easter, specifically targeting Christians.(4) In recent years, militant groups have expanded their targets to include smaller religious sects and minorities like Ismailis and Sikhs.(5)

This campaign has been supported by sectarian agitation practiced by political parties such as the anti-Shia Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat party, which advocates for officially designating Shias as non-Muslim. Militant groups often form charitable or political wings to serve as the mouthpiece for their sectarian ideology. For example, Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool fronts for the radical militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and promotes discrimination against Ahmadis and the strengthening of blasphemy regulations.(6) In many cases, as soon as the government bans a group, it simply reforms under a different name.

The sectarian leanings of nearly all political and religious groups in Pakistan ensure their involvement in sectarian protests and violence. Legislators from a wide array of mainstream political and religious parties have also played a role in supporting sectarianism.(7) The Karachi-based political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was accused of undercutting the Shia religious group, the Muttahida Wahdat al-Muslimeen, during its election campaign, even though the MQM is a vocal supporter of Shia activism.(8)

While this contributes to the environment that allows for religious violence to proliferate, it is the militant groups that are directly responsible for the violence. In 2015, the groups most responsible for violent attacks were the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and its splinter groups like the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Jundullah, as well as local criminal groups that have affiliated themselves with ISIS and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.(9)

Factors driving militant attacks against religious minorities

An examination of the rhetoric used by these militant groups reveals how they justify violence against religious minorities.

Identity: Because of Pakistan’s history and legal identity as a predominantly Muslim state whose creation was marked with the migration of non-Muslim communities to India, religious identity in Pakistan is often conflated with nationalism. State policies exclude minorities from governance structures, and discrimination against minorities is widespread. As a result, hard-line religious groups equate minorities with foreign countries or treat them as an outside enemy. After attacking the All Saints Church in Peshawar, the militant faction Jundullah claimed: “They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”(10)

Ideology: Since the 1950s, religious movements have fostered sectarian conflict in Pakistan, with varying levels of state complicity. This sectarianism has been underwritten by prejudicial fatwas, propaganda, blasphemy laws, and militant education. These movements have centred on declaring sects like the Ahmadiyya as non-believers whose faith and practices should be curbed.

This poisonous, sectarian ideology became the foundation of groups like the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), which espouses the view that Shias are non-Muslims and should be explicitly banned like the Ahmadiyya. ASWJ served as a parent group for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has carried out some of the most prominent attacks on Shias in Pakistan’s recent history and espouses the belief that killing Shias is religiously justifiable.(11)

These attacks are a by-product of a pre-existing environment of hostility that has provided impetus to militant movements, and are meant to serve as “warnings” to these sects to convert or leave the country.(12)

Society and Politics: Since the 1950s, violence against religious minorities and groups has been driven by overlapping religious, social, economic, and political reasons. Mainstream political parties often rely on sectarian and hard-line groups for help in local and national elections, and create politically expedient alliances in order to win over religious voter blocs.(13)

Sectarian politics often derives from social conflict, whether because of economic disparity, historical conflict, or social upheaval. One clear example is Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), which originated from the Jhang district of Punjab. Its middle-class religious leaders mobilized against the traditional Shia landowning elite that ruled the district. ASWJ’s leaders, largely formed of migrants from India, opposed the elite that had historically been patronised by the pre-independence Indian state. This confrontation was driven by anti-Shia tenets, but also to establish social, political, and religious supremacy in a district ruled by a Shia minority.(14)

Similarly, the anti-Ahmadiyya movement was driven in part by its perception that Khan, the foreign minister, and other Ahmadi officials had outsized influence on the government and could use this to propagate their religious beliefs.(15)

Economic Conflict: Religiously-motivated violence is also driven by economic factors, since religious riots and mobs are often used to forcibly “resolve” an economic dispute. In numerous cases of violence against Ahmadis and Christians, mob violence over blasphemy allegations has been linked to financial or legal disputes or as a means by mafias to make land grabs by instigating a mob and driving minority residents off their property. This cover is also used in conflicts that are ostensibly ethnic.(16) Despite its declarations of purist ideology, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, for example, expanded to Karachi to carry out financial criminal activity such as kidnappings, bank robberies, and extortion.(17)

The nature of militant violence is also obscured by the existence of infighting, which stems from disputes about leadership, finances, and operations.(18)

Expansion of operations: Militant attacks against religious minorities and Islamic sects are often designed for maximum public exposure to highlight an expansion of operations. In its claim of carrying out the 2016 bombing in Lahore, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was sending a message to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who considers the city a political stronghold.(19)

These attacks are also characterised by extreme methods of killing. They have ranged from militants identifying Shias in buses and shooting them in the manner of a firing squad, or specifically choosing times for attacks when there would be a larger number of casualties, such as Sunday church services or Friday prayers.(20)

Impact on the state: Religiously-motivated violence has a significant impact on the Pakistani state. It forces the government to conduct security operations which carry a risk of blowback and are inherently complicated because of Pakistan’s history and its support to militant groups. Militant groups use spectacles of violence to expose the government’s weaknesses at home, its inability to detect and counter attacks, as well as to warn the government against any retaliatory action.(21)

The violence is also a tactic to spread fear within a religious group, decimate public life, and instil a loss of confidence in the state’s ability to protect people.(22) The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, particularly from 2007-2013, achieved this through spreading a sense of fear within the government by threats and intimidation, the assassination of government officials, and attacking sites with cultural significance, such as popular Sufi shrines.(23)

These attacks also result in external pressure on the state as the attacks lead to attention from the global community and international press, and calls to act against militants. Domestic sectarian violence, however, does not usually translate into strong demands for action from the international community unless there is a risk that the group has transnational aims. Pakistan faces pressure from the United States to act against local religious militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad that do not carry out attacks at home but have been implicated in large-scale attacks in India, as well as militant networks that target American and other international interests in Afghanistan.(24)

Ethnic Violence

Pakistan’s ongoing religious and sectarian conflict overlaps with ethnically-motivated violence. Ethnic violence is largely rooted in the city of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s most diverse cities with migrant populations from across the country. A projection of population growth shows that 44 percent of Karachi’s population in 2011 were Urdu speakers, many of whom identify as belonging to the Mohajir community, which originally relocated from India in 1947. The second-largest group comprised Punjabi and Seraiki speakers (17 percent), followed by Pashto speakers, suggesting membership in the Pashtun community.(25)

Ethnic conflict has dominated the city of Karachi since the 1980s, when clashes broke out between the Pashtun and Mohajir communities.(26) This stemmed from a long-established sense of resentment against the central government over resources, resistance by older settlers to new waves of migrants, and long-established xenophobia.

Although the the earliest clashes between these communities had criminal motives(27) local politics increasingly became delineated on ethnic lines, particularly after the emergence of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement party (the MQM, now called the Muttahida Qaumi Movement), which sought to represent the interests of the Mohajir community.(28) As such, Karachi’s politics became a mix of ethnically-driven political parties, religious groups, and mainstream political groups, and has developed a distinctly militant nature. Political groups like the MQM trained armed forces and built strongholds in the neighborhoods where their constituencies reside.

Since the 1980s Karachi has seen several extended periods of ethno-political violence. During these episodes, the violence fanned out to include conflict with the state, and drew in other ethnic communities such as the Baloch, Kutchi Memons, and Sindhis, as well as migrants from the southern parts of Punjab. These ethnic groups were represented by a range of political parties and criminal groups, including the MQM, the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party, and the Peoples Amn Committee, a criminal syndicate affiliated with the mainstream Pakistan Peoples Party, which drew support from Baloch communities in Karachi. This has led to repeated paramilitary and police operations against these groups over the course of the past three decades.

Ethnic violence is also prevalent in the province of Balochistan, where Punjabi workers have been killed by what is widely cited as Baloch separatist groups fighting an insurgency against the Pakistani government.(29) These attacks are seen as part of the insurgency’s reaction to the influence of the Punjab province in Pakistani politics, which is why migrant workers from that province are targeted.(30)

Understanding Pakistan’s ethnic violence

There is a tendency to frame Karachi’s violence in purely ethnic terms. It is important, however, to note the motivations of violent groups and the fluidity of alliances, and to separately assess each episode of violence.

What is usually termed ethnic conflict can be divided into at least three principal categories: (i) ethno-political violence, driven by political parties with ethnocentric support bases, (ii) criminal activities by these parties’ armed wings and criminal affiliates, (iii) religious violence, carried out by armed cadres of religious-political/militant groups. However, even these categories are not sufficient, since these strains of violence intersect. For example, many acts of intercommunal violence that appear ethnic or political in nature are merely a cover for commonplace criminal activity.

This is not to deny that genuine ethnic discord doesn’t exist in Karachi or that armed groups haven’t repeatedly targeted other groups on the basis of ethnicity during periods of political strife. But these conflicts are frequently connected to a different purpose. Apparent ethnic disputes—resulting in strikes, riots, and street battles—are often used by elements of these groups to wage turf wars.

Similar to the worsening tactics of religious violence across the country, Karachi in the late 2000s saw larger and more savage attacks by criminal and political groups. These tactics included beheadings and physical torture, and this escalation turned the conflict in Karachi into a national issue.(31)

The conflict in Karachi also saw religious-militant groups combating established political parties. For example, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan decimated the Awami National Party in Karachi through a campaign of targeted assassinations, threats and intimidation, and replaced the latter’s hold in Pashtun neighborhoods.(32)

A continuing, dangerous slide into ethnic politics

Since 2013, the MQM, accused of stoking conflict, has been embroiled in legal issues and allegations of foreign funding.(33) There have been arrests and investigations of its membership and leadership, and the party has been forced to rein in its activities.(34) Some observers credit the government’s pressure with reducing sectarian tension.

However, state security operations against MQM have stoked a sense of discontent and anger as the MQM’s membership base feels it has been unfairly treated and singled out for prosecution. In addition, the lack of progress on developing local politics—evidenced by an ongoing stalemate on implementing a mayoral system—is compounding the situation, since a key demand of ethnic politics in Karachi is independent governance and more control over resource allocation. This situation is deteriorating, and many fear a renewed escalation of ethnocentric politics in Karachi.

Responses to violence against minority groups

Public reaction: From apathy to outrage

In Pakistan, the public response to militant attacks has ranged from near-apathy to widespread outrage. This response is dependent on a number of factors, including the visibility of the attack, the targets, and the city where the attack took place. These attitudes in the public sphere are also shaped by pre-existing discriminatory attitudes against ethnic groups, religious sects, and minorities.

Public support for religiously-motivated attacks is limited and is often framed as an attack against all Muslims, not just a particular sect. It was not until Shias began organizing large-scale protests that the attacks received widespread attention and forced the government to respond.(35) Similarly, ethnic-related conflict in Karachi and Balochistan is seen as a matter of concern only when the scale of attacks increases or there is a significantly high death toll.

Blasphemy allegations and ensuing violence
There is a significant difference in the response of the public, press, and government when it comes to violence linked to accusations of blasphemy levelled at a member of an Islamic sect or a minority faith. These accusations, which are often falsified, routinely expand into violence targeting an entire community. This is an organized criminal practice in Pakistan that involves supporters of political parties, religious and militant groups, clerics, and small-time gangs. These allegations often lead to mobs attacking settlements or neighborhoods populated by religious minorities.(36)

However, blasphemy attacks do not elicit the same kind of security response as a militant attack or regular criminal activity. The government has often resisted acting against mobs for fear of a backlash, or to be seen as siding with the accused and hence supporting blasphemy. These cases and riots play a significant role in creating an environment of hostility, intimidation, and insecurity for minorities.

Government reaction and security response
The Pakistani government is quick to react when it comes to attacks against military institutions and personnel, as evidenced by the forceful reaction to the 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. Since this incident and the ensuing launch of the National Action Plan against militancy, the government’s reaction has been relatively swifter in certain high-profile cases.(37)

The response to religiously-motivated attacks also varies depending on the Islamic sect in question and the nature of the attack.(38) Despite widespread protests by Shias against militant attacks, the government’s reaction was often characterised as insensitive, and it took limited action.(39) For example, action against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was restricted to cities like Karachi until the top leadership of the group was killed in a series of apparent extrajudicial killings.(40)

Attacks that take place in major cities receive more attention by the government and politicians as opposed to attacks in rural areas.

It appears easier for the government to take a clearer stance when minority faiths such as Christians or prominent Islamic sects such as Ismailis are attacked by militant groups because these attacks elicit attention by the international community. This pressures the state to respond.(41)

Depending on the security and political situation in the country, escalation in militant violence serves as a motive to begin, continue, or expand security operations, or to prompt investigations.(42) This inevitably results in police or paramilitary operations against political activists and their criminal allies. However, this comes with the risk of blowback and political instability. In addition, the oft-politicized nature of the security forces, and allegations of complicity with or ignorance of militant and criminal activities, raises questions about the efficacy of such operations.(43)

Media reaction

The media plays a significant role in shaping public perceptions of violence. For years, local television channels allowed varying degrees of unchecked coverage to hard-line groups. At the same time, media organizations were intimidated and threatened by militant and criminal groups to portray only their perspectives. This resulted in an incomplete picture of religiously-motivated or ethnic conflict in Pakistan.

Following implementation of the National Action Plan after the Peshawar school attack, the broadcast media has downplayed and limited the coverage of religiously-motivated attacks, except when Pakistan’s military takes a public stance or if army troops are deployed.(44) Increasingly, media organizations tend avoid identifying victims of violence by their religious or ethnic identity.


Ethnic and religious violence takes place for reasons rooted in Pakistan’s history, explicit religious identity, and the evolution of its political structures. Militant groups have expanded their targets for religiously-motivated violence in recent years, just as ethnic conflict has drawn in other sub-communities in cities like Karachi. The escalation of violence and brutal tactics are bringing conflict to the forefront of public attention, but not all attacks elicit similar responses. This is in part due to the politicized nature of attacks, geographical distance, and the lack of social bonds with the targeted religious or ethnic communities.

Appendix 1: Banned groups in Pakistan

313 Brigade

Al-Qaeda linked militant group; involved in high profile attacks in Pakistan

Abdullah Azam Brigade

Al-Qaeda linked militant group

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat

Anti-Shia religious-political group; seeks constitutional designation of Shias as non-Muslims (alias for Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan)

Al Harmain Foundation

Alleged links to Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda

International militant group; against U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, corrupt Arab governments

Al-Khair Trust

Charity front for Pakistani militant groups

Amar Bil Maroof Wa Nahi Anil Munkir

(Haji Namdar Group)

Sectarian militant group; sought imposition of Islamic law


Religious group based in Gilgit-Baltistan

Baloch Student Organisation-Azad

Pro-Balochistan political activist group

Balochistan Bunyad Parast Army

Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Balochistan Liberation Army

Pro-Balochistan separatist group; seeks autonomy for the Balochistan province

Balochistan Liberation Front

Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Balochistan Liberation United Front

Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Balochistan Musallah Difa Tanzeem

Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Balochistan National Liberation Army

Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Balochistan Republican Army

Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Balochistan Waja Liberation Army

Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Daesh, Islamic State

International group based in Syria and Iraq; Seeks creation of independent Islamic caliphate

East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement

Chinese separatist militant movement

Haji Namdar Group

Sectarian militant group; sought imposition of Islamic law

Hizbut Tehrir

Hardline religious-political group; seeks establishment of independent Islamic caliphate

Islam Mujahideen


Islami Tehreek Pakistan

Shia religious-political group (alias of the Tehreek-e-Jafria Pakistan-Husseini)

Islamic Jihad Union

Splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

Central Asian militant group involved in militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Islamic Students Movement of Pakistan



Anti-Shia militant group


Anti-India militant group; inspired by conflict in Kashmir and Afghanistan

Jamiatul Ansar

Alias of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen

Jamiatul Furqan

Faction of the Jaish-e-Mohammad

Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz

Pro-Sindh separatist group

Khair-un-Naas International Trust

Splinter group of the Lashkar-e-Taiba


Research and publications wing for a religious leader from a Shia sect

Khuddamul Islam

Faction of the Jaish-e-Mohammad


Anti-India militant group; inspired by conflict in Kashmir and Afghanistan


Pro-Balochistan separatist group

Lashkar-i-Islam, Ansarul Islam

Sectarian militant group; seeks implementation of Shariah; opposes Barelvi sect’s practices


Anti-Shia militant group; seeks elimination of Shias

Markaz Sabeel Organisation

Religious group based in Gilgit-Baltistan

Millat-i-Islamia Pakistan

Anti-Shia religious-political group; seeks constitutional designation of Shias as non-Muslims (alias for Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan)

Muslim Students Organisation

Religious group based in Gilgit-Baltistan

Peoples Aman Committee (Lyari)

Karachi-based criminal syndicate involved in ethnic and criminal conflict; aimed to establish political, financial, and social control over the Lyari district and adjoining areas

Rabita Trust

Saudi-funded, Pakistan government-supported charity group

Shia Tulaba Action Committee

Gilgit-based Shia political group

Sipah-i-Mohammad Pakistan

Shia militant group; against Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan

Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan

Anti-Shia religious-political group; seeks constitutional designation of Shias as non-Muslims

Tahafuz Hadudullah


Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat

Gilgit-based Sunni group

Tanzeem Naujawanane Ahle Sunnat

Gilgit-based Sunni group

Tariq Geedar Group

Faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan

Tehreek Nafaz-i-Aman

Balochistan-based group opposed to separatist and activist movements


Unclear; could refer to alias for the Tehreek-e-Jafria, or the Tehreek-e-Islam Uzbekistan

Tehreek-i-Jafria Pakistan

Shia religious-political group


Religious-militant group; seeks imposition of Shariah in Pakistan, involved in fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Tehreek-i-Taliban Bajaur

Faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan

Tehreek-i-Taliban Mohmand

Faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan

Seeks imposition of an Islamic government; opposes the Pakistani state and its institutions; inspired by internal conflict, sectarian militancy, external conflict in the region, and international militant groups

Tehreek-i-Taliban Swat

Faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan

United Baloch Army

Pro-Balochistan separatist militant group

Al-Rasheed Trust

Charity front for scholars providing aid to militant groups

Al Akhtar Trust

Providing financial aid to militant groups

Jamaat-ud-Dawa (enlisted under UN Security Council resolution 1267)

Religious and political front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba; inspired by the insurgency in Kashmir, ultra-nationalism, and against the India, U.S., and Israel

Note: Pro-Balochistan separatist groups seek autonomy and independence for Balochistan, a long-running struggle due to decades-long political disagreement about governance and independence, inequitable resource allocation and development, human rights violations, and military engagement.

Dawn newspaper
M. A. Rana (2004) ‘The A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan” (Mashal Books)
Stanford: Mapping Militant Organizations Project
International Crisis Group (2011) “Islamic Parties in Pakistan”
International Crisis Group (2009) “Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge”



(1) In 2015 alone, the government reported 1,113 militant attacks in addition to 58 sectarian attacks that resulted in 272 deaths. Pak Institute for Peace Studies, “Security Report 2015”

(2) For demographic information, see Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, “1998 Population Census Data”; for Ordinance XX, the legislation condemning the Ahmadiyya, see Linda J. Berberian, “Pakistan Ordinance XX of 1984: International Implications on Human Rights,” Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review, Vol. 9, p. 661, (1987),

(3) M. Munir and M.R. Kayani, “Report of the Court of Inquiry constituted under Punjab Act II of 1954 to inquire into the Punjab disturbances of 1953,” (1954)

(4) F. Aziz, “Suicide bombers kill 78 Christians outside Pakistani church,”, Reuters, 22 September 2013, (accessed 26 May 2016)

(5) “Sikhs protest on Pakistan parliament grounds,” Al Jazeera English, 24 May 2014,… (accessed 26 May 2016)

(6) “Protests against blasphemy continue,” The Nation, 19 January 2015, (accessed 2 June 2016)

(7) K. K. Shahid, “Takfir without borders,” The Friday Times, 13 May 2016, (accessed 1 June 2016)

(8) “MWM: MQM workers threaten our men,” The Nation, 26 April 2013,… (accessed 1 June 2016)

(9) Pak Institute for Peace Studies, “Pakistan Security Report 2015,” p.10

J. Ahmed and K. Johnson, “Linked to Taliban and ISIS, Pakistani group seizes notoriety with bomb in park,” Reuters, 28 March 2016,… (accessed 2 June 2016); I. Ali, “Gunmen shoot vice-principal of Karachi college,” Dawn, 17 April 2015, (accessed 2 June 2016)

(10) Aziz, “Suicide bombers kill 78 Christians,” Reuters, 22 September 2013

(11) Z.ur Rehman, “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi behind Hazara killings in Quetta,” The Friday Times, 5 August 2011, (accessed 26 May 2016); Human Rights Watch (2014), “We are the Walking Dead,” p. 58

(12) O. Waraich, “Sectarian Attacks on Lahore Mosques Kill More than 80,” Time, 28 May 2010,,8816,1992630,00.html (accessed 26 May 2016)

(13) M. Georgy, “Insight: Pakistan cleric tries hand at politics,” Reuters, 20 April 2013,… (accessed 2 June 2016)

(14) M. Waseem, “Dilemmas of Pride and Pain: Sectarian Conflict and Conflict Transformation in Pakistan,” Religions and Development Research Programme, Working Paper 48, 2010

(15) M. Munir and M.R. Kayani, “Report of the Court of Inquiry” (1954)

(16) Jinnah Institute, “A Question of Faith,” p. 33 (2011); S. Imtiaz, “Minorities’ persecution: False charges erode 40-year Christian-Muslim bond,” The Express Tribune, 29 June 2011,… (accessed 1 June 2016)

(17) Z.ur-Rehman, “Militant economy of Karachi,” Pak Institute for Peace Studies (2013)

(18) K. Ali, “Malik Ishaq had serious differences with Ludhianvi: observers,” Dawn, 25 August 2015, (accessed 2 June 2016)

(19) S. Shah, “Pakistan Militant Group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Threatens Fresh Wave of Violence,” The Wall Street Journal, 29 March 2016,… (accessed 26 May 2016)

(20) R. Tanveer, “Ghari Shahu attacks anniversary: 88 Ahmadis killed. 1 year on. 0 justice,” The Express Tribune, 28 May 2011,… (accessed 26 May 2016); Human Rights Watch, “We are the Walking Dead: Killings of Shia Hazara in Balochistan, Pakistan,” 2014

(21) Z.S. Sherazi, “Taliban warn of reprisal if PML-N government hangs militants,” Dawn, 13 August 2013, (accessed 1 June 2016)

(22) ibid.

(23) A. Manan, “Khanzada attack in retaliation of LeJ chief’s killing: sources,” The Express Tribune, 16 August 2015,… (accessed 2 June 2016); “CID arrests mastermind behind Sea View, Ghazi Shrine attacks,” Dawn, 14 January 2012,… (accessed 1 June 2016)

(24) S. Imtiaz, “Militancy in Pakistan and Impacts on U.S. Foreign Policy,” New America (2014); International Crisis Group, “Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge” (2009)

(25) H. Gazdar, “Karachi’s Violence: Duality and Negotiation,” SPO Discussion Paper Series, No 10 (2011)

(26) L. Gayer, “Political Turmoil in Karachi’, Economic and Political Weekly,” Vol XLVII no 31, pp. 76-84 (2012)

(27) Ibid

(28) M. Waseem, “Ethnic Conflict in Pakistan: The Case of MQM,” The Pakistan Development Review, 35:4 (1996); “Part II” (Winter 1996), pp. 617-629

(29) “Workers killed in attack in Pakistan’s Balochistan,” Al Jazeera English, 11 April 2015,… (accessed 26 May 2016)

B. Baloch, “Three workers from Khanewal killed in Pasni,” Dawn, 6 July 2015, (accessed 26 May 2016)

(30) “Nine Punjabi Laborers Killed in Balochistan,” Newsweek Pakistan, 20 October 2014, (accessed 26 May 2016)

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