Pakistan: Threats Persists In Punjab – Analysis 


By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty*

Two Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) personnel posted in the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) were shot dead by a terrorist at a roadside hotel on the National Highway near Pirowal in Khanewal city (Khanewal District) on January 3, 2023. ISI Multan Region Director Naveed Sadiq and Inspector Nasir Abbas met a ‘source’ at a roadside hotel. After having tea, they walked to the parking lot when the ‘source’ himself, identified as Umar Khan of Kacha Khoo, pulled out his gun, shot the officers dead, and fled from the scene. 

Meanwhile, on January 4, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the killings. “Yesterday, a secret squad of TTP killed ISI Deputy Director Multan Naveed Sadiq along with his colleague Inspector Nasir Butt at Bismillah Highway in Khanewal district of Punjab,” TTP ‘spokesman’ Mohammad Khorasani declared in a statement to the media. Interestingly, the attack was also claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Lashkar-i-Khorasan. 

Though 2023 thus started on a violent note, the province recorded the lowest number of terrorism-related fatalities in 2022. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Punjab recorded a total of 11 terrorism-linked fatalities in 2022, including 10 civilians and one terrorist, as against 20 fatalities, including nine civilians, six terrorists and five Security Force (SF) personnel in 2021. 

Fatalities in Punjab: 2000*-2023
YearsCiviliansSFsMilitantsNot Specified Total
Source: SATP, *March 6, 2000, **Data till January 8, 2023

Though over-all fatalities declined by 45 per cent in 2022, as compared to 2021, fatalities in civilian the category increased, albeit by just one. 

However, terrorism-linked incidents increased substantially in 2022. There were 83 terrorism-linked incidents in 2022 as against 31 in 2021. This is the highest number of such incidents since 2017, when there were 99 incidents. On the other hand, the number of major incidents of killing (each involving three or more fatalities) decreased from five to two, and the resultant fatalities from 15 to six. 

On January 3, 2023, the Punjab CTD released the annual performance report for 2022, which recorded 1,225 intelligence-based operations conducted across the province, in which 246 terrorists were arrested. CTD Punjab’s investigation wing registered 205 terrorism cases. CTD Punjab recovered 64.36 kilograms of explosives, 48 hand grenades, 253 detonators, seven batteries and 215 meters of prima cord, three sub-machine guns, 40 pistols, 324 bullets and 3 magazines from terrorists. The release added that in 2022, the operations wing of CTD Punjab added 105 suspicious persons and 354 madrasas to the Fourth Schedule list under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

Though the mainstream Islamic militant groups took a back seat, blasphemy cases continued to occur in the province, as radicalisation remained rampant. While two incidents of blasphemy were reported in 2021, resulting in one death, 2022 recorded three blasphemy related incidents resulting in three death. These incuded:

  • August 12, 2022: A man belonging to the Ahmadiyya community was stabbed to death by an unidentified man in a suspected blasphemy attack in the Chenab Nagar area of Chiniot District in Punjab. 
  • May 17: One Ahmadiyya, identified as Abdul Salam (33), was killed by a seminary student in a blasphemy attack in Chochak area of Okara in Punjab. Abdul Salam was on his way back home from the field when a seminary student, Hafiz Ali Raza alias Mulazim Husain, attacked him with a knife. Salam’s uncle Iqbal said Raza is believed to be a member of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). 
  • February 12: A mob tortured and killed a man they accused of burning pages of the Holy Quran in Jungle Dera village under the Mian Chunnu Police Station of Khanewal District in Punjab. The local Police, in order to protect themselves, allegedly allowed the accused to leave the Police station in Mian Chunnu, where a mob had gathered. The victim was dragged to a nearby place, tortured and killed. 

Religious minorities in Punjab have been under constant threat of abuse, abduction, rape and harassment by Islamist extremists, for long. The abduction of minority girls for rape and forced conversion continues unabated in the province. According to a report titled “Conversion without Consent” released by Voice for Justice and Jubilee Campaign on December 10, 2022, as many as 100 cases of abduction, forced conversion, forced and child marriage of girls and women belonging to the Christian community were recorded between January 2019 and October 2022 in Pakistan. The data showed that the highest number of cases recorded – 86 – were reported in Punjab, followed by 11 in Sindh, two in Islamabad and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. No case was reported in Balochistan. The data reveals that 67 per cent of the cases were reported from the five districts alone – Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, and Sheikhupura in Punjab, and Karachi in Sindh. Of the 100 cases, 27 were recorded in 2019, 12 in 2020, 42 in 2021 and 19 in 2022, till October. 

Earlier, on August 13, 2022, former Prime Minister Imran Khan had admitted that forced conversions of young non-Muslim girls were carried out in the country. “There is an ayat (verse) in the Holy Quran [that] there is no coercion in Islam. This is Allah’s commandment. Whoever forcefully converts a non-Muslim is disobeying Allah,” he stated. 

While terrorism has declined sharply in Punjab, widespread radicalisation persists, creating a base that can be exploited by terrorist formations when circumstances in their favour emerge. The killing of two ISI personnel at the very beginning of the year is a clear indication that terrorists have not given up their objectives, and the profile of the targets in this incident underlines the states vulnerabilities.

*Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management


SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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