What you need to know about Pakistan elections


Pakistan’s upcoming parliamentary election on 8th February is occurring amid deteriorating security, political and operational risk environments following the ousting of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in April 2022 and a subsequent rise in military. Though Khan’s supporters challenged the military’s powerful grip over Pakistani politics in 2022 and 2023, the armed forces retain control.

Who's in the running? Primary political parties and candidates

Nawaz Sharif - Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N)

  • One of Pakistan’s most prominent political parties whose leader, Nawaz Sharif, has been prime minister three times before.
  • Historically popular among industrial magnates and voters in north Punjab.
  • Widely considered the military’s favoured party.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)

  • Another dominant party which has been in power during several periods since 1971.
  • Draws support from interior Sindh and south Punjab.
  • The party has complained of attempts to keep it from contesting the election.

Imran Khan - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)

  • Once the military’s favourite party, PTI and Imran Khan fell out of favour with the armed forces in late 2021, contributing to their ouster from government in April 2022.
  • The authorities disqualified Khan and PTI General-Secretary Shah Mehmood Qureshi on 31st January, and the Supreme Court barred the party from partaking in the election in January.
  • Polls indicate PTI remains voters’ preferred party and its members are participating in the election as independent candidates.

Rising electoral risks

Pakistan presents an extremely challenging operational environment, with civil unrest the most significant obstacle to operations in the country. The country's challenging security climate, combined with volatile economic performance, also contributes to our HIGH operational risk rating.

It is highly likely that communications networks, particularly mobile data networks and access to social media, will be intentionally disrupted by state authorities in the event of large-scale post-election unrest. The government curtailed mobile broadband internet and access to social media sites in response to the widespread unrest triggered by the unrest of Imran Khan, demonstrating precedent for suppression tactics. Countrywide internet outages have been reported at times when the PTI party was attempting to hold online gatherings, indicating the risks of disruption even to those uninvolved in politics.


The risk of terrorism in Pakistan is extreme and is expected to be heightened during the election period. Pakistan is home to several active terrorist groups. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) and Islamic State-Pakistan Province (ISPP) are both affiliated with the wider Islamic State (IS) group and have demonstrated capability and intent to conduct militant activity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

ISPP claimed responsibility for a fatal explosion near a PTI rally in Sibi, Balochistan province, on 30th January. ISKP assassinated a PTI candidate in Bajaur district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on 31st January. The groups are most capable in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan but reports from the security forces concerning arrests of Islamic State group members in other parts of the country indicate that attacks elsewhere cannot be ruled out.


Civil unrest in Pakistan regularly results in fatal violence and mob-style justice, presenting a HIGH risk to foreign nationals in the country. Protests can be both planned and spontaneous and motivated by an anti-government agenda. In the past, political leaders routinely encouraged supporters to demonstrate en masse ahead of and during election periods, which debilitated urban centres and occasionally led to fatal clashes with supporters of opposition parties.

The police are almost certain to exercise force during PTI rallies during and after the election period as the military is keen to prevent the party’s supporters from mobilising against it. While countrywide riots similar to those seen in May 2023 are unlikely to materialise in the short term, localised unrest is highly likely to occur wherever PTI supporters gather.

Navigating business in the election climate

Elevated terrorism and unrest risks should be closely monitored in the coming two-to-three weeks, but the security trend is anticipated to remain stable in the near term. Travel is permissible in Pakistan, apart from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, during the election period, but a heightened risk of terrorism and operational disruption is highly likely on election day; the risk of unrest cannot be ruled out.


  • Closely monitor election-related developments via local and international media reporting as well as trusted multi-source intelligence advisories such as Healix Sentinel alerts.
  • Inform personnel of voting times and the ongoing election campaign more broadly.
  • Refrain from displaying overt political allegiances and maintain neutral in any political discussions.
  • Thoroughly review and test communications plans to ensure these remain viable throughout the election period and all staff are contactable.
  • Anticipate localised disruption and heightened security in the vicinity of polling stations on 8th February.
  • Ensure plans on election day account for the heightened risk of travel and operational disruption, as non-essential businesses could close or operate with reduced hours.
  • Liaise with the authorities if further pre-deployment planning is required prior to the election.
  • Identify flashpoint locations in case of protest activity.
  • Bypass any large gatherings as a basic security precaution and exercise caution when out and about on election day.
  • Ensure evacuation plans are up-to-date in case of a rapid deterioration in the security environment during Pakistan’s election period.
  • Identify possible stand-fast locations for staff in Pakistan.
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