The Threat of Pakistani Criminal Organizations: Assessing the Potential for Involvement in Radiological/Nuclear Smuggling, Collaboration with Terrorist Groups and the Potential to Destabilize the Pakistani State

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Project Details


This project supported the South Asia Stability Assessment project undertaken as a 2011-2012 Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) initiative, in order to contribute to ongoing efforts to understand the threats to state stability within the context of South Asia, including the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Researchers generated profiles of criminal organizations operating in Pakistan and provided a threat assessment of the feasibility of these criminal organizations to participate in radiological or nuclear (RN) smuggling, to collaborate and support violent extremist organizations also operating in Pakistan, and to present a risk to Pakistan’s stability.

Primary Findings:

The overarching lesson derived from this project is that hybrid organizations (those including both violent political extremist and criminal elements) present the highest level of threat across domains. They also are the most likely to be key nodes in social networks, reinforcing their threat potential for engaging in a variety of activities, from smuggling sensitive materials to perpetrating attacks on their enemies. Of all organizations, the TTP and the Haqqani Network are the most present danger. They rank at the high end of each threat assessment and are key nodes for social networks. Of the predominately criminal organizations profiled, only D-Company presents any significant threat in the domains of interest for this study.


Researchers utilized openly available sources to identify criminal organizations active in Pakistan and to build qualitative profiles for 11 of the most significant organizations. The Radiological / Nuclear Smuggling Threat Assessment Tool (RN-STAT), previously developed by START, was modified and extended to assess the threat individual criminal organizations posed in four arenas, including:

  1. The likelihood of engaging in RN smuggling in general;
  2. The likelihood of engaging in RN smuggling on behalf of or in concert with a terrorist organization;
  3. The likelihood of forming a general cooperative nexus with a regional terrorist organization; and
  4. The likelihood of increasing the levels of instability within the Pakistani state. 

This modified threat assessment tool, renamed the Criminal Organization Threat Assessment Tool (COTAT), was then applied to the 11 selected criminal organizations. A social network analysis was also undertaken for each of the profiled criminal organizations, in order to better understand the network environments in which they operate. 


Project Period: