A fragile democratic transition faces the dual challenges of political instability and poorly designed counter-terrorism strategies that sacrifice long-term peace for perceived short-term security goals, fuelling militancy in various parts of the country. Across the border, rival India accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and even sponsoring deadly attacks on Indian soil. There is no resolution in sight to the two countries’ dispute over Kashmir, which continues to claim soldiers’ and civilians’ lives along the Line of Control. Crisis Group monitors Pakistan’s domestic politics and security, with the aim of informing Pakistani leaders and international stakeholders about effective strategies for countering instability within the country and preventing its spillover abroad.
The new government of Imran Khan is repressing opposition voices and yielding to parties propagating sectarianism. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to help Pakistan abide by its international commitments and keep supporting democratic governance.
Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt obtained extension appointment of army chief after passing legislation with opposition support, while militant attacks continued. Following court ruling that govt must pass legislation within six months to allow extension of army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure, PTI govt reached out to opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party to obtain parliamentary approval; National Assembly 7 Jan passed three bills allowing for appointment, reappointment or extension for military chiefs for further three years, up to maximum age of 64; next day, Senate approved bills to take effect from 27 Nov 2019, two days before Bajwa was scheduled to retire; move raised concerns over civilian oversight of army. Lahore High Court 13 Jan indirectly overturned special court’s 17 Dec verdict sentencing former President and army chief Pervez Musharraf to death for high treason, declaring formation of special court “unconstitutional” as it was created in 2013 under then-PM Sharif’s orders without approval of his cabinet. Internationally, govt maintained neutrality amid U.S.-Iran tensions (see Iran); army spokesperson 3 Jan reported Bajwa emphasised need for restraint and for maintaining focus on success of Afghan peace process during call to U.S. Sec State Pompeo, while FM Qureshi 12-17 Jan visited Iran, Saudi Arabia and U.S. in attempt to defuse tensions; visit to U.S. also focused on U.S.-Taliban talks and Kashmir issue while Qureshi called for U.S. support to remove govt from Financial Action Task Force’s grey list. U.S. Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad 31 Jan separately met Bajwa and Qureshi to discuss U.S-Taliban talks in visit to Pakistan (see Afghanistan). Anti-terrorism court 16 Jan sentenced brother and nephew of Tehreek-e-Labaik chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and 84 Labaik members to 55 years in prison on charges ranging from murder to assaulting officials. Militant attacks continued: militant reportedly affiliated with Pakistani Taliban shot dead two police officers in Karachi 7 Jan; in Quetta, bomb blast same day killed two paramilitary soldiers, and suicide attack at mosque killed at least fourteen, including senior police officer, 10 Jan.
Pakistan is moving to bring its Federally Administered Tribal Areas into the constitutional order. But rights remain severely restricted in the borderlands, threatening deeper popular alienation. To stop militants from stepping in, the government should lift its draconian interim regulations and deliver needed services.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, opened in 2015, could bring needed jobs and investment to Pakistan. But many projects also risk widening social divides and heightening political tensions along the route. With Beijing’s support, Islamabad should seek the public’s input to ensure equity in economic gains.
This report examines President Trump’s emerging counter-terrorism policies, the dilemmas his administration faces in battling ISIS and al-Qaeda across the Middle East and South Asia, and how to avoid deepening the disorder both groups exploit.
Ethnic, political and sectarian rivalries, jihadist groups, criminality and heavy-handed security policies are turning Pakistan's biggest city into a pressure cooker of tensions. Feuding politicians must set aside their conflicts or Karachi's law-and-order crisis may further worsen.
Once-tolerant southern Punjab has become a base for jihadist groups. Socio-economic grievances, political alienation and poor education provide a near endless source of recruits. To reverse the tide, the government must end a climate of impunity, block hate speech, improve rule of law, and refocus counter-terrorist action to target all jihadist groups.
Pakistan remains the greatest impediment to a polio-free world. The link between the disease and Islamist anti-immunisation campaigns is clear but without an appropriate political response. The authorities must tackle extremist networks, step up health services, and make sure that health workers are safe.
I don’t believe that Pakistan has the capability to straight out make peace happen in Afghanistan, but they definitely have the capability to make peace not [happen].
Reciprocal airstrikes by India and Pakistan have been accompanied by shelling, troop reinforcements and small arms fire. In this Q&A calling for restraint between the nuclear-armed neighbours, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller notes that the airspace violations alone were the worst for 50 years.
A 14 February suicide attack by Pakistan-based militants was their bloodiest strike in Indian-administered Kashmir in over three decades. In this Q&A, our Asia Program Director Laurel Miller warns that even a limited Indian retaliatory strike could spark a sharp escalation in conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Pakistan’s central government is all-in on CPEC. But at key points, local communities are resisting.
Originally published in The Diplomat
Addressing security concerns in Pakistan is vital for creating a more gender equal society. In this video, Crisis Group's South Asia Project Director Samina Ahmed highlights the need for measures geared toward enabling women to become more economically independent, such as safer public transport and a more gender-sensitive police force.