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.
A federal government misstep – lifting a lockdown too soon – has placed Pakistan among the twelve countries hardest hit by coronavirus. Nor has the economy recovered as intended. Authorities should let provinces make more health decisions and focus on helping citizens in need.
Tensions continued between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition amid elections, while deadly militant violence persisted. Following the victory of the 11-party opposition alliance that includes Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in almost all Feb by-elections to the national and provincial legislatures, political tensions remained high with PM Khan’s PTI govt. In line with Feb decision from Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Supreme Court 1 March ruled Senate elections must be held under secret ballot, nullifying govt’s request to hold elections through open ballot. PML-N leadership 11 March accused govt of using state institutions, specifically security agencies, to help their candidate in election for Senate chair; PTI candidate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani next day won election. Amid ongoing tensions between the top electoral body, and the PTI govt, PTI ministers 15 March called for the resignations of the entire ECP leadership. PPP next day opposed PML-N demand to resign from federal and provincial parliaments, straining opposition’s unity; tensions heightened between them after appointment 26 March of PPP nominee as Senate opposition leader. In Balochistan province, bomb 5 March killed five in Sibi city Baloch militants next day left two Pakistan Navy officers dead in Gwadar district; Pakistani Taliban bomb attack outside paramilitary prison in Chaman city 23 March killed four. Meanwhile, security forces 8 March killed five Baloch militants in operation in Mastung district. In North Waziristan district, security forces 7 March claimed to have killed at least eight militants, including three commanders of Pakistani Taliban, in Deta Khel town; security operation 17 March killed one militant and two civilians in Swat district; bomb blast 25 March injured Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader in Bajaur district. In Punjab province, successive militant attacks 7 March killed one police officer in Rawalpindi and one in Islamabad. In Karachi city, Balochistan Liberation Army-claimed explosion 15 March killed one soldier and injured ten others in Orangi Town. Pakistani Taliban 12 March threatened organisers of International Women’s Day march; Islamist groups same day held protests demanding govt prosecute march organisers for blasphemy, which carries death sentence; Peshawar court 25 March ordered registration of case.
One year ago, India rescinded constitutional provisions giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the disputed territory also claimed by Pakistan. Kashmiri militancy is growing, often with Pakistani encouragement. Allies should urge New Delhi to relax its clampdown and Islamabad to stop backing jihadist proxies.
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.
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.