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.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt continued to use corruption charges against opponents and attempted to position itself in key role in Afghan peace process. Govt targeting of opposition and critics through controversial anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB) remained issue of political concern; NAB 23 March arrested Mir Shakilur Rehman, owner and editor-in-chief of Jang-Geo media group, on charges related to real estate transaction; journalist unions held countrywide demonstrations, calling arrest attempt to silence media, while opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam 18 March criticised decision and jointly filed petition against it and crackdown on Geo TV in Islamabad High Court. High courts granted bail to various top opposition leaders detained by NAB including former PML-N railways minister on 17 March, and former PML-N PM Abbasi on 25 March. Amid COVID-19 spread, PML-N president and parliamentary leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif 18 March criticised govt for lack of preparedness in dealing with fast spreading of coronavirus. Internationally, govt welcomed U.S.-Taliban deal, claiming credit for success of negotiations and insisting on an active role in intra-Afghan negotiations; FM Qureshi 1 March acknowledged Afghan govt mistrust of Pakistan due to Islamabad’s longstanding support to Taliban but called on Kabul to talk to govt, said Pakistan had convinced Taliban to “put forward an authoritative delegation that has the capacity to implement” U.S.-Taliban deal; Qureshi 3 March called on Afghan President Ghani to “show magnanimity” and Taliban to “show flexibility” amid stalled negotiations over prisoner releases. Militant violence continued, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province: army colonel killed during operation against militants in Dera Ismail district 9 March, Pakistani Taliban killed four soldiers in North Waziristan tribal district 18 March, same day, militant attack on police station in Orakzai tribal district killed two officers.
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.