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.
Govt continued to use anti-corruption cases to attack political opponents, sparking opposition efforts to unseat govt. Govt pursued warrants and indictments against senior opposition leaders, including former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) PM Sharif and former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) President Zardari, leading to Islamabad High Court 15 Sept issuing warrant for Sharif’s arrest and demanding he return from self-imposed exile in London by 22 Sept. In protest at govt’s use of controversial National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for political ends, 11 opposition parties including PPP and PML-N 20 Sept organised “All Parties Conference” in capital Islamabad and online, calling for Khan to resign and agreeing on anti-govt action plan that includes public meetings in Oct and mass demonstrations in Jan. At conference, in online remarks from London, former PM Sharif called military “a state above the state”, while opposition called for end to military’s political interference. In response, govt 22 Sept disclosed that opposition leaders had 16 Sept held meetings with army chief, implying they had sought his backing; NAB next day summoned opposition leader Fazlur Rehman to respond to corruption allegations and NAB 28 Sept arrested PML-N President and parliamentary leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif, and same day indicted Zardari; NAB 29 Sept remanded Sharif in custody for 14 days. Internationally, PM Khan 11 Sept welcomed start of Afghan peace talks, and FM Qureshi next day attended opening ceremony virtually, calling for continued international support, including on reconstruction and refugee return; Afghan High Peace Council chief Abdullah Abdullah late Sept visited Pakistan to discuss peace process (see Afghanistan). Militant violence continued; notably, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, Pakistani Taliban claimed 3 Sept bomb blast that killed three soldiers and wounded four others in North Waziristan tribal district, and killed army officer 27 Sept in South Waziristan; violence also ongoing in Balochistan, including 5 Sept bomb blast that injured four in provincial capital Quetta. Sectarian tensions increased following 11-12 Sept protests in Karachi city by Sunni groups claiming Shia leaders made disparaging remarks about Sunni religious figures; unidentified gunmen 15 Sept killed two Shias in KPK capital Peshawar.
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.