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.
Authorities opened corruption investigations into opposition leadership amid heightened political tensions, while militant attacks continued and tensions grew with Afghanistan and U.S. govts. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) launched new investigations into opposition figures, filing corruption cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif 8 April and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman and former President Asif Ali Zardari late March. Investigations come amid increased domestic criticism of govt: PPP strongly opposed govt’s 18 April appointment to interior minister of former Intelligence Bureau chief Ijaz Hussain Shah, accused by former PM Benazir Bhutto of conspiring to kill her. PM Khan 9 April announced push to seize 30,000 madrasas in compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) sanctions, reiterating govt stance against militant groups. Assurances coincide with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt’s attempts to garner opposition support for constitutional amendment to allow third two-year term to military anti-terrorism courts which expired 30 March. Karachi Union of Journalists 5 April expressed concern over criminal investigations by intelligence agencies into four journalists; Reporters Without Borders 16 April criticised intimidation of media by security agencies. Militant attacks continued. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, assailants 8 April killed World Health Organization polio worker, and unclaimed bomb attack 27 April killed three paramilitaries, while clashes between Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants and security forces in Peshawar 16 April killed six suspected militants and one police officer. In Balochistan province, explosive device killed nineteen in Quetta 12 April, including eight Shia Hazaras; TPP claimed collaboration with anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Islamic State (ISIS) also claimed responsibility; bomb blast targeted convoy in Chaman same day, killing one; gunmen 18 April shot dead fourteen bus passengers, eleven of them from security forces; three Baloch militant groups claimed responsibility. Afghan govt responded angrily to Khan’s 26 March call for “neutral interim govt” in Kabul to hold “free and fair elections”, recalling its ambassador, while U.S. Afghan envoy accused him of undermining negotiations with Taliban.
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.