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.
Wave of terrorist attacks against civilians subsided, while Pakistani Taliban (TTP) struck military targets in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). TTP faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar 6 March attacked three border posts in Mohmand agency, leaving five soldiers dead; launched assault from Afghan soil against border post in Khyber agency 17 March, killing two soldiers. Security forces 22 March killed two militants, including senior TTP commander, in raid on militant hideout in Orakzai agency. U.S. drone strike 2 March killed two suspected Taliban in Sara Khwa area, Kurram agency. Car bombing outside mosque 31 March killed at least 24 people and injured scores in predominantly Shia Parachinar, Kurram agency. National Assembly 21 March passed 28th constitutional amendment renewing mandate for military courts to try civilians charged with terrorism, amid concerns over implications for rule of law and civilian authority despite govt accepting four of nine proposals by opposition Pakistan Peoples Party. Three men convicted by military courts system executed 15 March. Tensions with Afghanistan continued following Islamabad’s accusations that Kabul harboured terrorists responsible for wave of attacks in Feb. Govt reopened border crossings closed after 16 Feb Sehwan Sharif shrine bombing. UK 15 March hosted bilateral talks that reportedly led to agreement on mechanism for cooperation against terrorism. Balochistan assembly 4 March passed resolution protesting alleged racial profiling and harassment of ethnic Pashtuns in Punjab and Sindh; followed 27 Feb protest by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly members against “racial policies” of Punjab govt and “victimisation” of Pashtuns in counter-terrorism crackdown. Govt 2 March approved in principle reforms for FATA including proposed merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in order to foster development in troubled region. Five FATA tribal elders 10 March filed petition against proposal, calling it illegal and unconstitutional, since it delays FATA’s incorporation into constitutional, legal and political mainstream and denies residents access to justice. Authorities 15 March commenced first national census in nineteen years.
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.
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.
Pakistan’s six-month-old counter-terrorism strategy has failed to end the operations of violent jihadi groups, while military-led measures continue to undermine the civilian government. A winning strategy will have to include structural and governance reform, both to stop jihadis exploiting the absence of rule of law and to address the root causes of extremist violence.
In Pakistan, women’s security and political, social and economic status are under attack by religious extremists, undermined by discriminatory legislation and unprotected by the state. The government must stand by its pledge to end gender inequity and violence against women, especially in the conflict zones of north-western Pakistan and the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
The recent wave of attacks within Pakistan is the result of Pakistan’s historical reliance on militant groups to promote its foreign policy agenda, which seems to be biting the country now.
With the reestablishment of Afghanistan’s national air force, we’re seeing the Taliban being driven into the mountains more than previously.
Originally published in Política Exterior
As the world marks Polio Day today, Pakistan remains the greatest impediment to a polio-free world.
Originally published in Lowy Interpreter
Originally published in The Boston Globe