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.
Political tensions continued to run high, and militants killed more than a dozen security forces in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Opposition remained divided over results of last month’s by-election in Karachi city, where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) rejected victory of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) despite 8 May vote recount. PML-N and PPP however same day jointly opposed presidential ordinance authorising Election Commission to procure electronic voting machines and enable overseas Pakistanis to vote in 2023 parliamentary elections. Tensions between ruling party and opposition increased when govt 8 May refused to allow opposition PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif to leave for UK for medical treatment, despite previous day’s decision by Lahore High Court to allow for one-time visit. Following Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan’s violent April anti-govt protests, Punjab counter-terrorism authorities 8 May registered four cases against senior TLP leaders for instigating new protests to oust French ambassador. In response to European Parliament’s resolution condemning blasphemy laws in late April, govt 3 May agreed to introduce new legislation to address rights issues in line with EU agreements. Militant attacks in May left more than a dozen security forces dead. In Balochistan province, road bomb blast 3 May killed two police officers in Arawan district; Pakistani Taliban 5 May killed four soldiers in cross-border attack in Zhob district; 8 May killed three soldiers in Quetta and Turbat districts; drive-by shooting 10 May killed two police in Mastung district. Seven killed in 21 May bomb explosion at Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s Palestine solidarity rally in Chaman town. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani Taliban attack 4 May left two soldiers dead in Bajaur district. Operation against Pakistani Taliban in North Wazirstan district 5 May killed four soldiers and two militants, while one soldier killed in cross-border militant attack 22 May; militants 9 May also killed police in Lakki Marwat district. Afghan President Ghani 11 May accused Pakistan of “operating an organised system of support” for Taliban and said “question of peace or hostility is now in Pakistani hands”; Pakistan 14 May summoned Afghan ambassador reportedly to protest comments.
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.