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.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif 5 Sept said Pakistan must deal with internal militancy in order to improve international reputation; followed Aug U.S. announcement of new Afghanistan strategy warning Pakistan of adverse consequences of providing sanctuary to Afghan militants, and decision to hold back $255mn in financing for foreign ministry until Pakistan stops cross-border attacks and helps U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan. PM Abbasi 18 Sept endorsed foreign minister’s call for “in-house cleaning”, next day met U.S. VP Pence at UN General Assembly, where they reportedly agreed to “stay engaged with a constructive approach”. Also followed BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa) joint declaration 4 Sept expressing concerns over activities of Pakistan-based terrorist groups. Militant violence continued in Balochistan (west), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and elsewhere. In Karachi, gunmen dressed as police 1 Sept opened fire on banned opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) member Khawaja Izharul Hassan, killing two people including a boy; police 4 Sept killed four alleged Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants while searching for suspected perpetrator of 1 Sept attack. In Balochistan, unknown assailants 4 Sept ambushed Frontier Corps (FC) convoy in Panjgur district, killing three soldiers including a lieutenant colonel; gunmen 10 Sept killed four members of Shia Hazara family in Quetta; TTP splinter faction Majlis-e-Abrar suicide bomber 18 Sept killed one child and injured over a dozen near Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan. In FATA, U.S. drone strike 15 Sept killed three suspected militants in Kurram agency; TTP claimed 17 Sept roadside bomb that killed local official and at least four FC soldiers in Bajaur agency. Electoral commission 7 Sept refused to recognise Milli Muslim League (MML) political party, which is directly linked to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, barring its candidate from displaying images of Jamaat-ud-Dawa or using its name in campaign for 17 Sept Lahore by-election to fill seat vacated by former PM Sharif. Candidate ran as independent, still invoking Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its leaders, came third with 4,000 votes; seat won by Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz.
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