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.
Pakistan’s stakes in Afghanistan are rising as U.S. and NATO troops prepare to leave. All-out war after the withdrawal could push more Afghan refugees across the border and strengthen Pakistani militants. Islamabad should ratchet up pressure on the Taliban to engage in peace talks.
Ceasefire agreement between govt and Pakistani Taliban ended, while militant, religious and sectarian violence ran high, notably in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Pakistani Taliban Chief Nur Wali Mehsud 9 Dec refused to extend month long ceasefire, said attacks would resume; TTP accused Islamabad of violating ceasefire, including by not releasing 102 “imprisoned mujahideen” and continuing operations in KP province. Authorities same day said they had released more than 100 Pakistani Taliban prisoners in past weeks. As deal collapsed, violence surged in KP. Notably, Pakistani Taliban claimed attack in Tank district, which killed two police officers 11-12 Dec; unidentified assailants 12 Dec shot and injured police officer guarding polio vaccination team in Lakki Marwat district; bomb blast 17 Dec injured two in Bannu district. Meanwhile, military 18 Dec claimed three Pakistani Taliban militants killed and one soldier injured in KP’s Bajaur and North Waziristan districts. Authorities 31 Dec said two Pakistani Taliban militants killed during raids in Tank and North Waziristan districts; four soldiers also killed during operation. In Kunar province, missile attack on Pakistani Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad’s home 16 Dec injured two militants. In Balochistan province, militants 14 Dec killed soldier close to Iranian border; bomb blast 18 Dec killed one in Quetta city; grenade at checkpoint 24 Dec killed two soldiers in Kech district. Also in KP, attacks on polling stations 19 Dec erupted during first phase of local elections, leaving three dead in Karak and Kohat districts. In Sialkot city, Punjab province, hundreds of protesters 3 Dec beat Sri Lankan to death and set his body on fire, accusing him of blasphemy for having reportedly removed Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) religious poster. PM Khan same day decried attack, apologised to Sri Lanka; incident sparked controversy as it erupted shortly after federal cabinet’s Nov decision to revoke TLP ban. Pakistan 19 Dec hosted Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation; OIC member states concluded that they would seek to help UN unfreeze Afghan assets. Afghan Taliban soldiers same day stopped Pakistani military from erecting security fence on disputed border along Nangarhar district; Taliban defence minister reportedly resolved dispute.
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.
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.
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].
The Taliban’s return to power raises questions not only about how the movement will use its newfound authority but also about what Afghanistan’s neighbours will do in response. Crisis Group experts offer a 360-degree view of these countries’ initial reactions and what is behind them.
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