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.
Tensions between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition persisted while Islamic State (ISIS) claimed major attack on Hazara community. Political tensions ran high between PTI govt and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), as opposition held anti-govt rallies throughout month. Demonstrators 3 Jan gathered in Punjab province’s Bahawalpur district, calling for PM Khan’s resignation; 19 Jan held rally in capital Islamabad calling for an early ruling by Election Commission of Pakistan on 2014 case alleging PTI received funding from illegal foreign sources. Meanwhile, violence and militant attacks continued. In Balochistan province (south west), ISIS 3 Jan claimed responsibility for killing 11 miners from Hazara Shia community in Machh, small mining town. Protests by Shia political parties and other groups condemning killings were held countywide, including in Karachi city which has large Shia population. Khan 9 Jan met with Hazara delegate members in Balochistan’s capital Quetta and reiterated claims that India was backing ISIS to ferment sectarian strife (see Kashmir). Also in Balochistan, militant attack on Frontier Corps checkpost 9 Jan injured four in Turbat city. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (north west), cross-border attack by militants on checkpost 6 Jan killed one soldier in Mohmand district; attack on polio vaccination team 12 Jan killed police officer in Karak district; militant attack 15 Jan killed soldier in North Waziristan district. Across border, bomb attack in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province 28 Jan reportedly killed chief of Pakistani militant group Laskhar-e-Islami. Supreme Court same day acquitted Omar Saeed Sheikh, principal accused in 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl; in response, U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken said U.S. was ready to prosecute Sheikh. Pakistani govt continued engagement in Afghan peace process; Pakistan FM 21 Jan urged incoming U.S. administration to “persevere” with peace process. Earlier, U.S. Afghanistan peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 4 Jan met with army chief Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence director general Lt. General Hamid, day before intra-Afghan talks resumed in Qatar’s capital Doha. In confirmation hearing, new U.S. Sec Def General Lloyd Austin 12 Jan called Pakistan “essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan”.
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.