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.
The new government of Imran Khan is repressing opposition voices and yielding to parties propagating sectarianism. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to help Pakistan abide by its international commitments and keep supporting democratic governance.
Political tensions remained high amid concerns over govt’s anti-terrorism measures and crackdown on civil society-led Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) from former Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 21 Feb gave govt four-month extension to implement anti-terrorism financing measures with FATF keeping country on “grey-list” until new June deadline; previously, anti-terrorism court 12 Feb sentenced Jamaat-ud-Dawa (formerly Laskhar-e-Tayyaba) chief Hafiz Saeed and his aide to five and a half years imprisonment on two cases relating to terrorism financing, both plan to appeal. Govt’s anti-terrorism efforts questioned following 6 Feb release to local media of audio message in which former Pakistani Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed to have escaped from custody of security forces in Jan; Ehsan claimed he surrendered to security services in 2017 under agreement that included large financial reward and complete immunity from detention and prosecution, Ehsan reportedly stayed in security safe house in Peshawar city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK). Family of children killed in 2014 terror attack on army school in Peshawar – which killed some 150 and Ehsan accepted responsibility on Pakistani Taliban faction’s behalf – 8 Feb brought proceedings to Peshawar High court against senior govt and military officials for failing to prosecute Ehsan, while opposition leaders 10 Feb called for explanation of “mysterious escape”; interior minister 17 Feb confirmed Ehsan no longer in custody but gave no further details. Following 27 Jan arrest of PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen in Peshawar on charges ranging from sedition to hate speech in five separate cases and 28 Jan detention of some thirty PTM supporters and activists demonstrating in capital Islamabad against arrest, Islamabad High Court’s chief justice 3 Feb granted bail to detainees and questioned charges of sedition and terrorism brought against peaceful protesters, while district court in KPK 15 Feb granted bail to Pashteen. Militant-related violence continued including attacks on health workers; in KPK’s Dera Ismail Khan district, police officer guarding polio vaccination team killed 18 Feb. In Balochistan’s capital Quetta, terror attack on mosque killed police officer 5 Feb and suicide attack reportedly near rally of banned sectarian group Alhe Sunnat Wal Jamaat killed at least ten 17 Feb, including two police officers.
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.
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.
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.