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.
Govt warded off opposition challenges, including protest march by politico-religious party. Amid growing concern over risks of violence, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt sought peaceful end to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman’s protest march. Leaders of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) addressed marchers at rally 1 Nov, however both parties distanced themselves from JUI-F’s Islamabad sit-in, instead calling for replacement of govt through constitutional means. Following talks including with PTI’s coalition ally Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam - PML-Q), Rehman 13 Nov called off sit-in, and 19 Nov also called off action blocking major highways. Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa 4 Nov told corps commanders in Rawalpindi that army “will continue to support national institutions as and when asked as per constitution”, implying continued support for PTI govt; military spokesperson 18 Nov said PTI govt and army were “on the same page”. Govt continued confrontational stance toward mainstream opposition, but suffered judicial setbacks including higher courts’ decisions to release its most prominent opponent, former PM Nawaz Sharif, on bail. PM Khan 19 Nov said Pakistan “fully supported and facilitated” exchange of Taliban prisoners for Western hostages in Afghanistan as part of its support for negotiated political settlement of conflict (see Afghanistan). Speaking at National Assembly committee meeting 7 Nov, Minister for Economic Affairs warned that country could remain on Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list at least until Oct 2020 if it failed to ensure 100% compliance with its action plan to curb terrorist financing. Militant attacks included: four security personnel reportedly killed in clash with suspected Baloch militants 10 Nov in Punjab’s Rajanpur district; three soldiers killed in bomb blast in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan district 12 Nov; three personnel of paramilitary Frontier Corps killed in bomb blast in Balochistan 15 Nov.
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.