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.
Kicked out of office, former Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps denying his successor’s legitimacy. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to help Pakistan's new government ward off violence, expand the social safety net and promote electoral reforms.
Political tensions continued as former PM Khan threatened protests and warned of country’s split if no election held, while Pakistani Taliban and military continued to clash despite “indefinite ceasefire”. Political polarisation remained at all-time high. Khan 1 June asked why military had not defended country against “foreign conspiracy” that allegedly ousted his govt and warned that without “right decisions”, army would be destroyed and Pakistan could split “into three parts” and face “civil war”; Khan same day insisted rally demanding snap elections would be held despite abrupt cancellation in May. In response, Major General Babar Iftikhar 14 June stated National Security Council had been “informed categorically in detail by [intelligence] agencies that there was no evidence of any conspiracy”. Amid declining currency value and dwindling foreign exchange reserves, govt ended fuel subsidies, leading to 29% price growth on 15 June. Govt talks with International Monetary Fund progressed toward unlocking $6bn bailout; govt 24 June received $2.3bn Chinese loan. Khan 25 June called for protests on 2 July against rising inflation and legislation clipping anti-corruption body’s powers. Threat of political violence remained high, particularly in Punjab province and Karachi city, Sindh province, ahead of 17 July by-elections; vote in 20 Punjab constituencies will determine whether Chief Minister Hamza Sharif retains post. Separate by-election in Karachi 16 June saw clashes between supporters of Barevli hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP), killing one and injuring ten. Violence 26 June killed two during first phase of polls in Sindh province. Meanwhile, Pakistani Taliban 2 June formally announced “indefinite ceasefire” with govt; information minister 3 June welcomed ceasefire, but Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), key partner in govt, 12 June expressed concern over exclusion of parliament and political parties in talks. Indicating lack of support among some Taliban factions, separate attacks in North Waziristan 2, 3, 12 and 18 June killed three soldiers; exchange of fire 26 June killed two soldiers and seven militants. Govt grew closer to exiting global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force’s grey list as watchdog 17 June announced govt’s compliance with all action plan items.
Women in north-western Pakistan have long been at the forefront of activism to bring peace and security to the region. More work is needed on legal, political and economic reforms for their protection and to help them make the greatest contribution possible to civic life.
Islamabad must tread carefully with its long-time Taliban allies back in power in Kabul. Pitfalls lie ahead for Pakistan’s domestic security and its foreign relations. The Pakistani government should encourage Afghanistan’s new authorities down the path of compromise with international demands regarding rights and counter-terrorism.
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.
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.
Rather than punishing the Afghan people and making life difficult for them, we can restructure the sanctions regime so it targets the Taliban.
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 renewed militancy prompted by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan threatens hard-won gains for the women of northwest Pakistan.
Originally published in The Diplomat
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.