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 and armed forces suffered setbacks in court, fuelling tensions with judiciary, while militant attacks continued. Special court 17 Dec sentenced former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf to death in absentia for high treason and subverting constitution by unlawfully declaring state of emergency in Nov-Dec 2007. Opposition welcomed ruling, but it drew rebuke from armed forces; Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt said it would defend Musharraf during appeal for not being given a chance to defend himself. Courts frustrated PTI govt’s targeting of opposition through anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB); Islamabad High Court 11 Dec released on medical grounds co-chair and former president of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari detained by NAB on corruption charges since June, 17 Dec granted bail to PPP parliamentarians, Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur and former federal minister Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah. Court granted bail to former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah 24 Dec, detained in a narcotics case since July, and to former PML-N finance minister Miftah Ismail 26 Dec, accused of illegally awarding a contract for an LNG terminal. Following PM Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia 14 Dec, PM and FM Qureshi pulled out of summit of Muslim-majority countries in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur mid-Dec. Riyadh had allegedly expressed reservations over Islamabad joining the summit, which they saw as challenge by Turkey, Iran and Qatar to Saudi-led Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Court 11 Dec indicted Hafiz Saeed, leader of militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba for terror financing. Militant attacks continued, notably in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in north west: in North Waziristan district militants 1 Dec killed one soldier in attack on checkpoint, 4 Dec killed two soldiers in clashes; 11 Dec militants killed prominent Shia leader in Lakki Marwat district; 18 Dec two police escorting polio vaccination team were shot dead in Dir district.
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.