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.
Deadly unrest erupted after political-religious group launched nationwide protests against ruling party; militant attacks continued at high intensity. Ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt faced its most serious security crisis during its two-and-a-half years in power amid violent protests throughout country. Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi 11 April announced countrywide protests planned for 20 April in protest at govt’s failure to abide by Nov 2020 agreement to deport French ambassador over cartoons deemed blasphemous; authorities next day arrested Rizvi in Lahore city. Arrest triggered violent protests, killing four police officers and injuring at least 100; TLP claimed three supporters killed. Govt 15 April banned TLP under anti-terrorismlaw. Protests ended after govt 20 April accepted most TLP demands, including discussing French ambassador’s expulsion in Parliament, and releasing detained leaders and activists. PTI parliamentarian 20 April introduced resolution in Parliament. Yet, opposition parties’ rejection of the proposal to form special parliamentary committee to discuss issue risks renewed TLP protests. Unity among Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), further fragmented after five PDM parties 3 April opted to form separate opposition block in senate. PTI candidate 11 April lost by large margin to PML-N’s candidate for seat in Punjab’s Sialkot district. Militant attacks and security operations continued. Notably, Pakistani Taliban suicide car attack on hotel in Balochistan’s capital Quetta 21 April killed five and wounded scores; attack possibly targeted visiting Chinese ambassador staying in hotel. Bomb blast 28 April killed police officer in Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah district; earlier, bomb blast at football tournament 13 April injured at least 14 civilians in Hub district. Security forces 3 and 4 April claimed to have killed two Pakistani Taliban militants in North Waziristan, and Pakistani Taliban militant 13 April in South Waziristan district. Police 11 April claimed killing previous night high-profile Pakistani Taliban militant in Rawalpindi city, Punjab province. Internationally, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 7-8 April met with PM Khan, Army Chief Javed Bajwa and FM Mahmood Qureshi; agreed on deepening defence and counter-terrorism cooperation.
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.