Pakistan: No End To Humanitarian Crises
Pakistan: No End To Humanitarian Crises
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Ouster: Tests at Home and Away
Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Ouster: Tests at Home and Away
Report 237 / Asia

Pakistan: No End To Humanitarian Crises

Three successive years of devastating floods threatening the lives of millions, coupled with the displacement of hundreds of thousands due to military operations and militancy, gives Pakistan’s radical Islamist groups opportunities to recruit and increases the potential for conflict.

Executive Summary

With three years of devastating floods putting the lives and livelihoods of at least four million citizens at risk, and military operations against militants displacing thousands more in the conflict zones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Pakistan’s humanitarian crises need urgent domestic and international attention. Since the democratic transition began in 2008, some progress has been made, but much more is needed to build the federal and provincial governments’ disaster and early recovery response. Efforts to enhance civilian ownership and control have also had mixed results, particularly in the conflict zones, where the military remains the dominant actor. To effectively confront the challenges, the most urgent tasks remain to strengthen the civilian government’s capacity to plan for and cope with humanitarian crises and to prioritise social sector and public infrastructure development. It is equally important that all assistance and support be non-dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and accompanied by credible mechanisms for citizens to hold public officials accountable.

The military’s suspicions of and animosity toward foreign actors undermine efforts to improve the humanitarian community’s coordination with government agencies, and allegations that humanitarian aid is a cover for foreign intelligence activity threatens staff and beneficiaries’ security. Radical Islamist lobbies, including militant groups opposed to donor involvement, exploit the gaps in assistance. Sporadic, selective, and heavy-handed military operations have, in 2012 alone, displaced hundreds of thousands, particularly in FATA’s Khyber Agency. While conflict-induced displacement is now on a lesser scale in KPK’s Malakand region than in the spring of 2009, when a major military offensive against Swat-based militants displaced 2.8 million, the army’s failure to root out militancy has resulted in constant displacements.

In 2010, countrywide floods affected some twenty million, with massive destruction to infrastructure and livelihoods. Heavy monsoon rains in the following year further weakened dams and irrigation infrastructure, flooding large parts of Sindh, particularly its southern districts, and Balochistan. A fragile infrastructure, combined with deforestation and climate change, has heightened the risk of recurrent flooding. The 2012 monsoon season has already caused massive devastation in upper Sindh, Punjab’s south-western districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur and parts of eastern Balochistan.

Conflict- and flood-induced displacement has brought economic hardships – and the state’s limited capacity for development and service provision – into sharp relief. It has also increased the potential for conflict, with radical Islamist groups gaining ample opportunities to recruit those most affected by humanitarian crises. In areas of displacement in KPK and FATA where the military still holds sway, short-term security objectives often determine eligibility for state assistance. Additional restrictions have been placed on the activities and access of international and local NGOs and other humanitarian actors, particularly since the May 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden near a major military academy in Abbottabad. While radical jihadi organisations, such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD) – the renamed Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) – are operating freely, using their charity fronts to win support, the state’s failure to provide adequate and timely assistance is aggravating public resentment, undermining its credibility and that of its international partners.

More than three years after the military declared victory over Swat-based militants, soldiers remain deployed in KPK’s Malakand region. While their presence on the streets creates a semblance of security, the military’s dominant role in maintaining order, reconstructing public infrastructure and determining the post-conflict agenda undermines civilian government capacity. The rule of law has also been undermined, particularly by the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations 2011 for both FATA and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), of which Swat is a part. These regulations give the military the authority to detain militant suspects indefinitely, including in internment centres that reportedly house over 1,100 detainees, thus violating constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of fair trial and legal appeal. Similarly, the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009, imposing Sharia (Islamic law) in PATA, undermines basic legal rights and excludes the region from the constitutional mainstream.

The social impact of flood- and conflict-induced displacements is no less severe. In Sindh, economic deprivation resulting from recurrent floods has provoked a spike in crime that could spiral into a major law and order problem, while creating opportunities for jihadi organisations to exploit public alienation. Tackling the causes and consequences of these humanitarian crises goes beyond humanitarian action and will require state policies that promote more equitable social and economic development and guarantee legal protections and political inclusion.

Islamabad/Brussels, 9 October 2012

Podcast / Asia

Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Ouster: Tests at Home and Away

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Crisis Group trustee and leading South Asia expert Ahmed Rashid talk about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster, and the domestic and foreign policy challenges facing his successor, Shahbaz Sharif. 

On 10 April, Pakistani legislators passed a no-confidence vote that ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government. The vote capped weeks of political turbulence, as a coalition of rival parties accused Khan’s government of chronic mismanagement amidst an intense economic crisis fuelled by soaring inflation. Khan has not gone quietly. Parliamentarians from his party walked out of the National Assembly in protest at the vote and thousands of furious supporters have taken to the streets. Khan accuses his successor Shahbaz Sharif of abetting a foreign conspiracy aimed at toppling him. 

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined from Lahore by acclaimed author, journalist and Crisis Group trustee Ahmed Rashid to talk about Pakistan’s political crisis, what it might mean for the country's stability and challenges for the Sharif government. They discuss Khan’s response to his ouster and how disruptive a force his movement might be in the months ahead. They look at his apparent fall from grace with the chiefs of Pakistan’s powerful military. They discuss the dilemmas facing Sharif, particularly, reviving a floundering economy, navigating relations with the military and containing rising Islamist militancy, all the while managing coalition politics. They also talk about the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on a difficult foreign policy agenda: repairing relations with Western capitals, keeping China on board and managing what appeared to be warming ties to Moscow, alongside the traditionally bitter rivalry with India and complicated relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Pakistan country page and make sure to read our recent Q&A, “Imran Khan’s Fall: Political and Security Implications for Pakistan” , and our report, “Pakistan’s Hard Policy Choices in Afghanistan”.