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.
Tensions remained high between ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition alliance, while deadly militant violence persisted. Political acrimony continued between PTI govt and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Alliance 13 Dec held rally in Lahore city, defying govt’s COVID-19 ban on gatherings and disregarding police warnings of potential terrorist attacks by Pakistani Taliban. Govt 15 Dec decided to hold upcoming Senate elections in Feb instead of March 2021, when terms of 52 senators are due to expire, and decided to seek Supreme Court’s opinion on holding polls through open voting instead of secret ballot; opposition rejected both proposed changes, calling them “illegal”. Acting leader of parliamentary opposition, and Nawaz Sharif Muslim League’s former FM Khawaja Asif29 Dec detained on corruption charges; next day, Asif said arrest aimed at breaking party. Meanwhile, militant attacks continued. Police officer 2 Dec shot dead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu district; militant attack 23 Dec killed soldier in North Waziristan district. In Rawalpindi, explosion 4 Dec killed one and injured seven; counter-terrorism police 14 Dec arrested three Pakistani Taliban militants allegedly involved in explosion and claimed to have foiled an attack on Islamabad Stock Exchange. In Balochistan, five found dead 8 Dec in Kech district according to local police, allegedly resulting from clash with security forces; two civilians killed in 26 Dec bomb blast in Panjgur district, and seven soldiers same day killed in attack on check point in Harnai district; two paramilitary soldiers killed, 13 civilians injured in 29 Dec grenade attack in Kalat division. Police 17 Dec arrested three Laskhar-e-Islam terrorists accused of planning major attack on Christmas day in Peshawar; Sindhi separatist group claimed responsibility for two attacks on 15 Dec. Visiting U.S. Afghanistan peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reportedly sought govt’s help to ensure intra-Afghan negotiations would not be further delayed. Taliban delegation from Qatar-based political office 16-18 Dec visited Islamabad; FM Qureshi met delegation calling for “reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire” but placed responsibility on all stakeholders, while PM Khan called for comprehensive political settlement.
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.