Pakistan 2017-18

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Imran Khan Must Be Doing Something Right (August 2012)

31 July
Indian response to Imran Khan’s election victory in Pakistan
C. Uday Bhaskar writes that the July 25 election has elicited a very modest and measured response from official India.
“We welcome the fact that the people of Pakistan have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections. India desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbors. We hope that the new Government of Pakistan will work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure and developed South Asia free of terror and violence.”
Those who monitor the testy diplomatic bi-lateral exchanges between the two neighboring nations and the sub-text, as also the inclusion of a certain word or phrase, or significant exclusions noticed that there was no reference to Imran Khan, the man of the election match.  [However, New Delhi did not] join the US and the EU in casting any aspersions on the credibility of the election, or the pre-poll information “eclipse” that saw the media being gagged and coerced by the khakis (Pak army) into shaming former PM and jailed PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and ensuring a PTI victory. This was followed by a courtesy phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Imran Khan. …
Thus there is a cynical reduction in New Delhi that no matter what Khan declares in public now – even before he has assumed office – the issues relevant to India, namely Kashmir, support to terror groups and the nuclear saber-rattling will be determined by Rawalpindi and in an opaque manner, by Beijing.

29 July
Imran Khan, as New Leader, Could Help Pakistan Reshape Its Image
By Jeffrey Gettleman
(NYT analysis) For a nation often in the news for all the wrong reasons — suicide bombings, horrific school massacres — Pakistan has reached a turning point that could possibly alter its dysfunctional trajectory.
Imran Khan, the cricket star and A-list celebrity whose political party won this past week’s elections, could use his fame and charisma to reset Pakistan’s troubled relations with the West.
Mr. Khan also may move Pakistan much closer to the expanding sphere of China, a neighbor he has praised conspicuously as a role model.
Or Mr. Khan could simply follow the same path as many Pakistani leaders before him, supporting harsh Islamic laws and showing sympathy for militant groups, policies that have kept Pakistan isolated for years.

21-27 July
Pakistan’s economic woes, terrorism and complex foreign relations remain. Is a former cricket player up to the task?
C. Uday Bhaskar says Pakistan’s latest election has apparently chosen a former cricket player known for a poor attention span to lead a deeply divided country where a military, beholden to Islamic extremists, has pulled the strings for decades. Islamabad’s backers in Beijing and Washington must be wondering: what could go wrong?
At this time of writing, the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), led by the novice political leader Khan, is set to emerge as the single largest party in first-past-the-post elections for the 272 seats in the National Assembly. Coming in a distant second was the PML-N – short for Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) – led by the now-imprisoned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party), led by the 29-year-old son of another former prime minister, the late Benazir Bhutto, placed third.
Khan, a greenhorn prime minister who will hold high political office through the democratic process despite having zero experience, is of the Donald Trump mode. While Khan’s support base will cheer, his detractors and many discerning Pakistanis are deeply concerned about the former cricketer’s ability to govern a structurally distorted state and a very troubled, divided society.

“We’re going to run Pakistan in a way it’s never been run before.”
(NYT & Al Jazeera)
Cricketer-turned-politician promises good governance to attract investment in the country.
Imran Khan, a former cricket star and fierce critic of the U.S., addressed the nation after early election results showed his party decisively ahead, and Mr. Khan on the cusp of becoming prime minister of the nuclear-armed nation.
Friends and foes alike describe Mr. Khan as relentless, charming and highly unpredictable. Yet his links to the powerful Pakistani military have drawn concern: Rights groups said the army and intelligence officers pressured, threatened and blackmailed rival politicians.
[Voting proceeded smoothly in most parts of the country but in Quetta, in the southwest, 31 people were killed by a suicide bomber who attacked a polling station, raising the death toll in what has already been one of the bloodiest election seasons in the country’s history.]
Pakistanis vote in tight race between Imran Khan, jailed ex-PM’s party
(Reuters) – Pakistanis voted on Wednesday in a knife-edge general election pitting cricket hero Imran Khan against the party of jailed ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with the prospect of neither winning a clear majority. About 106 million people are registered to vote in polls due to close at 6 p.m (1300 GMT). Results will start trickling in within hours, and the likely winner should be known by around 2 a.m. on Thursday. Whichever party wins, it will face a mounting and urgent in-tray, from the economic crisis to worsening relations with on-off ally the United States to deepening cross-country water shortages.
(The Economist) Tomorrow Pakistanis will vote in what is only the second transfer of power between civilian governments in the country’s coup-studded 71-year history. But the election is mired by accusations that the powerful army is tilting the field in favour of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, led by Imran Khan, a former cricketer. With a poisonous atmosphere surrounding the vote, political instability awaits. The true winner may be the army; the losers will be Pakistanis.
Pakistan election raises fears of ‘creeping coup’
(BBC) In the past, the military used to either stage a direct coup or use special powers to sack an elected government and then manipulate elections to ensure it wasn’t re-elected.
In 2008, those special powers were done away with, leading to a first in 2013: an elected government completing its five-year term.
But since then the tide appears to have reversed, and critics say the establishment is resorting to more primitive tactics to recover its edge.
A three-pronged approach is in evidence.
First, as some legal experts have observed, the courts have selectively applied the law to clip the wings of the outgoing government, thereby creating an advantage for its rivals.
On Sunday, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court said that the ISI intelligence service was interfering in the judiciary, and had pressured judges not to release convicted ex-PM Nawaz Sharif ahead of the vote.
And third, the military has been given what many call an obscenely large role in administering the voting process on election day.
Military’s Influence Casts a Shadow Over Pakistan’s Election
[The] military campaign has been likened by some candidates to a soft coup, and has included sidelining candidates who are out of the military’s favor, censoring major news outlets and persecuting peaceful political movements.
Viewpoint: Pakistan’s dirtiest election in years

15 July
Dear people of Pakistan, our politicians may be corrupt looters, but you’re far worse
(Pakistan Express Tribune blogs) The politicians of your country and the people you elect are reflective of the larger public – after all, the corrupt and greedy politicians we despise so much are all coming from within our own people. If anything, the vile and vulgar comments we see on social media day in and day out make it evident that our people are as bad as our politicians. After all, we can only blame politicians for so much; overtime, we’ve transformed precisely into the politicians we love to hate so much. Case in point: Imran Khan
Or perhaps we were always one and the same. What better way to represent a problematic nation than a problematic politician?

14 July
As Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif is sent to jail, his rival Imran Khan should not celebrate

(WaPost) Right after sweeping the 2013 elections in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif told me that as prime minister he would show the world that he, not Pakistan’s army chief, was the real boss. But now, on the eve of Pakistan’s next election, he has returned from London (where he went to visit his ailing wife) to face not only jail time but a military establishment that is determined to finish him.
In choosing to return (instead of opting for exile) and possibly spend 10 years in prison for corruption, he has in fact given his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N), a fresh burst of energy — and maybe even an advantage — in the imminent elections. Flanked by his daughter and political heir, Maryam, Sharif has presented himself as the only Pakistani civilian with the courage to take on an army that has ruled Pakistan by either diktat or stealth for the past 70 years.
Khan is a glamorous, Mick Jagger-lookalike cricketer turned politician, who opponents say has the blessings of the shadowy deep state that controls the country. He has described supporters of Sharif, who came out on the streets of Lahore to defy deployed police officers, as “donkeys” (a south Asian colloquialism for stupidity). He has ignored the embarrassing tabloid headlines (about sexual affairs and unacknowledged children) that have emerged from a strategically timed book written by his ex-wife Reham. Instead, Khan, who once told me in an interview that liberals are the “scum of Pakistan,” has carefully built his entire political campaign on being anti-corruption and anti-poverty and promoting anti-Americanism. The Oxford-educated former captain of the country’s cricket team — who has courted social conservatives and fundamentalist clerics — wants Pakistan to be an Islamic welfare state.
… while Sharif and his daughter have been sent packing to prison, the deep state’s mainstreaming of Pakistan’s “good terrorists” (militant groups it treats as strategic assets against India and in Afghanistan) is well underway. How else does one explain that while Sharif has been sentenced for owning four apartments worth a few million pounds, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who is accused of being involved in the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, is not only free but also actively campaigning in these elections for a newly created political party, the Allah-o-Akbar-Tehreek?

 

29 January
The Devastating Paradox of Pakistan
How Afghanistan’s neighbor cultivated American dependency while subverting American policy
(The Atlantic magazine) In 16 years, the United States has spent billions of dollars fighting a war that has killed thousands of soldiers and an untold number of civilians in a country that Washington considers insignificant to its strategic interests in the region. Meanwhile, the country it has viewed as a linchpin, Pakistan—a nuclear-armed cauldron of volatile politics and long America’s closest military ally in South Asia—has pursued a covert campaign in Afghanistan designed to ensure that the money and the lives have been spent in vain. The stakes in Pakistan have been considered too high to break ties with Islamabad or take other steps that would risk destabilizing the country. The stakes in Afghanistan have been deemed low enough that careening from one failed strategy to another has been acceptable.

15 January
Mohammed Hanif: When America and Pakistan Fight, It’s Afghanistan That Suffers
(NYT Op-Ed) Although some American pundits say that Trump is bonkers when it comes to his domestic policies, they expect the rest of the world to believe that he is O.K.-ish when it comes to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Just another American president, like a half-dozen before him, who is going to fix this part of the world.
Some experts’ solution to the current tensions is that Trump, that stable genius, should ask his new Saudi friends to use their influence over Pakistan to play broker. Imagine this: Four decades on, an American president, a Saudi prince and a bunch of Pakistani generals walk back into Afghanistan.
What could go wrong?

5 January
Cutting Off Pakistan, U.S. Takes Gamble in Complex Afghan War
(NYT) Afghan officials have pleaded with three American presidents to reconsider their support for Pakistan, which was both receiving billions of dollars in American aid and harboring the leaders of a Taliban insurgency that the United States has struggled to defeat.
But when President Trump suspended nearly all American security aid to Pakistan on Thursday for what he called the country’s “lies and deceit,” any jubilation in the halls of power in Afghanistan — and there was some — was leavened with worry over how the move might affect a complex war that has pushed the Afghan government to the brink.
If there is one consensus among Afghan leaders and their American counterparts, it is that dealing with Pakistan is both vital and difficult.
American and Afghan officials accuse Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence service of maintaining influence with the Taliban and the group’s most ascendant faction, the Haqqani network, which is behind many of the large-scale attacks on Afghan cities. Through those links, Pakistan has the ability to control at least some of the tempo of the fighting in Afghanistan — and it has done little to constrain it over the past two years, the officials say.
At the same time, Pakistan enjoys leverage over the American military response to that militant violence: The United States mission has always relied on Pakistani air and ground routes for supplies to the troops in Afghanistan.
C. Uday Bhaskar: Has US policy towards Pakistan really changed?
The January 4 attack at a police station, the responsibility for which was claimed by the Islamic State, took the lives of 11 innocents. The incident occurred within the first week of the new year pointing yet again to the tenacity of the terrorism challenge that the region and the global community have to grapple with 17 years after the enormity of 9/11.
The decision of the Trump administration to suspend all security-related aid to Pakistan that could affect as much as USD 1.3 billion, announced on the same day, is indicative of the downgrading of the very opaque, complex, contradictory and troubled bi-lateral relationship that Washington has with Islamabad. The decision also included another reprimand―the inclusion of Pakistan in a watch-list for violation of religious freedom.
Do these early 2018 developments represent a major shift in US policy towards Pakistan? While the Trump tweet is a highly visible and unorthodox means of conveying decades-old American frustration with the duplicity associated with Rawalpindi (GHQ of the Pakistan army), it may be assumed that the US will maintain the core continuity in its Pakistan policy, which is to remain engaged and use the fiscal aid as a leverage to ensure compliance by its most mendacious ally. Perhaps, downgrading would be a more appropriate word to describe the current public reprimand and US assertion in relation to Pakistan.

1 January
Trump says U.S. has gotten ‘nothing’ from Pakistan aid
(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday the United States has “foolishly” handed Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years while getting nothing in return, and pledged to put a stop to it.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”
A National Security Council official on Monday said the White House does not plan to send $255 million in aid to Pakistan “at this time” and said “the administration continues to review Pakistan’s level of cooperation.” In August, the administration had said it was delaying the payment.
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khawaja M. Asif, wrote on Twitter “We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly inshallah…Will let the world know the truth..difference between facts & fiction.”

1 December
Taliban gunmen wearing burqas launch deadly attack on Peshawar college
(The Guardian) Three militants disguised in burqas attacked an agricultural university in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan, on Friday, killing nine people and wounding at least 38 others. The attackers were reportedly wearing suicide vests but were killed by security forces before they were detonated. A spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed the group was responsible for the attack, and said that a building used by the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was specifically targeted. If true, this suggests a growing rift between the ISI and insurgents, whom the ISI had previously cultivated and supported, in part to deploy against India, Pakistan’s perennial rival.

6 October
Pakistan’s ISI thwarts US plans in Afghanistan
By C Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) Almost 16 years to the day since the US embarked upon its war on terrorism against the Afghan Taliban on October 7, 2001 as reprisal for the enormity of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it appears that a White House administration is again issuing dire warnings to Rawalpindi (GHQ of the Pakistan Army) while still dangling the familiar ‘carrot.’
The war in Afghanistan, where Pakistan was accorded the status of a major non-NATO ally, has been expensive for the USA both in terms of blood and treasure. A study by the Brown University estimates that, as of 2016, the US may have spent up to US $ 2 trillion towards the Afghan campaign, which still remains inconclusive and messy.
The US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis … [stated] that while Pakistan may have come down on terrorism, “the ISI appears to run its own foreign policy.” This is an unusually unambiguous assertion by a US Def Sec but General Mattis added the caveat too: “We need to try one more time to make this strategy work with them; by, with and through the Pakistanis. And if our best efforts fail, the President (Trump) is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary.”

“New” U.S. policy on Afghanistan & Pakistan’s support for extremists
21-23 August
Why Trump Is Right to Get Tough With Pakistan
By Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan 2003-2005 and Iraq 2005-2007
(NYT) Mr. Trump is now the third successive president to acknowledge America’s important national security interests in Afghanistan and the region, which include the threat of Islamist extremism and terrorism, even the potential for nuclear terrorism. He recognizes that abandoning Afghanistan would allow safe havens for international terrorist organizations to emerge once more.
… the president must be ready for Pakistan to resist and test his resolve. This might come in the form of attacks on American assets in Afghanistan or of interference with supply routes across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pakistan’s security apparatus will try to prove that the United States cannot succeed without cooperating on Islamabad’s terms.
The United States should impose sanctions against senior officials in the Pakistani military and intelligence services who play a direct role in supporting terrorists and extremists. (These sanctions should include bans on travel to the United States and allied countries, and the freezing of bank accounts.) Washington should also suspend all American aid to Pakistan and use its influence with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to do the same. It should begin a security assessment that would put Pakistan on the list of states that sponsor terrorist groups. Finally, the United States should conduct strikes against terrorist hide-outs in Pakistan.
The Trump administration should make clear to Islamabad that it would be willing to reverse these moves and repair relations — but only after Pakistan has demonstrated a change in conduct that has the clear result of diminished violence in Afghanistan.

China defends ally Pakistan after Trump criticism
(Reuters) – China defended its ally Pakistan on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States could no longer be silent about Pakistan’s “safe havens” for militants and warned it had much to lose by continuing to “harbor terrorists”.
… Senior U.S. officials warned security assistance for Pakistan could be reduced unless the nuclear-armed nation cooperated more in preventing militants from using safe havens on its soil.
Critics say Pakistan sees militants such as the Taliban as useful tools to limit the influence of old rival India. Pakistan denies allowing militants refuge on its territory, saying it takes action against all groups.
Asked about Trump’s speech, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made “great sacrifices” and “important contributions” in the fight.

Trump talks tough on Pakistan’s ‘terrorist’ havens, but options scarce
(Reuters) – Outlining a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Donald Trump chastised Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants – an approach analysts say will probably not change Pakistan’s strategic calculations and might push it in directions Washington does not want it to go.
Trump’s call for India to play a greater role in Afghanistan, in particular, will ring alarm bells for Pakistan’s generals, analysts said.
“Trump’s policy of engaging India and threatening action may actually constrain Pakistan and lead to the opposite of what he wants,” said Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani security analyst.

29 July
Nawaz Sharif, left, who resigned as Pakistan’s prime minister, with Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2013. Credit Rahat Dar/European Pressphoto Agency

Ousted Pakistan Leader Passes Baton to Brother, Shehbaz Sharif
On one level, it was a clear choice. Over the past four years, as chief minister of Punjab Province, Pakistan’s most crucial political power base, Shehbaz Sharif, 65, has presided over a high-profile campaign of infrastructure improvements and social development programs. He has become known for surprise inspection “raids” of hospitals or schools, even in Punjab’s smaller towns, and his aides describe him as a workaholic with a taste for 7 a.m. staff meetings. Even his socks are vibrant — he will wear colorfully striped socks even when formally dressed.(What is it about the leader’s socks these days?) … Though he is seen as popular, Shehbaz Sharif has also been dogged by accusations of police brutality under his watch as Punjab’s chief minister. And he has been criticized for doing too little to curb extremist sectarian groups in the province.
Pakistan gets new PM, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi elected interim Prime Minister
(Times of India) Abbasi would serve as the chief executive of Pakistan for 45 days. In the meantime, Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif would contest elections to make his way into the country’s National Assembly.

28 July
C Uday Bhaskar: A Chapter in Pakistani Politics Closes With Nawaz Sharif’s Exit
(The Quint) In a keenly watched, landmark judgement, beleaguered Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court of his country on Friday from holding office, on charges of financial transgression.
A few hours later, Mr Nawaz Sharif tendered his resignation to uphold the sanctity of the law, though he rejected the charges levelled against him.
These charges of amassing disproportionate assets through off-shore companies against Sharif and his family members were first revealed in 2016, in what is referred to as the “Panama Papers” leak.
Sharif’s Exit Has Varied Implications for Indo-Pak Relations
While avenues for appealing against this verdict are being explored, it may be valid to presume that the active and effective political trajectory of Sharif has now hit a legal glass-ceiling, and the Opposition parties, led by the mercurial cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, will seek to consolidate their electoral advantage in the domestic tumultuous political arena.
Why Ousting Nawaz Sharif Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Pakistan
(NYT) While the Panama leaks were fortuitous, Mr. Sharif’s crime seems to be the same this time around: crossing the military by pursuing conciliatory policies toward India as well as Afghanistan and by reportedly demanding that Inter-Services Intelligence end its use of militant groups as tools of foreign policy. With coups globally out of fashion, the generals could not have been happier to topple Mr. Sharif without rolling the tanks.
The judges have clearly undermined the perception of justice by deposing Mr. Sharif without due process or trial to prove his innocence.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday from holding public office for life in a corruption inquiry linked to the Panama Papers, which had named three of his children as owners of offshore companies suspected of laundering money. The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s top anticorruption agency, to file corruption cases against Mr. Sharif and his family members based on the evidence collected by the court appointed Joint Investigation Team (J.I.T.).The verdict came as no surprise. Even though Mr. Sharif was not named in the Panama leaks, and there is no evidence that he abused public office for private gain, the judges disqualified him for hiding assets, and therefore, not being “honest,” an insidious constitutional requirement for being a member of Parliament.

11 July

Microsoft’s Calibri font used as proof against Pakistan’s Prime Minister in corruption case
The “Panama Papers” is a collection of 11.5 million documents detailing information related to over 200,000 offshore accounts. Ever since the Panama Papers were anonymously leaked back in 2015, there has been a major shift in the political situation in many countries. One such country is Pakistan, where the names of numerous members of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family were spotted in the papers.
As such, for the past year or so, legal and financial authorities have been investigating the Prime Minister and his family over charges of corruption after pressure from opposing parties in Pakistan as well as public outcry. With the investigation now entering crucial stages, it appears that the availability and use of Microsoft’s Calibri font have been used as evidence in the case.
Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz submitted photocopies of several documents in order to deny any wrongdoing, but it appears that the use of Microsoft’s Calibri font may be her undoing.
The documents are dated February 6, 2006, but it is important to note that the Calibri font wasn’t commercially available until much later.

12 June
Panama Leak: Sharif Pak’s First Sitting PM to Testify Before JIT
The unprecedented development will make Sharif the first incumbent to appear before such a panel, let alone one probing allegations of financial irregularities or fraud against nearly his entire family, going back three generations

17 February
Islam at war: Pakistan, Iraq attacks failure to resolve internal political contestations
By C Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) An attack on a major Sufi shrine in Sehwan in the Sind province of Pakistan on Thursday (Feb 16) resulted in the death of 76 innocent people and more than 200 have been injured. The death toll is expected to rise. The Islamic State (IS) and its ideological affiliates in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for this attack and threatened that this is only the beginning of such an anti-Sufi /Shia campaign to exterminate the apostate – or ‘non-believer’.
On the same day (Feb 16) a car bomb killed 55 people and injured scores more in the Shia dominated area of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The attack was claimed by the IS and this was the third attack in the week.
In Pakistan the Sind suicide bomber attack was preceded by a major terror attack in Lahore, Punjab on Monday (Feb 13) and this was followed by similar attacks in the other two provinces of Pakistan on Tuesday and Wednesday. In both cases, the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) , an anti-Shia terror group has claimed responsibility.
It may be recalled that the same group had carried out the attack on an army school in Peshawar in December 2014 that resulted in the death of more than 140 innocents – of whom 132 were children.
The root of the current pattern of terror-related bloodshed in Pakistan can be traced to the cynical political manipulation of intra-Islamic sectarian identity and related practice that prioritizes the dominant Sunni faction at the expense of the other sects. This political ploy goes back to the early 1950s and has been exacerbated by the special status accorded to the Saudi form of puritanical, misogynistic Wahabbi-Salafi Islam.
The IS and the virulent anti-Sunni ideology associated with it is currently under increasing military pressure in West Asia (Syria-Iraq) and being forced to re-group and assert its appeal and credibility.
The current pattern of intense terror-triggered violence targeting the Sufi-Shia combine in Pakistan and Iraq is a manifestation of this undercurrent.

24 January
Pakistan Is the Crisis Flying Under the Radar
Why the Trump administration needs a plan for Pakistan, now.
(Foreign Policy) As the sixth-most-populous country in the world (ahead of Nigeria, and behind Brazil), Pakistan is home to more than 200 million people and, by some accounts, the world’s second-largest city, Karachi. When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was elected in May 2013, the country marked its first democratic transition between political parties since partition in 1947. Recently, the strength of the country’s nascent democracy has been questioned as Sharif confronts protests in response to the Panama Papers, which revealed that his family hid wealth in overseas accounts to avoid paying taxes. This highlights the ongoing challenge of corruption that threatens Pakistan’s democratic stability and long-term growth potential. The nation also faces a virulent terrorism problem from the Pakistani Taliban, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and troops over the past five years.
Looming over all of this are the issues associated with Pakistan’s long, unsettled relationship with India. Tensions between India and Pakistan have been especially high since September …  the two countries have since exchanged daily cross-border fire, leading to the deaths of soldiers and civilians on both sides. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably contains over 100 warheads, existing as a hedge against a similar Indian arsenal.

While under a reasonable level of military security at the moment, the nuclear weapons represent the world’s least-stable nuclear capability — with the possible exception of North Korea.

Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan
On words and meaning in international politics
Uncertainty and challenges to convention won’t necessarily make the world more dangerous. But they may not make it safer either. One of the key questions of Trump’s presidency will be whether the benefits of unpredictability outweigh its costs.
(The Atlantic) This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.
Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.”
It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. (2 December 2016)

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