Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Pakistan 2017- February 2023
Imran Khan Must Be Doing Something Right (August 2012)
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan martial ruler in 9/11 wars, dies
(AP) — Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup and later led a reluctant Pakistan into aiding the U.S. war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, has died, officials said Sunday. He was 79.
For Pakistan, dealing with its Taliban problem is a walk on eggshells
By Javid Ahmad
(Atlantic Council) The recent chain of troubling events involving the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, wreaking havoc paints an alarming picture of rising instability across Pakistan. At a disturbing rate, the TTP has killed members of Pakistan’s security services, brazenly broken into a prison, breached military checkpoints, attacked mosques, and undermined Pakistanis’ confidence in their government’s assurance of security. Amid Pakistan’s toxic political scene, the TTP threat has accelerated the danger of many smoldering fires across Pakistan’s sprawling network of jihadists waiting to be lit.
Alas, despite Pakistan’s spirited crisis marketing, much of the country’s internal upheaval is a consequence of its own making. Amid the complex of a divided nation stoked by anti-Americanism and on the brink of financial default, the government’s discriminatory treatment of ethnic Pashtuns and indigenous communities has steadily weaponized local grievances against the state.
Pakistan Inflation Worsens to 27.55% as Supplies Stuck in Ports
(Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s inflation quickened to the fastest in almost 48 years in January as thousands of containers of food items, raw materials and equipment are stuck in ports after the cash-strapped government curtailed imports.
Consumer prices rose 27.55% from a year earlier, according to data released by the statistics department on Wednesday. That compares with a median estimate for a 25.9% gain in a Bloomberg survey and a 24.47% jump in December. Inflation is at the highest since May 1975, according to central bank data.
US, Pakistan officials fear looming food crisis is ‘real concern’
A potential food crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, the ever-rising inflation, and the devaluation of rupee “is a real concern in Pakistan”, US and Pakistani officials warned on Tuesday.
Participating in a discussion through a web-link between Washington and Islamabad, the officials also underlined the need for an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to curb corruption and mismanagement in post-flood reconstructions.
Suspects arrested in fatal Pakistan mosque suicide attack that left over 100 dead
North-west Pakistan in grip of deadly Taliban resurgence
Misguided government efforts to rehabilitate militants have helped fuel recent terrorist activity
TTP, which is separate from the Taliban in Afghanistan but shares a similar hardline Islamist ideology, has waged a bloody insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic sharia law. The group has been responsible for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks on Pakistan soil, including the 2014 Peshawar school massacre in which 132 children were killed.
Death toll from Pakistan mosque suicide bombing rises to 74
(AP) Bilal Faizi, the chief rescue official. …said the bombing in the northwestern city of Peshawar also wounded more than 150 people. It was not clear how the bomber was able to slip into the walled compound in a high-security zone with other government buildings.
Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander for the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on Twitter. But hours later, TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khurasani distanced the group from the bombing, saying it was not its policy to target mosques, seminaries and religious places, adding that those taking part in such acts could face punitive action under TTP’s policy.
What’s behind the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency?
(AP) Relations already are strained between Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, who are sheltering the TTP leadership and fighters.
Angered by Pakistan’s cooperation with Washington in the war on terrorism, the TTP was officially set up by Pakistani militants in 2007 when different outlawed groups agreed to work together against Pakistan and support the Afghan Taliban, who were fighting U.S. and NATO forces.
The TTP seeks stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of its members in government custody, and a reduction in Pakistani military presence in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province bordering Afghanistan that it has long used as a base.
Pakistan’s nationwide power cuts highlight escalating economic crisis
(WaPo) Three weeks ago, Pakistani authorities ordered all markets, restaurants and shopping malls to close early, part of an emergency plan to conserve energy as the country of 220 million struggled to make overdue payments on energy imports and stave off a full-fledged economic collapse.
On Monday [23 Jan] morning, the country’s overburdened electrical system collapsed in a rolling wave of blackouts that quickly spread to nearly the entire country, including the densely crowded cities of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
Power was restored in many areas by late Monday, and residents had long grown accustomed to periodic electricity cuts — known here as load-shedding — as fuel shortages have become a chronic problem. Twice before, in 2015 and 2021, similar nationwide blackouts occurred. But the massive scale of this one came as a shock. Hospitals were left in the dark for hours, textile factories shut down, and people overran gas stations to buy generator fuel. Cellphone communication was cut off in many areas.
The government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who took office in April after Imran Khan was forced from power in a parliamentary vote, has been grappling ever since with the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. Experts have warned that the government is coming perilously close to defaulting on its foreign debt.
Russia and Pakistan might cut unprecedented oil deal, with China as middleman
Wajahat S. Khan
(GZERO) Cold War rivals Russia and Pakistan are negotiating an agreement for the Russians to start selling cheap oil to energy-starved Pakistan in March.
This will make Islamabad yet another Asian customer of Russian crude at a time when Moscow’s cash inflows are limited by a G7/EU oil cap and sanctions. Also, considering Pakistan is dead broke, payments will be made through a “friendly” country, presumably China – a power play for Beijing, whose yuan will be used for the transactions, giving the currency more sway as an alternative to the US dollar.
How is this deal going to affect American interests in the region? And why is Pakistan, which wants to balance its ties with Washington, giving business to the Russians through China?
… Pakistan and China have been “Iron Brothers” for decades. Even though Islamabad was a non-treaty US ally until not too long ago, the Pakistanis and the Chinese have always remained “all-weather friends.”
However, as India settled into the role of becoming America’s strategic partner in the region, displacing Pakistan as the preferred South Asian ally over the last two decades, the Chinese encouraged Pakistan to open up to the Russians, and vice versa. Now, a once hesitant Islamabad doesn’t just want Russian oil, but also natural gas, weapons and more. Still, Islamabad wants to stay aligned with the American camp.
… Maybe the Russia-Pakistan oil deal won’t matter that much to the US and its Gulf buddies. For Tamanna Salikuddin, director of South Asia programs at the US Institute of Peace, although the deal will be watched with much interest in Washington, it is going to reinforce the views of American policymakers who already believe that Pakistan is on the Chinese side versus the US camp.
C Uday Bhaskar, Pakistan back to old ways
Khan’s gunshot wound may have a silver lining if it allows for a respite which brings political contestation back to the legislature and a cessation of muscle power and violent street politics. But that may be a pipe dream, given the current scenario in Pakistan, where the desirability of such an exigency — civil political discourse — and the feasibility are inversely proportional.
The gunshot injury sustained by former Pakistani PM Imran Khan on his leg on Thursday in Wazirabad, a town in the Punjab province, while leading a ‘long march’ with his followers to the capital Islamabad, has been described by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party members as an assassination attempt that failed — amidst a flurry of allegations, aspersions and rumours galore. One person was killed in the violence that ensued and the assailant, Naved, has been apprehended and is being held in an undisclosed location. Khan has been shifted to a hospital and is reported to be stable and recovering. Whether the maverick cricketer-turned-politician will go back with a plaster and lead the march to compel the beleaguered Shehbaz Sharif government to accede to his demand for an early election is moot. A prudent decision will shape the tumultuous political churn that Pakistan is now in.
The army appears to be ambivalent about the degree to which it wants to remain the political power broker and is currently on the defensive about its murky role
Jeffrey Sachs: Pakistan and the Fight for Climate Justice
Too often, rich countries deny their historical responsibilities, whether it be for colonialism, slavery, or today’s mounting climate damage. But the developing world will not forget the leading role that industrialized economies have played in permanently altering the climate and making catastrophic events more likely.
Around the world, 2022 has been a year of climate catastrophes, including droughts, floods, mega-fires, typhoons, and more. Among the hardest-hit countries is Pakistan. With torrential monsoon rainfall almost 190% above its 30-year average, extraordinary flooding has submerged one-third of the country and killed 1,400 people so far. But make no mistake: this is not only a “natural disaster”; rather, it is also the result of malfeasance for which high-income countries must bear major financial responsibility.
‘Very Dire’: Devastated by Floods, Pakistan Faces Looming Food Crisis
The flooding has crippled Pakistan’s agricultural sector, battering the country as it reels from an economic crisis and double-digit inflation that has sent the price of basics soaring.
(NYT) Violent swells have swept away roads, homes, schools and hospitals across much of Pakistan. Millions of people have been driven from their homes, struggling through waist-deep, fetid water to reach islands of safety. Nearly all of the country’s crops along with thousands of livestock and stores of wheat and fertilizer have been damaged — prompting warnings of a looming food crisis.
Since a deluge of monsoon rains lashed Pakistan last week, piling more water on top of more than two months of record flooding that has killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of millions, the Pakistani government and international relief organizations have scrambled to save people and vital infrastructure in what officials have called a climate disaster of epic proportions.
Culpability for the Pakistan floods rests with the Pakistani government and rich countries
Omer Aijazi, Visiting Researcher, University of Victoria
(The Conversation) Nearly a third of Pakistan still remains submerged after catastrophic flooding. The country’s administration has denied responsibility for the crisis and blamed wealthier nations that produce the bulk of global carbon emissions for the unfolding climate disaster.
Rich nations must be held accountable and humanitarian aid should be redefined as climate reparations. The colonial legacy of climate change must also be recognized. However, the Pakistani state, too, remains culpable for the dispossession of its people in the wake of the floods.
This is not the first time Pakistan has experienced flooding of this scale. In 2010, large parts of the country were also inundated. Important lessons were learned from the floods in 2010. Unfortunately, authorities have failed to use them to shape national policies.
Most notably, the devastation from the floods is taking place in some of the country’s poorest and politically repressed regions, such as Balochistan, where an armed insurgency against state oppression is ongoing. Images of inundated villages cycle with images of disappeared activists and intellectuals.
Southern Punjab, another heavily impacted region, is also marked by uneven development and inequality.
Insecure land rights were flagged as a significant impediment to disaster recovery after the floods in 2010.
UN chief views ‘unimaginable’ damage in visit to Pakistan’s flood-hit areas
António Guterres calls for ‘massive financial support’ in wake of disaster that has killed at least 1,391 people
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, has visited several areas of Pakistan ravaged by floods, as he rounded off a two-day trip aimed at raising awareness of the disaster.
Record monsoon rains and glacier melt in the country’s northern mountains have triggered floods that have killed at least 1,391 people, sweeping away houses, roads, railway tracks, bridges, livestock and crops.
‘Climate disaster of biblical proportions’: Pakistan minister warns flood damage will exceed $10 billion
Already reeling from an economic crisis, flood waters have submerged over one third of the country in water, killing over 1,000 and impacting 33 million people.
The South Asian nation of over 220 million people reported a 27% inflation rate for August, according to government data, and was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its currency has tanked while net foreign reserves have dwindled to just $8 billion in August, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.
Ian Bremmer: Pakistan’s deadly floods are tied to climate change—and politics
The South Asian nation is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change.
… Unstable politics. With the country’s economy in shambles and Khan at loggerheads with Pakistan’s powerful army, the former PM was ousted in April in a no-confidence vote held by Pakistan’s notoriously corrupt and raucous parliament. Since then, however, sky-high inflation, a plummeting local currency, and unpopular measures like cutting fuel price subsidies have caused current PM Shehbaz Sharif to lose favor with much of the public, perhaps including the military, which directly or indirectly calls the shots in Pakistani politics.
As Pakistan continues to reel from floods, the International Monetary Fund this week approved a $1.1 billion bailout package to help Islamabad stave off default. That’s a good thing for the country, but it won’t come without pain. Pakistanis were furious when the government raised fuel costs — and enforced other austerity measures — to secure the IMF loan.
Pramit Chaudhuri, who heads Eurasia Group’s South Asia desk, believes there will likely be some leeway given the current scale of devastation.
“The IMF has cleared the new tranche,” he says. “The floods will mean the conditionalities will have to be relaxed. For example, the target of achieving a 0.2% GDP primary budget surplus in this fiscal year is a dead letter.”
Islamabad now has the added task of appealing for international aid, with estimates that the floods could cost the economy a whopping $10 billion. Moreover, they’ve destroyed millions of acres of farmland — particularly in the southern provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. This is a catastrophe in a country with a teetering economy and where agriculture accounts for just under one quarter of GDP.
First came the heat waves, then the floods: Why Pakistan is on the frontline of the climate crisis
(France24) “Literally a third of the country is under water,” Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman warned this week, after the death toll of the nation’s devastating floods topped 1,100 after record monsoon rains. The torrential downpours come after a series of heat waves, highlighting Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change.
Since early June, Pakistan has been the victim of flood after flood: from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the Himalayan foothills, to the arid regions of Balochistan and Sindh in the south, riverbanks have burst and destroyed houses, roads and bridges. Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes.
Climate Change Minister Rehman described it as a “crisis of unimaginable proportions”, telling AFP news agency that “it’s all one big ocean, there’s no dry land to pump the water out”.
A frank conversation with Imran Khan
By Hamid Mir
(WaPo) Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, is facing multiple threats of disqualification and arrest. On Aug. 21, the government charged him under the antiterrorism act; he was granted bail until Sept. 1. Meanwhile, he is also set to appear in a contempt of court case on Aug. 31.
… In the end, he said the ultimate solution to the political crises in Pakistan is an early election. He was clearly feeling confident that things might change before November. He assured me that he is more powerful than Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who only rules Islamabad, the capital, while he, Khan, is ruling two big provinces, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He was aware that he might be disqualified in a dispute over campaign finance but told me that he still plans to use his control over those two provincial governments to cripple the federal government in the event that he is arrested. His loyalists are threatening to take over Islamabad.
Khan could indeed win. But he is playing with fire. Pakistan has already experienced the conviction and disqualification of a sitting prime minister and two federal ministers. My encounter with him showed clearly that Khan is taking his situation very lightly. I hope that he will reconsider — for the good of the country.
UN and Pakistan appeal for $160m to help flooding victims
Call for emergency funding as nearly half a million people displaced and estimated $10bn damage to economy
Deadly Floods Devastate an Already Fragile Pakistan
More than 1,100 have died as record monsoon rains inundate the country, washing away bridges, roads and crop fields. Much of Pakistan is underwater.
(NYT) Across Pakistan, torrents of floodwater have ripped away mountainsides, swept buildings off their foundations and roared through the countryside, turning whole districts into inland seas. More than 1,100 people have died so far, and more than one million homes have been damaged or destroyed.
After nearly three months of incessant rain, much of Pakistan’s farmland is now underwater, raising the specter of food shortages in what is likely to be the most destructive monsoon season in the country’s recent history.
Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has been charged under the anti-terror act
following accusations of threats to police and a magistrate, after a fiery speech to supporters at the weekend
(The Guardian) Khan lost power in a no-confidence vote in April. He has been staging popular anti-government protests, escalating political tensions in the country as he seeks to return to office.
Khan himself appeared to still be free and had not immediately addressed the police charge sheet being lodged against him. Pakistan’s opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), Khan’s political party, published online videos showing supporters surrounding his home to potentially stop police from reaching it. Hundreds remained there early Monday.
(Al Jazeera) Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan charged under ‘anti-terror’ law
Khan could face several years in prison for the new charges, which accuse him of threatening police officers and a judge.
Pakistan regulator bans live telecast of Imran Khan’s speeches
Protesters in Pakistan slam ‘theft’ of ex-PM Imran Khan’s mandate
Imran Khan’s party received illegal funds: Pakistan poll panel
Pakistan at 75: Attacks against democratic institutions have to stop
By Hamid Mir, Global Opinions contributing columnist
(WaPo) Pakistan has just turned 75. The anniversary should be a cause for celebration, but also for serious self-criticism. Many Pakistanis are fond of citing our achievement of becoming the world’s first Muslim nuclear power. But how are nuclear weapons supposed to save Pakistan if our institutions are falling apart? The army, of course, remains strong. But our parliament, judiciary and media are becoming weaker by the day.
It is a matter of shame that four military dictators ruled Pakistan for more than 32 years. Civilian prime ministers — 29 of them — have ruled the country for 43 years. No elected prime minister has completed a full five-year term. Three different constitutions of Pakistan were abrogated or suspended five times in the 75 years since the country achieved statehood.
True, Pakistan – once routinely referred to as a garrison state – has not seen a military intervention since 2007. Yet democracy is still very weak. The Economist Intelligence Unit recently described Pakistan as a hybrid regime — a country that doesn’t qualify as a proper democracy even if it has some democratic aspects. It’s not a secret that the generals effectively installed Imran Khan as prime minister with a rigged election in 2018.
Pakistan court hands power to Imran Khan ally in key Punjab state
The Supreme Court says Khan-backed candidate for Punjab’s chief minister, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, was wrongfully denied victory in a vote last week.
The move ramps up pressure on the federal government, made up of a coalition of parties that removed Khan from the premiership in April, as it attempts to implement tough, and unpopular, economic reforms to stave off a financial crisis.
Pakistan top body says no US plot in ex-PM Imran Khan’s removal
The National Security Council, a body of top civil and military leaders, says it found no evidence to support any conspiracy theory.
Pakistan military rejects Khan’s claim US conspired to remove him
Military spokesman rejects former PM Imran Khan’s allegation that the US conspired to topple his government.
Atlantic Council Experts react: A new leader emerges from Pakistan’s political turmoil. Now what?
As Khan’s supporters rally in the streets and the ousted premier hopes for a swift return to power, Shehbaz Sharif is working on forming a government, tackling soaring inflation—and guiding his country out of a political crisis. The big question for the incoming Shahbaz Sharif-led coalition government will be when to hold elections. The timing will depend on political opportunities and costs, the economic agenda, and administrative delays. The current parliamentary tenure—during which two prime ministers were elected—comes to an end in summer 2023. … A commodity supercycle of rising prices that refuses to take a breather, a global transition toward hawkish monetary policy, and the vulnerability of Pakistan’s economy to food and energy prices are going to add a layer of complexity in a volatile political environment. If the populist economic decisions taken by the outgoing government are not reversed, they are going to have an adverse impact on fiscal and external deficits, which would constrain the new government’s capacity to drive meaningful change.
Amber Rahim Shamsi: Can Khan’s ‘agitational politics’ mount a comeback?
Farieha Aziz: An opportunity to bring back free speech
Ammar Habib Khan: A brewing economic crisis requires a steady hand
Sharif sworn in as Pakistan’s new PM after week of drama
(AP) — Pakistan’s parliament on Monday elected opposition lawmaker Shahbaz Sharif as the new prime minister, following a week of political turmoil that led to the weekend ouster of Premier Imran Khan.
Sharif took the oath of office inside the stately, white marble palace known as the Presidency in a brief ceremony.
But his elevation won’t guarantee a peaceful path forward or solve the country’s many economic problems, including high inflation and a soaring energy crisis.
Sharif, the brother of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, won with 174 votes after more than 100 lawmakers from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Pakistan Justice Party, resigned and walked out of the National Assembly in protest.
Who is Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan’s new prime minister?
(Al Jazeera) Part of the wealthy Sharif clan, Shehbaz is best known for his ‘can-do’ administrative style, displayed when he was Punjab chief minister.
What does political upheaval in Pakistan mean for the world?
Explainer: Imran Khan’s ousting in a no-confidence vote could affect relations with countries including India, Afghanistan and China
(The Guardian) US-based south Asia experts have said Pakistan’s political crisis is unlikely to be a priority for President Joe Biden, who is grappling with the war in Ukraine, unless it leads to mass unrest or rising tensions with India.
“We have so many other fish to fry,” said Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state for south Asia who is a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
With the Pakistani military maintaining its behind-the-scenes control of foreign and security policies, the change of government was not a major concern, according to some analysts.
“Since it’s the military that calls the shots on the policies that the US really cares about, i.e. Afghanistan, India and nuclear weapons, internal Pakistani political developments are largely irrelevant for the US,” said Curtis, who served as then-US President Donald Trump’s national security council senior director for south Asia.
PM Khan gone: Pakistan’s political crisis explained in 400 words
Khan became the first PM in Pakistan’s history to be sent packing through a vote of no confidence.
(Al Jazeera) Imran Khan’s term as prime minister of Pakistan ended on Sunday following days of constitutional chaos that left him with no choice but to resign or be voted out of office.
The Pakistani parliament’s lower house will meet on Monday to vote for a new acting prime minister.
Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is widely expected to replace Khan.
The 70-year-old is little known outside his country but has a reputation domestically as an effective administrator more than as a politician.
In an interview last week, he said good relations with the United States were critical for Pakistan for better or for worse, in stark contrast to Khan’s recently antagonistic relationship with Washington.
No Pakistani prime minister has completed a full term in office
Pakistan has had 29 prime ministers since 1947 – none completed a full five-year term.
Fahd Humayun: Pakistan is once again on the brink
After the dissolution of parliament and an increase in tensions between the military and the Khan government, Pakistan is gearing up for a tense political battle.
(Al Jazeera) In a dramatic move on Sunday, Pakistani President Arif Alvi dissolved the country’s parliamentary assembly on the advice of the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, essentially taking the country one step closer to early elections.
The twist is the latest in a long-brewing political battle that had pitted 69-year-old Khan against a vote of no confidence introduced by the country’s combined opposition parties and which, until Sunday, the prime minister looked certain to lose.
Hours before Sunday’s dissolution of the National Assembly by the president, the deputy speaker of the Assembly – an ally of the prime minister – declared the vote unconstitutional and part of a plot by “foreign powers” to interfere in Pakistan’s democratic process.
With the Assembly now dissolved, the Constitution requires that an interim government be established with input from the opposition and that a general election be held within 90 days. Pakistan’s parliament had originally been slated to complete its five-year tenure in August 2023
Pakistan’s Imran Khan faces a political showdown — without the army for support
(NPR) The military appears to have withdrawn support and defections within the ranks of Khan’s own party, known as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, mean that a no-confidence move in parliament planned to get underway on Monday, looks like it has a good chance to succeed.
The military backs away from Khan
Khan’s shaky grasp on power has made for more than the usual amount of messy politics in Pakistan. The current crisis erupted after the military appeared to suddenly back away from him, signaling to the opposition that it was open season on the prime minister.
Meanwhile, violence is feared because opposition parties are planning their own mass rally to coincide with Monday’s start of debate on the no confidence motion. In anticipation of trouble, security forces have moved razor wire across major roads. Analysts fear that if the chaos escalates, the military could step in to restore order, as it has done so many times before in Pakistan’s 75-year history.
The turmoil comes as Pakistan negotiates with the International Monetary Fund to release a desperately needed next tranche of a $6 billion bail out package.
Pandemic-linked inflation is pushing up the price of food and fuel. And it’s expected to worsen as shortages of fertilizer for crops could cut wheat yields, just as global prices skyrocket amid the Russian invasion.
Khan’s troubles are also closely tied to events across the country’s western border. The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August underscored his sympathy for the group, as he told an audience that the regime change meant that Afghans had “broken the shackles of slavery.” The remarks only served to fray already fraught relations with Washington.
Khan also seems to have infuriated some in the military with his foreign policy decisions, such as finding himself in Moscow meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the very day the invasion of Ukraine began.
Pakistani PM Khan meets Putin amid Ukraine invasion
(Al Jazeera) Imran Khan expresses ‘regret’ that the conflict was not averted as Russia launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine
Before the visit, Pakistan’s foreign office said the two leaders’ talks would focus on regional developments, Afghanistan, Islamophobia and a major gas pipeline deal that Pakistan is seeking to finalise with Russia.
Pakistan and Iran discuss border security, Afghanistan
(Al Jazeera) Pakistan and Iran hold talks on a broad spectrum of topics, including regional security since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
The Pakistan-Iran border runs for roughly 800km (497 miles) along Pakistan’s southwestern and Iran’s eastern sides and has been the site of several security incidents in recent years, mainly targeting Iranian forces.
Pandora Papers expose wealth of Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s allies
Revelations name more than 700 Pakistani citizens, including ministers, Khan’s political allies and families of military officers.
Khan, who rose to power in 2018 on the back of promises to arrest Pakistan’s “corrupt” political elites, was not personally named in the newly leaked documents, dubbed the Pandora Papers, which were released late on Sunday.
The revelations about the large financial transactions of former members of Pakistan’s military offer a rare glimpse into the wealth of those belonging to an institution that has ruled the country for almost half of its 74-year history.
The military is also “the largest conglomerate of business entities in Pakistan, besides being the country’s biggest urban real estate developer and manager, with wide-ranging involvement in the construction of public projects”, according to a 2021 United Nations report.
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.
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.
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
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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)