Drone Strikes in Pakistan: Laser or Blunderbuss?

American soldier operates an Umanned Aerial Vehicle. Image: U.S Army/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 16 October, 2014.

As the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan hits 400, following an 11 October attack in the Khyber region, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that only a minuscule proportion of those killed have been identified by available records as members of al-Qaeda. This calls into question the claim last year by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, that only “confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level” were fired at.

The bureau’s Naming the Dead project has gathered the names and, where possible, details of people killed by CIA drones in Pakistan since June 2004, drawing on a year of research within and outside Pakistan and a multitude of sources. The latter include Pakistani government records leaked to the bureau and hundreds of open-source reports in English, Pashtun and Urdu, as well as field investigations by bureau researchers and other organisations, including Amnesty International, Reprieve and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict. » More

Political Turmoil and the Pakistani Army – What’s next?

Imran Khan, Pakistani Opposition Leader. Image: WEF/Wikimedia

This article was  originally published as Why Pakistan’s Army Stands to Gain From Political Turmoil  by the East Asia Forum on 18 September, 2014.

The political turmoil in Pakistan is approaching a decisive point. The ongoing protests led by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri against Nawaz Sharif’s government have the potential to develop into a clash between democracy and the military. Already the crisis has given the Pakistani army greater political leverage. » More

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Pakistan’s IDP Crisis

Image: Al Jazeera English/Wikimedia

Pakistan’s armed forces recently launched another major offensive against foreign and local Islamist militants based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Operation Zarb-e-Azb represents a break from Islamabad’s recent strategy of negotiating peace with the Taliban, a move that baffled many Pakistanis. It’s also resulted in an upsurge of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the conflict zones. » More

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India: Jostling for Geopolitical Control in Afghanistan

Image: Flickr.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by openSecurity on 27 March 2014.

There is increasing anxiety among stakeholders as US forces prepare for a drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The international community, including the United States, is still groping in the dark when it comes to Afghanistan’s future. As such, they have somewhat ignored India, which, in fact, will be pivotal in solving the Afghan dilemma. Instead, the west and regional stakeholders have focussed on Pakistan as the major player in post-2014 Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban and of providing sanctuary to them inside Pakistan in order to maintain strategic depth and influence within Afghanistan. Furthermore, Pakistan has been charged with supporting the Afghan Taliban and their affiliate, the Haqqani network, in order to counter India in Afghanistan, as well as of sending militant groups such as Laskhar-e-Taiba into Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan has denied these accusations. » More

Pakistan’s Political Renaissance

General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan

General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. Photo: FSCEM45212/Wikimedia Commons

LAHORE – Pakistani institutions are evolving rapidly. With executive authority increasingly in the hands of elected representatives, rather than dispersed among various competing institutions, the political establishment has been revitalized – and it has taken three important steps toward strengthening democracy and the rule of law. Is Pakistan, a country long prone to military coups, finally developing a well-functioning political system?

On November 27, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain – acting on the prime minister’s advice, as the constitution dictates – announced that General Raheel Sharif would succeed General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as Chief of Army Staff, even though Sharif was not among the military establishment’s favored candidates. Unlike Kayani – who has directed the Directorate-General of Military Operations and the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan’s spy agency) – Sharif has not served in any of the positions that typically prepare someone to lead Pakistan’s best-funded and most influential institution. » More

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