Pakistan in 2013: The Year of Living Dangerously

In earlier posts (here and here), I argued that Pakistani politics would be fraught with turbulence in 2013, with one of the key casualties being the fragile détente process that has recently emerged between New Delhi and Islamabad.  Two weeks into the year, events are already conspiring to validate this assessment.

Pakistan, the most important country on everyone’s roster of failed states in the making, is once again in the throes of political chaos.  The Supreme Court, led by maverick Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has just ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on corruption charges arising from Ashraf’s earlier stint as the federal minister in charge of power production.  Two years ago, the judiciary ousted him from the post when it found that a program he oversaw to spur private generation of electricity was riddled with graft.  The latest action is sure to aggravate what was already shaping up to be a chaotic round of parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in the next few months. Continue reading

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Pakistan: Will Doctrinal Shifts Lead to Changes toward India?

According to new media reports (here and here), the Pakistani army has revised its doctrinal handbook to give priority to the country’s burgeoning internal security challenges.  The change appears, at least on the surface, to represent a fundamental shift away from the “India-centric” orientation that General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the powerful army chief, has long used to deflect U.S. pressure for Pakistani action against jihadi groups operating from the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

This would seem to be good news for those worried that the Pakistani military establishment’s fixation on the Indian threat has left it blind to the precarious conditions inside the country.  These domestic challenges include spiraling levels of violence in two of its major cities – Karachi and Peshawar, growing Sunni-Shia conflict, and a chronic electrical power crisis that some experts suggest is more of a threat to stability than is terrorism.

Still, a healthy skepticism about Pakistani pronouncements is always in order.  After all, even U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last summer seemed to be taken in by Kayani’s promises that a long-awaited offensive into North Waziristan was just around the corner.  This occurred despite the incredulity of other U.S. officials – the New York Times even quoted one as quipping that “This is the most delayed campaign in the history of modern warfare.”

So here are two litmus tests for assaying the value of the announced doctrinal change, both of which entail fundamental departures in entrenched security calculations vis-à-vis India. Continue reading