July 21, 2018: Since my last article on Pakistan, the election scene has shifted. At this point, it’s looking like an ugly election, and a decisive PML-N victory will be a surprise. The election is set for July 25.
The squeeze on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party has tightened. Nawaz and his daughter Maryam were sentenced to ten years in prison by an administrative anti-corruption court for possession of property in Britain beyond their known sources of income. Both returned to Pakistan July 13 from London, where they were accompanying Nawaz’s seriously ill wife. On their return, both were immediately transported to prison.
There are numerous stories in the press about intimidation of newspapers and of candidates from the PML-N. Some include references to “people in uniform.”
July 20, 2018: Jamsheed Marker was a diplomat’s diplomat. When he died in Karachi last month, he had been living quietly for two decades. But the outpouring of admiration on the world’s obituary pages painted the picture of a diplomat’s diplomat, who had left his mark on his country’s foreign policy and indeed on the world.
Marker was one of the “partition generation,” those who had come of age soon before India and Pakistan became independent. He had served as an officer in the Royal Navy during World War II, had worked in the family shipping business, and had achieved both renown and affection as a commentator on cricket, then as now a great passion in Pakistan. Continue reading “Jamsheed Marker 1922-2018: Pakistan’s Longest Serving Ambassador”
May 7, 2018: For the second time in a row, Pakistan is nearing the end of the five-year term of an elected government. Parliamentary elections are due before the end of July. This year, pre-election excitement is amplified by a corruption scandal that removed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; a deterioration in Pakistan’s
external economic accounts despite higher GDP growth; and a new low in U.S.-Pakistan relations. Many experienced observers believe that the odds favor a return to power of Sharif’s party – but the possibility of a surprise ending seems to be rising. What follows is a simplified guide to the main story lines that will unfold over the coming months.
Political fracturing: Following reports by a journalists’ group that Prime Minister Sharif’s family owned companies and properties apparently caught up in a money laundering scheme known as the Panama Papers, two political parties – most prominently Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – put the matter before the Pakistan Supreme Court. A long and convoluted judicial and investigative process followed, with officials from the major government investigative bodies participating. The result was a Supreme Court judgment on July 28, 2017, that Nawaz Sharif was ineligible to hold elected office on account of wealth beyond his known sources of income. Continue reading “Pakistan: Pre-Election Turbulence”
The strategic drivers of U.S.-Pakistan relations with Donald Trump in the White House will be similar to those of the Bush and Obama years: Afghanistan, peace in the subcontinent, and terrorism. The style of the new administration is likely to make the policy process more volatile and aid more uncertain, and there will be less opportunity to develop economic relations as a buffer for turbulent political ties. The flag-waver in the picture expresses the hopeful side: his jacket says “Long Live Pakistan.”
February 20, 2016: U.S. provision of sophisticated Lockheed-Martin F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistan Air Force has been a particular sore point for the Indian government for decades, since the Reagan administration made them available to Islamabad following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Indians have always contended that whatever the Pakistanis may offer as their rationale for acquiring the planes — whether it is to ward off a possible Soviet attack, their claim in the 1980s, or to use as precision firing platforms to combat terrorists, their present argument – Islamabad’s real purpose is to bolster its air power in a potential confrontation with India. For their part, the Pakistanis have long viewed the F-16 as a potent symbol of where they stand with the United States. Like the Indians, they afford it an outsized military and political significance. Continue reading “U.S. Sale of F-16 Jets to Pakistan Riles India”