Pakistan: Overview of Sources of Tension with Regional Implications 2014

Pakistan: Overview of Sources of Tension with Regional Implications 2014

Publication date:
Safiya Aftab, Independent Analyst

Policy Research Papers
December 2014

Having witnessed a peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to the next in 2013, Pakistan seemed poised for aperiod of political stability in 2014. This has not, however, beenthe case, with the government facing allegations of electoral fraud, anddealing with sustained street demonstrations and calls to resign from atleast one opposition party, in addition to a politico-religious group withpolitical aspirations. Similarly, the negotiation of a loan with the IMF under the Extended Fund Facility in September 2013 has not resulted in significant economic reform, and growth projections remain below potential.

The country’s security situation improved, in that a major offensive against extremist groups in the tribal areas appears to have resulted in a relatively lower incidence of terrorist attacks in major cities. However, minority sects continued to be targeted by extremist groups, and incidents of persecution,discrimination and in some cases, mob violence against religious minorities,also continue unabated. The province of Balochistan remained in the gripof an insurgency, with continuing reports of excesses committed by securityagencies, and indeed by separatist groups who tend to target non-Balochcommunities. All of the above were key domestic sources of tension in thecountry in the outgoing year.

Pakistan’s relations with most of its neighbours remained rocky in 2014,and the country was unable to capitalize on regime changes in bothAfghanistan and India. Relations with regional powers including Chinaand Russia remained positive or stable, although the latter continuedto be concerned about the role of Pakistani militants in the spread ofextremism in Central Asia. Relations with Saudi Arabia showed improvementafter the change of government in 2013, with the Saudi authoritiesextending significant economic support to Pakistan, albeit with somewhatopaque motives. Overall, the continued instability in Afghanistan,the aggressive posture of the new regime in India, and accusations fromIran of border incursions by militants, have soured Pakistan’s foreignrelations in the region, and constitute the key sources of tension for thecountry on the external front.