The future of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) speaks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang (R) after visiting an exhibition of innovative technologies at the Open Innovations Forum in Moscow, Russia, 14 October 2014.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: Swagata Saha, Observer Research Foundation

China recently reaffirmed that it backs India and Pakistan becoming members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). At the 14th meeting of the Council of Heads of States of SCO on 12 September, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for full membership for SCO observers, including India and Pakistan. Read more…

Why Pakistan’s army stands to gain from political turmoil

Pakistani supporters of cleric Tahir ul Qadri listen to his speech during an anti-government protest in front of the Parliament in Islamabad on 17 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Vivek Kumar Srivastava, CSJM University

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. Read more…

Seeking accountability and failing to find it

Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan wave flags during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament in Islamabad, 14 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rosita Armytage, ANU

It started off fun. The Azadi (freedom) March led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former cricketer Imran Khan, and the Inquilab March (Revolution March) led by Tahir Ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party have created a festival atmosphere in the nation’s capital of Islamabad. Read more…

Securing Pakistan’s democracy?

Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif. He is positioned to mediate the stand-off between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and opposition demonstrators on the streets of Islamabad. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The two-week-old political crisis in Pakistan took a sharp new turn over the past few days as the military leader, General Raheel Sharif, positioned to mediate the stand-off between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and opposition demonstrators on the streets of Islamabad, led by cleric Mohammed Tahir-ul-Qadri and his ally cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Whether Prime Minister Sharif or Tahir-ul-Qadri and Khan initiated the move to military mediation and how the military has played into the development of the crisis itself are questions that are at this stage difficult to determine. Read more…

Back to the brink in Pakistan

A supporter of cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri reacts during Qadri’s speech at an anti-government protest in front of the parliament in Islamabad on 26 August 2014. Thousands of demonstrators led by opposition politician Imran Khan and Qadri have camped out demanding Sharif resign. (Photo: AAP).

Author: S. Mahmud Ali, LSE

Pakistanis marked their 67th independence anniversary atypically. While tens of thousands ‘marched’ (in two motorised convoys) from Lahore to Islamabad to protest Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s leadership, millions of others worried about the outcome of this unusual outpouring of frustration. Led by two charismatic critics of Sharif, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ‘moderate’ cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, the marchers vowed to besiege Islamabad until Sharif resigned. Read more…

Pakistan’s political quandary: on the edge yet again

Supporters of Pakistani Muslim cleric Tahirul Qadri praise their leader during a sit-in protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, 27 August 2014. Thousands of supporters for Pakistani former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Qadri are besieging parliament in the capital to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

The two separate sit-ins in front of Pakistan’s parliament house are into their second week. The first is led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The second is led by Tahirul Qadri of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). Both are seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab — Pakistan’s most populous and disproportionately powerful province.

The sit-ins have rattled the Sharif-led government. Read more…

Rivers run through Modi’s regional agenda

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to unseen wellwishers as he arrives to meet with Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala following a meeting at the prime minister's office in Kathmandu on 3 August  2014. Modi arrived in Nepal to try to speed up progress on power agreements while also aiming to counter rival giant China's influence in the region.

Author: Robert G. Wirsing, Georgetown University

Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Kathmandu in early August, the first visit to Nepal by an Indian premier in 17 years, was his third trip abroad since his inauguration on 26 May. In mid-June, only weeks after taking charge in New Delhi, he had made his first official foreign excursion — a two-day visit to nearby Bhutan. These upfront state visits to the two Himalayan countries were a clear indication that Modi was determined to put flesh on his campaign pledge to give priority in his foreign policy to bolstering relations with India’s South Asian neighbours. Read more…

Time to break down investment barriers between India and Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif prior to a meeting in New Delhi, India, 27 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Samridhi Bimal, ICRIER

On 26 May, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was followed by a period of ‘letter and sari diplomacy’ between the two leaders, in which both expressed their commitment to a peaceful and cooperative working relationship. These moves are unprecedented and point to a significant change in India–Pakistan relations. One of the most promising areas for cooperation is foreign direct investment (FDI). Read more…

Pakistan struggles to escape the abyss

Pakistani security officials inspect the scene of a bomb blast that targeted a cinema in Peshawar, Pakistan, 11 February 2014. At least 11 people were killed and 25 injured in the bombing at a cinema in Pakistan's troubled north-western city of Peshawar, media reports said. (Photo: EPA/ARSHAD ARBAB)

Author: Alicia Mollaun, ANU

Pakistan is wracked by economic instability and security problems that affect the life of every citizen. These interlinked problems are eating away at the Pakistani state and, if left untreated they will create more fragility which is good neither for Pakistan, the region, nor the rest of the world. Read more…

Modi’s roadmap for India’s Kashmir and Pakistan policies

Narendra Modi delivers a speech during a public rally in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rekha Chowdhary, University of Jammu

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looking likely to form government in India under the leadership of Narendra Modi, questions are being raised about the implications for Kashmir and India–Pakistan relations. Answers may be found in the ideological position of the BJP; the position that this party has taken on these issues in the past, especially the recent past; and, most importantly, the record of the party when it was in power. Read more…

Is the sword mightier than the pen in Pakistan?

Pakistani journalists of the National Press Club are seen holding signs during a demonstration in Islamabad. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, Institute for Conflict Management

Hamid Mir, the award-winning Pakistani journalist and anchor for the Pakistani television station Geo TV, was attacked by militants in Karachi on 19 April 2014. This is no mere stray incident, but rather one of a series of attacks carried out against journalists in Pakistan. According to the 2014 Human Rights Watch Report, at least six journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2013 while reporting stories or as a result of deliberate attacks. Read more…

Can Pakistan free itself from polio?

A Pakistani health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 8 April 2014. Pakistan’s beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, Institute for Conflict Management

In February this year, Pakistan’s ambassador Masood Khan told a UN panel that his country, under Nawaz Sharif, hopes to eradicate polio in 2014. How realistic is this goal?

There are only three countries where the polio virus (officially, poliomyelitis) remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Read more…

Hard times force Pakistan to privatise

Pakistani activists shout anti-government slogans during a protest against the state of Pakistan’s economy in Karachi on 16 March 2014. Nawaz Sharif is eager to carry out privatisation to receive an IMF bailout. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

On returning to power after 14 years in 2013 the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government led by Nawaz Sharif faced a bankrupt economy. While mostly caused by an abysmally low tax-to-GDP ratio, the public sector enterprises (PSEs) had also haemorrhaged US$25 billion over the previous five years.

Sharif remains desperate for immediate IMF support to keep Pakistan afloat. Read more…

Pakistan from hope to despair in 2013

A Pakistani man walks in front of a truck featuring a picture of Prime Minister Nawaz Shairf in Islamabad on December 17, 2013. The Sharif government has struggled to woo investment in the energy sector to boost the economy which has averaged growth of about 3 per cent over the past five years, insufficient to significantly improve living standards or fully absorb a growing labour force. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

When the new chief justice of Pakistan took oath of office on 12 December 2013 Pakistan completed an historic changeover during a year that saw the first civilian government in 67 years complete its constitutionally mandated term. 2013 also saw Pakistan get a new prime minister, president and chief of army staff. Perhaps no other country has experienced such a total change of its constitutional officers within a calendar year. Read more…