Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

Politics Issues in Pakistan

Contributor: Jaime Rivera

In regards to the politics of Pakistan, it is important to note the close relationship that exists between the military and government. Pakistan has been ruled by military general for half of its existence, thus showing a strong link between governmental and militaristic priorities.[1] The current president, Mr. Mamnoon Hussain, was the first civilian to take office from another civilian government, thus marking the first democratic transition of government in Pakistan.[2] Pakistan has the sixth largest military in the world, and is bordered by India which has the third largest military. [3] Both states have extensive nuclear weapon capacities. This is important to note because the most prominent political and militaristic problems stem from Pakistan-India conflicts. Evidence of this is demonstrated by the public statements made by opposition political parties in Pakistan which pledge their support in spite of partisan interests to the current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in regards to the Kashmir conflict and Line of Control issues.[4]

            The largest area of contention at the moment takes place around the Kashmir Line-of-Control. This area is the de-facto border between Pakistan and India, and is also one of the most heavily militarized frontiers in the world.[5] Currently, there is a very delicate situation unfolding in the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. Recent escalations seem to be instigated by an attack on September 18, 2016 by militants that killed 18 soldier in an Indian army camp stationed in the Indian controlled side of Kashmir. This led to a “surgical strike” made by Indian forces against terrorists. What makes this attack different is that while it is not the first time India has crossed the Line of Control to carry out attacks, it is the first time they have gone public with the decision.

            The response from this public attack has been full of tension and potentially devastating consequences. Pakistan claims that no such militant attack occurred on Indian land, and that it is simply Indian propaganda while India claims otherwise. [6] Regardless, Pakistan has closed airspace over Karachi and Lahore, citing operational reasons but Indian experts claim it is so that Pakistan military jets can perform manoeuvres and exercises.[7] Pakistan has not made direct threats about nuclear warfare, but it has alluded to their potential use, with the Defence Minister of Pakistan saying that they have not made nuclear devices as “showpieces” and that if Pakistan’s safety is concerned they will “annihilate them (India”).[8]

            This situation is still unfolding, making it hard to say when or how this escalation of tensions will be solved. What is important to note however, is that the underlying causes of the tension has historic roots in regards to Pakistan-Indian border conflicts. Also of interest is the global politics that are at play, with each country having closer ties to either the United States or China historically. Currently there are global diplomatic efforts being made to deescalate the situation. This conflict by far is the most pressing issue regarding the Pakistan military, with its result having residual effects on the country’s political landscape.

Excerpt from Emily Dolan’s piece on additional information

It is important to note that the President is largely a ceremonial role in the country, and it is the job of the Prime Minister to make the executive decisions[9]. The current Prime Minister is Nawaz Sharif, who is serving his third term in office, after being exiled from the country from 1999 to 2008[10]. The government within the country is highly controversial, specifically when concerning regulations regarding the media. Pakistan is recognized as one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, and there are very restrictive codes placed upon broadcasters in the country[11]. These media restrictions have affected elections in the past, by prohibiting coverage of rallies, broadcasts, talk shows, or anything that could show the government in a negative light[12]. These strict regulations can be a source of political risk within the country by creating and increasing tensions between the people of the nation and the government. 

[1] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2014/0827/Pakistan-faces-a-major-political-crisis-6-things-to-know

[2] http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/india-born-mamnoon-hussain-elected-pakistani-president-529944

[3] http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/29-largest-armies-in-the-world.html

[4] http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/355440-We-stand-by-government-despite-all-differences-Bi

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37404372

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/09/30/india-and-pakistan-clashed-again-in-kashmir-heres-what-you-need-to-know/

[7] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-bars-flights-over-Karachi-and-Lahore/articleshow/54692813.cms

[8] http://www.torontosun.com/2016/10/04/pakistan-threatens-a-nuclear-war-with-india

[9] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26014164

[10] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-12965779

[11] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-12965779

[12] https://www.hrw.org/news/2008/02/16/pakistan-media-restrictions-undermine-election