But will the election really run smoothly? Who are the key players and what do they stand for? And what does it all mean for Pakistan's relations with its neighbors, especially India?
William Milam, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and currently a senior scholar on the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, will be taking questions from GPS readers. Please leave your questions in the comment section below.
By Michael Kugelman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. You can follow him @MichaelKugelman. The views expressed are his own.
Will Pakistan experience an Arab Spring? The question has been on many minds since revolution swept across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 – and especially since a major anti-government rally took place in Islamabad this month.
It's easy to understand why. Pakistan, like the Arab Spring nations, boasts a young and mobile communications savvy population. Its masses are victims of the same indignities that incited revolt in the Middle East: corruption, oppression, and injustice.
However, the similarities end there. Let’s stop talking about a revolution in Pakistan, because it’s not going to happen.
By Hassan Abbas, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Hassan Abbas is an academic and a senior advisor at the Asia Society. The views expressed are his own.
Pakistan is only months away from a first: a democratically elected government is slated to hand over power to another democratically elected government. Too bad few in Pakistan are in a celebratory mood.
The lack of excitement is due, in part, to a worsening economic situation and rampant corruption. Today, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf over fraud related to power plant deals. The previous day, Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, a former elected parliamentarian and an important religious figure who just returned from Canada, led tens of thousands of people in a protest against political corruption in the capital of Islamabad.
Taking control of the reins of government after a long military rule is never easy. Often people expect quick results and don’t fully realize the damage done to both the polity and society by dictators. They dream of jobs, justice and security, but it takes decades to build foundations of systems that deliver such goals in a progressive fashion. That said, if the transition can happen without any extra constitutional step, elections expected between April to June this year could be an important move toward a more successful Pakistan.
By Polly Truscott, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Polly Truscott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director for Amnesty International. The views expressed are her own.
The Taliban’s brazen assassination attempt on brave teenage human rights activist Malala Yousafzai grabbed the world’s attention, shining a rare light on the ongoing cycle of violence in Pakistan’s insurgency-hit northwest Tribal Areas.
Malala miraculously survived the October shooting, but the incident is but one of many in a region locked in a climate of lawlessness where perpetrators of human rights abuses act with impunity.
In an extensively researched report released last week by Amnesty International, a disturbing pattern of violations by Pakistani forces – from torture and other ill-treatment to enforced disappearance without access to family, lawyers, the courts and with no information about their fate and whereabouts – reveals the failure of Pakistani authorities to address the fundamental lawlessness of the Tribal Areas.
This is the third in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.
By Michael Kugelman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. You can follow him @michaelkugelman. The views expressed are his own.
Four years ago, the U.S. Congress announced the findings of a bipartisan investigation into weapons of mass destruction.
Chillingly, the study predicted a nuclear or biological attack by the end of 2013 – with a high likelihood that it would originate in Pakistan.
Could this prediction come true next year? The risk of Pakistani nukes falling into the wrong hands is certainly high. Last August, militants attacked an air force base near Islamabad thought to store nuclear weapons. Several weeks later, security officials acknowledged a “serious” threat from the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) to assault one of Pakistan’s largest nuclear installations. All this in a country where, according to an unsettling Atlantic report, assets are frequently exposed: “[N]uclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans [by the military] on congested and dangerous roads.”
By Moeed Yusuf & Thomas Lynch, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Moeed Yusuf is the South Asia adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace and Thomas Lynch is a distinguished research fellow at National Defense University. The opinions expressed here are theirs alone, not those of their institutions or the U.S. government.
U.S. peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan ultimately depend on a holistic, regional approach that mostly involves India and Pakistan.
In 2014, Afghanistan faces both the drawdown of American forces and the election of President Hamid Karzai’s successor, both significant transitions. The bid to create a stable post-2014 Afghanistan can only go so far without dealing directly with the intense rivalry between India and Pakistan – vested neighbors and nuclear regional kingpins. Yet despite recent positive overtures between the two sides, Pakistan continues to be deeply troubled by an increased Indian presence on its western border, while India is adamant to prevent Pakistan’s complete hold over Afghanistan.
By Gareth Price, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Gareth Price is senior research fellow on the Asia Program at Chatham House. The views expressed are his own.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit this week to India highlighted the strengthening relationship between the two countries. While India has invested heavily in a range of development projects in Afghanistan since 2002, its emergence as a political player is relatively new, considering that as recently as January 2010, and under Pakistani pressure, India was excluded from a conference in Istanbul discussing security in Afghanistan. Deteriorating relations between the United States and Pakistan, and the subsequent announcement of 2014 as the year of “transition” changed the West’s attitude towards India’s role. By June of this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was urging India to play a more active role in Afghanistan.
While there had been speculation prior to Karzai’s India visit that the two countries would agree to scale up training of Afghan army officers, in the end the main focus was on economic engagement. Under the Istanbul process of regional engagement, India had already agreed to lead work on increasing regional interaction among chambers of commerce, and on commercial opportunities in the region. It has also hosted an investment summit for Afghanistan. On the trip, Karzai reiterated that Afghanistan was open to Indian business.
By CNN Global Public Square
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Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban opened fire on a school bus. Two girls were shot. At first, it seemed a familiar story. The Taliban, after all, has bombed hundreds of schools, especially those for girls.
But here's what's new: Mass protests ensued against the Taliban, and in favor of women. That's startling and refreshing in Pakistan.
This past week, thousands of demonstrators thronged to the streets to protest the Taliban's brutality towards women. They're rallying around one person, 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai. Malala was one of the girls who was shot on that school bus. She was not an accidental target. The Taliban directly sought her out and shot her in the head. They wanted to kill not only Malala, but what she stood for. Here's why:
Editor’s note: Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is program coordinator with the Asia program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Mashail Malik, a native of Islamabad, is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Javid Ahmad and Mashail Malik.
By Javid Ahmad and Mashail Malik, Special to CNN
Tensions that flare between Pakistan's ineffective civilian government and influential judiciary reached an all-time high last week when the country’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from holding office.
The unprecedented ruling came less than two months after Gilani was charged with contempt for his refusal to ask the Swiss government to reopen corruption charges facing President Asif Ali Zardari. It was followed days later by parliament electing a replacement, Raja Pervez Ashraf, who has also been accused of corruption in the past.
These recent developments signify the deep rift between Pakistan's different internal institutions. Pakistan’s civilian government, the powerful military, the increasingly active judiciary, and the many opposition groups in the country are juggling varied and often deeply conflicting agendas.
One thing these internal forces have in common is that each wants to be at the center stage of Pakistan's political structure, and each wants to win the frustrated population's support. The cost of this power struggle, however, seems to be given little consideration by the players involved.
The CIA drone attack June 4 in northwest Pakistan that killed deputy al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi is the latest in a string of incidents that has brought U.S.-Pakistan relations to "a new low, relative to what we've seen since 9/11," says CFR South Asia expert Daniel Markey. In addition to drone attacks, the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, U.S. air attacks killing Pakistan soldiers along the Afghan border, and anti-Pakistan rhetoric have all contributed to the strained relationship. Markey also attributes the rift to the intensity of the Obama administration's counterterrorism focus and Pakistani mistrust about U.S. objectives in the region.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, visiting Afghanistan June 7, said because of attacks from Haqqani forces–insurgent Afghan forces based in Pakistan–the United States is "reaching the limits of our patience" with Pakistan. Does this indicate a new low in U.S.-Pakistan relations, or is this the new norm?
It is a new low relative to what we've seen since 9/11 [September 11, 2001], or at least it's a continued low from where we've been since the killing of Osama bin Laden last year [May 1, 2011]. FULL POST
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad."
It's the diplomatic equivalent of hosting both the World Cup and the World Series in the same country on the same weekend.
On Saturday President Obama welcomes the leaders of the world's most powerful countries to the G8 conference at his country retreat at Camp David in Maryland. And the next day he hosts some two dozen NATO heads of state in Chicago.
The challenges of this Diplopaloozaa include some complicated logistics: How do you get eight world leaders and their delegations comfortably situated in the rustic wood chalets that make up Camp David, and which has never hosted this many heads of state before?
Read more from Peter Bergen about the challenges, the Syria question and the last-minute guest at the NATO summit: Pakistan.
Editor's Note: Shashi Tharoor, a former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and UN Under-Secretary General, is a member of India’s parliament and the author of a dozen books, including India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Nehru: the Invention of India. For more from Tharoor, visit Project Syndicate's great new website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Shashi Tharoor, Project Syndicate
India and Pakistan are enjoying one of the better periods in their turbulent relationship. Recent months have witnessed no terrorist incidents, no escalating rhetoric, and no diplomatic flashpoints. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari just made a successful, if brief, personal visit to India (mainly to visit a famous shrine, but with a lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thrown in). Sixteen years after India granted Pakistan most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status, Pakistan is on the verge of reciprocating. The peace process is resuming, and the two sides are talking to each other cordially at all levels. FULL POST