A military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 2019. Akhtar Soomro / Reuters

In the summer of 2021, the world learned that China was dramatically expanding its nuclear arsenal. Satellite imagery showed Beijing building as many as 300 new ballistic missile silos. The Pentagon now projects that China’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, which had for years rested in the low hundreds, could spike to 1,500 warheads by 2035, confirming suspicions that Beijing has decided to join Russia and the United States in the front rank of nuclear powers.

Security experts are only beginning to sort through the implications of China’s nuclear breakout. They would do well to consider Ashley Tellis’s new book, Striking Asymmetries, which assesses the implications of Beijing’s actions from the vantage point of the rivalries between South Asia’s three nuclear powers: China, India, and Pakistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imran Khan after appearing at the high court in Lahore on 17 March 2023. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

The arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan on charges of corruption has sent shock waves throughout Pakistan and the wider world, raising the prospect of an imminent disintegration of the country’s fragile social and political fabric.

For many, however, it also speaks to a well-established tradition: the incarceration of political leaders who fall foul of the country’s all-powerful military.

Khan’s long list of predecessors in this category include former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan’s first freely elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; all spent extended periods behind bars. For some, detention ended with tragedy. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979 by a military dictatorship after a controversial trial; his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007 just weeks after enduring house arrest under the orders of another military regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

The problems of Pakistan are encapsulated in the lives of two people I have met in recent months. Mariam Bibi still lives with her five children in a makeshift tent beside the Indus River in north-west Pakistan, eight months after their lives were turned upside down by extensive flooding. Even finding enough to feed and clothe her children is problematic. There are 30m poor people like her in Pakistan who are still feeling the effect of the floods.

Asif Zaman is a designer at an advertising agency in Karachi. Despite having an undergraduate degree, he makes less than $4 a day.…  Seguir leyendo »

People queueing for fuel at a petrol station after a country-wide power breakdown due to a government energy-saving measure, Peshawar, Pakistan, 23 January 2023. Photograph: Hussain Ali/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

Last month, Anthony Soshil went to renew his passport in Lahore at a normally sleepy bureaucratic office. He had a contact there and expected to be ushered straight to the counter. Instead, he was flung into a melee of thousands of desperate people. Fights were breaking out everywhere. Police were summoned to quell the crowds. Quickly overwhelmed, the police called the army.

Last year, more than 800,000 Pakistanis left the country in search of better economic prospects abroad. With rocketing inflation and the rupee devaluing by 30% during 2022, millions of urban middle-class people have been pushed to the brink of poverty.…  Seguir leyendo »

Standing amid the rubble of a suicide blast, Peshawar, Pakistan, February 2023. Fayaz Aziz / Reuters

Pakistan is beset by twin crises. An economic meltdown, underway for several years, has metastasized into a full-blown balance of payments emergency. The nuclear-armed country is running out of dollars to pay for essential imports, such as oil, and help from the IMF remains stalled because Pakistan’s political leadership is reluctant to enact a range of essential reforms. Concurrently, an anti-Pakistan terrorist group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has resurged, fueled by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan—enabled, ironically, by Pakistan’s own policy of supporting the Taliban over the last two decades. In January 2023, a suicide bomber killed over 100 people in a mosque frequented by police officers in the city of Peshawar, marking the single deadliest terrorist attack on security forces.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan, in March 2013. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan’s fourth military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who died in Dubai on Sunday, reflected the contradictions and paradoxes that continue to trouble his country more than a decade after his removal from office.

A military man with a learned contempt for civilians, he assumed absolute power in a military coup in 1999 promising to restore democracy, rebuild the economy, and bring an end to terrorism. He failed on all counts. He was driven from power in 2008 by civilians intent on making an example of him, targeting him with prosecution that preceding military rulers had evaded. He went into exile and assumed a much lower profile.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistan is entering an election year with a deeply divided body politic, as former Prime Minister Imran Khan whips up populist support against the government and the all-powerful military.

Khan’s exit from office last spring came alongside his fall from the Pakistan Army’s grace. Having won office backed by the top brass, relations deteriorated due to Khan’s inept rule, fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric, and attempts to plant loyalists in top army positions. As support for a no-confidence vote grew, Khan claimed that Washington was behind a plot to oust him. Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa rejected the conspiracy, concerned about the impact it might have on relations with the U.S.,…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Pakistan is suffering not just from flooding, but from recurring climate extremes.’ People queue for food in Sehwan. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

The apocalyptic rains and floods that hit Pakistan last summer claimed 1,700 lives, left a swathe of territory the size of Switzerland under water and affected 33 million people – more people than live in most European countries.

International attention has receded, but the waters have not. Large parts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces remain inundated. The number of food-insecure people in Pakistan has doubled to 14 million; another 9 million have been pushed into extreme poverty. These flooded areas now look like a huge series of permanent lakes, transforming forever the terrain and the lives of people living there. No amount of pumps can remove this water in less than a year; and by July 2023, the worry is that these areas may flood again.…  Seguir leyendo »

Manzoor Pashteen, head of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, talks with supporters during a protest in Pakistan on Nov. 27. (Saood Rehman/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On Dec. 11, Taliban government forces in Afghanistan shelled a town just across the border in Pakistan, killing seven Pakistani civilians. Pakistan responded in kind, killing one Taliban fighter and injuring 10 Afghans. Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the “unprovoked shelling” by Afghan forces. On Dec. 15, the two sides exchanged artillery fire across the border, killing at least one Pakistani civilian and wounding 15 others. Pakistan and the Taliban are virtually at war.

It’s time for Pakistan to accept that its decades-old Afghanistan policy has failed. While the world’s attention has focused on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the violence in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has gone underreported — even though the potential for a serious catastrophe grows by the day.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistani President Arif Alvi, left, meets with Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, the new army chief, in Islamabad on Thursday. (Press Information Department handout via Reuters)

After months of intrigue, Pakistan finally has a new army chief. The job is going to Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, a former head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the powerful military intelligence agency. Many Pakistanis breathed a sigh of relief at the news, which has — at least for the moment — warded off fears of a fresh political crisis. The reason: In recent months, ex-prime minister Imran Khan has been pushing for a confrontation with the senior army leadership that some feared might lead to the army announcing martial law. For the moment, at least, that threat appears to have been averted.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters in Lahore, Pakistan, on Nov. 5 demonstrating against an assassination attempt on Imran Khan. Arif Ali/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Imran Khan is a cornered tiger.

After surviving an assassination attempt on Nov. 3 while leading a protest march, Mr. Khan accused Shehbaz Sharif, who succeeded him as prime minister of Pakistan, Rana Sanaullah, the interior minister, and a third man of conspiring to assassinate him. In a significant breach in civil-military relations, Mr. Khan claimed that the third man was a major general in the Inter-Services Intelligence, the dreaded spy agency of Pakistan’s military, which supported his own rise to power.

The saga of Mr. Khan’s embrace of the military and his fallout and confrontation with the generals is a reminder of the limits of power exercised by civilian politicians in Pakistan, where the military has ruled directly for 33 years and always been the power behind the throne.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at march in Wazirabad, Pakistan, November 2022. Akhtar Soomro / Reuters

In early November, a gunman opened fire on Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, and his supporters at a rally. One person was killed, many more injured, and Khan was struck in the leg. Although the motivation of the shooter, who was detained, remains unclear, Khan quickly blamed the government and, pointedly, a senior intelligence official for the attack. Since losing office in April in the wake of a no-confidence vote, Khan has led a campaign against both the new civilian government and the generals who are seen as the true power brokers in Pakistan. In so doing, he has deepened already fraught political tensions and put himself in unprecedented direct conflict with the military, once his ally.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former prime minister Imran Khan talks with the media at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, on Friday, a day after an assassination attempt on his life. (Arif Ali/AFP via Getty Images)

On the evening of Nov. 3, former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan narrowly escaped death. An assailant attacked him at a political march, wounding Khan in the leg, killing one other person and injuring 14 more. Khan survived — but now Pakistan’s democracy may be facing new threats to its survival.

Khan is the third former prime minister to have faced an assassination attempt. The country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was shot in 1951; a suicide bomber killed Benazir Bhutto in 2007. They were targeted in public rallies, but Khan was luckily only lightly injured.

In the months before the attack, Khan himself repeatedly warned that he would be targeted by an assassin, citing a conspiracy cooked up by his political opponents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gestures during a lawyers convention in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sept. 21. ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistani politics have always revolved around the country’s military. Civilian politicians compete for support while criticizing—or seeking covert help from—a ubiquitous security establishment. Since his ouster as prime minister last April, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has become the latest to challenge this system. But Khan’s polarizing rhetoric is only adding to Pakistan’s chaos—not marking the advent of a  revolution.

The government elected after Khan’s removal via a no-confidence vote initially tolerated the former prime minister’s attacks on generals, judges, and political rivals in addition to his conspiracy theories about his ouster being the result of a U.S.-backed plot. Unlike previous civilian leaders who fell afoul of the military, Khan was not immediately arrested, charged with corruption, or disqualified from future elections by judicial fiat.…  Seguir leyendo »

My Elders in Pakistan Predicted Calamity. Now It’s Here.

On Aug. 24, I received a frantic call from my mother. She told me that Sabu Buriro, our village on the shore of Lake Hamal in northwest Sindh Province, was underwater after weeks of heavy rains. Just two months earlier, extreme heat had dried the lake. Now, after weeks of monsoon rains, the lake was so full that the dike protecting us from it was about to burst.

After 10 hours of travel from Karachi, where I am a student, I arrived in a village full of panic-stricken relatives and neighbors. A few army trucks came to evacuate some of the women and children while the rest of us did what we could to salvage our dried grains, our livestock and our homes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Citizens often walk through snake-infested and contaminated floodwaters to retrieve their belongings and get groceries as their homes are still submerged in water because the recent floods in Dadu, Sindh, Pakistan, on Sept. 12. (Saiyna Bashir for The Washington Post)

When will Pakistan’s climate catastrophe finally subside? Over the past few weeks, as I’ve traveled around our flood-stricken country, I’ve been haunted by that question. I recently experienced an extraordinary boat journey in the floodwaters of Sindh province when my head was touching the wires strung between electricity poles. I was floating at least 16 feet above the ground. This water level was horrific because only some rooftops and trees were visible in the area. The United Nations has warned that floodwaters are rising again.

A few days ago, I met a man named Munawar Sami, who had lost his son and two daughters when a truck ran over them at the side of the road.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a world that at times seems obsessed with the Windsor dynasty that occupies the British throne, a political dynasty with a history deeply

Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons that neighbors Afghanistan, China, Iran and India, has been long dominated by its powerful military, which in recent years has put increasing pressure on independent media and dissenting voices.

Pakistan’s Bhutto family dynasty, in recent decades, championed a more liberal democratic approach to politics and has provided two of the country’s most important leaders – and today, its youngest foreign minister ever.

I met last week with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was visiting Washington.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistanis displaced by flooding stand near a road underwater in Sehwan, Pakistan, on Sept. 16. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

This week, Americans are understandably focused on the hurricane-related flooding in Florida, which is causing tragedy for thousands. Yet there is little attention in the United States to the fact that Pakistan has been flooded since mid-June, a catastrophe that is still causing unspeakable suffering for tens of millions.

Both of these crises owe much to the same phenomenon — climate change. But aside from some limited aid, there’s scant U.S.-Pakistan cooperation on long-term solutions. That has to change, according to Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was in the United States this week pitching his proposal for a “Green Marshall Plan”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistán y la lucha por la justicia climática

En todo el mundo, 2022 ha sido un año de catástrofes climáticas, que incluyeron sequías, inundaciones, mega-incendios, tifones y más. Entre los países más afectados está Pakistán. Con lluvias torrenciales por el monzón casi el 190% por encima de su promedio de 30 años, unas inundaciones extraordinarias han sumergido a una tercera parte del país y acabaron con la vida de 1.400 personas hasta el momento. Pero a no confundirse: éste no es sólo un “desastre natural”; más bien, es el resultado también de una conducta indebida por la cual los países de altos ingresos deben asumir una responsabilidad financiera importante.…  Seguir leyendo »

Victims of flooding from monsoon rains carry relief aid in Sindh Province, Pakistan, on Sept. 9. (Fareed Khan/AP)

I have covered wars across the world. I have also reported on many natural disasters. I’ve seen more than my share of death and destruction, but I’ve never wept.

Lately I have been traveling in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan, and I cannot control my tears. My country is drowning in one of the worst environmental disasters the world has ever experienced. After visiting some of the areas hit by the floods, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said he had never seen climate-related destruction on such a scale, and he appealed to the international community to help. Guterres noted that Pakistan is a victim of climate change produced by the more heavily industrialized countries.…  Seguir leyendo »