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Jun 12, 2013 | Commentary

Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League, has a daunting task ahead of him to provide security for his country’s 187 million citizens.  Sharif has inherited the mushrooming Jihadist groups of the Punjab, Talibanization in North West Pakistan and Karachi, insurgency in Baluchistan, and deeply problematic security sector governance policies from previous governments.

Pakistan has faced a growing number of terrorist attacks in the past decade; since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Pakistan has lost more than 49,000 lives due to terrorism. It is estimated that between 2009 and 2013 the Pakistani Taliban destroyed 1,030 schools and colleges in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province alone.  A Delhi-based South Asia Terrorism Portal reports that 16,578 lives were lost in the Federal Administered Tribal Area (FATA) bordering Afghanistan from 2009-2013 and 11,862  in KP during  the period 2005-2012.  According to Ahmed Rashid in his book, Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (2012), militancy in FATA has killed more than 1,000 tribal elders and displaced 1.5 million people Interestingly, the people of FATA cannot raise their grievances in any court, as the country’s legal system does not apply to FATA.; nor can FATA legislators legislate for FATA under Article 247 (b) of the constitution of Pakistan. FATA is managed by the President of Pakistan from Islamabad through the draconian, colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) legislation.

To contain militancy, Nawaz Sharif has “called for peace talks with Pakistani Taliban militants at war with the  government, potentially charting a course that could put him at odds with the country’s powerful army.” The 1.48 million powerful Pakistan Army  with its 650,000 active soldiers has asked the Taliban to “unconditionally submit to the state” and asked the political leadership to take ownership of the war against militants fighting against the Pakistan state.  Sharif needs to assess the potential dividends of peace talks with the Taliban against the conditions put forth by General Ashfaq Kayani of the Pakistan Army. The political divide between the army and the civilian government continues to present the most imposing obstacle to erecting an effective and accountable security sector governance architecture in Pakistan.

Sharif and the cricketer-turn-politician Imran Khan, one of the vocal opposition leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (justice party), seem to be on the same page.  Both Sharif and Khan are considered close to the Taliban due to their opposition to Pakistan’s alleged alliance with the U.S. on drone attacks in Pakistan (since 2004 US drone strikes have caused roughly 2,200 deaths in Pakistan) and in opposition to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, their political rivalry in the mainland Punjab province may become a hurdle to developing  a more coherent national security sector governance policy.

Sharif is aware of the pivotal role of President Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, as well as the political parties belonging to the three smaller provinces, as they have a majority in the Senate of Pakistan. President Zardari has offered his cooperation to Sharif, helping him to pass laws smoothly.  Sharif’s capacity to forge some semblance of a political consensus among the opposition parties and powerful Army ,while at the same time  pacifying the Jihadists, Taliban and Baluch nationalists, will determine the success of his administration. It will be a tall order. That political consensus should pave the way for the implementation of a more effective security sector governance policy, an important step to bringing peace and prosperity to the 187 million people of Pakistan.


Jahan Zeb is a Research and Communications Intern with the Security Governance Group.