Zahid Hussain is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholar, USA, and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and at the Stimson Center in Washington DC. He is author of Frontline Pakistan: The struggle with militant Islam (Columbia university press) and The Scorpion’s tail: The relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan (Simon and Schuster, NY). Frontline Pakistan was the book of the year (2007) by the WSJ.
What is described as a creeping expansion of the activities of the security agencies, which is being manifested in an unannounced gagging of the media and a curb on freedom of expression, has raised questions about the fairness of the coming general elections.
Pakistan’s army chief is indubitably the most powerful figure in the country, so when he speaks on politics it ought to create a stir. In a rare interaction with a group of journalist this month, Gen. Qamar Bajwa enunciated his views on politics, the economy and foreign policy.
An embattled Nawaz Sharif suffered a serious setback last week in his struggle for political revival when his party lost the critical election for the Senate chairman. The large margin of defeat is a clear indicator of how the dice has been loaded against the ruling party.
A senior US official’s call for a “new relationship” between Washington and Islamabad appears to have done little to heal the rift between the two countries over criticism of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts.
Just as his trial on graft charges comes to a close, the tenor of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has become even more strident. His relentless attacks on the two most powerful institutions of state — the judiciary and the military — have intensified clashes between them.
There is no indication yet of any improvement in troubled US-Pakistani relations, despite high-level engagement in the past months. Like in the past, the carrot-and-stick policy being pursued by the Trump administration has failed to break the ice.