Central & South Asia Observer
April 23rd, 2022
Pakistan: Shehbaz Sharif
Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office on April 9, 2022 after a no-confidence motion brought against him succeeded by a vote of 174-0. Leader of the opposition party and President of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), Shehbaz Sharif, led the opposition's bid to oust Imran Khan and he was elected by Parliament to the post on the following Monday. The newly elected Prime Minister faces a crumbling economy that has been hit by high inflation, a collapsing currency, and a declining foreign exchange reserves. The new government aims to return to the International Monetary Fund which has bolstered market confidence but the decision will call for reductions in government spending, termination of subsidies for fuel, and an increase in revenue collection. Pakistan’s relationship with the US was also damaged under Mr. Khan as he wrongfully accused Washington of conspiring with the opposition to oust him. Prime Minister Sharif has stated his intentions to repair ties with Washington and other partners. At the National Assembly Prime Minister. Sharif announced his plans to increase salaries, pensions, and the minimum wage for laborers. Additionally, he said he will expedite the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and repair ties with allies as he invited Prime Minister Modi to discuss the Kashmir dispute in line with the UN resolutions. The PML(N) pledges to recognize Indian claims over Kashmir. Sharif’s agenda and plans indicate a departure from Khan's policies, signaling a new era for Pakistan.
Afghanistan: "Spring Offensive"
The advent of spring has brought with it a series of attacks from anti-Taliban resistance groups and the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP). During the 20 years of American occupation, the "spring offensive" was a time when the Taliban would step up their attacks against US, NATO, and Afghan government forces. Now the Taliban, as the governing force, face insurgents throughout the country.
ISKP has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks spread throughout the country in Kabul, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Nangarhar. These attacks have largely targeted civilians and killed dozens. The attacks in Mazar-i-Sharif have targeted Shia Hazaras including at the 'Seh Dokan' mosque. Hazaras are an ethnic and religious minority that have been persecuted throughout Afghanistan's history including under Taliban rule in the 1990s. ISKP has launched attacks on Hazara majority schools and public areas. The safety and security of Hazaras has been a primary concern since the fall of the Afghan government.
Factions of the fallen Afghan republic have also increased attacks as the mountain snows are melting this spring. However, compared to ISKP, these groups are largely uncoordinated. The most well-known of these groups is the National Resistance Front, led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of former Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud who fought against the Soviets and Taliban. These resistance groups are mostly composed of former republic, Western-trained security forces. Taliban officials have stated that they do not consider this resistance to be a major threat.
The ability of the Taliban to combat armed groups like ISKP and the NRF will be an important test for the nascent government. Prior to the recent spring attacks, the security situation was relatively stable under Taliban rule. With an increase in attacks, the Taliban may face discontent from ordinary civilians and Taliban supporters as well as a threat to their place in power.