On October 19, the South Asia Center hosted Ikram Sehgal, Chairman of Pathfinder Group, the largest private security company in Pakistan, along with South Asia Center Distinguished Fellow Shuja Nawaz, to discuss Pakistan’s current security situation in the wake of Army Chief Raheel Sharif’s aggressive military operation to eradicate terrorist hideouts. Bharath Gopalaswamy, South Asia Center Director, moderated the conversation, which covered Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan peace talks, its complex relationship with the United States, and the motives that drive China to invest so heavily in Pakistan.

Both Nawaz and Sehgal concurred that the security situation in Pakistan had vastly improved in the last year with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) almost cleared of militant bases. While they do not have the capacity to seal the border, Nawaz claimed the Pakistani military has initiated a campaign to block the easy passage between Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the “litmus test” of the aggressive military campaign is not in the rural tribal areas, but in Karachi. Nawaz explained that “if Karachi works, Pakistan works” but “if Karachi fails, then we have to worry.” Thus far, there are hopeful signs that Karachi is “working.” There has been an enormous drop off in kidnappings, robberies, murders and other terrorist activities. The question is whether the military will be able to sustain such an effort.

Ikram Sehgal, as an on-the-ground observer and actor, provided evidence for much of what Mr. Nawaz discussed on a strategic level. Clearly, Sehgal stated, “Pakistan is on the mend.” While both Nawaz and Sehgal presented an optimistic picture of Pakistan, both men acknowledged the uncomfortable place in which Pakistan now resides. Namely, Pakistan is being asked to both kill and fight the Afghan Taliban while bringing them to the negotiating table. To Nawaz, it is a “contradictory ask” which will prove difficult for the Pakistanis to resolve.