Pakistan | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Pakistan has a thriving and competitive multiparty system. However, the military exerts enormous influence over security and other issues. Islamist extremist violence targets religious minorities and those deemed impediments to Islamization. The military and intelligence services enjoy impunity for indiscriminate use of force. Authorities routinely curtail freedom of expression and association.

Key Developments: 
  • Terrorist violence declined sharply, in large part due to a deescalation of an insurgency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
  • Documents released in the Panama Papers leak raised questions about undisclosed assets held by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family. In November, following a series of antigovernment protests, the Supreme Court began hearings into the matter.
  • In August, the National Assembly passed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, which failed to include safeguards proposed by civil society and digital activists.
  • In November, Sharif appointed a new chief of army staff in line with the constitution, indicating a consolidation of the civilian leadership’s role in national policymaking.
Executive Summary: 

Pakistan remained relatively stable in 2016. Terrorist violence continued to decline, with the South Asia Terrorism Portal counting 1,803 terrorism-related fatalities during the year, about half the number it had documented in 2015. The cumulative effect of the army’s clearance of terrorist sanctuaries in Waziristan, and intelligence-led operations elsewhere in the country, was that radical Islamist violence no longer directly threatened democratic order.

In October, a series of antigovernment protests took place at which demonstrators expressed anger over documents released in the Panama Papers leak that raised questions about undisclosed assets held by Prime Minister Sharif’s family. Hundreds of demonstrators were detained following violent clashes with police, who employed tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowd. The Supreme Court opened hearings into corruption allegations against Sharif in November. Meanwhile, the army leadership was changed in line with the constitutional process and normal timeline, reflecting some consolidation of the civilian leadership’s role in national policymaking.

There was little progress on expanding civil liberties in 2016. Instead, a restrictive law governing the use of the internet was passed, and civil society organizations faced a continuing clampdown. An orchestrated campaign of harassment against Afghan refugees in in Pakistan, launched during the summer, precipitated a mass exodus to Afghanistan despite continuing insecurity there.

Explanatory Note: 

The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, which is examined in a separate report.

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 

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