The suicide bomber who killed seventy-two people on Easter Sunday in a park in Lahore, Pakistan has drawn condemnation from around the world. Among the killed were twenty-nine children, and another 370 people were wounded, many of them members of the country’s Christian minority. Far less noted, however, has been the attack’s equally devastating effect on relations between Pakistan’s army and civilian government, which threatens to bring further instability to the country’s Punjab heartland.
At the heart of the crisis are two men, General Raheel Sharif, commander in chief of the Pakistan army, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, head of the civilian government. For the past eighteen months, the two Sharifs (no relation) have maintained a tenuous political compact: the army—in some consultation with the prime minister—had overall control of Pakistan’s foreign and nuclear policy, as well as its counterterrorism strategy in Karachi, in the south, and along the border with Afghanistan, in the north. In turn, the civilian government could run the economy, and, most significantly, keep control of the prime minister’s home province of Punjab—the most populous region of the country, which includes the city of Lahore. Counterterrorism actions in Punjab were entrusted to the Punjab police rather than the army.