Navigating Civic Spaces in Pakistan
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This background paper is a review of changing civic spaces in Pakistan during the brief period from July 2018, when national elections brought a new government to power, until the first lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020. It will provide the context for interpreting events since the start of the pandemic, to show how civic spaces were grappling with growing pressure from the state even before this new emergency began. The source material for this paper is a combination of academic articles, advocacy organization reports, and press articles. The discussion begins with an overview of the governance context during these twenty months under scrutiny, followed by a section on the civil society context which provides examples of areas of mobilization and change. We then turn to the state’s response, and measures that sought to regulate or curb these spaces. Next, we discuss other threats to civic space actors which curb their freedoms, and close with a brief summary of the roles and strategies employed to counter these curbs and regulations.