"Beginning on August 15, 2014, Pakistan's struggle to establish a sustainable democratic system has met with a new reversal in the form of major anti-government street protests in the capital. Crowds led by opposition figures have demanded the resignation of democratically elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The prime minister regards such demands to be inconsistent with the Pakistani Constitution, and the consensus view in Islamabad appears to support parliamentary processes. The strident and rigid nature of the protestors' demands, and their unwillingness to disperse from areas surrounding key government buildings has, however, created an impasse. After two weeks, the powerful Pakistan Army announced that it would act as 'facilitator' in seeking resolution. This has led many analysts to anticipate a new round of military intervention in the country's governance. While few assess that Sharif's government now faces an imminent threat of ouster from office, many observers see the current unrest weakening Sharif and representing a setback to democratization in a country that has suffered three outright military coups in its 67 years of independence. To many analysts, it appears unlikely that Pakistan in the near future will alter any of its foreign or security policies of interest to the United States. However, the U.S. government has sought to help in fostering Pakistan's democratic system, and that effort has been disrupted by the current unrest. The Pakistan Army's more openly direct control of the country's foreign and security policies may, over time, shift Pakistan's approach toward Afghanistan further into a policy framework that seeks to counter Indian influence there. It could also present new challenges to the goal of improving India-Pakistan relations, and put a damper on hopes for effective regional cooperation and commerce in South Asia."
CRS Report for Congress, R43717