It’s been a very bad year for Pakistan, which has suffered a major economic crisis made worse by epic floods and escalating political violence. Imran Khan, a popular prime minister, was ousted from power because of failure to solve the economic problems and for not getting along with the military. Khan blamed the military for most of the economic problems and organized major protests against the military after he was ousted from office. That led to a failed assassination attempt on Khan. He was wounded and soon back on his feet organizing and leading protests. There are national elections in mid-2023 where Khan is a candidate and currently appears to have a good chance of regaining his job as prime minister. The military is not pleased with this but is kept busy trying to contain the growing violence with the new Taliban dominated Afghan government and Islamic terrorists based in Afghanistan.
For decades the military and its ISI (Inter-services Intelligence) promoted Islamic terrorist groups and the enacting of the harshest blasphemy laws found in any Moslem country. ISI is supposed to be mainly about military intelligence but also performs like the CIA, FBI and KGB. ISI has a department that handles domestic terrorism against anyone considered troublesome to the army. These people are threatened or killed. The military using the ISI in this way is a major reason for growing opposition to the military.
Since the ISI-backed IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government took power in late-2021, Afghanistan has become a safer place for Islamic terror groups. The most active include the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) and ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), which is also the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate. The more immediate problem is the TTP. Many TTP factions operate independently, often contrary to orders from TTP leadership. In contrast the Afghan Taliban was always more disciplined because they were dependent on the Pakistani military for a sanctuary in Baluchistan province and other essential aid. This included cash payments from the Afghan heroin cartels that also depend on the Pakistani military for essential supplies and services. The Afghan Taliban have long helped protect cartel operations inside Afghanistan. Now that the Afghan Taliban is back in power, after 20 years in exile, they find they have a lot in common with the TTP. Both Talibans see the Pakistani military as the enemy and that is causing major problems for the Pakistani military and Pakistan as a whole. So far TTP still has sanctuary in Afghanistan and is regularly sought out and attacked by Pakistani UAVs rather than IEA security forces.
In contrast, India had a good year, especially when compared to Pakistan. The Indian economy is in better shape as is the national credit rating. Deaths from Islamic terrorists and rebels are also down by nearly half compared to 2021. In Pakistan such losses were up by a third. As a result, Pakistan suffered about 900 such deaths in 2022, three times more than India. It’s worse than it sounds because India has six times as many people. The main reason for this disparity is that India made sure the military was and remained subordinate to the elected government after British India became independent. Most Moslem Indian politicians insisted on a separate Moslem state called Pakistan (land of the pure). Many Hindu Indian politicians went along with this and the India the British had united was divided. Moslem majority regions in northwest and northeast India became Pakistan, with the larger population in West Pakistan. The East Pakistan Moslems only had religion in common with West Pakistan and resented the political dominance of West Pakistan. This lasted 25 years and then East Pakistan demanded independence. That was a bloody process because West Pakistanis dominated the Pakistan military. Attempting to suppress the rebellion led to a lot of atrocities against East Pakistan civilians. That led India to intervene and East Pakistan became modern Bangladesh (Land of the Bengalis). The Hindi name for Indian is Bharat, which refers t0 an ancient tribe that played a role in the creation of Indian culture nearly 4,000 years ago. There are also religious associations but it is mainly about nationalism.
Before 1947 Moslem leaders feared being absorbed back into Hindu culture and religion. That didn’t happen and India still has more Moslems than Pakistan. A major mistake the founders of Pakistan made was not to eliminate feudalism or ensure political control over the military. When Bangladesh became independent, it kept the military under control of the elected government. After the 1970s Bangladesh was peaceful and more prosperous than Pakistan. Even before the civil war with East Pakistan, the Pakistani military saw itself as free of government control and often took control of the government. The Indian military has never done this and that made a difference. In Pakistan the military always resisted persistent attempts by elected officials to make the military subordinate to the electorate. Popular hostility to the Pakistan military has increased substantially in the last decade and even many of the generals are backing the ”Indian Model”. Making the switch without a lot of violence is preferred by all involved but sufficient will to make it happen has not yet developed.
December 19, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) Pakistani counter-terrorism personnel were captured by their TTP prisoners and now the counter-terrorism center where the TTP men were held is under siege by Pakistani troops. The TTP men took control of the facility they were in but were not able to get back to their base in Afghanistan. The TTP men called on local tribal elders to work with the government to arrange safe-passage for the TTP men back to Afghanistan and the release of the Pakistani guard and interrogators. This is embarrassing for the Pakistani army and a major win for the TTP, which released videos of the situation in the besieged compound.
December 15, 2022: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), Afghan mortar fire into Pakistan killed one civilian and wounded twenty others. This took place near Chaman border crossing and the Afghan town of Spin Boldak in Kandahar province. North of Spin Boldak is Kandahar City, the original "hometown" of the Taliban and capital Kandahar province. The Chaman border crossing, the second busiest road crossing in Afghanistan. Chaman is on the main road between Quetta (capital of Baluchistan) and the capital of Kandahar province in Afghanistan. This road carries vital supplies for the Afghan drug gangs, including chemicals necessary for converting opium into heroin. These are smuggled in by truck, often with the cooperation of bribes for border guards.
A lot of this border violence is caused by Afghan-Pakistani border disputes. The official birder was originally based on the “Durand Line.” This was an impromptu, 1893 era invention of British colonial authorities and was always considered temporary, or at least negotiable, by locals. The need for renegotiation was mainly about how the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to demand adjustments to the Durand Line, and fight to obtain what they want. Recent Pakistani efforts to build more fences and other structures on their side of the border was an attempt to make the Durand line permanent and no longer negotiable. Pakistan has built a fence along most of the Durand line. Afghan forces fire on the fence construction operation in some areas
December 13, 2022: General Asim Munir, the new commander of the Pakistan military, has ordered a major military campaign along the Afghan border to halt the movement of hostile gunmen, especially members of the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Another target is the smugglers transporting weapons or drugs into Pakistan. The Pakistani troops will also go after armed Afghans operating near the key border crossings.
December 11, 2022: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) mortar fire from Afghanistan (near the Chaman border crossing from Afghanistan) killed seven Pakistani civilians and an Afghan gunman were killed. The mortar shells were fired from Afghanistan (Kandahar province) near Spin Boldak. Pakistan closed the Chaman crossing for two days to ensure that more such attacks were not planned. Chaman is the second busiest crossing for truck traffic between the two countries. The busiest crossing is Torkham in northeast Pakistan that uses the ancient Khyber Pass caravan route (which is now a modern highway). The military and ISI have been responsible for government financial problems and the poor state of the economy. In the last few years, the military sought to take more complete control of parliament and the government. This backfired and pressure on the military will increase in 2023.
December 2, 2022: In the Afghan capital Kabul someone fired on the Pakistani embassy. A Pakistani security guard was wounded. The attackers were apparently a two-man sniper team attempting to kill a senior Pakistani diplomat. Later ISK (Islamic State Khorasan) took credit for the failed attack. ISK was formed in Afghanistan during 2015, with the help of ISIL leadership in Syria, to handle ISIL activity throughout the region (Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and India). ISK found they were most effective if they confined their operations to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which they have been doing since 2019. The new IEA government (since mid-2021) is still trying, and still failing, to get official recognition that it is the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Most nations consider the IEA a Pakistan-backed Islamic terror group that took control of the government with the additional help of Afghan drug cartels. ISK has become more active in Afghanistan and Pakistan since the IEA took over.
November 29, 2022: India and China see opportunities in the new Russia-Iran alliance. Because of the alliance Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan are nervous because they are, after Ukraine, according to Vladimir Putin, on the list of former Soviet territories that need to be reunited with Greater Russia. That would be difficult because these three states have growing economic ties with China and diplomatic ties with India. China and India told Russia that the Ukraine War was counterproductive and bad for the Russian economy and armed forces. Putin refused to heed that advice from China and similar criticism from India. The Central Asian states oppose the war in Ukraine and agree with China and India. This provides more economic opportunities in Central Asia, where China was already displacing Russia as the major trading partner. The Central Asian nations have also seen an influx of many (hundreds of thousands) Russians fleeing the mobilization of men to fight in Ukraine and do it with little or no training, inadequate equipment and inept or absent unit leadership. These exiles brough billions of dollars with them, which they deposited in local banks. Much of that money was used to start new businesses in these former parts of the Soviet Union. The local economies prospered from these investments and some of the host nations predict significant GDP growth because. Many of these young and well-educated Russians seem ready to settle in their new countries, at least until Russia ends the war and the growing police state atmosphere. Finally, Russia needs to get out from under all those sanctions.
November 23, 2022: The Afghan IEA is having problems on the Iranian and Pakistani borders because of disputes over exactly where the border should be, or because of Iranian efforts to block Afghan drug smugglers, or because of Pakistani efforts to go after TTP operations on the Afghan side of the border. The IEA is negotiating with Iran and Pakistan in an effort to find solutions. This is difficult because the IEA budget problems mean not enough security personnel to police the borders. Pakistan and Iran are willing to use their own security personnel to police the borders. The only problem here is that Iran and Pakistan border guards are less likely to fully appreciate Afghan complaints.
November 22, 2022: China is maintaining a relationship with the new Taliban IEA government in Afghanistan. Most nations are staying away. With the recent permanent closure of the Czech embassy there are fifteen left in Kabul. This includes embassies for China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE (United Arab Emirates). The EU (European Union) has a delegation in Kabul and Qatar hosts a few American diplomats who look after U.S. interests in Afghanistan. There are several other international organizations that maintain offices in Kabul to explore economic opportunities. IEA extends embassy-level protection to these delegations. No one has actually recognized the IEA as the legitimate government of Afghanistan but the IEA does control Kabul and has varying amounts of control throughout Afghanistan. The IEA would like China to invest in the many untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan.
November 20, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) IEA security forces across the border in Paktika province exchanged fire with Pakistani troops when the Afghans crossed the border to build a border post in Pakistan’s. The gunfire took place in the Kurram district of the province, which is where many of these border disputes occur.
November 13, 2022: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Pakistan closed the Chaman border crossing between the Afghan Kandahar province and Pakistan Baluchistan province. There was a gunbattle at the crossing when several men from Afghanistan opened fire on Pakistani border guards. One Pakistani was killed and two wounded while all three of the attackers died. The dead men were believed to be TTP members.