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India-Pakistan: Pushtun Power Prevails
   
December 13, 2006: In Pakistan, the seven tribal agencies, including North and South Waziristan, along the Afghan border, are unmistakably the base of the Taliban, and Islamic terrorists like al Qaeda. That's because the Islamic militants are allowing foreign journalists to enter the area, and interview Taliban fighters about their exploits across the border in Afghanistan. The Afghans, and NATO, know from captured Taliban that the bases in Pakistan exist. Pakistan has denied all this, but in the face of so much evidence, now proposes that both countries try to hold councils ("jirgas") with the Pushtun tribes on both sides of the border. These meetings would strive to gather support for a war against the Islamic militants among the Pushtuns.  The problem here is that the militants are a major force among the Pushtun trines, and the Pushtuns are inclined to tolerate the militants, rather than engage in a civil war with them. While on the Afghan side of the border, you have Pushtuns in senior government positions (including president Karzai), who can cut deals with the Pushtun tribes (who are 40 percent of Afghanistans population), the Pakistani government has far fewer Pushtuns, because Pushtuns are less than ten percent of the Pakistani population. Moreover, the tribal agencies have been free of outside control for centuries, and it may take outside control to root out the terrorist groups based there. Pakistan does not want to go to war with the Pushtun tribes.

In central India, over two hundred armed Maoists attacked a refugee camp. Four policemen were killed, but the attack was repulsed. The Maoists are trying to terrorize the tribal peoples taking refuge in the camps. Maoist violence has been in heavy in Chhattisgarh state, where the attacked camp is located, and  has left over 400 people dead this year, most of them civilians. The Marxists insist they are seeking to liberate the tribesmen from oppression, but the tribesmen who refuse this help are threatened, and sometimes killed, by the communist militants.  

December 12, 2006: . Pakistan concedes that there are still about 200 foreign Islamic militants living in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, but points out that this is about a quarter of the number that were there two years ago. Pakistan denies that the Taliban are running many areas along the border, although there is growing evidence to the contrary. 

December 11, 2006: India and Pakistan have restored full seagoing shipping services for the first time in thirty years. Ships and sailors from both countries can now freely access each other ports. Back in the 1970s, as a result of the India-Pakistan war that created Bangladesh (out of Eastern Pakistan), many normal forms of communication between India and Pakistan were cut. The bitterness of that defeat has declined in Pakistan, and one, by one, the many ways the two countries parted, are being restored. Kashmir still remains a serious issue, but foreigners tend to forget that there were many others, like port access, that are being resolved.

December 7, 2006: Pakistan still has 80,000 troops along the Afghan border, but they stay out of the way of the armed tribesmen that surround them. In the past two years, the army was more aggressive, engaging in 80 battles with the tribesmen, and suffering 600 dead. But now there's a truce, and the tribesmen can do as they wish, as long as they don't attack the soldiers.

 


  
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