January 3, 2008: The rioting in
Pakistan, following the assassination of presidential candidate Benazir Bhutto,
has died down, leaving about sixty dead. India has taken its border troops off
alert, as there has been no flood of refugees. The Pakistani elections,
scheduled for January 8th,
have been delayed a month. The government has photos of the assassins,
and is offering a huge reward ($164,000) for information about their identity.
Officially, the Taliban and al Qaeda deny carrying out the Bhutto killing, but
the government has many convincing radio intercepts that say otherwise, and the
terrorists are openly pleased about the death of a politician who called for
more effective counter-terror operations. While many blame the government for
killing Bhutto, the terrorists had more to gain by having her gone. Bhutto was the military government's easy way
out of their increasingly unpopular dictatorship. The other major candidate for
president, Nawaz Sharif, has a grudge against the military (which overthrew
him), while Bhutto has been more accommodating.
Meanwhile, the fighting continued in
the pro-Taliban border areas. It's Winter, and the level of violence is lower.
The Taliban are still losing, but because the tribes oppose government presence
under any circumstances, the region is still wide open. Anyone who can muster a
few dozen guys with guns can temporarily take control of a village and declare
anything they want. That ends a day or so later when the army gunships and
infantry show up. Al Qaeda has something of a road show going, moving around to
avoid the army, while stopping time and again to give a few days of instruction
to the locals on how to make bombs, and be a badass terrorist. Recruits are
sought for suicide bomber missions. Life, after a fashion, goes on.
Maoist rebels continue to resist
growing police presence in eastern India. Attacks on police stations, or police
patrols are more frequent, with the death toll averaging more than a dozen a
week. The Maoists are also feuding with other factions of the Communist Party,
and that is increasingly leading to murderous violence. Armed unrest continues in the Moslem northwest
and tribal northeast.