September 2, 2011: Pakistan and the U.S. have been unable to agree on what either side can, or will, do to halt terrorist operations in Pakistan along the Afghan and Indian borders. The U.S. is also reluctant to confront the basic problem in Pakistan; a military caste that grows rich off its control of a large chunk of the economy and national budget. The Pakistani generals maintain this lucrative arrangement by sustaining the image of Hindu India threatening to invade and conquer Moslem Pakistan. This was never a real threat, and has become less so with every passing year. But the military leadership has become a multi-generational dynasty that will use force to protect its assets and privileges. But the Pakistani military has to worry about the growing number of Pakistanis who realize what is going on, and are trying to make the military a servant of the state, not the other way around. This is not a unique situation, but making the change is often a violent process.
The terrorist sanctuary of North Waziristan in Pakistan is the source of much friction between the U.S. and Pakistan (or, more precisely, the Pakistani military.) The Pakistani generals will not attack Islamic terrorists that cooperate with them, and is desperate to halt American UAV attacks on pro-Pakistani Islamic terrorist leaders. The Pakistani generals cannot openly admit this situation, but it’s widely understood in Pakistan. The generals have managed to make the American UAV attacks a nationalism issue, and backing any political groups that call loudly for the UAV attacks to halt.
Despite repeated Pakistani declarations that the Taliban, and other Islamic groups, have been driven from most (except North Waziristan) of the tribal territories, some of the Islamic terrorists remain, quietly, and are still in business. Driving out these stealthy terrorists is proving to be a much harder chore.
The fatal violence continues in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. Over a thousand have died from it so far this year. The fighting is mainly between political parties. There are three major parties in Pakistan, and Karachi has long been the scene of bitter, and now very violent, turf battles. The violence is aided and abetted by criminal gangs and Islamic radical groups (including the Taliban.) There is also an ethnic and religious element, which only makes it more difficult to halt the violence. Karachi is not just a source of votes, but of cash. It is a very wealthy city, producing a disproportionate share of the national GDP. It is a rich prize, one worth dying for, at least if you are an ambitious politician.
India revealed that, on July 22nd, one of its navy ships, while 80 kilometers off the coast of Vietnam, received a radio message, from an unseen source, warning that the Indians were entering Chinese waters. The sender identified himself as Chinese. The Indian captain ignored the message and continued. China claims most of the South China Sea as Chinese waters. This is in violation of several international treaties, but the Chinese keep insisting. Meanwhile, India revealed that, four months ago, a Chinese electronic reconnaissance ship, disguised as a fishing trawler, was spotted off the Andaman islands, monitoring Indian military activities.
The Chief of Staff of the Indian Army (General V K Singh) has caused a stir over the last few weeks by criticizing politicians for being weak when it came to Kashmir. General Singh also praised recent efforts by anti-corruption groups to compel the legislature to pass strong anti-corruption laws (which have been long promised, but somehow never seem to get passed.) Corruption is a hot topic for politicians, since all sorts of extortion, influence peddling and such are used by political parties to raise money for campaigning to get elected. Cracking down hard on corruption would force politicians to seek other forms of financing.
The Indian campaign against Maoist rebels is having some effect. In the first seven months of this year, incidents of Maoist violence were down 32 percent, and Maoist related deaths were down 44 percent. For over a year, more than 100,000 additional police have been trying to shut down Maoist groups in eastern India. The Maoists have proved hard to find, but all those patrols and raids have put the Maoists on the defensive, thus the decline in Maoist attacks. Moreover, the government admits that it will take 5-10 years to crush the Maoist movement. A lot of the police activity is mundane, like protecting road building projects. The Maoists attack road builders, because the roads make it easier for the police to reach remote Maoist camps.
August 31, 2011: In
Quetta, Pakistan (the capital of Baluchistan province in the southwest), a bomb went off near a Shia mosque, killing eleven. The bomber was apparently prevented from getting to the mosque. Most Islamic terror groups in Pakistan are Sunni, which means they consider Shia Moslems heretics, and the penalty for heresy is death.
On the Kashmir border, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire across the border, leaving three Pakistanis dead and one Indian soldier wounded. Both sides blamed the other. Historically, the Pakistanis most frequently are at fault in these cases.
August 30, 2011: Pakistan is attempting to outlaw the use of Internet encryption software, to prevent terrorists and criminals from using it to hide their communications. The problem is that the majority of encryption users are businesses, using it for legitimate purposes. Thus the Pakistani effort appears doomed from the start. But counter-terror experts in other countries (which have the same problem) are watching the Pakistani effort with interest.
August 28, 2011: The U.S. revealed that CIA UAVs, operating in the Pakistani tribal territories, had killed the number-two man in al Qaeda,
Atiyah Abd al Rahman, on the 22nd. The announcement was delayed until Rahman’s death could be confirmed. It is believed that the capture of documents, during the May 2nd American raid in Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden, led to locating Rahman. The captured documents also confirmed suspicion about Pakistani support for Islamic radical groups. This data is being used to quietly persuade the Pakistani government to control their military, and its support for terrorist groups.
August 27, 2011: Several hundred Taliban gunmen crossed the border from their bases in Afghanistan, and attacked seven Pakistani border posts. Two border posts were captured and two dozen defenders (soldiers and police) were killed. The Pakistani Army has driven the most troublesome (to the Pakistani government) Pakistani Taliban groups into Afghanistan. There, the Taliban are seeking to intimidate border guard forces into allowing the Taliban to move back and forth freely. Similar attacks have been made earlier this year, and Afghanistan has responded with attempts to find and destroy the Taliban bases. Meanwhile, the Pakistani forces have fired artillery into Afghanistan, at where they believed the Taliban bases. This has caused some tense confrontations between the two countries.
In Pakistan, a court ordered former dictator
Pervez Musharraf’s assets to be frozen, as part of an investigation of his decade of rule after he took control in 1999. This sort of thing is fairly normal. In the past, one former military dictator was even executed.
August 25, 2011: A terrorist bomb went off in a restaurant near the Pakistani town of
Risalpur (home of several military schools), which is in the tribal territories.
An American aid official, kidnapped on the 12th, was located and freed by a Pakistani police raid.