February 19, 2012: A long-banned anti-American group "The Defense of Pakistan Council" has been revived. The group has been holding large anti-American demonstrations. This is apparently in response to U.S. threats to halt the billions of dollars in economic and military aid for Pakistan. Many Pakistanis are angered by this threat and are responding with hostility. But the big change in Pakistan is the enormous shift in attitude against the army and intelligence services (ISI). This has been growing for years but last year's American raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden changed everything. The revelations that bin Laden had been living in a military town for years, despite constant army insistence that they did not know where bin Laden was, seriously damaged the reputation of the military. Years of growing hostility against military lies and corruption now had convincing confirmation. The generals and spymasters were on the defensive. The Supreme Court, which had long backed the coups and tolerated the corruption and illegal behavior of the army and ISI, has stopped ignoring the bad behavior. Some generals urged the army to take over the government again but the army and ISI leadership feared even more backlash. It's not that the army might change their minds in the future but for the moment the army and ISI are on the defensive. The courts are forcing the generals and intel officials to defend bad behavior. Civilian leaders are also feeling the heat. The Supreme Court has revived corruption charges against the current president. Corruption is widespread among politicians and senior military officers. Corruption has long been a popular complaint of voters, politicians, and the media. But now something is being done about it and everyone is waiting to see how effectively all those powerful and corrupt officials will push back. They will push back, they always do, and often they win.
India is protesting China's resumption of arresting Tibetans who visit Tibetan Buddhist clerics in India. The arrested Tibetans are being sent to "re-education camps." This is a form of imprisonment meant to coerce Tibetans to stop visiting India, where many Tibetan nationalists have lived in exile since the 1950s (when Chine invaded and declared independent Tibet a part of China).
While Pakistan devotes a lot of effort to dealing with Islamic terrorism and radicalism, there is actually a larger problem with religious, political, and ethnic extremism. Last year there were 181 incidents of this kind of violence, which left 534 dead and 1,391 wounded. Most of this violence takes place outside the tribal territories, mainly in Karachi (the largest city in Pakistan). This violence has gotten worse in the last decade as Islamic radicalism has become more popular.
In Pakistan's tribal territories (Khyber) a remote control bomb killed eight, the target being pro-government militia. The Taliban uses terror to intimidate or dominate these local militias.
February 18, 2012: In northwest Pakistan a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in the town of Parachinar, killing over 30 people. Elsewhere in the tribal territories (Khyber and Orakzai) 17 Taliban and six soldiers died in several incidents.
February 17, 2012: President Zardari denied that the military had supported Islamic terrorists and the Taliban for more than a decade. But Zardari did admit that some individual Pakistanis, some of them in the military, probably worked with these terrorist groups. This is a big shift, although it has long been common knowledge with most Pakistanis that the army and intelligence agencies have long supported Islamic terror groups.
Pakistani and Afghan officials met to discuss ways to encourage the Afghan Taliban to accept a negotiated peace. The Pakistanis told the Afghans that the Taliban are not likely to accept a negotiated peace. Afghan president Karzai, who was there, accused Pakistan of backing the Taliban. Pakistan continues to deny this, despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
In Pakistan's tribal territories (Khyber) troops and gunships attacked two Taliban hideouts, killing five of the terrorists and wounding eight. Later in the day a Taliban roadside bomb killed five police. Later still, a large group of Taliban battled police and soldiers, leaving 17 Taliban dead along with one soldier and three pro-government tribesmen.
February 15, 2012: Afghanistan ordered soldiers with families in Pakistan to either move their family to Afghanistan or leave the army. This is one of several new policies intended to reduce the number of pro-Taliban soldiers in the army. This would force over 3,000 soldiers to choose. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is occupied by Pushtun tribes. This frontier, still called the “Durand Line” (an impromptu, pre-independence invention of British colonial authorities) was always considered artificial by locals because the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to accept the Durand Line and fight to maintain it. The Pakistanis believe absolute control of the border is impossible and that attempts to stop illegal crossings cause additional trouble (as tribesmen do not like excessive attention at border crossing posts). The majority of Pakistani politicians just want to ignore the tribal areas. Most Pakistanis have more immediate problems than the threat of terrorists in the back country. Jobs, inflation, and power blackouts (because of a shortage of power plants) are seen as larger problems than tribal unrest. But the tribal violence is always there and becomes a national issue when it spills over into the more heavily populated lowland areas (Punjab and Sind).
February 14, 2012: Pakistan has allowed NATO to ship some perishable food products to Afghanistan. This mainly aids Pakistani farmers and shipping companies. The U.S. is threatening to halt economic aid to Pakistan if the three month border blockade is not lifted.
India and Pakistan have agreed to dismantle many decades-old barriers to trade between the two countries.
February 13, 2012: Indian police are seeking those responsible for an unsuccessful bomb attack on Israeli diplomats in the capital. There was a similar attack in Georgia and five Iranian men were later caught building bombs in Thailand. The immediate suspect for the Indian attack was Iran, which has long called for the destruction of Israel, and accuses Israel of sending assassins to kill nuclear weapons scientists inside Iran.
In Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) a roadside bomb intended for a police vehicle instead went off and killed two twelve year old boys. There is growing terrorist violence in Baluchistan, as tribal nationalists recruit more Baluchis to use violence in an effort to get more autonomy, and money, for Baluchistan.
February 11, 2012: The head of the Haqqani Network (based in North Waziristan) confirmed that there was a ceasefire deal with Pakistani security forces. This has been put into writing, with the distribution of a pamphlet urging Islamic terror groups to honor the deal. Since last October there have been reports that the Afghan Taliban were negotiating with their Pakistani counterparts to achieve some kind of unified effort against "foreign (NATO) invaders" in Afghanistan. In Pakistan there was talk of a deal where the many feuding factions of the Pakistani Taliban would unite to enforce a truce in Pakistan (no more attacks against the government or civilians) and send fighters into Afghanistan. The Pakistani military was expected to halt operations against the Taliban to make this work. Actually, the Pakistani military has halted most operations against the Taliban, only going after those who have been attacking soldiers. The Pakistani military would go along with such a deal, even if they denied it officially, but only if the terror attacks in Pakistan stopped. This would be difficult, as there are dozens of separate Islamic terror groups in Pakistan and getting them all to agree on anything has proved impossible in the past. The Haqqani leaders are complaining about how difficult it is to get the many Islamic terror groups to abide by the ceasefire deal. Haqqani also confirmed that the main purpose of the ceasefire was to provide aid for the beleaguered Afghan Taliban forces.
In Indian Kashmir there were demonstrations to protest the earlier shooting of a civilian by a soldier. The army said it was an accident, with the loaded weapon going off unintentionally. Thousands of troops and police man road blocks and conduct patrols every day in Kashmir, most of them armed with loaded assault rifles.
February 10, 2012: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Kurram) army operations left 11 Islamic terrorists dead and 19 wounded. Most of these casualties were the result of artillery fire and helicopter gunships.
In eastern India (Orissa) Maoists ambushed and killed four policemen.
February 9, 2012: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) Maoists ambushed and killed a policeman.
In Pakistani tribal territories a CIA UAV used a missile to kill a senior Pakistani al Qaeda leader and three other terrorists. The al Qaeda leader was believed responsible for many attacks in Karachi, the largest and most violent, city in Pakistan.