In the Pakistani capital a couple returned from vacation last week to find their home had been broken into and the only things taken were their two PCs and some travel documents. The couple suspected the ISI (military intelligence) because the two of them had been active online criticizing the military for the continued violence against India and the Pakistani military supporting Islamic terrorist groups inside Pakistan. This burglary is one of the milder forms of ISI media intimidation. Another Pakistani online critic of the military, who lives in the Netherlands, reports that the ISI has threatened his parents, who still live in Pakistan, with kidnapping and torture if their son does not shut up. The parents sought out the police and courts for protection but received no help. This online critic and his parents continue to defy the ISI. This sort of thing explains why a recent survey found that 88 percent of Pakistani journalists admitted that they “self-censor” to avoid problems with the military (which now prefers to be referred to as “the Institution”.)
Kidnapping and injuring the elderly parents would be risky for the ISI because the UN and many foreign nations are already pressuring the Pakistani military to halt its support for Islamic terrorism against neighbors and police terrorism against critics inside Pakistan. At the same time, the military escalated its use of coercion against “uncooperative” Pakistani mass media. In this case it has been blocking the distribution of the Dawn newspaper since early May because Dawn printed an interview with a former prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) who admitted that the 2008 Islamic terror attacks on India in Mumbai were the work of a Pakistan based Islamic terrorist group that has long, and still does, receive support and sanctuary by the Pakistani military. The military is also trying to suppress news of a recent book by Asad Durrani, a former (1990-92) head of ISI (military intelligence) that was written with a former head of RAW, the Indian equivalent of ISI. These two intel experts compare perspectives and it does not look good for the Pakistani military. Durrani was recently barred from leaving the country for any reason. Durrani and Sharif are but the latest (and among the most senior) Pakistani insiders to go public with details of how the Pakistani military operates. The military wants to minimize the damage these “traitors” inflict on the reputation and credibility of the military. A growing number of Pakistanis believe it is too late for that.
While the Pakistani military is gradually losing its power due to relentless and growing opposition inside Pakistan, the military still controls nuclear weapons. Worse there are a growing number of generals who are true believers in Islamic radicalism (some have even joined Islamic terror groups after retiring). These true believers are a minority in the military leadership but that fact that they exist and the fact that Pakistan was able to build nuclear weapons via corrupt practices (and then secretly offer some of the tech for sale) makes a lot of people inside and outside Pakistan nervous.
Dawn has continued to report on that Sharif interview, the book and the reaction of readers inside Pakistan and worldwide. Details of the 2008 Mumbai attack are well documented and widely accepted worldwide and were included book Dawn gave a lot of attention to. But to discuss this in inside Pakistan can get you into trouble. Sometimes fatal trouble. Dawn is the oldest and most read English language newspaper in Pakistan. The military had suspended distribution of Dawn in areas that the military controls (because of military bases, military operations or because of the military controls much of the local economy.) This sort of thing backfires because the military cannot control the Internet and as the news gets through anyway people are eagerly seeking it out and embrace it. Among those embracing this news are many Pushtuns in the northwest who are openly blaming the military for all the Islamic terrorism and chaos in the Afghan border areas where most Pushtun live.
Taliban Peace Talks
Next door most Afghans want peace but progress in achieving that has been blocked by the drug gangs, Pakistan and some troublesome traditions. Achieving peace requires all the help it can get and most Afghans understand that. For example, on June 4th the Afghan Ulema Council (the top religious authority in the country) met in Kabul. The 2,000 Islamic scholars and senior clerics rarely hold such large meetings but this one was considered urgent because of the continued damage being done by the drug gangs, their Taliban hired guns and the Pakistani support for all this. So the Council issued a fatwah (religious ruling) condemning suicide attacks and supporting peace talks. The council also called for a ceasefire.
This was the first time the council had supported peace talks and since the Council represents all parts of the country its announcements are considered a good gauge of public opinion. Hours after that decision was announced ten ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) terrorists attacked the meeting place. This attack failed but fourteen people were killed and twenty wounded. The Taliban responded by denying any involvement in the attack and accusing those at the meeting of following orders from the Americans. ISIL wanted to send a more emphatic response and employed a very alien (to Afghans) tactic.
The Taliban are not inclined to consider peace talks because of money (from the drug gangs) and sanctuary (in southwest Pakistan, particularly Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province). The existence of sanctuaries in Pakistan are denied by the Pakistani military but it is an open secret in Pakistan that the Pakistan military and its intelligence agency (the ISI, which literally created the Taliban 25 years ago) handles these sanctuaries. In Pakistan, the military is very much above the law and can usually do whatever it wants. That is not a secret because about half the time since Pakistan was created in 1947 the military has openly run the government (after a coup) until popular opposition forced the generals to allow elections again. The Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs is more unpopular than the presence of foreign troops (who at least bring economic benefits, have no interest in staying around forever and oppose, as do most Afghans, the drug gangs). Moreover, terrorism related deaths are overwhelmingly Islamic terrorists (Taliban and ISIL). These men die protecting the drug production that has turned millions of Afghans into addicts and crippled efforts to build the economy and educate the children.
One military success the Pakistani generals take credit for (at least among themselves, definitely not in public) is the unrest they have created in Indian Kashmir. In addition to the border guard violence, Pakistan continues to train and equip Pakistani Islamic terrorists (in camps, guarded by Pakistani troops, near the Indian border) and then help these Islamic terrorists find a time and place along the Kashmir border to sneak into India and carry out terror attacks. A secondary task is to bring cash and advice for local Moslems who want to join the fight. Currently, India believes there are about 250 active Islamic terrorists in Kashmir, most of them local recruits. About a quarter of the Islamic terrorists are from Pakistan. Many more tried to get across the border but Indian border defenses have improved over the years and most of the Pakistani Islamic terrorists trying to cross have never been to Indian Kashmir and don’t know the area as well as local police and Indian forces from other parts of the country who have been in Kashmir for a while. The foreign Islamic terrorists rarely last more than a few years on the Indian side of the border while the local recruits don’t do much better because they are constantly hunted and vulnerable whenever they try to return home to see their families.
A Kashmir peace deal could have been worked out decades ago had not the Pakistani military not decided to use Kashmir as a way to justify their existence and growing wealth. The Pakistani generals are pleased with their progress in Kashmir where violence is up for the third year in a row. So far in 2018 Islamic terrorism related deaths in Kashmir are up about twelve percent from 2017. This scam held up in Pakistan far longer than it did with the Indians but now the Pakistani generals are under growing pressure from most Pakistanis to back off with the overt support of violence in Kashmir. That is not happening and the Pakistani military has responded by seizing more political and government power in Pakistan. This is making Pakistan more unstable. The problem here is that a lot more Indians are willing to risk war, even nuclear war, to halt the Pakistani military and Islamic terror operations in Kashmir (and less successful Islamic terror efforts throughout India.) A growing number of Pakistani allies are warning the Pakistani military that the violent theatrics and posturing in Kashmir are costing Pakistan a lot of credibility and sympathy. So far the Pakistani generals are not making any changes to their Kashmir strategy. Civilians on both sides of the border report that the violence, especially damage to civilian structures, is worse than the 1990s when this border violence last peaked.
The Pakistani military continues to suppress Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistan while increasing it in Afghanistan and India. In 2014, when the Pakistani army finally decided to shut down sanctuaries for Islamic terror groups not under military control, there were 5,496 Islamic terror related deaths in Pakistan and the Pakistani public was enraged at the military. In 2015 that Islamic terror related deaths in Pakistan dropped to 3,682, then to 1,803 in 2016, 1260 in 2017 and so far in 2018 it looks like these deaths will fall to under 600 and possibly even below 500. These are low casualty levels not seen in Pakistan since 2003.
India, with six times as many people, has had terror related deaths under a thousand a year since 2012 and most of those have nothing to do with Islamic terrorism. That trend continues, despite increased Pakistani efforts in Kashmir. India will have more terrorism related deaths but still under a thousand. In 2017, for the first time in many years, India had more fatalities from Islamic terrorism than from leftist rebels in eastern India and tribal separatists in the northeast. That trend has reverted to the traditional one in 2018, with Islamic terror related deaths lower. This is mainly because Islamic terror related deaths will not increase much for 2018 while deaths related to the leftist rebels (Maoists) in eastern India are up (mainly among the Maoists and their civilian victims).
This Pakistani aggression in Kashmir is pushing the two nations towards war, despite the possibility of both sides using nukes. This has brought more pressure on the Pakistani military to behave but so far the Pakistani generals are resisting the popular pressure inside Pakistan for less violence on the Indian border.
Despite the growing popularity (among Moslems) of Islamic radicalism in the last three decades, Moslem majority Bangladesh has been largely free of it. Compared to Pakistan (with a ten percent larger population) Bangladesh still had only six percent as many terrorist deaths as Pakistan during 2017. So far it looks like Bangladeshi terror related deaths will decline even more in 2018, to less than three percent of the Pakistani total and lower than they have been since 2012.
June 28, 2018: In Pakistan Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvim the leader of Islamic terror group ASWJ (Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamaat) was taken off the national terrorist watch list so that he could participate in parliamentary elections in which several candidates identify as ASJW followers. ASWJ has been supporting attacks on Pakistani Shia since the 1990s and this has caused problems with Iran, not to mention the many Pakistanis who are Shia. The government official who authorized taking Ludhianvim off the watch list cannot be identified (everyone with that kind of power says it was someone else). The military is seeking to make it possible for many of the Islamic terror groups it supports to form political parties and run candidates. ASWJ is not known to have military support but ASWJ does have the support of many Sunni Pakistanis.
In Bangladesh police arrested three Islamic terrorists, all members of JMB (Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh). The police received a tip about the three men meeting. The three had no weapons but did possess a lot of Islamic terrorist literature. Most of the current Islamic terrorist violence in Bangladesh can be traced back to JMB, which has been around since 1998 and wants to turn Bangladesh into a religious dictatorship. To that end JMB did establish an alliance with ISIL and is now considered a local ISIL affiliate.
June 27, 2018: In northeast India on the Burmese border, another battle between Indian commandoes and Indian tribal rebels took place three kilometers inside Burma. The Indian rebels belonged to NSCN-K (National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang) and had ambushed an Indian patrol on June 18th, wounding three soldiers before fleeing back into Burma. India has an informal agreement with Burma that when Indian rebels based in Burma inflict casualties on Indian forces and the Burmese cannot get to the rebel camp, Indian commandos will take care of it.
Pakistan is back on the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) “gray list” of countries who are not doing enough to block terrorist groups from using the international banking system to finance their violence. Pakistan was warned in February that this was increasingly likely. Pakistan had been on the gray list from 2012 to 2015 and that was bad for businesses that import or export or need to get loans or sell bonds. After 2015 Pakistan was still on the FATF list but not designated as dangerous. Being on the gray portion of the list makes it more expensive to do business and is very bad for the reputation of Pakistan and Pakistanis. China played a major role in keeping Pakistan off the gray list in February but the odds were against Pakistan staying off the list because it has long been an open secret that Pakistani support for its own pet Islamic terrorists included making it easier for Islamic terrorists, in general, to do business in Pakistan. The United States has been gathering evidence to justify the FATF to put Pakistan back on the gray list (along with Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and Tunisia). FATF meets every three months to consider new evidence to get nations on, or off, the list. Next review is in September and the Americans are continuing to gather more evidence. The U.S. now considers Pakistan a problem in the war against terrorism not a reliable partner. India and Afghanistan share that view as do a growing number of UN members.
June 25, 2018: In southwest Pakistan, on the Iranian border, Iranian troops clashed with a group Sunni Islamic terrorists who were trying to sneak across the border. Three Iranians and three Sunnis (apparently Iranian Baluchi separatists belonging to Jaish al Adl/Army of Justice) were killed and the intruders fled back into Pakistan.
June 24, 2018: In northwest Pakistan gunfire from Afghanistan killed a Pakistani soldier and wounded another in a group who were escorting workers constructing the new 2,500 kilometer long border fence. Many Afghans dispute where Pakistan draws the border and the need for a border fence itself. Construction has been underway for about a year now but the attacks from the Afghan side have been particularly intense (about ten a week) during the last four months. So far Pakistan has lost seven soldiers to these attacks and another 40 wounded. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is still called the “Durand Line.” This was an impromptu, pre-independence 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. Thus 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.
In its defense, Pakistan designed the new fence so that it will create the most problems for smugglers and anyone seeking to cross the border illegally. Pakistan has, with the help of Afghanistan and even American intelligence identified 235 crossing points along the border. Those that are frequently used by Islamic terrorists and drug smugglers are easy to identify as are the 18 crossing points that can be used by most vehicles. The majority of these crossing points are what they are because they enable someone on foot, or using pack animals, to get through areas that are made more difficult to use by the addition of a multi-layer fence line and sensors (real or imagined.)
June 23, 2018: In northwest Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban confirmed the recent death of its leader (Mullah Maulana Fazlullah) and identified its new leader; Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud. Most of the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban have come from the Mehsud tribe, which is largely in South Waziristan. This tribe was instrumental in forming the Pakistani Taliban. In late 2013 an American UAV used a missile to kill Hakimullah Mehsud, the man Mullah Maulana Fazlullah succeeded as head of the Pakistani Taliban. That attack took place in Pakistan (North Waziristan) and in light of the subsequent (2014) Pakistani army offensive into North Waziristan the Pakistani Taliban moved their headquarters across the border into Afghanistan. At the same time, there was a civil war within the Pakistani Taliban over the selection of Fazlullah as leader and strategy in general. Fazlullah proved effective in reuniting the Pakistani Taliban and dispersing its operations after leaving North Waziristan. That worked for a while but because the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban do not get along it was only a matter of time before it became impossible to keep the location of the Pakistani Taliban (and his constantly moving headquarters) a secret.
June 18, 2018: China is calling on India to meet and work out a mutually agreeable solution to their border disputes. China is also calling on Pakistan to do the same with India.
June 13, 2018: In northwest India (Kashmir) the Pakistani firing across the border killed four Indian soldiers and wounded three. This was the worst truce violation so far. Indian officials demanded that their Pakistani counterparts do something to enforce the May 30 truce. Pakistan blamed India for starting it.
In northwest Pakistan, across the border in Afghanistan (Kunar province) an American UAV attack left several Pakistani Taliban dead, including their supreme leader Mullah Maulana Fazlullah. This was according to local sources and everyone was waiting for the Pakistanis to say something. By the 15th the Afghanistan government confirmed it was Fazlullah and the Afghan president called his Pakistani counterpart to give him this news. But the Pakistani government waited until the 20th to announce the confirmation and that they concurred. Apparently, ISI sources in Pakistan had to be checked first. Pakistan expressed appreciation that Fazlullah had been tracked down and killed but did not indicate they would reciprocate and crack down on the sanctuary they maintain (since 2002) in southwest Pakistan (Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan and neat the border of the Afghan Helmand province where most of the world supply of heroin is produced.)
June 10, 2018: In northwest Pakistan, near the Afghan border (Nangarhar province) and the Torkham border crossing Afghan police seized a Pakistani truck that was trying to smuggle nearly eight tons of explosives (Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer) into the country. The Pakistani driver was arrested and his truck, with vegetables covering the 156 bags of Ammonium Nitrate, was seized. Torkham is the main border crossing with Pakistan and where thousands of people and vehicles pass through each day. On the Pakistani side is the Khyber Pass which has always been the easiest way to get from northern Afghanistan to the lowlands (most of Pakistan and all of India) beyond. Normally large bribes would get illegal cargoes like this across the border but since ammonium nitrate is the main ingredient in most Islamic terrorist bombs, sometimes bribes are not enough because many police have lost family to Islamic terror attacks and that sometimes results in border guards refusing to take the money and let the ammonium nitrate through. For a long time ammonium nitrate, a banned fertilizer has been used to make roadside bombs. It takes 3-4 kg (6.6-8.8 pounds) of ammonium nitrate (mixed with some fuel oil) for an average roadside bomb. Pakistani officials have resisted pleas to crack down on the movement of excessive (for Pakistan’s needs) quantities of ammonium nitrate into Pakistan and then, via lots of bribes, into Afghanistan. A lot of the bribes are paid on the Afghan side of the border. In May the governor of Nangarhar province replaced because of the widespread corruption. His replacement was under pressure to reduce the use of bribes for activities that get a lot of Afghan civilians killed. That crackdown has made it more expensive and risky to rely on bribes to get contraband for Islamic terrorists across the border and delivered.
June 6, 2018: Pakistani officials admitted that some elements of the Haqqani Network remain in Pakistan. Since 2015 Pakistan has insisted that Haqqani was gone from Pakistan but as the evidence continues to pile up that Haqqani was still in Pakistan the Pakistani military had to concede that or lose all credibility. Not that they have much left, especially with Afghanistan, India and the United States.
Bangladesh won a victory of sorts when Burma today signed an agreement with the UN to cooperate in expediting the repatriation of over 700,000 Burmese Rohingya driven into Bangladesh by the military and Buddhist vigilante violence. The new agreement between the government and UN is considered unlikely to help Burmese Rohingya Moslem refugees in Bangladesh. It was immediately pointed out that the agreement is about what the UN and government will do, not what they must do according to any set schedule. Moreover, China continues to use its veto to block any meaningful UN action against Burma over the Rohingya issue.
In the meantime at least 8,000 more Burmese Rohingya Moslems have fled to Bangladesh in 2018. The 700,000 Burmese refugees in Bangladesh are stuck there for what appears to be an extended period. The Burmese government insists that only validated Burmese residents will be allowed back and the verification process is stalled with only about a thousand Rohingya “verified” as Burmese. The UN agreement is unlikely to change that because the Burmese, with some justification, are insisting on documentation from refugees and many have not got it. Burma was approving less than ten percent of the names Bangladesh presents as authentic Burmese Rohingya and that may be increased to appease the UN but even then that does not guarantee that the refugee will return. The repatriation back to Burma of was supposed to begin in January 2018 but continued army violence against Rohingya still in Burma made that impossible. Added to that were the administrative problems and so much more. Those Rohingya going back must do so voluntarily and the refugees know what is going on in their former neighborhoods. That’s because Rohingya willing to go back want to return to their homes and property. If their home was destroyed (as many were during the military violence) the returnees want an opportunity to rebuild and for the government to supply money and supplies to make that possible. That would be difficult because in many of the areas Rohingya fled from local officials have treated the former Rohingya property as “abandoned” and available or resale and reuse. The UN can demand that the government do something about that and the government can refer the disputes to Burmese courts where each claim must be litigated.
The Burmese government is under no binding obligation to expedite this repatriation process. Rohingya refugees are aware of this and will not return until the government clears up the property ownership issues. That happening is considered an impossible dream by all concerned. As a result, many Rohingya refugees are seeking new homelands. Bangladesh is not considered a good candidate because the country is already crowded and poor and long the source of illegal migrants to other nations. At the moment Moslem refugees are a hard sell, even in Moslem countries. No one is willing to take a lot of Rohingya and Bangladesh does not like being stuck with these large refugee camps near the Burmese border. Because the Rohingya are Moslem most Moslem nations have been quick to condemn Burma and urge international efforts to force Burma to take back the Rohingya.
June 1, 2018: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) Islamic terror group Hizbul Ahrar took credit for the attack on a senior provincial official. The attack, using guns, killed the official and wounded three bodyguards. Hizbul Ahrar is a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan has ordered two more Type 54A frigates from China. These 4,000 ton ships have been in use since 2006 and have been very successful. Pakistan already has two on order and now will have four of them by 2021. This order makes 32 Type 54s on order or in service (mostly with the Chinese Navy).
May 30, 2018: In northeast Pakistan (Kashmir) the army and its Indian counterpart agreed to a truce along the Line Of Control (the unofficial border separating Pakistani and Indian Kashmir since 1948). This is actually a restoration of the 2003 truce, which Pakistan has broken repeatedly whenever it needed to generate some news of “Indian Aggression”. India would nearly always fire back and that enabled Pakistan to claim that India fired first. Independent observers noted that it was always the Pakistanis who fired first. Recently Indian has been making convincing threats of eliminating the problem by eliminating the Line Of Control by invading Pakistani Kashmir and eliminating the Islamic terrorist bases Pakistan has long maintained there. Pakistan reminded India that both nations had nukes and India didn’t flinch. So now restoring the 2003 ceasefire is something Pakistan will agree to. According to India there have been more than 800 cease-fire violations this year, all started by Pakistan. This aggression has left 25 civilians and 18 soldiers dead so far in 2018. Pakistan claims there were over a thousand cease-fire violations this year, all the fault of India that left 28 civilians dead and 117 wounded. Pakistan does not want to reveal its military losses. The new truce did not last long. Within three days there was the first incident of Pakistani troops firing across the border. Soon the violence escalated although not yet to pre-truce levels.
In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) someone used a roadside bomb to attack an army vehicle, killing two soldiers and wounding two others.