The Pakistani military continues to suppress local Islamic terrorist violence while increasing it in Afghanistan and India. The Afghanistan meddling is relatively risk-free while the violence against India is becoming increasingly dangerous. India has nukes, a much larger economy and a vibrant democracy that is demanding action against the Pakistani attacks.
Both Pakistan and India has about the same number of deaths in 2018 from rebels and Islamic terrorists. For both countries, it was just under a thousand such deaths. That is good news for Pakistan, which has greatly reduced their losses from local Islamic terrorist violence since 2014. India has seen deaths increase over the last few years as Pakistan increased its attacks on Indian border guards (and any civilians in the immediate vicinity) along with sending more Pakistani based Islamic terrorists into Kashmir and encouraging more local violence there. Thus deaths in Kashmir were about 450 in 2018, up a bit from 2017 and because of increased Pakistani activity not likely to decline. Meanwhile, the usual causes of deaths for India, leftist rebels in eastern India and tribal separatists in the northeast, continue to decline.
In 2014, when the Pakistani army finally decided to shut down sanctuaries for Islamic terror groups not under military control (like the ones in Pakistani Kashmir), there were 5,496 Islamic terror-related deaths in Pakistan and the Pakistani public was enraged at the military over this. In 2015 that Islamic terror-related deaths in Pakistan dropped to 3,682, then to 1,803 in 2016, 1260 in 2017 and throughout 2018 it looked like these deaths would fall under a thousand and they did just that. These are low casualty levels not seen in Pakistan since 2003. The military is under a lot of pressure to keep it that way.
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. For 2018 India had more terror-related deaths but the overall total was 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. But if you added deaths from tribal separatists in the northeast the Islamic terrorism only accounted for 45 percent of deaths. 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).
The big difference between the Kashmir casualties compared to everything else (communist rebels in eastern India and the tribal separatists in the northeast) is that only the Kashmir Islamic terrorists have outside help. Pakistan has been supporting violence in Kashmir for over 60 years and added Islamic terrorism support in the 1980s. That failed to make much difference but it did ruin the Kashmir economy and Pakistan continued to get enough Islamic terrorists (recruited and trained in Pakistan) across the LOC (Line of Control) into Indian Kashmir to keep the area “dangerous” for tourists or investment.
Then Pakistan realized that a new generation of Kashmiri Moslems had access to the Internet and Pakistan created a local fan (of Pakistan ruling Kashmir rather than India) that eventually achieved celebrity status. When this young guy ( Burhan Wani) got himself killed in 2016 he was elevated to martyr status and suddenly making the street violence a regular thing and Islamic terrorism fashionable once more. At that point, economic recovery became even less likely and casualties increased. For the first time in many years, local recruits for Islamic terror groups were higher than those able to get across the LOC from Pakistan. In the last decade, Indian border security has greatly improved but the LOC is largely in rugged terrain that is thinly populated. So it is not certain death to make the crossing. But with a larger number of active Islamic terrorists on the Indian side of the LOC, those getting across from Pakistan have a longer life expectancy. This means more Islamic terrorist violence in Kashmir. While the Islamic terrorists try to confine their attacks to the security forces there are still civilian bystanders getting killed and with more Islamic terrorists active there is more opportunity to murder locals who support the government and don’t want to be part of Pakistan.
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. The Pakistani generals see Kashmir as a victory for Pakistan, but one that Pakistan cannot take proper credit for because supporting Islamic terrorism and sending those Islamic terrorists into India (and Afghanistan) is a violation of international law. While the Pakistani military denies culpability the evidence has piled up to the extent that most of the world is convinced that the Pakistani military is, indeed, violating international norms and supporting Islamic terrorism.
Elsewhere in Pakistan there is growing violence from separatists in Baluchistan and Moslem on Moslem violence because of perceived religious or ethnic differences that somehow warrant resorting to murder. For the government, the Baluchistan separatism violence is seen as the most threatening. That’s because most of the current Chinese economic activity is in Baluchistan and China does not tolerate that sort of violence against its people. As Pakistan grows more dependent on China it must more promptly tend to Chinese complaints.
Pakistan finds itself caught in a system of contradictory obligations. Pakistan has long depended on large cash “donations” or loans from wealthy Gulf Arab oil states to keep the Pakistani economy from collapsing. The Arabs always expected something in return and one of those things was diplomatic and, less frequently, military support. The Arabs, at least Saudi Arabia (the main contributor of cash) also initially (in the 1980s) expected Pakistan to welcome Saudi religious charities that built new mosques and religious schools. The Saudis also sent clerics and teachers for the religious schools. This came in handy when Pakistan agreed to host millions of Afghan refugees during the 1980s when the Russians were seeking to conquer Afghanistan. The Saudis paid for taking care of the refugees and arming the men among the refugees who regularly went back into Afghanistan to attack the Russians for a while, then retreat to the Pakistan refugee camps. The Russians threatened Pakistan over this but Pakistan had the Americans blocking these Russian threats while the Saudis kept the refugee/guerilla war operations going.
One of the aftereffects of all that was the Taliban and a growing minority of Pakistanis who backed Islamic radicalism and the imposition of religious law, or even a religious government, on Pakistan. This created a civil war that is still underway. The Pakistani military thought they could control and manipulate the Islamic zealots. That proved more difficult than anticipated and while a four year military campaign (starting in 2014) against the local Islamic terrorists (the extremists among the Islamic conservatives the Saudis created) reduced the number of Pakistani Islamic terrorists seeking to replace the current government (a democracy dominated by the military) with a religious dictatorship, those zealots have become a permanent part of Pakistani society. This has caused problems with neighbors like Iran (Pakistani zealots kill Pakistani Shia), China (Pakistani zealots attack Chinese investments and the Chinese running them) and India (Pakistani zealots seek to terrorize India and seize control of Kashmir). These neighbors have become increasingly forceful in their demands that the Pakistani government does something about this. Pakistan placates the Iranians by refusing to provide military assistance to the Arabs in Yemen, or against any Iranian military operation directed at the Gulf Arabs. Now Pakistan has to deal with increasingly angry Arabs who threatened to halt the cash infusions that the Pakistani economy now depends on. The Chinese demand quick and effective action against Pakistan supported Islamic terrorists who threaten Chinese investments. This was one of the reasons for the 2014 campaign against many of the Islamic terror groups operating from Pakistani bases. Pakistan had hoped the Chinese would replace the Arabs as a source of cash support but the Chinese don’t operate that way. China makes investments and does not provide cash like the Arabs and, until recently, the Americans did. The United States has halted all cash support for Pakistan because the Pakistanis would not shut down Islamic terror groups that attacked American interests. Now the Pakistanis know that if the Chinese feel they are being played like the Americans were, the Chinese will not be patient or forgiving. The Americans will no longer be so accommodating and the Iranians never were. India is a nuclear power with a larger army and economy than Pakistan. India is also losing patience and threatening war. Pakistan has to worry about too many past mistakes catching up with them at once.
Poor Pakistani fiscal policy makes it difficult for Pakistan to obtain a large enough bailout from the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Other lenders (Gulf Arabs and China) are the only alternative. Pakistan had already received pledges from its usual lenders (Arab oil states) but Pakistan continues to need more of this bailout cash. Because of that China had conditions attached to its loan and Pakistan is still trying to get billions from the IMF but that will only happen if Pakistan does something about the corruption and deficit spending that is causing the chronic cash shortage. The IMF also wants Pakistan to sell (privatize) the money losing national steel company and the national airline. Both are politically important because they provide lots of jobs for government supporters and are a source of cash for corrupt deals. Another corrupt practice is tolerating the wealthiest people to avoid paying taxes. Only one percent of the population pays taxes and few of the local rich do so. Another major source of tax dodgers is military leaders who receive a lot of tainted (from corrupt deals) money. The military spending will increase because the Americans have halted all military aid. The IMF also notes that some of the major loan deals with China have terms that were never made public and even the IMF is unable to find out what is going on there.
The main cause of these frequent appeals to the IMF is by now widely accepted; the Pakistani military gets too much of the government budget. The American decision to cut military aid to Pakistan was a big deal because since about 2005 that aid has accounted for nearly 20 percent of the Pakistani defense budget. The U.S. aid has declined since 2010 (when it was $2 billion) but was still significant because the current annual Pakistani defense budget is nearly $9 billion. So an extra billion or so from the Americans makes a difference. While Pakistan can turn to China or Russia for all its weapons needs it won’t have access to the best nor will it get any gifts. China and Russia expect to be paid for military goods. Meanwhile, the Pakistani army gets 47 percent of the defense budget, the air force 20 percent and the Navy 11 percent. The American aid was free, not a loan. The Arab and Chinese are offering loans, not gifts and this has put much more pressure on Pakistan to change is corrupt and wasteful economic policies.
Pakistan talks about the “Indian Threat” and in terms of numbers, there is an Indian threat because India spends nearly $60 billion a year on defense, the fifth largest defense budget on the planet (behind the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia). Pakistan barely makes the top 20. Indian spending is 3.3 percent of GDP while Pakistan is 2.7 percent. In 2016 Pakistan boosted defense spending 15 percent but was unable to sustain that growth rate. For the last five years, Pakistan has, on average, increased its defense spending about 10 percent a year. Neighboring India spends more than five times as much. China’s defense spending ($215 billion) is the largest in the region and second largest in the world. Defense spending in South Asia has risen nearly 50 percent since 2001. The large portion of Pakistani government spending going to the military is under growing criticism inside Pakistan, mainly because Pakistan lags way behind India and China when it comes to spending on education, infrastructure and public health.
The Pakistani government tries to justify the high defense spending by pointing out that since 2011 Pakistan has suffered $57 billion in economic losses because of Islamic terrorism. That is tragic but the neighbors (and the United States) point out that those losses are largely because Pakistan has supported Islamic terrorists since the 1970s and continues to do so even though many Islamic terror groups have declared war on Pakistan. The IMF is well aware of all this and Pakistani Finance Ministry officials cannot expect much help (unless you count the usual threats) from the military in persuading the IMF to look the other way and bail out the profligate Pakistani military once more. The Pakistani military is particularly unhelpful when it is pointed out that substantial Pakistani economic opportunities have been banned by the military for no good reason. Case in point is allowing free trade with India and Indian access, via Pakistan, to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The access fees would generate huge income for Pakistan but the Pakistani generals will not allow it because the main justification for the huge Pakistani military budget is the imaginary Indian threat.
January 22, 2019: In Pakistan, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) transferred $3 billion to help Pakistan deal with another financial crisis. Late last year Saudi Arabia loaned Pakistan the same amount and also deferred another $3 billion worth of payments for oil. In November 2018 China agreed to provide a $6 billion loan to Pakistan to help avert an economic crisis there. Pakistan is resisting painful reforms and trying to get loans to put off the eventual reckoning.
January 21, 2019: In Pakistan (Karachi), Alamzeb Mehsud, a local PTM (Pashtun Tahafuz Movement or Pashtun Protection Movement) leader was arrested for encouraging his followers’ stage violent demonstrations. Mehsud was only detained for a few days. Normally the PTM is non-violent but in Karachi things are different. Karachi is the largest (15 million) city in the country and because of pervasive nationwide tax evasion the source of two-thirds of government revenue. This is because the Karachi economy has many commercial operations that can be taxed. Karachi is also very violent, but not as much as it was before a 2013 crackdown. That forced most of the violent organizations to be more discreet and while the city now appears less violent, it isn’t as peaceful as it seems to those passing through. So PTM activities that would be peaceful back in the tribal territories (where most Pushtuns live) it is different in Karachi.
The PTM is mainly about the Pakistani Pushtuns uniting to oppose the mistreatment of Pushtuns in general. For example in early 2018 PTM went public with complaints that the security forces (controlled by the military) were kidnapping PTM leaders. This is a typical military intimidation tactic. The kidnappings did not escalate to murder but the PTM leaders taken were interrogated, threatened, beaten and released. At that point, the military began to realize the PTM was not a threat and might be a useful ally in the tribal territories. PTM feared their leaders would start to disappear and at that point, things could get violent. The Pakistani military was aware of that as well and has always been reluctant to play rough with Pushtuns who have a reputation for pushing back even harder. PTM was actually a growing Pushtun nationalist movement in Pakistan that seeks peaceful resolution of issues. Now the Pakistani military if officially agreeing with the PTM and expressed a willingness to cooperate. That could get complicated as the Pakistani military is dominated by non-Pushtuns who are not in the habit of paying attention to what Pushtuns want. For example, many Pushtun families hold the army responsible for killing one of their kin or stealing family property. A lot of Pushtuns have complaints like this that the army would rather not deal with.
January 18, 2019: India reported that Pakistani border (and ceasefire) violations in the northwest (Kashmir) had doubled in 2018 (compared to 2017) and were the highest in the last ten years. The Pakistani violence on the LoC (Line of Control) that serves as the border left 38 Kashmiri civilians and 257 Islamic terrorists (infiltrators from Pakistan) dead as a result of 614 incidents. Most of the violence did not involve casualties. On the LoC, there were 2,140 ceasefire violations on the LoC in 2018, up from 971 in 2017 and 449 in 2016. The 2018 violations led to 30 Indian civilians killed along with 20 military personnel. Pakistan has urged young Kashmiri Moslems to carry out violent (often just throwing rocks) attacks against Indian security forces in Kashmir. There were 664 of these attacks in 2018 compared to 342 in 2017 and 222 in 2014.
January 15, 2019: In eastern Pakistan (Punjab province), police raided an Islamic terrorist hideout and killed two ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) members who were known to have participated in the 2011 kidnapping an American in Lahore in 2011. The American hostage was killed in 2015 when a hideout he was being held in along the Afghan border was hit by an American UAV missile strike. The two ISIL men were responsible for other high profile kidnappings as well.
January 11, 2019: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), troops raided several hideouts used by Baluchi separatists. Two separatists were killed and troops seized large quantities of weapons, ammo and explosives.
January 2, 2019: In Pakistan, the military has openly admitted that the PTM is indeed a non-violent Pashtun improvement organization. Thru the end of 2018, the military was warning the PTM to not do anything that threatened military power. PTM was never about that and the new military policy towards PTM is recognition of that.
December 30, 2018: Pakistan needs 600 new tanks and is considering a mix of Russian (T-90s) and Chinese tanks. In effect, Pakistan is playing Russia and China tank producers off each other. Both offer similar products at similar prices. Whoever offers the best deal gets most of the business. Pakistan has also decided to get out of the tank design/development business, at least for now as the army placed an order for a hundred Chinese made 52 ton VT4/MBT-3000 tanks. These may be built in Pakistan under license. VT4 is an updated version of the 330 46 ton VT1/MBT-2000/Al Khalid tanks Pakistan already has. The Al Khalid was a joint China-Pakistan project to create a Pakistani tank that would be built in Pakistan. But basically the Al Khalid was a variant of the Chinese VT1 (also known as the MBT2000). The VT1 was the export version of the Chinese Type 90 tank. Actually, the Type 90 (an improved T-72) was not accepted by the Chinese army that instead went with the 54 ton Type 99, a superior T-72 variant that entered service in 2001 and underwent a major upgrade (the 58 ton Type 99A) in 2011 and is still in production.
The VT1 entered service first in 2001 using Ukrainian engines and a few other imported items but was mainly Chinese. The Al Khalid had trouble finding an engine that could handle the desert conditions on the Indian border where Indian and Pakistani tank battles tend to be fought. Because of these delays, Pakistan bought 300 Ukrainian T-80UD, which are upgrades of a Russian Cold War design that could handle hot, sandy environments. That was mainly because of the Ukrainian built engine which Pakistan ultimately bought for its Al Khalid.
The rest of Pakistans’ 2,000 tanks are based on much older (1950s) Russian models, with some upgrades. Pakistan also looked at the latest Ukraine had to offer but decided to go with China, which has access to more advanced tech than Ukraine and is willing to be competitive when it comes to price. This confidence in China was based on how the 2012 agreement worked out. For that deal, Pakistan and China also agreed to jointly market the Al Khalid tank but had limited success. That was because there were a lot of improved T-72s on the market, including the Chinese MBT-2000. Al Khalid was more expensive to develop as Pakistan began the project in 1991 and made a lot of mistakes. The Al Khalid ended up costing ten percent more than the MBT-2000 and Pakistan was unable to keep its costs under control so that when it came time to develop and a major upgrade for Al Khalid it was pointed out that China already had what Pakistan wanted in the VT4. In the end the Al Khalid demonstrated why Pakistan has never been a major player in the arms export business and this deal with China was more for show than anything else. Same thing with the JF-17 jet fighter joint development that resulted in an expensive variant of the American F-16.
December 25, 2018: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), across the Afghan border in Kandahar province the Pakistani (Baluchi separatist) man responsible for the attack on the Chinese consulate in Pakistan last month was killed in an explosion. Kandahar province is on the border with the Pakistan province of Baluchistan where most of the Chinese economic activity in Pakistan is taking place.
December 24, 2018: On the coast near the Pakistan-Iran border an Indian firm (Indian Ports Global) took over management of the southeast Iran port of Chabahar. This management deal lasts ten years and that played a role in ensuring that the renewed American sanctions on Iran would not interfere with the new trade route from Afghanistan, via Iran to the Indian Ocean port of Chabahar. The Americans make exceptions for these sanctions and in this case, Pakistan is seen as a larger threat to Afghanistan than Iran. Most of the truck traffic that used to go through Pakistan to the port of Karachi is now using the new route via Iran to Chabahar (built by India and Iran mainly for traffic to Afghanistan and Central Asia). At least $5 billion worth of trade to and from Afghanistan will use Chabahar each year. Pakistan is the big loser here, especially since they had recently increased higher traffic on Afghan goods moving through Karachi. In addition for the last year, Pakistan has frequently closed the main border crossings to Afghan traffic entering Pakistan. Yet Pakistani goods are allowed into Afghanistan and now the Afghans are considering blocking that and depending on trade links via Iran and Central Asia. This is an undeclared trade war by Pakistan. The main reason is growing trade with India and switching from Karachi to Chabahar for Afghan imports and exports. The United States, India, Afghanistan and the UN are increasing pressure on Pakistan over Pakistani support for terrorism.