India-Pakistan: March 22, 2002


The March 12th attack on a Christian church killed the wife and daughter of a US diplomat. The Pakistani sees this as an escalation of the war between itself and Islamic militant organizations in Pakistan. The government is moving ahead with prosecutions of terrorists in custody. In the past, many militants were arrested, held for a while and then quietly released without prosecution. The attitude now is that the past practice of basically looking the other way, has not worked. Public opinion has been gradually turning against the terrorist operations, although there is still much popular support for the fighting in Kashmir. Most Afghans are less charitable towards Islamic radicals fighting in Afghanistan. For this reason, the government is apparently willing to allow US troops chasing al Qaeda troops in Afghanistan to cross the border into Pakistan. This is less of a problem than one would think. The Pakistani North West Tribal area is part of Pakistan, but not controlled by Pakistan. Actually, the cities and larger towns have some evidence of government control and services, but out in the countryside, tribal law rules. The usual relationship between the Pakistani government and the tribes is negotiation to settle any serious matter (kidnapping a non-tribal Pakistani, for example). In rare cases, the Pakistani army would enter the area to punish a particular tribe. This form of retaliation is, literally, thousands of years old. The government and US special forces have been meeting with tribal leaders (on the Afghan border), to find out where Taliban and al Qaeda from Afghanistan are hiding out. But to get at these terrorism suspects, would take large bribes, hard fighting, or a bit of both. When Spring arrives, we're likely to see both approaches in action.


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