India-Pakistan: March 31, 2002


The violence on the India-Pakistan border has declined over the last few weeks, but it has not gone away and the 800,000 troops are still massed in the frontier areas. Within Pakistan, the government intelligence raids on the 28th were risky for the government, for it quickly got out that Americans were heavily involved. American intelligence work located the people to be picked up and some Americans apparently went along on the raids. The people picked up were apparently Taliban and al Qaeda members (including some senior ones) along with Pakistani supporters. The government raided largely middle class neighborhoods outside the Pushtun tribal areas (where the Taliban has the most popular support.) This would indicate that the foreigners captured are senior al Qaeda, who were moved closer to ports and airports for possible travel outside Pakistan. The captured foreigners refused to identify themselves, but one is believed to be a senior bin Laden aid, Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi Arabian who was earlier condemned to death in Jordan. The raids were resisted, with one of the suspects killed and four wounded, with one policemen wounded as well.  The raids apparently had nothing to do with the ongoing investigation of the recent bombing of a Christian church and murder of a Western journalist. 

The government denied that Americans went along on the raids, but it was obvious that the extensive American intelligence effort was in play to find the suspects. This in spite of the still shaky relationship with the Pakistani ISI (roughly equivalent to the US CIA), which has long been staffed by many Islamic fundamentalists and Taliban supporters.) Several purges over the last year have removed many of the Islamic fundamentalists from ISI, but some remain and the former members are still active in supporting their causes. The government wants to suppress the fundamentalists, especially the organizations that back armed resistance against other religious militias and the government itself. The religious militias and terrorist groups do not have a lot of popular support, except those operating in Kashmir. It was last Summer that the government began to move against the religious radicals, and nearly 3,000 have been rounded up. Dozens of organizations have been shut down, at least officially. Hundreds of offices and meeting places have been closed. But violence by religious radicals continues. It may be that the Pakistani government is working more closely with American intelligence, whose electronic surveillance capabilities are the best on the planet. With cell phones and the Internet so popular, especially among the young radicals (both religious and political.)


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