In the last eight weeks, two senior Pakistani politicians have been murdered for speaking out against Islamic radicalism. While the government went through the motions of prosecuting the arrested killer of the governor of Punjab province, and seeking the killers of the Religious Minorities Minister (a Christian), there was no big public outcry against these crimes. Instead, the killer of the Punjab governor was hailed openly by lawyers and clerics, and quietly by many government officials. The Taliban took credit for the second murder, and promised more, if any officials continued to criticize blasphemy laws. Violent religious intolerance is still very popular in Pakistan. It is a major problem, one that was inflicted on the country in the late 1970s when the government (at the time run by a general) decided to back Islamic conservatives, who promised that more religion would result in less corruption and a more virtuous society. It didn't work out as expected. Electing religious conservatives to parliament soon revealed that these guys could pray and prey at the same time. Not only were Islamic conservative politicians capable of corrupt behavior, but they were also quicker to use violence, including murder, to get their way. While only a minority of Pakistanis, the Islamic radicals are more willing to kill, and be killed, to achieve their goal (a religious dictatorship and, if neighboring Iran is any example, a corrupt one at that.) Because of their use of terror, the Islamic radicals dominate Pakistani politics. The future is bleak.
Despite the terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan and Baluchistan, fighting continues in Pakistan along the Afghan border. So far this year, there have been nearly 800 deaths from this violence in Pakistan, compared to less than 150 terrorism related deaths in India. The Taliban also continue to destroy secular schools, particularly those for girls, in the tribal territories. In the last three years, the Taliban have destroyed over 500 schools, and that campaign continues.
Pakistan is demanding ransom for an American diplomat they are holding. On January 27th, an American intelligence agent, working under diplomatic immunity, was attacked in Lahore, Pakistan, and killed two Pakistanis. The U.S. told Pakistan that holding this intelligence agent was a breach of international law and would lead to a halt in American aid, and more retaliation besides. The Pakistanis dropped the criminal charges, admitted the American agent had diplomatic immunity, but has not released him yet and are demanding a large cash payment before they do so. Pakistani media are pushing the story that the imprisoned American was part of a U.S. program to assassinate Pakistani intelligence and military officers that opposed American policy (whatever that might be these days according to Pakistani media.)
The UN is criticizing Pakistan for poor management of its finances. Currently, most wealthy Pakistanis do not pay taxes, and the government depends on loans and gifts from foreigners (mainly the U.S. and banks and international institutions) to pay the bills. But most (60 percent) of the government budget goes for interest on past loans, and military spending. Experience in the rest of the world over the last sixty years has shown that to succeed economically, you must spend at least 60 percent of the national budget on education and health. Pakistan has never come close.
As the violence has decreased in Indian Kashmir, tourists have returned. Although driven away from majority Moslem areas because of continued anti-Indian demonstrations, terrorist related deaths are way down. So tourists are coming in, mostly from India, to visit Hindu holy places, and foreigners are returning for the skiing and generally spectacular scenery. India continues to withdraw police and troops from Kashmir, and dismantle border fortifications and now-unneeded military facilities. But there are still Islamic terrorists in the area, and patrols and searches continue. This is aided by more tips from civilians, and that has led to more arrests of Islamic radicals, and the uncovering of more of their hidden arms caches out in the woods.
Pakistan appears to be building at least twenty new nuclear weapons a year. Pakistan currently has over a hundred nuclear weapons, and is apparently working on building over 200. Given the degree of corruption in Pakistan, there is fear that some of these nukes may be sold, to nations (like Saudi Arabia), or even Islamic terrorists (much less likely, but always a possibility).
In eastern India (West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand) night passenger trains will continue to be restricted, at least until March 10th. This is to allow more time to implement security measures against Maoist attack. Maoists have attacked passenger trains increasingly in the last year, killing as many as 148 people (last May).
March 6, 2011: India has successfully tested an anti-missile missile that could shoot down Pakistani ballistic missiles. This is a threat to Pakistani nuclear weapons, which are the principal weapon defending Pakistan from a much larger and militarily more powerful India. Israeli firms are working with India to develop the anti-missile system, using technology from the Israeli anti-missile effort. This is the sixth test of the missile.
In Lahore, Pakistan, police arrested three men from North Waziristan, and seized two suicide bomb jackets and other terrorist equipment. Pakistani intelligence had found out about the three, and their goal (attacks in Lahore) and alerted local police.
March 4, 2011: In Pakistan's tribal territories, Islamic terrorists bombed a mosque, killing eleven and wounding many more.
March 3, 2011: In Pakistan's tribal territories, Islamic terrorists made two attacks. One was a suicide car bomb that killed ten, the other was an ambush that killed six policemen.
February 28, 2011: In eastern India, a police patrol was attacked by Maoists, killing three cops.
February 26, 2011: In eastern India, police cornered a dozen armed Maoists, who refused to surrender. In the subsequent gun battle, six Maoists died, one was arrested and the others escaped.