India-Pakistan: Embarrassing Questions

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September 19, 2012: The Pakistani government has asked the U.S. government to stop publically demanding that Pakistan take action against the terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan. Such public demands make it more difficult for Pakistan to act, as such an operation would be jumped on by the Pakistani media as Pakistan taking orders from the United States. This is a deadly accusation in Pakistan, where decades of government enthusiasm for Islamic radicalism and hatred of the United States has made it impossible for a Pakistani government to have cordial relations with America. The way the local culture works in Pakistan, this attitude means America can be blamed for just about every problem in Pakistan. That would include the persistent poverty, corruption, bad government, and constant threat of another military coup. Pakistan means, literally, "Land of the Pure" and that means it's easy for Pakistanis to believe that their problems must be caused by some external force. The United States and India have been tagged as the cause of Pakistan's problems for so long that it's simply not acceptable for any Pakistani politician or media outlet to describe the source of Pakistan's problems any differently. Actually, there are a growing number of politicians and media outlets who are questioning the traditional attitudes towards the U.S., India, and the personal responsibility of Pakistanis. Alas, such heretical opinions can still get you killed and many such Pakistanis emigrate or keep silent. In Pakistan politics is very much a contact sport.

Pakistan also wants the U.S. to keep quiet about North Waziristan because such discussions tend to bring out more evidence of Pakistani cooperation with Islamic terrorist groups. Pakistan has always denied this but the Americans have collected some compelling evidence in the last decade, and now more of that evidence is being made public to encourage the Pakistanis to do the right thing. The Pakistani government would rather not anger their own intelligence agencies (the ISI) who are indeed allied with many Islamic terror groups and that enables the ISI to reduce the number of assassination attacks against senior Pakistani politicians. Thus the American enthusiasm for shutting down North Waziristan is seen as personally dangerous to Pakistani leaders. The Islamic radical groups will terrorize whoever they have to in order to keep going.

The ISI is under attack on several fronts. The most embarrassing one is an investigation by the UN over the ISI and military counter-terror operations in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan). There, Baluchi tribes have been fighting for more autonomy and a larger share of the revenue from natural gas fields in their territory. In response to this the government has allowed the ISI and military to kidnap, and often kill, Baluchis believed involved in resistance efforts. The government denies this sort of thing is going on and the UN is insisting that it be allowed to send in investigators.

Another worrisome issue is being tagged by the United States (and eventually the rest of the world) as a state sponsor of terrorism. Pakistan has actually been sponsoring terrorist groups for decades but has so far managed to avoid admitting it. Those efforts are failing now that the U.S. and India have been pressing Pakistan more energetically to shut down terrorist operations in its territory. The recent U.S. designation of the Haqqani Network (based in North Waziristan and long under the not-so-subtle protection of the Pakistani military) as an international terrorist organization has annoyed Pakistan a great deal. For decades it's been no secret in Pakistan that Haqqani has government sponsorship. But the official position of the Pakistani government was that Haqqani either didn't exist or had no government recognition or support. The U.S. presented compelling evidence to the contrary, which was another way of calling several decades' worth of Pakistani officials liars. This designation means the Americans will now prosecute government and non-government organizations working with Haqqani. The Pakistani government knows this means specific individuals and organizations within the Pakistani government as well as banks and other commercial organizations. The U.S. prosecutors have proved to be quite relentless since September 11, 2001 and the Pakistani nightmare is retired military and intelligence officials being arrested while visiting Europe or the Americas. Suddenly, the world is a more dangerous place for many Pakistani officials and businessmen who worked with Haqqani over the years. Likewise, India won't let up on pressuring Pakistan to shut down Islamic terror groups based in Pakistan that are continuing to support Islamic terrorism in India. Pakistan has officially shut down 43 terror groups (all but two of them since September 11, 2001), and that includes 14 so far this year. But the U.S. and India point out that most of these groups simply disband and reform under another name and continue to be left alone by the Pakistani government.

This form of self-deception takes many forms. Case in point is the current protests against an American movie critical of Islam. Portions of the film appeared on YouTube and Islamic radical clerics called for violent reaction to this blasphemy. Several Pakistanis have died in the subsequent rioting and many more have been injured. Such protests have occurred throughout the Moslem world, which simply spotlights once more the violent intolerance of Islam and the continued reliance on extremism to control the faithful and justify the poverty and bad government that Islamic culture has played a large role in creating and maintaining. Islamic radicals are hostile to scientific education and any education for women. Democracy is considered un-Islamic and killing non-believers is accepted as the solution for a wide range of internal problems. Changing these attitudes is dangerous and very slow. It's a painful process that won't be completed anytime soon.

Peace talks between Pakistan and India are stalled over the issue of loosening up each countries visa rules. Currently, it's very difficult for people from either country to get visas. India fears loosening up visa rules will make it easier for Islamic terrorists to get into India. Pakistan fears easier visas will enable too many Pakistanis to see how much better things are in India and how the Indians have no intention of invading Pakistan. The fear of such an invasion has been the major reason for the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies taking such a large chunk of the national income (which allows the military leadership to live very well) for over half a century.

India is changing its tactics in its campaign against Maoist rebels in eastern India. The 80,000 special police will now exercise more care to avoid civilian casualties. That means more intelligence work and scouting before large scale operations into rural areas long controlled by Maoists.

September 18, 2012: Two bombs went off in a market in Karachi, Pakistan, killing six people. It's unclear if this was the result of religious, ethnic, or political disputes or was part of an extortion effort. Karachi sees constant violence for all of those reasons. In southwest Pakistan a bomb went off in a bus carrying Shia, killing two. Religious violence between Moslem sects, especially Sunni terrorists going after Shia, is on the rise.

In eastern India (Jharkhand) police raided a Maoist hideout. One rebel was killed and three police wounded. A large quantity of weapons and documents were seized.

September 16, 2012: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Lower Dir) a roadside bomb destroyed a van, killing 14 people. The attack was believed an effort by local Islamic terrorists to discourage villagers from forming self-defense militias (to keep terrorists out).

September 14, 2012: Responding to continuing public pressure, the Pakistani military has agreed to prosecute three retired generals suspected of participating in a large scale theft of government funds three years ago. Like many senior officers the three enjoy a standard of living not possible with their official salaries (which are quite good by local standards). Many senior military and intelligence officials come from wealthy families which gives them some protection from this sort of criticism. But many senior officers have no way to explain the enormous wealth they seem to have acquired as they rose in rank. More and more Pakistanis, including journalists who risk arrest or "disappearance" (and death) are openly asking embarrassing questions.

September 9, 2012: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Kurram) a car bomb intended for a nearby convoy of troops instead killed 11 civilians and wounded another 40.

 

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