In North Waziristan the head of the Pakistani Taliban (Hakimullah Mehsud) for the last three years is apparently being replaced by his more moderate deputy Waliur Rehman. Mehsud has been particularly brutal in his use of terrorism and hostility towards the Pakistani government. For over a year now the Pakistani Army has been offering Taliban leaders and their tribal allies cash and other favors if they would change their strategy to one that was less hostile to the Pakistani government and more active inside Afghanistan. Getting tribal militants and malcontents to operate in Afghanistan has always been the goal of the Pakistani military, which sees tribal unrest as a key tool in controlling what goes on inside Afghanistan. This sort of thing has never been popular with the Afghans but the Pakistani generals don’t care about that. Hakimullah Mehsud is not only unpopular among his followers but has been ill lately. So his deputy Waliur Rehman has actually been running things most of the time this year. That said, politics is a blood sport in the tribal territories and Waliur Rehman might suddenly show up dead.
Despite making diplomatic peace with Pakistan last July, NATO supplies are still not moving at maximum capacity from Karachi in Afghanistan. Since November 2011, when a border incident left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead from a U.S. air attack (in response to the Pakistanis firing into Afghanistan) Pakistan closed its border to NATO supply convoys. NATO accelerated its program to shift its supply route to the north (via Russian and Central Asian railroads). After July the Pakistanis continued to insist on a larger fee (bribe) paid for each truck crossing the border. It is $250 a truck now but the Pakistanis want 10 to 20 times that. NATO refuses to pay the higher bribe.
In response to this bribe disagreement, the Pakistanis believe the U.S. is being more critical of how Pakistan has handled separatist violence in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan). The Pakistanis have been using the army and a lot of death squads and kidnapping of separatists to suppress the tribal demands for more autonomy. This has drawn more and more international condemnation and now the U.S. is joining in.
In Pakistan the security forces count themselves fortunate that they got through Muharram (a month long period of religious celebrations particularly important to Shia) with only about 40 Shia killed by Sunni Islamic terrorists. The Pakistani Taliban are particularly eager to kill Shia and over 100,000 police and soldiers were deployed this year to disrupt several major attacks against Shia during Muharram. But while the police limited the mayhem this year, they did not seriously damage the Islamic terrorist groups. There will be more attacks.
Pakistan is now offering a very large reward ($2 million) for the capture of Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. While this guy is the front man for the Taliban in Pakistan, he has become notorious recently for his public pronouncements about a 15 year old Pakistani girl (Malala Yousufzai) a Taliban death squad tried to murder last October 9th. Ehsanullah Ehsan enthusiastically defended the Taliban attempts to kill a 15 year old girl who had defied the Islamic radicals. The government promptly offered a $100,000 reward for the capture of the shooter, and this apparently worked, as the government quickly caught most of the death squad sent after the girl. Conservative Islamic clerics who usually approve of the Taliban policy on preventing education for women have been silent about this murder attempt. The Pakistani media and public opinion however was outraged. Ehsanullah Ehsan became the target of much of this hate, and now the Pakistani government is willing to pay $2 million to get their hands on this fellow. The government believes that if they can prosecute and punish Ehsanullah Ehsan they will make the Taliban even more unpopular than they currently are. Since the Pakistani Taliban is a coalition of different groups, concentrating on Ehsanullah Ehsan and the shooting of Malala Yousufzai may be enough to cause the coalition to unravel and become much less of a threat. Ehsanullah Ehsan has responded by pushing his new Facebook page for the Taliban, where the organization tries to recruit new members, especially suicide bombers.
December 7, 2012: Indian police found a Chinese radio transmitter 15 kilometers from the Chinese border in remote Himachal Pradesh. The radio was hooked up to solar cells for power and it’s unclear what this setup was all about. The area is frequented by smugglers from China, as well as Chinese military personnel who increasingly move into remote Indian territory then withdraw back into China.
December 6, 2012: In eastern India (Jharkhand) police captured a senior Maoist leader (Anil Kharwal).
December 5, 2012: In Pakistan (South Waziristan) Islamic terrorists attempted to attack the main military camp in the area. Two suicide bombers in a truck full of explosives failed to get into the camp but the explosion killed the terrorists and two soldiers, while also damaging a military hospital.
Pakistani military intelligence is conducting a nationwide effort to collect detailed information on Pakistani journalists. This is intended to make it easier to intimidate journalists to do what the military wants. This information gathering effort is illegal, but the military says it’s only to provide proper security documents for journalists reporting on the Pakistan military.
December 4, 2012: India announced that it will send naval forces to the South China Sea next year if the Chinese try to interfere with free passage and the use of international waters as defined by international law. China quickly responded by reminding India that they must respect China’s sovereignty and national interests. This comes at a time when China is offering to settle various, and long-standing, border disputes. India is a major potential problem for China. That’s because, for the first time in its 5,000 year history, China is a maritime power. China now depends on seaborne trade to keep its booming economy going (and its restless population quiet). India dominates the main Chinese maritime supply route (to the Persian Gulf for oil and export markets there and beyond into Europe) and this gives China an incentive to be nice.
December 2, 2012: The Pakistani army destroyed a 70 year old Hindu temple in Karachi, causing an uproar among the remaining Hindus (less than three million) in Pakistan. In 1947, about 15 percent of Pakistanis were Hindu, now it’s less than two percent. About 100,000 are in Karachi, where Sunni Islamic terror groups threaten all other sects (Moslem or non-Moslem). The army insisted it was within its rights to destroy the temple, and this was seen as more of a simple land-grab than religious discrimination. It did, however, trigger a lot of anti-Pakistan media coverage in India. In the last decade, as Islamic radicalism grew stronger in Pakistan, so did the number and ferocity of attacks against non-Moslems and non-Sunni Moslems.
November 29, 2012: In Pakistan (South Waziristan) a suicide bomber attacked an al Qaeda leader (Mullah Nazir) but only wounded him. Mullah Nazir had been feuding with the Pakistani Taliban and Uzbek Islamic terror groups.