India-Pakistan: The Kids Are Not All Right

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April 3, 2013: Pakistan is a young country with 46 percent of the population aged 15-29. Some 30 percent of voters are in this age group but most Islamic terrorists are from this group as well. A recent opinion survey of those between 18 and 29 years old found that 94 percent of them believed the country was going in the wrong direction. That explains why 69 percent have a negative view of political parties, 71 percent take a dim view of the government and 67 percent of parliament. All these institutions have long been viewed as corrupt and ineffective. Some institutions were seen favorably with 77 percent approving the military and 74 percent religious institutions. As a result, only 28 percent see democracy as the best form of government for Pakistan, with 32 percent favoring military rule, and 38 percent a religious dictatorship. Older voters are less optimistic about military or religious dictatorships, which is why the country keeps trying to make democracy work, while so many young men are eager to join the military or the religious terrorists. The sad truth of the matter is that the educated and wealthy Pakistanis, who should provide leadership, have failed the country by paying more attention to stealing and cheating. The only hope for most Pakistanis is that many other nations have overcome the curse of corruption and misrule. So there must be a way for Pakistan to do so as well. There is, of course, another solution and that is getting out of Pakistan. Poverty prevents most Pakistanis from even attempting this, but for those with enough cash, flight is an increasingly attractive option.

Pakistan is borrowing a counter-terrorism technique from Saudi Arabia and has set up a terrorist rehabilitation operation in the Swat Valley. Here young men not accused of serious (killing someone) crimes are given job training and religious instruction by moderate Islamic clerics. The Saudi program works and changes the attitudes of most of the men who go through the program. But a sizable minority of graduates return to terrorism. The Swat Valley has been a battleground between the army and the Taliban for years. The Pakistani Army claims to have regained control of much of the tribal territories, including the Swat Valley (which is adjacent to the tribal territories). Government victory claims are propaganda, not reality. The Pakistani Taliban still have armed men in many parts of the tribal territories, often operating from bases across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban are still very much at war with Pakistan and are loudly striving to "avenge" the death of Osama bin Laden  and other foreign terrorists who had come to help the Pakistani Taliban. The Taliban took control of the Swat Valley for two years in 2007, and were then driven out by the army. But there remained a lot of hostility towards the government. It's all about corruption and lack of a rule of law. The Taliban got in partly on the promise of driving out corrupt government officials and providing fair Islamic courts. The Taliban then destroyed their popularity by also trying to impose unpopular lifestyle rules (no schools or jobs for women, no video, music, or shaving for men). The government brought back the corruption, despite knowing this was a major problem. This has driven some Swat Valley residents to support the Taliban again. 

Pakistan is having a harder time dealing with Taliban expansion in cities with large Pushtun populations. This is especially true Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. This metropolis contains eight percent of the nation's population (14 million people) and produces a quarter of the GDP. Islamic radicals have long been present in the city. The Taliban have established a presence among the two million Pushtuns there. A lot of the violence is the result of the Taliban trying to prevent the police from stopping the Pushtun radicals establishing save havens in Karachi. The Taliban are succeeding at this, and many Islamic terrorist attacks in non-tribal Pakistan (where over 90 percent of the population is) are coming out of Karachi. Poverty and Islamic radicalism are driving more Pushtuns out of the tribal territories and into the cities and the Taliban are following. The government is fighting back but with all the corruption and mismanagement, it’s a losing battle so far. The city government is so corrupt that there are calls for the federal government to appoint a new city administration. But a new group would likely end up as corrupt as the old one.

India, China, and Russia have agreed to work together to track and deal with Islamic terrorism. Recent meetings have concentrated on the Taliban and possible Taliban expansion after nearly all NATO forces leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. While China is an ally, and main arms supplier for Pakistan, it is recognized that the Pakistani military still supports many Islamic terror groups.

Despite a 2004 promise not to sell any more nuclear reactors to Pakistan, China recently admitted that it had made a secret deal last month to sell Pakistan another reactor. The U.S. had found out and accused China of violating an international anti-nuclear proliferation ban and reneging on its 2004 promise. China admitted that the deal was made in February and so what. 

April 2, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories thirty or more Taliban attacked a power station outside the largest city in the region (Peshawar). The attack killed five electric company employees and two security personnel. The damage to the station cut off electricity to half of Peshawar. The attack was believed to be an effort to remind everyone that the army has not eliminated the Taliban in any part of the tribal territories.

April 1, 2013:  China and Pakistan succeeded in opening their main border crossing, the Karakoram Highway, a month earlier. The portion of the highway that crosses the Khunjerab Pass is closed from January to May because of the snow and ice. Normally the pass reopens on May 1st. This year there is an additional problem because a major landslide three years ago blocked the road. China is handling repairs to deal with that. Trade between Pakistan and China is increasing and the 1,800 kilometer long Karakoram Highway is being improved to increase capacity.

March 30, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories (North Waziristan) a suicide truck bomb killed 17 soldiers at a checkpoint. Despite North Waziristan being a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists (including many who are at war with Pakistan) there is still a military presence, especially in the major towns. The army tries to find and punish those who attack troops in North Waziristan but rarely with any success because most of the Islamic terrorist groups there do not attack the troops, only because there are no major military operations in the area.

In Indian Kashmir police and soldiers, acting on a tip, found a terrorist cache containing a long-range radio, ammo, and other equipment.

March 29, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories (Peshawar) a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint 500 hundred meters from the U.S. consulate, killing 12 and wounding 28. A senior commander of the Frontier Force (a paramilitary border force) was apparently the target but he was only slightly injured by the blast.

In eastern India (Jharkhand State) Maoist gunmen fought each other because one group of Maoists had defied senior leadership and gone into business for itself. Two days of fighting left at least twelve of the communist rebels dead. The decades of Maoist rebellion and the recent government offensive against the Maoists has caused a lot of stress in the Maoist leadership. The senior leaders have been increasingly unable to control all the middle management, and some of these local leaders have gone independent. Some do it for political reasons while some are simply turning into gangsters.

March 27, 2013: Afghanistan complained that at least 50 rockets had been fired into Kunar province from Pakistan in the last two days. In response to this a scheduled visit to Pakistan by 11 high ranking Afghan officers was cancelled. Pakistan denied the rocket fire and complained that Afghanistan and the United States are tolerating the presence of over a hundred anti-Pakistan Pakistani Taliban camped out in Kunar province. Afghanistan says it is a remote, sparsely populated area, and the Taliban are protected by local tribesmen. If Afghan troops go in the Taliban simply move, sometimes back into Pakistan.

 

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