Pakistan is still in political turmoil as the elected government strives, for the first time in Pakistan’s 66 year history, to bring the military fully under control of civilian leaders. The military is resisting but is very much on the defensive. After decades of desperate moves (coups, anti-foreigner propaganda, and lots of corruption) the generals have run out of options. Over the last decade the generals misjudged the degree of popular hatred for their years of bad behavior and for the military in general. While the current leadership of the military has an idea of why this is so, many retired generals and admirals are clueless and threatening some kind of retaliation. The generals currently in charge know better and understand the officers and troops are increasingly split over what to do. The old solutions no longer work. Since the 1950s, the military has seized control of the government four times and each time ran the country for 5-10 years before popular anger forced them to allow elections again. This no longer works for the generals and the recent arrest of former general Musharraf (who took over in 1999 and was eased out by popular disgust with military rule in 2008) is the evidence none of the generals want to see. While the military insists that civilian courts cannot go after active duty personnel (under a 1952 law), those who have left or retired are another matter and the government can force officers to retire.
Perhaps the greatest damage the generals have done is to promote intense (and irrational) hatred of India for over half a century. A lot of Pakistanis never bought into this and many more are resisting the relentless military warnings that India was preparing to invade. But the hatred of India has become an entrenched “tradition” that is proving hard to lose. The United States also became subject to “they are out to destroy Pakistan” propaganda and that is supported by over three decades of official (military backed) support for Islamic terrorism (which sees the U.S. as the main threat to Islam and Pakistan). Many Pakistanis realize that all this hate talk is nonsense and counterproductive, but to say so out loud in Pakistan can (and regularly does) get you killed. This is perhaps the greatest harm done by the military, persuading so many Pakistanis to wallow in paranoia and hate. This has helped perpetuate, and make worse, a dysfunctional society crippled by corruption and greed. As a result of all this, Pakistan is an unreliable ally in the struggle to deal with Islamic radicalism and terrorism.
In northwest Pakistan the army has managed to find and attack (and often permanently destroy) most Taliban bases this year. While hundreds of Taliban have been killed in these operations, most of the Islamic terrorists escape. Some have quit, fed up with the constant attacks and lack of success. Others have fled into Afghanistan where they establish bases, often with the help of kinsmen living on that side of the border. There are several Pushtun tribes with clans on both sides of the border, a situation which still annoys all Pushtuns. A growing number of defeated Taliban head for the largest city (Peshawar, population 3.6 million) in the tribal territories or Karachi (population 14 million) the largest city (and port) in Pakistan. In both these cities the Taliban can become gangsters for God, or just gangsters. Peshawar is almost entirely Pushtun (the tribes that dominate the northwest tribal territories) and contains several neighborhoods that are pro-Taliban. The existing gangs have been recruiting Taliban driven from their rural bases and put them to work expanding the gang’s criminal activities (mainly theft and extortion). Karachi has over two million Pushtun, many who have been there for generations. So have some major Pushtun gangs. So while the army and police are destroying the Taliban in the rural northwest, a side effect is providing more eager, and experienced, recruits for urban Pushtun gangs. Some of these criminal outfits now claim affiliation with the Taliban, partly out of conviction but mostly because it is often good for business.
Although India considers the tribal rebellions in the northeast suppressed, several small groups, often factions of groups that have made peace, continue to operate.
Over the last two years, this violence has led to 78 deaths and 191 kidnappings in Assam, near the Nepal border. The rebels lost 135 killed and 2,749 arrested (some more than once).
There has been ethnic and separatist violence in the seven states of northeast India (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya) for over 60 years. The total population of this area is 39 million, with most of it (72 percent) in Assam. Despite peace breaking out in most of the region during the last decade, there are still outbreaks of violence. Some of it has been caused by Maoist rebels establishing themselves in the northeast. But the most violent actions are often between illegal migrants from Bangladesh (who are Moslem and illegal settlers) and legal Hindu and Moslem settlers from the rest of India. The tribes resent all these strangers coming in and claiming prime farmland. The immediate cause of most violence with migrants is economic issues. The most energetic of these tribal rebels are the Bodo. There are 1.2 million Bodo (who are ethnically related to the Tibetans and Chinese) in Assam and they are mostly Hindu. The many kidnappings in Assam are carried out by the rebels to raise money and to persuade the outsiders to leave. But these people have no place to go and the violence continues.
July 29, 2013: In northwest Pakistan (near the Khyber Pass) some 150 Taliban attacked a prison and freed 253 prisoners, including 25 prominent Taliban inmates. The attackers used two suicide bombers and planted explosives along the walls of the prison and collapsed them. Some of the attackers were killed, but their bodies were taken by the retreating assault force. Six prison guards were killed, along with six Shia prisoners and two local civilians.
July 28, 2013: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) an American UAV attack killed six people in a compound being used by a Taliban leader and some of his followers. This is the 17th such attack in Pakistan this year. These attacks have killed about 106 people.
In Indian Kashmir someone shot dead a policeman.
July 27, 2013: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) gunmen attacked a checkpoint near the Iran border, killing seven coastguardsmen and wounding seven more. In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) a similar attack left two tribal police dead and 25 wounded. This incident left 18 of the attackers (apparently Taliban) dead.
Pakistani troops on the Indian border (Kashmir) opened fire on Indian troops. The return fire killed a Pakistani soldier and the Pakistani government blamed India for making an unprovoked attack. Incidents like this are up this year and Pakistan continues to deny responsibility for instigating nearly all of them. This exasperates the Indians, who despair of ever reaching a lasting peace deal with Pakistan as long as the Pakistanis refuse to even admit what they are doing to break cease fire agreements.
July 26, 2013: In northwest Pakistan (Kurram) two Taliban suicide bombers (on motorcycles) killed 57 Shia (and wounded over 160) in crowded market places. The Taliban, like most Sunni Islamic radicals, consider Shia to be heretics and deserving of execution.
July 24, 2013: In southern Pakistan (Sukkur) four Taliban attacked a regional office of ISI (the Pakistani CIA) and killed five people. All four attackers were killed after a 30 minute gun battle. The attack began when a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance checkpoint. Three gunmen then tried to get into the building but were stopped by armed guards.
In eastern India (Jharkhand) two Maoist factions fought each other, leaving six rebels dead.
July 23, 2013: Chinese and Indian officials met in India to try and work out a way to prevent border incidents. India accuses Chinese troops of being caught on the Indian side of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in Kashmir three times in the last week (July 16, 18, and 20). The first of these involved China sending a mounted (on horseback) patrol of 50 troops into Indian territory in Ladakh (northwest India) on July 16th and remaining across the line until the next day when confronted by Indian troops. China says all these incidents were misunderstandings but in the GPS age this is not as convincing as it used to be. India is accusing China of violating a March agreement that was supposed to halt the Chinese practice of sending troops to follow each other’s infantry patrols along the LAC and sometimes sending troops into Indian territory. The LAC is also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line and is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is found in the Indian States of Ladakh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal, and Arunachal. On the Chinese side it is mostly Tibet. China claims a lot of territory that is now considered part of India. The practice of monitoring each other’s patrols has led to hundreds of armed confrontations over the last few years, as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops” of crossing the LAC. China has become less vocal about its claims on Indian territory recently but has not abandoned these assertions. The Chinese troops, when confronted by Indian soldiers or border guards, will claim they are really in Chinese territory but back off rather than open fire over the issue. This is a big relief to India, which has a defense budget one third that of China’s.
July 21, 2013: In Indian Kashmir the two day curfew was lifted because the separatist violence had abated.
July 20, 2013: India had accused China of using UAVs to patrol the northwest (Kashmir) border and entering Indian territory nearly 200 times since early 2012. Closer investigation of this revealed that most, or all, of these sightings (by Indian troops) were actually the planets Jupiter and Venus moving close to the horizon. Meanwhile, Chinese incursions on the ground are less ambiguous and increasingly frequent.
In Karachi, Pakistan a policeman was killed by a bomb, while three terrorists died while they were assembling a bomb. Elsewhere in Pakistan (near the Khyber Pass) air force warplanes and army troops killed 20 Taliban in a two day operation.