India-Pakistan: The Siege Of Islamabad Grinds On

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September 2, 2014: In Pakistan opposition politician Imran Khan and Islamic cleric/politician Tahir ul Qadri were accused of terrorism and treason because of their efforts to use a major demonstration to overthrow the government. On August 14 th these two began a massive march on the capital (Islamabad) with the intention of blockading parliament and other government offices to force the current government to resign. Khan is a nationalist and populist and Qadri is reformer and anti-corruption advocate who proposes an appointed government of honest politicians followed by elections that are not rigged. Kahn/Qadri accuse the government of corruption (a normal state in Pakistan) and rigging the last election (also quite normal). While the Kahn/Qadri solution is radical and, to an outsider, seemingly improbable, it is very popular to many, if not most, Pakistanis.

Surrounded by several hundred thousand supporters in the capital it would take a major police/military operation to actually arrest the two. Many Pakistanis see this another of those situations where the military will take control “for the good of the country” because democracy is deadlocked by the dispute between Kahn/Qadri and the elected government. Most members of the current government (parliament and the key ministers) oppose Kahn/Qadri but now have over half a million angry anti-corruption (and anti-current government) demonstrators in the capital. These people are too popular to chase away by force and the situation has become a siege. The outcome depends on which side can last the longest. The government will seek to starve the Kahn/Qadri supporters out while anti-corruption groups will seek to rally support to avoid that. Kahn/Qadri insist they do not want another military government although the beleaguered government is trying to portray Kahn/Qadri as a ploy by the military to take over the government again. All this could go on for a while.

The main problem in Pakistan is corruption and over the last few years politicians have been feeling the heat. The Supreme Court has revived corruption charges against the current president. Corruption is widespread among politicians and senior military officers. Corruption has long been a popular complaint of voters, politicians and the media. But now something is being done about it and everyone is waiting to see how effectively all those powerful and corrupt officials will push back. They will push back, they always do, and often they win.

Corruption has been rampant in the region for thousands of years but Pakistanis know that less corruption is linked to greater prosperity. There is less agreement on Islamic radicalism and imposing religious rule to deal with the corruption. This has never worked anywhere, but many people still believe it will. Then there is the problem with Pakistani support of Islamic terrorism. This began during the 1970s and 80s, when the military government decided that Islamic radicalism would work to defeat India in Kashmir. But many of the Islamic radical groups eventually turned against the Pakistani government. Most Pakistani officials do not even want to admit this connection. The Pakistani military continues to pretend to fight certain Islamic terror organizations (that continue to attack India), while actually protecting them. When cornered with proof, the Pakistani generals just deny everything and insist that there’s a conspiracy afoot. There is very little trust between American and Pakistani military officials when it comes to Pakistan based Islamic terror groups. U.S. officials consider the Pakistani military, especially the ISI (military intelligence) pro-terrorist and untrustworthy. The CIA and ISI still work together, but only with the understanding that the United States realizes the Pakistanis have divided loyalties. This lack of trust, and ISI determination to continue using terrorism, is the major problem the United States has, and has had, with Pakistan. To get around this, the United States is now basing its delivered foreign aid on verifiable accomplishments (usually against Islamic terrorists) by Pakistan. The Americans are ready to deal with all manner of clever game playing by the Pakistanis and there seems to be no end of it.

In Pakistan the offensive in North Waziristan, which began June 15th, continues. So far nearly 600 Islamic terrorists have been killed, along with over 30 soldiers and police. Thousands of Islamic terrorists fled, along with over 500,000 civilians.

India has been fighting leftist (Maoist) rebels since the 1970s. The government has been winning battles but losing the war because of the corruption within the government and the impact this bad behavior has on government services. The two biggest failures are education and health. In both cases corruption by local and state officials results in programs that look great on paper but are largely failures in practice. Elementary education throughout India is crippled by corruption largely because teaching jobs are often considered as a source of income by corrupt local politicians (who send their kids to private schools). Teaching jobs are often handed out to people who are technically qualified but who instead work elsewhere. These absent teachers collect their pay and split it with the politician who got them appointed. School administrators are paid off to go along and create false or misleading reports that all is well. School supplies are similarly diverted and suitable administrative excuses made. Medical care, especially in rural areas, is supposed to be taken care of by rural health centers. Local politicians tend to treat these centers like the schools; as a source of additional income. Doctors are supposed to be, by law, supplied by government programs that mandate recent medical school graduates serve one year in health centers. But the majority of the doctors called on to do this service bribe their way out of it. In eastern India the most common excuse given is fear of Maoist violence. While the Maoists do destroy a few rural health centers that are under construction, the generally leave the rural health centers alone once they are operational. While greatly understaffed and underequipped these centers are often the only modern health care available in many rural areas and the locals depend on the centers. The Maoists will often extort medical supplies or care from the centers but because these centers are so popular they will rarely attack an operational one. Doctors are never attacked on purpose, but few medical school graduates want to spend a year supervising care in several rural health centers and prefer to bribe or connive their way out of that duty. Because of these persistent forms of corruption the Maoists still get the attention, and sometimes support, of many rural Indians.

September 1, 2014: In eastern India (Pune) a senior Maoist recruiter was arrested.

August 31, 2014: In eastern India (Bihar) a large police operation found and destroyed a Maoist training camp, capturing weapons, ammo, equipment and documents.

August 30, 2014: In Pakistan Kahn/Qadri supporters tried to storm the prime minister’s residence and the parliament compound. Police managed to repulse both attempts but there were four deaths and over 400 wounded. The violence lasted until the pre-dawn hours of the 31st.  

Meanwhile the Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan continues as helicopter gunships attacked three Islamic terrorist bases, destroying large quantities of ammunition and dozens of vehicles. Over 30 people were believed killed as well.

August 28, 2014: In Pakistan Kahn/Qadri met with the head of the military to discuss the situation in the capital. This raised fears of yet another military coup. This would not be popular as over the last decade the majority of Pakistanis have come to realize that the military has been greedy and corrupt. It’s now possible, although still dangerous, to support openly criticizing the generals. So great has this blowback been that the generals fear that another coup could result in a civil war. Since the last coup in 1999 (lasting until 2008), the military has lost a lot of power and influence inside Pakistan. The Internet, and a more media outlets in Pakistan, has made it impossible for a government to control the news. Now, evil acts by the military always get publicized, which has greatly reduced popular support for military coups. More and more journalism is coming from unidentified amateurs. The Taliban and the military both have death squads hunting down journalists who are seen as "unhelpful" but this has not stopped the criticism.  Complicating all this is a growing anti-corruption movement and much less popular support for military governments. Since Pakistan was created in 1947, half the time the country has been ruled by generals who took over "for the good of the country." That no longer flies and the generals are looking for another way to safeguard their wealth (gained largely via corruption) and privileges (also mostly illegal) from growing public wrath.

August 27, 2014: India demanded that Pakistan answer for the continued firing across the border and commanders from both sides met to discuss the matter. Higher leve peace negotiations between India and Pakistan were called off by India because of the growing number of border incidents in Kashmir and the Pakistani government inability to get the Pakistani military to halt these attacks. The Pakistani military insists that it is all the fault of India, but there is no proof of that, only continued Pakistani attacks.

In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) another faction of the Pakistani Taliban split and forced a new group, Jamaat ul Ahrar. The new will pledge its allegiance to the Afghan Taliban. This is the second time this has happened this year. In May a faction representing most of the Islamic terrorists from the Mehsud tribe renounced the aggressive stance of the Taliban leadership and called for a separate peace deal between the Mehsud tribe warriors and the government. The Mehsud tribe faction has now shifted its allegiance to the Afghan Taliban and indicates that it would only fight in Afghanistan. The government prefers that and leaves alone Islamic terrorist groups that operate outside Pakistan. The Mehsud faction has been skirmishing with more militant Taliban factions for months.  

August 26, 2014: The United States criticized Pakistan for continuing to harbor Islamic terrorist groups despite the continuing Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan. The U.S. appreciates that the current North Waziristan operation has also gone after the Haqqani Network. American sources (satellite photos and the like) showed that some serious damage was done to Haqqani and that most Haqqani personnel have fled North Waziristan and all known (to the Americans) Haqqani bases there have been bombed or captured by the Pakistanis. The U.S. feared that Pakistan was just going after Islamic terrorists who attack Pakistan and not groups like the Haqqani Network that have long been seen as tools of the Pakistani military (and its military branch the ISI) and done much damage in Afghanistan. The U.S. also noted that the ISI was largely and conspicuously absent from North Waziristan operation. Apparently even the Pakistani Army doesn’t trust the ISI. But then the ISI has long been known to harbor many officers who openly support Islamic terrorist attacks against Pakistani politicians and military leaders who have been accused of being “un-Islamic.” Meanwhile Islamic terrorist sanctuaries in the southwest (Quetta) and the north (Pakistani Kashmir) continue to be untouched by Pakistani security forces and are free to support attacks in Afghanistan (from the southwest) and Indian Kashmir (the north).

In Pakistan (Karachi) two Taliban were killed in a clash with police.

August 25, 2014: In eastern Afghanistan (Kunar) 61 rockets were fired from Pakistan in the last two days and six civilians were wounded. On August 6th 135 rockets were fired but there were no casualties. A similar attack in January killed four children and there have been several other such attacks this year, the most recent one in June. In May Pakistani F-16s attacked targets in the area. The Afghan government complains to Pakistan but the attacks keep happening. That is because Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of doing nothing about the anti-Pakistan Islamic terrorists who take shelter in Afghanistan and regularly cross the border to carry out attacks in Pakistan. This time around it is all about Pakistan, which complains that there have been three attacks across the border since May 25th, causing dozens of casualties and it must stop. 

August 24, 2014: Burma agreed to attack camps of Indian rebel groups in northwest Burma. This would involve the use of information about the Indian rebels supplied by Indian military intelligence. This will include precise locations and other data. No Indian forces will operate inside Burma. For over a year India has been trying to convince Burma to shut down Indian rebel (Maoists and tribal separatist) camps in Burma but very close to the Indian border. The Burmese were reluctant to get involved because the Indian rebels were heavily armed, behaved themselves in Burma and spent money in Burma as well. Some of the money was bribes for local police and soldiers to keep their distance. India offered more trade and infrastructure (cross border roads) deals as well as military assistance. This appeals to Burma now that China is becoming more aggressive about expanding its investments in northern Burma. These Chinese investments are causing more problems with the tribes up there. Burma is also unhappy with the lack of Chinese cooperation to curb the Chinese arms smuggling that goes into Burma and via Burma to rebels in India (tribal ones in the northeast and communist ones throughout eastern India).

In Kashmir Indian troops clashed with Islamic terrorists twice. Four Islamic terrorists and two soldiers were killed.

August 23, 2014: In Kashmir Pakistani troops violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement again by firing on Indian border troops, who returned fire. Four civilians were killed, two on each side of the border.

August 22, 2014: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) over 60 Taliban sought to cross the border but were confronted by Pakistani troops and a fire fight broke out. The Taliban retreated back into Afghanistan. One Pakistani soldier died and it was unclear what casualties the Taliban suffered.

August 20, 2014: In Pakistan thousands of Kahn/Qadri supporters reached the parliament compound and other areas of the capital.

August 19, 2014: In Pakistan (North Waziristan) helicopter gunships attacked five Islamic terrorist bases, destroying large quantities of ammunition and dozens of vehicles. About fifty people were believed killed as well.

August 17, 2014: In Kashmir Pakistani troops fired on Indian border troops, who returned fire. Elsewhere in Kashmir Islamic terrorists ambushed some Indian troops, killing two and wounding four.

August 15, 2014: In eastern Afghanistan (Kunar) 23 rockets were fired from Pakistan. There were no casualties.

August 14, 2014: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) two airbases outside Quetta were attacked by Islamic terrorists (apparently from Central Asia). The attacks were repulsed with 11 attackers killed and three captured. Neither attack caused defender casualties or penetrated into the airbases. The Taliban took credit for the attacks and claimed many deaths among the defenders and two jets destroyed. But those living near the bases could see no evidence of that.

In Pakistan it is Independence Day and opposition politician Imran Khan and Islamic cleric/politician Tahir ul Qadri two began a massive march on the capital to force the current government to resign.

In Kashmir Pakistani troops fired on Indian border troops, who returned fire.

 

 

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