The Pakistani counter-terror offensive that began in June 2014 has reduced terrorist activity (according to the Pakistani military) by about 70 percent this year. That exaggerates a bit as the decline, if you measure by civilian deaths, is closer to fifty percent. Either way it is a big drop and most Pakistanis notice and appreciate it. The main reason for the decrease is the damage the offensive has done to Islamic terror organizations. In fifteen months the anti-terrorist offensive has killed over 3,400 Islamic terrorists country-wide (but mostly in North Waziristan) and led to many more surrendering, deserting or fleeing to Afghanistan or other parts of the country. The military estimates that over 20,000 Islamic terrorists were in North Waziristan in June 2014. Nearly all of these Islamic terrorists have been killed or driven out of North Waziristan. Some 2,500 were captured, providing lots of information on Islamic terrorist operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the country. There has been a noticeable drop in terrorist attacks against civilians but intelligence specialists know that the terror groups are scrambling to reorganize and rebuild, so the war offensive continues but at a different pace and with different tactics. Because of this threat the army announced that troops will continue operating in the northwestern tribal territories at least until 2019. In 15 months of counter-terror operations about 300 soldiers were killed. Another side effect is renewed interest in studying how to deal with tribal feuds. For centuries these have been the major cause of violent deaths in the northwest. Many Islamic terror groups in the northwest are based on tribal affiliation but grew larger by allowing outsiders (including foreigners) to join. With the suppression of most Islamic terror groups the military expects a return to the normal violence of heavily armed tribal militias fighting each other and outsiders (the security forces).
In eastern Pakistan (Karachi) soldiers are accused of illegally kidnapping and killing members of the MQM (one of the largest political parties in the country and a major participant in the violence in Karachi) Operations against MQM have been going on for years. In March troops raided the headquarters of MQM in Karachi arresting 20 people and seizing illegal weapons. The MQM said the raid was unlawful and the seized weapons were legal (for protection against Islamic terrorist attack). The army and political rivals are angry at MQM for using street violence and general strikes (enforced with the threat of violence) to control much of Karachi. MQM got away with this between 1999 and 2008 because it was a major supporter of military dictator Pervez Musharraf. The current elected government wants to deal with the various types of misbehavior Musharraf tolerated in an effort to retain power and MQM is high on the list. Even with Musharraf gone MQM remains a major power in Sindh province (where it controls 41 percent of the seats in the provincial legislature). In the national parliament MQM controls nine percent of the seats. But in Karachi most residents see MQM as a bunch of gangsters pretending to be politicians. Despite the Musharraf connection the MQM is secular and has long been hostile to the army, particularly the pro-Islamic terrorist factions in the army and ISI.
MQM was founded in the 1980s to protect the Muhajir (people who fled to Pakistan after India and Pakistan were created in 1947) from discrimination. Muhajir are nearly eight percent of the population of Pakistan. MQM activists came to be known as rough operators, who would use violence to get their way and often threatened to kill anyone who opposed them. Then again that sort of thing is not rare in Pakistan where politics is widely accepted as a blood sport. The government considers MQM a major source of all the violence in Karachi and the locals agree. The problem here is that the MQM is also opposed to Islamic radicalism while the army is not. The army will even tolerate Islamic terrorists as long as they direct their attacks outside of the country, preferably in Afghanistan and India. The MQM situation shows how the corruption problem is the underlying cause of all the problems in Pakistan. Corruption is also the most difficult problem to fix.
Karachi is not the only area where the military is accused of illegally kidnapping and murdering people it suspects of being terrorists or simply hostile to the military. The separatist Baluchi tribes in the southwest (Baluchistan) accuse the military of kidnapping and killing thousands of Balucchis, many of them innocent of any connection to the armed rebellion there. The army denies everything as it always does in these matters.
India believes that its success at sealing its Kashmir border (with better trained border guards and Israeli sensors and other electronics) most of the Islamic terrorists now in Kashmir are local recruits. There are only a few hundred Islamic terrorists active in Kashmir, mainly because of over a decade of successful counter-terrorist operations. In the 1990s there were some years where there were several thousand Islamic terrorists active in Kashmir.
September 12, 2015: China and India are trying to negotiate another border dispute. In this case an Indian patrol caught China building a watchtower on the Indian side of the border in Indian state of Ladakh (northwest India). India has had disputes like this before, especially in the last few years and China usually backs down, eventually. There are more ominous implications to all this. China has made it clear that it intends to use its growing navy and commando type troops to protect its “maritime Silk Road” trade routes to the Middle East and Africa via the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. This has got all the nations adjacent to this new Silk Road worried, especially India and Australia.
Today India and Australia began joint naval exercises off the east coast of India. The exercise concentrates on surface and aerial anti-submarine exercises. Australia sent a submarine and an AP-3C submarine hunting aircraft. India provided surface warships and one of its new P-8I submarine hunting aircraft. While China is Australia’s biggest export customer (mainly for raw materials) Australia agrees with India that the increasingly aggressive Chinese naval operations are a threat to all nations in the region. In October India will hold similar exercise with Japanese and American naval forces.
September 11, 2015: Renewed peace talks between India and Pakistan resulted in agreements to try and decrease the number of violent border incidents. Pakistan agreed to allow lower ranking officers talk with their Indian counterparts. Since 2014 there have been over 600 violent incidents and about a hundred attempts by Pakistani commandos or Islamic terrorists to cross into India. Nearly all this violence is started by Pakistan because the Pakistani Army needs to portray India as a threat. Indian and Pakistani civilian leaders agree that this is a problem but so great is the power and influence of the military in Pakistan (plus its ability to replace the elected government for a while every decade or so) that the current elected government allows the military to meddle on the Indian border in return for not threatening the Pakistani government with another coup. This is not a complete victory for the Pakistani military because over half a century of their lies and deceptions are catching up with them and fewer and fewer Pakistanis go along with it. The generals know that even many of their own troops and younger officers no longer accept the official and traditional lies.
September 9, 2015: India is offering cash rewards of up to $15,000 for information on Naga rebel leaders responsible for a June 4th ambush in the northeast near the Burma border that killed 18 soldiers.
September 7, 2015: A Pakistani UAV used laser guided missiles to kill three Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan. This was a first for Pakistan. While Pakistan has, for nearly a decade, officially condemned and opposed similar strikes by American UAVs in North Waziristan, it never outright banned the American use of armed UAVs in certain parts of Pakistan. The U.S. refused to sell Pakistan UAVs that could carry laser guided missiles, mainly because the Americans don’t trust Pakistan. So Pakistan went looking for other suppliers and eventually bought a similar UAV from China in 2009 and began building their own and calling the larger one Burraq. In response to this attack India asked Israel to speed up an order for armed Heron UAVs which India had earlier placed.
September 6, 2015: Pakistan is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 1965 war with India. While India and most of the world considers India the victor in 1965 it has always been the belief in Pakistan that Pakistan was the winner. This year more Pakistani historians and military analysts are trying to persuade the rest of the country that Pakistan did lose the 1965 war and that this illusion of victory has always been part of the Pakistani military’s justification to maintaining so much power. The 1965 war was started by Pakistan with an invasion of Indian Kashmir. Success depended on the largely Moslem population of Indian Kashmir supporting the invaders. But the Moslems of Indian Kashmir preferred to be ruled by India and resisted the invasion. Eventually Indian troops drove the Pakistanis out of Kashmir and entered Pakistan. As Indian troops threatened to capture the Pakistani city of Lahore the U.S., Russia and the UN persuaded both sides to accept a ceasefire and that eventually turned into a peace deal. The Pakistani military leadership could not accept the fact that their troops were defeated by “the Hindus.” It was an article of faith in the Pakistani military that Moslem soldiers were superior to Hindu ones. But in several subsequent wars that has proven to be false. Each year more and more Pakistanis winced at the Pakistani generals bragging about their 1965 victory. This year the generals could not simply order critics of the official view of the 1965 war to shut up. The military is still powerful in Pakistan but that power is diminishing.
September 5, 2015: Pakistan announced an agreement with Afghanistan to stop the accusations going back and forth about who is supporting Islamic terrorism. Afghanistan believes that Pakistan is still supporting the Haqqani Network and other Islamic terrorists (like the Afghan Taliban) that specialize in attacks against Afghanistan. Pakistan insists it is interested in making peace. The U.S. has been threatening to withhold aid if Pakistan does not provide some proof that it has cut its support of the Haqqani Network. Pakistan is reluctant to do that because proof would involve admitting it has been supporting Haqqani for decades.
Meanwhile there is still no sign from Pakistan about when the Taliban peace talks (suspended since July) will resume. Afghanistan and the United States are waiting for Pakistan to do something positive about getting the Afghan Taliban to make peace in Afghanistan. At the end of July the Afghan Taliban announced the selection of a new leader (Mullah Akhtar Mansour) to replace founder and longtime leader Mullah Omar. Mansour has been the acting head of the Taliban since 2010 because Mullah Omar was said to have health problems. It took weeks after the revelation for the Taliban to admit that Omar had been dead since 2013 but have not revealed exactly why his death was concealed. The reason may have been to maintain unity because after the appointment of Mansour was made several Taliban factions went public complaining of how the selection was made. The Afghan Taliban is known to be sharply divided over the subject of peace talks with the Afghan government. Some factions also complain openly that Pakistan (in the form of the ISI) actually controls the Taliban leaders living in Baluchistan under the protection of the ISI. Mansour backs peace talks while Omar was said to have opposed them. The official shift in Taliban leadership caused the peace talks (between the Taliban and the Afghan government) to be halted indefinitely. To make matters more difficult for Pakistan there were some recently released emails where U.S. State Department officials discussed the Mullah Omar situation and confirmed that, as far as the U.S. government was concerned, there was no doubt that Pakistan had been sheltering Omar since 2002.
September 2, 2015: Pakistan announced that nearly all Uighur Islamic terrorists in Pakistan had been killed or driven from the country. For several years China has been pressing Pakistan to do something about Chinese Islamic terrorists (Turkic Uighurs from northwest China) based in Pakistan and Pakistan finally began making some serious moves on that problem in early 2014. There followed the June 2014 offensive in North Waziristan concentrating on the “bad Taliban” and their allies (like the Uighurs). Pakistan is still reluctant to admit it is the cause of so many regional Islamic terrorism problems but the neighbors were not being very understanding. China, who supplies a lot of Pakistan’s weapons and foreign investment, finally told its troublesome neighbor to fix the situation or see China go from being a helpful to a hostile neighbor. The other neighbors have had a similar reaction, but given China’s place as Pakistan’s most important ally, Pakistan could no longer ignore the problem.
September 1, 2015: In Libya the government banned Yemenis, Iranians and Pakistanis from entering the country. Too many people from those countries have been encountered fighting for Islamic terror groups in Libya. The government had earlier banned Sudanese, Bangladeshis, Palestinians and Syrians for the same reasons. This ban does not keep these people out but makes it more difficult for them to get into Libya and move around there freely.
August 31, 2015: For Indian civilians living close to the Pakistani border in Kashmir it has been a bad month. In August about sixty civilians were killed or wounded by gunfire and shells fired into India by Pakistani troops.
August 30, 2015: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) the state government is building 75 fortified police stations in remote areas where the Maoist rebels are still active. National para-military police will help man these stations, which will be completed by the end of the year. The local government has also worked with telephone companies to add hundreds of additional cell towers in remote areas, making it easier for the locals there to call in tips about Maoist activity as well as getting better phone service.