In response to another major outbreak of Islamic terrorism within Pakistan (125 dead in multiple attacks within a week) the military has agreed to launch another major counter-terrorism campaign. This one began on the 22
, covers the entire country and, in theory, is to include all Islamic terrorists. The last such campaign began in mid-2014 but was restricted to North Waziristan and some adjacent areas and did not go after Islamic terror groups that worked for the Pakistani military (mainly because they did not commit any violence inside Pakistan unless ordered to). Not only did that make Afghanistan and India (the main victims of the Pakistani policy) even angrier but it brought threats from major sources of modern weapons (the U.S. and China).
The U.S. has provided Pakistan with $33 billion in aid since 2001 and is fed up with Pakistani refusals to shut down Islamic terror groups that operate against Afghanistan and India but not Pakistan. China doesn’t provide free stuff but has become the major supplier of military gear to Pakistan and the largest foreign investor. China has been threatening to cancel over $50 billion of much needed investments if Pakistan does not improve the security situation and that is mainly about Islamic terrorism.
The official line in Pakistani media controlled (or intimidated) by the military is that Pakistan has suffered greatly from Islamic terrorism instigated by the West and India. Pakistan has suffered economic losses of over $100 billion from Islamic terrorists since 2002 and more than 50,000 Pakistanis died from that violence. The Pakistan military insists that India is behind most of the Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan and the United States has been stingy (only $14 billion in aid since 2002) in helping Pakistan cope. The reality according to the Americans and neighbors Afghanistan and India is quite different.
India has long been pressuring Pakistan to shut down the Pakistan based Islamic terror groups that specialize in attacking India. Pakistani civilian officials unofficially agree the camps are there but the Pakistani military controls them and no elected Pakistani government has get been able to overrule the military on anything the military sees as essential. This includes supporting Islamic terror groups that are willing to carry out attacks inside India. The only thing that motivates the military to act against Islamic terrorists is public opinion and the recent bombing of a Sufi shrine caused a lot of public outrage against the military.
Since 2014 the civilian Pakistan government have sought to crack down on Islamic terrorists in Pakistan who attack India. But the Pakistani military quietly refuses to cooperate. So there are still over a dozen Islamic terrorist training camps in Pakistani Kashmir to support operations in Indian Kashmir. These Islamic terror groups have a lot of fans inside Pakistan, especially with senior military and intelligence officers. That is why Pakistan based Islamic terrorists continue fighting along the Kashmir border and on the Indian side of the border as well.
In 2016 India offered to share intelligence with Pakistan about anti-Pakistan Islamic terrorists operating inside Pakistan. India revealed that it has a lot of terror related intel that Pakistan does not have. In particular India knew a lot about what ISIL was doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan. India also had information about other Islamic terrorists who are not suitably grateful for the decades of support the Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) have provided. So far the most the Pakistani military will do is trade useful tips. If India provides information that leads to shutting down a dangerous (to Pakistan) Islamic terror operation in Pakistan India gets a similar tidbit about something going down inside India. This is infuriating to the Indians because most of the Islamic terrorist activity inside India is directly or indirectly possible only because of Pakistani support. A growing number of Pakistani military and intelligence officials are noticing that supporting Islamic terrorism is becoming impossible to get away with. But a large minority of Pakistani generals and intel officials believe in radical Islam and the goal of Islam conquering the world. Such beliefs are immune to reality. That attitude, in a country with nuclear weapons, adds to the sense of urgency in making a permanent change in the Pakistani practice of secretly supporting Islamic terrorism.
This change in popular attitudes is another side effect of the Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan that began in 2014 and has allowed the army (and some journalists) to examine a lot of mosques and religious schools (madrasas) that had long been off-limits to the security forces. What was found was ample evidence that many mosques and most madrasas were basically part of an extensive Islamic terrorist infrastructure. The madrasas not only indoctrinated Moslem boys to be Islamic terrorists but took those who agreed to be killers and trained them. Mosques and madrasas were also found to have hidden (at least from public view) rooms for storing weapons, building bombs, training Islamic terrorists and housing veteran (but wanted) Islamic terrorists. In other words, what was found in North Waziristan changed minds among Pakistani officers who were either neutral on Islamic terrorism (at least when it was outside Pakistan) or enthusiastic supporters. There were also a lot of documents captured in these Islamic terrorist hideouts and hundreds of Islamic terrorists were captured and talked. So did many local civilians who had long been silent because the Islamic terrorists executed (or worse) informers. All this evidence said the same thing; the Islamic terrorists were far more powerful and numerous than thought and many of them were willing to destroy Pakistan in an effort to turn the country into a religious dictatorship. With the latest outbreak of Islamic terrorism it became clear that many Islamic terror groups had moved from the tribal territories to Punjab and Sindh provinces.
This attitude adjustment also led to Pakistani officials admitting that they had provided sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban since 2002. This has long been common knowledge but until 2014 few in the Pakistani government would admit it. This new openness was also facilitated by revelations that most of the civilians in North Waziristan, when allowed to give an honest opinion, said they backed the American use of UAVs to find and kill Islamic terrorist leaders. While this sometimes caused civilian casualties it mainly hurt the Islamic terrorists and civilians quietly approved of this. Some even risked their lives to provide targeting information for these UAV attacks. The same thing happened in Afghanistan, where U.S. officers were often approached by tribal leaders asking for more aerial efforts to find and attack Islamic terrorists.
Afghanistan is becoming increasingly aggressive in demanding that Pakistan end the sanctuary it provides the Afghan Taliban. Afghanistan points out that security agreements between the two countries obliges Pakistan to shut down all Islamic terrorist sanctuaries. Afghan officials also accuse Pakistan of controlling much of what the Afghan Taliban does, including ordering terror attacks inside Afghanistan. If Pakistan refuses to comply with this request Afghanistan is threatening to take the matter to the UN and other international tribunals. Meanwhile the main Afghan Taliban sanctuary remains in Quetta. This is the capital of Baluchistan and just south of the Taliban homeland in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Quetta was always off limits to the American UAVs and remains a sanctuary despite constant and increasingly angry calls from the United States and Afghanistan to shut down the sanctuaries. Pakistan has long been dismissive of Afghan protests and either ignores them or dismisses them with denials. The reality is that Pakistan considers Afghanistan a client state. The Afghans are considered a collection of fractious tribes pretending to be a nation. With no access to the sea, most Afghan road connections to ports are with Pakistan. The Afghans resent this and are supporting a Chinese financed effort to upgrade a port in neighboring Iran and extend highways and railroads to the Afghan border. This will replace the dependence on Pakistani roads.
While the 2014 anti-terrorism campaign in Pakistan has reduced Islamic terrorist attacks inside Pakistan by more than half there is growing anger at the military abusing its ability to arrest terrorist suspects anywhere. The military will also pick up and imprison anyone seen as an enemy of the military. Many of those arrested somehow disappear. This practice is not new and has been used for over a decade against Baluchi tribal separatists in the southwest (Baluchistan). Pakistanis are also increasingly hostile towards the local version of the CIA (the ISI, which is controlled by the military). It was the ISI that took the lead in establishing Islamic terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan and is now blamed for losing control of these violent groups, as many of them turned against Pakistan and killed thousands of Pakistanis. ISI is also seen as incompetent for not being able to provide any proof that India is supporting any kind of terrorism inside Pakistan. The army continually makes this accusation against India but never provides any proof. The military thought that their 2014 campaign against Islamic terrorists in the northwest would make them popular but it didn’t work out as planned. Still the number of civilians killed by Islamic terrorists was reduced by half in 2014 and by half again in 2015. Those deaths seem to be headed for a similar reduction in 2016. That means civilian victims of Islamic terrorism in Pakistan will have gone from 3,000 a year in 2012 and 2013 to less than 600 for all of 2016. The generals seem to have forgotten how long they denied there were any Islamic terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan at all. Most civilians knew that North Waziristan was just such a sanctuary. So there was no surprise, or gratitude, when the army finally shut down the North Waziristan terrorist bases.
But with the unexpected resurgence of Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistan during February 2017 the country suffered its highest monthly total of terrorist deaths (262) since March 2016 (270). According to the military such a resurgence in Islamic terrorist violence was not supposed to happen. The military tried to blame it on Afghanistan (for not eliminating Pakistani Islamic terrorists driven out of Pakistan into remote areas of Afghanistan). But Afghanistan has been making the same complaint about Pakistan for years and the new counter-terror offensive in Pakistan does not appear to have done much, if anything, about the Afghan Taliban sanctuary in the southwest (Quetta). India suffered 23 Islamic terrorist related deaths in February and continued to suffer much less (over 90 percent) less terrorist related deaths (adjusted for population) than Pakistan and most of the Indian deaths are from leftist and tribal rebels, not Moslems.
Another reason for the shift in attitude (towards Islamic terrorism) by the Pakistani military is India. Or rather what has been going on in India since modern India and Pakistan were created after World War II. Since the 1990s there have been a lot more prominent Pakistanis (especially politicians and journalists) calling for rethinking Pakistan's official place in the world. There is a questioning of the traditional (since the founding of Pakistan in 1948) view that India and the non-Moslem world in general is conspiring to destroy Pakistan. Note that this attitude is incorporated in the name of Pakistan, which means "land of the pure," as in religiously pure. Based on economic, cultural and military performance, this approach has not worked. Pakistan is a mess, and old ideas are being reexamined. There is resistance to this questioning of traditional practices. There always is. This could get very messy. A recent example of this was indications (rumors, leaks, whatever) that the new head of the Pakistani military had advised his senior officers to read books on Indian democracy. This was not the first time a senior Pakistani general suggested this, but it usually occurs after they have retired, often while visiting (or now living in) another country. This time the general denied he had made such a suggestion. But the deed was already done and more Pakistani officers were taking a look.
Although India has many more people (six times as many) it has been more effectively governed. There is much evidence for this, the latest one being that India can afford to spend seven times more on defense than Pakistan. While the per capita income for Pakistan and India has long been about the same, since economic reforms in the 1990s (less socialism more free markets) India has pulled ahead. Even more humiliating is the fact that many East Asian nations had the same per capita income as Pakistan and India in 1960 but are way ahead now. South Korea, for example, now has per capita income 17 times larger than Pakistan’s. South Korea concentrated on free markets, education and reducing corruption. That’s simple enough, but doing that has proved impossible so far for Pakistan (or India, which is at least trying). Worse for Pakistan’s rulers is the fact that more Pakistanis are aware of these discrepancies and asking “Why?”
Adjusted for population, Pakistan has long had 15-20 times more violence per capita than India. In Pakistan, it's not just al Qaeda and Taliban, but many other religious and political factions killing each other. For India, part of the terror related violence is from Pakistan (regularly showing up in Kashmir, less frequently in Indian cities). But most is because of tribal rebels in the northeast and communist rebels in eastern India.
Even though India has more Moslems than Pakistan, Indian Moslems are much less likely to back (much less engage in) Islamic terrorism. In short, India has already worked out how to deal with (greatly reduce) Islamic terrorism and Pakistanis are wondering if what worked there would work for them. It’s not just India. Pakistan has long refused to pay attention to the successful anti-terrorism measures implemented in Bangladesh. Pakistan does not like to be reminded of anything to do with Bangladesh, which used to be East Pakistan and part of a much larger Pakistan. But the Bangladeshis rebelled in the early 1970s and West Pakistan (all that is now left of the original Pakistan) was unable to put down the uprising. After that defeat Pakistan adopted Islamic radicalism as a new policy and Islamic terrorism as a weapon. Bangladesh made peace with India (which supported the rebels) and discouraged Islamic radicalism. Despite the growing popularity (among Moslems) of Islamic radicalism in the last three decades, Bangladesh has been largely free of it.
Pakistani efforts to revive its Islamic terrorist operations in Indian Kashmir have again failed. As in the past the violence is instigated by Islamic terrorists based in Pakistani Kashmir and Pakistani border troops who fire on their Indian counterparts to make it easier for the Islamic terrorists to get into India. Most of the people in Kashmir are Moslem but are not convinced that Islamic terrorist violence (or violence in general) is going to change anything. Most Kashmiris also note that economic and social conditions are far worse in Pakistan. This shift can be seen in the growing number of Moslem informers in Kashmir which has enabled the police to find and arrest most of the top organizers of anti-India violence.
The Global Curse
For Pakistan and India a major predictor of political and economic success is the amount of corruption the country suffers from. Pakistan ranks 116th out of 176 countries while India ranks 79 and the U.S. ranks 18 when it comes to lack of corruption. By way of comparison in the Americas one the most corrupt nation is Venezuela (166th out of 176 countries) with a score of 15. But in Eurasia it is still Afghanistan. That explains why, for centuries Afghanistan was the poorest and least developed country in Eurasia. Despite considerable economic and educational progress since 2001 Afghanistan is still a mess but no longer at the bottom of the list. Corruption in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The most corrupt nations (usually North Korea, Somalia or, since 2011, South Sudan) have a rating of under fifteen while the least corrupt (usually Denmark) it is often 90 or higher. The current scores are 32 for Pakistan, 40 for India, 15 for Afghanistan, 29 for Iran, 29 for Russia, 25 for Tajikistan, 21 for Uzbekistan, 29 for Kazakhstan, 40 for China, 11 for South Sudan, 12 for North Korea, 30 for Mexico, 66 for the UAE (United Arab Emirates) 64 for Israel, 74 for the United States, and 72 for Japan. A lower corruption score is common with nations in economic trouble. African nations are the most corrupt, followed by Middle Eastern ones.
February 28, 2017: Iran has agreed to open two additional border crossings with Pakistan. Both will be near the coast and the newly expanded (by the Chinese) port of Gwadar. The two new border crossings will handle expected increases in trade with Iran.
February 24, 2017: In northwest Pakistan artillery fire killed two Islamic terrorists later identified as members of Jamaatul Ahrar. One of the dead man was believed to be the planner for a February 13 bombing in Punjab and the other was in charge of a camp Jamaatul Ahrar maintains in eastern Afghanistan.
February 23, 2017: In Pakistan (Lahore, capital of Punjab province) a bomb went off downtown at a construction site, killing ten people and wounding about twenty. The government tried to blame it on a generator malfunction (and explosion) but police quickly concluded that it was a bomb. This was embarrassing in light of the new nationwide counter-terrorism campaign (that by March 1st had killed over a hundred and arrested over a thousand suspects).
February 22, 2017: Pakistan launched another major counter-terror campaign, similar to lone launched in mid-2014 but this time covering the whole country, not just the tribal northwest. In early 2014 the counter-terror campaign was supposed to eventually cover the entire country but that never happened because the military believed it could control most of the Islamic terrorist groups and keep terror attacks inside Pakistan down, as had happened after 2014. That did not work and now the military is again under pressure from Pakistanis and the neighbors to crack down on all Islamic terror groups. Within 48 hours the security forces claimed to have killed over a hundred Islamic terrorists.
February 21, 2017: Pakistan announced that the civilian and military leadership agreed to allow the military to attack Islamic terrorists responsible for recent attacks even if they have bases in a foreign country. This is aimed at Afghanistan as no other neighbor is weak enough for Pakistan to get away with attacking. Pakistan said it had sent Afghanistan the names of 76 Islamic terrorists believed to be operating in Afghanistan. At the same time Afghanistan sent Pakistan a list of 85 Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan but accused of Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan. This is not the first time Afghanistan (or India) have sent Pakistan such lists but this may be the first time Pakistan actually goes after the tolerated (in Pakistan) Islamic terrorists. Both India and Afghanistan (and the United States) are waiting to see what happens. So are many Pakistanis.
February 17, 2017: Afghanistan complained that Pakistani security forces fired rockets and shells from Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan (Nangarhar and Kunar provinces). These rocket, mortar and artillery attacks from Pakistan have been particularly heavy since 2013 but this time Pakistan admitted that it was doing it on purpose. Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of tolerating or even supporting Islamic terrorists based near the border as long as they confine their attacks to Pakistan. India is sometimes accused of supporting these groups. Afghanistan and India have demanded proof from Pakistan but none is ever provided. This time the Pakistani military is under tremendous domestic pressure to “do something” about Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan. There are Islamic terrorist bases in eastern Afghanistan but some of those groups work for Pakistan and have their main bases in Pakistan. Afghanistan sees no reason to attack Islamic terror groups who only attack Pakistan as long as Pakistan won’t go after Islamic terrorist bases in Pakistan used by groups that only attack Afghanistan. Pakistan usually refuses to admit they are even happening but because of the recent cooperation deal (mainly against Islamic terrorists) Pakistan is more receptive to these complaints.
February 16, 2017: In southeast Pakistan (Sindh Province) ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) took credit for a suicide bombing at a popular Sufi shrine. This left 88 Moslems dead and wounded more than twice as many. This ISIL operation was similar to a late 2016 attack on another Sufi shrine in the southwest (Baluchistan) that left at least fifty dead over a hundred wounded. ISIL believes any Moslem who does not adhere to the ISIL version of Islam is a heretic. Many conservative Sunni Moslems believe that as well. Nearly all Islamic terrorists are Sunni Islamic radicals that believe anyone who is not their type of Sunni is not really Moslem and must comply with Sunni religious practices or die. This sort of violence has been a problem in Pakistan even before Pakistan was created in 1947. The Sufi sect of Islam used to be dominant in Pakistan, but since the 1980s more militant forms of Islamic have proliferated with the support of the military. This was fostered by missionaries and money from Saudi Arabia, who preached intolerance and violence against non-Moslems and Moslems who are not extreme enough. This extremist form of Islam has been a major factor in preventing India and Pakistan from making peace. According to Islamic radicals, Hindus are the worst kind of infidel (non-Moslem) because, unlike Christians and Jews, they have no common religious roots with Islam. Actually, Hindus do, as there was a lot of Hindu influence in Arabia when Islam was founded 1,400 years ago, but the founders of Islam choose not to openly recognize their Hindu roots. Thus the harder line on Hindus. In Pakistan the growing number of Islamic terrorist attacks on non-Sunni Moslems (especially Shia and Sufi) is very unpopular with most Pakistanis, even those who are not Shia or Sufi. About ten percent of Pakistanis are Shia (mostly) or Sufi but because of the long history of Sufism in Pakistan there are dozens of major Sufi holy places (usually tombs of prominent Sufis) there that attract many visitors from Pakistan and foreign countries.
February 14, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) police found another tunnel dug under the nearby Pakistani border twenty meters (65 feet) into India. The Pakistan based Islamic terrorists have tried tunneling before, without much success. In
soldiers discovered an unfinished tunnel under the border, meant to make it less risky for Islamic terrorists to move from their Pakistani training camps and into India. Tunnels were not really that much safer. In 2
, a tunnel near the border was discovered after parts of it collapsed because of heavy rains. Pakistan denies that the tunnel, which was at a depth of eight meters (25 feet) went into Pakistan. But excavations so far have it headed straight for the border fence. Tunnels are time consuming, expensive and require some people who know what they are doing.
February 9, 2017: In the southwest, near the Iranian (Baluchistan) border four mortar shells fell on the Pakistani side and the Pakistanis accused the Iranian border guards of being responsible. Pakistan did not respond but this had happened before (several times) and usually involved the Iranians trying to deal with some Iranian rebels fleeing to sanctuary in Pakistan. Baluchi Sunni Islamic terrorists often carry out operations in Iran and flee back across the border to Pakistan. These Iranian Baluchi separatists regularly operate against Iran from bases in Pakistan and have become a growing problem for both countries. Pakistan is under a lot of pressure to do something about it, so the Pakistani government at least goes through the motions of responding to each incident.
February 2, 2017:
In the northwest, just across the border in Afghanistan (Khost province, near the Pakistan border) an American UAV used missile to kill six Taliban men belonging to one of breakaway Taliban factions. Two of the dead were kin (a nephew and son-in-law) of dissident Taliban faction leader Mullah Muhammad Rasool. During the late 1990s Mullah Rasool was the Taliban strongman in the southwest as governor of Nimroz province (until 2001). The Rasool clam made a fortune by controlling the drug smuggling down there. Rasool had lots of contacts in Iran and saw himself as a potential supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban. The current Taliban civil war is the result of disagreement over who should take over as Taliban leader after founder Mullah Omar was revealed in 2015 to have died in 2013 (in a Pakistani hospital). The information was kept to a few key Omar associates who were accused of doing this as part of a plot to install an Omar successor (Mullah Mansour ) who was second-rate but backed by the Pakistan military. From late 2015 to mid-2016 Rasool fought other Taliban factions for control of the organization. Heavy fighting began in late November 2015 when Mullah Mansour ordered attacks against the forces loyal to rival Mullah Rasool. This marked a major defeat for the Taliban as they lost a major asset; unity. Most of the fighting took place in Herat, Zabul and Farah provinces. There were apparently several thousand casualties and the heavy fighting did not cease until July 2016. Meanwhile Pakistan sided with Mansour, who was then killed in May 2016 by an American air strike. Pakistan used its considerable control over the Afghan Taliban to get the head of the Pakistan backed Haqqani Network appointed as one of the three senior Taliban leaders. Rasool apparently backed down in the face of all this and has apparently left the country. It’s stuff like this that makes the neighbors doubt that the Pakistani military has really adopted a new attitude towards Islamic terrorism.