Pakistanis are uniting to openly oppose their own military. Eleven opposition parties in parliament formed a new coalition, PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) to oppose the Pakistani military and its growing political power. That means PDM also opposes the current prime minister, Imran Kahn and his PTI party. While Kahn helped organize major anti-government protests in 2014, and always portrayed himself as a populist, he is believed to have sold out to the military in order to win the 2018
national elections and become prime minister. Two years later Pakistan is worse off economically, diplomatically and politically. Now something unprecedented is happening, there is widespread open criticism of the military. In the past such boldness was quickly punished with arrest or worse. The worse included kidnapping by military operatives. These enforcers wore no uniforms but it was no secret who they worked for. If the offender did not provide a sincere apology the kidnapping turned into murder. No one has ever been punished for these crimes and Pakistanis are fed up and not remaining silent any more. This has the military on the defensive because the generals have seen this coming. Mass resentment of the military has been getting worse since 2011, when an American commando raid into Pakistan found Osama bin Laden hiding out in a compound near the Pakistani military academy. The military had been unable to detect much less halt this raid before the Americans made off with bin Ladens body and lots of documents and other evidence of how the al Qaeda founder was able to find sanctuary in Pakistan. The military had always denied that bin Laden was welcome in Pakistan or being protected by the military. The military has never recovered from 2011 and the loss of respect by Pakistanis in general. Now the military is facing calls for fundamental changes and prosecution of the guilty. The military has no good options here and it couldn’t happen to a nastier group of thugs.
Collateral Damage in Pakistan
While the covid119 recession made matter worse for Pakistan, even without covid19 the economy has weakened and more families are falling into extreme poverty. The main reason for this is the military and the culture of corruption it profits from. Over the decades the military, including retired officers, have gained ownership or control over large segments of the economy. The military benefits from the corrupt taxation system, where the wealthiest families pay little or no income taxes. For the military, their wealth and continued prosperity takes priority. The military engages in its own censorship effort and will punish, or even murder, journalists or media executives who publicize misdeeds of the military. That includes the sponsorship of international terrorism. That has turned Pakistan into an internationally recognized sponsor of terrorism. Worse, the military is now threatening Pakistani politicians who do not cooperate. The military is also widely believed to have used massive vote fraud to ensure that their new asset, Imran Kahn became prime minister and did what he was told. Kahn did not stay bought and is now criticizing his masters. The outlaw behavior of the military has gotten worse over the last decade as more military misbehavior was criticized. In response the military keeps seeking more direct power over Pakistan and more former allies oppose that. The worst nightmare for the military is to become a pariah in their own country. At that point their only option is to go for a permanent military dictatorship. That’s a direction you don’t come back from. At that point the military must win or die. Historically these dictatorships do not end well for anyone.
A Plague On Your Economies
Both Pakistan and India saw their economic growth decline or even go negative because of the covid19 induced recession. There was some GDP contraction in both countries. In Pakistan GDP shrinkage was less than one percent for 2020 but is expected to be over five percent in 2021. The Pakistani government is unable to collect enough taxes to meet its budget and Pakistan received its last financial bailout earlier in the year just before covid19 arrived. There are no more financial bailouts for Pakistan because Pakistan has failed to comply with the terms of too many past bailouts.
India has a much larger, more robust and faster growing economy than Pakistan. Indian GDP shrank by at least 10 percent in 2020, the worse performance in the region. Despite that it is expected that India will quickly (2021 or 2022) return to pre-covid19 GDP growth rates of 8 percent a year. Meanwhile China still managed to achieve about two percent GDP growth in 2020 and should return to its pre-2020 6-7 percent a year growth in 2021.
Afghans continue to suffer greatly because of the drug gangs and Pakistan. The most harmful foreign influence is the Pakistan-backed Afghan Taliban. There is also a Pakistan Taliban that is trying to impose a religious dictatorship on Pakistan. The security forces and political parties in Pakistan exert much more control than their counterparts in Afghanistan
The Taliban is a largely Pushtun organization and the Pushtuns, about 36 percent of the 31 million Afghans, dominate the south. Most of the exiles to Iran and Pakistan during the 1980s were Pushtun. As a result of this, and less violence in the north and west, the Afghan Tajiks now comprise the same percent of the population as the Pushtuns. During the late 1990s civil war, after the Pakistani military armed and recruited the Taliban, the one part of Afghanistan the Taliban could never conquer was the Tajik northeast. If there is another civil war the Tajiks will again be the main opponent for the Pushtun Taliban. The Tajiks have allies that include the other minorities, especially Turkmen, Uzbeks and Mongols (Hazara). The Tajik and Pushtun are often called “eastern Iranians” because they are, like the Iranians, also Indo-European, as are most people in northern India and Pakistan. The Tajiks differ from the Pushtun in being less warlike, less religiously fanatic and more amenable to education and progress in general. Perhaps even more important is that the Tajiks have largely abandoned the use of tribes as a political organization. The Pushtun are still very much into tribal power and there are twice as many Pushtuns in Pakistan as there are in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Pushtuns are angry as well.
One major complication with the current Afghan peace negotiations is that a major faction, Pakistan, cannot officially be acknowledged. Pakistan officially maintains that this is not true. Technically that is correct because it’s not the government of Pakistan but the Pakistani military and its ISI intelligence service that supports and maintains Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs. It is important to note that, when Britain dissolved its Indian (including what is now Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka) colonial government, the new nations emerged as quite different. One major difference was how these new nations handled their armed forces. India ensured that the military remained subservient to the elected government. That did not happen in Pakistan or Burma and this meant the military frequently took control of the government. While Pakistan is technically run by an elected government, that government cannot do anything the military disagrees with. With regard to Afghanistan the Pakistani military has a foreign policy towards Afghanistan that supersedes anything the politicians come up with or agree to.
The Pakistani military have always seen Afghanistan has an unstable region that posed a potential threat to Pakistan. Historically this was true. Massive invasions and tribal raids have been coming out of Afghanistan and into India (and Iran) for thousands of years. While India was always a potential (and unlikely) invader the threat from Afghanistan was real and constant. Most Pakistanis recognized this threat and there was never a lot of popular opposition towards the Pakistani military’s actions towards Afghanistan. That continues to the present. For the Afghan Taliban it means they are very dependent on the good will of the Pakistani military to survive. In fact, it was the Pakistani ISI that created the Afghan Taliban in the mid-1990s as a way to intervene and end the civil war that had been going on since the Russians left in the late 1980s.
The ISI found that it did not have enough control over the Taliban to prevent the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequent unwanted American intervention in Afghan and Pakistani affairs. The Americans and the Afghan Northern Alliance chased the Taliban out of Afghanistan by the end of 2001. The ISI made the best of the situation and provided the Afghan Taliban with a sanctuary in southwest Pakistan, just across the border from Helmand and Kandahar provinces, which was where most of the world’s heroin was produced and where most of the original Taliban (recruited in Pakistan refugee camps) came from. The drug gangs, which had provided the Taliban with most of their income during the late 1990s, continued to pay the Taliban after 2001 as both the drug gangs and Taliban survived because of support from the Pakistani military. That support included allowing essential chemicals (for converting opium into heroin) into Afghanistan and allowing most of the heroin to be exported via Pakistani ports (naval and air) to world markets. The exiled Taliban provided the muscle while Taliban leaders maintained their 1990s relationships with the drug gang leaders and the Pushtun tribes.
Pakistan sees itself as the main beneficiary of the ongoing Afghan peace talks between the Pakistan-controlled Taliban, the United States and the elected Afghan government. The stated objective of the Taliban is to replace the current government with a Taliban controlled religious dictatorship. That means there will be no peace and any Pakistanis with knowledge of what has gone on in Afghanistan since the 1970s can see how this will end. Worst case is all foreign troops leaving and foreign aid is withdrawn because of the corruption. In that situation Afghanistan returns to its traditional (over the last few thousand years) condition. That means the country/region we call Afghanistan gets picked apart by more powerful neighboring states. Traditionally this has meant Persians and Indians. Now it is Iranians and Pakistanis, who are basically Indian Moslems who demanded their own Moslem state when India was created in 1947. Pakistan is broke and economically dependent on China. The Chinese don’t want their numerous investments in Pakistan attacked by Islamic terrorists, tribal separatists or anyone else. Pakistan justifies (to China) the expense of meddling in Afghanistan because it is necessary to control the Pushtun minority in Pakistan. There are twice as many Pushtun in Pakistan as in Afghanistan but Pakistan has a much larger non-Tribal (Punjabi and Sindi) population so the Pushtuns are only 15 percent of all Pakistanis. The Baluchi tribes account for another four percent. That makes about 19 percent of Pakistanis tribal and not particularly happy with the Chinese presence or the brutal treatment of tribal people in Pakistan. Extending that brutal control to Afghanistan won’t improve anything in Pakistan.
Neither Pakistan nor Iran see any profit in annexing adjacent portions of Afghanistan. While Pakistan, or at least the Pakistani military, is content to “tax” Afghan drug operations that need access to Pakistan, the Iranians, like most civilians in the region, see the opium and heroin coming out if Afghanistan as something evil that much be fought. That means the Afghan/Iran border has long been a combat zone between Iranian security forces and armed Afghan drug smugglers.
October 28, 2020: India and the United States have signed a BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement). This means both nations will more freely exchange classified intel. This favors India which now has access to more and higher resolution satellite photos and other sensor data as well as better worldwide intel in general. The U.S. receives better intel on what China is doing in South Asia and what Pakistan is up to.
Indian agents from the NIA (National Investigation Agency) raided the offices of nine Islamic charities in Kashmir and the Indian capital. The charities are suspected of banks for Pakistani-backed Islamic terrorists in Kashmir.
October 27, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (Peshawar) a bomb went off in a religious school (madrassa), killing eight and wounding over a hundred. Nearly all the victims were students. Pakistani intel warned several days ago that there were indications a number of terror attacks were about to be carried out or attempted. So far two such attacks have taken place. No one has claimed responsibility for today’s attack, which was carried out using a bomb containing five kg (11 pounds) of high-grade explosives and a timer. Within a few days the police had rounded up over fifty of the usual suspects in an effort identify which group carried out this attack.
October 25, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a bomb went off in Quetta killing three people. Baluchi separatists (BLA) took credit for the attack.
October 23, 2020:
In northwest India (Kashmir) Pakistan continues to escalate the violence along the border with nearly four thousand violations of the ceasefire this year. This is in spite of a 2018 agreement to a truce along the Line Of Control (the unofficial border separating Pakistani and Indian Kashmir since 1948). This was another attempted restoration of the 2003 truce, which Pakistan has broken repeatedly whenever it needed to generate some news of “Indian Aggression”. India would nearly always fire back and that enabled Pakistan to claim that India fired first. Independent observers noted that it was always the Pakistanis who fired first. Recently Indian has been making convincing threats of eliminating the problem by ignoring the Line Of Control and moving troops into Pakistani Kashmir and eliminating the Islamic terrorist bases Pakistan has long maintained there. Pakistan reminded India that both nations had nukes and India didn’t flinch. Restoring the 2003 ceasefire is something Pakistan periodically accepts to avoid a nuclear war. According to India there have been far more cease-fire violations this year than ever before. The 2018 truce did not last long. Within three days there was the first incident of Pakistani troops firing across the border. Soon the violence escalated although not yet to pre-truce levels and kept escalating. This year there has also been a major escalation in Pakistani smuggling (of weapons, cash and other equipment) to their operatives in Indian Kashmir. All this border violence is driven by the increasing political problems the Pakistani military is having at home. The military is increasingly unpopular in Pakistan and the military seeks to create crises wherever it can to distract from the increased political misbehavior of the military. In contrast the Indian military regularly comes out at the top in opinion polls about the most liked and trusted institutions in India.
October 22, 2020: In Pakistan’s Sind province, the sixteen most senior provincial police commanders have asked for permission to go on a two-month leave. This unusual protest was triggered by accusations that the army coerced senior police officials in Sind province to have a retired police captain arrested. While the captain had attended an anti-military protest on the 18th, there was no evidence that he had broken any law. Nevertheless, the military wanted him arrested and got it done. This was seen as a major violation of Pakistani law and custom. Anti-military sentiment is on the rise in Sind province, which was one of the most pro-military areas in Pakistan. Now the military has Sindh as well as the Pushtun tribal territories and Baluchistan as active opponents and critics.
October 20, 2020: In Indian Navy commissioned the last of four Kamorta-class corvettes. These 3,300 ton warships were built in India and the largest surface warships built in India. Over the last decade India has been replacing all dependence on foreign shipyards for new warships. The first Kamorta entered service in 2014.
October 21, 2020: After a July FATF
(Financial Action Task Force) review of counter-terrorism goals,
Pakistan has again managed to stay off the international blacklist for nations that support terrorism. For five years Pakistan has done everything it could, except to halt support of Islamic terrorism, to avoid the blacklist and the financial sanctions that go with it. For decades Pakistan has been lying about its support for Islamic terrorism and those lies are catching up with them.
In February 2020 the FATF told Pakistan that it made enough progress in reducing support for Islamic terrorism since October 2019 to avoid being blacklisted. But Pakistan was not safe because the FATF monitoring continued. Pakistan was again given more time to carry of necessary reforms. Pakistan met most of the February goals, but not all of them and remains on the gray list and has another deadline to meet.
Back in October 2019 Pakistan had achieved only four of the 27 tasks the FATF set to get Pakistan out of trouble. Pakistan should have gone onto the blacklist for that but pressure from China got Pakistan another “last chance”. Since 2019 Pakistan has raised the number of goals achieved to 14. All 27 reform goals must be met by the next FATF review in July 2020. Since 2016 it appeared that Pakistan was not making enough effort to block Pakistan-based terrorist groups from using the international banking system to finance their violence. Pakistan keeps making just enough progress to keep themselves off the FATF black list. Pakistan had been on the gray list from 2012 to 2015 and that was bad for businesses that import or export or need to get foreign loans or sell bonds. After 2015 Pakistan was still on the FATF list but not designated as dangerous. Being on the gray portion of the list makes it more expensive to do business and is very bad for the reputation of Pakistan and Pakistanis. The situation is worse this time because decades of corruption and government mismanagement have left Pakistan unable to raise enough money for its government budget. This threatens the Pakistani military, which has always taken a disproportionate portion of the budget and does not want to reduce its spending. Being on the FATF blacklist would be a financial and economic crisis for Pakistan. Since China is the major foreign investor in Pakistan, and Pakistan is the largest customer for Chinese weapons, China has much at stake here. There is only so much China can do to keep Pakistan off the black list.
China played a major role in keeping Pakistan off the gray list in early 2018 but the odds were against Pakistan staying off the list because it has long been an open secret that Pakistani support for its own pet Islamic terrorists included making it easier for Islamic terrorists in general to do business in Pakistan. The United States has been gathering evidence to justify putting Pakistan back on the FATF gray list (along with Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and Tunisia). FATF meets every three months to consider new evidence to get nations on, or off, the list. The U.S. now considers Pakistan a problem in the war against terrorism and not a reliable partner. India and Afghanistan share that view as do a growing number of UN members.
October 15, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Baluch separatists ambushed a convoy of oil industry workers guarded by armed personnel and killed seven soldiers and seven security guards.
October 13, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) a convoy of commercial tractor-trailers taking American military equipment to Afghanistan, was ambushed. No one took credit for the attack, which destroyed some of the cargo. The convoy was headed for Khyber Pass and the Afghan border crossing at Torkham.
October 8, 2020:
In eastern India (Chhattisgarh State) Maoists (communist rebels) reported that they had recently executed 25 of their own after accusing twelve of being government spies. The rest were guilty of various forms of serious misbehavior. The Maoists are still active but are feeling the pressure from over a decade of attacks by the paramilitary police battalions. The Maoists have seen reduced membership and a reduction in territory where they exercise any effective control. It is increasingly the case that civilians in Maoist infested areas provide police with information about where wanted Maoist leaders are or report the activities of groups of armed Maoists in rural areas. It has also become easier to recruit Maoist members to became active informants. These spies are paid monthly and the sudden affluence of their families often alerts Maoist leaders to the presence of police informants. While Information about informants is kept secret, the losses suffered because police had inside information is often obvious. The Maoist decline has demoralized Maoist leaders, who have not been able to come up with any way to halt or reverse the losses. Maoists are a radical faction of the once mighty Indian communist party. Many Indian communists were slow to understand why all those East European communist governments, including Russia, collapsed between 1989 and 1991. Despite that many Indians still support communism, but not the violent, ineffective and increasingly unpopular Maoists.
October 7, 2020:
In northeast India an across the Burmese border (Sagaing Region) NCSN-K (National Socialist Council of Nagaland-
Khaplang) tribal rebels based in Kachin state, are increasingly hunted on both sides of the border by Indian and Burmese forces that coordinate these operations. This has led to an unprecedented number of Indian tribal rebels, especially leaders, being arrested in northwest Burma and returned to India as per earlier border security agreements.
October 4, 2020: India is accusing China of tolerating an Indian tribal rebel group (
Ulfa-I) in Yunnan province. While China has tolerated some Burmese Wa State rebel activities in China (Guangxi province), those are mostly of a commercial nature. Burmese rebels buy a lot of weapons and other stuff in China and ship (or smuggle) it into Burma. Guangxi does not border India, Yunnan does and China has claims on large portions of India that border Yunnan.