Attrition: Patterns Of Violence In South Asia


September 16, 2008:  In South Asia (including Afghanistan), the most violent countries are currently Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Both are suffering over a thousand dead a month due to organized violence. In both countries, the cause of the violence is a minority (religious and tribal in Afghanistan, ethnic in Sri Lanka) seeking to impose their will on the majority. While not as widely reported as Afghanistan, Sri Lankan has been the bloodier conflict for the last few years. In the last quarter century, it's Afghanistan which has been the more violent place (with over a million dead, about ten times the death toll in Sri Lanka.) Running a close second to Afghanistan and Sri Lanka is Pakistan, which is actually the eastern half of the violence in Afghanistan. The same tribal elements (Pushtuns) are fighting on both sides of the border. Most of the 40 million Pushtuns in region are in Pakistan, with only about a quarter in Afghanistan. Most of the religious extremists are in Pakistan as well, and that complicates the situation in both countries (because the Pakistani government is a parliamentary one, and the Islamic conservative parties, while in the minority, are often essential for putting together a ruling coalition).

India, while the most populous nation in the region, has the lowest rate of violence. Most of the religious violence is from Moslem radicals, with about 40 percent provided by tribal separatists and communist groups.



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