India-Pakistan: Tribal Terror Takes A Dive


April 28, 2009: The Taliban unrest in the Pakistani tribal territories along the Afghan border, has touched off a civil war. On the one side are the Taliban, trying to use religion to gain power. On the other side, are businessmen and tribal leaders who already have power, and are trying to hold on to it. Some Taliban continue to attack the trucks that move goods in and out of landlocked (and railroadless) Afghanistan. This generates a lot of anger among the many people who make a good living moving the goods.  

But mainly, Pakistan is reluctant to give up the century old "arrangement" that has kept the Pushtun tribesmen up in the hills, and away from the more densely populated lowlands of Punjab and Sind provinces. The main problem is that the Taliban seem little interested in staying put, and are constantly making peace deals they have no intention of keeping, and using the resulting confusion to try and seize control of more territory. The government does not want to fight a civil war. While the government would most certainly win, it would be very expensive (the government is broke), and the current politicians in power would likely be voted out during the next elections because of a tribal war. But as the Taliban keep pushing, the government pushes back, and has killed or wounded several hundred Taliban in the last week.

To further stir up violence in Pakistan's tribal territories, the Taliban have been threatening foreign aid workers, and urging them to leave (because the Westerners hire women and indulge in similar customs that offend Islamic conservatives.) But the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) like the UN and numerous foreign educational and development groups in the tribal territories have a lot of local fans.

In Bangladesh, the government has identified 33 Islamic radical organizations, but only banned four of them. The government hopes to get most of these groups to back off from terrorist acts. Banning them might give the more extreme radicals the opportunity to turn the groups to violent acts.

Indian troops and police continue to search for, and catch, Maoists in the east. This heightened police activity has forced the Maoists to mobilize and mass fighters to try and oppose the police. The violence is expected to intensify, but the increased activity prevents the Maoists from doing their political work (terrorizing local politicians, and civil groups that oppose them.)

April 26, 2009:  Pakistani troops have moved against the Taliban in the Lower Dir district of the Tribal Territories. Lower Dir, and its million population, is right on the Afghan border. The army has inflicted over a hundred casualties on the Taliban, and caused them to scatter.

April 25, 2009: The Pakistani Army attempted to move troops and supplies into the Swat valley, but was stopped by Taliban gunmen. Elsewhere in the tribal territories, twelve children were killed by a bomb found next to a girls school. In Peshawar, the capital of the tribal territories, someone fired three rockets at the main airport, causing little damage.

April 23, 2009: Taliban gunmen have pulled out of the Buner district of Pakistan, and gone back to the adjacent Swat valley. The Taliban encountered local resistance in Buner, and got word that the army was sending in troops. The Taliban quickly recruited and armed some local radicals, and told them to try and hold on to power.

April 22, 2009:  In Pakistan, Taliban militias have moved into another area of the tribal territories (the Buner district and its half million population), from Swat,  and attempted to force out government officials and lawyers, so they can impose a religious dictatorship (and Sharia law). The Malakand division, a large part of the Pakistani tribal territories, has had its police force largely destroyed by Taliban violence over the last four months. In that time, 131 of 1,600 police have been killed and another 800 have left their posts, leaving only 700 still on duty. The 4.5 million people in the district were lightly policed even when the force was at full strength and on duty. Tribal militias, and warlords like the Taliban factions, have more firepower than the cops. The Taliban are shooting at government reinforcements trying to enter Malakand. The Swat Taliban are a faction led by local warlords.

In Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), someone threw a grenade a the police and wounded five of them.




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