India-Pakistan: Troublesome Assets

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May 13, 2012: Pakistan's problems along the Afghan border are mostly about the difficulty integrating its Pushtun and Baluchi tribes into the nation of Pakistan. In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) there are the Baluchi, and in the northwest there are the Pushtun. Both groups are very territorial and hostile to outsiders. But people from Punjab (48 percent of the population) and Sind (29 percent) are better educated and posses technical skills lacking in the Pushtun tribal territories (16 percent) and Baluchistan (seven percent) and must be brought in to do work requiring education and experience. While Sind province has economic development levels similar to India, the tribal territories are more similar to the less developed nations in Africa.

What the tribes lack in economic development they make up for in terms of aggressiveness and hostility towards the more numerous and wealthier lowlanders. For thousands of years these mountain tribes have raided and plundered their lowland neighbors. But the last time that happened was nearly a century ago, when Pushtuns from Afghanistan joined tribal brethren on the other (British India) side of the border and headed for the lowlands. The tribesmen didn't make it and spent three months trying. When Pakistan was created in 1947, the tribes were still not pacified and were a sixth of the population. Over the next 65 years many Pushtun and Baluchi moved into the lowlands (especially the cities, like Karachi) while many lowlanders moved into the tribal areas, bringing needed skills and a veneer of government and modern civilization. But the tribal leader and their ancient form of government persisted, as did the custom of most adult males being armed and ready to fight (or turn into a bandit). This, as much as the corrupt and self-serving Pakistani military has defined and defiled the history of Pakistan.

Negotiations have failed to persuade Pakistan to stop blocking NATO use of Pakistani roads to get cargo into Afghanistan. This is because the U.S. refuses to apologize for a friendly fire incident last November which the Americans consider partly the fault of the Pakistanis. As a result, NATO and the U.S. have been moving supplies and equipment over the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) via Central Asia. This is more expensive and is costing the United States an additional half billion dollars a year (increasing overall Afghan operating costs by about four tenths of one percent a year). Pakistan closed its border to NATO supplies last November 26. In Pakistan the American apology is very important to anti-American politicians who have bet their reputations on casting the Americans as unrepentant villains. The Americans are mad about Pakistanis constantly denying that some factions of the Pakistani government and military openly support Islamic terrorists and provide very public terrorist sanctuaries for them in North Waziristan (for al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban) and Quetta (Afghan Taliban).

In Pakistan's tribal territories (Peshawar) a bomb went off near a police check point, wounding seven people. This is the fourth such bombing (against police) in the city in the last four days.

India and Pakistan continue to negotiate peace, which now includes increased trade and regular cricket games between teams from both countries. But Pakistan still openly supports the terrorism in Kashmir and refuses to shut down terrorist groups in Pakistan that openly plan attacks on India. Meanwhile, Indian counter-terror efforts have been very successful in blocking most of these attacks. The vast majority of Indian Moslems want nothing to do with Islamic terrorism, and that makes it difficult for Islamic terrorists to operate inside India.

India is planning major economic programs for rural tribal areas where Maoist rebels are active. The success of this will depend on how well officials can control the corruption that usually wrecks plans like these. At the same time, the massive police presence in the Maoist strongholds is seeking to shut down the rural bases the rebels operate from. If more support can be obtained from locals, and the Maoists constantly chased out of their base camps, the rebels will decline and eventually become a minor nuisance. The Maoists are well entrenched in these areas and fanatical. They will not be easy to eliminate.

May 11, 2012: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Khyber) four children were killed by a mortar shell as civilians were caught in the middle of a battle between soldiers and a tribal warlord.

May 10, 2012: In Kashmir troops caught six Islamic terrorists crossing from Pakistan. The intruders refused to surrender and opened fire, five were killed.

Pakistan successfully tested one of its Hatf 3 ballistic missiles. This model only has a range of 290 kilometers. Although described as nuclear armed, more likely to carry nuclear weapons is the Hatf 4, which has a range of 2,000 kilometers and has been in service since 2008. The big question mark is whether Pakistan ever perfected its nuclear weapons design (early tests indicated an unreliable design) and overcame the difficult engineering tasks involved in creating a nuclear weapon that is small and rugged enough to operate in a ballistic missile warhead. If not, it's possible that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is an expensive and radioactive fraud. Such massive deceptions are not unknown in Pakistan.

May 9, 2012:  The U.S. Congress cut aid to Pakistan by $800 million. This is in response to continued lack of cooperation by the Pakistanis in fighting Islamic terrorism. The Pakistanis provide sanctuaries for Islamic terror groups and refuse to cooperate in keeping them from crossing the border into and out of Afghanistan.

The commander of the 150,000 troops and paramilitary forces in Pakistani tribal territories wants to go after the Islamic terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan. This is mainly in reaction to recent actions that have left 13 Pakistani troops dead in the territories, including four of them beheaded by Islamic radical tribesmen. The general is likely to be overruled, as the Pakistani army sees the terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan and Quetta (Baluchistan) as valuable strategic assets (that help maintain some control over Afghanistan and provide the only successful weapon against India). India, Afghanistan, and the rest of the world opposes the existence of these terrorist sanctuaries but the Pakistani generals hang onto these troublesome assets. The Pakistanis believe the American presence in Afghanistan won't last, and once the foreign troops are gone Pakistan can once more dominate its less populous, and landlocked, neighbor. The Afghans are not looking forward to that. Nor are many Pakistanis, as the Pakistani military continues to exercise a veto over anything the elected government wants to do and continues to build its own economic empire, paid for by a large chunk of the government's annual income.

In Pakistan's tribal territories (Akora Khattak) two bombs were set off, wounding nine people.

May 8, 2012: In Quetta Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), the chief of detectives for the province, was killed. Many criminal and terrorist organizations wanted this guy dead because of his success in hunting down criminals.

May 7, 2012: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Khyber) Islamic radicals used explosives to destroy a primary school for girls.

May 6, 2012: In North Waziristan an army patrol was attacked, and that set off two days of fighting that left 21 soldiers and civilians dead.

May 5, 2012: In North Waziristan American UAVs used missiles to kill nine Islamic terrorists.

May 4, 2012: A year ago the American raid on the military town of Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden had been living for five years, was a huge embarrassment for the Pakistani military. To most Pakistanis, this was another example of army incompetence in defending the country and proof that the army has been lying about its support for bin Laden and his terrorist followers. The army survived this, by simply denying it had helped hide bin Laden and now claiming that it had actually helped the Americans find him. Blatant lies and denials have worked for the army in the past, and continue to do so.

In Pakistan's tribal territories (Bajur) a suicide bomber attacked a market and killed at least twenty people.

 

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