India-Pakistan: The Ugly Choice


July 27, 2012: The Pakistani leadership is caught in a trap of its own making. Since the 1970s, the local media has (often under government pressure) enthusiastically backed Islamic radicalism and hatred of infidels (non-Moslems, especially all those Indian Hindus). Efforts to make peace with India and the West are crippled by the large number of Pakistanis who still believe the decades of anti-infidel propaganda and cannot be quickly turned around.  Decades of spewing hatred at India and the West and support of terrorism has created a monster that is now at war with Pakistan as well.

The wealthy families that run the country are beset on one side by reformers determined to shut down the corruption that has made the ruling clans wealthy while crippling the economy and civil society. The rulers are also under very deadly attack by the Islamic radical groups who want Pakistan to continue supporting a religious movement that demands restrictions on women, education, and social progress. For the ruling families siding with the Islamic radicalism would maintain their power but only as rulers of a medieval dictatorship. This would be a Pakistan that would fall farther behind the rest of the world in terms of economic growth, education, and so much more. Yet to halt the Islamic radical disease means casualties to the families and years of violence and uncertainty. It's an ugly choice, with heavy losses no matter which way you go.

The decades of pro-Islamic radical propaganda has created popular support for anti-West political parties and forced the major parties to pay lip-service to anti-Indian and anti-Western hostility. This has made it impossible, so far, to achieve a peace treaty with India (continuing 65 years of war or hostility). Many Pakistanis accept the idea that Pakistan has been under attack all that time and has been an innocent victim of outside forces. Politicians have found that pushing the "it’s not our fault" angle is an easy way to gain followers. Even the pervasive corruption inside Pakistan can be dismissed as a foreign plot. All this makes meaningful reform in Pakistan very difficult.

After four years of fighting the Pakistani Army has been unable to shut down the Pushtun tribal rebels (operating as the Pakistani Taliban) in the Khyber and Bajaur areas of the tribal territories. There are less than a thousand armed tribesmen resisting government control and over 5,000 troops on the ground seeking out and fighting the Taliban whenever they can catch them (which is not often). Pakistani aircraft and paid informants on the ground are constantly looking for, and occasionally find, Taliban camps, which are bombed or shelled by artillery. That kills some Taliban but most usually gets away. Fighting the lowlanders (over 80 percent of Pakistanis live in Sind and Punjab provinces) is an honored and popular activity among the Pushtun, even though over a million civilians have fled their homes to avoid the artillery, air attacks, and violence in general. While most Pushtun just want to get on with their lives, the local Taliban want to turn Pakistan into a religious dictatorship, heavily influenced by pious and heavily armed Taliban gunmen. This is not acceptable to most Pakistanis, but there are still thousands of Pushtuns who support the idea and over 500 of them who are out there killing soldiers and civilians who actively resist the Taliban in the Khyber and Bajaur areas.

Afghanistan accuses Pakistani troops of firing over 300 rockets and artillery shells into eastern Afghanistan (Kunar province) over the few weeks and over 1,300 in the past three months, apparently in an effort to hit Pakistani Taliban bases in Afghanistan. This sort of thing has been going on for over two years and has become more intense lately, leaving dozens of Afghan civilians dead or wounded in the last week or so. The rockets and shells disrupt economic activity, especially farming. Pakistan denies the attacks, even though the Afghans have plenty of evidence (in the form of fragments of Pakistani made rockets and shells).

Pakistan is dismissive of Afghan protests and either ignores them or dismisses them with denials. 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, especially since for thousands of years invasions of northern India (which, historically, lowland Pakistan was a part) came out of Afghanistan where many Pushtun tribesmen would join the invaders. Pakistan and India are well aware of this and still consider the Pushtuns a bunch of bloodthirsty savages from the mountains. Afghanistan has only been around for a few centuries, and Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 (before that it was a collection of feudal states and tribal territories). When you get right down to it Pakistan's big problem is that it contains two-thirds of the Pushtun people (who are 15 percent of Pakistan's population) while Afghanistan contains the other third (who are 40 percent of Afghanistan's population). "Pushtunstan" is a nation of 30-40 million Pushtuns caught between Pakistan (still over 150 million people without the Pushtuns) and northern Afghanistan (with about 18 million non-Pushtuns). Without Pushtuns Afghanistan would become yet another Central Asian country with a small population (neighboring Tajikistan has 7.7 million and Uzbekistan has 30 million). But Pushtunstan is never going to happen because the Pushtuns have long been divided by tribal politics and cultural differences. When the Pushtun aren't fighting outsiders, they fight each other. The violent and fractious Pushtuns are a core problem in the region and have been for centuries. There is no easy solution to this.

The Afghans refuse to attack the Pushtun tribes in eastern Pakistan that are sheltering the Pakistani Taliban. Doing so would stir up those tribes against the Afghan government and would greatly annoy most Afghans who are angry at over a decade of Pakistan providing sanctuary (in North Waziristan and Baluchistan) for the Afghan Taliban and other Islamic terror groups that still carry out attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies these sanctuaries exist and the lies become more painful with age.

The Indian campaign against Maoists in eastern India is doing considerable damage to the leftist rebels. In response, the Maoists have apparently held a summit meeting with senior commanders and decided to organize one or more major attacks on the paramilitary police battalions arrayed against them. The Maoist have a problem in that they are running out of places to hide. The police commando and elite recon units are getting better at tracking down Maoist units and their remote bases. Without these bases the Maoists cannot maintain and concentrate large (hundreds of gunmen) groups for major attacks. When Maoists can kill dozens of police in one action it has a demoralizing impact on the police and disrupts operations over a wide area. The police are still vulnerable to these large attacks and are currently hustling to find large groups of Maoists before they can gang up on a police camp again.

In Indian Kashmir an ancient Hindu shrine (Kapal Mochan) has been reopened after being closed for two decades because of the Islamic violence in Kashmir, especially the efforts to drive all Hindus out of the area. There are many Hindu shrines in Kashmir, which are still visited by Hindus from all over India each year.

July 26, 2012: In Pakistan's northwest tribal territories (Bajaur) a bomb went off in a market place, killing eight and wounding over 20. Islamic terrorists are suspected.

Pakistan temporarily halted NATO truck traffic into Afghanistan until security in the tribal territory roads could be improved. The halt is only expected to last a few days. There have been a few attacks on trucks in the last week. Traffic is still low, with no more than 50 trucks carrying NATO supplies crossing the border each day. At its peak a few years ago as many as 250 trucks a day crossed. But even before Pakistan closed the border last November NATO had been shifting supply lines to the more expensive but safer and more reliable northern route.  Pakistan reopened the border a month ago.

July 24, 2012: In Pakistan's northwest tribal territories (South Waziristan) a Taliban leader (Maulana Ashraf Marwat), wanted for a 2010 attack that killed over a hundred civilians at a football game, was shot dead by an unidentified attacker. Almost all the dead in 2010 were Pushtun tribesmen, so the shooter may have been seeking revenge for one of those victims. This approach to revenge is very popular among the Pushtuns.

In southeast India (Andhra Pradesh) 135 Maoists surrendered and accepted amnesty.

July 23, 2012: Pakistan suspended nine bureaucrats responsible for approving visas to work for the Pakistani Olympic team in Britain or to attend the Olympics. The suspended men were accused of selling these visas to the highest bidders, including terrorists and criminals. The scheme was uncovered in Britain and the British are not happy with this latest example of Pakistan corruption and untrustworthiness.  

Over the last few days, at least 35 have died as Moslem migrants fought with local Bodo tribesmen in Assam, near the Nepal border. There has been ethnic and separatist violence in the seven states of northeast India (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya) for over 60 years. The total population of this area is 39 million, with most of it (72 percent) in Assam. Despite peace breaking out in most of the region during the last decade, there are still outbreaks of violence. Some of it has been caused by Maoist rebels establishing themselves in the northeast. But the most violent actions are often between illegal migrants from Bangladesh (who are Moslem and illegal settlers) and legal Hindu and Moslem settlers from the rest of India. The tribes resent all these strangers coming in and claiming prime farmland. The immediate cause of most violence with migrants is over economic issues. There are 1.2 million Bodo (who are ethnically related to the Tibetans and Chinese) in Assam and they are mostly Hindu.

In eastern India (Jharkhand) police were ambushed by Maoists, suffering two dead and five wounded.

July 22, 2012: Pakistani jets attacked four Taliban camps in the tribal territories and reported at least fifteen terrorists killed. Simultaneously Pakistani artillery fired at suspected Taliban bases across the border in Afghanistan. This operation was not publicized by Pakistan.

American UAVs fired eight missiles at a compound occupied by Islamic terrorists and killed at least nine of them.

July 21, 2012:  In Pakistan's tribal territories (Orakzai) a bomb went off in a military compound killing nine people and wounding 20. In the southwest (Baluchistan) tribal rebels attacked a military checkpoint, killing six people and then speeding away. Today is the first day of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan and Islamic terrorists like to stage attacks on that day. Terror attacks throughout the country today left nearly 30 dead.

July 20, 2012: Outside Karachi, Pakistan, police found and disabled a bomb containing over 30 kg (66 pounds) of explosive.

In eastern India (Jharkhand) police cornered and killed a senior Maoist leader (who had a $35,000 reward on his head).

July 19, 2012: The U.S. Congress reduced Pakistani military aid by $650 million. Legislators did this because they were fed up with the lies and double dealing of their Pakistani ally. Since 2002, the U.S. has given Pakistan nearly $20 billion in military and economic aid. Over 60 percent of the aid was military and much of it was stolen by corrupt officials and officers. This corruption was particularly annoying, as even aid for victims of earthquakes and floods was plundered by thieving officials. The often blatant thefts and sense of entitlement expressed by the thieves has not gained Pakistan any fans in the U.S. capitol.  

July 16, 2012: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Bannu) five Islamic terrorists, dressed as women, attacked a police station. Three policemen were wounded and all the attackers were either killed or arrested.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close