In Pakistan the military is being asked embarrassing questions about the continuing Islamic terrorist violence. According to the generals, the ongoing offensive in the northwest tribal territories (mainly North Waziristan) has been declared a success at shutting down the only Islamic terrorist sanctuary in Pakistan. So how do you explain the continuing Islamic terrorist violence? In 2015 Islamic terrorist attacks fell by half but going into 2016 these attacks continue. Of particular concern to many Pakistanis is the fact that one of the worst attacks so far in 2016 was on a private university. This one left 21 dead and the Taliban not only took credit but said it was only the first of many attacks on colleges that provide secular education for future military and government leaders and the growing middle class in general. This terrified the middle and upper class families that send their children to these schools and many shut down until better security measures can be implemented. The Taliban threat actually applies to all secular schools and that has an impact on the majority of Pakistanis.
In response the generals blame foreigners, mainly India and the West. Official accusations against the United States (which most Pakistanis believe) are rare because the Americans are still a major source of military and economic aid. But that’s about all the United States gets for its money because the reality is that Pakistan is still a major supporter of Islamic terrorism, as it has been since the late 1970s. Initially this support was for Islamic terrorists who would attack Russians in Afghanistan and Indians in Kashmir. After the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989 nearly all Pakistani support for Islamic terrorism shifted to India but in the early 1990s the generals saw a need to create the Taliban in order to take advantage of the continuing chaos in Afghanistan. Attacks against India continued and Islamic terror groups carrying them out have always had sanctuary in Pakistan. So does the Afghan Taliban, which has been safe in the southwest (Quetta) since 2002.
All this Islamic terrorist support is quite open in Pakistan and most Pakistanis believe that this provides Pakistan with protection from attacks by true Islamic terrorists. Thus any “Islamic terrorist” violence against Pakistan must be instigated by India, Israel and/or the West. This includes the creation and support for groups like ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and al Qaeda. No real Moslem would commit the atrocities against Moslems that those two groups are accused of. But because ISIL and al Qaeda have been declared outlaws by most of the world (including the UN) public statements in Moslem nations must go along. On the street, however, there is no such pretense. Any time an Islamic terrorist attack kills non-Moslems it is a victory for Islam. Whenever the victims are Moslems, it’s another example of non-Moslems attacking Islam. Of course many educated Pakistanis know better, but in many Moslem countries the Islamic conservatives can get away with murder if the victim is someone who has openly questioned these myths. This has long been true in Pakistan and is even occasionally true in Bangladesh, which at least goes after the killers and makes a real effort to shut down all Islamic terror groups.
In southwest Pakistan (near the Iran border) several hundred additional police and soldiers have recently arrived to provide more security for the growing Chinese workforce in the city of 100,000. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar. This is a key part of the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This project began in 2013 when China agreed to spend $18 billion to build a road from Gwadar into northwest China. This will require drilling long tunnels through the Himalayan Mountains on the border (in Pakistani controlled Kashmir.) The road and a natural gas pipeline are part of the larger CPEC project. This will make it much easier and cheaper to move people, data (via fiber optic cables) and goods between China and Pakistan. China also gets a 40 year lease on much of the port facilities at Gwadar, which India fears will serve as a base for Chinese warships. The thousands of Chinese coming into Pakistan for this project will be prime targets for Islamic terrorists and tribal separatists in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan). The people in Gwadar will benefit greatly from the construction and the expanded port. Because of that Pakistan is recruiting another 700 local policemen, whose intimate knowledge of the area will be key in keeping the peace. These new police will serve in a unit dedicated to keep the foreign (mainly Chinese) workforce safe.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are increasing their joint efforts to track down and kill members of the growing local (for Pakistan and Afghanistan) branch of ISIL. This group is attracting many of the most fanatic Islamic terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These men are attracted to the ISIL view of the world. For example ISIL insists that the Pakistani military controls the Afghan Taliban as well as Islamic terrorist groups based in Pakistan that operate in India. These accusations are nothing new but they are the reason ISIL considers Pakistan un-Islamic and worthy of some lethal retribution delivered by ISIL. To underscore that ISIL has been carrying out suicide bomber attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So far there have been few such attacks because ISIL is under attack by Afghan and Pakistani security forces as well as rival Islamic terrorist groups. For most of 2015 ISIL has been trying to establish a base area in eastern Afghanistan but that has led to constant skirmishing with Pakistani Taliban hiding out there. The local tribes are largely hostile to ISIL and all this has provided better intel for the security forces on what ISIL is up to and exactly where they are. This has led to more effective American air strikes and raids by Afghan troops and American commandos. ISIL is hanging on but not growing rapidly. There are some ISIL members operating in Pakistan, which is an even more hostile environment for them because of widespread hostility towards ISIL tactics by most Pakistanis. Since ISIL considers all other Islamic terror groups enemies the group has to become large enough to crush the local Islamic terrorist competition before it can become a major threat.
Pakistan Taliban continue to make attacks in Pakistan and most of these efforts can be traced back to bases in eastern Afghanistan. These attacks tend to take place in the tribal territories of the northwest and southwest but not in Waziristan, where security is too tight. So far this year Islamic terrorism related deaths in Pakistan continue to decline. These deaths fell by a third in 2015 (compared to 2014) and so far in 2016 the decline continues. At the moment it looks like the deaths in 2016 will be nearly 50 percent less than in 2015 and only a third of what they were in 2014. Yet that is still over 1,500 Islamic terrorism related deaths compared to 189 in 2003, when the current wave to Islamic terrorist violence began escalating (initially to 863 in 2004). That violence peaked in 2009 when there were 11,700 deaths and has been declining ever since. This in sharp contrast to India, which has six times the population but, in 2015, 86 percent fewer terrorism related deaths. In 2003 India had 3,700 terrorism related deaths compared to fewer than 200 in Pakistan. Most of the fatalities in India were from Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan. India had been fighting this problem since the 1990s and terror related deaths peaked in 2001 (at 5,800) and steadily declined after that. So far in 2016 India has suffered about 18 terrorism related deaths a week compared to 37 for Pakistan. Taking into account the population differences Pakistan still has twelve times as many terrorism related deaths per capita than India.
Bangladesh suffered a recent spectacular Islamic terrorist murder when ISIL took credit for the beheading of a Hindu priest in a Hindu temple. While that got a lot of media attention it took away from the fact that Bangladesh has far less Islamic terrorism activity than most other Moslem nations. For example, with 75 percent of the population of Pakistan it has less than two percent as many Islamic terrorism related deaths. Bangladesh had 56 Islamic terrorism related deaths in 2015, down from 60 in 2014 and a record 379 in 2013. The 2013 surge was 69 percent of all Islamic terrorist deaths since 2005 and a sign that Islamic terrorism continues to have a difficult time getting a foothold in Bangladesh. Actually most of the terrorism related deaths were political rather than religious but in the last few years Islamic terrorism has gotten a lot more attention in the news. The government is also increasing its cooperation with India and the United States in identifying and tracking Islamic terrorists. Its efforts like this that have kept Islamic terrorist activity low in Bangladesh.
February 22, 2016: In Bangladesh a series of weekend raids led to the arrest of two Islamic terrorists and the seizure of twenty bombs plus bomb making materials. The police were seeking members of the Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamic terror group that has been going after foreigners and local bloggers who criticize Islamic terrorism.
In northern India (Haryana state) a week of rioting ended with the government and local Jat caste leaders working out a peace deal. The week of violence left 17 dead and over 150 wounded. Economic damage is estimated to be as high as $5 billion. This violence was all about an effort by an organization representing one of the lower Hindu castes (Jats) to be reclassified as one of the lowest castes, and thus become eligible for government benefits (cash, college admission, job preferences). The caste system is an ancient components of Hindu culture and religion. It separates all Hindus into four main castes, and many minor ones. Tradition discourages relationships with those in the lowest caste, who are often called “the untouchables”. Caste is technically illegal now, but it still exists, and the government provides all sorts of aid to help the hundred million or so people in the lowest castes. This has caused increasing resentment by relatively poor but not “untouchable” castes.
In northwest Pakistan (Kurram) an American UAV missile attack killed at least three members of the Haqqani Network. This is the second such attack in Pakistan this year. The first one was on January 9th in North Waziristan and killed five members of the Pakistani Taliban. The Haqqani Network used to be based in North Waziristan but moved to nearby Kurram after the mid-2014 Pakistani offensive into North Waziristan.
February 21, 2016: India announced that its first locally designed and built nuclear powered submarine, the 5,000 ton SSBN (ballistic missile carrying sub) INS Arihant had completed its sea trials and was ready for service. This comes after twelve years of planning and construction. Arihant was supposed to enter service before the end of 2015 but there were more unforeseen technical problems to fix. Arihant was launched in 2009 but completing the sub kept running into problems. Nevertheless the success of Arihant led to an SSN (nuclear attack submarine) program, which is now underway. In 2015 India announced ambitious plans to build six SSNs but admits development and building will probably take at least fifteen years. One locally made nuclear sub doesn't change the balance of naval power much for India, which is already dominant in the region but it does show that India can build nuclear subs and six SSNs will make a difference.
February 19, 2016: Pakistan officially lifted all economic sanctions it had imposed on Iran. Pakistan was obliged to enforce these sanctions because of international treaties (like belonging to the UN). Now that a July 2015 international agreement has lifted those sanctions Pakistan is free to resume trade and revive joint economic projects that had been stalled by the growing list of sanctions. India and Pakistan were both doing a lot of business with Iran before the sanctions and both countries are now reviving those activities.
February 18, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (Mohmand Agency on the Afghan border) Pakistani Taliban made two nigh attacks on border troops killing nine of them. It was unclear which side of the border this group of Islamic terrorists was operating from.
February 13, 2016: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) police, acting on a tip, found a Maoist storage site and seized over a dozen firearms, four bombs, bomb making equipment and other equipment. The campaign against communist rebels (Maoists) continues with the Maoists unable to reverse the steady erosion of their strength because of the persistent police campaign.
February 12, 2016: In eastern Pakistan (Karachi) security forces carried out a series of raids that led to the arrest of 97 Islamic terrorists belonging to al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. These men were believed responsible for multiple attacks (on military, police and civilian targets) since 2009. One operation being planned was an attack on a prison to free the Islamic terrorists who murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
The United States finally agreed to give Pakistan another eight F-16 fighters. This gift (military aid) is worth $699 million and includes support and training. A month ago the U.S. Congress was able to halt this deal for 30 days in an effort to get Pakistan to reduce its support for Islamic terrorism. Pakistan delivered enough assurances and convincing lies to get the F-16 deal approved. There is growing American political opposition to this support for Pakistan. But Pakistan has made the most of its weak position. After all Afghanistan is landlocked and the most convenient land access is via Pakistan. This access tends to be interrupted whenever the Americans threaten to halt the flow of cash and equipment. When cornered on the issue of support for Islamic terrorism Pakistan gives as little ground as possible in order to keep the American gifts coming. Since 2001 Pakistan has received over $25 billion in military (mostly) and economic aid. Pakistan insists this is insufficient because they estimate that Islamic terrorist violence has cost Pakistan over $100 billion since 2001. The Islamic terrorism violence in Pakistan sharply increased after the Pakistani Taliban was formed in 2007 (via a coalition of existing Islamic terrorist groups). The operations in North Waziristan have led some Pakistani factions to announce they are renouncing violence and turning to political activity to achieve their goals. There are already a lot of Islamic radical political parties in Pakistan and they are a major force in parliament and local politics. But other Taliban factions have announced they are joining ISIL and thus going for even more extreme violence. The real reason Pakistan needs the American aid is because the Pakistani generals justify all their power (and expensive lifestyles) by portraying neighbor India as a constant threat. Pakistani generals insist they need more money to deal with this threat. After all India spends over $40 billion a year on Defense, which is five times what Pakistan can afford. As a result India is constantly modernizing its forces while Pakistan, with half as many troops but only 20 percent of the Indian budget is obviously not keeping up.
February 8, 2016: In northwest India the first joint military exercise between Chinese and Indian troops took place. Thirty troops from each country spent the day doing joint disaster relief chores. The object of the drill (aside from the diplomatic benefits) was for both sides to discover and eliminate any differences in procedures that would disrupt future joint operations along the border area. Earthquakes are frequent in the area as are avalanches.
February 6, 2016: In southwest Pakistan (Quetta) a Taliban suicide bomber on a bicycle attacked a military convoy leaving nine dead and over 30 wounded. Most of the casualties were civilians.
February 3, 2016: Afghanistan turned over the bodies of 18 Pakistanis killed in a recent UAV missile attack in eastern Afghanistan. The 18 dead were identified as members of the pro-Taliban Mehsud and Ahmadzai Wazir tribes. These men were killed while working for the Pakistani Taliban and were in a convoy that had just crossed the border into Afghanistan. The 18 men were buried in Waziristan, where they came from. Afghanistan will return bodies to Pakistan if they can be identified as Pakistani. This complies with Pushtun tribal tradition in the area and, since Pushtun are on both sides of the border (sometimes the same tribe) neither governments interfere with it. For the Afghans it demonstrates that something is being done about Pakistani Islamic terrorists who have moved to Afghanistan. These men were moving back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Afghans want more cooperation from Pakistan on this issue. Then again the UAV attack that killed these men appears to have been possible because Pakistani intelligence (or Afghan informants in Pakistan) warned of the movement.