Pakistan still has a major Islamic terrorist problem, despite its two year campaign against Islamic terrorists in the northwest. That campaign has killed nearly 4,000 Islamic terrorists, but only those who are at war with the current government of Pakistan. So far this year Islamic terrorism related deaths are down some 55 fifty percent compared to 2015. Terrorist deaths are still more than ten times higher (on a per-capital basis) than neighboring India. The Pakistani Taliban recently released a video showing recent Taliban activity in North Waziristan and pointing out that the Pakistani Taliban are still carrying out attacks in Pakistan.
Mani Pakistanis still considers a lot of Islamic terrorism permissible for religious or political reasons. Thus Pakistan supports (and protects) Islamic terror groups that attack Afghanistan and India from sanctuaries in Pakistan. It actually gets worse inside Pakistan where there are laws that actually encourages religious violence. The most damaging instance of this are the blasphemy laws enacted in the 1970s. These allow for prosecution of anyone accused of speaking or acting against Islam. While no one had ever been executed because of these laws, many are accused and jailed each year, and often condemned to death (and later reprieved). But a growing number of those accused have been murdered by Islamic fanatics, who are a large, and violent, minority of the population. Accusations of blasphemy are mostly used by Moslems against innocent non-Moslems (usually Christians) or each other. Efforts to repeal these laws, or at least limit their misuse, are violently resisted by Islamic political parties and the military. It was the military that created these laws back when it decided to turn Islamic terrorism into a secret weapon for use against its enemies. The military still uses false blasphemy charges as an excuse to silence (of by death) media and political opponents.
Then there is the government sanctioned terrorism in southwest Pakistan. This area has long been called Baluchistan, or "Land Of the Baluchi", after a tribe ethnically related to the Pushtun in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the Iranians. Baluchi separatists in Pakistan have been fighting the government for more autonomy, or even a separate state, since Pakistan was created in 1948. After the 1990s some Baluchi tribes tried to work with the Taliban and al Qaeda but that failed because the Taliban were created by the Pakistani military and al Qaeda depended on Pakistani government sanctuary and protection to survive. The Baluchi separatist problem is nothing new as Iran has been fighting such separatists for centuries. Baluchis comprise about two percent of the Iranian population. In Pakistan Baluchis are 3.5 percent of the population and are sympathetic to the fight of their fellow Baluchi in Iran, where Baluchi are a religious (Sunni) and ethnic minority in a Shia majority nation. In both countries the government efforts to suppress the Baluchi separatists is criticized for growing use of illegal methods like kidnapping, murder and tolerating Islamic terrorist violence against Baluchis (usually by pro-government groups hiding out in the area).
Pakistan continues to resist foreign (especially American) pressure to halt its decade’s long practice of secretly supporting Islamic terrorist groups. The United States openly accuses Pakistan of lying about shutting down some key Islamic terrorist groups (like the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and several that operate against India) in Pakistan. This pressure is nothing new and has led to a sharp (73 percent) drop in American military assistance since 2011. That is now costing Pakistan over a billion dollars a year as well as access to high-tech American military equipment. The U.S. has also cut economic assistance by about half since 2011 and that is costing Pakistan another half billion dollars a year. Now the United States threatens to cut all aid and impose sanctions if Pakistan does not act. The main sore point here is continued Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban (and their Baluchistan sanctuary), various Islamic terror groups that concentrate on India (with bases throughout Pakistan but especially in the north, near the border with Indian Kashmir) and the Haqqani Network.
Indian Terrorism Trends
For India Leftist rebel (Maoist) activity continues to decline but remain a bigger problem than Islamic terrorism, at least for India. While in 2015 the Indian Maoists were number four worldwide when it came to deaths caused, they have long been much less of a problem for India than Islamic terrorism is for many other countries. The Indian Maoists have no outside support while the Islamic terrorists have long, and very visibly been based in Pakistan. Nevertheless the Maoists this year are reversing several years of decline (in Maoist related violence). In 2015 there were 251 deaths related to Maoist violence, the lowest level in over a decade. But so far this year it looks like Maoist violence will increased about 40 percent going back to levels not seen since 2014. This is mainly because of the failure to deal with the corruption that kept the Maoists popular enough for decades to keep them going. Despite these increases overall terrorism related deaths for India will be about the same in 2016 as they were when 722 died in 2015.
India blames Pakistan for the sharp increase in separatist and Islamic terrorist activity in Kashmir this year. Pakistan has been sponsoring Islamic terrorism in Indian Kashmir since the 1980s but that approach had failed. Terrorism deaths in Kashmir peaked in 2001. By 2011 India had reduced Islamic terrorist related violence in Kashmir by over 95 percent. Pakistan keeps recruiting, training and sending Islamic terrorists into India without much success. Seeking an alternative method in the last few years Pakistan has been using cash (to buy more local support) and social media in an effort to encourage young Moslems in Kashmir to join Pakistani backed terror groups. That led to a popular (especially on social media) young (21) Kashmiri Islamic terrorist (Burhan Wani) becoming a local celebrity for his largely fictional effort. Then Wani got into a gun battle with police on July 8th and was killed. For an Internet celebrity getting killed unexpectedly can be a great career move, at least in the short term. In Kashmir this led to an outbreak of massive, and often violent protests that have left 78 dead and over 6,000 wounded so far. While alive Burhan Wani was seen as someone who could revive Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), which was once the most powerful Islamic terror group in Indian Kashmir. HM has been fading away since 2010 as more of its leaders were killed or captured and few replacements showed up. HM is unique in that it came to be dominated by Indian Kashmiris and resisted control by Pakistan. While still receiving personnel and other aid from Pakistan, HM was more sensitive to Kashmiri needs and desires, not what Pakistani foreign policy demanded. As a result, when the Kashmiri population turned against Islamic terrorism after 2001 HM began to decline but still retained more local support than the groups that were basically Pakistani inventions. Thus HM maintained its position as the major Islamic terror group in Kashmir because increased Indian success at border security hurt the groups more dependent on personnel and aid from Pakistan. The current increase in violence is declining. While young Kashmiris have little respect for the past, their elders do.
Over 50,000 have died in Islamic militant violence in Kashmir since the 1980s. This ruined the thriving tourism based economy of Kashmir, and eventually turned the largely Moslem population against the terrorists. While the Islamic terrorists have failed to drive India out of Kashmir, they have managed, since the 1970s, to drive most (95 percent) of the Hindus from the Kashmir Valley. But many Hindu shrines, some over 3,000 years old, remain. Thousands of Hindus return each year to pray at these shrines, and the Moslems have begun agitating to restrict access to these shrines. The most militant Moslems want the shrines destroyed. Although Moslem armies first entered this region a thousand years ago, the struggle between Islam and much more ancient Hindu religion continues.
September 15, 2016: In Pakistan (Lahore) police arrested four men they accused of belonging to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and preparing to carry out terror attacks in the city with the explosives and target information they were caught with. Earlier this month the Pakistani military admitted, for the first time, that ISIL was still active inside Pakistan. This came as the military completed an increasingly visible operation that arrested several hundred ISIL members and supporters (mostly the latter). The arrests were described as a successful effort to prevent ISIL from carrying out attacks on embassies and the airport in Islamabad. The military also admitted that ISIL had carried out some small attacks in Pakistan during 2015 but nothing since then. Meanwhile Afghan and American intel officials agree that most (about 70 percent) of the ISIL members in Afghanistan are Pakistani, mainly former members of the Pakistani Taliban seeking a more hardcore group to work with. Since 2015 ISIL has been trying to establish a base area in eastern Afghanistan (mainly in Nangarhar province) but that has led to constant skirmishing with Pakistani Taliban hiding out there. The local tribes are also 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 and who they are. Some of the tribes used their own militias to fight ISIL but more often just help set up defenses to keep ISIL out. This cooperation (and information) led to more effective and frequent American air strikes and raids by Afghan troops and American commandos and hundreds of ISIL men have been killed and many more wounded. Many of the wounded desert and there are fewer new volunteers. Cut off from Afghan recruits it makes sense that many of the thousand or so ISIL personnel still active in Afghanistan are from Pakistan. So are many other Islamic terrorists who operate in eastern Afghanistan. But Afghan intelligence believes the Pakistani intelligence (ISI) is now deliberately helping ISIL recruit in Pakistan as long as the recruits go to Afghanistan. It appears that some of those recruits return to Pakistan. ISIL is barely hanging on in Afghanistan and was largely absent, or at least quiet, in Pakistan. ISIL is not dead in Afghanistan but it isn’t growing much either. In Pakistan this might be changing.
September 14, 2016: President Ghani of Afghanistan again publically criticized Pakistan for its efforts to use Islamic terrorism to justify opposition to closer economic and military ties between Afghanistan and India. Pakistan blames India for much of the Islamic terrorism violence occurring in Pakistan. This is a charge India, Afghanistan and most of the non-Moslem world considers absurd and unsupported by any evidence. Pakistan admits they created the Taliban, but only to stop the 1990s civil war in Afghanistan. That wasn’t true. Pakistan expected the Taliban to ensure that no matter who was running Afghanistan, Pakistani needs would be tended to. That meant tolerance for the drug trade (which made many Pakistanis rich), no contacts with India and no criticism of the Pakistani military or its intelligence branch (the ISI). But the Taliban and the drug gangs have been tearing Afghanistan apart ever since the 1990s. Only about ten percent of Afghans got any economic benefit out of the drug business and millions of Afghans, Pakistanis and people throughout the region have become drug addicts. The majority of Afghans never supported the Taliban and don’t consider the current fight against the Taliban, drug gangs and other Pakistan supported groups to be a civil war (which Pakistan calls it) but an undeclared Pakistani war on the Afghan people.
September 11, 2016:
In southwest Pakistan (near the Iran border) Iranian troops clashed with a group of Jaish ul Adl Islamic terrorists, killing four of them, wounding three and arresting several others. Jaish ul Adl are one of several Iranian Baluchi groups operating on both sides of the Pakistan border. Apparently Pakistan helped Iran find Jaish ul Adl men when they were in Iran.
In northwest Pakistan (Peshawar) the Pakistani Taliban killed a senior official in the polio vaccination effort. This is the third fatal attack against polio vaccination personnel this year. Despite the anti-vaccination attacks polio cases in Pakistan continue to decline. That’s mainly because there have been fewer Islamic terrorist attacks on vaccination teams, especially in the northwest. Such attacks still occur throughout the country but with less frequency and impact. For years these attacks were mainly against polio vaccination workers who were treating children. Vaccinations had to be halted temporarily so police could search for the killers and determine when it was safe to resume. These killing usually occur in the tribal territories, where opposition to vaccination is more widespread and effective. This has led to a large number of polio cases (303 in 2014, the highest since 1998), mostly in the tribal areas. Among the refugees from the North Waziristan fighting are over 200,000 children who have never been vaccinated. Some of those refugees fled to Karachi where over a million people from the tribal areas have settled in the last decade. Some 80 percent of recent polio cases in Pakistan still occur in the tribal territories of the northwest. The continued vaccination effort makes the total elimination of polio a possibility once more. The Taliban, and many other Islamic terrorist groups believe polio vaccinations are a Western plot to poison Moslem children. Since 2012 68 polio vaccination workers in Pakistan have been killed by Islamic terrorists. Some of the recent attacks were claimed by one of the smaller Pakistani Islamic terrorist groups (Jundullah) and were not fatal. That, in Pakistan, is progress.
September 10, 2016: In Pakistan (the border area between Punjab and Baluchistan) an army search operation found some of the Islamic terrorist caches (containing many weapons plus ammo, explosives and other gear) and killed four Islamic terrorists and captured several more. One soldier was wounded. This was part of an effort to prevent Islamic terrorists from setting up bases outside the tribal territories of the northwest.
September 8, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (Peshawar) the Pakistani Taliban used a roadside bomb to attack a truck carrying police commandos, wounding eight policemen.
September 6, 2016: In Indian Kashmir (Poonch) Pakistani troops opened fire across the border and Indian troops responded. This was the second such incident this month. The first occurred on September 2nd and, as usual, Pakistan accused India of starting it. These incidents began again in mid-August and that ended a ceasefire arranged in April when two days of cross border shooting ended when commanders from both countries met and agreed to resume the 2003 ceasefire. Until April it had been over six months since the last such incident. There were 405 incidents like this in 2015. In December 2015 Indian and Pakistani military leaders met on the Kashmir border to reaffirm efforts to reduce violence on the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir. Such incidents still occur despite a 20o3 ceasefire. The current LOC negotiations have kept things pretty quiet on the LOC since a September 2015 meeting in which India threatened a major military response to almost daily Pakistani attacks. Apparently convinced (especially by the Indian politicians and media calling for war) this was serious the Pakistanis reduced the border violence although not the efforts to get Islamic terrorists across the LOC and into Kashmir. There were nearly a hundred of those in 2015.
August 31, 2016: In the southwest (Baluchistan) Pakistan reopened the Chamman border crossing it had closed on the 22nd when Afghanistan refused to punish civilians who had burned a Pakistani flag. Chamman is the second most active border crossing with Afghanistan. The most active crossing is Torkham Gate in northwest Pakistan. That one was closed several times this year because of ongoing border disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This has been going on for years and is more about unresolved border disputes than anything else. Torkham is the main border crossing with Pakistan because on the Pakistani side is the Khyber Pass which has long been the easiest way to get from northern Afghanistan to the lowlands (most of Pakistan and all of India) beyond. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is still called the “Durand Line.” This was an impromptu, pre-independence invention of British colonial authorities and was always considered temporary (or at least negotiable) by locals. This was mainly because the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to accept the Durand Line, and fight to maintain it. Thus recent Pakistani efforts to build more fences and other structures on their side of the border as an attempt to make the Durand line permanent and no longer negotiable. Afghans who use the border are also angry at a new Pakistani visa policy, which requires regular users of the crossings to get a visa. Officially this is a security measure, but given the rampant corruption in Pakistan Afghans see this as another opportunity for Pakistani border officials to demand bribes.
August 30, 2016: In eastern Pakistan (Karachi) soldiers escorted the newly elected (on August 24th) mayor (Waseem Akhtar) to a heavily guarded city park where he could take the oath of office. The mayor was then taken back to the prison where he has been confined since his July arrest on multiple terrorism (political, not religious) charges. He will run the city from his cell as he awaits trial. Meanwhile soldiers continue trying to shut down MQM, the political party the mayor belongs to. This has been going on since August 22nd when the army was ordered to shut down the MQM (one of the largest political parties in the country and a major participant in the violence in Karachi). The government said this operation was necessary because of a recent speech given by MQM leader Altaf Hussain, in which he accused the Pakistani military of being the cause of most problems in Pakistan as well as a supporters of Islamic terrorism. Altaf Hussain has long been hostile to the military and has been operating from Britain since 1991 to avoid assassination by the military or Islamic terrorists. As a result of the latest military offensive senior MQM officials in Pakistan rebelled against Altaf Hussain and declared him replaced. This was an attempt to stop the military from tearing MQM apart. Altaf Hussain also apologized to the military, which insists that all Pakistanis, at least in public, go along with the fiction that the military is not corrupt, does not support Islamic terrorism and exists to prevent India from destroying Pakistan. Those who refuse to go along, especially if they are journalists or prominent politicians, often end up dead or in exile. The Pakistani generals are willing to make deals with the MQM and they have done so before. While security forces continue shutting down MQM operations in Karachi negotiations appear to be underway as well. The military has made it clear that they do not like Altaf Hussain or Waseem Akhtar, despite the popularity of these two politicians. The army and political rivals have long been angry at MQM for using street violence and general strikes (enforced with the threat of violence) to control much of Karachi. MQM got away with this between 1999 and 2008 because MQM was a major supporter of military dictator Pervez Musharraf. The current elected government wants to deal with the various types of misbehavior Musharraf tolerated in an effort to retain power and MQM is high on the list. Even with Musharraf gone MQM remains a major power in Sindh province where it controls 41 percent of the seats in the provincial legislature. In the national parliament MQM controls nine percent of the seats. But in Karachi most residents see MQM as a bunch of gangsters pretending to be politicians. Despite the Musharraf connection the MQM is secular and has long been hostile to the army, particularly the pro-Islamic terrorist factions in the army and ISI. MQM was founded in the 1980s to protect the Muhajir (Moslems who fled to Pakistan after India and Pakistan were created in 1947) from discrimination. Muhajir are nearly eight percent of the population of Pakistan. MQM activists came to be known as rough operators who would use violence to get their way and often threatened to kill anyone who opposed them. Then again that sort of thing is not rare in Pakistan where politics is widely accepted as a blood sport. The government considers MQM a major source of all the violence in Karachi and the locals agree. The problem here is that the MQM is also opposed to Islamic radicalism while the army is not. The army will even tolerate Islamic terrorists as long as they direct their attacks outside of the country, preferably in Afghanistan and India. The MQM situation shows how the corruption problem is the underlying cause of all the problems in Pakistan. Corruption is also the most difficult problem to fix.
August 29, 2016: India and the United States signed a LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) that enables both countries to depend on each other for military logistics support. Most frequently this means Indian ships can visit an American naval base and get emergency repairs, supplies and fuel and it will be billed to the Indian Navy at the same rates the U.S. Navy would pay. LEMOA also covers military aircraft and ground forces. The U.S. already has LEMOA agreements with over a hundred nations and the main reason other nations have LEMOA deals with the United States. Several prominent Islamic terrorists in Pakistan called this LEMOA against the interests of Islam. Many Moslem majority nations have signed LEMOAs with the United States. The one with India is mainly to deal with aggression from China and their allies Pakistan and Iran.
August 26, 2016: Pakistan responded to Afghan calls for some help in catching Islamic terrorists responsible for a recent attack in Kabul. Some of the dead attackers carried cell phones that had recently communicated with someone just across the border in Pakistan. In response to the Afghan request Pakistan sent troops to the border area but found nothing. The Kabul attack involved Islamic terrorists getting into the campus of the American University. After a ten hour gun battle the attackers were killed or driven from the campus. Nearly 20 died and over fifty were wounded. Most Afghans blamed Pakistan.
August 25, 2016: Iran
revealed that security forces in the southeast had recently killed Abu Hafs al Baloushi, the leader of a local Sunni Islamic terrorist group called Ansar al Furqan. This group has been around since 2013 and was involved with drug smuggling and working with Iranian Baluchi separatists. Iran declared that Abu Hafs al Baloushi was actually a mercenary working for an unnamed foreign government. Iran portrayed Ansar al Furqan as paid killers rather than religious fanatics. No proof was presented but in this part of the world no proof is needed because many, if not most Moslems in the Middle East believe that groups like al Qaeda and ISIL were created and are controlled by Israel and the West as a means to attack Islam. In southeast Iran the reality is that the local Baluchis are Sunni and never got along with the Shia Iranians. Armed Baluchi groups often base themselves across the border in Pakistan, which has been unable to halt this sort of thing.