The new Pakistani government has brought with
it a more aggressive attitude towards Islamic militants, and admissions that
the many Pakistani Islamic conservatives provide al Qaeda and Taliban with a
nation-wide support network. For example, two Islamic radical religious schools,
shut down in the last year, have been allowed to rebuild and reopen. These
places teach hatred of non-Moslems and support terrorism. This deal was to get
votes of small Islamic radical parties in parliament. As many as a third of
Pakistanis are Islamic conservatives and friendly (at least a place to hide, or
generally keeping quiet about terrorist movements) to Islamic extremists. The
government admits that this enables Islamic terrorists to move freely in the
most pro-Islamic areas (along the Afghan border and in some neighborhoods of
major cities), and in and out of Afghanistan. The Pakistanis believed they
almost had al Qaeda's number two man
recently, and pledge to go after the Islamic militants more aggressively from
Pakistani troops believe they have
driven Taliban gunmen out of the Bajaur region along the Afghan border. Over 300,000
civilians have fled the fighting (5-10 percent of them crossing the border into
Afghanistan), and over a third of the 3,000 pro-Taliban fighters were killed,
wounded or captured. Although the army would rather be training to fight India,
Taliban and al Qaeda attempts to set up their own Islamic Republic along the
border will not be tolerated. The government tried to work out a deal, where
the terrorists would have a sanctuary along the border, as long as the rest of
Pakistan was left alone, but that was not acceptable to many of the Islamic
radicals. That's the problem with religious radicals. They are on a Mission
From God, and no compromise is really possible. So the issue is being settled
with weapons along the border, especially in the Bajaur region and Swat Valley.
NATO and U.S. special operations forces
have been carrying out more raids into Pakistan, and the Pakistani government has
been more vocal in complaining about it. The Pakistanis believe they have
responded to U.S. complaints about tolerating Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuaries.
But the foreigners don't agree, and are determined to act on what they know
about who is hiding where. Missiles are used to hit buildings where terrorists,
especially leaders, are staying. The commandos are going in to help with the
tracking, or to capture people and documents (especially the laptop computers
terrorist leaders are so fond of.)
Pakistan has other problems, as if the
Taliban, al Qaeda and angry tribes weren't enough. The economy is in trouble,
which was made worse by the political upheavals earlier this year, and
formation of a new government. Inflation is 25 percent a year (because the
government prints money to pay for things it cannot afford), the economy has
stalled (because of slumps in foreign markets, and local corruption and
religious violence) and the prices on the local stock market have gone down 40
percent in the last five months.
September 7, 2008: In northern India, along the Nepalese border,
Hindu radicals rode into a Moslem area and sparked violence that left several
dead and dozens injured.
September 6, 2008: A suicide car bomb went off near a police check
point in Peshawar (one of the largest cities in the Pakistani tribal areas
along the Afghan border), killing 30 people and wounding over 60. Later, a 16 year old boy, wearing an explosive
belt, was arrested 50 kilometers east of the city. Al Qaeda and the Taliban
have been trying to emulate the massive bombing campaigns used (with
spectacular failure) in Iraq, but have not got the resources.
September 5, 2008: Indian police and troops have arrested over
200 people in Orissa, where religious violence in this eastern Indian city has
left over a dozen dead, and at least 13,000 people (mainly Christians) chased
from their homes by Hindu radicals. The army has been ordered in and told to
shoot Hindu rioters and looters, and do whatever it takes to stop the violence.
The government has promised to shut down the anti-Christian groups.
Along the Afghan border, Taliban gunmen
stopped busses carrying police recruits, kidnapped 36 of them, in an attempt to
get the army and police to back off.
September 4, 2008: Taliban attempts to
halt truck traffic from Pakistan into Afghanistan were foiled when the Pushtun
tribes that control one of the two key routes, agreed to keep the roads open
through the Khyber Pass. It's mainly a matter of money, as the tribes get paid
to assure security. Over the Summer, pro-Taliban tribesmen challenged that
deal, and lost. Most supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan, come in
overland from Karachi (the main Pakistani port.) The other route is in southwest.
September 3, 2008: In the Pakistani capital, someone fired shots
at the convoy of the prime minister (who was not hurt.)
September 2, 2008: The Taliban took credit for kidnapping two
Chinese telecommunications engineers in Pakistan's Swat valley last week. This
valley, and the Bajaur region, both of them tribal areas along the Afghan
border, are the major battlegrounds between the Taliban and the Pakistanis.
Taking Chinese captive is intended to pressure the government to pull their
troops out of the Swat valley. China is Pakistan's oldest and largest weapons
supplier, as well as a major trade partner, and insists that its citizens be
protected when working in Pakistan. The Taliban are hoping that the government
will back off, rather than risk the wrath of China over dead Chinese workers.
But China is also intent on smashing Islamic terrorists, and is mainly
interested in seeing the Pakistanis try to do something, rather than dithering
and placating the Islamic radicals.
September 1, 2008: Religious violence continues in Indian Kashmir.
The Moslem majority, although tired of Islamic terrorism, are not tired of
efforts to chase all Hindus out of Moslem majority territory. Weeks of violence
have left nearly 40 dead, most of them Moslems.