May 5, 2009:
A number of the Pushtun soldiers (about 12 percent of the army) have been found to be Islamic radicals and pro-terrorist. The army continues to fear widespread desertion and mutiny if too many army units are sent in to fight tribal or Taliban fighters. But the need is there, and, so far, the munity has not showed up. Last year, there were 1,839 terrorist attacks (leaving 2,293 dead) in Pakistan, versus 890 (leaving 1,340 dead) in 2007. But the generals still resist moving too many major units from the Indian border, to the tribal territories.
Taliban gunmen are trying to extort additional taxes from non-Moslems in the Pakistani tribal areas. There are still non-Moslem (often Sikh) merchants in the tribal territories, and the Taliban have tried to extract a million dollars in "tax" from some of them. When rebuffed, the Taliban lowered the demand to $350,000. The Taliban are also using many civilians as human shields. This is a favorite Taliban tactic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in the Swat valley, and the adjacent Buner district, the use of civilians hostages is more blatant. The army prefers to use its artillery and aircraft against the Taliban, and human shields makes that difficult (without killing lots of civilians.) About 65,000 civilians have fled the fighting in Buner and Swat. The army says it has killed over 200 Taliban in that area in the last week, and is pushing the Taliban back into the Swat valley. As the Taliban fell back, they looted and kidnapped (members of wealthy families). While the Taliban are on a Mission From God, there are still bills to be paid.
The Pakistani government is also demanding that the Taliban in Swat disarm, as per the recent peace deal. The Taliban have refused, and it appears that the army will have to fight to regain control of Swat. Throughout the tribal territories, the Taliban are gathering their strength, using the threat of losing autonomy, which the tribes have always had. This is what the Pakistani army has always feared, a battle for control of the tribal territories. The army has avoided this chore, since Pakistan was created over 60 years ago. Before that, even the British did not seek to conquer and rule the Pushtun tribes directly. Instead, they made deals that left the tribes to run their own affairs. But the Taliban movement has made many tribesmen believe that the Pushtuns could take control of all Pakistan, and beyond. So the Pakistani government has to fight. The Taliban are not strong enough to defeat the army is battle, and calls for Pushtuns in uniform to mutiny have not worked either. That leaves terrorism. But sending suicide bombers, on foot and in cars, against the troops has not been successful either.
Reacting to hysterical media stories about the vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, officials pointed out that the weapons are stored in secret bunkers, partially disassembled, and need activation codes and specific delivery systems before they can be detonated. This is all typical handling of nuclear weapons, but in Pakistan, where a third of the population is partial to Islamic radicalism, there is a reasonable fear that some of the nukes could be seized by Islamic militants.
Compared to Pakistan, India's problems with armed opposition is minor. But even in a nation with over a billion people, thousands of armed rebels cause lots of trouble for the security forces. In Kashmir, there are only a few hundred Islamic terrorists running around, and they are still a source of deaths, injuries and crimes. In eastern India, thousands of armed Maoists continue their battle to establish a communist dictatorship. Poverty and poor government in the region keeps the Maoist ranks filled, but the decades old struggle has never gotten beyond the nuisance stage. Same thing in the northwest, where tribal separatists, who have turned into gangsters, are difficult for corrupt local governments to put out of business.
April 29, 2009: The Pakistani army has sent more troops into the Buner district, while some Taliban fighters have gone back to the adjacent Swat valley. The Taliban encountered local resistance in Buner, and pretended to retreat as the army sent in troops. The Taliban also recruited and armed some local radicals, and urged them to take over and hold on to power. The local Taliban in Buner took several dozen locally recruited security troops captive, but the army soon freed them. In Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, several hundred Pushtuns rioted through commercial neighborhoods. Over 24 have died and dozens of fires started. This scared, and thrilled, foreign reporters, who announced that Pakistan was collapsing.