India-Pakistan: Cures That Are Worse Than The Disease


May 4, 2010: Despite determined, and deadly, resistance, India is pushing forward to capture or kill over 10,000 armed Maoist rebels operating in rural areas. The Maoists have become increasingly powerful in the past seven years. Back in 2003, only about nine percent of 626 districts had a Maoist problem, but now it's 36 percent of districts. The Maoists use terror to raise money, obtain weapons and intimidate local police. The Maoists aggressively recruit teenagers, and terrorize those who try to leave once they have joined. The Maoists are all about attacking corruption and feudal practices out in the countryside (where there is a lot of it.) But in many districts, the Maoists have become more of a bandit problem and are considered a cure that is worse than the disease.

Pakistani security forces continued to hammer Taliban forces in Orakzai, causing over a hundred casualties a week. In the last two months, over two thousand Taliban and Islamic terrorist fighters have been killed, wounded or captured in the Orakzai  area (which is south of the Khyber Pass, an 1,800 square kilometers patch of mountains inhabited by 450,000 tribals). This area has long hosted the Haqqani network, an Islamic radical group long supported by Pakistani intelligence. The Haqqani network mainly operated in Afghanistan, but has used its muscle in Pakistan as well. Now the security forces are finding and destroying Haqqani bases. But it is believed that this is mostly for show, and that Pakistani intelligence has persuaded the army to leave the main Haqqani bases alone.

Several thousand pro-Taliban tribesmen had fled to Orakzai, after the army offensive in South Waziristan earlier this year. Most of the rest fled to North Waziristan, where the army is preparing to go after them. In support of that, the army had done the unthinkable and pulled 100,000 troops from the Indian border, and moved them to Waziristan. The army is under increasing pressure to crush the Taliban, and other Islamic radical groups responsible for terrorist attacks (although most of these are in the tribal territories). Although the targets are often government officials or the security forces, most of the victims are civilians. Thus the Islamic terrorists have little public support. But the army is also wary of triggering a general tribal uprising. While the army has greater firepower and numbers (about 200,000 troops are now concentrated in the tribal territories, the largest non-tribal fighting force to be there in centuries), a general uprising would spill over into the more densely populated lowlands of Punjab and Sind and, in general, be a mess. So far, the army has been able to negotiate deals with key tribes to allow troops to go after nearby Taliban fighters. But such permission has been hard to get in North Waziristan, which is where the Taliban are preparing to make a last stand. The Taliban and al Qaeda are also using North Waziristan as their terrorism base, and it's where many of the terrorist attacks are coming from. So the army is under increasing popular pressure to "root the terrorists out."

Taliban and al Qaeda have tried to disperse to other parts of Pakistan, but an increasingly hostile population has made this very difficult. As is usually the case, the use of terror bombings causes lots of civilian casualties, and a collapse of support for movements (Taliban and al Qaeda) which are fighting corruption and injustice. While most Pakistanis would like to see clean government and justice, they are now less convinced that the Islamic radicals will deliver. The intolerance of the  Islamic groups, and their hostility to secular education, has angered many potential supporters. Although some Islamic radical leaders back a softer approach, at least until the government has been defeated, the Islamic groups have not been able to alter their suicidal trajectory.

The U.S. and Afghanistan are trying to get Pakistan to crack down on the corruption that enables truckloads of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to reach the Afghan border. Truckers pay bribes of over $800 a truck to accomplish this, with police and local politicians splitting the cash. Taliban in Afghanistan use the fertilizer (which is now illegal in Afghanistan) to make roadside bombs.

A Pakistani man, Shahzad Faisal, living in the United States as a naturalized citizen, was arrested for involvement in a recent New York City bombing attempt. He was picked up at an airport, trying to fly to Dubai, in the Persian Gulf.  Faisal had recently visited Pakistan.

May 2, 2010:  A video appeared on the Internet, in which the Pakistani Taliban took credit for yesterday's failed attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York City. But within 24 hours, known Taliban officials denied they were involved. At the same time, another video of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was revealed. In it, Mehsub vowed revenge against the United States for attacks on himself and other Taliban leaders. Mehsud was thought to have been killed by an American missile attack last January. But rumors have persisted that he survived the attack, and this video apparently confirms it. So the hunt for him is on again.

April 29, 2010: Pakistani intelligence believe that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud survived wounds received during an American missile attack last January.

April 28, 2010:  Indian police have arrested an Indian diplomat who served in Pakistan, and charged her with spying for Pakistan. The 53 year old career diplomat was unmarried. It turned out that most of the secrets she provided Pakistan were not secret. The female diplomat was believed the victim of a "honeytrap" (using romance and sex to recruit a foreigner for espionage.) Both countries use such techniques for recruiting spies.

April 27, 2010: In eastern India (Jharkhand state), Maoist threats shut down train traffic for a day or so, as the communist rebels tried to intimidate local governments to release imprisoned Maoist leaders.





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