India-Pakistan: Tangled Up In Contradictions

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January 24, 2011: Pakistan is a political, economic, and moral mess, and all that is one of the major things keeping Islamic terrorism going. Pakistani politics is dominated by two of the most regressive forces on the planet; a small group of feudal families that seek to hang onto their property and power, and religious leaders and Islamic radical politicians who see democracy as an impediment, not a tool for good governance. The feudalism and corruption has crippled the economy, keeping most Pakistanis poor and uneducated. This serves the needs of the feudal overlords and religious leaders, and any Islamic terror groups looking for recruits. In addition to the feudal families, the military has become an independent economic and political power, justifying this with ever more imaginative claims of imminent Indian invasion. The military maintains the myth of imminent Indian invasion to justify their control of so much of the economy and national budget. The feudal families and military also control most of the economy, and have used their control of the government to insure that the major economic operations (companies and large family holdings) pay little in taxes. This was the kind of situation that caused the French Revolution, but it's not happening in Pakistan. The majority of Pakistanis are still hustling just to get by, or get out of the country. The majority of zealots are of the religious, not democratic, persuasion. When reform minded or democratically inclined leaders show up, the Islamic death squads and dark threats from the military (especially the intelligence establishment) follow. It's no wonder that the rich families, and generals, keep at lot of their money outside the country. It's doesn't take a genius to sense to that this mess of a country is more likely headed for collapse than reform.

While Pakistan has a free press, there is a cost to journalists. Threats, from Islamic radicals, the military or politicians, encourage reporters to avoid certain subjects. In the last 17 years, 46 journalists have been murdered, and only one, an American, had his killers brought to justice.

There are other problems. Corruption and politics has made it increasingly difficult for U.S. economic aid to reach Pakistanis who need it. Because so much foreign aid was routinely stolen by government and military officials, the U.S. has insisted that aid, especially food and disaster relief materials, be delivered directly to local organizations for distribution. The Pakistani bureaucrats have resisted this anyway they could, and pressured local organizations to not cooperate. The ultimate victims are the starving and homeless Pakistanis. Some other foreign aid organizations also became less cooperative when the U.S. insisted that American aid, particularly food aid, be clearly marked as from the U.S. Most of the food aid tends to be American, but because Pakistani politicians tend to be anti-American, over the years it became customary, to avoid violence, to not mark U.S. provided food as American. This eventually became an issue back in the U.S., and the policy was changed. While hungry Pakistanis don't much care where the food comes from, many politically minded Pakistanis and foreign aid groups do. Pakistan is the second largest recipient of American foreign aid, but about a third of the $1.2 billion in annual aid is not being spent because no one honest enough to handle the aid can be found in Pakistan. Other foreign donors have the same problem.

While Pakistan has encouraged Islamic radical groups since the 1970s, they have officially been at war with these outfits for the last decade. That's another one of those strange things that define Pakistan. After September 11, 2001, Pakistan was bluntly told by the U.S. that there was a simple choice. Either join the fight against Islamic terror, or be considered one of the supporters of Islamic terrorism. Given that the entire Western world was now gunning for Islamic terrorists, and that Pakistan has been supporting Islamic terrorism since the 1970s, Pakistan made the best of a bad situation and sided with the West. But many Pakistanis did not. Those who were Islamic radicals stayed that way, and Pakistan did not shut down its support for Islamic terror attacks against India. Pakistan tried to have it both ways, and went nowhere good. The Pakistani government's decision not to go to war with the United States after September 11, 2001 did lead to some Pakistani action against their own Islamic radical groups. Over 3,000 Pakistani security force personnel have died fighting Islamic radicals in the last decade. But this war also caused the Islamic radical groups, some of them at least, to declare war on the Pakistani government. The Pakistani elite always believed they could avoid a theocracy (as rules in Iran) and "control" Islamic radicals. Didn't work out that way, so while Pakistan supports Islamic radicalism in general, they also secretly (and very obviously) support the CIA UAV campaign against Islamic radical leaders (killing over a thousand people, with missiles,  in the last five years.)

Pakistan has been tangled up such contradictions for a long time. The Islamic radicals increasingly take advantage of this situation, by organizing more frequent, and larger, demonstrations against the CIA air attacks. The Islamic radical leadership has been hurt badly by the CIA campaign, and has even threatened retaliatory attacks against Pakistani government officials if the attacks don't stop. So far, the Pakistani bureaucrats have sided with the U.S. on this one.

In the tribal territories, a retired army intelligence and special operations officer, Sultan Amir Tarar, was killed by his kidnappers (or died of a heart attack) after the government refused to release five of the kidnapper's associates from prison. He had been captive for ten months. Tarar was one of the key officers who helped create many Islamic radical groups in the 1980s, when the Moslem world was pouring money and weapons into Pakistan to support the Afghan resistance against Russian occupation. Saudi Arabia, the major donor, insisted that the war be seen as a jihad against the godless communists of the Soviet Union. The jihadis of that conflict evolved into the Taliban and al Qaeda. Tarar continued to work for the government, after his retirement from the army,  in the tribal territories. His kidnappers are now demanding $200,000 to return his body.  Tarar was believed to be in his 80s (details of ISI officials are kept secret).

The Pakistan police and army still hunt down Islamic radicals in the tribal territories. But not in the last Pushtun sanctuary, North Waziristan. Despite continuing pressure from the U.S. and NATO, Pakistan refuses to clear the Islamic radical groups out of North Waziristan. Many Islamic terrorists do not believe the Pakistani government can hold the line indefinitely, and are moving to southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), another refuge area, along Afghanistan's southern border, or to Karachi (the country's largest city, with a large Pushtun population), or out of Pakistan entirely. Pakistan continues to forbid American UAV missile attacks on Islamic radicals in Baluchistan. The Baluchi tribes are not completely tolerant of the Pushtun Taliban and Islamic terror groups. They offer refuge, but not support, and expect there to be no violence.

Separatist violence has abated in Indian Kashmir, mainly because of unusually cold Winter weather.

January 19, 2011: In northwest Pakistan, a bomb hidden in a horse drawn cart went off, killing one and wounding fifteen. Most of the victims were children from a nearby school. The school is a private, non-religious one, for boys and girls. Although an increasing number of Taliban groups are officially accepting non-religious schools, and education for girls, this new view is not share by all Islamic radical groups. On a practical level, less educated Moslems are easier for Islamic radicals to manipulate and control.

For the second time in the last month, Pakistani military aircraft crossed into India along the Line of Control that separates the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir. While the army has long violated the border, with machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire, the air force has been more careful. It's unclear what the new border violations are all about, except possibly to use electronic monitoring gear to get a better idea of how new Indian equipment operates.

 

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