India-Pakistan: Stumbling Around In The Dark

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December 25, 2011: In Pakistan, the generals are particularly keen to see president Zardari resign or otherwise leave office. Zardari has been very vocal about the need for the generals to take orders from elected leaders. The generals consider this heresy and not in the best interest of Pakistan. The Pakistani military considers itself under attack and in danger of losing some of its independence and privileges. The Pakistani military is actually under attack, both by America and by many Pakistanis who are fed up with the arrogance and incompetence of the generals. The Pakistani military takes a huge chunk of the national income, lives very well (especially the senior officers) and treats the elected government with disdain. In turn, the civilian government now openly admits that it has no control over the military. This is a reality that, for decades, the generals and politicians pretended did not exist. That has changed and the generals don't like it. The generals are even less amused by the growing disdain they are being shown by the Pakistani media and public. Pointing out that the Pakistani military had lost every war it had been in was for a long time a quick way to get yourself killed or, if you were lucky, jailed. That's much less true today and the generals don't like it one bit. The generals want some respect. No, make that a lot of respect, but they are not as willing to kill for it as they were in the past. So now the generals are trying to portray the United States as the enemy of Pakistan and seeking to destroy Pakistan. Lots of Pakistanis agree with this kind of talk, but these inventions only take you so far. The generals have started something they can't stop or control and are now very uneasy about where it will all end.

Over the last two weeks it's become public knowledge that last October former Pakistani Army senior general Ziauddin Khawaja Butt (who was chief of the ISI in the late 1990s) claimed that ISI did indeed shelter Osama bin Laden in an ISI safe house in Abbottabad. Butt also believes that the 1999 coup was in part the result of the civilian government seeking to assist the U.S. in tracking down and capturing, or killing, Osama bin Laden (then hiding out in Afghanistan). Not everyone believes general Butt, mainly because he opposed the military coup of 1999 that brought the army (and general Musharraf) to power for the next nine years. General Butt was forced out of the army by Musharraf because of that. But since then Butt has stayed in touch with senior officers who are still on duty, so his allegations cannot be dismissed out of hand.

The Pakistani generals are angry about some very practical matters as well. Take the matter of foreign aid associated with Pakistani "war on terror" efforts. The U.S. has an arrangement with Pakistan where by the Pakistanis can send bills for expenses in supporting American war on terror efforts and the U.S. pays them. But over a year ago the growing evidence that the Pakistanis were padding these bills led to audits. By early this year (before the May raid that killed bin Laden), the U.S. was turning down over a third of the Pakistani claims. This was costing the Pakistanis up to $50 million a month and the generals (who simply stole a lot of this cash) were not amused. So after the bin Laden raid the Pakistanis stopped submitting any bills at all. This has cost the Pakistani military nearly a billion dollars so far and has not bothered the Americans at all. The U.S. is now prepared to cut off all financial aid to Pakistan. The Pakistani generals feel they cannot back down without losing more power over the Pakistani government. But if they try to keep the Americans out of Pakistan completely (blocking air and land access to Afghanistan) it could be considered a declaration of war on America. This would be another war Pakistan could not win, despite their nuclear weapons. Moreover, the Americans might be able to make a deal with Pakistani politicians to remove the independence of the military and intelligence agencies. This could cause a civil war. At the moment the military sees no solution and is stumbling around in the dark, seeking a way out that may not exist.

The Pakistani military is not without allies within Pakistan. Many Islamic political parties support the military, which is an embarrassing reminder of the decades old relationship between the military and Islamic radicals. While some Islamic terror groups are still fighting the military and police, others are quietly cooperating. This is the sort of thing the Americans want to halt.

In Indian Kashmir, unseasonable cold weather has brought snow and freezing temperatures to remote lowland areas where Islamic terrorists often live in crude, unheated, shelters. The nasty weather has reduced Islamic terrorist activity, although army patrols are still going out.

The U.S. has made no UAV missile attacks in Pakistan since mid-November. The CIA has cancelled attacks on low-level terrorists. These groups are often attacked on the chance that an important leader or technical expert might be in the group. But the CIA has not cancelled UAV flights over Pakistan. However, the only kinds of attacks allowed are of high ranking terrorist leaders. These typically account for less than ten percent of UAV attacks, and the senior terrorist leaders on the Pakistani border are still keeping their heads down.

December 24, 2011: In the Pakistani tribal territories a suicide truck bomber hit a military camp, killing six people. This attack, and another yesterday on a checkpoint, was revenge for the killing of a Taliban leader two months ago (by a CIA UAV.)

The Pakistani military disagreed with the results of an American investigation into the November incident on the border that resulted in U.S. aircraft firing on Pakistani troops and killing 24. The Americans say there was a lack of coordination on both sides in what was essentially a friendly fire incident. The Pakistani military refuses to accept any responsibility and insists that the attack was deliberate. Pakistan refused to participate in the investigation and refused to allow the U.S. to pay compensation to the families of the dead soldiers. The Pakistanis have declared themselves blameless and insist the U.S. and the government of Pakistan must make unspecified amends. Many Pakistani (and American) politicians believe the military is using this incident to weaken Pakistani efforts to reduce the independence of the military and the likelihood of yet another coup.

China has offered Pakistan greater economic opportunities (as in setting up businesses inside China) but not a lot of additional military aid.

In Indian Kashmir, three paramilitary soldiers were killed inside an army camp as the result of a friendly fire incident, or a dispute. It is unclear.

December 23, 2011: In the Pakistani tribal territories (South Waziristan) a large group of Taliban attacked a military compound, killing one soldier and kidnapping 15 others.

The Pakistani military chief denied the generals were planning a coup but discreetly let it be known that it would be nice if the senior political leaders were more sympathetic to the needs of the military. This can be interpreted as "shut up and send more money".

Nighttime passenger train traffic has been resumed in areas of eastern India where Maoists had been attacking trains.

December 22, 2011: The Pakistani prime minister claimed there was a military conspiracy to oust the civilian government.

December 21, 2011:  A division of India's Tata Motors has developed a bomb disposal robot for use by police and the military. This droid is similar to the American model used over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.

December 20, 2011: India revealed that it was prosecuting one of its army officers (a lieutenant-colonel in the Infantry) for spying for Pakistan. The officer was recruited last Summer in Bangladesh, where he was attending a course at a Bangladesh military school. The Pakistani ISI had a woman operative seduce the Indian officer and the sexual activity was recorded on video. The officer was given a choice of the video being made public or him becoming a Pakistani spy. The officer became a spy and was caught by Indian counterintelligence after a few months.

December 19, 2011: Pakistan has resumed sending officers and NCOs into Afghanistan to work at coordination centers, which coordinate military operations on both sides of the border. Pakistan had withdrawn its troops from these centers after the November 26 friendly fire incident, but apparently are more concerned with Taliban bases in Afghanistan (who make attacks into Pakistan) than in scoring points against the Americans.

December 16, 2011: In northwest Pakistan (Orakzai) pro-Taliban tribesmen clashed with soldiers and at least fifteen of the tribesmen were killed.

In Bangladesh, the 1971 victory over Pakistan was commemorated. While seen as a tragic defeat by Pakistan, the war is celebrated in Bangladesh and India. Bangladesh, formerly "East Pakistan" was formerly part of Pakistan. Pakistan (formerly, before 1971, "West Pakistan") is culturally and linguistically different from Bangladesh and not just because it did not embrace Islamic conservatism, and radicalism, as Pakistan did in the 1970s.  Bangladesh continues to have far fewer problems with Islamic terrorism than Pakistan. This is partly due to ethnic and cultural differences but Bangladeshi government decisions played a role as well. Islamic radical ideas were never embraced by the government and this was largely because most Bangladeshis were not backers of those Islamic conservative ideas to begin with. This can be seen in how Bangladeshi women have long organized for the abolition of laws and customs that limit women's rights and opportunities. The Islamic conservatives have fought these changes and regularly lost. But the biggest loser was Islamic terrorism, which has found Bangladesh a particularly hostile environment. Islamic terrorists pass through but few dare to stick around long.  In Pakistan, there is a much stronger tradition of Islamic conservatism and radicalism.

 

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