India-Pakistan: Unsettling Comparisons


February 2, 2016: Despite a massive 18 month long campaign against Islamic terrorist hideouts along the Afghan border the Pakistani military cannot reduce the incidence of Islamic terror attacks below about half their “normal” (since 2003) level. Back in 2003 there were 189 terrorist related deaths in Pakistan. That rose to 863 in 2004 and kept going until it peaked at 11,700 in 2009. Increased efforts by security forces steadily reduced that 5,300 in 2013. Public pressure led to the major offensive in the northwest against North Waziristan in mid-2014 which spread to adjacent border areas but not the major Islamic terrorist sanctuaries in the southwest (Quetta) or the northeast (Kashmir). In 2015 there were 3,682 deaths, most of them Islamic terrorists killed in the offensive. But Islamic terrorist attacks only fell by about half. The offensive in the northwest is to continue to the end of 2016 and there is general agreement that it was not enough. The military is under growing pressure to shut down all Islamic terrorists in the country. Many military officers resist that because they believe, for religious or economic reasons that some Islamic terrorists must still be protected (so they can attack India and Afghanistan.) It is getting harder and harder to defend that position. America, India and Afghanistan are leading that effort and Pakistani government denials no longer work at all.

India, in contrast, has far fewer problems with terrorist violence. In 2009 India (with six times as many people as Pakistan) suffered 2,200 terrorism related deaths. Per-capita that’s less than four percent of what Pakistan suffered. In 2015 India had 722 deaths, which is closer to three percent of what Pakistan suffered. Moreover the majority of Indian deaths have nothing to do with religion but rather are caused by tribal separatists (Pakistan has some of those) and leftist rebels (none in Pakistan). Most of the Pakistani terrorism deaths are about Islam. A growing number of Pakistanis are wondering why these huge differences exist.

A major reason for these differences can be found in patterns of corruption and military influence on politics. The Pakistani anti-corruption movement, although it has lots of popular support, is bumping into a very powerful and stubborn obstacle; the military. Since Pakistan was created in 1947, the country has been ruled nearly half the time by generals who took over "for the good of the country." That is no longer as tolerated as it once was. The generals originally believed they were going to be part of a democracy, like neighboring India. But the Pakistani military quickly became aware of the fact that political forces in Pakistan were not as mature or as powerful as in India. For whatever cultural, historical and religious reasons Pakistani democracy was not working well and the military was the largest and best educated and disciplined part of the government. It seemed natural that during a political crises (the elected officials deadlocked and unable to rule) the military should step in. The politicians, and most of the people, did not agree with this and as the decades passed the politicians and their political parties became more skilled and the military takeovers less justified by necessity. Unfortunately to make military rule work where civilian rule could not the military made some fundamental and very damaging changes in Pakistani culture. Unlike in India Pakistan did not do much to eliminate the local “ancient curses”. As a result after 1947 Pakistan remained very corrupt and few wealthy feudal families continued to dominate the economy, politics and the military. In Pakistan less than a hundred of these clans control about half the economy. They are very powerful and determined to keep things that way. That has been accomplished by working very closely with the military. A disproportionate number of military leaders come from these clans and these men see family and national interests as inseparable. More damage was done in the 1970s when it was clear that the politicians were gaining in skill and power. So the generals decided to back religious radicalism and Islamic terrorist groups. Many officers later regretted that decision mainly because there was no easy way to turn the Islamic terrorism monster off once it had been declared legitimate but was no longer needed. So now, faced with the loss of political power the generals are looking for another way to safeguard their wealth (gained largely via corruption) and privileges (also mostly illegal) from growing public wrath.

January 30, 2016: Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to increase coordination on border security. The 2,600 kilometer long frontier is poorly guarded and there are frequent illegal crossings by smugglers and Islamic terrorists.

January 27, 2016: For the first time ever Chinese warships visited Bangladesh. Task Force (TF) 21 spent five days there showing off the destroyer, frigate and replenishment ship that comprise TF 21.

January 24, 2016: In eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, an American UAV fired a missile at a building and killed Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan had asked the Americans to do this and apparently provided some useful intel to make this attack possible. There is still no absolute proof that Mullah Fazlullah is dead but that is expected soon as a new leader will have to be announced if the previous one is really gone. Pakistan accused Mullah Fazlullah of authorizing and supporting several major attacks inside Pakistan, including the one at a Pakistani university on the 20th.

January 21, 2016: The head of the local (for Pakistan and Afghanistan) branch of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) released an interview in which he repeated allegations that the Pakistani military controls the Afghan Taliban and Islamic terrorist groups based in Pakistan that operate in India. These accusations are nothing new but they are the reason ISIL considers Pakistan un-Islamic and worthy of some lethal retribution delivered by ISIL. To underscore that on January 13th ISIL attacked the Pakistani consulate in Afghanistan (Jalalabad). Three attackers and seven security personnel died. This was the first time ISIL went after a Pakistani government target. Apparently four suicide bombers were involved in this attack and the fourth one got away. For most of 2015 ISIL has been skirmishing with Pakistani Taliban hiding out in eastern Afghanistan.

January 20, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (outside Peshawar) four Pakistani Taliban attacked Bacha Khan University. The attackers were killed after a six hour military effort against them but not before 22 people died. Military intelligence determined that the attack received support from local pro-Taliban clerics and over the next month nearly 200 religious schools were closed and bank accounts of 126 suspect organizations were frozen. Even before the Bacha Khan University attack Pakistan had been closing religious schools and going after Islamic terrorism supporters in response to Indian complaints that a January 2nd attack on an Indian air base near the border was the work of Pakistan based groups. Officially Pakistan still resists admitting that this goes on, but as a practical measure Pakistan now accepts that all Islamic terrorist groups are dangerous to everyone, even if some of them promise to only attack outside Pakistan. The attack on the university was also a Taliban warning that all non-Islamic schools were targets for Islamic terrorists and that led to several universities and private schools to close for a while. Others increased security.

The Afghan Air Force received the first of four used Mi-25 helicopter gunships from India. Afghanistan, India and Pakistan already operate some M-24s as well as the upgraded version (Mi-35). The Mi-25 is an export version of the Mi-24. India is replacing its Mi-25s with American AH-64s.

January 19, 2016: Pakistan revealed that it had nearly 1,200 military trainers and advisors in Saudi Arabia and was sending more. The Arabs wanted combat troops, warships and jet fighters. The oil rich Gulf Arabs are angry with Pakistan over what is perceived as ingratitude and betrayal after years of generous financial support. Pakistan is making matters worse by announcing it would cooperate with Iran to try and solve the Yemen unrest (where Iran admits it backs the Shia rebels) peacefully. That was seen as insulting to Saudi Arabia, which had publicly asked Pakistan to join the Saudi led coalition (Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt) fighting Shia rebels in Yemen. At the same time Pakistan assured Saudi Arabia that Pakistan would provide military assistance if the territory of Saudi Arabia were invaded. That would only happen if Iran attacked, although Pakistan refused to elaborate on that possibility.

Pakistan carried out another successful test of its stealthy Raad (Hatf 8) cruise missile. This is the air launched version, with a range of 350 kilometers. Hatf 8 is three decade old technology, been in service since 2007 and not as complex as the many ballistic missiles Pakistan has also built. Cruise missiles are cheaper than ballistic missiles, and can be recalled (useful if they have nuclear warheads).

January 14, 2016: The U.S. government made public its estimate that Pakistan had 110-130 nuclear weapons, mainly for discouraging India from invading.




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