India-Pakistan: Visa Threat Does The Impossible

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February 1, 2017: Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan continues to decline. Surprisingly the vocal popular support for Islamic terrorism in Pakistan was suddenly muted in late January as the military made some unexpected concessions regarding its support for terrorism and the government was able to go after a major Islamic charity that was long known (by literally everyone) as a front for Islamic terrorist fund raising. What caused this sudden change was the unexpected American threat to declare Pakistan a supporter of Islamic terrorism and restrict the movement of Pakistanis to and from the United States. What made this threat so convincing is that the newly (since January 20 th ) installed U.S. government started keeping campaign promises and banned seven nations (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen) that have long been the source of most Islamic terrorism. Many in South Asia believe Pakistan should be on the list. Afghanistan and India have long called for such action against Pakistan but Pakistanis thought the Americans would never do it. The leaders of Pakistan’s Islamic parties, who normally call for violent demonstrations against any effort to shut down Islamic terrorists who only attack outside Pakistan were quiet. That was because many of their key supporters may be enthusiastic about Islamic terrorism, they are more concerned about family in the West, especially the United States, or seeking to go there. The Islamic political parties have grown stronger since the military cracked down on anti-Pakistan Islamic terrorists in 2014. But now even the military is concerned about Pakistan being labeled what it has long been; a major supporter of Islamic terrorism. The fear may not last, but it’s a refreshing change of attitude for people in the region, including most Pakistanis.

Meanwhile there is less Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistani. In 2016 there were only 1,893 Islamic terrorism related deaths and for January 2017 the number was a quarter of the deaths for January 2016. Yet Pakistan remains the primary source of support for Islamic terrorism in the region. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny this as more and more evidence surfaces. This has led to open discussions about how to deal with the mess these lies have gotten Pakistan into. Some of these public discussions feature Pakistani officials saying that to move against all Islamic terrorists in Pakistan too aggressively would mean more Islamic terrorist attacks inside Pakistan and that is not acceptable. While maintaining some terrorist sanctuaries makes sense to many Pakistanis it simply angers Afghanistan and India (and now Bangladesh as well) because they have long suffered from Pakistan based Islamic terror groups that had (and still have) sanctuary in Pakistan and until recently any Pakistani openly admitting that would be called a traitor and risk prison or death.

What has been changing Pakistani attitudes towards this official denial was the growing evidence that the Pakistani position was all a lie and a self-destructive one at that. That includes Pakistan trying to blame all Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan on foreigners (usually India). This became embarrassing when Pakistani Islamic terrorists would get on the Internet and provide evidence that they, not India, did it. The Afghans and Americans also lost their patience with years of Pakistani promises that “they were working on the problem” when, in fact, that was all for show.

Even major patron, arms supplier and ally China, concerned about current and planned major investments there, has threatened to cut back if Pakistan does not improve security and is calling for greater international efforts to do the same in Afghanistan where China has some major projects pending because of security concerns. This is a veiled criticism of Pakistani support of Islamic terrorism. Pakistan acknowledges that Chinese support is crucial yet even China has to deal with the terrorism threat created and sustained by the Pakistani military. All this has fueled the growing struggle within the Pakistani government as the military (and its intel branch, ISI) refuse to consider shutting down the remaining Islamic terrorist sanctuaries. While Afghanistan’s internal problems (corruption, ethnic and religious animosities) are caused and sustained by Afghans it doesn’t help that neighbors like Pakistan actively keep the pot boiling. That is beginning to cause a lot more problems for Pakistan and in the long run that is a good thing for Afghanistan.

The situation is different next door. India suffered 898 terrorism related deaths in 2016 and Islamic terrorism was not the major problem. The tribal rebels in the northeast accounted for 22 percent of the terrorism deaths in 2016. The Maoists were responsible for 48 percent and Islamic terrorists the other 30 percent.

The Pakistani military was quite proud of its efforts to increase violence in Kashmir in 2016. Casualties among Indian security forces there hit a record high of 82 in 2016. Deaths had not been that high since 2008 when they were 85 for the year, down from 244 in 2005. Violence in Kashmir was highest since 2008 largely because the Pakistani military needed a distraction for the many Pakistani voters and politicians who are again trying to curb the power of the military.

Despite being more active in 2016 the Maoists see themselves as facing extinction (communism as a global movement died in the 1990s) and the remaining ones in eastern India are trying real hard to survive. This includes a lot more terrorism (mainly bombings) and that means a lot more civilians killed. The Maoists are apparently willing to suffer the further loss of popular support those civilian deaths creates if it will help the remaining Maoists survive.

Tribal Tribulations

Pakistan considers Afghanistan a client state and many Pakistanis support that attitude because of the Pushtun threat. That threat is getting worse inside Pakistan. The Afghans are considered a collection of fractious tribes pretending to be a nation. With no access to the sea, most Afghan road connections to ports are with Pakistan. The Afghans resent this, especially since for thousands of years invasions of northern India (which, historically, lowland Pakistan was a part of) came out of Afghanistan where many Pushtun tribesmen would join the invaders. Pakistan and India are well aware of this, and still consider the Pushtuns a bunch of bloodthirsty savages from the mountains. Afghanistan has only been around for a few centuries and Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947. Before that it was a collection of feudal states and tribal territories. When you get right down to it, Pakistan's big problem is that it contains two-thirds of the Pushtun people (who are 15 percent of Pakistan's population) while Afghanistan contains the other third (who are 40 percent of Afghanistan's population.) "Pushtunstan" is a nation of 30-40 million Pushtuns caught between Pakistan (still over 150 million people without the Pushtuns) and northern Afghanistan (with about 18 million non-Pushtuns) Without Pushtuns, Afghanistan would become yet another Central Asian country with a small population (neighboring Tajikistan has 7.7 million and Uzbekistan has 30 million). But Pushtunstan is never going to happen because the Pushtuns have long been divided by tribal politics and cultural differences. When the Pushtun aren't fighting outsiders, they fight each other. The violent and fractious Pushtuns are a core problem in the region, and have been for centuries. There is no easy solution to this and now more Pushtuns are openly calling for the establishment of a Pushtunstan and are making common cause with the Baluchis to the south (in Baluchistan) who have long fought to establish an independent Baluchistan. Both tribal separatist groups want to be rid of the Pakistani military and the Islamic terrorist organizations the military supports.

January 31, 2017: The Pakistani military announced that it was not involved with any terrorism in Afghanistan. This assertion did not please or placate anyone in Afghanistan because the sanctuaries of the Afghan Taliban are still in use in southwestern Pakistan, just across the border from Helmand province, which is again largely controlled by the Taliban. This announcement was believed a response to the American threat to restrict movement of Pakistanis to the United States.

The Pakistani military also said it agreed with the decision to put five leaders of Islamic terror group Jamaatud Dawa under house arrest and shut down its charities which actually collect cash for Islamic terrorist operations, frequently against India. This sort of crackdown has been used before and it was always temporary. India believes Pakistan is, as it did in 2001 (after Pakistani based terrorists attacked the Indian parliament building) and 2008 (after a major attack in Mumbai) going through the motions of cracking down on the terrorist organizations. In 2001, Lashkar e Toiba (which planned the recent Mumbai attacks) and Jamaatud Dawa (which provided money and other support) had its leaders put under house arrest and its offices closed temporarily. When the media heat was off Pakistan, the terrorist leaders were released, and the terrorist organizations reopened their offices under new names. Until 2008 India negotiated with Pakistan to reverse that decision. But Pakistan insists that the terrorists dedicated to seizing Kashmir from India are too popular, inside Pakistan, to really shut down. Since the 2008 Mumbai attack India has been pressuring Pakistan to really, really shut down operations like Lashkar e Toiba. Pakistan continues to resist in the expectation that it would get away with doing nothing. That has become more difficult as the international community, including the UN, has recognized Lashkar e Toiba and Jamaatud Dawa as terrorist organizations and threatened to declare Pakistan a "terrorist state." That would be interesting, as Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is keeps encountering evidence that Islamic terrorist groups are seeking an opportunity to seize one or more of these atomic bombs.

January 29, 2017: In Pakistan, three days after pro-Islamic terrorist host Amir Liaqat was banned from appearing on TV, four of five online critics of the military who had mysteriously disappeared three weeks earlier reappeared and two of them promptly left the country. The kidnapping of these five men triggered nationwide demonstrations and unprecedented pressure on the the military to release them. Amir Liaqat is a self-described Islamic scholar and appears regularly on BOL TV, one of the many media outlets controlled by the military. Liaqat has been known to get people killed by accusing them of blasphemy. Like many Moslem majority nations Pakistan has laws that actually encourage religious violence. The most damaging instance of this are the blasphemy laws enacted in the 1970s. These allow for prosecution of anyone accused of speaking or acting against Islam. While no one had ever been officially executed because of these laws, many are accused and jailed each year, and often condemned to death (and later reprieved). But a growing number of those accused have been murdered by Islamic fanatics, who are a large, and violent, minority of the population. Accusations of blasphemy are mostly used by Moslems against innocent non-Moslems (usually Christians) but also against each other. Efforts to repeal these laws, or at least limit their misuse, are violently resisted by Islamic political parties and the military. It was the military that created these laws back when it decided to turn Islamic terrorism into a secret weapon for use against its enemies. The military still uses false blasphemy charges as an excuse to silence (often by death) media and political opponents. Liaqat accused five online critics of the military of heresy. These five had disappeared in early January and were believed to have been kidnapped by the military. This is often done to silence (via threats) or eliminate (via murder or public accusations of heresy) popular critics of the military. Since being banned the police has issued an arrest warrant for Liaqat because he already accused the missing five bloggers of heresy. It is rare for a civilian government to move against the heresy laws like this but the majority of Pakistanis want the heresy laws gone, no matter what the opposition the military or the Islamic political parties present.

January 28, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) near the Pakistani border, another avalanche killed five soldiers on patrol in the same area where avalanches killed 15 soldiers on the 25th. All this took place near army camps that both nations maintain along the Kashmir border. Some of these camps are high up, at an altitude of 6,500 meters (20,000 feet) or higher. These are the highest military camps on the planet, the result of not precisely demarcating the 740 kilometer long border. One 75 kilometer portion is on the 6,500-7,000 kilometer high Siachen glacier. The reason for not precisely marking that part of the border was the inaccessibility of those 75 kilometers of ice and thin air. This bizarre situation developed in the late 1970s, when Pakistan began a campaign of Islamic terror attacks on Indian Kashmir. In response, India moved more police and troops to Kashmir and in 1984 moved troops onto the Siachen glacier to block Pakistan based Islamic terrorists from sneaking into Indian Kashmir. No terrorists appear to have ever used the glacier route into Indian territory but with the high levels of terrorist violence in Indian Kashmir, desperate measures seemed reasonable. Pakistan responded to the Indian action by moving troops up onto the glacier as well. Since then, over a thousand soldiers have died, and even more injured, while serving in those harsh conditions (thin air, intense cold, constant snow and ice plus frequent inaccessibility). After September 11, 2001, the two countries began negotiating a ceasefire, and one was signed in 2003. This ended the frequent gunfire on the glacier (usually initiated by the Pakistanis), but efforts to negotiate a withdrawal of troops from the glacier have so far failed.

January 26, 2017: The Pakistani government, in a rare move, banned Amir Liaqat, a popular TV host from working on air because he regularly accusing Pakistanis or heresy if they are hostile to Islamic terrorism or the military.

January 25, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) near the Pakistani border, two avalanches left 15 Indian soldiers dead. One avalanche hit a camp and the other one hit a patrol.

January 24, 2017: For the first time Pakistan successfully tested its Ababeel missile. This is actually a new version of its Shaheen 3 IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile) with a range of 2,200 kilometers and MIRV (Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle) capabilities meaning it could carry two or more warheads each able to reach a different target. Shaheen 3 had the longest range (2,700 kilometers) of any Pakistani missile and could reach all of India. Shaheen 3 had its first launch of this missile in March 2015. India said its anti-missile missiles could deal with this and Pakistan is implying that a missile with MIRV would defeat the anti-missile defenses. India described the Ababeel MIRV claim as a fake.

January 22, 2017: In northeast India (Assam) the first clash with the tribal rebels took place with two soldiers were killed and three wounded in an ambush. Two rebels were also killed and the rest fled.

In Afghanistan the governor of Helmand province (where the Taliban are most active and where most of the world supply of opium and heroin are produced) said provincial security forces had collected lots of evidence that Iran and Pakistan were supporting and supplying the Taliban in Helmand.

January 21, 2017: In northwest Pakistan (Kurram) a local market near the Afghan border was attacked with a bomb that killed 25 civilians and wounded at least twice as many. The Pakistani Taliban is suspected as that group maintains bases just across the border in Afghanistan.

January 20, 2017: Among recently released (by the United States) Osama bin Laden documents was a letter from an Islamic terrorist group operating in Indian Kashmir (from a sanctuary in Pakistani Kashmir) asking for advice on how to destroy their patron (the Pakistani military) after India had been driven out of Kashmir. It is no secret that even Islamic terrorist groups that profess loyalty to the Pakistani military contain many members who see the Pakistani military as impure (many officers and troops do not believe in Islamic terrorism and do sinful things like watch movies and drink alcoholic beverages) and thus in line to be “cleansed”. These bin Laden documents revive concerns about the Pakistani military. Since mid-2013, when the Abbottabad Commission report was leaked, the Pakistani military leaders realized they had to face some unpleasant realities. The Abbottabad Commission report was commissioned by the Pakistani government in June 2011 to get to the truth of how Osama bin Laden could hide out in Pakistan for a decade and the United States could send in commandos in May 2011 to attack the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad (a military town near the capital) and then get away to Afghanistan without any interference from the Pakistan military. The Abbottabad Commission did a thorough job, so thorough that when the final report was delivered in January 2013 the government ordered it kept from the public. The reason for this was that the report admitted corruption and incompetence in the government and military were the main reasons bin Laden could hide in plain sight, and also why the Americans could fly in from Afghanistan, kill bin Laden, take large quantities of documents from the bin Laden compound and get out without any casualties. After the report became public in mid-2013 the Pakistani military responded by blaming the Pakistani police and domestic intelligence agencies for not noticing the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad and admitted that the military was more concerned with guarding the border with India than the one with Afghanistan. Few people inside or outside Pakistan believed the military on this issue, and much else besides.

January 19, 2017: In central Pakistan (Punjab) police clashed with a group of Islamic terrorists and killed four while three escaped. One of the dead turned out to be Asif Chotu, a key leader of Lashkar i Jhangvi, a local Islamic terror group responsible for several major attacks inside Pakistan. There was a $30,000 reward for the death or capture of Chotu.

In the southwest (Baluchistan) Pakistan Islamic terrorists tried to enter Afghanistan (Helmand) using an escort of Pakistani border guards. The Afghan border guards confronted the group and that kicked off a two hour gun battle before the intruders retreated back into Pakistan. That was followed by a mortar attack on the Afghan border guards involved, leaving one Afghan dead and two wounded. Afghanistan complained to Pakistan but was told no Pakistani security forces were involved.

January 17, 2017: Iranian military commanders appeared on a video posted to a government news site to describe the number of Afghan and Pakistani Shia mercenaries fighting for Iran in Syria against rebels (most of them Sunni) trying to overthrow the Shia government there. The video commentary described there being 18,000 Afghan Shia currently fighting in Syria and far fewer (less than a thousand) Pakistani Shia. Some 20 percent of Pakistanis are Shia and that comes to ten times as many Shia as Afghanistan has. Most of the Pakistani Shia Iran recruited are Baluchis who are 3.5 percent of the population. The disparity here can be explained by the fact that Iran pays well for those who sign on to fight in Syria and most of these “volunteers” are from Afghan refugees living in Iran. Many of these Afghans are apparently not Shia but need a job. In Pakistan a major source of Islamic terrorist violence has long been Sunni Pakistani zealots killing Pakistani Shia. Sunni religious conservatives believe that Shia are heretics and must die for that.

January 16, 2017: Indian officials revealed that in the last two years Pakistani rockets and shells fired into India across the LoC (Line of Control) that separates Indian from Pakistani Kashmir has killed 26 Indian civilians and wounded another 158 wounded. The Indian government currently pays the families of those killed $38,000 and lesser amounts (plus free medical care) to those wounded. The government also paid to repair the 216 structures damaged by the rocket and shell fire.

In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) the first 2,000 locals who fled to Afghanistan 2014, returned home. These Pushtuns fled after the army offensive against Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan began in mid-2014. About 20,000 of these refugees will return by the end of the month.

January 15, 2017: In Bangladesh the government has persuaded the Burmese government to begin (this month) high-level talks about their border control problems. Burma is the cause of this mess by not controlling ethnic violence up there that has sent over half a million Burmese fleeing, mostly to Bangladesh. In response Bangladesh has already reinforced border security to try and stem the illegal migration. Bangladesh wants Burma to take back some or all of the more than 400,000 Burmese Rohingya Moslems who have fled across the border, usually as illegal migrants, since 2011. The situation got worse in late 2016 and over 40,000 Burmese Moslems have fled to Bangladesh since then. Bangladesh borders Burma’s Rakhine State which contains most of the Burmese Rohingya Burma insists the Rohingya are Bangladeshis who are in Burma illegally. Burma also fears the Rohingya will be a source of Islamic terrorists. While Bangladesh has arrested a few Pakistan trained Rohingya Islamic terrorists the Rohingya have largely avoided Islamic terrorism. But in Burma the Rohingya, who trace their origin to Bangladesh, have suffered increased persecution in Burma since the 1980s, and especially since the 2011 elections that restored democracy and got lot of anti-Moslem Buddhist nationalists elected. Most Rohingyas are Bengalis, or people from Bengal (now Bangladesh) who began migrating to Burma during the 19th century. At that time the British colonial government ran Bangladesh and Burma, and allowed this movement, even though the Buddhist Burmese opposed it. Britain recognized the problem too late, and the Bengali Moslems were still in Burma when Britain gave up its South Asian colonies after World War II (1939-45). Any kind of peace deal with the Rohingya is unlikely as far as most Burmese are concerned. There is growing popular anger among Burmese towards Moslems in general and the Rohingya in particular. This is fed by the continuing reports of Islamic terrorism word-wide and especially in the region (Thailand, India, Bangladesh and China).

January 14, 2017: In southwest Pakistan (port of Gwadar) the navy put into service two 600 ton, Chinese built, patrol ships to help protect the newly expanded port. Two more patrol ships (each 1,500 tons) are being built in China for delivery later in 2017 at Gwadar. There were rumors that these ships were a gift from China but Pakistan and China both declared that Pakistan bought the ships but would not say for how much. A month earlier the navy officially established Task Force 88 in Gwadar, a city of 100,000 and site of one of the biggest construction projects in the country. The new naval task force will use warships, maritime patrol aircraft and UAVs to guard the coastal areas from any Islamic terrorist attack against ships, especially Chinese ones. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar and land links north to China. This is a key part of the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This project began in 2013 when China agreed to spend $18 billion to build a road from Gwadar into northwest China. This will require drilling long tunnels through the Himalayan Mountains on the border (in Pakistani controlled Kashmir.) The road and a natural gas pipeline are part of the larger CPEC project. This will make it much easier and cheaper to move people, data (via fiber optic cables) and goods between China and Pakistan. China also gets a 40 year lease on much of the port facilities at Gwadar, which India fears will serve as a base for Chinese warships. The thousands of Chinese coming into Pakistan for this project are prime targets for Islamic terrorists and tribal separatists in Baluchistan. The people in Gwadar will benefit greatly from the construction and the expanded port. Because of that Pakistan has formed a special security forces, currently 20,000 strong, dedicated to keeping the foreign (mainly Chinese) workforce safe.

January 9, 2017: Pakistan declared that Babur 3, the submarine launched version of its stealthy Raad (Hatf 8) cruise missile was ready for service after a successful test. This version has a range of 450 kilometers and can carry a nuclear warhead. In January 2016 Babur 2, the air launched version, with a range of 750 kilometers, was successfully tested. Babur/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).

Three Islamic terrorists from Pakistan crossed the border in Kashmir and launched a night attack on an army base two kilometers inside India. Three civilian workers were killed and the attackers fled. Soldiers believe they later found and killed one of the attackers nearby. Several days later an Islamic terrorist leader in one of the camps just across the border in Pakistan described the attack differently saying that 30 Indian soldiers were killed and the four Islamic terrorists get back to Pakistan safely. In fact the small base was a temporary work camp for civilian contractors doing repairs and maintenance in the area. If 30 soldiers had been killed it would have been big, and detailed news in India. But in Pakistan supporters of Islamic terrorism (over ten percent of the population) believe what they want to believe. Unlike India, the Pakistani media is subject to censorship (via threats and worse). Most Pakistanis want that changed but that’s another issue.

 

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