India-Pakistan: Tribal Troubles Escalate


May 17, 2022: In Pakistan, former PM (prime minister) Imran Khan is fighting back against his removal from office by an April 3 rd non-confidence vote in parliament. He has called for two million Pakistanis to assemble in the capital on May 20 th to demonstrate the extent of his popular support. Khan accuses the United States and the military of conspiring with opposition politicians to gain enough votes to remove him. Khan has proved to be a disruptive but revealing politician. While annoying the political and military establishment groups, he retains widespread support from dissatisfied Pakistanis.

Khan was the first Pakistani PM to be removed this way. Most PMs are removed by the president of Pakistan, which is another, less messy, form of no-confidence vote. Since the founding of Pakistan in 1947, no PM has completed their five-year term.

The main reason for some of Khan’s political allies to turn against him was economic. High unemployment (nearly 10 percent) and inflation (14 percent and rising) and a collapse of the local currency to a record 193 rupees per dollar are the result of endemic corruption and excessive military spending. Increasing Islamic terrorist violence and record national debt led to Pakistan gaining a record-low credit rating. That means no country or international donors like the World Bank would loan Pakistan money on terms that are acceptable to Khan or the Pakistani military, which are largely responsible for the financial crisis the government is trying to deal with. After Khan was removed, the Saudis agreed to grant the new PM an $8 billion loan, with some political and diplomatic strings attached. The World Bank agreed to send an inspection/audit team to determine how credit-worthy Pakistan is with a new government.

Khan squandered a lot of borrowed money dealing with short term problems. Khan violated the terms of some of those loans. The World Bank has long reported the many problems with how the Pakistani government spends, or misspends, money. One obvious problem is how Pakistani military spending takes more and more of the government budget. Over the last few years, the military share of the budget has grown from 15 percent to 19 percent. In contrast, India has seen declines from 17 percent to less than 14 percent. Previous PMs had tried to assert civilian control of the military, which both Pakistan and India included in their post-independence constitutions. India succeeded in maintaining government control over the military while Pakistan could not and suffered for it. The continued efforts by Pakistani PMs, especially Khan, to exercise their constitutional control of the military has had an impact and there are more military leaders who recognize military interference in the government as a problem. These dissidents are still a minority but are numerous enough to be noticed by politicians and voters. The political power of the military is declining but is still formidable and able to influence government policy.

Another barrier to foreign aid and investment is government inability to halt increasing violence against religious minorities (Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Shia Moslems) as well as larger tribal minorities (Pushtuns and Baluchis). This has been going on since Pakistan was founded in 1947. There has also been violence between the local Sunni Moslem majority and Sunni Moslems who moved to Pakistan from India after independence. The Islamic terrorism problem is self-inflicted because the late 1970s military encouraged the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is the belief that they could control and use those as weapons against India and anti-Pakistan governments in Afghanistan.

The new PM inherits an escalating economic disaster and many other problems, none of which have an easy solution. The new PM must win the next scheduled (every five years) parliamentary elections in mid-2023. His current majority exists mainly to remove Khan so it is possible that there will be another new PM next year. Kahn is still a member of parliament and has the support of many members, who advised him that the conspiracy accusations about the military and the Americans were counterproductive. Pakistan needed more help from the United States and cooperation from the Pakistani generals in order to fix economic problems and many other problems. Khan took that advice and played down or renounced most of his accusations against the Americans and the Pakistani military.

The Pakistani military is having other problems. The war in Ukraine has confirmed the inferiority of Russian weapons compared to Western models. For years Pakistan received most of its weapons from China or Russia. The Chinese gear is superior to what the Russians produce but still inferior to Western systems. Many Pakistani military leaders want to repair relations with the Americans, who withdrew all military aid after decades of being lied to by the Pakistani military about their support for Islamic terrorism. That support backfired with the new Afghan government, installed with much help from the Pakistani government, threatening war with Pakistan over border disputes and growing anger inside Afghanistan against Pakistan because of the even greater economic collapse in Afghanistan.

May 15, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near an army patrol, killing three soldiers and three civilians.

Elsewhere in northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) gunmen on a motorcycle murdered two Sikh merchants. Sikhs are a tiny minority in Pakistan and targeted by Islamic terrorists because they are not Moslem. Sikhs are also a minority in India, where most of them live without fear being killed because of their religion.

May 14, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) security forces, acting on a tip found and killed two ISK (Islamic State Khorasan) Islamic terrorists, one of responsible for organizing a bombing at a Shia Mosque two months ag0. That attack killed 63 and wounded many others. This enraged many Pakistanis because ISK is based in Afghanistan. Documents found on the two dead ISK men indicated they were planning a similar attack on a church in the area.

May 13, 2022: In northwest India (Kashmir) soldiers, responding to tips from locals, encountered and killed two recently arrived members of Pakistani Islamic terror group LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba). The two have already killed a local man who worked for the government. The international community, including the UN, recognized LeT as a terrorist organization as far back as 2001 and that is one reason for efforts to declare Pakistan a "terrorist state." That would be interesting, as Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is constantly in danger of falling apart.

May 12, 2022: In southern Pakistan (Karachi, the capital of Sindh province) a bomb went off killing one civilian and wounding twelve others. This attack took place in a neighborhood dominated by the SRA (Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army), a recent (2010) separatist group that wants to make Sindh province an independent state. Karachi is the largest city and port in Pakistan and many other Pakistanis oppose the SRA because of the economic importance of the city, which represents a disproportionate portion of the national economy.

Groups like the SRA are often ignored because of the larger problems along the Afghan border and growing difficulty integrating the Pushtun and Baluchi tribes into the nation of Pakistan. In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) there are the Baluchi, and in the northwest, there are the Pushtun. Both groups are very territorial and hostile to outsiders. But people from Punjab (48 percent of the population) and Sindh (29 percent) are better educated and possess technical skills lacking in the Pushtun tribal territories (16 percent, FATA and Khyber) and Baluchistan (seven percent), and must be brought in to do work requiring education and experience. While Sindh province has economic development levels similar to India, the tribal territories are more similar to the less developed nations in Africa. What the tribes lack in economic development they make up for in terms of aggressiveness and hostility towards the more numerous and wealthier lowlanders.

May 8, 2022: In northwest India (Kashmir) soldiers, responding to tips from locals, encountered and killed a members of Pakistani Islamic terror group LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba) and a local recruit. Elsewhere in Kashmir soldiers spotted a Pakistani UAV crossing the border and opened fire. The UAV turned around and went back to Pakistan. These UAVs are often used to scout areas where LeT Islamic terrorists can safely cross into India. Pakistan sponsored Islamic terrorists in Kashmir have suffered 66 percent higher deaths in 2022 as Indian counterterrorism efforts improved and more locals phoned in tips about terrorist activity in their area. This has led Pakistan to send more Pakistani trained Islamic terrorists into Kashmir, even though some of them are not deemed ready for that.

In eastern India the half century old Indian communist Maoist (radical communist) rebel movement suffered accelerated losses in the last year, with a third of the senior leadership captured or killed. Since 2021 over a hundred of the Maoist leaders a year have died (from combat or disease), been captured or, increasingly just surrendering, often because they have lost faith in their cause or the possibility of ever succeeding.

The Maoists have been having personnel problems throughout eastern India for over a decade. Time and technology have caught up with these leftist rebels as tips from civilians about Maoist activity or specific Maoists with a reward offered for their death or capture. Rewards are also offered for hiding places where weapons or equipment are stored.

The Maoists are still active but are feeling pressure from over a decade of attacks by local police and paramilitary police battalions. The Maoists have seen reduced membership and a reduction in territory where they exercise any effective control. The downside is that the paramilitary forces are often operating in unfamiliar territory and more vulnerable to ambush or roadside (or trail side) bombs. Such attacks are less frequent as are the casualties the security forces suffer.

Civilians in Maoist infested areas are less afraid of providing police with information about Maoist movements. It has also become easier to recruit Maoist members to become active informants. These spies are paid monthly and the sudden affluence of their families often alerts Maoist leaders to the presence of police informants. While details about informants are kept secret, the losses suffered because police had inside information is often obvious. The Maoist decline has demoralized leftist leaders, who have not been able to come up with any way to halt or reverse the losses. Maoists are a radical faction of the once mighty Indian communist party. Many Indian communists were slow to understand why all those East European communist governments, including Russia, collapsed between 1989 and 1991. Despite that many Indians still support communism, but not the violent, ineffective and increasingly unpopular Maoists.

The border conflicts with China have also remained quiet, mainly because China has more urgent problems to deal with. One of those problems does impact India. China backs the military government in Myanmar (Burma). India has a 1,4oo kilometer border with Burma in the northeast and long had problems with tribal separatist rebels there, on both sides of the border. India finally worked out peace deals with all their rebels before the pro-India elected government in Burma was ousted in February 2021. The Burmese army war with northern tribes resumed because the army is seen as the main reason for all the corruption and illegal Chinese economic activity in the north. A year later there is a lot more fighting in northern Burma and a lot of refugees fleeing to India. The Indian government has ordered border police to turn away or forcibly return such refugees to Burma. Local state governors refuse to enforce those orders, if only because so many of the refugees have kin in India. Many of the refugees belong to the same tribe that straddles the border. A lot of non-tribal Burmese entered as well and India sought to stop those refugees to avoid more trouble with China. The state governors protected these refugees as well. In some cases, separatist tribal gunmen in India used force to block Indian government efforts to curb the flow of refugees. The federal government has not escalated this dispute, in part because the local resistance is an adequate excuse for allowing the Burma refugees in despite protest from China.

May 6, 2022: In northwest India (Kashmir) police killed Muhammad Ashraf Khan, a veteran (since 2013) Hizbul Mujahideen Islamic terrorist, and three of his followers. Khan had become a local leader for the group. Hizbul Mujahideen is based in Pakistan but only carries out attacks against India.

April 26, 2022: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a female Baluchi separatist used a suicide bomb to kill three Chinese teachers at Karachi University. Pakistan has organized a separate security force to protect Chinese working in Pakistan and this was one of the rare failures of that security effort.

April 23, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan), Afghan gunmen, apparently TTP, fired on a Pakistani border post and killed three soldiers

April 19, 2022: April 19, 2022: Afghanistan is once more a sanctuary for Islamic terrorist groups, as long as they do not carry out attacks inside Afghanistan. Despite that, ISIL groups like ISK survive in Afghanistan even though they regularly carry out mass killings of Afghan Shia and even use Afghanistan as a base for similar attacks in Pakistan.




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