Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan is planning a political comeback in the fall elections. His major obstacle is the military. Khan sought in his prior administration to limit the economic and political power of the military and the military refused to cooperate. The generals have become rich and free from civilian control through corruption and did not want that changed, Slowly the army gained control over or cooperation from more political parties. That enabled them to get Khan removed from his position as PM (prime minister) in April 2022. Khan lost his job as prime minister via a no-confidence vote by a parliamentary majority. He was the first 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 Khan’s political allies to turn against him was economic; high unemployment and inflation, plus increasing Islamic terrorist violence and some diplomatic disasters. There was another reason, and that was Khan’s efforts to bring the Pakistani military under civilian control.
Civilian control is something neighboring India established at the beginning in 1947 when India and Pakistan were the two largest new democracies emerging from the end of British colonial rule over South Asia. Neither of these new nations was an outstanding success, but the Indians made fewer mistakes and had more success than Pakistan. Both new nations were cursed with an ancient tradition of corruption. One reason the British lasted so long and were so successful at running their huge Indian colonial empire was the British were less corrupt and more efficient when running the region. An example of this is the peaceful departure of the British and their efforts to help the new nations organize governments that would last. This effort was more successful with India and the other, smaller new states created in 1947.
Pakistan turned out to be a slow-motion trainwreck which took decades to devastate Pakistan economically, politically and militarily. The Pakistani military had little respect for democracy and often took control of the government because the generals believed, generally correctly, that the politicians were undisciplined and corrupt and the military was needed to restore order. Most Pakistanis wanted democracy and military rule never lasted long before democracy and all the government corruption returned. That cycle has been the rule since the 1950s.
One thing the military would never tolerate were civilians literally attacking military facilities and personnel. That is happening a lot now and the military has found growing civilian opposition to being bullied by the military. The generals see Imran Khan as the unofficial leader of this movement and there is some truth to that. The military tried to portray Khan as another corrupt politician and prosecute. The problem is, Khan is not corrupt and that has been obvious for a long time. He does a lot of charitable work and is immensely popular for this. The generals picked the wrong politician to go after. The generals fear they have no choice, because Khan is coming after them, at least the most corrupt and anti-democracy officers. The army angers politicians and civilians in general by trying to try hostile (to the military) civilians in military courts. Imran Khan is at the top of the list of annoying civilians the military courts want to try and convict of the worst crime of all; opposing the military.
The military had to resort to drastic measures in an effort to shut down the Khan inspired protests. This led to the Army trying to arrest most of the leaders and key officials of Khan’s PTI Party while also ordering or forcing the mass media, especially TV networks, to stop covering Khan and the anti-protests. This was risky because this is the sort of political and media manipulation by the military that caused large public protests. In the past the military has successfully, for a while, intimidated some media and journalists into silence. This was never completely successful because shutting down all media outlets proved to be more than the military could handle. Intimidating or murdering individual journalists also backfired and did not halt the criticism. Organized, usually by political parties, anti-military demonstrations were also impossible to eliminate completely. The military was also unable to exercise control over the judiciary, especially the high courts. The military is running out of options and is no longer strong enough to take over the government. The generals believed they controlled enough senior politicians to limit the impact of major demonstrations. That is no longer the case and another army effort to take over and run the government could trigger a civil war. This has long been feared by the military and its critics and would be disastrous for Pakistan and the military. The generals would become outlaws and the military torn apart. Then there are the potential problems with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Neighbors like Iran and India don’t want a chaotic Pakistan because that sends refugees, and some of the violence, across the border.
Khan plans to run in the new elections this November, but might not be able to do so if a corruption case against him can be proven. This case involves expensive gifts (jewelry, Rolex watches) given to Khan by foreign officials while he was prime minister. The recipient of such gifts is supposed to declare them to the government before disposing of them by selling them or passing the items onto someone else. As corruption allegations go, this is minor stuff. But it’s all anyone can come up with against Khan, who was noted for not being corrupt. That does not matter, as Khan’s political enemies have made dozens of corruption allegations against him. Most, if not all of these are false but each can require several court hearings to deal with.
Khan’s threat to the military includes removing control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from the military. There are other problems with the nukes. Both India and Pakistan have been striving to increase the reliability of their nuclear weapons, but not expanding their nuclear arsenals much. During 2022 China increased its nuclear warhead inventory by 15 percent. At 410 warheads, China has the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, behind Russia’s 4,489 warheads (including 12 added in 2022) and America's 3,708. The remaining nuclear powers have smaller warhead inventories. France has 290, Britain 225, Pakistan 170 (five added in 2022), India 164 (four added in 2022) Israel 90 and North Korea 30 (five added in 2022).
Recent nuclear powers, like North Korea, India and Pakistan, not only have fewer warheads but also less reliable ones. Because of intense international scrutiny, the reliability and effectiveness of North Korean nuclear weapons is much scrutinized. It is unclear if North Korea even has reliable nuclear warheads because they only recently developed working nuclear weapons. Turning these nukes into reliable weapons for ballistic missiles is another chore and it is unclear how effective the North Korean nuclear warheads are. Reliable nuclear warheads are more critical for India, which has nuclear armed missiles aimed at China. India is resisting Chinese claims on Indian territory and these border disputes have sometimes become violent. Pakistan is on good terms with China and the two countries are major trading partners with each other. China has made major economic investments in Pakistan.
China insists it is unconcerned about who the targets for Chinese nuclear armed missiles is. In 2009, China announced that its nuclear-armed ballistic missiles were not aimed at anyone and that was probably true. Like most countries, China has long refused to say who its nuclear-armed missiles are aimed at. Most of those missiles only have enough range to hit Russia, or India, or other nearby nations. For a long time, most were very definitely aimed at Russia, which had rocky relations with China from the 1960s to the 1990s. After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the new, much smaller, Russia became much friendlier with the wealthier, more capitalist but still run by communists China. Relations between China and India also warmed up until going into a deep freeze as China claimed more and more Indian territory.
China is increasing military buildup in areas where they claim Indian territory. The upgrades include new roads or upgrades for existing ones. China and India carried out the 17th round of talks to avoid clashes between Indian and Chinese troops.
China is having problems with Pakistan, the largest export customer for Chinese weapons and the destination for billions in Chinese construction investments. Foreign lenders and investors, including the IMF (international monetary fund), China and Saudi Arabia, have lost patience with Pakistan and are unwilling to take further financial risks there. One financial risk is the $77 billion debt to China and Saudi Arabia. This money is supposed to be repaid between 2023 and 2026. Pakistan doesn’t have the money to make the payments and is trying to negotiate an extension. Until this issue is resolved there will be no more loans or investments from China or Saudi Arabia. A side-effect of all this financial turmoil is high (47 percent) inflation which is felt by all Pakistanis. Another failed investment was the Taliban and various Islamic terrorist groups. The Taliban was supported so it could take control of Afghanistan and show its gratitude by shutting down Islamic terrorists and separatist groups in Afghanistan that attacked Pakistan. That has not happened. The Taliban were also supposed to provide stability for Pakistani investments and trade. China was willing to make major investments in Afghanistan if conditions were stable. That has not happened and Pakistan gets most of the blame.
Afghanistan has several problems with Pakistan but increasingly friendly relations with India and China. The latest Afghan-Pakistan issue is the Pakistani military’s lucrative participation in Afghanistan’s drug trade, which the current Taliban government is trying to end, with surprising success. Over 90 percent of Afghan poppies are produced in one province; Helmand. Then as now, neighboring Pakistan cooperates to make this work because essential chemicals must be imported to refine the opium into heroin. Pakistan is also the most effective route to worldwide drug markets via Pakistani airports and its seaport in Karachi. Afghanistan’s other neighbors (Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) are very hostile to the drug smugglers. The northern neighbors have long received armed assistance from Russia to combat the smugglers.
Unlike the 1990s, the Pakistani military, which created the Taliban in the 1990s and has sought to control them ever since, has encountered unexpected problems in 2003. This came in the form of a popular reformist Pakistani politician Imran Khan taking on the military and its ability to do whatever it wants and ignore the elected government.
Back in 2021, shortly after the IEA took control of Afghanistan, then Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan repeated his belief that foreign nations, including the United States, would eventually have to recognize the Taliban IEA government and resume diplomatic and economic relations with Afghanistan. That was a minority opinion in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kahn was taking a lot of heat from Pakistanis who have seen their incomes fall or disappear because money from Afghanistan stopped coming into Pakistan due to the end of nearly all Western aid after the IEA took over Afghanistan in 2022.
Khan has been a longtime fan of the Taliban, earning him the nickname; Taliban Khan. Many thought this meant Khan was an ally, or puppet of the military. That was not the case because Khan did not believe in the Pakistani generals operating beyond any oversight by the elected government. This had long been an issue but this time Khan rallied his many Pakistani supporters to openly oppose military political power. The scale of this opposition is unprecedented and the generals see their political independence and corruption income (much of it from support of its Afghan opium trade) in danger of being eliminated.
This struggle is being followed with great interest by Afghans, who generally see the Pakistani military and its intelligence arm, the ISI, as bad news for Afghans and the major source of strife and corruption in Afghanistan. Khan is less corrupt than most Pakistani politicians and willing to take risks to make needed changes in Pakistan. Curbing military power is a much needed change but one that can get a powerful reformer killed by military operatives seeking to do the deed without implicating the military. If Khan comes out on top, the Afghan drug cartels are in trouble and so is, to a lesser extent, the IEA. Most Afghans want to see drug cartel power and activities curbed. That would cost the IEA a major loss of financial support, but would also make foreign aid more likely to resume and boost IEA popularity in Afghanistan.
India is increasing trading with and siding with the current military government in Myanmar (Burma) by allowing Indian firms to sell the Myanmar military government weapons and military equipment. The military government of Burma depends on Chinese support to survive but now India is offering to help the military government. The reason for this change is the current situation on the Burmese border. 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. Since then, there has been 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 protests from China.
The Myanmar military government is sustained by China, which provides all the fuel, bombs, shells and other munitions needed to keep the fight going. Burmese troops are reluctant to fight when they encounter armed resistance, which continues in the tribal areas. The urban rebels are slowly arming but still depend on a lot of demonstrations by unarmed protestors. So far the army and police have killed over 2,000 people and imprisoned over 15,000. Aside from China, most nations in the region want the military government to free the elected and appointed officials of the overthrown government. Without Chinese support the Burmese generals could not have sustained their coup and might not even have attempted it without assurances of Chinese support. India and other nations bordering China see the Burma coup as a threat.
July 11, 2023: India’s economic growth since the 1990s, and especially in the last decade, was responsible for over 400 million Indians moving above the poverty line and no longer lacking sufficient essentials like food or shelter. Indian GDP nearly doubled in the last decade; from $1.7 trillion in current dollars to over $3.5 trillion now. This made India the fifth largest economy, surpassing Britain ($3.2 trillion) and France ($3.2 trillion). The rest of the top five are the U.S ($21 trillion), China, Germany ($4.1 trillion) and Japan ($4 trillion). Chinese GDP growth is slowing although in the last decade it more than doubled from $6.1 trillion to $18.3 trillion. Over three decades of spectacular economic growth in China resulted in the Chinese GDP becoming over fourteen times larger than it was in 1989. In that same period the U.S. GDP doubled. After World War II India had a larger GDP than China and never felt the same urgency as China to modernize and expand its economy until the 1990s, when the government changed its socialist economic policies and switched to a free market economy. This is what China had done more than a decade earlier, with spectacular economic results. This included a sharp increase in the number of Chinese entering the middle class for the first time.
July 10, 2023: Indian officials signed the purchase order for 26 French Rafale jet fighters modified for carrier operations. These will operate from the Indian aircraft carrier Vikrant. India also ordered three more French Scorpene submarines built in India as Kalveri-class subs.
July 9, 2023: India has abandoned its former neutrality on the Chinese claims on the South China Sea. India now openly sides with the Philippines and other nations in the region opposing the Chinese claims.
July 8, 2023: The Pakistani military decided not prosecute women or anyone under 18 as plans to hold trials for civilians arrested for taking part in attacks on military bases on May 9th as part of protests against the arrest of Imran Khan. The army was taken by surprise and Khan was released. The military was criticized for insisting that these civilians be tried by army courts. This has never been done before and sets a bad precedent. The Pakistani military is already in trouble for political meddling. Now they want to replace civilian courts.
July 7, 2023: The Pakistani military has canceled large scale military training exercises for the rest of the year because of fuel shortages. The military has been purchasing less fuel because of the growing economic problems in Pakistan. The shortage of money has led to troops receiving less equipment and even food. No one is starving, but most of the troops are feeling the shortages in one way or another.
In Pakistan, an IMF (International Monetary Fund) team met with former prime minister Imran Khan at his residence in Lahore. Khan assured the IMF that he and his powerful political party supported the $3 billion economic bailout from the IMF and would fully cooperate in making the plan work.
July 6, 2023: In northwest Pakistan, across the border in Afghanistan (Kunar province) IEA security forces carried out several operations near the Pakistan border that killed Sanaullah Ghafari, the head of ISK (Islamic State Khorasan) and six of his armed followers. ISK was formed in Afghanistan during 2015, with the help of ISIL leadership in Syria, to handle ISIL activity throughout the region (Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and India). ISK found they were most effective if they confined their operations to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which they have been doing since 2019.
here is some international cooperation with the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) in areas of mutual interest. The most obvious one is Islamic terrorism, which is also a problem for the IEA. The primary Islamic terror threat in Afghanistan is from ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), which was formed in Afghanistan during 2015, with the help of ISIL leadership in Syria, to handle ISIL activity throughout the region (Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and India). ISK found they were most effective if they confined their operations to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which they have been doing since 2019.
July 5, 2023: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) an Islamic terrorist suicide car bomber killed three soldiers and wounded three civilians. Some suspicious off duty soldiers avoided more casualties by halting the car bomber, which led the bomber to detonate the explosives prematurely.
In neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the army attacked an Islamic terrorist’s hideout and killed three TTP (Pakistani Taliban) gunmen. The Pakistani officer leading the operation was also killed. So far this year TTP attacks have killed nearly 400 people.
July 4, 2023: In Pakistan, former prime minister Imran Khan blames the military for abduction of journalists during his rule. The military has long threatened and sometimes murdered Pakistani journalists or Internet-based critics who provided details of military corruption and misbehavior in general.
July 3, 2023: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) unidentified gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by police and soldiers. The attack was repulsed and one attacker killed. Four of the defenders (three policemen and a soldier) also died. The attackers were believed to be from the TTP.
July 2, 2023: During the first half of 2023, there were 267 terror related deaths of security forces personnel in Pakistan. During all of 2022 there were 286 deaths. Most of the violence took place in the northwest (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province).
June 30, 2023: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) two army raids on TTP hideouts left six TTP men dead and substantial quantities of stockpiled weapons and munitions captured. The raids were based on tips from local civilians.
June 27, 2023: Pakistan currently spends four percent of GDP on its military. This is high for countries in the region and in the West. The high spending by the Pakistani military has become a political issue in Pakistan. NATO nations are supposed to spend two percent of GDP but before the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, only a few had reached or exceeded that, including the United States (3.7 percent), Britain (2.2 percent) and France (2.1 percent). Russia was spending 4.3 percent. Elsewhere in the world Saudi Arabia spent 8.4 percent, Israel 5.6 percent, India 2.9 percent, South Korea 2.8 percent, Australia 2.1 percent and China somewhere between two and three percent. North Korea spends about a quarter of its GDP on the military but has a GDP that is only about five percent the size of South Korea’s. Global defense spending is about two trillion dollars and 2.4 percent of global GDP. U.S. spending accounts for 39 percent of that, which is equal to the next fourteen nations combined.
June 23, 2023: In northwest India (Kashmir) Indian troops detected four Islamic terrorists trained in Pakistan trying to sneak across the border. Indian troops ambushed the Pakistanis and killed all of them when they would not surrender. Weapons, munitions and other equipment were recovered. India has installed a network of sensors along the Pakistani border in Kashmir. This has reduced successful illegal border crossings considerably. Despite that, twelve Pakistani terrorists attempted to cross, and were caught, in the last ten days. Because so many infiltration attempts fail, there is a lot less Islamic terrorist violence in Kashmir. As a result of that, the Indian and foreign tourists have returned, helping to revive the local economy. During the first six months of 2023, there were 15,000 foreign tourists, compared to 4,000 for all of 2022. Until the 1980s, tourism was a key component of a thriving Kashmir economy. Then the Pakistani terrorism campaign began and it took over three decades to suppress it.
June 22, 2023: The United States has granted General Electric permission to manufacture its F414 jet engine in India. GE will transfer technology to an Indian firm to set up a new manufacturing plant there. The engines will be used in the new Tejas Mark 2 Medium Weight Fighter. India tried to develop and manufacture an Indian engine but failed. This led to the deal with GE to build the F414 locally. Imported F414s cost ab0ut $4.8 million each, not including spare parts. The locally manufactured F414 will be cheaper and India plans to use them in future Indian developed fighters. Currently the F414 is used in the F-18E/F/G and the Swedish Gripen. The 11-ton Tejas is a delta-wing light fighter armed with a 30mm autocannon and up to six tons of bombs and missiles. This is a change for India, which has long used Russian MiG-21s and MiG-29s as well as French and British jets. The Russian jets are being phased out. The Tejas will replace older MiGs.
June 12, 2023: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh State) the army sent out a force to investigate a tip that twenty or more Maoist rebels were operating in a rural area. The troops encountered the Maoists and there was a brief gun battle before the Maoists fled. They left behind the body of one Maoist and it appeared that some others were wounded. Locals want to see the Maoists gone for good. It was only a year ago that 260 schools were reopened after being closed for 15 years because of leftist rebel (Maoist) violence. For over a decade India has been waging a major paramilitary operation against the leftist rebels and that has broken the power of the Maoists. Over 400 schools were closed by the leftist violence and threats and all are being reopened. The army patrols intensified in this region after this incident in an effort to find the base for the Maoists encountered. It took over a week, but the remote Maoist base was found and raided. A number of homemade bombs were found along with materials to make more of these bombs for use against the army and civilian targets.
June 11, 2023: In northwest Pakistan, across the border in eastern Afghanistan (Nangarhar Province) WHO (World Health Organization) polio monitoring teams have detected four cases of polio so far this year. There was also one case in Pakistan. These are the only cases detected worldwide. Pakistan expects to have no cases in 2024, unless the number of refugees from Afghanistan increases substantially. Despite years of strenuous efforts, Afghanistan has been unable to eliminate polio via vaccinations. For a long time, the main opposition were Islamic conservative clerics who called the vaccinations an attempt by Western nations to poison Moslem children. While few of those clerics remain, there are now more Afghans agreeing with Western anti-vaccination groups and insisting there are harmful side effects. Numerous controlled studies have not demonstrated any evidence of this but it has become popular. In 2016 there were 20 cases of polio in Pakistan, 13 in Afghanistan and four in Nigeria, a country declared free of polio in 2020. In Pakistan and Afghanistan there are still religious problems with vaccination. The Afghan Taliban have openly supported the vaccination program but there are still some rural areas where local Moslem clerics or teachers still denounce the vaccinations. There is a similar situation in Pakistan, where some fringe Islamic groups will still try and kill members of the vaccination teams. Since 2008 over a hundred vaccinators and police escorts have been killed.
June 10, 2023: In northwest Pakistan, across the border in eastern Afghanistan (Khost province) TTP gunmen crossed into Pakistan (North Waziristan) and attacked Pakistani soldiers at a checkpoint. The gunbattle left three TTP men and three Pakistani troops dead as well as four TTP wounded.
June 7, 2023: UN personnel working in Afghanistan report that the IEA appears to be tolerating the presence of al Qaeda personnel as well as TTP (the Pakistani Taliban). TTP support is expected but IEA insists it will not tolerate any Islamic terror groups. They are either lying or simply don’t have much control in many parts of the country. The UN staff found al Qaeda training camps in five provinces in addition to many more safehouses. Suicide bombers are being trained and indoctrinated for use outside Afghanistan. Some are being sent to Western countries where they can hade among the many Afghan refugees fleeing IEA rule. The IEA is also continuing to impose more lifestyles restricts they enforced in the 1990s. This includes a ban on listening to live or recorded music. The IEA also censored what could be shown by Afghan TV stations. This meant no shows that had women with uncovered faces as well as no music. The IEA wants women appearing in public to wear the burqa (covers everything except the hands and eyes.) Many rural Afghans support some of these urban ideas, especially education for girls and more education in general. Beyond that these rural Afghans tend to be more conservative than those living in urban areas.
When the IEA took power, the national population was at least 33 million, which is 57 percent more than two decades ago when the Taliban were driven from power. Kabul is the largest city, with about half the urban population. The last time the Taliban were in charge (2001) Kabul had a population of half a million but twenty years later that has increased ten times to five million. Despite the population growth, over two-thirds of the population still lives in the countryside but the rural Afghans are not as conservative as they were in the 1990s.