India-Pakistan: The Slow Motion Civil War


October 22, 2007: Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf is preparing to exit, right on schedule. In its half century of existence, Pakistan has established a pattern of corrupt elected politicians who are removed by more "virtuous" generals, whose stern rule makes them unpopular enough that the population demands the return of democracy. The generals impose reforms, but don't manage to do much about the corruption, and the corruption is at the core of Pakistan's economic and social failures, especially compared to the more democratic and prosperous India next door. The most likely next prime minister will be former (twice) prime minister Benazir Bhutto. She comes from one of the handful of powerful families that has ruled Pakistan from the beginning. Her father was also prime minister, and was executed by the generals that overthrew him. Benazir Bhutto vows to take on and defeat the Islamic radicals. That has instantly made her the enemy of many prominent Pakistanis who believe in Islamic radicalism. The U.S. fears that if Bhutto fails, Islamic radicals will take over the country, along with Pakistan's nuclear weapons. That's a long shot, but it's a possibility that's in play. Bhutto believes that some highly placed Pakistanis were involved in the bombing attack on her, and has called on foreign nations to help in tracking down those responsible for the attack. This is another way of saying that she believes the Pakistani police are infiltrated by Islamic militants, who would help shield the identities of any guilty government officials.

October 21, 2007: While support for Islamic extremists has been falling in Pakistan over the last five years, there are still many (perhaps a third of the population) that side with al Qaeda and the Taliban. This includes many of the wealthy and highly educated (although not a third, most of the terrorist supporters are poor and uneducated.) Think of it as a slow motion civil war, and one side refuses to recognize defeat, even as it stares them in the face. The Islamic militants will fight on regardless, as they have for centuries.

October 18, 2007: While India signed an agreement to work with Russia to develop an F-22 class ("Fifth Generation") combat aircraft, it was also noted that quality and maintenance problems with Russian weapons have to be addressed if Russia is to remain India's main arms supplier.

In Pakistan, over a million people turned out in Karachi to welcome home former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. However, Islamic extremists (including al Qaeda and the Taliban) made good their threats against Bhutto, and set off two bombs near the vehicle carrying here. Over a hundred people were killed, but Bhutto was not injured. She had been in exile for nine years, avoiding prosecution for corruption. This is a common pattern in Pakistani politics, as most elected leaders of the country have been chased out of office by reform minded generals. But, as in this case, the generals eventually withdraw and let the politicians have another crack at it. Bhutto denies this is the deal with Musharraf, but no one believes her. The Taliban promptly denied having anything to do with the assassination attempt, but al Qaeda continued to condemn democracy as un-Islamic.

October 17, 2007: The fighting in Pakistan's North Waziristan, fighting between troops and tribesmen died down after nearly two weeks of unrest. In recognition of that, the army has lifted the curfew and allowed more traffic on the main roads. There have been about a thousand casualties, and over 80,000 civilians fled their homes to get away from the violence. The tribes are demanding that the army remove checkpoints along the roads. There are not many roads in the tribal areas, and they are vital to commerce, and the movement of truckloads of armed tribesmen used to maintain the power of tribal leaders. The army allowed civilian traffic to resume on some roads, but refused to allow armed tribesmen to pass.


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