India-Pakistan: Negotiating Terrorist Sanctuaries


May 8,2008: Negotiations continue, after five weeks, between the Pakistani government and tribal leaders regarding what to do with the Taliban and al Qaeda activities along the Afghan border. The tribes are demanding that there can be no deal unless army garrisons are withdrawn from the tribal areas. The government refuses, because deals with the tribes have fallen apart before, and then the army had to fight its way into the tribal areas, taking hundreds of casualties in the process. Meanwhile, the Taliban in Pakistan have issued a number of threats regarding lifestyle. Men must wear beards, girls must not go to non-religious schools, no ring tones on cell phones, no videos or music. Newspapers must not show "un-Islamic" pictures of women, and so on. This sort of thing is not popular with most of the tribal population.

Meanwhile, the tribes and Taliban show their lack of discipline and reliability with a growing number of terror attacks. These include several suicide bomb attacks recently, plus gunfire directed at army check points, and a nighttime arson attack on a girls school in the Swat valley. The government sees this as a deliberate intimidation campaign. After all, the government would not be negotiating with the terrorists had not some one thousand people been killed by terrorist attacks in the last 14 months.

The new government has ordered the civilian intelligence agencies to now report to the prime minister, while military intelligence still reports to the head of the military. The military used to control nearly all the intelligence operations. The intelligence agencies have been responsible for a lot of the tolerance for Islamic terrorism in Pakistan, and the United States and Europe are pressuring Pakistan to shut down Islamic militant operations in the tribal regions along the border. As part of this pressure, the United States is withholding military aid to Pakistan. Most of that aid is for military forces directed at India, not Islamic militants.

India is organizing more local militias to enable villages to protect themselves from Maoist control. While the Maoists are popular in many areas, some of the Maoists operate like local dictators, and are not popular at all. Another problem is that the Maoists often try to take over local government by threatening and intimidating local officials. These bureaucrats welcome local militias to prevent them from getting caught between Maoist threats and government obligations.

May 3, 2008: A typhoon hit Myanmar over the weekend. The military government had not established an early warning system, and people in the coastal farming areas of the Irrawaddy river delta, were surprised when hit by enormous tidal surges. The flooding left millions homeless and killed over 100,000. Much of the southern part of the country lost electric power for a while. It took the isolationist government several days before it agreed to accept foreign aid. Events like this are sometimes the first step in the destruction of dictatorial governments.


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