India-Pakistan: Bloodbath Along The Border


August 23, 2008:  Pakistan believes their combat operations in Bajaur have inflicted some serious losses on Taliban forces along the Afghan border. Over 200,000 civilians have fled the fighting. The Taliban are attempting to make a stand against the army, and that isn't working out too well. Although the army would rather be training to fight India, they can no longer ignore the Taliban and al Qaeda attempts to set up their own Islamic Republic along the border. The government tried to work out a deal, where the terrorists would have a sanctuary along the border, as long as the rest of Pakistan was left alone, but that was not acceptable to many of the Islamic radicals. That's the problem with religious radicals. They are on a Mission From God, and no compromise is really possible. So the issue is being settled with weapons along the border, especially in the Bajaur region.

In the last month, nearly a thousand people have died in the battles with Islamic terrorists along the Afghan border. The Taliban and al Qaeda forces constantly get beaten when they try to fight the Pakistani forces head on, so the terrorists have responded with suicide and roadside bomb attacks. This has not compensated for their lack of conventional military capability, and the army keeps advancing into villages and valleys the Taliban have been using as bases. This becomes a matter of life and death once Winter arrives. Camping out during the Winter is bad for your health, and leaves you vulnerable to air attacks, since your camp fires can easily be spotted by airborne infrared sensors. The new government wants to restart negotiations with the Islamic militants, but for the moment the army is doing things the army way.

All along the border, the Taliban are searching for American spies. The U.S. has quietly established an informant network there over the years, and this is getting lots of key Taliban and al Qaeda leaders killed. Several times a month, GPS guided missiles arrive from Afghanistan, or from UAVs over head, and kill people who appear to have been identified by locals. The Americans pay large rewards for information that leads to a successful attack. The Taliban are killing anyone they suspect of being an informer. Most of the dead appear to be innocents who simply looked guilty to increasingly paranoid Taliban.

One of the bloodiest battles in Pakistan has been going on between Sunni and Shia extremists along the Afghan border. Several hundred people have been killed there so far this month, and at least ten percent of the population made homeless by attacks on villages. The  Shia Bangash and Turi tribes are at the center of the conflict, which got started three decades ago. This was when the Shia revolution in Iran created a religious dictatorship in Iran, and a call for Shia everywhere to join a worldwide revolution to make the Shia sect of Islam supreme. In Pakistan, the Shia in the Kurram Agency (2,300 square kilometers and about 400,000 people, on the Afghan border) got the message and agitated for an autonomous Shia area on the border. The Sunni dominated Pakistan government responded by refusing, and encouraging Sunni tribesmen to move to Kurram, where they were given government owned land. Some of that land was claimed by the Shia Turi tribe (and other Shias in Kurram). The Turi are a Pushtun tribe (as are most of the others along the border) who claim that they originally came from Iran. The Bangnash claim to originally be from Afghanistan. To further complicate matters, the Turis and Bangnash have been feuding for over three hundred years. Both tribes are now fighting the Sunni migrants, as well as hundreds of Taliban gunmen who have come to fight the Shia (which Sunni radicals consider to be heretics). Some clans of the Bangash are Sunni, as are some of the smaller tribes in Kurram. The Shia tribes are dismayed that the government does not send in more police and troops to help them fight the hundreds of Taliban who have entered the area to try and drive the Shia tribes into Afghanistan. The government believes that some of the Shia tribal militias have been receiving financial support from Iran.

A little to the south, in the Swat valley, the fighting goes on between the Taliban and government forces. This is a fight to the death, as the Taliban are determined to turn the Swat valley into an Islamic radical stronghold. The government won't allow it, and the fighting will go on until all the local Taliban (several thousand militants) are killed or driven out.

In Kashmir, India, two months of violence over a land dispute (many Hindu holy places are in the area, which has a majority Moslem population) have left over three dozen dead. The Moslems have been expelling the Hindus for centuries, and this has accelerated in the last two decades, since Pakistan decided to back Islamic terrorism efforts to take Kashmir from India. This effort has largely been defeated, but the Moslem hostility to other religions, especially Hinduism, remains. There have been massive crowds of Moslems coming out in Kashmir, to block the expansion of a Hindu shrine. Equally large demonstrations are taking place in the Indian capital, as Hindus pressure their government to resist the Moslems.

In Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), tribal separatists killed five government officials they kidnapped two weeks ago. The government refused to exchange the captives for imprisoned tribal rebels.

A small bomb went off in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, killing two people.

August 22, 2008: Sixty people were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber, who attacked the entrance to Pakistan's main weapons factory, just as the shifts were changing. This sort of thing doesn't terrorize Pakistanis, but infuriates them, mobilizing more armed resistance to Islamic radicalism.

August 18, 2008: Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf resigned under pressure. Musharraf took control of the government in 1999 via a military coup. At the time, he was the head of the military, and feuding with the elected head of the government, who tried to replace Musharraf because of insubordination. Throughout Pakistan's 60 year history, elected and military governments have alternated. That's because the elected governments tend to be disorganized and corrupt, while the military governments  are dictatorships, and nearly as corrupt. When the generals become too unpopular, they allow themselves to be replaced by elected leaders. But eventually, the generals return. The military is a major, and powerful, institution in Pakistan. It maintains this power by playing on fears that India wants to take over Pakistan and incorporate it into India. Few Indians want to do this, but the idea is more accepted, and feared, in Pakistan. This has kept the Pakistani military free from civilian interference. And free to take over when they feel the politicians have gone too far.

In Pakistan's northwest border area, a suicide bomber killed 27 people when his explosives were set off at the emergency entrance to a hospital. The attacker appeared to be a Sunni terrorist attacking Shia who had gathered at the hospital entrance to pay respect to a Shia leader who had been shot dead the day before.


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