India-Pakistan: Walls Close In On Moslem Militants


September 8, 2008:  The new Pakistani government has brought with it a more aggressive attitude towards Islamic militants, and admissions that the many Pakistani Islamic conservatives provide al Qaeda and Taliban with a nation-wide support network. For example, two Islamic radical religious schools, shut down in the last year, have been allowed to rebuild and reopen. These places teach hatred of non-Moslems and support terrorism. This deal was to get votes of small Islamic radical parties in parliament. As many as a third of Pakistanis are Islamic conservatives and friendly (at least a place to hide, or generally keeping quiet about terrorist movements) to Islamic extremists. The government admits that this enables Islamic terrorists to move freely in the most pro-Islamic areas (along the Afghan border and in some neighborhoods of major cities), and in and out of Afghanistan. The Pakistanis believed they almost  had al Qaeda's number two man recently, and pledge to go after the Islamic militants more aggressively from now on.

Pakistani troops believe they have driven Taliban gunmen out of the Bajaur region along the Afghan border. Over 300,000 civilians have fled the fighting (5-10 percent of them crossing the border into Afghanistan), and over a third of the 3,000 pro-Taliban fighters were killed, wounded or captured. Although the army would rather be training to fight India, Taliban and al Qaeda attempts to set up their own Islamic Republic along the border will not be tolerated. 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 and Swat Valley.

NATO and U.S. special operations forces have been carrying out more raids into Pakistan, and the Pakistani government has been more vocal in complaining about it. The Pakistanis believe they have responded to U.S. complaints about tolerating Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuaries. But the foreigners don't agree, and are determined to act on what they know about who is hiding where. Missiles are used to hit buildings where terrorists, especially leaders, are staying. The commandos are going in to help with the tracking, or to capture people and documents (especially the laptop computers terrorist leaders are so fond of.)

Pakistan has other problems, as if the Taliban, al Qaeda and angry tribes weren't enough. The economy is in trouble, which was made worse by the political upheavals earlier this year, and formation of a new government. Inflation is 25 percent a year (because the government prints money to pay for things it cannot afford), the economy has stalled (because of slumps in foreign markets, and local corruption and religious violence) and the prices on the local stock market have gone down 40 percent in the last five months.

September 7, 2008: In northern India, along the Nepalese border, Hindu radicals rode into a Moslem area and sparked violence that left several dead and dozens injured.

September 6, 2008: A suicide car bomb went off near a police check point in Peshawar (one of the largest cities in the Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghan border), killing 30 people and wounding over 60.  Later, a 16 year old boy, wearing an explosive belt, was arrested 50 kilometers east of the city. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been trying to emulate the massive bombing campaigns used (with spectacular failure) in Iraq, but have not got the resources.

September 5, 2008: Indian police and troops have arrested over 200 people in Orissa, where religious violence in this eastern Indian city has left over a dozen dead, and at least 13,000 people (mainly Christians) chased from their homes by Hindu radicals. The army has been ordered in and told to shoot Hindu rioters and looters, and do whatever it takes to stop the violence. The government has promised to shut down the anti-Christian groups.

Along the Afghan border, Taliban gunmen stopped busses carrying police recruits, kidnapped 36 of them, in an attempt to get the army and police to back off.

September 4, 2008: Taliban attempts to halt truck traffic from Pakistan into Afghanistan were foiled when the Pushtun tribes that control one of the two key routes, agreed to keep the roads open through the Khyber Pass. It's mainly a matter of money, as the tribes get paid to assure security. Over the Summer, pro-Taliban tribesmen challenged that deal, and lost. Most supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan, come in overland from Karachi (the main Pakistani port.) The other route is in southwest.

September 3, 2008: In the Pakistani capital, someone fired shots at the convoy of the prime minister (who was not hurt.)

September 2, 2008: The Taliban took credit for kidnapping two Chinese telecommunications engineers in Pakistan's Swat valley last week. This valley, and the Bajaur region, both of them tribal areas along the Afghan border, are the major battlegrounds between the Taliban and the Pakistanis. Taking Chinese captive is intended to pressure the government to pull their troops out of the Swat valley. China is Pakistan's oldest and largest weapons supplier, as well as a major trade partner, and insists that its citizens be protected when working in Pakistan. The Taliban are hoping that the government will back off, rather than risk the wrath of China over dead Chinese workers. But China is also intent on smashing Islamic terrorists, and is mainly interested in seeing the Pakistanis try to do something, rather than dithering and placating the Islamic radicals.

September 1, 2008: Religious violence continues in Indian Kashmir. The Moslem majority, although tired of Islamic terrorism, are not tired of efforts to chase all Hindus out of Moslem majority territory. Weeks of violence have left nearly 40 dead, most of them Moslems.


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