In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) the army and police have been searching near the Iranian border for tribal rebels. Several people have been killed and dozens arrested. Locals complain of looting and some people being kidnapped (taken unofficially) by soldiers. Journalists complain that they are threatened by the military if they attempt to report on these operations, either in print or electronically. The military denies this, but the complaints are numerous and detailed and the disappearances of some reporters are real. The military is particularly concerned about accurate reporting of operations against tribal rebels in the southwest because this is known, even within the military, as a “dirty war,” and the generals fear the political blowback if all the facts got out. That is starting to happen and the military leadership is afraid that a civilian government is nearing the point where military autonomy could be threatened.
The Pakistani government has responded to American and Afghan pressure to halt the smuggling of ammonium nitrate from two Pakistani plants into Afghanistan. In Afghanistan about 80 percent of the terrorist bombs use ammonium nitrate for their explosives. What is particularly annoying is that less than ten percent of the fertilizer used in Pakistan is ammonium nitrate and that it is corruption in Pakistan that allows so much of this ammonium nitrate to be produced and then smuggled into Afghanistan. The U.S. wants this ammonium nitrate production to cease and threatened to withhold military aid to Pakistan if something was not done. The Pakistanis are now cracking down in response to that threat and to the growing use of fertilizer bombs by their own terrorists attacking targets inside Pakistan.
Largely unnoticed is the growing Cyber War between India and Pakistan. What began over the last decade as hackers from each nation defacing each other’s web sites has evolved into government backed Internet based attacks and espionage efforts. No one wants to talk, but details are leaking out and both sides are suffering data losses. India still has the edge but not as large an edge as they have in population (6:1) and military power (over 3:1).
May 24, 2013: India accused Pakistani troops in Kashmir of again firing across the border (LOC or Line of Control) again. This time it was mortar and machine-gun fire that lasted a few hours. Indian troops fired back but there were no casualties. This was the first such incident in four months. Last January Pakistanis crossed the LOC and killed two Indian troops and beheaded one of them. Pakistan claimed that Indian troops actually did this to make Pakistan look bad. India responded that it has evidence that Pakistan is offering cash bounties (of up to $12,000) for individual acts of terrorism against Indian troops along the LOC. These risky attacks can be carried out by Islamic terrorists or off-duty Pakistani soldiers. All you have to do is kill or attack Indian troops, and you can get a $5,000 bonus for beheading one. Planting mines and carrying out dangerous missions that do not actually kill an Indian soldier will also be rewarded. Pakistan denies such a program, but the dead Indian troops and the growing violence on the LOC were undeniable. India threatened war and there followed high-level meetings by officers from both countries and things calmed down, until now.
India troops also fought a group of Islamic terrorists inside Kashmir, leaving four soldiers and one terrorist dead. The army had received a tip about the presence of the Islamic terrorists.
In eastern India special police battalions continue to find and destroy Maoist camps. Without these bases the Maoists are forced to halt many of their usual political and terrorist operations so they can find a new camp site in the rural areas they operate in and rebuild their facilities. These police search and destroy operations are meant to eventually reduce the Maoists to impotence, but that appears to be a long-term (a decade or more) goal.
May 23, 2013: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a large (100 kg/220 pounds of explosives) bomb was used to attack a military convoy. This killed eleven policemen and one civilian.
May 22, 2013: With NATO leaving Afghanistan is getting friendlier with India. This has now gone as far as asking for Indian troops to work in Afghanistan (as trainers and to provide security for Indian aid projects) and for direct military aid (Afghanistan wants artillery, transport aircraft, military engineering equipment, and trucks). India has been providing aid and Indian personnel (including civilian security personnel) for nearly a decade. India is receptive to increasing this aid, despite being primarily Hindu, a religion particularly reviled by Moslems. The Afghans are not as upset at this as the Pakistanis are. India and Afghanistan actually have a long history. Afghanistan may appear to be at the corner of no and where, but it is actually astride the primary invasion route from Central Asia to India (including Pakistan which is still, historically and culturally, part of India). The Afghan tribes have long since learned to step aside as the foreign invaders moved through. Actually, many Afghans would join the invaders, so much so that these invasions, and the loot and stories the survivors brought back, have become a major part of the Afghan collective memory. Some local names recall all that. For example the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan mean, literally, “slaughter Hindus.” Most Westerners do not have a clue about this cultural tradition and how much it influences the behavior of most Afghans. While Pakistani Islamic conservatives still yearn to conquer and convert Hindu India, the Afghans are rather more pragmatic and realistic. Since Pakistan has been a growing threat to Afghanistan since India was partitioned over the last 60 years (into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) the Afghans have sought local allies. The Afghans see this as one of those “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situations and the Indians seem to agree so far.
May 20, 2013: Newly elected Pakistani president
Nawaz Sharif and the major political parties are openly trying to persuade the military to go along with another round of peace talks with the Taliban. The generals don’t trust the Taliban, but the politicians have the public pressuring them to find relief from the terrorist threat. Pakistan has tried peace talks before, without much success. Two years ago the government held secret peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and not much came of it. The Taliban demanded the army withdraw from all of Waziristan and, in effect, turn border security over to the Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban said they would reduce terror attacks in Pakistan, but no one believed that. The Pakistani Taliban also claims to have regained control of much of the tribal territories, including the Swat Valley (right outside the tribal territories). This is propaganda, not reality. The Pakistani Taliban still have armed men in many parts of the tribal territories, often operating from bases across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban are still very much at war with Pakistan and loudly striving to "avenge" the death of Osama bin Laden and other foreign terrorists who had come to help them. The major problem with making peace with the Taliban is that it has been done several times before, and the Taliban always broke the truce and used the peace process as a tool to fight the military. Yet there are many tribal leaders who are urging the terrorist groups to make a binding peace deal, or risk having many tribes turning against the Islamic terrorist groups. The constant Taliban violence has made life more difficult in the tribal territories, a place where life is hard to begin with. While many tribesmen like the Taliban goal of imposing sharia (Islamic law) all over Pakistan, they are less certain that this will deal with the hated lowlanders (the majority of Pakistanis, who are not Pushtun) and their corrupt ways. The Taliban are now seen as another form of corruption, a bunch of religious zealots who have turned into gangsters, and murderous ones at that.
India police recently arrested four Indians (including an army clerk) and accused them of working for Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and passing on information and documents for at least three years. This spy cell mainly operated near the Nepal border.
May 18, 2013: Pakistan has agreed to adopt Beidou (the Chinese version of GPS) and give it equal status with the American GPS. Last year China made Beidou available for civilian use and expects to grab a major share of the satellite navigation market from the U.S GPS system by the end of the decade. China will build ground facilities in Pakistan to enhance Beidou so that it can be used for precision applications (like landing aircraft in bad weather). Pakistan is the fifth country to adopt Beidou.
In Karachi, Pakistan a senior female politician (with the PTI party) was assassinated outside her home. Such killings are frequent in Karachi, where political violence has gotten worse over the last few years.
May 16, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories (Peshawar) Islamic terrorists ambushed a convoy and killed two policemen.