India-Pakistan: Strange Times


January 14, 2014: Strange times in Pakistan. For the first time in its history an elected Pakistani government has moved to prosecute the military dictator it replaced. The charge is treason. The process has been going on for months now and there is still fear that the army will stage yet another coup to prevent one of their own generals being punished by civilians. Former president (and retired head of the Pakistani military) Pervez Musharraf has delayed appearing in court on treason charges for a month now by citing security or health problems. He also wants government permission to travel abroad for medical care. Musharraf also threatened to testify against other generals (and describe them doing what he is accused of) if the military does not persuade the government to halt efforts to prosecute him for crimes committed during the last period of military rule (1999-2008). If convicted he could be sentenced to death or life in prison. Something is going on behind the scenes as many generals have made it clear that they are uncomfortable with this prosecution but not willing to intervene. At the same time the generals realize another coup might backfire as many of the troops are also angry at the military leadership.

That change in attitude towards the military has been coming for a while. That could be seen in 2013 where for the first time one elected government was succeeded by another elected civilian government in Pakistan. Before that there was always a military dictatorship in between. But now the military has lost a lot of prestige and popular support. The backlash against the Pakistani military began in 2011 when a U.S. raid into Pakistan killed Osama bin Laden. That caused an unexpected popular backlash against the Pakistani military. Not just for sheltering bin Laden (which the generals always denied), but for being unable to spot the "invading Americans", or stop local Islamic radicals from carrying out "revenge attacks" that left hundreds dead. This led to a continuing series of confrontation between the Pakistani military and the civilian government and growing hostility towards the economic and political power of the military.

The generals had created a confrontation with the United States as a way to get their own civilian leaders to back off on plans to trim the independence (and wealth) the Pakistani military has long enjoyed. This did not work, nor did an effort to increase hostility with India. This was in response to growing Indian anger at Pakistani support of Islamic terrorism and the realization that China is the main enemy now, with Pakistan fading fast. After the Mumbai terrorist attacks in late 2008 India pressured Pakistan to quit playing media games and get serious about anti-Indian Islamic terrorists (created and sustained by the Pakistani military) based in Pakistan. This caused a struggle within the Pakistani government over how to deal with Islamic radicalism and their own armed forces. Pakistan quietly backed off on any efforts to suppress its anti-India Islamic terror groups (who are popular with nationalistic Pakistanis). At the end of 2013 the elected government in Pakistan managed to replace the retiring head of the military with a general who openly admitted that Islamic terrorists were the major problem, not India. That appears to be changing things.

Meanwhile India has to deal with religious (Islamic) separatists in Kashmir, plus tribal rebels in the northeast, and Maoist (communist) ones in between. In 2010, India launched a large offensive against the Maoists, a war they expect to take several years to finish and, not surprisingly, is proceeding slowly. Pakistan has much more serious (and bloody) internal unrest with Islamic radicals in the north and rebellious tribes (Pushtun and Baluchi) along the Afghan border.  The Taliban had become stronger in Pakistan, where it originated, than in Afghanistan.  The elected Pakistani government tried to make peace with the Taliban and when that failed, invaded the Taliban heartland. The previous military government had always avoided open war with the Islamic radicals. But this time the Taliban were beat up pretty bad, and the number of Taliban sponsored terrorist attacks increased in response. The military refused to clear the Islamic radicals out of their two last refuges in North Waziristan and Quetta (Baluchistan). Now the civilian government is pushing for another offensive as peace negotiations have not worked and, as anyone with a memory can tell you, have never worked.

There are other factors that don’t get much attention outside the region. For example the "Taliban" are not an Afghan or Pakistani organization but a Pushtun movement that is active on both sides of the border and supported by less than ten percent of the 40 million Pushtun in the region. In 2007 the Pakistani government finally agreed to take on the pro-Taliban tribes and various Islamic terrorist organizations, although the intensity of the fighting diminished greatly after two years. That put pressure on Taliban on both sides of the border. NATO is now fully aware of the trans-national nature of the Pushtun tribes and the Taliban movement. The "war in Afghanistan" is more of just a part of the Pushtun Tribal Rebellion and is being handled as such. This Pushtun unrest has become the major source of terrorist related deaths on the planet. For most of the last decade the majority (54 percent recently) of terrorist activity has occurred in three countries; Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. What these three nations have in common is a powerful minority (Sunni Arabs in Iraq, Pushtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan). The violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan is linked by the presence of Pushtuns in both countries. But Pushtuns are a large minority (40 percent) in Afghanistan while in Pakistan Pushtuns are only 15 percent of the population. In some respects the Pushtun sponsored terrorist violence is yet another attempt by the Pushtuns to carve out their own state. These efforts have failed for thousands of years but the Pushtuns keep trying.

Worldwide nearly half (47 percent) of the terrorist deaths were caused by just six organizations and nearly half of that was caused by the Pushtuns. Thus last year 22.4 percent of terrorist deaths were caused by Pushtun radicals (16.2 percent from the Afghan Taliban and 6.2 percent by the Pakistani Taliban). Al Qaeda in Arabia (mainly Yemen) caused 6.2 percent of terrorist deaths while Al Qaeda in Iraq caused another six percent. In Africa the Somali al Shabaab caused 4.7 percent while Boko Haram in Nigeria accounted for 7.8 percent. Most (52.9 percent) of terrorist deaths are caused by over a hundred organizations, many of them operating in the same area (and sometimes against) the “Big Six”.

In 2013 both Pakistan and India saw a decrease in terrorist violence. In 2013 India suffered 979 terrorism related deaths, down 16 percent from 1,171 in 2012. In Pakistan there were 5,366 deaths last year down 14 percent from 6,211 in 2012. Pakistan suffered 5.5 times as many deaths from terrorists and rebels as India (with six times the population.) In other words, adjusting for population, Pakistan is 33 times more violent than India, at least when it comes to terrorist and rebel caused deaths. The scariest form of terrorism in Pakistan is the suicide bomber, and there were 47 of these attacks in 2013, killing 701 people (average of 15 per attack). What made those attacks so scary was the fact that 64 percent of victims were civilians. Since September 11, 2001 Pakistan has suffered 376 suicide bomb attacks, leaving over 5,700 people dead.

In the last six years, Pakistan has suffered 43,000 terrorist related deaths, mostly in their northwest tribal territories. Relations between Pakistan and India continue to be frosty because Pakistan will not seriously go after Pakistan-based terror groups that have been making attacks inside India (and often Pakistan as well). Pakistan has got itself into an absurd situation where it is providing aid and sanctuary to Islamic terrorists who often decide to make war on Pakistan as well. All this Islamic violence (against non-Moslems or other Islamic sects) has made life unbearable in many parts of Pakistan. Add to that the religious based terrorism built into the legal system and the rampant corruption, often by Islamic clerics making life miserable for you in other ways, it’s no wonder so many Pakistanis want to move elsewhere.

Pakistan has long been a much more violent place than India. That said, the violence is down two years in a row, mainly because of the unofficial truce between the army and the Taliban and other Islamic terror groups. It's the truce none dare speak of, on the record at least, especially if you're a Pakistani government official. This refusal by Pakistan to defeat their own Taliban groups makes it impossible to shut down the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.

In the Pakistan there is a growing public discussion about Islamic terrorism. More people are admitting that the Islamic radicals are not interested in any form of compromise but mean it when they say they want to turn the country into a religious dictatorship. More Pakistanis are coming to understand how extensive the Taliban propaganda campaign has been. The Taliban discourage (with the real threat of death or kidnapping) journalists from operating in much of the tribal territories and then supply false data about who is getting hurt up there because of action by the Pakistani security forces or American UAVs. The new Pakistan military commander is known to be more hostile to Islamic terrorists and he has apparently been quietly increasing the retaliation against Islamic terrorist violence in the tribal territories. This is particularly the case in North Waziristan, which has long been a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists and an area where there was little Pakistani military activity.

January 13, 2014: In Pakistan the government told the Taliban to either negotiate honestly or face another major military campaign. The new head of the army is known for his hostility towards Islamic terrorism so this threat carries some weight.

January 12, 2014: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) a Maoist leader surrendered. Elsewhere in the area twelve more Maoists were arrested.

January 11, 2014:  In Kashmir a Pakistani civilian crossed the border and moved 200 meters into India where he was confronted by Indian troops and shot in the arm. The Pakistani man said he was from a nearby village and looking for firewood. The two countries had agreed in late December to halt this violence. Pakistan has usually been the cause of the violence but has always denied responsibility. Later that day in Kashmir troops fought three armed Islamic terrorists from Pakistan, killing all of them.

In Pakistan the annual March 23rd military parade, to celebrate Pakistan Day, was cancelled for the sixth straight year for security reasons.

January 9, 2014: In Pakistan (Karachi) a roadside bomb killed a senior police commander (who specialized in going after the Taliban) and two of his subordinates. Last year 162 policemen were killed in Karachi, the highest annual loss ever suffered by the Karachi police. A lot of this violence is Taliban related.

In the Pakistani tribal territories (Khyber) a 14 year old high school student detected and tried to restrain a young suicide bomber. But the bomb went off and both were killed. Hundreds of fellow students, assembled for the start of the school day, were spared. The student is being hailed as a hero.

January 8, 2014: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) another senior Maoist leader and his wife surrendered. Like other Maoist leaders who have surrendered lately the main reasons are internal disputes and/or frustration at the lack of Maoist progress after decades of fighting. Also a factor is the several years of intense para-military operations against the Maoists and the growing number of social programs meant to address many of the citizen complaints that the Maoists have long pledged to deal with.

January 7, 2014: The Indian Navy finally convinced its government to allow the purchase of 262 more Barak-I anti-aircraft/missile missiles. The navy spent most of 2013 trying to lift a government ban on buying any more of these missiles because of a bribery investigation. Israel offered to sell the missiles for $573,000 each. At the moment, 14 major Indian warships are equipped with Barak. India first bought Barak 1 in 2000 and in 2007 joined Israel in developing the new Barak 8. Both these projects are in trouble because of bribery accusations. Over the last decade Israel has sold over six billion dollars’ worth of arms to India. The biggest single item has been the Barak anti-missile systems for ships. The Barak system uses small missiles to shoot down incoming anti-ship missiles. Israeli weapons have a solid reputation for reliability and effectiveness. Israeli success in several wars adds to the appeal of their armaments.

Outside Karachi Pakistan six men were found murdered near a Sufi shrine. The Taliban took credit as their conservative form of Islam forbids worshiping at shrines.

January 6, 2014: In Pakistan (Khyber area) an explosion in the home of a tribal leader killed ten (including three children). It was apparently an accident. Tribal leaders usually store ammunition in their home compounds and in this case at least one mortar shell went off. Nearby (Orakzai) a suicide bomber set off his explosives outside a Shia school, killing only himself. The attacker was apparently a Sunni Islamic terrorist. Shia are 20 percent of the population and increasingly targeted by Sunni Islamic terrorists who believe Shia are heretics and must be killed for forced to convert.

In southwest Pakistan (Quetta) an Afghan Taliban leader died in hospital after having been badly injured by some of his own security guards (who got away). He is the third Afghan Taliban leader to be killed in Quetta recently. The city has long been a sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban leadership. Afghan intelligence services are accused of being behind these attacks, although some Taliban blame the ISI (Pakistani intelligence.) No one knows for sure who is responsible.

Japan and India signed agreements to increase military cooperation. This is largely directed at China, which has claims on the territory of both countries.

January 5, 2014:  In eastern India (Bihar) police, acting on a tip, raided a Maoist meeting. There was armed resistance which left one Maoist dead while the rest escaped. Several weapons and other items were seized.

January 4, 2014: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) two terrorist bombs left one dead and eleven wounded.

January 1, 2014: In Pakistan (South Waziristan) Islamic terrorists attacked an army checkpoint. This failed with ten terrorists and three soldiers killed. Elsewhere in Pakistan (Peshawar) a drive-by shooting at a police checkpoint killing one policeman and wounding several others. Elsewhere in Pakistan (Baluchistan) a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying Shia pilgrims, killing two of them.

In eastern India police wrapped up a week long multi-state operation against Maoist weapons production. While only two Maoists were killed (during eight armed confrontations), over a dozen sites were raided and thousands of items related to gun and bomb making were seized.



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