The Strategy Page for today [in a strangely mis-titled article], after reporting on the attempts of Pakistani police to find Taliban in Swat, and on one more suicide attack in Pakistan, summarizes some notable events in the country in recent days. The report reveals something of how wrought the country is by organized armed groups within the country.
Most of the reporting on Pakistan omits mention that most Pakistani Muslims subscribe to the Barelvi style of Islamic practice, which is an eminently non-violent tradition. Of course the news media covers the most noteworthy affairs, and the frequent attacks of violence, mainly in the northwestern part of the country, draws lots of media attention. Deservedly so, I would say, because affairs in Pakistan matter to the world more generally than most observers admit. If the most violent bands in Afghanistan and Pakistan — united for the time being in their opposition to the Americans — can establish secure bases in the region, some of them would be ready to take their war further. Even so, these events actually touch relatively few Pakistanis directly. RLC [click on the title for a direct link to the source.]
THE BLAME GAME February 27, 2010:
In Pakistan’s Swat valley, police and troops continue to hunt down Taliban. The terrorists have few places to escape to, given the nationwide crackdown. There are still places in the valley that Taliban can find refuge. The Taliban got control (brief as it was) of the valley because of the endemic corruption, and the inability of the government to do anything about it. The locals soon discovered that the Taliban were a cure worse than the disease, but not everyone agreed. So the Taliban continue to find some people willing to help hide them. But the Taliban made a lot of enemies, and as cell phone service is restored, the police get more tips, and more of the Taliban leadership are caught.
Although the Pakistani tribal territories are largely governed by tribal leaders, the urban areas have plenty of Pakistani government officials. These ineffectiveness and corruption of these guys has not encouraged the tribesmen to seek greater government control. Thus government promises of aid and services are not greeted with great enthusiasm.
In northwest Pakistan, a suicide car bomber rammed into a police station, killing four and wounding 23. Most of the casualties were police.
India is increasing its defense spending four percent in the coming year, to over $32 billion. That comes after a 34 percent rise last year. The Indian budget is more than four times what Pakistan spends.
February 25, 2010: In North Waziristan, Pakistan, a U.S. UAV killed 14 Taliban leaders and their bodyguards. Among the dead was Mohammed Qari Zafar, who had planned a 2006 bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, that left an American diplomat, and three Pakistanis, dead.
The first peace talks between India and Pakistan, since the November, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, quickly ended. India accused Pakistan of not shutting down the terror groups that attack India, while Pakistan demanded that Kashmir be pushed to the top of the agenda, and accused India of supporting terrorism in Pakistan. The big problem here is that Pakistan is a mess, and the Pakistani leadership, who are largely responsible for the problems, are reluctant to take responsibility. Blaming India, the United States (in the media, less so officially, lest American aid be cut) and the West in general, is a more popular approach to massive internal problems. But it was the Pakistani government that officially backed Islamic radicalism in the 1970s, as a cure for corruption and similar ills. It was the Pakistani government that supported Islamic terror attacks on India in the 1980s, in an attempt to get control of Kashmir. It was the Pakistani government that created the Taliban in the 1990s, in order to halt the chaos in neighboring Afghanistan. Evidence that India ever supported terrorism in Pakistan has been scant. Why bother, with so many local terrorists already operating there, and attacking each other, as well as the government. But now the major problem is the inability of the government to admit what the main problem (corruption) is, and do something about it, something besides speeches and new laws that aren’t enforced. Many of the current leaders in Pakistan have been convicted of, or investigated for, corrupt acts. Pakistan’s ruling class (and it’s not very large) have long talked about fixing things, but the only things that are carefully attended to are their bank accounts.
Responding to repeated requests from Afghanistan, Pakistan has agreed to turn over the recently captured (in Karachi) Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Pakistan would like to try Baradar first, but mainly Pakistan would prefer to not have Baradar talk about how much support the Taliban has received from the Pakistani government in the last decade. Over a dozen senior Taliban operatives have been arrested in Pakistan this month, in a major turnaround in Pakistani policy towards Afghan Taliban leaders hiding (often in plain sight) in Pakistan. It’s not known what sort of deal was made with the Pakistani government to make these arrests happen.
February 24, 2010: In Indian Kashmir, a two day running gun battle ended with three Islamic terrorists, and three of the pursuing soldiers, dead. There are still 50-100 Islamic terrorism casualties a month in Kashmir, and the Pakistani government continues to tolerate terrorist camps just across the border, and use Pakistani troops to help the terrorists get across the frontier.
In North Waziristan, Pakistan, U.S. UAVs fired three missiles and killed at least nine Taliban and destroyed a vehicle. Elsewhere in the area, the Taliban beheaded three men suspected of supplying targeting information for the American UAV missile attacks. The Islamic terrorists are uncertain how the Americans are finding their targets (many resources are used), and tend to round up some of the usual suspects from time to time, and murder them publicly. But the American missiles keep finding the terrorist leaders.
February 23, 2010: In Indian Kashmir, a tip from civilians led police to a terrorist safe house. There, five senior terrorists, from three different terrorist organizations, blew up the house they were in, rather than surrender. Three soldiers died in the battle.
February 22, 2010: In Pakistan’s Swat valley, a suicide car bomber hit a military convoy, leaving nine dead and over 30 wounded.
Indian Maoists asked for a 72 day ceasefire, and possible peace talks. After looking into it, the government decided that this was merely a ploy to reduce the damage the anti-Maoist campaign was suffering from the current government anti-Maoist offensive, and turned down the Maoist offer.
February 21, 2010: In Pakistan’s tribal territories, three Skihs were beheaded, for refusing to convert to Islam. Non-Moslems (there are over six million of them, but only about 20,000 Sikhs) have long been persecuted in Pakistan, despite government efforts to halt the religious violence. There is also a lot of fighting between Islamic groups that don’t get on well. Not just Sunni versus Shia, but many different Sunni terrorist groups.
February 20, 2010: In Indian Kashmir, a terrorist leader was cornered, but refused to surrender and died in a gun battle. Such incidents are the exception these days, with most of the anti-Indian activity being demonstrations by Moslems demanding an end to martial law conditions, and restoration of the prosperity the region had before the Islamic terrorists showed up two decades ago.
In South Waziristan, an air strike hit a Taliban hideout in the mountains, leaving at least 30 terrorists dead. Hundreds of hard core Taliban fled to remote hideouts, after the army moved into South Waziristan last August. The U.S. has been helping the Pakistanis locate these hideouts, by providing electronic eavesdropping and satellite/UAV mapping of remote areas. Elsewhere in the region, two police stations were attacked. In one case, two armed men tried to get in, but one was shot dead and the other fled. In the other attack, a suicide bomber killed one and