UPDATED  27/7/02

 

wars and armed conflicts

     

 

 

 

 

SOUTH ASIA
pakistan

 

 

 

current situation

 

- conflict background
- current situation
- additional information

 

 

 

(see also INDIA & PAKISTAN: KASHMIR)

Recent events, January - June 2002

In January General Pervez Musharraf publicly denounced terrorism in all its forms and embarked on a crackdown on terrorists. Over 600 people were arrested, and Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed were banned. (Early in 2002, Jaish-e-Mohammed had announced that it was removing its base from Pakistan to Indian Kashmir, to avoid arrest.) However, after a few weeks many of them were released.

In April there was a sudden upsurge in sectarian violence, including two bomb attacks on mosques. Most sectarian attacks are by Sunni Muslims, against Shi'ite Muslims. At least 2 groups of Sunni militants have been banned. The revived activities were suspected to be linked to the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan: many sectarian militants trained in the same Afghan camps as other Pakistani and al-Qaida fighters.

At the beginning of May Pervez Musharraf was voted to remain President for a further 5 years, in a referendum accompanied by complaints of voting irregularities and for which there was only a 12% turnout. His determination to retain power over a highly complex country in this way has had the effect of revitalising the opposition parties.

Pakistan's involvement with the so-called 'war on terror' has continued to be ambiguous. This is scarcely surprising, as Pakistan is an Islamic state. The decision to join the coalition of nations against terrorism was difficult, since it meant opposition to Islamists, many of whom had spent time studying in Pakistan; unsurprising, too, that commitment to the coalition sometimes appears to falter.

The US-led pursuit of terrorists, Taliban and al-Qaida, has focused on the Pakistan region of Waziristan, a tribal region with strong Islamic dedication. US troops were fired on there in May while hunting for Taliban in an Islamic school; religious leaders were outraged and said that if there had to be military action, it should be by Pakistan's own army, not foreign troops. Possibly linked with this resentment, there have been a number of attacks on Western nationals in Pakistan: these include the kidnapping and murder of the US journalist Daniel Pearl, suicide bombings at a church and on a bus, and a car bomb outside the US consulate in Karachi. Over 30 people were killed and many more injured.

The USA have been less than happy with what was perceived as Pakistan's go-slow on the anti-terror campaign. The complex relationship of the Pakistani army with the religious right wing (the dominant intelligence service, ISI, is known to have supported Islamic militants) has meant that crack-downs on militants were not a simple objective. But in any case the army's attention was diverted from the war on terror by the growing likelihood of full-scale war with India over the disputed region of Kashmir. Thousands of troops were removed from the Afghan border and sent to take positions on the Pakistan-India frontier.

Pakistan forces suffered their first losses in operations against al-Qaida in June, during a gunbattle with Chechen Islamist fighters in north Waziristan.

 

- wars since 1945
[south asia]
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conflict background

   

 

 

 

An ancient and sophisticated civilisation in the Indus valley, where Pakistan is now, was overrun by Alexander the Great and then by Central Asian invaders who formed an empire in the 1st century. In the 8th century Muslim conquests began; immigrants also came in from the west. During the 16th century the Sikh religion developed in Punjab. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Mogul empire included all the northern half of the Indian sub-continent. In the mid-19th century Sind and Punjab were annexed by Britain and incorporated in 'British India'.

The name Pakistan (Urdu for Pure Nation) was devised in 1933 as Muslims began a campaign for an independent Muslim state incorporating Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab and North West Frontier. In 1940 the All India Muslim League (which had been founded in 1906), under Mohammed Ali Jinnah, backed the separate-state project.

The mainly Muslim state of Pakistan was formed in 1947 with the partition of India. It became a republic in 1953. In 1958 military rule was imposed. In 1971 the province of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) seceded, provoking a civil war in which India became involved. Armed conflict over Kashmir took place at the same time. The Simla peace agreement in 1972 established a 'line of control' dividing Indian Kashmir from Pakistani-held Kashmir; fighting on and across the demarcation line has continued. There have been several serious flare-ups, creating fears of all-out war.

From 1973 to 1977 there was a period of armed regional opposition, mainly in the province of Baluchistan and with the Pathans, a Muslim people in the north west. Martial law was imposed in 1977, lifted again in 1985. 9,000 were estimated to have died in the Baluchistan conflict, in which Afghanistan also intervened.

In the 1980s sectarian unrest grew between two Islamic groups: Sunni Muslims (backed by Saudi Arabia) and Shi'ite Muslims (backed by Iran). The Shia constitute 20% of the population. It was thought that local militants were urged on by their rival backing countries. Sporadic violence has continued. Difficulties between rival Muslim groups have existed since partition, when Indian Muslims moved to Pakistan.

In the 1990s the Pakistan army failed to subdue ethnic clashes and feuding in Karachi, or to deal successfully with either sectarian or factional unrest elsewhere. Such violence fluctuates, but has never been fully controlled. Attempts to ban illegal weapons have so far failed.

Like India, Pakistan has also developed a nuclear weapons programme and tested missiles. Both countries have had a nuclear warfare capacity since 1998. Pakistan, as its former president pointed out, is not only the world's seventh nuclear weapon state, it is the only Islamic country with such a capability.

Pakistan has also continued to be dogged by political difficulties in respect of the central administration. In 1999 army chief General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the prime minister in an internationally deplored military coup. In 2001 he named himself as president.

Pakistan shares more than a border with Afghanistan. It has long-standing ethnic, political and religious links. It also has military connections. After Taliban assistance in 1994 with trade routes through Afghanistan, Pakistan provided them with money, arms and military assistance; Pakistani militants have trained at Afghanistan's terrorist camps. There are now several million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Taliban beliefs and practices, attractive to many Pakistani extremists, had also crossed the border (which means that many refugees do not entirely escape); many Taliban studied at Pakistan's religious academies. The Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan and the Muslim insurgency in Kashmir encouraged Islamic extremism in Pakistan to spread.

After the terrorist attacks in America on September 11, Pakistan was one of the first countries to be asked to support America's new war on terrorism and assist in the pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his network. Pervez Musharraf agreed to join the 'coalition against terror'. In response, economic and military sanctions, imposed by the USA because of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme (and because of the 1999 coup) were waived.

Nevertheless, Pervez Musharraf faced huge domestic difficulties. Many Pakistanis saw Osama bin Laden as a hero of the Islamic faith. Anti-American demonstrations began in the streets. Tribal leaders in the west called for support for the Taliban and Al-Qaida, and men began to muster to join the Taliban forces when the USA began bombing Afghanistan.

Terrorism remained a foreground issue, not only because of Al-Qaida but also the militants in Kashmir. Early in 2002 the Pakistan government ordered crackdowns and arrests of suspected terrorists and their supporters; and at least 2 known terrorist organisations (widely believed to have been sponsored by Pakistan) were outlawed.

After a terrorist attack in India in December 2001, India, followed by Pakistan, began fortifying the entire 1,800- mile border between the two countries, laying mines on either side.


See also BANGLADESH and INDIA AND PAKISTAN: KASHMIR

     

 

 

additional information

     

 

         

 

         

 

         

 

 

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