Pakistan fears the United States and India will carry out more unauthorized attacks inside Pakistan against Islamic terrorist targets. Pakistan is particularly concerned with protecting the Haqqani Network, an Afghan led group that has prospered under Pakistani protection and is now believed to control the leadership of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan has long denied any connection with Haqqani, much less control of the group, but there is much evidence that ISI (Pakistani Intelligence) works closely with Haqqani. Growing American (and international) pressure has forced Pakistan to say it is acting against Haqqani. There is little evidence of that. Meanwhile Pakistan insists that most Islamic terrorism inside Pakistan is the work of India with the help of the Americans and Israelis. Pakistan now describes this as an American secret strategy of creating perpetual instability in South Asia. Pakistan is the only South Asian nation that agrees with this analysis. Actually the foreign policy of the Pakistani military is to stage such attacks itself, in Afghanistan and India. This is now the Pakistani military justifies and perpetuates its dominant position in Pakistani politics and the economy. It is how the Pakistani military manages (successfully so far) to run the government without actually being the government. Power without responsibility plus generous retirement benefits, immunity from prosecution for most crimes and all those nifty uniforms and parades. No wonder a military career is so popular among the best families.

Yet there are sometimes unpleasant things that must be done, no matter how senior your rank. For example the head of the Pakistani military (Army General Qamar Bajwa) recently spoke before parliament to brief the legislators on the state of Pakistani military security and the military efforts against Islamic terrorism and other enemies of Pakistan. The Pakistani military, especially its senior general, rarely reports to parliament. The last time this happened was after the 2011 American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout and left with the bin Laden corpse and massive amounts of documents, many of them detailing how the Pakistani military had lied to the world about secret support for al Qaeda and many other Islamic terror groups.

After 2011 the military made a few changes involved things like going to war with Islamic terror groups that carried out unauthorized (by the military) attacks inside Pakistan. This included shutting down sanctuaries these groups (particularly the Pakistani Taliban) had long used. The army literally invaded the main sanctuary (North Waziristan) in mid-2014 and is still fighting there and nearby areas. This greatly reduced Islamic terror related deaths inside Pakistan. There was still such violence inside Pakistan but most of it was done without permission from the military. What Islamic terrorism the military still used inside Pakistan had a specific purpose. Case in point is the growing use of blasphemy charges by Islamic religious parties against those who threaten military power. Most of these parties are either allies of the military or literally on the army payroll. This program includes the new Islamic political parties formed by Islamic terror groups that have long worked for the military to carry out attacks inside India. The Pakistani military wants to protect these Islamic terror groups and turning them into political parties is the latest ploy. The covert violence against foreign (Afghan and Indian targets) is against Pakistani and international law and the Pakistani military continues to claim that it is not involved.

To obtain the cooperation of Pakistani politicians the military uses a slightly different form of Islamic terrorism. This was in full view during late 2017 when the army refused government orders to help restore free access to the capital. General Bajwa was appearing before parliament, in part, to explain what was going on with that. It was a masterful performance. First he admitted that the military is, according to Pakistani law, subordinate to the elected government. General Bajwa then pointed out that as a good Moslem he was obliged take religious considerations into account. That was how he justified the recent refusal to provide troops to assist in removing thousands of civilians who were blocking the main roads into the capital.

This blockade was part of an effort to force a senior government official to resign for his involvement in a new law (not passed) that made a minor (to the rest of the world and most Pakistanis) change to the oath new officials take. For Islamic political parties deciding what is blasphemy and acting on it is why such parties exist. The Islamic political parties represent less than ten percent of the voters and want to impose Islamic (Sharia) law on all Pakistanis. Most Pakistanis, and especially the military, don’t agree with that but cannot express those views openly. The military has turned this threat to their advantage by controlling enough of these Islamic political parties to terrorize those who oppose the military. That includes most of the people in parliament. General Bajwa even took some questions, which men in his position rarely do. He said he wanted to make peace with India but when asked about army support for Islamic terror groups like Lashkar-i-Taiba to turn themselves into political parties he said it was legal and the army would not interfere. He also added that while the army did not support Islamic terror attacks on India men like Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-i-Taiba, do and the army has no control over that. General Bajwa was indirectly telling parliament to not interfere. And it wasn't just about reusing to help clear the roads.

It was army influence and pressure that, by November, got Islamic terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed freed from house arrest. This was a very unpopular decision inside Pakistan and around the world. Saeed is a known and quite notorious Islamic terrorist but since he works for the Pakistani military he is protected. Up to a point. In 2012 the U.S. announced a $10 million bounty for the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Saeed, who is accused of organizing the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as well as 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. India and the United States have presented compelling evidence to implicate Saeed, but the Pakistani government refuses to prosecute. Inside Pakistan, many politicians and media outlets admit that Saeed is a major Islamic terrorist leader and the man behind the Mumbai attack and numerous other atrocities. Saeed has dared the U.S. to come and get him, which the current American government might actually do. Saeed has long headed the Islamic terror group Lashkar-i-Taiba, which in turn was organized and long supported by the Pakistani military, mainly to organize and carry out terrorist attacks in India. Note that the reward offer is only good if Saeed is delivered alive. That is a useful condition and justifies the plan to turn its favorite Islamic terror groups (mainly the ones that attack India and do so because of Kashmir) into political parties to give these groups and their leaders even more protection from domestic or foreign interference. The major fear the Pakistani generals have is that the Americans will, as they did with bin Laden, apply “dead or alive” conditions to the reward. So far the Pakistani military has been able to protect Saeed although he has not been an international criminal for as long as bin Laden was before he was taken down.

One of the ironies of this situation is that what was used to protect bin Laden and, even more so, guys like Saeed are blasphemy laws. Like many Moslem majority nations Pakistan has laws that actually encourage religious violence and the military has regarded that as a useful tool. The most damaging instance of this are the blasphemy laws enacted in the 1970s. These allow for prosecution of anyone accused of speaking or acting against Islam. While no one had ever been officially executed because of these laws, many are accused and jailed each year, and often condemned to death (and later reprieved). But a growing number of those accused have been murdered by Islamic fanatics, who are a large, and violent, minority of the population. Accusations of blasphemy are mostly used by Moslems against innocent non-Moslems (usually Christians) but also against each other. For example the Pakistani Taliban is a Sunni group that encourage attacks on “blasphemers”. This usually means Shia but there are other non-Sunni Moslem groups that will do, as well as Christians and Jews. Hindus are considered pagans and require no encouragement for a devout Moslem to go after. The Taliban also considers any Sunni who does not support them a heretic and deserving of punishment.

Efforts to repeal these laws, or at least limit their misuse, are violently resisted by Islamic political parties and the military. It was the military that created these laws back when it decided to turn Islamic terrorism into a secret weapon for use against its enemies. The military still uses false blasphemy charges as an excuse to silence (often by death) media and political opponents. This sort of thing has gotten worse as the Pakistani military is put under more pressure to cease supporting Islamic terrorism.

For example, in late 2012 Islamic political parties in Pakistan forced the government to block over 20,000 websites, including YouTube, for displaying material considered critical of Islam. In addition the pro-Islamic parties organized dozens of demonstrations to protest, often violently, an American film accused of being anti-Islam. These demonstrations were part of an effort by the Islamic parties to establish themselves as censors for all Pakistanis. The 2012 crackdown began earlier in the year when the government blocked national access to Twitter for most of the day, apparently because of blasphemous (to some Muslims) activity on Twitter. Every day, if not every hour, there is something on Twitter that Islamic conservatives would consider blasphemous. What the Pakistani government particularly disliked about Twitter was that it was a speedy conduit of reports on bad behavior by the Pakistani officials. Shutting Twitter down for a sustained period would be enormously unpopular inside Pakistan and that’s why the threat evaporated. Yet the Islamic politicians kept at it and in July 2017 a senior Facebook executive met with the Pakistani Interior Ministry to discuss Pakistan demands that Facebook monitor and censor Facebook posts that Pakistani law considers blasphemous against Islam, especially if the message was posted by one of the 33 million Pakistani Facebook users. A Pakistani Facebook user had recently been sentenced to death for such a post and that prompted Facebook to meet with Pakistani officials and help sustain the illusion that the Internet could be censored. That served the goals of the Pakistani military, who were after individual critics not everyone who uses Facebook and Twitter. After all the Pakistani officers make enough to be comfortably middle class and the younger members of these families are big fans of the Internet. But individuals who criticize the Pakistani military via the Internet do not have a lot of fans among military families.

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