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Islamists Put Tunisia on Road to Civil War

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

India-Pakistan: Relations are trending downward and tension is up because of a surge in attacks from Pakistan in the past two months along the Line of Control and across the International Border of India's Jammu and Kashmir State.

This week two attacks occurred: on the night of 22 October and the night of 24 October. On the 22nd, mortar fire and small arms fire struck 50 border observation posts on the Indian side of the International Border in the Jammu, or southern, part of the state. The attacks killed one Border Security Force constable and injured six others and a civilian. The harassing fire lasted through the night for more than seven hours. On the 24th, mortar fire and small arms attacks struck 17 border observations posts, injuring eight civilians.

The Union Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, visited one of the target areas on the 24th. He told the media elements, including the Pakistan Rangers and Kashmiri militants, have violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement nearly 150 times. Forty violations occurred in the month of October. He announced reinforcements for the Border Security Forces and increased patrols to prevent infiltration.

Shinde also promised "a fitting response" to attacks by fire from Pakistan. However, Indian retaliatory fire has not reduced the attacks. Locals living along the boundary want the Indian Army to escalate the retaliation.

Comment: The boundary between India and Pakistan in Kashmir has several sections. The southern section is the International Border which both countries acknowledge. The northern stretch is called the Line of Control, which represents the ceasefire line of the two armies at the end of the 1971 India-Pakistan War. Pakistan does not recognize it as an international border.

Firing attacks occur annually in autumn to cover pre-winter infiltration from Pakistan by Kashmiri militants before winter weather impedes if not prevents crossing. Local residents who spoke to the Indian press said this year's attacks are the usual diversionary tactics by the Pakistani paramilitary forces - the Pakistan Rangers - except that the number of attacks is higher than in the recent past and they are lasting through the night until as early as 0400 the following day.

This is a form of terror because it is driving villagers to flee, closing schools and interfering with farming and village life.

As mentioned in an earlier NightWatch on this topic, another unusual aspect of the attacks is that they many target the Jammu area, across the International Border. This indicates the militants are attempting to rebuild a terrorist force to destabilize the southern part of the Indian Jammu and Kashmir State.

This is a somewhat new development because this area has been stable and free of attacks for years. IN contrast, mortar attacks and gunfire across the Line of Control are expected because Pakistan does not recognize it as a legal boundary.

India has not released information on infiltration across the International Border. If this is part of a planned expansion of the militants' operating area, it could only occur with the assistance of Pakistani security forces. This cooperation includes a deliberate relaxation of security by the Pakistan Army which has thousands of troops stationed along the normally quiet International Border.

Political developments. In public statements this week the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir State and Indian Prime Minister Singh both urged Pakistan to honor the ceasefire. Prime Minister Singh said he was disappointed with Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif because Sharif promised improved relations and said that even the Kashmir dispute could be settled by dialogue. That was in September at the United Nations General Assembly session. Since then, security has worsened.

Comment: The Indians are perplexed by Pakistan's behavior. India political analysts cannot decide whether Sharif is incompetent, deliberately deceptive or simply lacks the ability to control Pakistan's security forces who are executing national security policy independent of the government.

The increased attacks are increasing the electoral prospects of Indian nationalist parties, such as the BJP. The next general elections must be held before 31 May 2014. Political leaders in India and Pakistan do not want a war, but interest groups on both sides appear to find political advantage in increased tension and a deterioration of border security, which is occuring.

Tunisia: Prime Minister Ali Larayedh has begun talks with opposition parties including the National Salvation Front in an effort to form a caretaker government and prepare for elections.

Comment: A surge in violent clashes between Islamists and secular opposition groups and the police provided the impetus for Larayedh and his pro-Islamist Ennahda Party cohorts to begin the talks. This week six policemen have been killed by Islamists in attacks. A car bomb ready to detonate was found and defused at one site of recent clashes. In retaliation secular opposition groups have ransacked and burned Ennahda Party offices in one town outside Tunis.

Tunisia heretofore had avoided the violence that accompanied political change in Egypt and Libya. The backlash by secular and moderate Muslim parties against the political overreaching by Ennahda has put Tunisia on the same path as the others.

Larayedh still seeks to slow-roll the negotiation process by insisting that the drafting of a long overdue constitution be completed and a firm election date be set before he transfers power to a technocratic caretaker government. His delaying tactics have created conditions for a steady deterioration of internal security.

The Ennahda agreement with the opposition parties stipulates that the Ennahda-led government shall resign and be replaced within three weeks by a neutral interim government of technocrats. If Larayedh and his men do not comply, security conditions will get much worse.

End of NightWatch ###

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