Terrorism Update
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South Asia
Extremist Islamist Terror & Subversion
Ajai Sahni

1. Terror in Very Slow Motion

    1. Despite the shock and outrage the September 11, 2001, attacks inspired, a point that must clearly be noticed is that, other than their timing and the specific contours and character of the co-ordinated terrorist operations, these attacks were not as entirely unanticipated as they may have been projected to be in the post-Black Tuesday phase. While, in many ways, they did constitute a watershed in history, they lay along an interrupted continuum that extended several years into the past. In a sense, indeed, this was terrorism in very slow motion, and its inevitability had long been remarked by the strategic and intelligence communities. John Deutch, a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had – in a joint paper with Ashton Carter and Phillip Zelikov – warned in November 1998 that:

    2. An act of catastrophic terrorism would take place, which would be a watershed event in American history. It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security. Like Pearl Harbour, this event would divide our past and future into a before and after. The United States might respond through draconian measures, scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects, and use of deadly force. More violence would follow. Belatedly, Americans would judge their leaders negligent for not addressing terrorism more urgently…1

      The literature on catastrophic terrorism and on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) terrorism targeting USA has burgeoned in recent years, but the language and idiom of the particular citation above has an uncanny precision when it is compared with the discourse and events in the wake of Black Tuesday.

    3. Even the method used by the terrorists in the US attacks was not entirely unprecedented. Ely Karmon notes that

    4. A coordinated hijacking of four planes has, indeed, already taken place. In September 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine diverted a Pan-Am airliner to Cairo while three others – TWA, Swissair, and BOAC planes – were diverted to Dawson airport in Jordan. All were blown up on the ground.

      Based on intelligence, the hijacking of a plane in order to crash it in a populated area has been feared in Israel since the mid-1970’s. This is why, in 1972, a Libyan plane that penetrated Israeli airspace was downed by Israeli warplanes when it failed to react to Israeli warnings. A similar incident occurred on May 24, 2001, when a small Lebanese civilian plane was shot down north of Tel-Aviv by Apache attack helicopters, because it was feared to be part of a Hizballah suicide operation. In December 1994 an Air-France Airbus was hijacked by Algerian GIA terrorists, landed in Marseille for refueling and was stormed by French counter-terrorist teams when it became clear that they were planning a suicide mission over Paris. 2

    5. Furthermore, the US has, rightly or otherwise, long regarded itself as the primary target of what it narrowly defines as "international terrorism." Those who have, moreover, studied the pattern and expanding networks of terrorist organisations across the world are clear that, while September 11 represented a major event, a critical development in the unfolding extremist Islamist agenda, it did not constitute a radical discontinuity.

    6. In the discourse on catastrophic terrorism targeting the US, the arguments have focused overwhelmingly on technologies – nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, cyber-terrorism, etc. The gravest evidence of the mounting danger, however, comes from the spread of the ideologies and networks of terrorism.

    7. The manner in which we look upon and interpret these recent events is of crucial strategic significance and has critical impact on the strategies of response against terrorism in what the US has dubbed the "Global War on Terror". In significant measure, the strategies of response that are currently being manifested appear to be flawed, and this is at least in part a consequence of a conceptual failure to correctly define and interpret the catastrophic terrorism witnessed on September 11, 2001.

  1. The Myth of the Locus of Terror

    1. It is perplexing to note that the idea of a "geographical shift of the locus of terror from the Middle East to South Asia" 3had been increasingly and vigorously propounded, identifying Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir as the new loci and primary sources of extremist Islamist militancy. This idea has survived, if not been reinforced, in US strategic perceptions by the events of Black Tuesday. There are, however, some difficulties with this notion. The first and more obvious is the fact that there is no evidence of any sudden or abrupt ‘shift’, or a radical discontinuity in the situation – Afghanistan’s spiral into chaos had been an inexorable fact for over a decade, as had Pakistan’s complicity and steady decline. Even a cursory glance at fatalities in Kashmir would confirm, moreover, that terrorism has been at comparable – albeit escalating – levels in this theatre for over a decade. 4

    2. More significantly, however, it is dangerous to focus inordinately on the transient geographical location or concentrations of terrorist incidents, activities and movements, to the exclusion of their ideological and material sources, their state sponsors, or their intended targets and proclaimed goals. The error here is the belief that the threat of Islamist terrorism is contained within the regions of its most visible manifestation. Extremist Islam must, however, be recognised for its essential character as an ideology, and terrorism as a method that it accepts and justifies. A method will be adopted wherever it is perceived to have acceptable probabilities of success. An ideology extends wherever it has believers. These are the actual limits or foci of extremist Islamist terrorism. The identification of the locus of terrorism with the transient geographical location where it finds the largest number of victims, is a grave error of judgement.

    3. A closer analysis would indicate that it is more accurate to speak of the spread or expansion of the sphere of terrorism, rather than any dramatic ‘shift’. Indeed, as terrorists and their state sponsors secure even limited successes in one region, their methods are adopted in others, threatening an ever-widening spectrum of nations and cultures. It is, now, increasingly clear that no nation in the world is entirely free of the threat from extremist Islamist terrorism. This includes not only the affluent – or ‘decadent’ as the Islamist would have it – West, but also Muslim majority ‘Islamic’ nations that do not conform to the extremist Islamist’s notion of his Faith and its practices. The extremist Islamist vision is not limited to its current sphere of militancy, or to the economic and political jockeying for control of Central Asia that some ‘Great Game’ theorists believe, but to God’s ‘universal empire’. "The world is divided into opposing forces," Altaf Gauhar insists, "there is no common ground between secularism and Islam." 5Allah Buksh Brohi is even more explicit:

    4. Many Western Scholars have pointed their accusing fingers at some of the … verses in the Qur’an to be able to contend that world of Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle against the non-Muslims. As to them it is sufficient answer to make, if one were to point out, that the defiance of God’s authority by one who is His slave exposes that slave to the risk of being held guilty of treason and such a one, in the perspective of Islamic law, is indeed to be treated as a sort of that cancerous growth on that organism of humanity, which has been created "Kanafsin Wahidatin" that is, like one, single, indivisible self. It thus becomes necessary to remove the cancerous malformation even if it be by surgical means (if it would not respond to other treatment), in order to save the rest of Humanity… The idea of Ummah of Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, is incapable of being realised within the framework of territorial states much less made an enduring basis of viewing the world as having been polarised between the world of Islam and the world of war. Islam, in my understanding, does not subscribe to the concept of the territorial state… 6

      The ‘surgical’ removal of the ‘cancerous malformation’ that is the non-Islamic world is what the Islamist terrorists believe they are engaged in.

    5. Unfortunately, the ‘loci of terrorism’ thesis lends itself to local, capricious and fitful responses, often dictated by transient political pressures or short-term (and potentially counter-productive) considerations. Thus, the US and its primary allies, conceding that all terrorism is reprehensible and demands a global response, have not really commended measures that can be situated in a multilateral and pre-emptive framework. The US State Department’s annual report, Patterns of Global Terrorism (PGT) and its subsequent addendum are flawed in their inherent logic. For instance, the PGT 2000 explicitly elaborates on the long and enduring support that the Musharraf regime has extended to the Taliban and terrorist groups active in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). At the same time, it also alludes to the ‘fact’ that the Government of Pakistan "generally has cooperated with US requests to enhance security for US facilities and personnel." 7Pakistan’s role in fuelling and sustaining terrorism in J&K and persisting mischief in Afghanistan are clearly recognised in the report: "Pakistan's military government, headed by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, continued previous Pakistani Government support of the Kashmir insurgency, and Kashmiri militant groups continued to operate in Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting new cadre… The United States remains concerned about reports of continued Pakistani support for the Taliban's military operations in Afghanistan. Credible reporting indicates that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers. Pakistan has not prevented large numbers of Pakistani nationals from moving into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. Islamabad also failed to take effective steps to curb the activities of certain madrassas, or religious schools, that serve as recruiting grounds for terrorism."8 And yet, Pakistan is the principal ally and frontline state in the US’ Global War on Terror.

    6. Such contradictory observations are not surprising since US counter-terrorism perspective has for long been steeped in a myopic view – it proposes to attack/counter only if it’s own citizens are victims. The US has been consistently reluctant – and in substantial measure remains so – to accept the fact that any effective strategy to counter terrorism must be premised on global efforts supplementing national and bilateral strategies, however resilient and effective the latter may be. US counter-terrorism perspectives have critically failed to recognise that the combination of chaos and paralysis that terrorism produces, affects not only particular ‘victim’ societies, but the composite global order. 9

    7. The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, indicated at a hearing of a special Senate Appropriations Sub-committee that the US "seeks to create an environment that is intolerant of terrorism and isolate those who threaten the US, its friends and allies." But, he also added that "I think you lose credibility when you do it (target the nation of origin) that way."10 Even as the US acknowledges convincing reports of Pakistan’s complicity in supporting terrorist activity in J&K and to the Taliban, it rules out any action against Pakistan. By stating that targeting the nation of origin produces a ‘loss of credibility’, it effectively places Pakistan beyond the purview of its proposed new policy. The relative lack of consistency in the US policy is revealing. Powell, at a Press briefing, observed that State sponsors of terrorism are increasingly isolated. The PGT report, on the other hand, clearly points to the contrary.

3. The Islamist Extremist Endgame

    1. The impact of the catastrophic terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, in USA, is still reverberating across the world, and subsequent events have left a trail of unanswered questions in the public mind, and among the strategic community. The most important of these relate to what it was, precisely, that the terrorists sought to achieve in terms of definable strategic gains. True, some 4,000 people were killed in a simultaneous multi-strike operation, and two among the great symbolic edifices of the United States of America – the World Trade Centre representing its economic might, and the Pentagon its military prowess – were successfully targeted. But, what precisely had this act of apparently wanton destruction achieve? How did it undermine or detract from the overwhelming military and economic power of the US? How did it further the Islamist extremist cause?

    2. To many Western strategists, the suicide attacks, and the subsequent and apparently related cases of bio-terrorism in the US, are acts of unadulterated evil, of a rage that finds its justification and end in the suffering it inflicts. They are acts, equally, that inescapably condemn not just their perpetrators, but their entire network of support, their ideological bases, and the causes they represent, to an inevitable and possibly hideous end at the hands of a wounded and righteous global community. Considering the firepower, the technologies and the resources available to America, on the one hand, and the poverty, the isolation and the primitive conditions in which Osama bin Laden’s cohorts and the Taliban subsisted, the attacks on the US appear suicidal, not only for the 19 hijackers who went down with the planes in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, but for the Pan-Islamist extremist movement itself.

    3. In some measure, this point of view is reinforced by the apparent and increasing isolation of the Islamist extremists within the Muslim world, as even collaborators and state sponsors, such as Pakistan, turn their back against the intemperate excesses of what is evidently the most rabidly fanatical element among them. The over-arching malignancy of the Black Tuesday attacks and the accumulating evidence of bio-terrorism in USA (and in an increasing number of other countries as well) 11have driven a wedge between those who have, for decades, used limited doses of terrorism to further their political or strategic objectives, and the fundamentalist or millenarian terrorists who seek goals that go far beyond the tangible world and all existing structures of contemporary human social and political organisation, to a vision that seeks to establish the ‘Empire of Allah’ through acts of extreme violence. Within this millenarian vision, a final, apocalyptic confrontation between the ‘armies of the faithful’ and of the ‘unbelievers’ is not only a conceivable eventuality, it may even be a desired end envisaged by their interpretation of the Holy Book, an objective to be actively pursued. This malignant worldview has created deep apprehensions in much of the Muslim world, as it has among non-Muslims, though it may have inspired a small minority of fanatics to an emulative frenzy.

    4. This has crucial repercussions on the character and scale of violence that would be acceptable to the fundamentalist terrorist. No ‘strategic terrorist’ would resort to violence beyond a certain scale, because in doing so, he would destabilise the situation to a point where he cannot make any rational calculations of the outcome, and hence of strategic gains and losses. Pakistan and its leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, fit well into this paradigm – they have, for decades, used measured doses of terror to further their objectives in J&K and in other parts of India. In the wake of the September attacks, however, they have found it entirely convenient to join (albeit under pressure) the US coalition against terrorism. In doing this, they apparently turned directly against their own proteges and long-time partners and friends – bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and the Taliban – because no useful strategic purpose could be served by a continuing overt association with these groupings. Indeed, in the emerging situation, such an association could, in fact, place Pakistan’s own survival at risk.

    5. The fundamentalist or millenarian terrorist, on the other hand, conceives of no limit to his potential violence. In his perverse vision, the existing world order is corrupt beyond redemption, and must be destroyed – calculations of relative strategic advantage and loss are in the hands of a ‘higher power’ to whose ‘will’ he ‘submits’. The lives of men and women – both of those who are loyal to the fundamentalist cause, and those of the ‘enemy’ – have no intrinsic worth, but are mere instrumentalities to the will of God (of which the fundamentalist alone is apparently aware). In other words, he operates within a context in which physical, material and political consequences do not have the same significance or weight that they would have in the planning and projections of conventional parties in conflict.

    6. This is, of course, a reductionist portrait, and strategic and fundamentalist motives combine in various proportions in different actors in the theatre of terror. To the extent, however, that the one or the other set of motives dominates, it is necessary to understand the dramatic shift in patterns of behaviour and strategies this would provoke, and the radically different tactics and policies that are necessary to deal with these patterns.

    7. It is within this context that the American gameplan evolved. Briefly, the US formulated a staged policy which envisaged a long-term struggle, and which sought to bring into being the broadest conceivable coalition of nations into the campaign against global terrorism. The first stage focused on Afghanistan, on the one hand, and on a painstaking investigative process to document and dismantle the international support structures of terrorism, on the other. Within Afghanistan, the military infrastructure of the Taliban was to be destroyed, an interim government installed at Kabul with control of the towns and cities of the country, consigning the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces to a fugitive existence, from where they can be ‘smoked out’ and ‘brought to justice’, or where ‘justice can be brought to them’. Thereafter, the world community could dedicate itself to systematically, if gradually, destroying the global network of terror that is presently in existence.

    8. There is both clarity and simplicity in this scheme, and given America’s overwhelming technological, military and economic might, and the apparent and emerging counter-terrorist consensus across the world, these would appear to be realistic and entirely achievable projections. War, however, is a notoriously unpredictable business and a war against terrorism even more so.

    9. And to return to original theme of this section, moreover, if there was such an easy inevitability to events, what, precisely was it that led the fundamentalist terrorists to escalate the scale of violence to a level that would provoke such overwhelming retaliation – and their own certain defeat? Was this a disastrous miscalculation? Or the design of a small group of hate-impelled fanatics who were beyond caring about consequences?

    10. It is more than evident that months, if not years of planning went into the Black Tuesday attacks, and that this planning reflects a high – if perverted – level of intellectual and strategic capabilities. It is difficult to understand how such planners could have failed to foresee the outcome of a direct and dramatic attack on the heart of America. Indeed, subsequent events and statements emanating from the Al Qaeda and the Taliban are sufficient proof that these repercussions were not only foreseen, but were to be welcomed as links in the chain of events that was intentionally initiated through the September 11 terrorist strikes. Roland Jacquard, President of the International Observatory on Terrorism at Paris, notes that bin Laden intended the ‘9/11’ attacks to be so "audacious, impudent and massively inhumane" as to ensure a "massive, inordinate" US retaliation that would further inflame Muslim opinion against the US and against the Arab regimes allied with Washington. "His design," Jacquard asserts, "is to create sufficient instability to bring about Islamic revolution."12 This, it appears, is the general interpretation of the Islamist extremist gameplan, and there is, certainly, an element of truth in it. It is too much of a gamble, however, to be the entire truth.

    11. The fundamentalist terrorists’ own projections and motives go well beyond how they hope to benefit from the current violence directed against them, and must comprehend clear ideas regarding where their own violence would be directed in future. Whether or not they succeed in their plans will depend substantially on the world’s ability to out-guess them, and to create appropriate and effective defences that can contain the impact of such future violence.

    12. To the Islamist fundamentalist terrorist, the present World Order is not only irrevocably unjust, it is utterly debased, a challenge and insult to God’s will on earth. It cannot be reformed through any progressive accretions of good, through conciliation and compromise. The power of what he regards as evil is too great in the present arrangement for any limited measure to succeed. The system cannot, in other words, be ‘improved’; it must be swept aside, destroyed, whatever the costs.

    13. Crucially, moreover, he does not share the popular assessment of the strength and stability of this system, or of the power of those who dominate it. He is, consequently, not awed into impotent acceptance by the spectacle of America’s might, its smart missiles and planes, its nuclear arsenal, its unending destructive power. It is a power that is undermined, in his eyes, by its corruption, by its deviation from ‘God’s Way’, its ‘infidelity’.

    14. The apparent stability of the world order, in this view, is a stagnant pool; the act of terror, a rock, or even a pebble, thrown into it. What matters, is not the immediate or direct impact, but the ripples it will create. And, with a thousand little pebbles, the wasted, crumbling, degenerate walls and structures of this system will collapse, and a deluge will wash away the ‘evil of the world’.

    15. Today’s fundamentalist terrorist, consequently, does not seek to mobilise masses before a great rebellion. He is a catalyst. He destabilises the situation, provides a model for action, and consequences follow – and are clearly envisaged by him – even if and after he dies. His personal survival is not essential or integral to the success of his cause. You cannot, in fact, ‘decapitate’ the new and global insurrection of terror. Where one head falls, others will spring to fill the breach.

    16. The great empires of history did not collapse at the height of their powers through cataclysmic upheavals from within or without. They declined gradually through a process of erosion at the peripheries and of corruption and corrosion at the Centre. The leadership of Islamist millenarian groupings has a fairly sophisticated, though possibly intuitive, understanding of this dynamic. Accurately or otherwise, they point to Russia; one of the two ‘Great Powers’ of the world that, in a matter of years – its armies, its missiles, its tanks and planes, its great nuclear arsenals, all intact – collapsed to the status of a Third World country, barely capable of managing its own internal contradictions, its economy surviving on the fitful injection of capital and aid from the affluent West. If this can be the fate of one ‘Evil Empire’, so can it be engineered for another.

    17. Both the September 11 strikes and the US attacks on Afghanistan can, consequently, be examined as part of a meticulously planned chain of events. The strikes in US were intended to attract retaliatory violence; they were expected to result in a consolidation of the extremist Islamist forces, to undermine US prestige and that country’s sense of invulnerability, and to catalyse a chain of events that would destabilise the emerging unipolar world order in unpredictable ways, in order to create a space of political uncertainty in which the Islamists could make a focused bid for power.

    18. What we have seen as yet is thus only the first phase of an elaborate endgame of the Islamists’ imaginings, and its fundamentals were articulated by its ideologues decades ago – as far back as in the 1920s – in what was then undivided India, and in Egypt. Its principles have only gradually translated themselves into political violence, militancy, terrorism, and an incipient pan-Islamic movement in widening areas across the world. The timeframes of this gameplan are in the decades, if not the centuries, and the Western orientation that has, in the past, sought closure in a confrontation of a few weeks, months or even the projected two years that the Americans believe their Afghan campaign will last, can lead to grave miscalculations, and will have to be abandoned for a slower, unwavering and consistent war against terrorism on all fronts. In the absence of such a coherent and sustained response, the economies and the political and social structures of Western nations will suffer gradual erosion; and each phase of such progressive erosion will lead to a consolidation of the extremist position.

    19. This is the process of induced collapse that terrorist actions seek to create through a new ‘war of a thousand cuts’. For this, they will not require spectacular exhibitions of the kind that brought down the Twin Towers in New York. A continuous succession of incidents of low-grade violence – an anthrax scare that affects a few score of people, a little suitcase or car bomb in a shopping mall, an innocuous IED that blows up a restaurant, a bus or a train – with each incident claiming no more than a few lives, can undermine popular confidence, create a paralysis of terror in public and institutional responses, and, more importantly, destroy the competitive advantages of the US economy. This is crucial. The terrorist intent is eventually to take the war onto American soil, and to hurt American interests overseas, wherever this is possible. Osama bin Laden clearly articulated these objectives in his statement on the Al Jazeera television network, saying "The US will never know security or safety unless we know security and safety in our land and in Palestine." 14

    20. If these campaigns can be sustained, however fitfully, over an extended period of time, there will eventually be a flight of capital from US soil and US corporations, as transaction costs increase unbearably, undermining the economy. Events in the wake of ‘9/11’ have also demonstrated that the US is substantially vulnerable to communal and ethnic polarisation. Continued terrorist violence will also be calculated to aggravate such trends, to induce the ‘ghettoisation’ of American society, and an eventual reverse migration of specialised human resources – particularly those of Asian origin – creating new problems for the viability of American enterprise. Needless to say, such processes can be expected, over time, to undermine the American power across the world, notwithstanding the overwhelming military arsenal at the disposal of the US Forces.15

    21. Terror is at the heart of this vision, conceived of, by the ideologues of extremist Islam, not merely as a transient tactic, but as the essential objective of their ‘war to advance God’s purpose on earth.’ And it is crucial that we understand the concept behind this strategy, and it’s projected intent and impact. Brigadier S K Malik, unsurprisingly a Pakistani, writes in his Quranic Concept of War:

    22. Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy (sic); it is the decision we wish to impose upon him. 16

    23. Islamist extremist terrorists had been active in many countries – particularly in Asia – long before September 11, 2001, and their activities continue. In addition, there are sleeper and sympathetic cells in an estimated 70 countries world-wide. Strong Islamist extremist networks exist in Canada, Australia, France, UK, and Germany, and there is also a very significant, though largely passive presence in several other European nations. Europe has been at risk for a long time. Islamist extremist networks have been consolidating themselves throughout the continent for decades now, and have been encouraged substantially by regimes that have maintained an ambivalent official attitude towards terrorists whose activities target countries other than their host countries in Europe. These European nations have, for all these years, acted on an assumption that they would never be targeted by the Islamist extremists, and have tolerated or even sought to manipulate these forces in terms of their perceived ‘strategic interests’. In the process, they have permitted the build up of these forces on their own soil. It is known that a number of terrorist cells have survived Black Tuesday on US soil as well. It can be expected that these will be activated in the uncertain future.

    24. At the same time, as the memory and the horror of the September 11 incidents recedes and the images of the victims of the war in Afghanistan are reiterated with greater frequency, the moral consensus in favour of US actions will be diluted. In the first days after the terrorist strikes in USA, hardly a voice could be heard offering even a qualified justification of the outrage. After less than a few weeks of US bombings in Afghanistan, these voices began to emerge, albeit on the periphery of the world community. Thus over 60 clerics in Iraq issued a Fatwa against all Muslim nations that offered any assistance to the US ‘blasphemers’ in their campaigns against the ‘innocent Afghans’. There were widespread street protests against the US action in a number of countries, though most prominently in Pakistan and Indonesia. Even in the relatively eclectic and moderate Muslim community in India, at least some voices spoke out in favour of bin Laden and the Taliban, and overtly against the US. Over time, these voices will strengthen, not only among moderate Muslims, but within the Western democracies and the US itself, questioning the morality of the US campaign, sowing confusion in the minds of policy makers in the US and among its allies. As the American position on a number of issues has already demonstrated, moreover, old patterns and calculations of geo-political advantage are already re-emerging, and conventional considerations of strategic ‘interests of state’ may reassert their priority over a principled and concerted war against all manifestations of terrorism.

    25. As these trends consolidate, terrorist actions will seek to secure a greater convergence, first among extremist Islamist groups, and then among larger Muslim communities, projecting the ideal of a new Khilafat or caliphate. There have already been significant moves in the direction of such convergence, with the more virulent fundamentalist Islamist elements virtually across the world throwing in their lot under bin Laden’s banner. Osama bin Laden had, moreover, increasingly reiterated his Pan-Islamist agenda, linking himself to a variety of emotive ‘Muslim causes’ – including, for instance, Palestine and Kashmir – in different countries, and had also sought to project himself as ‘Shiekh-ul-Islam’, a title last held by the Caliphs.

    26. The Islamist endgame envisages, consequently, an eventual and decisive confrontation between a corroded and declining Western power, and an increasingly united Islamist force.

    27. There are, of course, a number of possibly grave miscalculations in this grand design. In the first instance, a variety of conflicting forces that undermine the extremist cause have also been brought into increasing operation by recent events. Secondly, even with a substantial degradation of western powers, the gap between the technological and destructive capabilities of these and any eventually consolidated ‘Islamic World’, is virtually unbridgeable in the foreseeable future. A direct confrontation would be unimaginably bloody, but the defeat of the comparatively primitive forces of fundamentalist Islamist extremism would, consequently, be inevitable. This gap may, however, be wiped out at a stroke if the Islamist terrorists are able to weaponize certain bio-technological strains that may not be entirely outside their competence in coming years.

    28. Most significantly, however, the projected Islamist endgame underestimates the resilience of countries such as the US, in particular, and of democratic societies in general. While Islamist fundamentalism has created a banner under which many ‘Muslim’ grievances and frustrations are articulated today, the promise of the ideologies of liberal democracy offer a strong and attractive incentive to millions who are equally distressed by authoritarian and oppressive regimes – including fundamentalist regimes – in different parts of the ‘Muslim World.’

    29. What we are seeing, consequently, is a global struggle that seeks, on the one hand, the preservation and evolution of the present world order, and, on the other, its unqualified destruction. Eventually, neither vision can be expected to emerge unscathed or unamended, and the unipolar New World Order will have to accommodate alternative perspectives to create a more balanced and humane system.

    30. This is an immensely complex war, and understanding its various dimensions – military, political, social, economic, and most importantly, ideological – is the first step towards securing an acceptable outcome. The fight against terrorism is as complex as the support structures of terrorism, and will have to be extended into the areas of ideology, social structures, finance, coalitions and affiliations, development and various aspects of the international economic and political order. There is, in this, no ‘either-or’ conflict between military and non-military means. Military means will remain necessary to contain the immediate threat and impact of terrorism. In the absence of such a response, successive waves of terror will simply demolish the structures of governance and order in target societies, undermining and eventually eliminating even the possibility of non-military solutions. Excessive emphasis on military means, to the exclusion of all others, however, will always leave a residual potential for revival. The world will have to adopt a composite, balanced and graded response to all facets of terrorism, its support structures, and its underlying motives and incentives.

4. Pakistan: A Frontline State?

    1. Pakistan has been declared, by the US, as a ‘frontline state’ in the Global War on Terror and, by virtue of its geographical location, it is certainly located on the ‘frontline’ of what the US currently conceives of as the primary locus of terrorism. The unanswered question, however, is which side of the battlelines does it stand on? The ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks and the subsequent and critically fluid response strategies have not resulted in any perceptible change in Pakistan’s policies with regard to India, and there is no evidence that the Pakistani jehad in J&K has been reversed, or even diluted. Pakistan’s raison d etre remains inexorably tied to the ideologies of hatred and religious exclusion that led to its creation as a separate nation over half a century ago, and there is little indication that Pakistan has, despite apparent US pressure, chosen to alter the ideologies that defined the perverted course of its history.

    2. Unfortunately, Western perspectives have yet to come to terms in full measure with what they have known for decades, and what they have found to be politically or strategically expedient to deny. In the foreseeable future, it is more than likely that Pakistan would continue its present agenda of bleeding India. Indeed, Pakistan may even reduce the relative levels of terrorist violence in J&K, even as it initiates lethal terrorist attacks at metropolitan centres such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, etc. A shift in the pattern of violence from Kashmir to other centres would offer Pakistan greater ‘deniability’, and enable it to argue that Indian Muslims have been pushed to a point of no return by the government’s ‘atrocities’. However, such a shift in strategies should not be perceived as a radical departure or even as a ‘nuanced’ reorientation of the jehadi agenda. It lies entirely within the paradigm that has been sustained since the Zia-ul-Haq regime, and has progressively translated itself into the Islamist fundamentalist agenda in the region. As Fazl-ur-Rahman, Chief of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), expressed it, "Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Washington are the real targets of Militants. Muslims should co-operate with militants for dominance of Islam in the world."

    3. Apprehensions that the current military operation in Afghanistan and turmoil in Pakistan will result in increased cross-border infiltration of terrorists are not misplaced. Recent reports indicate that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), has shut down or transferred terrorists from nearly a dozen terrorist training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and planned to push these terrorists into India through the Line of Control and international borders in J&K, Punjab and Rajasthan. Moreover, the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan has released a large number of terrorists from that theatre. At least part of this dispersal may seek shelter and relocate their terrorist operations on Indian Territory.

    4. It is within this context that the US strategies of response have to be assessed. The conventional ‘pick and drop’ Cold War stratagem has been revitalised in the new ‘great game’ that is being played out in familiar geographical terrain, and this represents a crucial failure of critical understanding. Pakistan and its ISI, with their deep and continuous involvement in Afghanistan and with the Taliban, have, it was argued, the most ‘reliable’ intelligence that could help locate America’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden and his network of terrorist camps. Pakistan was, consequently, cast in the unlikely role of a ‘frontline state’ in the war against terrorism. The fact is, it has long been the frontline state sponsor of terrorism in this region. Any objective assessment of the internal conditions and long-term policies of the Pakistani State would demonstrate a fundamental and irreducible opposition between what that country’s ruling elite perceives as its strategic interests, and those of the emerging alliance against terrorism. This implies that the US reliance on Pakistan could be one of the worst strategic blunders for a multiplicity of reasons. Even as US Forces were deeply engaged in Afghanistan, there was continuing evidence of continued Pakistani military presence there in support of the Taliban, as well as the ongoing mobilisation of Islamist fundamentalist forces from J&K, PoK and within Pakistan. There was at least some evidence to suggest that these forces were actively, if ‘unofficially’, being encouraged to join forces with the Taliban.

    5. Pakistan’s ambivalence is evident in the ‘neutralisation’20 of three senior Islamist Army commanders reportedly sympathetic to the Taliban who were superseded or sidelined with great publicity. The most significant of these changes was the removal of Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmad, Director General of the ISI, who had extensive linkages with the Taliban regime. Gen. Ahmad, who was in the US during the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks, also led a delegation of Pakistani mullahs (clerics) to Afghanistan apparently to negotiate Osama bin Laden’s surrender. Reports from Islamabad indicated that instead of asking for bin Laden to be handed over unconditionally, Gen. Ahmed praised the efforts of Taliban Chief, Mullah Mohammed Omar, in his fight against the ‘Great Satan’,21 and advised him on ways to counter Washington’s planned offensive. Media reports also indicate that the US administration had complained to Pakistan that Gen. Ahmad was not providing the US with real-time intelligence inputs that were crucial to track bin Laden, despite a firm commitment in this regard during his recent visit to Washington.22 After his dismissal, Ahmad is said to have crossed over into Afghanistan to continue to advise the Taliban regime on the course of the war, and there are at least some suggestions that his dismissal was, in fact, intended to facilitate such a role. Indeed, Ahmad’s linkages with the Taliban represent a continuation of the Pakistan covert and overt terrorist agenda in the region. As Shireen Mazari noted, "So obsessed is the [Pakistani] military with ensuring the military success of the Taliban that it is dragging Pakistan into a confrontation the country does not need and cannot afford."23

    6. Amidst the increasingly volatile anti-US protests in various parts of Pakistan during the initial phase of the Afghan campaign, the religious leadership had appealed to the Muslims of the world to be prepared for waging a jehad against the US and its allies. The attacks on Afghanistan, they asserted, cannot be considered to be an intervention in an individual Islamic country but are a direct and open aggression on the Islamic world. Reports from various parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan indicated that that hundreds of youth had left for Afghanistan to join the Taliban militia in the ‘holy war’ against the US and its allies, 24and thousands of others were in readiness to do so. The Jamaat-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) had claimed that hundreds of thousands of people had ‘volunteered’ to fight against US ground forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani media reports indicated that cadres of the JUI, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and the Pakistan Afghanistan25 Defence Council (PADC), occupied footpaths and street corners where they exhorted the local populace for jehad and to mobilise donations for their Afghan campaign.26 Announcements in this regard were also made over loudspeakers from mosques and camps set up on highways. The Fazlur Rahman faction of the JUI is reported to have received more than Rs 3 million in cash from the tribal areas alone.27 The JUI (Fazlur), a staunch supporter of the Taliban regime, reportedly established approximately 1,000 camps in tribal areas and in 24 districts of the NWFP, where cadres recruited ‘volunteers’ for jehad and collected donations. Haji Jalil Jan, Provincial Deputy General Secretary of the JUI (Fazlur), indicating that his party had prepared lists of jehadis at district level and in tribal areas, added that the Taliban regime had, however, advised the party leadership not to send more jehadis to Afghanistan unless the US landed its ground forces in the country. 28

    7. In Malakand division, the Tehreek-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), led by Sufi Muhammad, had announced that in case an attack was launched on Afghanistan from Pakistan, jehad would be launched against the Pakistan government. Sufi Muhammad said that TNSM activists would join the Taliban militia in a ‘holy war’ against the ‘infidels’. "Preparations for jehad have started already and the registration of youth has commenced throughout the Malakand division." 29

    8. The concentration of madrassas (religious seminaries), run by the pro-Taliban Jamaat-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), factions of Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, in the NWFP also mobilised strong opposition to the air strikes on Afghanistan. The academic sessions in the religious schools had ended at the time of the initiation of the US campaign, and students, mostly Afghans, were ready to leave for Afghanistan. Elders and religious leaders from Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber, North Waziristan and South Waziristan agencies also supported the JuI. At a meeting at Darul-ul Uloom Zargari in Hangu, they had vowed to work under the leadership of Maulana Fazlur Rahman to prepare people for jehad in Afghanistan.

    9. Religious parties were reported to have initiated a vigorous recruitment drive to enlist young men to fight alongside the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.30 News sources indicated that the Taliban had requested Deobandi groups in Pakistan to send in approximately 500,000 volunteers before the anticipated US ground campaign commenced. Long queues of potential recruits were witnessed at various madrassas in Pakistan. In Karachi, approximately a dozen mosques and madrassas, especially the Binori Town seminary, the largest Deobandi madrassa in Pakistan, were at the forefront of the enlistment drive. The clergy at the Binori Seminary, including Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, are considered very close to the Taliban Chief, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Shamzai was also the leader of a delegation, which the former Director General of the ISI, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Mahmud, took to Kandahar in an apparent attempt to impress upon Mullah Omar to hand over bin Laden to the US authorities. Maulana Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) Chief also maintains close linkages with the Binori clergy. In fact, the first visuals of Azhar’s release consequent to the terrorist-hostages swap at Kandahar were of his arrival at the Binori mosque. Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, on September 18, 2001, gave a call for Jehad to defend Afghanistan if the US launched attacks against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Shamzai said in his fatwa "If non-Muslim forces attack Afghanistan, it would be the religious duty of every Muslim to fight jihad side by side with their Afghan brothers." In a direct warning to Pakistan, he said Muslim countries that supported an attack against Afghanistan by non-Muslim forces would lose their authority under Islam.

    10. Primarily, it is a version (or perversion) of the Deobandi creed that forms the religious and ideological base for both JeM as also the Taliban. In fact, the Taliban movement was launched by students of the same network of JUI-run madrassas, which are the JeM’s parent organisations. The leader of the JUI, Maulana Samiul Haq, a former member of the National Assembly and Senate and whose madrassa – Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania – was an important training base for the Taliban leadership. According to Ahmed Rashid, "In 1999, at least eight Taliban cabinet ministers in Kabul were graduates of Haq's madrassa and dozens more served as Taliban governors in the provinces, military commanders, judges and bureaucrats." The intensity of the Haqqania madrassa enlistment is elucidated by Rashid: "In February 1999, the madrassa had a staggering 15,000 applicants for some 400 new places making it the most popular madrassa in northern Pakistan." Indeed, Rashid quotes Samiul Haq to indicate the Taliban-Madrassa nexus: "Before 1994, I did not know Mullah Omar because he had not studied in Pakistan, but those around him were all Haqqania students and came to see me frequently to discuss what to do. I advised them not to set up a party because the ISI was still trying to play one Mujaheddin party against the other in order to keep them divided. I told them to start a student movement. When the Taliban movement began I told the ISI, ‘let the students take over Afghanistan’". Haq, according to Rashid, was in constant touch with Mullah Omar and assisted him in dealing with ‘international relations’ and also offered advice on important Sharia decisions. He was also the principal organiser for the recruitment of Pakistani students to fight for the Taliban. An instance of the deeper involvement is evident when "after the Taliban defeat in Mazar in 1997 he (Haq) received a telephone call from Omar asking for help. Haq shut down his madrassa and sent his entire student body to fight alongside the Taliban. And after the battle for Mazar in 1998, Haq organised a meeting between Taliban leaders and 12 madrassas in the NWFP to organise reinforcements for the Taliban army. All the madrassas agreed to shut down for one month and send 8,000 students to Afghanistan. The help the Taliban receive from Pakistan’s Deobandi madrassas is an important level of support they can rely upon, quite apart from the government and the intelligence agencies." JUI's fate has been intricately linked to the presence or absence of a Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban rose from madrassas run by the JUI to capture a country bereft of a central authority. Consequently, they also revived JUI politically. The Islamist revanchist backlash, which became more pronounced after the US air strikes, assumed critical dimensions vis-à-vis the various liberal forces within Pakistan. Groupings that had strong linkages with the Taliban regime were in the lead in the demonstrations and riots that occurred in various parts of Pakistan after ‘9/11’.

    11. The danger in Pakistan has gradually escalated over the past decade, as it becomes increasingly uncertain whether its leadership is "master or victim" of the militant fundamentalism it fuelled for its campaign against the Russian presence in Afghanistan through the 1980s, and continues to stoke in pursuit of its strategic ambitions in Kashmir, despite recent and cosmetic changes under US pressure. Ahmed Rashid notes the devastating potential of Pakistan’s flirtations with ‘fundamentalist’ mass mobilization:

    12. In the late 1990s the repercussions were much more pervasive, undermining all the institutions of the state… law and order broke down as Islamic militants enacted their own laws and a new breed of anti-Shia Islamic radicals, who were given sanctuary by the Taliban, killed hundreds of Pakistani Shias between 1996 and 1999. This sectarian bloodshed is now fuelling a much wider rift between Pakistan’s Sunni majority and Shia minority and undermining relations between Pakistan and Iran. At the same time, over 80,000 Pakistani Islamic militants have trained and fought with the Taliban since 1994. They form a hardcore of Islamic activists, ever ready to carry out a similar Taliban-style Islamic revolution in Pakistan.

    13. Pakistan’s entire posture has been based on ‘deniability’ of its support to terrorism. Thus, their public posture proclaims their firm opposition to terrorism, even as they fund, support and encourage it with unprecedented vigour. This duplicity has been possible because the Western nations have found it expedient, for their own misconceived strategic goals, to pretend that there was insufficient ‘evidence’ of Pakistan’s involvement in the past. In fact, this posture is very similar to what the Taliban did with the Americans: proclaiming loudly that there was no evidence, or no sufficient evidence to act against bin Laden. Interestingly, after the Pakistan leadership publicly accepted – under mounting US pressure – that there was, in fact, sufficient prima facie evidence against bin Laden, the Taliban stand shifted, and they asserted that, even if evidence was given, bin Laden could not be handed over to the US. The demand for evidence, here, is no more than an obstructive device, unrelated to any principled quest for the truth or for the protection of rights. This, precisely, has been the Western position in the past, where the reality – for instance of the proxy war in J&K – that had been documented and acknowledged by the intelligence agencies of these countries, was deliberately ignored since it was erroneously believed to constitute no direct threat to Western interests. The Black Tuesday attacks in New York and Washington changed this in significant measure.

    14. Pakistan is currently in an extremely difficult situation, and there is a process of violent internal churning that is being built up. Given the history of that country, it is possible that it will seek to cope with these internal pressures by trying to focus attention elsewhere – by provoking greater violence in Kashmir and other parts of India. There are, of course, grave risks involved in such adventurism, far greater than ever before. In order to maintain deniability, Pakistan may, in fact, increasingly direct its covert war away from Kashmir, and into other parts of India, especially the metropolii and various areas where it has already penetrated and established cells.

5. The Assembly Lines of Jehad

    1. South Asia comprises the largest concentration of Muslims in the world, with over 395 million people professing Islam as their Faith. Indeed, India has the second largest population of Muslims – after Indonesia – for any country in the world: nearly 142 million.

    2. As a region, South Asia has a long history, both of communal confrontation and violence, on the one hand, and of co-existence within an eclectic culture that has accepted differences, on the other. This dualism is ingrained in the unique and diverse set of practices and beliefs that particularly comprise Indian Islam – and at some point of time, also comprised sub-continental Islam. There is, consequently, a clear note of caution that must be sounded here. There has been a long and widely acknowledged process of the demonisation of Islam over the years – indeed, perhaps over the centuries. John Esposito rightly warns against "the temptation to view Islam through the prism of religious extremism and terrorism," and identifies the "demonisation of a great religious tradition due to the perverted actions of a minority of dissident and distorted voices" as "the real threat."

    3. The total strength of extremist Islamist terrorists in India would number a few thousand in a population of 142 million. The number of those who sympathise with their cause would certainly be many times greater, and those who are ambivalent in their responses could be a significant proportion of the total population. The fact, however, remains that even the sum of all these would only be a very small fraction of those who seek to live in peace, within the culture of coexistence that has become the essence of the Indian Weltanschauung.

    4. This is not the case with India alone. Even in Pakistan, the country marked by the most rabid and widespread extremism in this region, the constituency of militant Islam is small in proportion to the total population, and this has repeatedly been borne out in the occasional elections that have been held in that country between its extended periods of military rule. Despite decades of military patronage, a continuous flow of governmental and international funding, and a political discourse dominated by Islam, the electoral performance of religious ‘fundamentalist’ political parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and the Jamaat-e-Ulema Pakistan (JUP), has been dismal. In 1988, they won 11 seats out of 207 in the National Assembly, claiming a mere 6.6 per cent of the vote. In 1990, they slipped down to 10 seats, with 5.4 per cent of the vote. In 1993, the Pakistan Islamic Front (PIF), headed by the JEI, bagged 3 seats, and electoral support for all religious parties was a bleak 3 per cent. The JEI and the JUP boycotted the 1997 elections, and two seats were returned in the National Assembly to the JUI (Fazlur Rahman faction) that participated.

    5. This said, it must also be emphasized in the strongest terms possible that moderate Islam is, today, under deep, penetrating and sustained attack in every concentration of Muslim populations throughout South Asia, and there is a ‘hardening’ of beliefs that may lend itself to the extremist jehad in an uncertain future. The demonisation of Islam is loudly protested, both by neutral scholars and by the apologists for extremist Islam. But, there is a neglect of an even more vicious process of the demonization of all other Faiths and nations among the people of Islam – and this goes beyond the ‘Great Satan’, America, or the ‘Brahminical conspiracy’ of ‘Hindustan’, or the visceral anti-Semitism of the Arabs, to embrace all Kafirs or non-Muslims, and also all Muslims who do not conform to the perverse vision of extremist Islam. There is a profound ideology of hatred that is being fervently propagated through the institutions of Islam, particularly the madrassas or religious schools and seminaries that are proliferating rapidly across South Asia and is winning many ardent converts. As stated before, these are still a minority among South Asia’s Muslims; but this is a vocal, armed, well-supported, extremely violent and growing minority. The majority, by contrast, has tended to passivity and conciliation, and there is little present evidence of the courage of conviction or of the will for any moderate Islamist resistance to the rampage of extremist Islam.

    6. What Pakistan achieved in Afghanistan was, indeed, extraordinary. The ‘tactic of a thousand cuts’ produced such an unbearable ‘haemorrhaging of men and money’, that the wounded Soviet superpower eventually withdrew before what the world had thought of as a rag-tag army of ‘the lunatics of Allah’. The billions of dollars and the unlimited supplies of arms and ammunition that were pumped in by an unlikely coalition of backers, the unrelated unravelling of a corrupt Soviet system, and the fact that it was the Afghans themselves who did most of the fighting, cannot detract from the triumph of the Pakistani architects of the ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan.

    7. This is the second tainted triumph that has brought inconceivable misfortune upon Pakistan. The first occurred when it was forged as a separate nation out of a philosophy of hatred and exclusion, an ideology that denied the possibility of the coexistence of communities with any significant differences of culture, belief or values under a single political order. Less than three per cent of the population of Pakistan now comprises non-Muslims, and the proportion declines each year. But, the intolerance and the rage that created the nation must constantly find new enemies. It was this bigotry that resulted in its first dismemberment and the creation of Bangladesh. It is the same malevolence that seeks out new victims among subgroups of the Muslims themselves – such as the Ahmadiyas and the Shias. Today, as sectarian divisions inevitably compound themselves, every regional and cultural group in Pakistan – the Punjabis, the Sindhis, the Pashtuns, the Baluchis and the Mohajirs – sees the other as an enemy.

    8. This is the fractious milieu within which General Zia-ul-Haq created the Taliban, and to which they victoriously returned after establishing their ‘control’ over most of Afghanistan. Olivier Roy succinctly defined the Frankenstienian dilemma that confronts Pakistan:

    9. The apparent victor, Pakistan, could pay dearly for its success. The triumph of the Taliban has virtually eliminated the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. On both sides, Pashtun tribes are slipping towards fundamentalism and becoming increasingly implicated in drug trafficking. They are gaining autonomy, already small fundamentalist tribal emirates are appearing on Pakistani soil. The de facto absorption of Afghanistan will accentuate centrifugal tendencies within Pakistan.

    10. At the heart of the crisis is the network of increasingly powerful marakiz (centres) and madrassas that has now established itself as the source, not only of international ‘pan-Islamic’ terrorism, but of an overwhelming proportion of internal strife as well. Its roots can be traced back to General Zia-ul-Haq’s vigorous use of Islam as a tool of regime legitimization, a trend that was first introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1971, and that has been variously reinforced by every succeeding regime. The growth of these madrassas is, indeed, an accurate index of Pakistan’s mounting difficulties. In 1947, there were 137 madrassas in the entire country. By 1971, this number had grown to 900. But, with Zia’s policy of generously funding "madrassas of all sectarian persuasions…. by the end of the Zia era in 1988, there were 8,000 madrassas and 25,000 unregistered ones, educating over half a million students. As Pakistan’s state-run educational system steadily collapsed, these madrassas became the only avenue for boys from poor families to receive the semblance of an education." Sources indicate that by the middle of the year 2000, the number of madrassas had grown to nearly 9,500, and some commentators in Pakistan estimate the current number of unregistered madrassas at between 40,000 and 50,000.

    11. The mind-blunting curriculum of most of these madrassas entirely neglects all branches of secular instruction, including the basics of mathematics and science, and comprises 16 long years of purely theological education, recitation of the Quran, Fiqah (interpretation of the Sharia), and indoctrination for jihad. The inevitable consequence of such an education has been the chronic "inability to produce reality-based theories of change", extraordinarily narrow and exclusionary perspectives, and deepening sectarian divisions that spill over into increasing violence. With an estimated 60 per cent of funding emanating from abroad, these schisms are magnified further by the ideological and strategic contests of foreign funding agencies and states. Afzaal Mahmood, for instance, notes that, "By allowing Iran and Saudi Arabia to fund, influence and use some sectarian organisations of their liking, we have virtually encouraged Teheran and Riyadh to fight a proxy war on the soil of Pakistan, with serious consequences for sectarian harmony and law and order in the country." Funds have also come from Libya, Iraq and several other Gulf countries, creating an intricately nuanced web of conflict. Shia and Sunni madrassas have spawned rival terrorist forces that visit gratuitous slaughter on sectarian rivals – most prominently, the Sunni outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP); and the Shia outfits Tehreek-e-Jafaria Pakistan (TJP) and Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP). There is also a deep schism between Sunni Deobandi and Barelvi madrassas, and a large number of Ahle Hadis madrassas have also emerged recently in Baluchistan, Sindh and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Most sectarian bombings and shootouts originate from or occur at mosques housing these schools, and significant proportions of those killed are madrassa students. Patterns of international rivalry are also visible in the some retaliatory killings. Thus, Iranian diplomat, Sadiq Ganji, was gunned down in Lahore following the assassination of SSP founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi in March 1990. Similarly, the 1997 assassination of Jhangvi’s successor, Zia-ur-Rehman Farooqi and 26 others in a bomb blast at the Lahore Sessions Court, saw the alleged revenge killing of Iranian diplomat Muhammad Ali Rahimi and six others in an attack on the Iranian Cultural Center at Multan.

    12. Sectarian violence is, however, a relatively minor consequence of the proliferation of madrassas. Their primary output has been the export of international extremist Islamist terrorism, and this has created enormous internal concentrations of armed, trained and indoctrinated irregular (terrorist) forces who, at some point of time or the other, may have been supported by the government through the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) that oversaw the Afghan campaign, and that currently guides the export of terror into Jammu & Kashmir and other theatres across the world, but who do not acknowledge the power of the government to define their long-term goals and objectives. Their allegiance is commanded by the various ‘spiritual leaders’ who run madrassas that have acquired extraordinary notoriety over the past years, both as hotbeds of terrorism and as the spawning ground of the Afghani Taliban. It is here that a ‘theology of rage’ is taught, and the Talib (student) exhorted to practice a ‘sacred violence’ that is his greatest duty in Islam. These institutions include most prominently the Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqani at Akora Khattak; the Markaz-ad-Da’awa-wal-Irshad (MDI) at Muridke; the Jamiat-ul-Uloom Islamia Madrassa in Karachi; the Dar-ul-Uloom, Pashtoonabad; the Dar-ul-Iftah-ul-Irshad, Nazimabad; and the Ahle-Sunnat-wal Jamaat madrassa at Rawalpindi. Many of these institutions run a multiplicity of schools across the country – the Markaz-ad-Da’awa-wal-Irshad, for instance, had 137 madrassas by late 2000. These, however, are only a sampling, the visible tip of the iceberg, and there are hundreds of less known ‘Jihad factories’ – the ‘supply line for jihad’ – that indoctrinate their students and give them ‘military’ training, both for the sectarian war, and for international terrorism.

    13. The apparatus of training for terrorism reflects the same curious dualism and principal-agent conflict that characterises the growth of the madrassas. A number of training camps, especially those that fuel the terrorist movement in J&K, have long been run by the Army and the ISI; most, however, function with various degrees of autonomy under the charge of quasi-independent extremist Islamist institutions and groupings; and even where active state support is lacking, their activities are fully tolerated on Pakistani soil. Occasional difficulties did, of course, crop up – and the Taliban in Afghanistan had willingly provided sanctuary and space to armed groups whose sectarian activities may have passed beyond Islamabad’s levels of declared tolerance, and whose sectarian orientation was in conformity with their own. This may have been a highly collusive and convenient arrangement, and Pakistan had, at least on occasion, found it opportune to relocate specific training camps in Afghanistan when international pressure becomes excessive. This, for instance, happened in 1992-93, when Pakistan feared that the US would declare it a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in J&K. In response, Pakistan simply moved most of its Kashmiri militant groups to bases in eastern Afghanistan, and by ‘privatising’ its support to the Kashmiri mujaheddin, made the Islamic parties responsible for their training and funding. The shift was temporary, and while a number of camps continued to function in Afghanistan till the US campaign commenced, there was a proliferation within Pakistan as well, and one estimate in late 2000 placed the number of existing terrorist training camps in Pakistan at 128. This is, however, a fluctuating figure, and the location of many of these camps is frequently changed. Various sources and agencies have identified a significant number of such camps over the years, and they extended from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), through Pakistan, to Afghanistan.

    14. The ‘privatisation’ of these camps and of the jehadi armies, however, had disastrous consequences, and there was mounting evidence of a loss of control as the autonomous religious groups challenged, not only their Army and ISI handlers, but the government itself. No clear division now exists between various social, political, religious and terrorist organisations; and most groups that have actively participated in street violence and acts of terrorism, both within Pakistan and abroad, are also openly active on Pakistan’s political landscape. There has, moreover, been increasing penetration by extremist Islamist elements into Pakistan’s Army, and elements of ‘Islamisation’ have been introduced into the Army’s training programs at various levels. In 1992, the then Prime Minister appointed a well-known Tablighi (congregationist), Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, as the Director General of the all-powerful ISI. General Pervez Musharraf’s military regime, moreover, lacks the capabilities and support to contain the extremist elements and has, on more than one occasion, been forced to back off on policies and reforms in the face of Islamist opposition. The cumulative impact of nearly two and a half decades of ‘Islamisation’ has now put in doubt the Army’s ability – indeed, will – to suppress the extremist Islamist forces in case of an open confrontation with government, and it is apparent that at least some sections within the Army would side with the extremists if such an eventuality emerged.

    15. Such a confrontation now appears increasingly probable. The madrassas and the mujahiddeen are committed to the establishment of a ‘Taliban style’ government for Pakistan, and some of the groups recently put Pervez Musharraf’s military regime on notice to establish ‘Islamic rule’ in the country, or to face the consequences. Maulana Samiul Haq, the chief of his own faction of the JUI, speaking at the Jamia Ashrafia at Peshawar in January 2001, declared that both the so-called democratic and martial law regimes had been tested and had failed to deliver, and that, consequently, only the Islamic Sharia could ‘solve the problems faced by the masses.’ Maulana Jalil Jan, the provincial leader of the JUI (F) added that, if the government failed to implement Islamic Sharia, the ‘religious students will resort to the use of force to do the same’.

    16. Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI through critical periods of the Agency’s campaign in Afghanistan, shares the vision of the Islamist fundamentalists and argues that "Pakistan will go through its own version of an Islamic revolution…. The army is the last hope. And if the army fails – and it probably will – then people will realise they will have to do it themselves, revolt against the system… Because everything else in this country has failed, Islam will have to lead the way."

    17. It seems clear that, unless current trends are radically and immediately reversed, it is only a matter of time before Pakistan is sucked into the turmoil of an Afghanistan-like anarchy.

6. The Web of Terror: Erosion & Encirclement

    1. Among the primary targets of the armies of mujahiddeen, and their suicidal hard core, the fidayeen, who pour out of the madrassas and Pakistani terrorist training camps, is the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), though recent events may gradually induce a shift in strategy, with increasing terrorist incidents in various metropolitan areas in India. It is significant, in this context, that the leadership of the terrorist movement in J&K passed out of the hands of local militants, into groups created by and based in Pakistan as far back as in 1993, when the most powerful terrorist group indigenous to the State, the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chose to give up arms and seek a ‘political solution’ to its grievances. The JKLF still demands Kashmiri ‘Independence’, but is strongly opposed to any amalgamation with Pakistan. The Pakistan-based groups, quite naturally, are far more amenable to a merger with that country.

    2. Terrorist groupings enjoyed substantial mass support, particularly in the Kashmir Valley, as long as the movement for secession remained indigenous. Progressively, however, a process of disillusionment with the activities of Pakistan sponsored militants has combined with exhaustion to diminish this base, and terrorism is now sustained purely on inputs – ideologies, material, and increasing numbers of men – from across the border. The terrorist groups currently most active in the State are each headquartered in Pakistan, and include the Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen (HM), linked to the JeI in Pakistan; Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the armed wing of the Markaz-ad-Da’awa-wal-Irshad; the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami (HuJI) and the Harkat-ul-Mujahiddeen (formerly the Harkat-ul-Ansar), linked to the JUI, the Pakistan Tablighi Jamaat and to the Hizb-e-Islami of Afghanistan; Al Badr; and the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). There are another score of minor and dormant groupings, also located in Pakistan. The umbrella Muttahida Jehad Council co-ordinates the activities of 13 of the most prominent terrorist factions.

    3. The years 1997, 1998 and the first half of 1999 had seen a gradual decline in violence and fatalities in J&K, but there was a radical escalation after the Kargil War of May-July 1999. The trends underwent a further deterioration after two cease-fires – the first announced unilaterally by the Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen in July 2000, and the second, again unilaterally, by the Indian Prime Minister, A B Vajpayee, in November 2000 – as the possibility of an emerging peace process threatened the entrenched interests and ideological ambitions of the extremist Islamist groups in Pakistan, and of their official sponsors there. A total of 30,275 persons had died in this conflict between 1988 and 2001. These include 11,377 civilians, 15,246 terrorists, and 4,102 security force (SF) personnel. Among the civilian fatalities, 8,712 (nearly 85 per cent) have been Muslims. [Graphs 1, 2 & 3]



      Graph 3

    5. Significantly, the proportion of foreign mercenaries and mujahiddeen involved in the militancy in the State has been steadily rising, from a mere 6 per cent in 1992 to an estimated 55 per cent today. A majority of these are drawn from Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). There is also a limited engagement of the ‘Afghan Alumni’, and terrorists from Afghanistan and at least 11 other countries have been identified in Kashmir. The number of foreign terrorists killed in J&K has risen steadily since 1991, when their activities were first noticed in the State, and particularly after 1993, when the main indigenous militant group, the JKLF, came overground:

    6. Year


























      Table 1: Foreign Militants Killed in J&K

      (Source: Institute for Conflict Management)

    7. The conflict in Kashmir has been substantially documented in the context of Pakistan’s strategy and "overriding interest… to achieve internal security by provoking instability among its neighbors." There is, however, comparatively little understanding of the extremist or pan-Islamist agenda in the rest of South Asia, and of its integral links to the strategies and tactics that prepared the ground for terrorism in Kashmir.

    8. As with much of South Asia, the culture and religious practices of the Muslims of Kashmir had little in common with the rigid and distorted version of Wahabbi Islam – with its ideological source in Saudi Arabia – that is the dominant ideological force among contemporary extremist Islamists. Kashmiri Islam was seeped with the mysticism and values of the devotional Sufi order, and the Kashmir Valley was, indeed, held up as a unique and inspirational example of secular values at the time of Partition and Independence, and in the decades that followed. The emergence of terrorism in the State was preceded by decades of religious mobilisation and reorientation centred primarily in the mosques in the Valley. When terror broke out in the late 1980s, it was the mosques and the madrassas that provided the motivation, the moral sanction, and the initial impetus, not only to the violence, but to the near complete ethnic cleansing of the Valley of its Kashmiri Pandit minority. It is interesting that, among the priority targets of the terrorists was the network of secular school, most of which were shut down under threat, especially in rural areas. This progressively forced the children into the only surviving ‘educational’ institution – the madrassa – the ‘schools of hate’ that created new ‘supply lines’ for jihad.

    9. There is today, a sustained effort – with mixed results – to replicate these processes of religious mobilisation and an extremist Islamist reorientation throughout South Asia. In India, while there have been several political factors and events contributing to higher levels of communal polarisation, general communal conflict – expressed in the incidence of communal riots – has been on a decline. Political parties are yet to abandon the electoral strategy of exploiting religious sentiments and insecurities, but the mass base and credibility of those who seek to do so has suffered steady erosion. Nevertheless, the intent and strategy of Pakistan’s covert agencies and extremist religious groupings is increasingly apparent in a wide range of activities intended to provoke communal confrontations, engineer terrorist incidents, and recruit soldiers for a pan-Islamist jihad in pockets of Muslim populations across India. A process of ‘encirclement’ and massive demographic shifts that deepen the danger compound these initiatives, particularly along India's eastern borders.

    10. During a three-day annual congregation of the members of the Markaz-ad-Da’awa-wal-Irshad at Muridke near Lahore on February 6, 2000, the Amir (Chief) of the Markaz, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, declared that Kashmir was a ‘gateway to capture India’ and that it was the aim of the Markaz and its military wing, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, to engineer India’s disintegration. Saeed added that his organisation’s campaign in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) and Junagadh (Gujarat) were among the highest priorities. Abdul Rahman Makki, the LeT’s ideologue, expanded on this theme, proclaiming that the group had opened a new unit in Hyderabad to liberate the Indian city from "un-Islamic Indian rule". These declarations are, at once, an expression of the pan-Islamist ambitions shared by all extremist Islamist groups operating in the region, and a reiteration of Pakistan’s larger strategy of destabilisation beyond the scope of the supposed ‘core issue’ of Kashmir.

    11. Within this larger design was a series of 13 bomb blasts in various churches in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa between May and July 2000, executed by an obscure Islamist sect created in 1924, the Deendar Anjuman. The Anjuman is headed by Zia-ul-Hassan – the son of the Anjuman’s founder – who is based in Peshawar, Pakistan, where the sect goes by the name Anjuman Hizbullah. Hassan is also said to have floated a militant organisation, the Jamat-e-Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen in Pakistan, in order to ‘capture India and spread Islam’. Intelligence sources indicate that Hassan is bankrolled by the ISI, and the Indian Union Home Minister stated in Parliament that investigators had established linkages between the Deendar Anjuman and Pakistan’s covert intelligence agency. Investigations have exposed a network of the Anjuman’s subversive activities extending across several small towns and urban centres, including Nuzvid, Atmakur, Kurukunda, Palem, Vijayawada, Khammam and Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh; and Batakurki, Ramdurg and Hubli in Karnataka.

    12. Another series of 19 explosions had earlier, on February 14, 1998, left over 50 dead and more than 200 injured in the Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu. While the Al Umma group, founded by S A Basha, was blamed, investigations and subsequent arrests exposed the involvement of a wide network of extremist Islamist organisations across South India. These included the Indian Muslim Mohammadi Mujahideen, the Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen, the Jihad Committee in Tamil Nadu; and the Islamic Sevak Sangh, subsequently banned and revived as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), headed by Abdul Nasser Madani, in Kerala. ISI agents involved, included Azam Ghauri (who was subsequently killed in an encounter with the police at Jagityal, Karimnagar District, Andhra Pradesh, on April 6, 2000), Saleem Junaid, Farooq Ahmed and Mohammad Mansoor.

    13. The first major bomb blast in Tamil Nadu occurred in 1993 when the RSS office was blown up in Chennai. It was reported that Islamist fundamentalist groups, which had been proliferating, had masterminded the blast. The immediate causal factor for the proliferation is traced to the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992. The Tamil Nadu police stumbled on an important lead when they arrested a person, Imam Ali, in the Mettupalayam forests in 1994. Imam Ali was found to be imparting training in explosives to four youth. He reportedly confessed that he had been training Islamist fundamentalists. According to intelligence sources in Coimbatore, Kashmiri militants may also have trained Imam Ali. Certain letters recovered from him pointed towards linkages in Bangladesh. Three bomb blasts were subsequently reported on different trains in Tamil Nadu and Kerala on December 6, 1997, and pamphlets recovered from the incident site pointed to the involvement of the Islamic Defence Force (IDF). Ten members of two Islamist fundamentalist groups were chargesheeted on October 5, 1998, for a bomb blast on a Coimbatore-bound train on December 6, 1997. The IDF also claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that occurred under the Anna flyover in Chennai on January 10, 1998. This was followed by another blast in a rice mill at Thanjavur on February 8, 1998. Police investigations revealed that Abdul Khader, son of the mill owner, Abdul Hameed, was connected to Muslim fundamentalist organisations.

    14. The professed objective of such Islamist outfits, aided by Pakistan, vis-à-vis India is to ‘liberate’ the Muslims, not only of Jammu and Kashmir, but the rest of India, from ‘Hindu control’, and to establish ‘two more independent homelands’ for the Muslims of the sub-continent – one in North India and the other in the South. After Tamil Nadu and Kerala, their focus shifted to comprehend Andhra Pradesh as well. There has also been a considerable flow of funds to the Al Ummah of Tamil Nadu and its allied organisations in Kerala from Pakistan-based Islamist terror groups, possibly through the Gulf.

    15. The then Kerala Chief Minister E K Nayanar admitted in June 1998 that certain terrorist groups had been operating in his State. These included radical Islamist outfits such as the National Development Front (NDF), the Jamiyathul Ehsaniya, the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the Islamic Movement and the Al-Umma, whose base of operations covers Kozhikode, Malappuram and Thrissur districts. The arrest of the Peoples Democratic Party Chairman, Abdul Nasser Madani, for allegedly harbouring Al-Umma militants involved in the Coimbatore bomb blasts indicated a nexus between the PDP and the extremist outfits. Though Al-Umma has been active in Kerala, its roots and theatre of operations lie in Tamil Nadu. The free movement of people between these two states has helped Al-Umma activists to slip across and blend with the Muslim population of Malapuram.

    16. 13 NDF activists were arrested on September 6, 2001, while undergoing arms training at a college in Palakkad. Recent intelligence reports have reportedly indicated that the State is fast emerging as a haven for fundamentalist and subversive forces. Central intelligence agencies had reportedly apprised the State government regarding the Mumbai Mafia’s role in training NDF activists in areas such as Malapuram and Kasarkode.

    17. By far the most dramatic serial blasts engineered by the ISI took place in Bombay on March 12, 1993, and these revealed a unique pattern of operation that has gradually consolidated itself over the years – the use of organised criminal networks to execute terrorist strikes. Nearly 1,800 kilograms of RDX, and a large number of detonators and small arms, had been smuggled through the West Coast of India prior to these blasts, which killed over 300 persons and targeted critical commercial infrastructure, including the country’s largest stock exchange at Dalal Street. The explosions were executed by the notorious D-Company headed by Dawood Ibrahim. Ibrahim now lives under state protection in Karachi, and runs India’s largest criminal empire through aides located outside India, and primarily in the Middle East.

    18. Gujarat has currently become a significant centre for subversive activities by various Islamist fundamentalist organisations and Pakistan-sponsored terrorist outfits. Since 1992, the State’s borders with Pakistan, including the 1600 kilometre long coastline, has been subjected to incessant subversive activity by these outfits who utilise the State as a launch pad for various terrorist operations in the rest of India. Particularly, the Kutch region, Saurashtra and Junagadh have witnessed growing incidents of smuggling of arms and ammunition, as also narcotics and fake currency. The marshy area of the Rann of Kutch – the 512-kilometre border with Pakistan comprising several hundred smaller channels that merge into three large creeks (Sir Creek, Kori and Mainwari) – renders it uniquely vulnerable to smuggling with the help of small fishing boats called hodas. Smugglers and gunrunners from Mumbai and Dubai frequent this area. In the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992, the smuggling of RDX and other explosives began to be routed increasingly through the Gujarat coast to Porbander in the Saurashtra region. Indeed, a large cache that arrived through the border, passed through Bulsar in south Gujarat, and was subsequently trans-shipped to Mumbai, where it was used to engineer the serial blasts that killed more than 300 people and left thousands injured.

    19. In August 1995, security force personnel arrested 10 Pakistani nationals in the Kutch region. Six AK-47 rifles were also seized from their possession. The ISI has been able to set up well-organised bases in the State. For example, Abdul Ghani alias Assadullah, a Kashmiri terrorist collected RDX from Nepal and set up bases in Ahmedabad. He also supplied RDX for the Delhi and Dausa blasts of May 1996. The Gujarat police later arrested him in June 1996. On May 24, 1996, the State police arrested four Jammu and Kashmir-based terrorists who subsequently confessed that they had been sent by ‘Colonel Farooq’ of the ISI to set up a base in Ahmedabad. They also revealed that they had been asked to recruit youth in Gujarat and Maharashra for terrorist training in Pakistan. In March 1998, police killed six criminals allegedly belonging to the Dawood Ibrahim gang in the walled area of Ahmedabad, and seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition, including 10 kilograms of RDX. On March 24, 1998 a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from the Gandhinagar and Daryapur areas of Ahmedabad. The weapons were reportedly supplied by the ISI. In July 1999, six terrorists arrested in Ahmedabad confessed during their interrogation that the ISI had trained them in explosives handling in Pakistan. In the same month, two suspected ISI agents were arrested in

      Bhuj and 24 kg of RDX and two Chinese-made pistols were seized from their possession.

    20. On July 24, 2000, five suspected ISI agents were arrested in Sarwej. 25 Chinese-made pistols, five magazines, 200 rounds of ammunition and six kg of heroin and six AK-47 rifles were recovered from their possession. On April 2001, seven persons, including four arms-dealers allegedly having links with the ISI were arrested from various parts of the capital city, Ahmedabad. On May 27, 2001, a Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist was arrested with an AK-56 rifle at the Hajipir area of Rann of Kutch. During the course of interrogation, he is reported to have said that he had acquired training in terrorist activities at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), and had ‘sneaked into India for a special task’. This was the third case since March 2001 when the ISI sent armed terrorists into the Kutch region.

    21. The ISI is also trying to create communal tension with the help of fundamentalist outfits such as the recently proscribed SIMI. There has also been a proliferation of madrassas (religious seminaries) in the border areas. These madrassas are reportedly securing funds from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan as also from certain other Gulf countries. Available evidence suggests that the ISI is using the Gujarat border in its attempts to revive terrorism in Punjab. Official sources have indicated that the ISI had reportedly asked the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorists Wadhawa Singh and Mehal Singh, both located in Pakistan, to revive terrorism in Punjab. In January 2000, five terrorists of the BKI, with alleged links to the ISI, who were planning to launch major countrywide terrorist activities by making Gujarat their base, were arrested from the Narol area of Ahmedabad. Criminal underground networks have also been mobilised in this endeavour. Reports indicate that outfits like the Khalistan Zindabad Force (Punjwar faction), based in Sialkot, have also been instructed by the ISI to exploit the porous Gujarat border. In August 1999, Chhota Shakil of the Karachi-based Dawood Ibrahim gang is reported to have visited Kabul twice in order to place orders for arms and ammunition, as also to meet Osama bin Laden. As a result, a red-alert was sounded in the border areas, especially in the Rann of Kutch, which is considered to be a critical route for the Dawood gang’s arms traffickers. The carriers come from Karachi, cross the Kutch border into Gujarat and make their way to Ahmedabad, Dawood’s biggest base in India after Mumbai, from where their deadly contraband is distributed throughout the country.

    22. The ISI is also involved in circulating fake Indian currency across the Gujarat border. The Agency has set up a printing press at Sukkur where fake Indian currency notes are printed, and brought into the country via Shahgarh Budge near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan through Gujarat. In a single seizure on November 3, 1998, police recovered Rs. 2,749,700 worth of counterfeit currency from an aircraft coming from Sharjah to Jamnagar.

    23. The operational ISI units at Sialkot and Karachi have been co-ordinating the attempts of various terrorist outfits – Khalistani and Kashmiri – to breach the western coast of the country. At least three Islamist extremist / fundamentalist organisations – Lashkar-e-Toiba, Ahl-e-Hadis and Tablighi Jamat – are active in Kutch. Of late, the activities of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing have also been increasing in this thinly populated district.

    24. India’s Northeast is another interesting area of emerging Islamist militancy, and here it combines with major demographic shifts that hold significant dangers for the future stability of the region. Illegal migration on a large scale across the border from Bangladesh is the most potent single factor in the destabilisation of the Northeast. In November 1998, the Governor of Assam, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) S K Sinha, submitted a report to the Indian President, which estimated the total volume of this infiltration at six million people. Most of this increase was concentrated in a few areas, with a dramatic impact on the local demography and, hence, electoral politics. According to the report, four districts of Assam – Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Hailakandi – had been transformed into Muslim majority districts by 1991 as a result of this mass infiltration. Another two districts – Nagaon and Karimganj – would have had a Muslim majority since 1998 and yet another district, Morigaon, was fast approaching this position. This demographic destabilisation, combined with the widespread violence and political instability in the region, has created a unique recruiting ground for the Islamists, and there has been a veritable efflorescence of Muslim terrorist groups operating along India’s borders with Bangladesh in the Northeast. In Assam alone, there are over 15 terrorist groups operating under an Islamist banner, and the ISI’s role in funding and arming these groups has now been fairly well documented.

    25. Reports in October 2001 indicated that, inspired by the activities of Osama bin Laden, a new militant group, the Islamic Security Force of India (ISFI) had intensified its activities in various Muslim-dominated areas of Assam. The militant group, which was constituted in Mumbai in the year 2000, reportedly with the active support of Al Qaeda, commenced recruiting Muslim youth to launch a jehad against what it perceived as the repression and suppression of the Muslim community. Official sources have indicated that the ISFI’s activities came to light after recovery of vital documents distributed in the remote areas of Darrang district. From the seized documents it was found that the ISFI has close links with the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). ISFI is also reportedly associated with Al-Umar, which has been providing financial help and arms and ammunition to the militant group.

    26. In Nagaon and Marigaon districts, there is a section of active supporters of extremist and proscribed groups such as the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA), Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA) and SIMI, who have been propagating the idea of a separate Islamic State, comprising several districts of Assam. There was also a spurt in pro-bin Laden mobilisation along and across the Bangladesh border and, according to B P Rao, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order), "We have reliable intelligence inputs that efforts are being made to export a group of highly-motivated Muslim fundamentalists, carrying photographs of Laden, into Assam. They have plans to cross over through the Indo-Bangla border in Karimganj district of Assam." He also added that some processions had been taken out by bin Laden supporters in certain areas of the trouble-torn Nalbari district. Rao also pointed out that there had been a ‘madrassa boom’ in Assam in recent years: "Compared to other states, construction of madrassas during the last couple of years has been much more in Assam. As many as 350 of these, located in minority pockets, are not registered – moreover, we have reports that some of these are being used for propaganda against the majority community and the government." The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind President, Maulana Syed Asad Madani, has been reported to have called on Muslims in the State to unite for jehad in view of the US attacks on Afghanistan.

    27. In the wake of the Kargil war, Maj. Gen. B P Bopanna had stated that "some madrassas in the North-east have become the harbourers of ISI agents of Pakistan." The Union Home Ministry has also been particularly concerned about the mushrooming of madrassas in the border areas, with extensive funds from the Gulf countries. According to a report, 236 mosques and 157 madrassas had recently come up in Assam, 194 mosques and 72 madrassas in Tripura, 17 mosques and two madrassas in Meghalaya, along their borders with Bangladesh.

    28. The State Government of Assam admitted in the Legislative Assembly on November 6, 2000, that some top militants belonging to Muslim extremist outfits "had been connected with the activities of madrassas" but hastened to add that this should "not to malign all the madrassas in a sweep." The State government also spoke of taking legal action against the offending madrassas. Documents with the Assam Police indicate that the Nurani madrassa near Dhaka is being used as transit camp by Harkat-ul-Muajhideen (HuM) cadres for their trans-border movement to India. The Garijam madrassa in the Kamrup district is under watch on suspicion that it is being misused by the ISI.

    29. The recent elections in Bangladesh, which brought to power a regime that is relatively hostile to India, have led to an increased vigil by the security establishment in the Northeast. The militant and pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami had 16 members elected to the Bangladesh Parliament. Furthermore, the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) also has strong linkages — including shared business activities — with terrorist groups active in the Northeast, most prominently, the ULFA. Since the BNP came to power, there has been a sudden escalation in atrocities against minorities in Bangladesh, leading to increased distress migration into Tripura. The Indian Home Ministry apprehends a similar influx of refugees in the Karimganj district of Assam, and there are suspicions that some pro-Taliban elements from Bangladesh may enter Assam along with the refugees to create disturbances in the State.

    30. In West Bengal, the State Government ascertained, in March 1999, that there were at least three new groups active in the State, which had been receiving monetary and other support from Osama bin Laden. The three groups whose names were not immediately disclosed reportedly planned a conclave in mid-March at a mosque at the small town of Dhulian in Murshidabad district bordering Bangladesh. The bin Laden connection to certain Islamist fundamentalist groups in the State was discovered when police arrested a person from Lalgola, also a Murshidabad town adjacent to the Bangladesh border, in the early part of year 1999. The man from Lalgola was recruited as an ISI agent in New Delhi, where his uncle lived. For several months, he carried letters to Rajshahi, the neighbouring Bangladeshi town. Then he was given the job of despatching a consignment of explosives to a location in Haryana. The explosives were said to have been used in terrorist actions in J&K. Other than Calcutta, the government has identified Murshidabad, and Shiliguri, as well as Kishangunj in Bihar, as the corridors frequented by ISI agents operating in the State. While Murshidabad and Kishangunj offer easy access from Bangladesh, Nepal agents use the Shiliguri corridor into north Bengal.

    31. More than 15 million illegal immigrants are reported to have entered India over the last five decades from Bangladesh, an intrusion that has completely changed the demography of large parts of Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Tripura and Bihar. This has been observed in a 135-page report of the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Home Minister L K Advani and submitted to the Government recently. The report notes: "Today, we have 15 Million Bangladeshi, 2.2 Million Nepalese, 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils and about one lakh Tibetan migrants living in India. Demographic changes have been brought about in the border belts of West Bengal, several districts in Assam, Bihar, Tripura and Meghalaya as a result of large-scale illegal migration. Even states like Delhi, Maharastra and Rajasthan have been affected."The GoM Report observed that smuggling of different consumer and intermediate goods, trafficking in drugs and narcotics etc., flourish through large parts of India. The ISI is also reportedly involved in encouraging these activities. Drug couriers are allowed passage on condition of collecting and reporting trans-border intelligence. Trained saboteurs and terrorists are prevailed upon to carry drugs for sustenance and to recover operational expenses from the sale proceeds. Passage to couriers of contraband is often conditional to carrying and delivering arms and ammunition.

    32. The Union government recently decided to proscribe SIMI under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. A large number of its activists including its national president were arrested. The ban came in the wake of strong demands made by various State governments including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The Chief Ministers of these States, during the annual conference of police chiefs in Delhi on September 5, 2001, had recommended a ban on SIMI, alleging that the outfit was indulging in subversive and terrorist activities. SIMI is said to have links with the ISI and has been acting in support of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. It has also been supporting secessionists and advocating violence in order to establish an ‘international Islamic order’. On July 31, 2001, police, during a nation wide crackdown, arrested 23 persons belonging to the SIMI and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen from Jalgaon, Kanpur, Hyderabad and Delhi. These arrests revealed that the Kashmiri terrorist groups had recruited many youth into terrorist activity with SIMI’s assistance. In July 2001 the police also arrested the office secretary of SIMI, Mohammed Waqar-ul-Hasan on the charge of conspiring with Hizb terrorists who had caused a bomb blast in Nagpur in May 2001. The Uttar Pradesh government has also reportedly been able to establish SIMI’s links with terrorist outfits in West Asia, including the Hamas and the Hezbollah of Lebanon. The Union government and State intelligence agencies have maintained that SIMI, over the years, had developed fairly extensive contacts in the Islamic world. The outfit is closely associated with the Riyadh-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the International Islamic Federation of Students’ Organisation in Kuwait. The group also has extensive links with the students’ wings of the Jamaat-e-Islami units in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The Chicago-based Anti-India Consultative Committee of Indian Muslims was also in touch with SIMI. Jamayyatul Ansar, an organisation of SIMI activists comprising expatriate Indian Muslims, reportedly operates from Saudi Arabia.

    33. The Union Home Secretary, on September 28, 2001, stated that the government had evidence linking the SIMI with Al Qaeda. He said SIMI’s links with terrorist outfits were exposed during investigations into 14 terrorist acts causing 15 deaths and injuries to 80 persons in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in 2000-2001. The inter-linked triad of concepts –Ummah, Khilafat and Jehad – provides the rationale for SIMI's postures and activities. SIMI cadres regard Osama bin Laden as an outstanding example of a true Mujahid, one who has undertaken Jihad on behalf of the Ummah. SIMI’s General Secretary, Safdar Nagauri, while addressing a press conference in Lucknow on October 10, 2001, alleged that declaring bin Laden as an international terrorist was part of an ‘evil design of America’. He admitted that cassettes of bin Laden’s speeches were distributed during a SIMI meeting in Kanpur a few months earlier.

    34. Serial bombings and overt terrorist movements, however, cannot be a measure of the penetration that has been achieved by the extremist Islamists and their state sponsors. Acts of terror – especially on a large scale – represent the culmination of years of preparation that are reflected in motivation, mobilisation and organisational development. Evidence of these processes is mounting throughout India, and is reflected in the number, both of fundamentalist and of subversive groups in existence, and the geographical spread of their activities. The most prominent of these include the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEI Hind), the All India Milli Council (AIMC), All India Jihad Committee (AIJC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP, formerly the Islamic Sewak Sangh), All India Muslim Federation (AIMF), Muslim United Front (MUF), Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TNMMK), National Development Front (Kerala), Tabligh Jamaat, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Students Islamic Organisations (SIO), Al Umma, Al Jihad, and the Muslim Sena Sanghathan, Ikhwan-ul-Muslameen, Islami Inqalabi Mahaz, Tanzim Isla-ul-Muslameen, and the Minorities United Front, among others.

    35. Each of these organisations runs one or more ‘non-governmental organisations’ (NGO), many of which have offices abroad. Substantial funds are received, and ranges of interactions, including frequent ‘Tablighi conferences’ with foreign delegations, are organised. The flow of funds is primarily through what are known as hawala (illegal) channels and, while Pakistan largely defines the patterns of use and the beneficiaries, the preponderance of such transfers originate in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. Thus, very substantial transfers of foreign funds generated under the pretext of providing relief to the Coimbatore riot victims were diverted for use in executing the Coimbatore blasts.

    36. The range, volume and the persistence of such subversive activity throughout the country is more a measure of Pakistan’s tenacity and the intensity of the extremist Islamist vision, than it is of the present impact these activities have had on the larger Muslim community in India. The tragic loss of life, wasted human and developmental resources and the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that sporadic incidents of terrorism generate notwithstanding, India has the flexibility, the resilience and the political space to absorb a level of subversive and extremist Islamist activities significantly higher than the present. Nevertheless, the sheer lethality of weaponry and explosives, the possibility of an escalation to a new generation of Chemical and Biological Weapons, and the inherent uncertainty of the politics of a complex society characterised by immense religious and cultural diversity, make the existing risks and levels of activity unacceptable.

    37. These risks are even greater and less acceptable in countries where such space is wanting, where political instability is at higher levels, and where the roots of democracy are yet to take firm hold of the soil. Islamist subversion threatens peace and regime stability more immediately in neighbouring Bangladesh, where religious extremism has emerged as a major threat to the prevailing political order and to internal security. There are grave and immediate dangers to peace and stability in Bangladesh: the revival of the activities of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the return to Bangladesh and its politics of Pakistan-backed elements who collaborated closely with the genocidal campaign of 1971 in what was then East Pakistan, the rising rhetoric of Islamic hukumat (rule), and the deepening linkages between militant Bangladeshi groups and the extremist Islamists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and West Asia. Here again, the pattern of funding, subversion and mobilisation through the mosque and the madrassa is clearly in evidence. Prior to Independence, there were 1,467 madrassas in Bangladesh. Their number has currently risen to over 6,500, with more than 90,000 teachers and about 1.8 million students. A large number of these institutions have been established as a result of massive foreign aid, primarily from Gulf countries, and largely unmediated by official channels. Bangladesh’s madrassas are the chief recruiting ground for Islamist militant groups, including several that are linked to Pakistan and also to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. The latter category includes the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami, which was established by Shawkat Osman, alias Sheikh Farid in 1992 with bin Laden’s backing, and which has an estimated strength of about 15,000. The Harkat maintains several camps in the hilly areas of Chittagong, where the cadres are given arms training. Several hundred recruits have also been trained in Afghanistan. The cadres, recruited mainly from among students of various madrassas, style themselves as the ‘Bangladeshi Taliban.’ Reports suggest that foreign-aided religious fanatics are actively conspiring to establish ‘Islamic hukumat’ by waging war and killing progressive intellectuals, as well as various minority groups and ‘heretical’ sects, such as the Ahmadiyas.

    38. In addition to the JEI, the prominent fundamentalist Islamist political parties in Bangladesh include the Muslim League, Tabligh Jamaat, Jamaat-e-Tulba and Jamaat-ul-Muderessin. One significant pro-Iranian group, the Islamic Shasantantra Andolan (Movement for Islamic Constitution) is also active. The subversive activities of the ISI and foreign extremist Islamist agencies in Bangladesh increased radically after Sheikh Hasina’s broadly secular Awami League came to power in June 1996, and this has contributed to an upsurge in militant and fundamentalist political activity. Superimposed over a history of military coups, a politics dominated by the rhetoric of Islam, and increasing international linkages, including networks with insurgent groups operating in India’s Northeast, extremist Islamist militancy constitutes the most serious existing internal security threat in Bangladesh.

    39. The recent Bangladesh elections have brought a new right wing regime, backed by Islamist fundamentalist forces, into a clear majority. Apart from the BNP itself, which has exploited an Islamist platform for political ends since its inception, the new Parliament has 16 members from the militant Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been linked to several acts of extremist violence over the past years, and that runs several training camps for pan-Islamist militants in the country. The Jamaat is overtly pro-Pakistan, and reportedly secures substantial support from the ISI, including funding, arms flows and technical and training assistance.

    40. According to sources, subsequent to the ‘9/11’ incidents in USA, and the increasing pressure on Pakistan – and directly on the ISI to curb subversive activities in the region – the situation in the Bangladesh ISI unit became somewhat confused. There has, however, been no brief for a withdrawal of activities, though a low profile is currently being maintained. The new regime is expected to provide a more favourable context for the operation of extremist forces in the country. Many BNP MPs, leaders and officials have direct business linkages, including partnerships, with corporations and financial operations that are run by or co-owned with leaders of terrorist groups operating in India’s Northeast and in Bangladesh.

    41. Despite a temporary lull in militant activities – partially because of the international pressure on Islamist extremist groupings after the September 2001 attacks, and partially because the imperatives of anti-state violence have declined because of a sympathetic incumbent regime – terrorist and subversive activities of religious extremists and pan Islamist terrorist outfits remain the most serious threat to internal security in Bangladesh. During Begum Khaleda Zia’s last tenure, Bangladesh had encouraged and allowed a large number of volunteers to fight in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union and subsequently in Jammu and Kashmir. A large number of these mujahideen are now present in the country and are spearheading the Islamist fundamentalist movement in Bangladesh with their extensive connections with the international Islamic jihad movement.

    42. Available evidence prior to the October elections suggested increasing involvement of Islamist fundamentalist organisations in terrorist and subversive activities in Bangladesh. There were a number of bomb blasts in the country in the year 2001. On January 20, there were two separate bomb blasts in Dhaka in which an estimated six persons were killed and 50 others injured. The then Home Minister Mohammad Nasim held Jamaat-e-Islami and its associated organisations responsible for the blasts. On April 14, 2001, at least eight persons were killed in a bomb blast at a Bengali New Year cultural function in Dhaka. On June 8, 2001, police arrested four persons including Maulana Mohammad Akbar Hossain, Vice Principal of Siddirganj Madrassah, for their alleged involvement in the blast. Ten persons were killed and 25 others injured in a bomb blast at a Catholic Church mission church at Baniachar, Gopalganj district, on June 3. Again on June 15, an estimated 21 persons were killed and over 100 injured in a bomb blast at the Awami League party office at Narayanganj town. The then Foreign Minister had stated that the unholy nexus of extreme religious zealots and fundamentalist elements with organised international terrorist groups was responsible for the blast. On June 29, 2001, police arrested an activist of the Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, for his alleged involvement in the Narayanganj blast.

    43. Earlier, an alliance of Islamist fundamentalist groups, the Islamic Okiya Jote (IOJ), a member of the new ruling alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had intensified its campaign against the December 2000 High Court verdict banning two fatwas (religious edicts). The alliance declared the two judges, Golam Rabbani and Nazmun Ara Sultana, who had delivered the verdict, as murtad (enemies of Islam) and pronounced ‘death sentences’ on them. The IOJ had also declared a jehad against the United Forum of Citizens, a group of NGOs which supported the High Court’s action of banning the fatwas. At the time of the High Court Order, a series of protest strikes had been organised by the BNP alliance and, following the murder of a policeman, who was dragged inside a mosque and killed on February 3, 2001, the police launched a major crackdown. Top leaders of the alliance, including its Chief, Shaikhul Hadith Maulana Azizul Huq, who is also the Chief of the Ulema Mashaek organisation; the Secretary-General Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini, who is also the Convenor of the ‘Committee for Implementation of Islamic Laws’ and also the Secretary-General of the radical Islamic Unity Alliance, and several activists were arrested under the Public Safety Act on charges of threatening to kill the two High Court judges and damaging public and private properties. A madrassa, run by IOJ leaders was raided and a large number of weapons were seized. The township of Brahmanbaria, the stronghold of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which borders the Indian state of Tripura, witnessed several violent protests against the crackdown in which seven persons were killed and an estimated 100 injured during clashes between Islamist fundamentalists and security force personnel.

    44. Islamist extremism in Bangladesh also has widespread foreign connections. On January 9, 1999, police in Chittagong arrested Syed Muhammad Nurul Afsar, a man with a ‘Libyan connection’, on charges of smuggling firearms and explosives into the country. Police said Afsar had travelled to Libya several times to be trained in the use of explosives. He had visited Czechoslovakia in June 1998 to purchase weapons and explosives, which were then shipped to Bangladesh. Police described Afsar as a ‘high ranking terrorist’ belonging to an obscure group called Freedom in Bangladesh, dedicated to turning the country into an Islamic theocracy. In January 1999, Delhi Police picked up Bangladeshi Sayed Abu Nasir and charged him with planning bomb attacks on the US consulates in Chennai and Calcutta. Two kilograms of RDX explosive was seized from him. The police claimed Nasir was a member of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and that he entered India in October 1998 along with six others. Three of his Indian contacts were picked up from Shiliguri near the Bangladesh border, but the others, believed to be four Egyptians, a Sudanese and a Myanmar national, escaped. In the latter half of January 1999, police in Bangladesh arrested five people suspected of plotting the January 18, 1999 assassination attempt on the life of celebrated poet Shamsur Rahman. All belonged to Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI), which has been building up its operations in the country since early 1990s. In the next few days, police picked up an interesting melange of people, who included apart from two more Bangladeshis, an Afghan, a Pakistani and two South Africans. Police said interrogation of this lot revealed a plan to assassinate 28 Bangladeshi intellectuals, who had been dubbed ‘atheists and enemies of Islam.’ These included National Professor Kabir Choudhury, writer Taslima Nasreen and the Director General of the Islamic Foundation, Maulana Abdul Awal.

    45. Intellectuals, cultural organisations and sects of Islam, which are regarded as ‘deviant’ by the fundamentalists, have also been preferred targets of violence. On March 7, 1999, six persons were killed and more than 100 injured when two bombs planted by suspected religious extremists exploded at a cultural function in Bangladesh's western Jessore district. The function was organised by Udichi Shilpi Gosthi – a Dhaka-based pro-liberation and left-oriented organisation of cultural activists. On October 8, 1999, seven people were killed and about 40 injured when a bomb exploded during Friday prayers, at the Kadiani Mosque of the Ahamadiya sect of Muslims in Khulna. Police suspicions for this bombing focused on religious extremists who had earlier demanded a ban on the activities of the Ahamadiyas, who are regarded by orthodox Muslims as a blasphemous non-Muslim sect. The same day, powerful explosive devices were recovered from a mosque of the Ahamadiya sect and the office of a Bengali language daily, Janakantha, in Dhaka.

    46. On July 21, 2000, an assassination plot to kill the then Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, was unearthed. Investigations revealed the main suspect in the plot to be Mufti Abdul Hannan, a Pakistan-trained leader of the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI), who had manufactured the explosives at a soap factory, Sonar Bangla Chemical Industries Limited, near Gopalganj. While Hannan evaded the Bangladesh police, many of his associates including his brother Motiar Rehman were arrested. According to Mohammed Jashimuddin, then Superintendent of Police of Gopalganj, Hannan had recieved training in Peshawar before taking part in the Afghan war. A central committee member of HUJI, he returned to Bangladesh in 1998 and had been training madrassa students to use fire arms and manufacture explosives.

    47. A number of transnational Islamist terrorist groups, including the Al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden, have established a presence in Bangladesh in alliance with the various fundamentalist organisations in the country. Indian Intelligence discovered in early 2001 that bin Laden was generously donating funds to the Pakistan-based extremist outfit Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), which had contacts with the Dhaka-based Bangladesh Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI). The HuJI was, in fact, established with Osama bin Laden’s aid in 1992, under the leadership of Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid, and with Imtiaz Quddus as its ‘General Secretary’. It has an estimated strength of about 15,000 and strong connections with the ISI.

    48. HuJI was assigned the task of recruiting Bangladeshi and Indian Muslims to fight in Kashmir under the command of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Reports in 1999 said that HuJI planned to recruit 5,000 mujahids from madrassas in Bangladesh. Another 10,000 were to be recruited from among the Muslim refugees at Rohingya, who fled the Arakan province of Myanmar and were staying at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. HuJI terrorists have been active against secular politicians and intellectuals in Bangladesh. The professed objective of this Islamist radical group is to turn Bangladesh into a Dar-ul-Islam or a land of believers. The previous Awami League-led government of Sheikh Hasina Wajed had tried to curb the activities of the group, and arrested a number of its activists.

    49. HuJI is also said to maintain six terrorist camps in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, where the cadres are imparted arms training. Several hundred recruits have also been trained in Afghanistan. HuJI activists frequently cross over to India for terrorist activities. The cadres of the outfit who style themselves as the ‘Bangladeshi Taliban’ are alleged to infiltrate regularly into India’s eastern corridor and maintain contacts with terrorist and subversive outfits of the region.

    50. The Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda connection in Bangladesh came to light during the visit of the then United States President, Bill Clinton, to Bangladesh in March 2000. President Clinton’s scheduled visit to Joypura village and the national memorial at Savan were reportedly cancelled due to alleged threats that emanated from Al Qaeda.

    51. The ISI is deeply involved with the Islamist terrorist outfits operating in Bangladesh. On June 2000, an Indian intelligence agency intercepted a radiogram, which revealed that the ISI had set up a strong base in Kurigram and Rangpur areas of Bangladesh near the Coochbihar border. There was also direct evidence that a section of officials and personnel of the Bangladesh Rifles were colluding with the ISI. Indian intelligence also believes that the ISI, in collusion with the HuJI, was training militants in the use of sophisticated arms and explosives at camps set up at Rangmari, Sundermari, Masaldanga and other villages. This area is one of the epicentres of the ISI’s operations, from where it exports terror into India.

    52. Rising extremist Islamist activity, despite the fact that Muslims constitute a bare three per cent of the population is also challenging the security agencies of the infant democracy of Nepal. Such activity is, presently, primarily directed against India, but its linkages with organised criminal operations and the destabilisation of pockets of Muslim concentrations in the Terai region bordering India are a cause of increasing concern for Kathmandu. A succession of recent reports has documented rising activities of the ISI and by the Pakistan Embassy at Kathmandu, involving strong organised criminal networks and prominent political leaders in a range of activities targeting India and reinforcing the Islamist agenda within Nepal. The Muslim pockets of the Terai, especially Bardiya, Banke, Rupendehi and the Parsa-Morang belt have seen increasing ‘tablighi’ activities, and the construction of mosques and madrassas with financial flows from Pakistan – often directly from the Embassy at Kathmandu – from Saudi Arabia and from a range of pan-Islamist organisations. Over the past two decades, more than 275 mosques and madrassas have been built in just the four districts of Rupandehi, Banke, Kapilvastu and Bardiya. There are some 15 major tablighi/fundamentalist organisations in Nepal, and at least five of these are well within the ambit of Pakistan’s influence and control. These include the Jamaat-e-Millat-e-Islamia; the Nepal Islamic Yuba Sangh; the Nepal Muslim League; the Nepal Muslim Ekta Sangh; and the Democratic Muslim Welfare Association. Nepal is, consequently, emerging as an important ‘staging post’ for Pakistan’s strategy of erosion and encirclement against India, and is increasingly the preferred route for terrorists movements to various areas of low-intensity conflict in J&K and the Northeast.

    53. In Sri Lanka, the Muslim community and emerging fundamentalist forces have generally aligned themselves with the interests of the government. The Island nation’s Muslim population is mainly Tamil, but has been driven out of the ethnically cleansed northern areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and is now concentrated along the eastern coast, the north-west coast, Kandy and suburban Colombo. Islamist fundamentalist mobilisation in Sri Lanka began after a succession of attacks on the Muslims by the LTTE in the early 1990s, after which the government decided to arm the Muslim youth for self-defence. The conflict between Hindu and Muslim Tamils resulted in the polarisation of mindsets on the issue of religious identity. There are, today, nearly a dozen Muslim fundamentalist organisations in Sri Lanka who are funded by foreign countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, with at least two political parties drawing significant support from Iran.

7. The Extremist Islamist Internationale

    1. The threat of extremist Islamist terror in South Asia must be estimated, not just in terms of visible violence and subversion, but the unique and lethal mix of a virulent and vigorously propagated ideology; international and state support and sponsorship; the movement of experienced cadres across theatres that span the entire world; and the access to and destructive potential of contemporary weapons and information technologies. Pakistan’s experience and the Afghan war have given rise to "a kind of Islamic ‘internationale’ through the recruitment of volunteers throughout the Muslim world" and "a global network of radical Muslim terrorists." Among these are the experienced and ideologically motivated Arab Afghans, with their roots in West Asia. South Asia is, moreover, awash with small arms and lethal explosives. The recovery of gas masks from bunkers held by Pakistani forces and irregulars during the Kargil War, and recent reports regarding Osama bin Laden’s intent to use chemical weapons suggest that extremist Islamist forces and their state sponsors are, at least, evaluating the possibility and impact of the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in their low-intensity wars in various countries. Indeed, when asked by Time in 1998 about reports that he was trying to acquire nuclear and chemical weapons, bin Laden replied, "If I seek to acquire these weapons, I am carrying out a duty. It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims." Laden in a recorded interview released by the Qatar-based Al Jazira in the aftermath of the September 11,2001, attacks, said that "we supported the Pakistani people and congratulated them when god was gracious enough to enable them to acquire the nuclear weapon. We regard this as one of our rights, our Muslim rights…it is the duty of the Muslims to possess them…we believe that the right to self-defence is to be enjoyed by all people. Israel is stockpiling hundreds of nuclear warheads and bombs and the Christian West is largely in possession of such weapons. Hence we regard this as a right." On or about May 29, 1998, bin Laden had also issued a statement entitled "The Nuclear Bomb of Islam" under the banner of the "International Islamic front for Fighting the Jews and Crusaders" in which he stated that "it is the duty of Muslims to prepare as much force as possible to terrorise the enemies of God."

    2. It is not necessary to belabour the obvious point that there are ‘many Islams’, and that the adherents of the murderous mix of religion and terror are only a small fraction of Muslims in the world. There is, however, a difficulty that needs to be confronted: that of the separation of legitimate religious, educational and charitable activity engaged in by Islamist religious institutions, including the madrassas, from overt or covert support to terrorism and a militant Islamist agenda. This difficulty is enormously compounded by the ideological continuity among those who currently propagate the dogmas of Islamist extremism from the fringes of Europe and through Asia and Africa, as also by the continuity of sources of finance and support through every theatre of Islamist terrorism and ‘fundamentalist’ subversion in the world. In the absence of enormous co-operation in documentation and sharing of intelligence, and the containment of terrorist funding, movement and activities, between nations who have a stake in defeating terrorism and across all traditional borders of suspicion and narrow ‘interests of state’, it is not clear how this challenge can be met.



  1. Ashton Carter, John Deutch and Philip Zelikow, "Catastrophic Terrorism", Foreign Affairs, Washington, November/December 1998.
  2. Ely Karmon, Osama bin Laden: Speculations on Possible State Sponsorship, The International Policy Institute for Counter-terrorism, September 17, 2001, Herzliya, Israel.

  3. Ambassador Michael A Sheehan, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, US Department of State, Statement for the Record Before the House International Relations Committee July 12, 2000, Ambassador Sheehan was echoing Secretary of State Madeline Albright's earlier statement (of May 1, 2000) that there had been an "eastward shift in terrorism's center of gravity" towards South Asia.

  4. Total Fatalities: 1990 - 1177; 1991 - 1393; 1992 - 1909; 1993 - 2567; 1994 - 2899; 1995 - 2796; 1996 - 2903; 1997 - 2372; 1998 - 2261; 1999 - 2538; 2000 - 3288; 2001 - 4499. Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal; Countries; India; J&K; Data Sheets; Annual Casualties;

  5. Altaf Gauhar, The Challenge of Islam, London: Islamic Council of Europe, 1978, p. 309.

  6. Allah Buksh K. Brohi, "Preface", in S K Malik, The Quranic Concept of War, New Delhi: Himalayan Books, 1986, pp. xix-xx

  7. See Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000, US State Department,
  8. Ibid.

  9. There is significant evidence of progressive shifts in the US position on this count since this paper was presented, but the general observations remain valid for the context within which they are made. The evolving US position, moreover, is not entirely unambiguous, and is subject to possible and subsequent dilution or reversal.

  10. "Terrorism: New option backed", Dawn, Karachi, May 10, 2001. Also available at

  11. The anthrax attacks are now believed to have been unrelated to Islamist terrorist groups, but the early discourse on them was based on a presumption that their source was the same as the 9/11 operations.

  12. Cited in Lisa Beyer, "Osama's Edngame," Time, October 15, 2001, vol. 158 no. 17.,9171,1000996,00.html

  13. The imagery of this description is based on private conversations with some Indian Islamist fundamentalists and their assessments of the rising 'crisis of morality' and the 'disintegration of the social and political order' in the world.

  14. See "Bin Laden: No 'security or safety' for U.S.",

  15. The humiliating defeat of the Taliban and dishonourable flight of the leaders of the Al Qaeda has, however, diminished American vulnerabilities to such a process. The '9/11' aftermath weakened the world image of the US. The collapse of the Taliban-Al Qaeda has strengthened it immensely. Future attacks in America, unless they exceeded a certain improbable scale and frequency, would, in fact contribute to a consolidation of counter-terrorism measures and a deepening legitimacy for the American cause, as against the growing delegitimisation of Islamist extremist violence. Here it is significant to understand the role of success in consolidating terrorism as a strategy. As Fareed Zakaria has noted in another context, "Military victory is indeed essential. Radical political Islam is an 'armed doctrine,' in Edmund Burke's phrase. Like other armed doctrines before it - fascism, for example - it can be discredited only by first being defeated." Fareed Zakaria, "How to Save the Arab World", Newsweek, December 24, 2001, p. 23. (Author's note).

  16. S K Malik, The Quranic Concept of War, p. 59.
  17. See "Iraqi clerics declare jihad vs US-led war on Afghanistan",

  18. An interesting assessment of the power (or absence thereof) of the Muslim 'Ummah' has been given by General Pervez Musharraf in his address to a gathering of Ulema on June 5, 2001,

  19. Quoted in Pakistan-based Urdu paper, Ausaf, December 27, 2000. See

  20. Three senior army personnel including the ISI Chief Gen. Ahmad were removed on October 8, 2001.

  21. "Sidelining of Islamist generals puts Musharraf on safer ground",

  22. See "About Turn",

  23. ‘Ibid.

  24. "Jihad enrolment drive gathers momentum: JI", Dawn, Karachi, October 21, 2001. Also see "Pakistan's tribals decide to fight beside Taliban",
  25. "Peshawar: Drive for recruiting volunteers continues in NWFP, Fata", Dawn, October 21, 2001. Also at

  26. Ibid.

  27. Ibid,

  28. Ibid.

  29. "The choice between jehad and jirga", The News, Islamabad, October 21, 2001. Also at

  30. "Fundos boast thousands of jehadis for Taliban cause", The Friday Times, Lahore, October 19-25, 2001. Ibid.

  31. Ibid

  32. "Scholar calls for Jihad", Dawn, September 19, 2001. Also at
  33. "Scholar calls for Jihad", Dawn, September 19, 2001. Also at

  34. The Dar-ul-Uloom seminary at Deoband has, however, repeatedly repudiated all connections with the ideologies and terrorists that claim their inspiration from the teachings of this influential centre of traditional Islamic learning. See, for instance, Sankarshan Thakur, "What Taliban have done is horrifying, un-Islamic but you need to ask why", The Indian Express, New Delhi, March 14, 2001.

  35. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia, London: I B Tauris, 2001, p. 90. Haqqania is in Akhora Khatak, in the North West Frontier Province

  36. Ibid.

  37. Ibid, pp. 90-1.

  38. See "Master or Victim: Pakistan's Afghan War", in Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia, pp. 183-195. Jessica Stern refers to this as a typical "principal-agent" problem, observing that the interests of the state (principal) and those of the militant groups (the agent) are not fully aligned. See, Pakistan's Jihad Culture, Foreign Affairs, November-December, 2000 at

  39. Ibid., p. 194.

  40. John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. xiii.

  41. Mohammad Yousaf and Mark Adkin, The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's Untold Story, Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1992, p. 3.

  42. See John Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, London: Pluto, 1999; Also see, Vijendra Singh Jafa, "India & Pakistan in a Quagmire: Superpower Games and Human Tragedies", Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution, New Delhi, vol. 6, August 2000, New Delhi: ICM-Bulwark Books, pp. 109-110.
  43. K P S. Gill and Ajai Sahni, eds., Terror & Containment: Perspectives on India's Internal Security, New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 2001, pp. 13-15.

  44. Olivier Roy, Middle East Report, Winter 1997, cited in Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, p. 187.

  45. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, p. 89.

  46. Jessica Stern, "Pakistan's Jihad Culture," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2000,

  47. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, p. 87.
  48. Afzaal Mahmood, "What price Jihad culture," Dawn, January 15, 2001. Also at
  49. In April 1995, for instance, the Benazir Bhutto government released a list of 38 foreign funded madrassas and sectarian organizations that possessed arms and imparted weapons training to local and foreign students. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, UAE and Kuwait were identified as the sources of funding and support to these organizations. Shafiq Awam, "Foreign-funded madaris list provided to govts," The Nation, Lahore, April 16, 1995.

  50. See South Asia Terrorism Portal; Countries; Pakistan; Backgrounder;

  51. Ibid

  52. "Jihad culture spreading world over, says Lashkar chief,", News, December 3, 2000. Also at

  53. An expression used by Mujibur Rehman Inqalabi, the SSP's 'second in command' to describe the madrassas. See Jessica Stern, "Pakistan's Jihad Culture."

  54. In 1988, after hundreds of Shia had been massacred by the SSP, their leaders fled to Kabul where they were offered sanctuary. See Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, p. 92.

  55. Ibid, p. 186.

  56. Robin Wright, "The Chilling Goal of Islam's New Warriors", Los Angeles Times, December 28, 2000. Also at

  57. For instance, 127 Islamic organizations addressed a joint Press Conference on April 29, 2000, protesting against the Musharraf government's bid to bring peripheral amendments to Pakistan's blasphemy law. The government backed off on the 7th of May, and on May 16, 2000, Musharraf himself told the Press that "there would be no change in the blasphemy law whatsoever in view of the pressing demand from the public, including the Ulema and the Mashaikh." The attempt to reserve seats for women in local bodies was similarly abandoned when the Islamists argued that this was a move intended 'to spread vulgarity' among the people. The March 1, 2000, ban on the public display of firearms is also held in open contempt by most of the major militant Islamic groupings.

  58. Hasan Khan, "Harkat chief for military training at Madaris,",

  59. Robin Wright, "The Chilling Goal of Islam's New Warriors."

  60. The State of J&K comprises a total area of 152,298 square kilometers, with a population of 6,815,000. It is divided into three regions: the Muslim majority Kashmir region (HQ Srinagar), with an area of 15, 898 square kilometers and a population of 3,977,000; the Hindu majority Jammu region (HQ Jammu), with an area of 26,293 square kilometers and a population of 2,538,000; and the Buddhist majority Ladakh region (HQ Leh), with a population of 300,000. Cf.

  61. The Hizb has recently reduced its operation, first after its own unilateral cease-fire of July 2000, and subsequently after the Indian Prime Minister's declaration of cease-fire. The Hizb is the largest terrorist group in J&K, and is dominated by 'local' cadres. The other groups are primarily drawn from Pakistani and other foreign elements.

  62. Data and analysis on Kashmir are primarily based on research and documentation at the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal,

  63. Till December 31, 2001. The data is based on the South Asia Terrorism Portal's compilations from official and media sources in India.

  64. The proportion of foreigners among the active militants would be higher - upto 75 percent - since the Hizb reduced its operations.

  65. Shaul Shay and Yoram Schweitzer, "The 'Afghan Alumni' Terrorism: Islamic Militants against the Rest of the World", ICT Papers, The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Herzilya, Israel, September 2000, vol. 6.

  66. Mark Huband, Warriors of the Prophet: The Struggle for Islam, Colorado: Westview Press, 1999, p. 9. Also see Manoj Joshi, The Lost Rebellion: Kashmir in the Nineties, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1999; Tavleen Singh, Kashmir: A Tragedy of Errors, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1996.

  67. Over 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits - out of an original population in the Kashmir Valley of 425,000 prior to 1989 - continue to be displaced. Official records indicate that some 216,820 of them live as migrants in makeshift camps at Jammu, another 143,000 at Delhi and thousands of others are now dispersed across the country. Many of those registered at the camps have also been dispersed according to the exigencies of employment and opportunities for education, trade or business. There has been little effort to facilitate their return to the Valley in recent years. Earlier attempts were neutralized by brutal campaigns of selective murder, including the killing of seven Pandits at Sangrama in Budgam district in March 1997, three at Gul in Udhampur district in June 1997, 26 in the massacre at Wandhama in Srinagar district in January 1998, and 26 at Prankote in Udhampur district in April 1998. The possibility of reversing the terrorists' ethnic cleansing of the Valley remains remote, and there are now reports of a hidden migration from some of the border areas in the Jammu region where the Hindus are a minority.

  68. Jessica Stern, "Pakistan's Jihad Culture."
  69. Praveen Swami, "The 'liberation' of Hyderabad," Frontline, Chennai, vol. 17, no. 10, May 13-26, 2000,

  70. "Church blast cases busted; 15 arrested,", July 17, 2000.

  71. "Centre may consider ban on ISI-backed Deendar Anjuman," Indian Express, August 4, 2000.

  72. "30 killed as serial blasts rock Coimbatore."; "Panic Following Blasts,"; "Union Home Ministry reviews situation,"; "Six extremists die in Coimbatore blasts, toll 44,"; "Arrests throughout the state"

  73. "30 killed as serial blasts rock Coimbatore."; "Panic Following Blasts,"; "Union Home Ministry reviews situation,"; "Six extremists die in Coimbatore blasts, toll 44,"; "Arrests throughout the state"

  74. "Weapons of anarchy", The Week, Cochin, March 8, 1998.

  75. Ibid. Blasts occurred on the Cheran Express, Pandyan Express and Alleppey Express trains on December 6, 1997, the anniversary of the Babri mosque demolition. Official sources indicated that the Islamic Defence Force of Kerala, a shadowy outfit, was behind these explosions, which killed nine persons.

  76. "Ten charged in train blasts case", Tribune, Chandigarh, October 6, 1998. Also at Among those chargesheeted was Erwadi Kasim, President of the IDF.

  77. See "Messages from the States", Frontline, vol. 15 no. 6, March 21 - April 3, 1998. Ibid
  78. See "The fundamentalist underworld", Also see "7 `terrorist' groups identified in Kerala",

  79. Ibid

  80. Ibid. The organisation's suspected links with the perpetrators of the Coimbatore blasts surfaced with the arrest of NDF office bearer Zubair on the grounds that he had harboured Al-Umma activists Ommai Babu, prime accused in the blasts case.

  81. "Kerala a haven for subversive forces", The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, September 7, 2001

  82. SSee Ghulam Hasnain, At Home in Exile, Outlook, New Delhi, November 20, 2000 (also at, pp. 30-38.

  83. See "Extending terror", Frontline, vol. 16, no. 6, March 13 - 26, 1999.

  84. See South Asia Terrorism Portal; Terror Tuesday; International Linkages of Islamist Terrorist outfits; Gujarat;

  85. Ibid.

  86. Ibid.

  87. Ibid.

  88. Ibid.

  89. Ibid.

  90. Ibid.

  91. Ibid.

  92. See "Militants held",

  93. See "IB suspects Dawood-Osama tie-up for terror campaign",

  94. See South Asia Terrorism Portal; Terror Tuesday; International Linkages of Islamist Terrorist outfits; Gujarat;

  95. "Report on Illegal Migration into Assam submitted to the President of India by the Governor of Assam, November 8, 1998," See South Asia Terrorism Portal; India; Documents; Assam;

  96. South Asia Terrorism Portal; India; Assam; Terrorist outfits;

  97. "ISI Activities in Assam: Statement laid on the table of the house of Assam Legislative Assembly under item no. 12 dated 6.4.2000 by Shri Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Chief Minister, Assam," See South Asia Terrorism Portal; India; Documents; Assam;

  98. "ISI Activities in Assam: Statement laid on the table of the house of Assam Legislative Assembly under item no. 12 dated 6.4.2000 by Shri Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Chief Minister, Assam," See South Asia Terrorism Portal; India; Documents; Assam;

  99. "Laden aides in Nagaon, Govt asks police to keep strict vigil", The Sentinel, Guwahati, October 16, 2001.

  100. "Laden aides in Nagaon, Govt asks police to keep strict vigil", The Sentinel, Guwahati, October 16, 2001.
  101. See "Army's wake-up call behind arrest of ISI operatives", Maj. Gen. Bopanna was General-officer-Commanding, 21 Mountain Division.
  102. "Monitor madrasas: Centre to NE", Sentinel, October 7, 2001
  103. ibid.
  104. ibid.
  105. ibid.






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