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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 25, January 5, 2004

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal



ASSESSMENT

INDIA
PAKISTAN

Kashmir: Pakistan Explores a Political End-Game
Guest Writer: Praveen Swami
Special Correspondent, Frontline

For years, Pakistan hasn't needed a political end-game on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Its state-run jihad, most military and intelligence analysts in Pakistan assumed, would eventually wear India down and force it to make significant territorial concessions. Now, however, Pakistan has been pushed into reining back the jihad on which its entire strategy in J&K was founded. This winter has been the most peaceful in years - and Pakistan is now discovering that it needs the kind of legitimacy commanded by politicians, not the Kalashnikov. Using the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin (HM) as its sheep dog, Pakistan is attempting to corral a profoundly unruly flock. The lambs, apparently, have grown both spines and brains - and until the dog actually demonstrates the ability to bite, seem unlikely to fall in line.

At least some elements of Pakistan's new political strategy can now be discerned. In the build-up to the ongoing South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Islamabad, a three-pronged effort was made to deny India political space in J&K. First, Pakistan brought intense pressure to bear on the Jamaat-e-Islami to back hardline Islamist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who split the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) last year to set up a parallel secessionist organisation. Second, its intelligence services sought to persuade the centrist APHC to back out of dialogue with India, which many observers believe will commence in the coming weeks. Finally, efforts were made to recruit the services of secessionist politicians outside the APHC fold, notably Shabbir Shah, to strengthen the rejectionist APHC faction.

None of these enterprises have met with any success. In early December 2003, Ashraf Sehrai, the Jamaat-e-Islami's Naib Amir, or deputy chief, launched a new initiative to secure the organisation's backing for Geelani. Sehrai plainly had Pakistan's backing. On November 13, 2003, speaking at a dinner hosted by Pakistan's High Commissioner to New Delhi, Aziz Ahmad Khan, Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said that his country recognised "only the Hurriyat led by Geelani and no one else." "After all," he continued, "Geelani's group has been recognised by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference." The leaders of the centrist APHC, he said somewhat cryptically, were simply "Kashmiri leaders." Soon afterwards, Ghulam Rasool Dar, a member of the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin's command council, better known by his nom de guerre Riaz Rasool, visited top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders with a message from the organisation's supreme commander, Mohammad Yusuf Shah @ Syed Salahuddin.

Sehrai's efforts to get Jamaat-e-Islami backing for the rejectionist APHC met with a sharp rebuke. The Naib Amir's declaration of support for Geelani led to a public put-down from his organisation. Zahid Ali, the Jamaat-e-Islami's spokesperson, let it be known that Sehrai did not have the party's backing, and was "not in favour of toeing somebody's line." Ali went on to charge Sehrai with failing to promote the Jamaat-e-Islami's interests. Soon after, on December 27, 2003, Syed Nazir Ahmad Kashani, the Amir-e-Jamaat, or Jamaat-e-Islami supreme chief, used his executive powers to sack Sehrai. This, however, provoked a sharp response from Geelani backers within the APHC, and on December 29, Kashani was compelled to summon a meeting of the Jamaat-e-Islami's Markazi Majlis-e-Shoora, or central council, its highest decision-making body.

On January 1, the Jamaat-e-Islami announced its final position on the APHC. The Jamaat-e-Islami made clear it did not support Maulvi Abbas Ansari, the Shia cleric who heads the centrist faction of the APHC. Ali noted, in particular, that the "manner in which Ansari had been elected chairman was unacceptable to us." This was of a piece with several past Jamaat-e-Islami pronouncements on the centrist APHC, many of whose members detest Ansari simply because of his Shia religious affiliations. To placate these hardliners, Kashani part-reinstated Sehrai as the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami's political wing. At the same time, however, the Markazi Majlis-e-Shoora made clear it would not back Geelani "for the time being," and called for either the implementation of United Nations resolutions on J&K, or a three-way dialogue between India, Pakistan and representatives of the State's people. Finally, the Jamaat-e-Islami committed itself to continue its "democratic and constitutional struggle" - a signal indication of its willingness to operate within the four corners of the Indian political system.

If this would have done little to cheer Inter-Services Intelligence strategists in Islamabad, their efforts to bring the centrists themselves in line did little better. Like the Jamaat-e-Islami moderates, key centrists, notably Srinagar religious leader Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, are believed to have been 'leaned on' by the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin. Members of Pakistan-based Shia organisations affiliated to Ansari are also believed to have been subjected to considerable arm-twisting. If the intention of the enterprise was indeed to sabotage the planned dialogue with India, it failed. A draft invitation for the Hurriyat centrists to go to New Delhi, source say, has been prepared, and should be issued in coming weeks. The centrists are likely to accept the invitation, a brief missive that contains no pre-defined terms of reference or conditions for the talks. "No one," Indian intelligence sources told this writer, "expects rapid results; the idea is to start talking, and let things take their time."

Finally, efforts by Islamabad to get Geelani the backing of minor secessionist figures have also gone nowhere. Shabbir Shah was asked to mediate a compromise between both APHC factions, which would give Geelani greater leverage. Sources indicate that Shah dithered for several weeks, pointing to the fact that the Kashmir Bar Association (KBA) was attempting to secure a rapprochement. The dithering served its purpose, since the KBA's efforts led to nothing, and Shah managed to keep out of the imbroglio. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik, for his part, has kept a studied distance from the centrists, but has stopped short of announcing support for Geelani. As things stand, Geelani has the support of several minor Islamist leaders, all of whom would have trouble winning municipality elections, let alone have a credible chance of building a valley-wide mass base.

What does all this point to? The fact is that Pakistan's sheep-dogs have, for a variety of reasons, been muzzled. Jihadi ranks within J&K have been depleted by ongoing Indian military operations, and a sharp reduction in cross-border infiltration has meant that there has been no replenishment. Come this spring, Pakistan will have to decide whether it wants to let go its jihad, or once again remove the muzzles. That decision will, most certainly, shape the course of political life in J&K over the months and years to come.

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban: Seeking Soft Targets
Guest Writer: Syed Saleem Shahzad
Correspondent, Asia Times

Finally the abduction drama of Indian highway technicians ended with both workers being released in exchange for 48 Taliban prisoners. The two Indians working on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, who had been abducted on December 6, 2003, from a village near Shahjoy, 280 kilometers southwest of Kabul, in the heart of the Zabul province, were freed on December 24, 2003. Sources close to the Taliban maintained that the strategy to target Indian interests in Afghanistan was evidently successful, and prevailed over the nerves of the Northern Alliance-dominated Kabul Government, which has very special relations with India.

The kidnapping was a very different kind of operation that took place in the South Eastern Afghan province of Zabul. Though Taliban spokesmen had called several news organizations claiming responsibility, Afghanistan's Interior Minister Ali Ahmed Jalali's claim that the kidnappers had no connection to the Taliban movement and that they were local people, was partly correct.

Sources across the Pak-Afghan borders maintained that local tribes, whose members were arrested by the Karzai administration, were the real element behind the abduction, which was intended to get their own relatives released. During and after the abduction, the local Zabul administration did not display any significant resistance, as it is itself heavily penetrated by sympathizers of the former Taliban regime.

The kidnappers were not members of the Taliban force, but local residents who conducted the operation to get their fellow tribesmen, who happened to be Taliban cadres, released. However, in later days they shifted their captives to the Taliban's safe sanctuaries in Zabul's mountainous terrain. Zabul is, in fact, an ideal place for such abduction operations. The overwhelming majority in the province comprises Taliban sympathizers, including many in the local administration. The province is surrounded by the most difficult mountainous terrain and there is a network of Taliban safe havens as well as a widespread support base among local tribes. The support of the local tribesmen was critical in eventually ensuring that the 48 Taliban cadres were set free by the Afghan administration.

Strategically speaking, the Zabul province is the birthplace of the Taliban. It was the first province to be occupied by the student militia when they emerged against the warlordism of different Jehadi factions in the early 1990s. Even after the US toppled the Taliban Government, this is the place that has been occupied by the Taliban several times over the past weeks. Before any attack, the Taliban leaders send warning messages to the administration not to resist, and this is taken seriously, with most administration officials fleeing before the Taliban arrive, and others offering little resistance. The Taliban then take over the offices for a few hours, hoist their white flag and then leave notes on the wall, declaring that they can take over Afghanistan 'any time'.

In most of the South Eastern Afghan belt, the Taliban resistance enjoys widespread support, since many of the Taliban leaders come from South Eastern areas of Zabul, Hilmand, Kandahar and Oruzgan provinces. According to tribal traditions, moreover, their safety is guaranteed by their tribes. If they seek refuge after a guerilla operation, they are given shelter; and if US troops come after them and conduct house-to-house search operation, they are easily transported over the mountainous terrain into neighboring Pakistan, where they hide until the danger is over.

At this point in time, the resistance against the US presence in Afghanistan and against the rule of Northern Alliance is in search of Kabul's vulnerable underbelly and soft targets. Besides western targets, including aid workers currently operating in the country, Indian interests are widely believed to be easy targets that can force concessions from the Afghan Government. Indeed, a strategy to target Indian interests in general has been widely developed among the resistance forces, for a number of specific reasons. Most significantly, the Pakistani propaganda machinery has very effectively spread the information that 'all Indian outfits', whether NGOs or commercial organizations, are part and parcel of the Indian 'strategic community' which aims to help strengthen the Northern Alliance rule in Afghanistan. Most of the Northern Alliance leadership has very special and personal relations with New Delhi. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, General Fahim, and several other ministers and leaders have had long periods of residence in Delhi. So if Indians are targeted it is natural that the Northern Alliance leadership would take this seriously and would try its level best to rescue them.

Strikes on Indian targets could also force Indian investors to pack their bags and go back home. This would create a serious mess in current development projects and efforts, and could ultimately make the situation more and more chaotic. Such chaos and anarchy helps the Taliban carry the resistance forward. The inevitable conclusion is that Indian interests in Afghanistan are the soft underbelly that the Taliban seeks out and, if these interests are systematically targeted, the results most desired by them may be achieved.

 

NEWS BRIEFS


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 29, 2003 - January 4, 2004

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

0
0
8
8

INDIA

     Assam

0
0
9
9

     Bihar

5
0
0
5

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

4
8
16
28

     Left-wing
     Extremism

1
1
0
2

     Manipur

0
1
2
3

     Tripura

1
5
4
10

     West Bengal

0
0
1
1

Total (INDIA)

11
15
32
58

NEPAL

2
10
25
37
*      Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.



BANGLADESH


Crackdown launched on terrorists in border areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts: The Government is reported to have launched a crackdown on terrorists, irrespective of their nationality, in the border areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and greater Sylhet district on January 3, 2004. Operations are also reportedly underway in the Bandarban district of CHT following the seizure of a large cache of arms and ammunition on January 1. Meanwhile, State Minister for Home Lutfuzzaman Babar denied reports that the crackdown had been launched at India's request. He was quoted as saying that "It is not that we will launch operations if there is a request and refrain from doing so if there is no request. It is our Government's own stand. It is not for the first time that such operation has been launched." He also said that operations against insurgents along the frontier with India would continue. "If Indian insurgents are held during this operation they will be tried according to the law of the land," added Babar. Independent Bangladesh, January 3, 2004.

Five terrorists killed in attack on ATTF camp in Dhaka: A rocket-propelled grenade fired by an unidentified gunman at an All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) hideout in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on January 2, 2004, is reported to have killed at least five ATTF terrorists and injured eight others. The ATTF chief Ranjit Debbarma is reported to be among those injured. Assam Tribune, January 3, 2004.

Large cache of arms and ammunition seized in Chittagong Hill Tracts: Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel seized a large cache of weapons, including 32 anti-tank mines, six rocket launchers, 10 rocket launcher cell chargers and equipment for 14 rocket launcher cells, after an encounter with some terrorists at Lemuchhari in the Bandarban district of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) on January 1, 2004. The terrorists, with suspected links to Arakanese rebels in Myanmar, are reported to have escaped into the adjoining forest area following firing by the BDR personnel. The Daily Star, January 2, 2004.


BHUTAN

Royal Bhutan Army burns down last ULFA camp at Goburkonda: Unnamed Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) sources were quoted as saying that the last of the 30 camps that were established on Bhutanese soil by the three terrorist groups from India has been destroyed. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) camp at Goburkonda in lower Zhemgang was captured by the RBA on December 31, 2003, and destroyed on January 2, 2004. The RBA has reportedly also destroyed 35 observation posts besides the 30 camps. Kuensel Online, January 3, 2004.


INDIA


Four soldiers killed and 15 persons injured in Fidayeen attack at Jammu Railway Station: A day ahead of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit, two fidayeen (suicide squad) terrorists attacked the Jammu Railway Station on January 2, 2004, killing four security force (SF) personnel and injuring fifteen others, including six civilians. Both the terrorists were subsequently killed by the SF personnel. Hundreds of passengers, mostly pilgrims of the Mata Vaishnodevi shrine, were reportedly at the station when the attack occurred. Daily Excelsior, January 3, 2004.



PAKISTAN


SAARC social charter signed: Leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) leaders on January 3, 2004, signed a ten-point social charter to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and accelerate their economic growth while agreeing to adopt a strategy to deal with issues like poverty alleviation, promoting status of women and population stabilisation. Under the ten-page charter signed in Islamabad, the seven-member grouping agreed to establish a people-centred framework for social development and to respond to the immediate needs of those who are most affected by human distress. Daily Excelsior, January 4, 2004.

President Musharraf calls for expansion of SAARC charter to discuss bilateral issues: While speaking at the banquet he hosted for the heads of state and government in Islamabad on January 3, 2004, President Pervez Musharraf called for the expansion of the charter of South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) to discuss bilateral issues at the regional level. "We must put behind the tarnished legacy of mistrust, bitterness and tension. We feel there is a need to expand our charter to constitute a mechanism to discuss even bilateral issues at the regional level," he said. The existing SAARC charter excludes bilateral issues from its purview. He opined that South Asia must realize its destiny by "confronting its problems and not shying away from them and refusing to acknowledge their existence." Dawn, January 4, 2004.

One of the suicide bombers involved in assassination attempt linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed: One of the two suicide bombers who targeted President Pervez Musharraf on December 25, 2003, in Rawalpindi belonged to the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and was freed from an Afghan prison during year 2002, unnamed intelligence officials were quoted as saying on December 29 in the Daily Times. Sources said that Mohammed Jameel, a resident of Rawalakot, was caught fighting along the Taliban in Afghanistan and was allegedly freed from an Afghan jail in 2002 along with 29 other Pakistanis. On arrival in Pakistan, Jameel was reportedly screened by security agencies and freed. "The joint investigation team had concluded that the suspect was not involved in any anti-state activities, as nothing adverse had been found against him," said an official. Daily Times, December 30, 2003.



SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress proposes interim Constitution to end political stalemate: The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) on January 1, 2004, proposed an interim Constitution for the country as a formula to reach a consensus between "the