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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 47, June 7, 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


 
PAKISTAN

The Northern Areas Tinderbox
Kanchan Lakshman
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

Celebrating liberal democracy during his speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, Pakistan's Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) Mohammad Ali Jinnah said, "You may belong to any religion or caste or creed... that has nothing to do with the business of the state. We are all citizens and equal citizens of the state." Fifty-seven years since, even as President and General Pervez Musharraf exhorts the people of Pakistan to adopt 'enlightened moderation', Pakistan's tentative quest for a non-discriminatory liberal democracy continues to unravel. Indeed, the ideology of fundamentalist Islam appears to remain at the heart of the Musharraf regime's strategy of national political mobilization and consolidation, despite talk of 'enlightened moderation' - as recent developments in the Northern Areas (NA) of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) demonstrate.

Agitated over contentious sections in the textbooks prescribed in state-run schools, protestors of the Shia community in the Gilgit city of NA clashed with troops on June 3 during a curfew that had been imposed in the city's municipal limits. While one protestor was killed near Khomer Chowk, clashes and arson were reported from all over the district. A Pakistan Radio van and transmitter, the Danyore Police Station, the Police Training Centre, the Gilgit Deputy Commissioner's office, a rest house and the Northern Areas Legislative Council hall were damaged by angry mobs. Shia clerics in Gilgit had called for a rally after failing to reach a compromise with the officials over the textbooks, which they felt were against their belief system, and sought to propagate a particular brand of Sunni Islam in the Shia dominated Northern areas. The Army was called out in Gilgit to maintain law and order after Shia leader Agha Ziauddin Rizvi set June 3 as the deadline for the administration to resolve the issue. Another three persons died when troops opened fire on a vehicle which was violating the curfew on June 6.

The severity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that more than 200 school-children from the Shia community staged a three-day hunger strike in Gilgit on May 17 against the existing syllabus. At the time of writing, authorities had imposed a round-the-clock curfew and deployed troops and police in Gilgit city. The NA administration has decided to close all Government schools in districts Gilgit and Skardu for an indefinite period. The underlying fear in Islamabad is that the sectarian unrest that engulfed Karachi in recent days could fuel greater anger among the Shias in Gilgit and elsewhere in the Northern Areas.

But what precisely are these objections? The Curriculum Reform Committee of Northern Areas, Gilgit, while stating that certain sections are repugnant to the Shia school of thought, added that these have been deliberately inserted to alienate the Shia school-children from their faith. According to Mohammad Shehzad, writing in the Friday Times on July 10, 2003, these offending sections include, among others:

  • The incident of wahee (revelation) has been described in a ridiculous manner that shows the Prophet himself was not sure about his prophet-hood. Islamiat, 4th grade, 22; Social Studies, 4th grade, 115; Urdu, 8th grade, 14.
  • A picture that depicts the Sunni style of saying prayer. Urdu, 2nd grade, 18.
  • The Sunni caliphs have been presented as Khulfa-e-Rashideen [the Orthodox Caliphs] unopposed by Shias. [The Shia do not recognize the first three caliphs as Khulfa-e-Rashideen] Urdu, 3rd grade, 89; Arabic, 7th grade, 46; Social Studies, 7th grade, 12-14.
  • The Caliphs [that are not recognized by Shias] have been eulogized through titles such as Siddique Amirul Momineen [Siddique, Commander of the Faithful, the First Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique] and Farooq Amirul Momineen [Farooq, Commander of the Faithful, the Second Caliph Hazrat Umar Farooq]. Shias claim such titles are only for Hazrat Ali [the Fourth Caliph]. Urdu, 4th grade, 77; Islamiat, 4th grade, 25; Arabic, 8th grade, 27.
  • Yazid [who the Shia's accuse of the killing of the Prophet's grandson, Hazrat Hussain] has been totally exonerated in the Karbala events, which culminated in the extermination of Hazrat Ali's son's (the Prophet's grandchildren) Hassan and Hussain, and their families, and the entire blame has been shifted to Ibn-e-Ziyad. Urdu, 8th grade, 105.
  • The Prophet's wife Ayesha has been projected as superior to all other women of the Prophet's family through fake ahadiz (sayings of the Prophet). Urdu, 7th grade, 9-10.
  • The Prophet's uncle Hazrat Abu Talib has been described a non-Muslim. (Islamiat, BA, 231).
  • "One of the textbooks of Islamic Studies carries a picture that shows a boy offering prayers in a manner practiced by the Sunnis i.e. hands held together and put on the belly. Shias don't follow this posture. The picture misleads a Shia student about his/her religious rituals," said Ali Ahmed Jan, a Fellow of Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD).
  • Further, "The textbooks have utterly ignored the contribution of Hazrat Ali in the battle of Badar. It is a known fact that he had killed the major chieftains of non-believers and played a key role in Badar's success. Unfortunately, there is no mention of Hazrat Ali in the books. Moreover, the books speak highly of the companions of Holy Prophet but they are silent over the important figures from Ahle-Biat [family of the Prophet]," said Shia scholar Amin Shaheedi.

The Northern Areas of PoK, spread over an area of 28, 000 square miles, comprise the five districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Skardu and Ghanche. The population of approximately 1.5 million has ethnic groups as varied as the Baltees, Shinas, Vashkuns, Mughals, Kashmiris, Pathans, Ladhakhis and Turks inhabiting the region, speaking a variety of languages like Balti, Shina, Brushaski, Khawer, Wakhi, Turki, Tibeti, Pushto and Urdu. Unlike the rest of Pakistan, Shias dominate the demography of the Northern Areas. According to Faqir Mohammad Khan's The Story of Gilgit, Baltistan and Chitral: A Short History of Two Millenniums, Gilgit is 60 percent Shia, 40 percent Sunni; Hunza is 100 percent Ismaili [a Shia sub-sect]; Nagar is 100 percent Shia; Punial is 100 percent Ismaili; Yasin is 100 percent Ismaili; Ishkoman is 100 percent Ismaili; Chilas is 100 percent Sunni; Astor is 90 percent Sunni, 10 percent Shia; Baltistan is 96 percent Shia and 2 percent Sunni.

The Northern Areas, administered directly by the Federal Government from Islamabad, is governed by the Frontier Crime Regulations framed during the British colonial era. The region is ruled directly by the Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas with a six-member Cabinet. It remains largely neglected, with no university or professional colleges. With an acute absence of industry, subsistence is overwhelmingly based on tourism. The people of the Northern Areas are denied representation in the Federal Parliament and the local elected body, called Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC), has no powers even comparable to that of a municipal body in a Pakistani city. Although elections to the NALC were held under the military regime in 2000, financial and legislative powers are yet to be delegated to the NALC.

Amidst the lack of civil and political rights, many movements articulating dissent have emerged. The lack of political representation has fueled demands for both formal inclusion within the Pakistani state and for self-determination. In 1988, there was sectarian unrest in Gilgit after Shias demanded an independent state. However, the Pakistani army suppressed the revolt, allegedly with the assistance of armed Sunni tribesmen from a neighboring province.

The absence of a politics of criticism has dominated the Northern Areas' historiography. Freedom of association and assembly is restricted. Political parties advocating either self-rule or greater political representation within Pakistan have, more often than not, found their leaders being subjected to arbitrary arrest and long prison terms. One such formation, the Balawaristan National Front (BNF), estimated in 2003 that more than 70 individuals are facing sedition or treason cases as a result of their political activities. BNF leader Abdul Hamid Khan, while referring to the region as 'the heart of darkness', notes that political and administrative circumstances in NA - with total control exercised by Islamabad through the Army, with no popular freedoms or rights, and tight censorship of all information flows - make the region an ideal and secret place for the relocation of the dislocated hub of international terrorism.

Pakistan's military regime is apprehensive of a geographical spread of the sectarian cauldron, with the possibility of outlawed groups like the Sunni Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the Shia Sipah-e-Mohammed Pakistan (SMP) fishing in troubled waters in the NA. Earlier, in February 2004, Islamist extremists had destroyed at least nine schools in Diamer. Many in NA believe that the schools were possibly targeted because they are foreign funded. Mir Aman, resident editor of the Kunjarab Times International, a Gilgit newspaper, said that, as these schools began to attract students, "enrollment in madrassas [seminaries] started declining and the fundamentalists took that as a threat to their value system. The people in this backward area are very religious and female education is considered a waste."

During the same month, the Federal Government had cracked down on an unnamed group led by Maulvi Shahzada Khan in NA for its alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Reportedly involved in bomb blasts and firing at Social Action Programme school buildings in the NA, the group is linked to the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and other banned Sunni Jehadi organisations. Intelligence sources quoted in a Daily Times report of February 25 said that the group played a leading role during the 'invasion' of Shia localities by an armed tribal force in Gilgit in 1988. Being strategically vital to Islamabad's Kashmir policy, the military regime can ill-afford another violent front being unlocked, as it is already beleaguered on the Afghan border, Karachi, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province.

The problems over the syllabus and school curricula currently being encountered in Gilgit and elsewhere in Pakistan, are largely the product of a state endeavour to support a particular variant of Islam. The very converse of 'enlightened moderation' is being vigorously propounded by what an official of the Curriculum Wing said is a 'powerful lobby' of ultra-Islamists who follow the Wahabi school of thought. To be fair to the military regime, however, a separate curriculum for the Shias is unlikely to provide a solution given that it would only further aggravate sectarianism. The roots of the problem lie in the Pakistani state's pre-occupation with the entire process of Islamization, as also in the 'disengagement' of the Northern Areas, a region that remains deeply neglected, exploited and that has been denied a clear political identity. The resulting ground reality is that the region is a tinderbox and the syllabus issue may well be the spark that sets it aflame.



NEPAL

Maoists Overrun the Hinterland
Guest Writer: Keshab Poudel
Managing Editor, Spotlight, Kathmandu

After a political vacuum of 22 days, King Gyanendra of Nepal has appointed a new Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, ending political uncertainty at the Center. Despite Deuba's appointment, however, the country's rural hinterland remains outside the authority of the state apparatus and lacks the presence of elected representatives to govern the areas.

In his first public statement, Prime Minister Deuba called on the Maoists to come to the negotiating table, but the latter are yet to respond to the invitation. The Maoists' response to Deuba's appointment as Prime Minister, however, was far from encouraging, and Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, the leader of the rebels, had denounced the King's move as a last ditch effort to save the feudalistic state. The Maoist leader further urged all his cadres to continue their armed struggle.

The Maoists have already forced the nominated representatives on local bodies to vacate their posts, and have demonstrated their strength by imposing blockades across large parts of the country, even as they roam freely in and around the villages and conduct 'judicial trials' through their 'People's Courts'. From the hills and mountains of the North to the plains of southern Terai bordering India, the Government has already pulled out of police stations, forest offices and other local administrative units in the rural areas. The Maoists are destroying the remaining administrative infrastructure, such as Village Development Committees (VDCs) and ward offices. Most of the nominated members of these various bodies have resigned, leaving no administrative machinery or control in the rural areas.

Following the resignation of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa on May 7, the Maoists intensified their activities in the rural areas, increasing pressure for the resignation of nominated heads of VDCs and District Development Committee (DDC) chiefs, and routinely imposing long term blockades in various parts of the country, forcing farmers to destroy their vegetables, crops and milk produce, as they are not allowed to move their goods to the market. After evicting the elected representatives from villages, the Maoists have now started to infiltrate the education sector, abducting more than 5,000 teachers and thousands of students. The schoolteachers are being abducted en masse in order to retrain them in the Maoists' 'People's Education System'. According to the Nepal Teachers' Association, the abducted teachers were taken to so-called teachers' training centers. In absence of VDCs and police stations, the schoolteachers are the only Government employees with a presence in the rural hinterland.

Moreover, in just the past month alone, between May 7 and June 4, the Maoists called general strikes on seven days, including five days of a countrywide blockade.

After Thapa was appointed as Prime Minister in July last year, he had nominated mayors, deputy mayors, and members of VDCs. Out of 3,900 VDCs, the Government nominated members in 850 VDCs. The government also nominated members in more than 50 of the 75 DDCs. These steps filled a nearly year-long political vacuum in the villages. The Government also sent mobile administrative units around the country to provide basic administrative and health services.

The local bodies - the face of the Government for the population in rural areas - had remained without elected heads after the then-Government allowed the tenure of earlier elected local bodies to expire in July 16, 2002, without conducting elections. The result was that 213,922 elected representatives, including ward members, were discharged. According to the Local Self-Governance Act (LSGA), 1998, each VDC consists of nine wards and each ward has a chairman and four members, including one woman. Like village wards, there are city wards in municipalities. From July 2002 to August 2003, the local bodies were under the control of civil servants who had little knowledge about the rural areas.

Having forced most political activists out of the villages, the Maoists had turned their attention to the nominated heads of local bodies ever since they took office. They issued many threats and even killed some of them, provoking a spate of resignations, which have hit the people the hardest. The Maoists killed the Chairman of Rasuwa DDC, 80 kilometers south of the capital, Kathmandu, last month; the Mayor of the Birgunj Municipality, which boders Raxual in the Eastern Indian State of Bihar; and shot the Mayor of Butwal, which borders Nautanuwa in Indian State of Uttar Pradesh.

The Maoists have also compelled western donor countries to suspend their projects in many rural areas of the far western region. Local Maoists recently issued orders to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) working in the areas to register themselves with the Maoist 'authorities'. The intention is clearly to increase the sphere of Maoist influence in the rural areas and to assert their authority. The Maoists have already set up 'Village People's Governments', 'District People's Governments' and 'Regional Autonomous Bodies'.

The Maoists have also demanded a role in defining the way resources are spent in programs sponsored by different donor countries. The growing pressure has compelled some donors to suspend their programs. Just a month ago, Germany's Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the Department of International Development (DFID) and Netherlands' Development Organization (SNV-Nepal) temporarily suspended their development activities in five districts of the far western region. As a result of the decision, more than 55,000 poor Nepalese living in the conflict zones are immediately affected. Many INGOs, such as Save the Children USA, the Lutheran World Service and others, have already pulled out from the far-western districts.

According to the National Planning Commission, the far western region of Nepal has the largest proportion of the population living below the poverty line, as compared to other regions. With the national average of 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, the four districts of Kailali, Kanchanpur, Achham and Dadeldhura in the far western region have the highest concentration of poverty. The report indicates that 72 per cent of the population in the hills and mountains of this region live below the poverty line - the highest among Nepal's five geographical zones.

In a situation where Maoists continue to destroy the last vestiges of central authority in the rural areas, the Government appears to be losing its grip completely. According to the World Bank's Nepal Country Assistance Strategy, 2004-2007, the insurgency has increasingly challenged the fragile economy - the costs have been estimated at 8-10 per cent of GDP, including:

  • damage to infrastructure, e.g., over one-third of the 3,900 VDC buildings have been destroyed;
  • lost economic activity due to Bandhs - i.e. strikes - that have been taking place with greater frequency and often lasting 2-3 days; and
  • a generally low level of economic activity caused by decreased business confidence and low tourism.

Furthermore, there has been a large direct impact on the livelihood of millions of primarily rural-based individuals, among whom killings, extortion, confiscation of goods and properties, forced recruitment, and infrastructure destruction, have created terror and resulted in migration, decreased agricultural production and declining living standards. It is estimated that more than 300,000 people have migrated to the Kathmandu valley in the recent past.

The costs of repeated economic blockades have also been very high and the farmers have been loosing millions of dollars in market sales. According to the Government's assessment, any impact on the agricultural sector is likely to trigger widespread alarm, since 76 per cent of the total population (23 million) are engaged in this sector in Nepal. Agriculture accounts for 40 per cent of total GDP. For 90 per cent of the poor, i.e. households in the bottom 25 per cent of the consumption scale, agriculture is the only income generating activity. Maoist moves to derail the agricultural sector could have a crippling impact on the national economy. Dr. Shankar Sharma, vice chairman of the National Planning Commission, notes that, "The economic blockade by the Maoists will have a long term impact on the Nepalese economy. Farmers have already suffered huge loss in the last two months frequent blockade. It will affect the annual GDP."

According to the Human Rights Year book 2004 published by the Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), a human rights organization, farmers ranked third on the list of victims killed during conflict, after political workers and police personnel. In the year 2003, the report states, 139 agricultural workers were killed by the Maoists, and another 153 by Government Forces.

The casualties of the current conflict have risen into the thousands, and it has pushed the economy into recession. With a continuous erosion of the authority of the Government over large parts of the country - virtually the entire rural hinterland - there appears to be little hope of relief for the people of Nepal in the foreseeable future.


INDIA

Assam: Abductions - A Challenge to Peace
Bibhu Prasad Routray
Acting Director, ICM Database & Documentation Centre, Guwahati

On April 27, 2004, Nirmalendu Langthasa, son of Assam's Hill Areas Development Minister, G.C. Langthasa, along with two of his friends, went out to Baithalangso in Karbi Anglong's Hamren sub-division, 140 kilometres away from District Headquarter Diphu, to negotiate with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants, who had imposed a hefty extortion demand on his father. The militants, however, had other plans and abducted Nirmalendu, asking his friends to convey the message to his parents. The Minister, on hearing the news, tried to hush up the matter and attempted to seek his son's release by directly negotiating with the militants. The talks, however, failed to provide a solution, and a month later, on May 25, a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged in Haflong, the district headquarter of the North Cachar Hills district by the Minister's family, stating that Nirmalendu had been abducted by 'unidentified militants' and remained untraced since April 27.

Till May 31 everybody, including the police establishment, appeared convinced that the abduction was the handiwork either of the local militant outfits, the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) or the Dima Halim Daoga (DHD). However, a May 31 statement by the ULFA 'Chairman', Arabinda Rajkhowa, provided a dramatic twist to the entire situation. Rajkhowa claimed responsibility for the abduction and said that the minister's son would be released only when seven of its top-rung leaders, arrested and handed over to the Indian Army during the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) crackdown on its Bhutan camps in December 2003, were released. The Assam Government is yet to react officially, and the deadlock continued till the filing of this report.

The ruling party has made strong claims about the peace and tranquillity prevailing in Assam, and has demanded that the Centre should give it a 'peace dividend', in terms of preferential financial grants, like Mizoram. However, a stream of abductions by terrorists remains a troubling reality in the State. Official figures suggest that, since 2001, cases of abduction have risen steadily. 82 persons were abducted in 2001, rising to 97 in 2002, and 175 in 2003. The current year has already seen at least 22 persons abducted by various groups. Abductions in Assam, unlike Tripura where the main targets are ordinary villagers or railway workers, have targeted the rich, the powerful and the influential. As a result, the amount of ransom paid for their release has reached astronomical figures. According to reports, the initial amount demanded for Nirmalendu's release was to the tune of Rs. 30 million, before the ULFA changed over to a more politically appropriate track, using the abduction to try to secure the release of its leaders.

The incidents of abduction do not necessarily constitute a commentary on the efficiency of the State police force, whose capabilities have been stretched to the limits by the never-ending demands of protecting the lives of the ever-increasing tribe of Very Important Persons (VIPs). They do, however, reflect poorly on the capability of State intelligence, which remained in the dark regarding the real identity of the abductors, till ULFA chose to open its mouth. It is also a fact that, in spite of the political rhetoric of the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues, the present administration is yet to regain control over sizeable stretches of the State's territory from the influence of a 'marginalized' outfit like the ULFA. As recently as March 17, 2004, a non-resident Assamese, Pratul Deb was abducted from Assam's Hailakandi District by the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), a rag tag outfit of about a hundred cadres, which is presently engaged in peace negotiations with the Mizoram Government. Deb is yet to be set free even after the payment of Rupees one million. Letters written by Deb's daughter in newspapers suggest that the Assam police virtually adopted a hands-off approach and advised the family to negotiate with the militants directly. Such incidents and, more importantly, their frequency, reinforce the fear that Assam is still not safe, neither for business nor for tourism.

In Assam, the narrative on the ULFA, or any other militant outfit for that matter, remains unstable and caught up in a politicized flux. A Guwahati journalist recently pointed out, during an informal conversation, that the marginalisation of the ULFA is never good news, as it is also indicative of the marginalsiation of the Assamese in New Delhi. It is this orientation, which dominates much of the Assamese discourse, that gets the ULFA off the hook every time it is weakened, in spite of the occasional and largely symbolic public protests against the unending militancy by organisations like the Assam Public Works ULFA Pariyal Committee.

The ULFA's demand for the release of seven of its leaders may actually disguise the group's real intent. Stripped of significant tactical advantage following the military operations in Bhutan in December 2003, the ULFA leadership has come under immense pressure to perform. A majority of the 500-odd cadres who in the wake of the Bhutan operations, spoke openly against the ULFA top leadership's apathy towards the ordinary cadres, and complained that the common members of the militant groups not only suffered in the camps in Bhutan, but was abandoned to face the onslaught of the Bhutanese Army, while their leaders made merry in the comfort Bangladeshi safe havens. The dramatic gesture of demanding the release of seven of its prominent cadres, and not money, in exchange for Nirmalendu, may be intended to convey the top leadership's concern for its arrested cadres.

The episode is gradually taking a precarious turn, with an increasing focus on ethnic relations. Assam, home to a number of tribes, is an ethnic tinderbox, and the invention and assertion of tribal identities has been constantly exploited by tribal elites to satisfy personal and political ambitions. The situation is even more precarious in districts like the North Cachar Hills, which was witness to a bitter ethnic conflict between the Hmars and the Dimasas in the year 2003, which claimed more than 60 lives. Incidentally, during that period of ethnic feuding, Minister Langthasa had lost another of his sons to Hmar militants. Already, organisations like the Jadikhe Naisho Hoshom (JNH) have started issuing statements blaming the 'Assamese' terrorist organisation, the ULFA. A JNH statement, issued on June 4 spoke of the Dimasa tribe being always 'alienated from the mainstream' and 'being trapped between the Brahmaputra and Barak valley'.

Nirmalendu could, eventually, be released unharmed, given the heat the abduction has generated, even though reports now indicate, given the time gap between his actual abduction and lodging of the FIR, that he might be well out of the country, spirited out to one of ULFA's camps in Myanmar or Bangladesh. The DHD has already stepped in to mediate his release. Given the publicity the incident has generated, it will be impossible for the Government to concede, even marginally to the outfit's demand. However, the ULFA will try to exploit the occasion to lift up the sagging morale of its cadres by pushing the Government into a corner. Most importantly, going by the track record of abductions and the subsequent knee-jerk official response, a substantial amount of money is sure to change hands before Nirmalendu reaches home.

NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 31-June 6, 2004

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

0
0
3
3

INDIA

     Assam

2
0
3
5

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

8
3
19
30

     Left-wing      Extremism

0
0
1
1

     Manipur

1
1
5
7

     Meghalaya

1
0
0
1

     Nagaland

0
0
1
1

Total (INDIA)

12
4
29
45

NEPAL

4
0
9
13

PAKISTAN

33
2
1
36

SRI LANKA

1
0
0
1
 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Japanese police arrest Bangladeshi national for suspected Al Qaeda links: Japanese police are reported to have arrested a Bangladeshi man on June 3, 2004, while suspecting that he may have links to a possible Al Qaeda cell in Japan. The 37-year-old was detained in central Gunma prefecture (state) on immigration violations. His arrest came a day after another Bangladeshi was detained in Tokyo on the same charges. Police are trying to ascertain whether both are linked to Frenchman Lionel Dumont, who is in jail in France, but is believed to have set up a terrorist cell in Japan during March 2002. Daily Times, June 4, 2004.

Jamaat has links to 16 Islamist extremist outfits, alleges Sheikh Hasina: Addressing a rally in the capital Dhaka on June 2, 2004, Leader of the Opposition, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, alleged that the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is part of the four-party ruling coalition, has links to 12 to 16 Islamist extremist outfits operating in Bangladesh. She claimed these groups had country-wide networks and also trained their operatives in armed combat. The Daily Star, June 3, 2004.

Three Harkat-ul-Jihad activists arrested from training camp in Chittagong: Police have reportedly destroyed a training camp of the Islamist outfit, Harkat-ul-Jihad, located in the interior hilly area of Pori-Kup Mulatoli in Chittagong district and seized 24 inactive AK-47 rifles, sharp weapons and instruments and uniforms on June 1, 2004. Three cadres of the outfit were arrested while at least 60 of them reportedly escaped. The 'director of the camp' was Mir Anis, a relative of a state minister and teacher of a local women's madrassa (seminary). The arrested activists have reportedly told media that the seminary students were trained in 'Taliban' style in the hilly areas and some of them were supposed to go to other countries, while many others had gone to Sylhet and Mymensingh. Independent Bangladesh; The Daily Star, June 2, 2004.


INDIA

Andhra Pradesh Government withdraws rewards on Naxalites' heads: The Andhra Pradesh Government on June 4, 2004, announced the withdrawal of bounties on top leaders of the outlawed People's War Group (PWG) in an attempt to solve the three-decade left-wing extremist problem in the State. The announcement was made in the Legislative Assembly by Home Minister for State K. Jana Reddy. "We will adopt a firm but humane approach to solve the problem. Civil liberties groups and some intellectuals have, on several occasions, expressed doubts on the genuineness of certain encounters. The Government, therefore, has decided to adopt the policy of stopping rewards on the Naxalites [left-wing extremists]," he said. The Police had, in the past, announced rewards on the heads of at least 1,100 Naxalites ranging from Rupees 25,000 to Rupees 1.2 million. New India Press, June 5, 2004.

Government condemns Al Qaeda attack in Saudi Arabia; eight Indians among those dead: India on May 31, 2004, condemned the terrorist attack by suspected Al Qaeda operatives in the Al Khobar city of Saudi Arabia a day earlier, in which 22 people, including eight Indians, were killed. "The Indian casualties were victims of the circumstances rather than pre-meditated targets for attack," said an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson in New Delhi. Saudi Arabia's elite commandos had stormed the housing complex, shot dead at least two Al Qaeda operatives and freed over 50 people held captive by the terrorists, ending a 25-hour hostage crisis. The terrorists had earlier carried out multiple strikes in which 22 people, including eight Indians, were killed. The Hindu, June 1, 2004.


NEPAL

Sher Bahadur Deuba appointed as Prime Minister: Sher Bahadur Deuba was on June 2, 2004, appointed as the new Prime Minister of Nepal. The announcement was made soon after Deuba met with King Gyanendra who has reportedly asked him to form a Government that includes other political parties and to also hold elections. Speaking outside the royal palace in the capital Kathmandu, Deuba said "I have been re-instated and my next move will be to hold elections." He added that his appointment had ended the need for the agitation against 'regression'. The reinstatement comes 20 months after the King's dismissal of the Deuba Government on grounds of "incompetence". Meanwhile, in a statement issued a day after the appointment of Deuba as Prime Minister, chief of the Maoist insurgents, Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, said that the new appointment "is a continuation of regression and a conspiracy against the country." Saying that the "dramatic move" has further complicated the national crisis, Prachanda claimed "the appointment was directed by foreign imperialists." Nepal News, June 4, 2004.

Five 'central committee' leaders among 11 Nepalese Maoists arrested in Bihar: According to the Kathmandu-based Himalayan Times, police in the eastern Indian State of Bihar arrested 11 Nepalese Maoists, including Chitra Bahadur Shrestha and four other 'central committee' members, from Patna on June 2, 2004. Besides Shrestha, Rajendra Thapa and his wife Ranju, Lokendra Bishta, Min Prasad Chapagain, Anil Sharma and Shyam Yadav were also arrested from their hideouts during raids in hotels and houses on Station Road, Exhibition Road and Fraser Road in Patna. Sources said that the Maoists admitted during interrogation that they were in Bihar to procure sophisticated firearms from two banned left-wing groups, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and Peoples' War Group (PWG). The Himalayan Times, June 3, 2004.


PAKISTAN

UNHCR and foreign NGOs warned against suicide attacks on their offices: Offices of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Quetta and five other foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have reportedly been warned against imminent suicide attacks on their offices. A UNHCR official said that the local office of the Commissioner of the Afghan Refugee Organization had asked them to take strict security measures, saying it had received information suggesting that terrorists were planning suicide attacks on offices of six NGOs, including the UNHCR. Other NGOs that have been warned included the Mercy Corps International (American), the Global Partner (British), the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia, the Concern (British) and the Tear Fund (French). "Ex-Taliban/Al Qaeda elements are planning to blow up UNHCR and (other) foreign NGOs in Quetta," a message received by UNHCR and the NGOs said. Dawn, June 6, 2004.

Four persons killed during clashes between Shias and Police in Gilgit: Three persons were killed in the Gilgit city of Northern Areas on June 6, 2004, when troops opened fire on a vehicle violating a round-the-clock curfew imposed on June 3 due to sectarian unrest, amid agitation by the Shia community demanding changes to Islamic textbooks. One person had died and seven others were wounded on June 3 when protesters clashed with the police. On June 3, clashes and arson were reported from all over the district and a Pakistan Radio van and transmitter, Danyore Police Station, the Police Training Centre, the Gilgit Deputy Commissioner's office, a rest house and the Northern Areas Legislative Council hall were damaged by angry mobs. The Army was called out in Gilgit to maintain law and order after Shia leader Agha Ziauddin Rizvi set June 3 as the deadline for the administration to resolve the issue regarding the existing school syllabi that Shia leaders had said was against their faith. Jang, June 7, 2004; Daily Times, June 4, 2004.

24 worshippers dead in suspected suicide bombing at Shia mosque in Karachi: At least 24 worshippers were killed and 34 others sustained injuries when a high-intensity bomb exploded during the evening prayers at a Shia mosque situated on the MA Jinnah Road in Karachi on May 31, 2004. The blast led to violence in several localities of Karachi and mobs set ablaze a petrol station, several vehicles, including a police mobile van, a bank and some commercial establishments. An eye-witness said that two persons riding a motorcycle threw an explosive device inside the mosque and fled towards the Lines Area. Among those dead was Maulana Mustaque Ahmed Mazhar, the prayer leader at the mosque. Deputy Inspector General of Police (Investigation), Fayyaz Ahmed Khan Leghari, said, "It could be a suicide bombing. We are investigating the blast from different angles and the facts would transpire once thorough investigation is completed." Dawn, June 1, 2004.

 

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

 

South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

Publisher
K. P. S. Gill

Editor
Dr. Ajai Sahni



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