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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 9, September 15, 2003

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



J&K: Withering Roses - The Peace Process Melts Down
Guest Writer: Praveen Swami
Special Correspondent, Frontline

It is perhaps a sign of the extraordinary desperation that has gripped policy-making on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) that the blossoming of every single rose is heralded as evidence that summer has arrived. The unremitting violence that has followed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's August visit to Srinagar has shown yet again that roses can be easily cut down, or can simply wither away in the relentless heat of the real world. Amidst the usual hand-wringing provoked by the violence, however, few have asked the real question that needs to be addressed: just why has peace-making proved so difficult a business in Jammu and Kashmir?

One answer, perhaps, is that peace making is often founded on false premises and half-truth. Much of the early-summer peace initiative was based on the assumption that Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's 'Healing Touch' agenda had succeeded in starting to build a working civil-society consensus against violence. 'Healing Touch' optimists claimed there had been a 'marked reduction' in violence since the People's Democratic Party (PDP)-led alliance had come to power. This was variously attributed to Sayeed's programme of prisoner releases, his campaigns against corruption, and the realisation among secessionist organisations that they could find a place within mainstream political practice and discourse.

In fact, the figures show, there was no really meaningful decline in violence. If one considers the total numbers of killings as an index, the events of this winter closely mirror those of 2001 and 2002, slacking off in the winter and then escalating as spring and summer set in. There was, in fact, a far larger drop in killings in the summer of 2002, compared with 2001, than anything the 'Healing Touch' achieved. This could, perhaps, be attributed to the impact of Operation Parakram, the massive military mobilisation set in place after Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists stormed India's Parliament building in December 2001. Operation Parakram, it could be argued, established a threshold level for violence, sustained since by a variety of factors, ranging from United States of America pressure on Pakistan, and a realisation in that country's military establishment of the potential costs of a near-war situation.

A second myth is that political life in Jammu and Kashmir has started to normalise. In fact, political discourse there remains distinctly abnormal. Consider, for example, the giant billboard outside Srinagar airport, welcoming any tourists who might arrive. Set against the backdrop of Kashmir in autumn, the billboard bears the visages of Prime Minister Vajpayee and Chief Minister Sayeed. Nowhere else in the country would a Congress-supported Chief Minister be so eager to advertise his warm relationship with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Nor, of course, would the BJP be keen to share space with the leader of the party committed to releasing terrorists from jail, and to dialogue with Islamist secessionist groups like the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin (HM).

Sadly for both these politicians - the twin poles of the peace process initiated in March - things aren't quite going according to plan. For one, there are few tourists to see the billboard. Hotels and houseboats emptied after a string of bombings and suicide-squad attacks executed to mark the Prime Minister's visit to Srinagar. Underlying this is a larger political problematic. "Our doors are open", the Prime Minister said in Srinagar, "to all those, who reject militancy and extreme positions and wish to play a constructive role in taking Jammu and Kashmir forward on the high road of peace and rapid development." This was of a piece with his past position, notably articulated during the Ramzan ceasefire of 2000-2001, when the Union Government sought to engage elements within the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin politically.

For secessionist groups, armed or purely political, this position is simply inadequate. For one, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) head, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, has repeatedly rejected dialogue with the Union Government's official mediator on Jammu and Kashmir, N.N. Vohra. The APHC leaders believe their legitimacy would be undermined unless New Delhi negotiates with them at the highest political level, acknowledging the secessionists as representatives of a de-facto nation. With general elections on the horizon, the BJP simply cannot afford to make such a large concession. Indeed, it is profoundly unlikely that any political dispensation in New Delhi could do so in the foreseeable future.

Matters are further compromised by the running battle within the Hurriyat Conference. On September 7, Syed Ali Shah Geelani leader of a faction within the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has emerged as the Hurriyat's arch-foe, called for a parallel meeting of the Hurriyat's General Council to chalk out the organisation's course of action. The next day, 12 members of the 23-member General Council elected a four-member body chaired by Muslim League leader Massarat Alam, a long-standing Geelani supporter recently released from jail by the PDP Government, as a parallel Hurriyat Executive. Centrists and Islamists are thus divided down the middle, and a bitter leadership feud is underway.

On top of it all, the Hurriyat centrists are increasingly finding themselves in confrontation with armed Islamist groups. Prior to Vajpayee's visit, the Hurriyat sought to avoid calling for a shutdown of shops and businesses, a ritual practice when major Indian leaders visit Srinagar. Geelani, however, issued a call, and was followed in quick time by the Islamabad-based council of fourteen terrorist groups, the Muttahida (United) Jehad Council (MJC). The MJC attacked the Hurriyat centrists for having gone soft on New Delhi, a position that was also adopted by the LeT and JeM. The Hurriyat was then forced to issue a call for a general strike. Hemmed in by pressure from armed groups and Islamists, then, the Hurriyat centrists are as unable as New Delhi to make major concessions.

It is profoundly unlikely that any short-term means can be found to break the logjam. The United States of America is mired down in Iraq, and South Asian concerns have largely disappeared from its foreground consciousness. The situation is unlikely to change until President George Bush is either re-elected, or a successor takes his place with four years in hand. In the meanwhile, all players in J&K have an interest in using the time available to strengthen their positions. The available data suggests Pakistan, will continue singing the same tune it did until 2001, albeit at a slightly lowered pitch. Violence, sadly, will continue to be the principal medium of political discourse in J&K for some time to come.

What, then, might New Delhi's policy establishment do? It could, for one, reject a third myth: that peace-making and war-making stand in binary opposition. New Delhi bureaucrats often treat security issues as something sundered from the political process, rather than as an organic part of the search for solutions. Unless the security establishment can find creative means to make both ordinary people and their representatives secure, it is unlikely that a meaningful move towards peace can even begin. The killings of one-time terrorists turned pro-India militia leaders, Mohammad Yusuf Parrey and Javed Ahmad Shah, has signalled to potential fence-crossers that India is unable to look after its own. In turn, the de-escalation of aggressive counter-terrorist operations as part of the 'Healing Touch' programme has allowed terrorist groups to reassert their influence in rural Kashmir. Recruitment of local cadre has, by all accounts, picked up, notwithstanding the construction of a broad peace consensus.

Politicians - the recent resignation of Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture Minister Abdul Aziz Zargar is a case in point - have learned the obvious lesson from this situation. On the face of it, Zargar has committed no crime - or at least none not common to many residents of rural J&K. Chand Usman Khan - a terrorist accused in the Akshardham attack in Gujarat on September 24, 2002 - confessed that meetings to plan the outrage were held in Zargar's village home in the Anantnag district. The Minister had, however, left his residence in response to terrorism twelve years ago. There is no allegation that Zargar knew of either the meetings or their substance; but it is also true that he seems to have done nothing to ask the police or army to liberate his village from terrorist control. Zargar, like much of the ruling PDP, benefited significantly from terrorist support in last year's elections. His rival from the Noorabad constituency, Sakina Itoo, was repeatedly targeted by terrorists during the election campaign; Zargar was not. Terrorists through southern Kashmir told voters to support the PDP, and National (NC) Conference candidates suffered as a result.

The malaise is not restricted to the PDP. A Pakistani terrorist recently arrested in Poonch, Naim Khan, told his interrogators that a local NC legislator had paid protection money to his organisation, the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Hurriyat centrists - witness the case of assassinated leader Abdul Gani Lone - have also discovered the cost of bucking the jehadi fiat. Politicians, quite naturally, have learned that it is best to make their peace with those who wield the guns, rather than to strive for a genuine peace that excludes these elements. This is the core of the peace paradox in Jammu and Kashmir - a problem whose solution is the precondition to a successful peace process.




A Nation Under Siege
Guest Writer: Deepak Thapa
Kathmandu-based journalist and editor

It has been more than two weeks since the end of the ceasefire between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). When the rebels declared, on August 27, 2003, that there remained no justification for the seven-month-long truce, all had not seemed lost. Since they had not explicitly stated that the ceasefire had ended there still seemed a hint that it was a pressure ploy to force concessions out of the Government. For its part, the Government once again urged the Maoists to return to the negotiating table even while it declared that it was ready to face any new challenge.

But the very next day, August 28, the Maoists made clear their intent when they struck in the heart of Kathmandu. Two army colonels were shot, one of them fatally, sending the Kathmandu establishment in a tizzy over what could follow. Even more brazen was the attack the next day on a former state Minister for Home Affairs, Devendra Raj Kandel. It was during Kandel's tenure that the Nepali Government had declared the Maoists 'terrorists' and announced rewards for the capture or killing of top Maoist leaders. Although Kandel survived the assassination attempt, there was no doubt now where the Maoists were going to focus their attention - Kathmandu.

In fact, during the ceasefire, the Maoists had made it quite clear that Kathmandu would not be spared in the next round of fighting, should the hostilities resume. Maoist leaders had proclaimed as much in their public pronouncements as well as in private conversations. In the preceding seven years, the capital had seen only occasional bombings, and these had not done much damage. The killings and sabotage had been overwhelmingly limited to the rural hinterland.

In a repeat of what the country saw in the initial days of the nine-month emergency imposed in November 2001, an average toll of 10 Maoists killed has been reported every day in various encounters since the breakdown of the peace process. There have, however, not been any major battles so far. The one exception was in the western Nepal district of Rolpa, in the heart of Maoist country, when a 'long-distance patrol' of a combined force of the Army and the armed police was pinned down in a gully by Maoists for nearly 24 hours. The Government troops ran out of ammunition and the Army's newly acquired night-vision helicopters had to go to the rescue. Details of this engagement are yet to be revealed by the Army, and neither have any authoritative independent reports emerged.

Besides the Rolpa encounter, the Maoist dead are accounted for in minor skirmishes. The rebels themselves have, so far, not mounted any major attacks in the manner they did during the earlier fighting. They have struck soft targets such as soldiers and policemen on leave or on guard duty, suspected informants among ordinary folk, and abandoned police posts. They have also laid booby traps on highways and roads, injuring security personnel and civilians alike. The Maoists have also called for a three-day bandh (general strike) starting 18 September, and past experience suggests that this could be the occasion for greater violence. All in all, a strategy designed to strike terror among the general population appears to have been adopted, and it seems to be succeeding to some extent. People in the already sparsely populated western Nepal are fleeing their homes by the thousand, with the majority going to India to find work.

To meet the new exigencies brought about by the renewed fighting, the Army has entered an expansion phase. In the past two years, it has already grown by 10,000 to reach 60,000. It is currently planning to add another 5,000 soldiers to its force. In the field, counterinsurgency experts from the US military, numbering around 50, are believed to be conducting training. But the Army's image received a severe battering when the National Human Rights Commission indicted it for the massacre of 17 people in Ramechhap district in eastern Nepal, on August 17, 2003, the very day the Government and the Maoists sat down to the much-awaited third round of talks. The killings, and the implied insecurity for the Maoists, were cited as one of the reasons for the Maoist withdrawal from the talks.

Much of the action is still going on in the hills and plains outside Kathmandu, but the detached complacency of the capital's denizens has now been shattered. In the past week a series of bombs exploded, including one that killed a schoolboy. These daring attacks have forced the Government onto the back-foot, and security for top Government officials and politicians has been tightened. Security personnel have also been ordered not to venture out unless absolutely necessary. Kathmandu's security apparatus was put under the unified command of a Major General of the Army. An 11 pm to dawn curfew was imposed in parts of the Kathmandu Valley, outside the city limits. The capital appears to be in the grips of a siege mentality.

But that did not prevent the Maoists from shooting dead two people in a busy area on Kathmandu's outskirts on Friday, September 12. One of them was affiliated to the students' body allied to the Rastriya Prajatantra Party - the party of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, and the other an ordinary bystander. The Government's response was a night time curfew in Kathmandu as well as in the twin city of Lalitpur. For now, the siege seems complete.



Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 8-14, 2003

Security Force Personnel




     Jammu &












Total (INDIA)



*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Counter-insurgent leader Kukka Parray killed in Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir: Prominent counter-insurgent leader and leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Awami League, Mohammad Yusuf Parray alias Kukka Parray, was killed along with two of his associates, while eight persons, including four of his bodyguards, were injured when terrorists ambushed his vehicle in his hometown Hajan in the Baramulla district on September 13, 2003. Daily Excelsior, September 14, 2003.

Ten terrorists killed in Manipur: At least 10 terrorists affiliated to the Kuki National Front - Military Council (KNF-MC) were killed during an encounter in the Senapati district of Manipur on September 13, 2003. Indian Express, September 13, 2003.

US to stand by India in the fight against terrorism, says Assistant Secretary of State: Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca said in Delhi on September 11, 2003, that the United States would stand by India in its battle against terrorism. She also said that the issue of cross-border infiltration remained "very important" in its agenda with Pakistan. Rocca said, "The US will stand by India in its battle against terrorism just as India has stood with the US in its battle against terrorism". Indicating that the US enjoyed good relations with India and Pakistan "simultaneously", she added, "Pakistan is a country in the midst of a major political, economic and ideological transformation. It has not yet safely escaped the dangers of serious crisis on multiple fronts. It must be assisted to achieve a soft landing that corrects disturbing internal trends, realigns its direction as a moderate Muslim state, and defeats definitively all terrorism emanating from its soil." Indian Express, September 12, 2003.

Sahrai Baba replaces slain Gazi Baba as 'operational chief' of Jaish-e-Mohammed: While acknowledging the killing of its 'operational chief' Gazi Baba alias Shahnawaz Khan during an encounter on August 30, 2003, the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has reportedly appointed Sahrai Baba in his place. The Pakistani Urdu daily Jung quoted Jaish 'deputy supreme commander' Wali Hasan as saying that Abu Dajana has been appointed as Sahrai's deputy in Jammu and Kashmir. Sahrai was earlier 'district chief' of the outfit in Kupwara. Gazi Baba, who masterminded the attack on the Indian Parliament in Delhi on December 13, 2001, was shot dead by Border Security Force (BSF) personnel in the Noorbagh locality of capital Srinagar. Daily Excelsior, September 9, 2003.


President Musharraf says Taliban and Al Qaeda cadres are present in tribal areas: President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview to the BBC on September 11, 2003, that reports of Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists finding sympathy in Pakistan and using it as a base for launching attacks in Afghanistan were "partially true". According to Musharraf, "Shall I say it's partially true - one can't deny, I will be the last person to deny that nothing is happening in the tribal areas of our borders with Afghanistan… Certainly there are elements that may be hiding there and certainly there are abettors who sympathize with them." He also said that Osama bin Laden could be hiding in Pakistan's north-western tribal region bordering Afghanistan. "I feel that he (bin Laden) is alive, yes, because of the various information and intelligence that has come up now… But to guess whether he's in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, the possibility exists that he is shifting places, shifting bases on both sides. That is the reality," added Musharraf. Jang, September 12, 2003.

Islamist separatists in China are trained in Pakistan, claims Communist Party secretary: Islamist separatists in China's Muslim northwest are securing assistance from international terrorists, including instruction in "several training camps in Pakistan," the region's Communist Party secretary claimed on September 11, 2003. Wang Lequan, also a member of the party's top-level Politburo, said that the Taliban had helped train many of the Xinjiang separatists. While identifying Pakistan as a place where assistance continues, Leguan said, "They have several training camps in Pakistan." Daily Times, September 12, 2003.

Al Qaeda leader Al-Zawahri urges Pakistanis to revolt against President Musharraf: On the eve of the second anniversary of 9/11, fugitive Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was quoted as saying in media reports that Pakistanis should revolt against President Pervez Musharraf. In an audiotape aired by Qatar's Al-Jazeera television, he said, "We ask our Muslim brethren in Pakistan: until when will you put up with the traitor Musharraf, who sold the Muslims' blood in Afghanistan and handed over the Arab mujahideen to crusader America?" He also said, "Had it not been for his treason, the surrogate government would not have been installed in Kabul, that government which brought the Indians to Pakistan's western borders… Not only this. He opened up nuclear installations to US inspection, choked off the jihad in Kashmir ... and is (planning) to recognize Israel - all for a handful of dollars the Americans stack in his pocket ... The officers and soldiers of the Pakistani army should realize that Musharraf will hand them over as prisoners to the Indians... and flee abroad to enjoy his secret (bank) accounts." Zawahri urged "all Muslims in Pakistan" to 'unite' to protect their country from "the crusade allied with the Hindus." Jang, September 11, 2003.

JeM and LeT among five proscribed outfits functioning under new names: Five Pakistan-based terrorist groups, including the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which were proscribed by President Pervez Musharraf on January 12, 2002, are currently functioning openly under changed identities, according to the Herald. After the initial crackdown on them following the ban, these five groups are "back in business" with changed names and identities, the magazine quoting a report by Pakistani intelligence said in its latest issue. Four of Pakistan's top sectarian outfits have effectively regrouped and are operating their respective networks as openly as before though under different names, it said. "According to a report prepared by Pakistani intelligence earlier this year to assess the situation a year after the ban was enforced, the move has failed to check either the activities or the relentless funding of these terror outfits from all corners of the world," it said. Further, the military regime has been unable to stop the "relentless funding" from Saudi Arabia and other countries to the terrorist groups, even in cases where Pakistani missions abroad were aware of the identities of financial sponsors of these organisations, it said. The Hindu, September 10, 2003.


Comparison of Terrorist Violence in Jammu and Kashmir 2001-2003

Source: Union Ministry of Home Affairs. (2003: Provisional Data)

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.


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