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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 28, January 24, 2005

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

Balochistan: Opening another Front?
Kanchan Lakshman
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

As the people of Pakistan celebrated Id-ul-Azha, there was an unexpected and uncertain lull in violence in the province of Balochistan. In the days before the annual Muslim 'festival of sacrifice', the Pakistan Army had moved nearly a division into the Sui and Bugti areas, following crippling attacks on the Sui gas purification plants and pipelines. There were heightened anxieties that this was the beginning of a new and brutal crackdown in this sprawling, restive and backward province.

  Also Read
Re-engineering Balochistan -- Kanchan Lakshman
Power Play in South Waziristan -- Mohammad Shehzad

Balochistan has been simmering for decades, but temperatures have risen drastically over the past year. 103 people died and over 300 were wounded in insurgency-related violence in 2004. Things were brought abruptly to a boil in Sui after the Army sought to cover up the brutal gang-rape of a woman doctor at the Sui Refinery in the night of January 2-3, allegedly by an officer and personnel of the Army's Defense Security Guards (DSG) who are charged with the protection of the sprawling gas installation. While the status of women leaves much to be desired in Balochistan, the incidence of rape is extraordinarily low, and tribesmen react with extreme violence to this particular crime.

Nevertheless, the ferocity of the attacks on the critical gas infrastructure was symptomatic of a wider and more intense anger than the reaction provoked by the rape incident. Just between January 7 and January 12, for instance, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao disclosed that as much as 14,000 rounds of small arms, 435 rounds of rocket and mortars, and 50 to 60 rounds of multi-barrel rocket launchers had been fired by the rebels. At least 15 persons had been killed in these attacks and there was extensive damage to the main purification plant and pipelines. The pipeline has been frequently attacked in the past, but supplies have seldom been disrupted for more than a couple of days. This time around, however, it is estimated that a complete restoration of supplies would take nearly a month. Sherpao also disclosed that gas supply to 22 per cent of total consumers in the country had been stopped. According to analyst Rashed Rahman, moreover, the power and fertilizer sectors, almost the entire industrial sector in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), some industries in Punjab and Sindh, and even commercial and domestic consumers have been deprived of gas supply either completely or at certain peak hours. A spokesman for the Sui Southern Gas Pipelines Ltd. disclosed that gas-distribution company had been "forced to implement a 14-hour load management schedule for gas consumers in Sindh province". The Punjab province was also facing a shortage of 460 million cubic feet in its daily requirement of 1,650 million cubic feet according to the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Ltd, which is responsible for the distribution of gas to 2.25 million consumers in about 430 cities, towns and villages in the provinces of Punjab, the NWFP and the Federal capital, Islamabad.

Stung, President General Pervez Musharraf had warned the rebels, "Don't push us It is not the '70s. We will not climb mountains behind them, they will not even know what and from where something has come and hit them."

By January 17, Nawab Akbar Bugti, the sardar (chieftain) of the Bugti tribe that dominates the Sui region, was complaining, "There are activities in the area which suggest that they intend only a war against us. For the last two days there has been a full military build-up in the area. According to my information, 36 trucks loaded with army men have reached [the area] and more are coming from different [army] cantonments. At Sibi air base, six gunship helicopters have landed. Today [Thursday] aircraft and helicopters have been flying in our skies for ground checks. They have also brought tanks and 12 artillery pieces." It was Nawab Bugti who had widely publicized the rape incident, and had publicly named the alleged perpetrator, one Captain Emad and three soldiers of the DSG, and intelligence sources indicate that the bulk of the subsequent attacks on the Sui infrastructure had been executed by members of the Kalpar sub-tribe of the Bugti tribe. During combing operations in and around Dera Bugti, some 80 persons were reported to have been arrested and an unspecified number of weapons seized. On January 20, troops demolished houses allegedly used by the tribesmen to launch the rocket attacks and secure areas near the gas field. Apart from beefing up its Forces in the Bugti-Sui areas, ostensibly to guard oil installations, the Army has expanded its base of operations and efforts to consolidate operational capacities are visible, including the buildup of focused intelligence on specific targets that are to be taken up in the next and potentially intensive phase of operations. Sources indicate, moreover, that a Cabinet meeting held on January 17, 2005, had secured near-unanimity on the intensification of military operations against the Baloch rebels, though a 'consensus' on securing a 'negotiated settlement' with Baloch leaders was projected in the Press.

It was the dissent of the Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) leaders in the Cabinet that has, however, imposed a measure of caution in this process. The exiled MQM leader (currently in London) Altaf Hussain had also threatened that his party would pull out of the Government if there is a crackdown in Balochistan, and another prominent Sindhi leader, the National People's Party (NPP) Chief, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, had turned Musharraf's threat on its head, declaring that the Sindhis would not abandon the Baloch and that "It is no more an era of the 1970s, everyone now possesses lethal weapons."

While the Government at the Centre would not be affected by an MQM pull-out, the coalition Government in Sindh could collapse, and the sectarian violence that long dominated the province could revive. With Sindh and Balochistan destabilized, an opportunistic escalation in NWFP would be a distinct possibility, and the whole situation in Pakistan could acquire a 'house of cards' profile. As commentator Ayaz Amir expressed it, "The Pakistan Army cannot afford another operation against its own people."

There is, however, a strong constituency, particularly within the Army and intelligence, who believe that the 'low-intensity' approach to the Baloch insurgency has failed and that a change in tactics is now necessary.

Nevertheless, attempts at political management have gone side by side with the beefing up of Forces in the province. There have been unsuccessful efforts to neutralize the MQM's sway in Sindh by reviving the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and sources indicate that Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief, Lt. Gen. Pervez Kiani, and National Security Advisor, Tariq Aziz had flown to meet the exiled PPP Chief, Benazir Bhutto, in Dubai to try and work out a deal. A deal with the PPP at this stage is, however, impossible, since Bhutto can hardly afford to be seen as bailing out the military regime and supporting a military crackdown.

At the same time, a Parliamentary sub-committee on Balochistan headed by Mushahid Hussain has recommended a 15 to 20 per cent increase in gas royalties (a long-standing grievance has been the pittance Balochistan receives as compensation for its natural resources; Sindh, according to one report, receives Rs. 140 as royalty per million BTU (British Thermal Unit), Punjab, Rs. 80 to 190; Balochistan receives just Rs. 36); 20 to 30 per cent resource allocation for local development; and constitutional changes for greater provincial autonomy. The Committee has emphasized a political solution to the problems of the Baloch.

All this may, however, be too little, too late. Earlier, on December 17, 2004, Ataullah Mengal, a Baloch nationalist leader, Chairman of the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM), and chief of the Mengal tribe, had walked out of the Parliamentary sub-committee declaring that 'nothing could come of it.' Nawab Bugti has also declared that "Military operation and negotiations could not continue side by side."

Underlying the entire conflict is a crisis of faith. Islamabad has never trusted the Baloch. And the Baloch find little reason in their history to trust Islamabad. Worse, recent developments in the province have immensely intensified their apprehensions. One of their greatest fears, as articulated by Nawab Bugti, is that "They are trying to change the Baloch majority into a minority by accommodating more than five million non-locals in Gwadar and other developed areas." Another is that the power of the Sardars and the relative autonomy long enjoyed in wide areas of the province is being destroyed by Musharraf's plans to transform all 'B areas' into 'A areas', and to bring them under centralized systems of policing and administration. The sheer distance the situation in Balochistan has traversed is reflected in the irony of the fact that Nawab Bugti, one of the most vehement voices of opposition to Islamabad today, was, in fact, the Governor of Balochistan during the rebellion of the 1970s, and sided with the Army in the widespread repression that crushed that movement.

The truth is, Musharraf's plans for Balochistan - whether military, economic or political - stand in irreducible opposition to perceptions of local interest among the people of the province. That puts Islamabad squarely between a rock and a hard place in this strategic and resource-rich land that has long remained on the periphery of Pakistan's projects and perceptions.

SRI LANKA

Aid adds Venom to Politics
Guest Writer: Ameen Izzadeen
Deputy Editor, Sunday Times and Daily Mirror, Colombo

Sri Lanka is being hit by another, metaphorical, tsunami as the two main actors in the larger ethnic war see different scenarios of another devastating wave of terror.

For Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), what visited Sri Lanka on December 26 was the second tsunami - the first had already wreaked devastation on the Tamil people in Sri Lanka's Northern and Eastern provinces in the form of Sri Lanka's military.

  Also Read
Terror Speaks -- Saji Cherian
Tilting the Balance? -- Saji Cherian

On the other hand, when President Kumaratunga was shown photographs, during a National Security Council meeting last week, of at least two light aircraft in the LTTE's possession she is reported to have exclaimed that she was being hit by a second tsunami. The Army's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which hovered over the North and East during a supposed mission to photograph the devastation caused by the tsunami, had stumbled on the presence of an aircraft on an airstrip in Mullaitivu. A second UAV mission undertaken in the night collected photographic evidence of another LTTE aircraft.

But for most ordinary people the first tsunami not only brought in death and devastation, but also created conditions apparently ideal for national unity. The prompt aid by civil society organisations to the tsunami-affected people - even while the Government appeared to be in complete disarray - was seen as a precursor, not only to rebuilding Sri Lanka but also to achieving an elusive national unity. Everyone was helping the affected people without differences of race, ethnicity, caste or class. For a moment it seemed that even the divisive politics, which has long been the bane of this country, had been swept away by the great waves. Many believed that a real peace was now possible, since the tsunami had weakened the LTTE's ability to resume the war, and an apparently over-confident President Kumaratunga declared that she could say for certain that there would not be another war. The opposition United National Party (UNP) also joined the Government in extending support for the relief and rehabilitation effort, and became an active member of the all-party committee formed by President Kumaratunga to deal with the situation. The LTTE also indicated, initially, that it was ready to cooperate with the Government on relief and rehabilitation, and the LTTE leader, Prabhakaran, sent a message of condolence to the people of the South, even as the Government-LTTE 'peace secretariats' sought to streamline aid flows to the North-East. Politics seemed to be a dirty word for the first time since universal adult franchise had been introduced in Sri Lanka in 1931.

Unfortunately, all the positive signs are now disappearing, as Sri Lanka reverts to its fractious politics. Both the Government and the LTTE seem to be inclining to their respective hardline positions, while, in the South, political leaders are trying to exploit the misery of a million affected people to secure mileage in this year of Presidential elections. As one opposition front-liner expressed it, they are 'all playing politics over dead bodies.'

Amidst growing indications of mistrust between the two parties in conflict, the visit of a high-powered Norwegian delegation has appeared as a beacon of hope. However, the seasoned facilitators who met President Kumaratunga on January 21, and Prabhakaran on January 22, achieved little in terms of the peace process per se. They are, nevertheless, trying to bring the two sides together on post-tsunami relief and rehabilitation matters.

But old habits die hard. Both the government and the LTTE are once again trying to secure concessions by holding firm to their respective hardline positions. One of the main irritants was the Government's refusal to allow UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit Tiger areas devastated by the tsunami. The Government cited security as the reason behind its decision, but the LTTE argued that other dignitaries, such as the European Union's External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten, and Japan's special peace envoy, Yasushi Akashi, had been given access; it also pointed to the fact that several UN agencies were working in the LTTE areas.

Another irritant has been the centralisation of the relief and rehabilitation effort. LTTE Peace Secretariat Chief, S. Pulithevan, and Government Peace Secretariat Secretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala, had several rounds of talks at the Norwegian Ambassador's Colombo residence, to work out a formula for the North-East, which was the worst affected in the tsunami, to get its just share of aid.

The LTTE alleged that the Government discriminates against the North-East areas in distributing relief aid, and proposed the formation of an apex body - including its own representatives - to supervise the aid flow and rehabilitation projects on a national level. But the Tigers were told that they should concentrate only on the North-East, though, in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, President Kumaratunga had invited the LTTE to join its all-party committee. The committee, however, was seen by the Tigers as a mere 'talking shop'. Again, after days of negotiation, the LTTE came up with a formula according to which relief and rehabilitation in the North East would be handled by an 11-member apex body (six Tamils, three Muslims and two Sinhalese). But the LTTE proposal was again shot down by the President who was unwilling to relax her hold on the multi-billion dollar aid flow.

A third irritant was the declaration of a state of emergency by the President, ostensibly to deal with the post-tsunami law and order situation. But the Tigers, as well as civic rights groups, see the new emergency regulations as sweeping measures that erode civil liberties and tend towards a presidential dictatorship. These emergency provisions have also enabled the President to appoint military officers as coordinators in the relief and rehabilitation work. The Tigers were incensed with the imposition of the state of emergency not only because it included Tiger areas, but also because it strengthened the role of the military in Tamil areas. The presence of Government forces in refugee camps added to the tension.

A further irritant was a defence deal the Government has entered into with Iran in the aftermath of the tsunami catastrophe. The LTTE has charged that the defence purchases from Iran, through a 150 million dollar credit line offered to Sri Lanka by the Islamic Republic, have tilted the military balance in violation of the February 2001 Ceasefire Agreement.

On January 22, the LTTE voiced its concern over the possibility of tsunami relief aid being diverted to defence purchases. Worried about the impact of such allegations on the flow of aid, the Government denied the LTTE charges on Sunday, January 23. These apprehensions, however, appear to be mutual. The Government also fears that channelling aid to the LTTE and its front organisations would only help the rebels build up their fighting force, which, according to military intelligence estimates, lost as many as 2,000 cadres in the December 26 tsunami.

Adding to these irritants is the presence of more than a thousand US marines in Sri Lanka. The Tigers certainly have some apprehension about their role, and analysts believe that their continued presence may complicate matters vis--vis the ethnic conflict in the country.

It is unlikely that these irritants will be removed even after the entire coastal belt of Sri Lanka is cleared of the tsunami debris. President Kumaratunga appears to be indulging in a measure of one-upmanship since she is in a much stronger position than she was before the tsunami. Indeed, for weeks even before the natural catastrophe, she had begun consolidating her power by wooing opposition Members of Parliament to the Government side, offering them ministerial posts and perks, while the Supreme Court incarcerated her bitter political opponents on a contempt charge. The only missing link in her power scheme was the foreign aid required to rebuild the economy, which was heading for a crash. The tsunami came as a blessing in disguise. Sri Lanka's economy is now upbeat, with billions in foreign aid being promised and Western nations offering sweeping trade concessions on sympathetic grounds.

Armed with these advantages, a churlish President publicly said that there would be no elections in the country for the next five years, and her stance suggests that she would not mind if the peace process is pushed to the backburner. She had, of course, discussed, among other matters, issues relating to the peace process during her meeting with the visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jan Peterson, on January 21, and spoke of a constitutional package which could address some concerns of the LTTE. Earlier in the week, however, a visibly upset LTTE Political Wing leader, S.P. Thamilselvan, told European envoys that the Government's mishandling of the relief and rehabilitation efforts only bolstered the LTTE's case for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). The President, however, is in no mood to discuss the ISGA, claiming that her Government's priority is to rebuild the devastated country.

However, LTTE Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingham, who was airlifted to the Tiger-territory by a Government helicopter after he arrived in Colombo from London, made it abundantly clear in a media conference that the tsunami had not swept away the deadlock on the peace process and that no new stand by the Government had been conveyed to the Norwegian team. "The tsunami has not swept away the aspirations of the Tamil people in their freedom fight," he declared, accusing the Government of attempting to portray the disaster as an end to the struggle of the Tamil people. "Until such time that the Tamil people realize their goal, we will continue with our freedom struggle."

At this point in time, however, the LTTE is not pushing hard on the ISGA either, since it is also eyeing the substantial foreign aid. It has negotiated, with some success, the channeling of aid from foreign NGOs and envoys, to the LTTE's Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, a Government-recognized NGO, arguing that the Government is largely concentrating on the development of the southern areas while throwing only a few crumbs to the North-East.

On the southern political front, the Presidential remarks that there would not be any elections for the next five years have galvanized the main opposition UNP into action. The UNP has called on the President to clarify her position and warned that it would withdraw support to the Government in relief and rehabilitation work if this was, indeed, the case.

Evidently, Sri Lanka is gradually coming back to 'normal': the dirty politics which puts self before the country is returning, and 'aid politics' is simply adding more venom to the warped interface between the major players in this troubled island nation.

 

NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
January 17-23, 2005

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

2
0
8
10

INDIA

     Assam

1
0
0
1

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

8
4
24
36

     Left-wing
     Extremism

9
2
9
20

     Manipur

3
0
3
6

     Meghalaya

0
0
1
1

     Tripura

1
0
0
1

Total (INDIA)

22
6
37
65

NEPAL

3
27
17
47

PAKISTAN

2
0
2
4
 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


INDIA

Pakistani forces fire mortar shells on Indian positions along Line of Control: In the first violation of the 14-month-old cease-fire along the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistani forces fired mortar shells on Indian positions in the Poonch sector on January 18, 2005. Brig. Dhruv Katock of the 16 Corps Headquarter said that 15 shells fell in the northern part of Poonch sector between 1930 hours and 2000 hours (IST). "This is certainly a violation of the ceasefire. This has happened for the first time since the ceasefire," stated Lieutenant Colonel R.K. Chibber, spokesperson of the 16th Corps. However, denying its Army's involvement in the shelling, Pakistan said on January 21 that India should investigate the matter itself as the firing incidents have taken place in its territory. The Hindu, January 22, 2005; Indian Express, January 19, 2005.

62 political activists with 'militant background' identified in Andhra Pradesh: At least 40 members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), including a legislator, reportedly figure in a list of 62 political workers with 'militant background' identified by the intelligence wing of the police in Andhra Pradesh. These 62 workers, hailing from the Telangana region, represent the TRS, Telugu Desam Party, the ruling Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (New Democracy), Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Bharatiya Janata Party. While there are six women among them, the legislator, identified as Koppula Easwar, who represents Medaram constituency, was a 'militant' of the Singareni Karmika Samakhya, frontal organisation of the erstwhile People's War Group (PWG) in the coal belt. The Hindu, January 22, 2005.

Left-wing extremist outfits announce withdrawal from peace talks in Andhra Pradesh: On January 17, 2005, the two left-wing extremist (also known as Naxalites) outfits, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML Janashakthi) announced their withdrawal from peace talks with the Andhra Pradesh Government. Naxalite leaders Ramakrishna and Amar, 'state secretaries' of the CPI-Maoist and Janashakthi respectively, declared they were not keen to continue with the peace talks as the State Government had deployed the elite Greyhound commando force in the forests to wipe out Naxalites. A joint statement released to the media stated, "We have seen through the conspiracy of the Government to keep us bound by the ceasefire agreement while the police and anti-Naxalite forces run amuck in the forests killing our activists." Meanwhile, within hours of the announcement, the Andhra Pradesh Home Minister, K. Jana Reddy, appealed to the Naxalites to reconsider their decision since the Government remained committed to continuing the peace talks. The Hindu, January 18, 2005.


NEPAL

Elections will prove costly, says Maoist 'Chairman' Prachanda: In a statement released on January 19, 2005, Maoist chief, Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, said, "the election rhetoric of Deuba [Prime Minister], instead of making conducive atmosphere for a democratic settlement through reliable international mediation and the constituent assembly will prove costly." He also stated, "Our party urges the political parties, the civil society and the common people to rebel against the reactionary regime in order to give completion to the democracy that is overdue in history" and further claimed, "The victory of the people over the reactionaries is quite near." Nepal News, January 20, 2005.


PAKISTAN

US prepared to deal with Pakistani nuclear weapons from falling into extremists' hands, says Condoleezza Rice: Foreign Secretary-designate, Condoleezza Rice, indicated on January 20, 2005, that the United States is prepared to deal with Pakistan's nuclear weapons from falling into extremists' hands. Questioned by Senator John Kerry during her confirmation hearing for Secretary of State about the possibility of extremists taking control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons if President Pervez Musharraf was overthrown, she said the US was "prepared to try to deal with it." During the hearing, Rice claimed that Pakistan had come back from the "brink of extremism" over the last five years due to Gen. Musharraf's policies in favour of moderate Islam. Daily Times, January 21, 2005.

Government resolves to protect Sui gas field in Balochistan province: The Federal cabinet on January 17, 2005, endorsed the provincial request of safeguarding Sui gas fields and decided to utilise all its resources for the protection of vital installations in Balochistan. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who chaired the cabinet meeting, reportedly declared that the Federal Government would use all its resources to protect the national assets, as the Government could not afford to expose these vital installations to danger. Dawn, January 18, 2005.



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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