SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
While the Musharraf Government in Pakistan continues to claim making frantic efforts to uproot the al-Qaeda network from the troubled Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, the Karzai Government has repeatedly questioned Islamabad's willingness to effectively eliminate the Taliban-backed insurgents operating from the Pak-Afghan border and attacking the US-led Allied Forces in Afghanistan.
There has been unrest in the Waziristan region and other tribal areas for almost three years now, amid clashes and military actions between foreign fighters and the Pakistan Army. Operations have been carried out and it has subsequently been announced by the Pakistan Government that these have been 'successfully' wound up. Quite clearly, however, militant activity has not been eliminated; indeed there are reports of al-Qaeda and the Taliban militants re-grouping in the area.
While Islamabad strongly denies Taliban and al-Qaeda infiltration into Afghanistan from the Pakistani side, the Karzai Government insists that the infiltration was actually being orchestrated from the Pakistani border area. Not long ago, it was the South Waziristan Tribal Agency that used to hog the media limelight on account of the military operation there against local and foreign militants. Now the focus of attention has shifted to the neighbouring North Waziristan region. It was South Waziristan that first became the hub of Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels, but after the Pakistan's grand operation to hunt down militants in this area, the wanted men slipped away into the North Waziristan tribal region after losing their hideouts.
Pakistani military authorities claim there were 500-600 foreign militants in the South Waziristan area when Army operations first started in early 2004. Of them some 400 have either been killed or captured so far, according to the Army, while a remaining 200 still 'stranded' in North Waziristan, are now using the Pak-Afghan border strip as their base to launch mid-night guerilla attacks against the US-led Allied Forces in Afghanistan, creating trouble for Afghan President Karzai, and also embarrassing the most-trusted US ally in its war on terror - Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf.
The Pakistan Army has now shifted the focus of its anti-terrorist operations from Wana in South Waziristan to Miranshah in North Waziristan. Despite official claims to have largely contained insurgents in the two tribal agencies, the North Waziristan area continues to pose a serious challenge, and has become a stronger base for the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on the run, due to presence of a large number of religious seminaries in the area and because an estimated 70 per cent of the local population supports the jehadis.
Since early 2005, the Army has killed and arrested hundreds of foreign militants and their local facilitators in North Waziristan. The events in Waziristan continue to make international headlines due to the strong Western belief that defeating militants in these borderlands would inflict a deadly blow on al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies. American intelligence operatives stationed in Pakistan believe that Osama bin Laden and some of the top al-Qaeda figures are hiding somewhere in the mountain recesses of the region. For US-led coalition troops operating across the border in Afghanistan, effective Pakistani military operation in Waziristan holds the key to facilitating their job and saving lives in the battle against the al-Qaeda and Taliban.
For the time being, the situation in the Waziristan region is deteriorating fast, despite official claims to the contrary by Pakistani authorities. Between August 15 and September 15, 2005, alone, over 100 persons have reportedly been killed in armed clashes in North Waziristan between the militants and the Army. The bodies of 25 persons, mostly Pakistanis, were recently recovered inside Pakistani territory in North Waziristan after they are reported to have been killed in a missile strike and bombing raids by the American warplanes. This was blatant US transgression into Pakistani soil, but American, Afghan and Pakistani authorities have all justified the action by alleging that the victims had taken part in an attack on a US base in Afghanistan's Paktika province, and were trying to flee across the border to Pakistan.
The Afghan Government has accused Islamabad from time to time of turning a blind eye to the infiltration from Pakistan's tribal areas into Afghanistan and the high-command of the US-led Allied Forces even suspects some official complicity between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants, as attacks intensified in the run up to the September 18 parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. As soon as the election schedule was announced, the Taliban started issuing threats to kill the election workers, candidates and voters, ostensibly to sabotage the polling process. In a nation that has been plagued by armed conflicts, the elections for the Wolesi Jirga - the lower house of the Afghani Parliament, with 249 seats, 68 of which are reserved for women - is of extraordinary political significance. For the first time in the history of Afghanistan, a legislative body is being created. President Hamid Karzai, elected in October 2004 with US backing, has been governing Afghanistan via a de facto self-given authority since the creation of an interim administration in December of 2001.
Since early 2005, the Taliban and their al-Qaeda aides, backed by new volunteers from Pakistan, had been reuniting and expanding their area of operations in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, which were their former stronghold. Despite the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan way back in October 2001, the US-led Allied Forces have failed to uproot the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan who have regrouped and are reorganizing their resistance. With ample funds from opium trade, the Taliban-led resistance has the funds to finance its struggle against the Allied Forces. The Taliban are reported to be buying more sophisticated arms, and Russian and Chinese-made surface-to-air missiles in particular are flowing into Afghanistan in increasing numbers, giving an added dimension to the Taliban's fighting capabilities.
These trends have provided repeated opportunities to the Bush Administration to push Pakistan to do more to curb the activities of militants operating along the 2,500 kilometer-long and porous border with Afghanistan.
It was in response to such persistent accusations that President General Musharraf suggested in New York on September 12, 2005, that the Pak-Afghan border be fenced to prevent cross-border infiltration. He was of the view that, besides addressing the Afghan Government's concerns, the fencing would also help block the entry of Afghan refugees into Pakistan. The proposed fence would start from the point of convergence of the frontiers of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and extend right up to Pakistan's border with the Chinese territory of Xinjiang, passing on the way the Wakham Corridor where the Hindu Kush and the Pamirs meet. The barrier would obviously be a miracle of engineering if it ever materialised.
The border fencing idea may sound good at first glance, but it is weighed down by enormous negatives. First, the cost: the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, which would be only about 700 miles long, is estimated to cost $7.2 billion; the fence would just be a humble fence, but its 2,500 kilometres wouldn't come too much cheaper because of the forbidding terrain involved. Secondly, this may not succeed in stopping the flow of determined militants or even the traditional two-way traffic of tribals from either side for trade, marriages, and other interaction. Thirdly, the biggest fly in the ointment can be sighted in a statement by an Afghan Government official on September 1, 2005, that, before accepting any such idea, the Pak-Afghan border, which has been the cause of much friction in the past between the two neighbours, be demarcated. Since the British demarcated the Durand Line - as the border between British India and Afghanistan [which split the Pushtun tribes between the two countries] - it remains a bone of contention, with Kabul clinging to irredentist claims that the Pushtun belt on the Pakistani side belongs to Afghanistan. The border fencing proposal, consequently, is unlikely to fly.
The situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating since the beginning of 2005. Nearly 150 US troops have been killed there since the US intervention commenced in October 2001, some 50 of them between January-August 2005. About 17,000 American troops are in Afghanistan battling a Taliban-led insurgency focused on the south and east, and training the new Afghan Army. Increasing numbers of better-trained, better-equipped and better-led Taliban cadres operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan have stepped up their hit-and-run raids into southern and eastern Afghanistan to demoralise the newly-raised Afghan Army and Police in the hope of inducing large-scale desertions.
The Taliban resistance has apparently chosen the Zabul, Spin Boldak and Hilmand areas to re-establish their lost control and revive their authority. These districts are located in mountainous terrain, which best serves a guerilla campaign and also leads to safe routes across the Durand Line, which exists only on the map. Dozens of villages are actually located on the Line itself, part in Afghanistan and part in Pakistan. The Pakistani tribal areas thus provide natural strategic depth to the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.
Though Pakistan denies these reports, The Washington Post splashed a detailed news report on August 21, 2005, along with the pictures of a captured 28-year old Pakistani by the name of Sher Ali, vowing to "go to do jehad again and again" when the opportunity comes, and providing details about a terrorist camp in Mansehra. The interview by the newspaper correspondent N.C. Aizenman reportedly took place in Kabul. Sher Ali told The Washington Post that he attended a 20-day weapons training course at a secret mountain camp in the North West Frontier Province. Sher Ali was captured by Afghan police in July 2005 shortly after crossing into the Kunar province.
Sher Ali's story offers a glimpse of what Afghan authorities charge is a shadowy Pakistani network that continues to fuel the insurgency with fresh recruits as fast as the American and the Afghan forces kill or capture their predecessors. The Afghan Government's allegations gained further credibility with the August 7, 2005, statement of Opposition Leader in Pakistan's National Assembly, Maulana Fazalur Rehman, often called the 'father of the Taliban', who told newsmen at Lahore that the Pakistan Government was deceiving the US and the West by helping militants freely enter Afghanistan from Waziristan: "The Government should give the identity of the infiltrators and its motives for helping them enter Afghanistan. They must also give the nation the identities of the men being moved from Waziristan to militant camps in Mansehra. The rulers are not only trying to deceive the US and the West, but also hoodwinking the entire nation". Rehman further stated, "We ask the rulers to reveal the identity of the people being transported to Afghanistan from Waziristan via Kaali Sarak in private vehicles; tell who is supervising their trouble-free entry into Afghanistan and reasons for their infiltration. The Government would have to decide whether it wanted to support jehadis or close down their camps. We will have to openly tell the world whether we want to support jehadis or crack down on them. We can't afford to be hypocritical anymore".
These are the factors that make President Karzai accuse General Musharraf of treating the Taliban differently from al-Qaeda. Karzai has pointed out, further, that even though Pakistan has arrested and handed over to the FBI half-a-dozen senior al-Qaeda leaders, not a single senior Taliban commander was captured and extradited to Afghanistan. And it remains an open secret in Pakistan that the top leadership of the Taliban military hierarchy lives and operates out of Quetta and Peshawar cities even today.
The Afghan Government's official newspaper, Anis, claimed recently that many key Taliban commanders are openly living in the Kachlogh and Pashtunabad regions of Balochistan's capital - Quetta, and have based their military presence in these areas. The Daily stated that some of the Taliban commanders being ferried by the ISI are sheltered in the residential blocks belonging to the Pakistan Army cantonment in Peshawar. Significantly, the Frontier and the Baluchistan provinces are being governed by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a fundamentalist alliance with close links to the Taliban. With these details in mind, the Taliban resistance is expected to gain further strength until and unless the Pakistani establishment, which wants to keep the Taliban alive in the hope of using them to retrieve its lost influence in Afghanistan, eventually decides otherwise.
We Said - Realities beyond a Delusional Discourse
Another media circus around a non-event has ended, with no tangible outcome to show from the high-profile meetings variously between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush in New York. Positions well-known have been reiterated, though pundits distinguish 'subtle shifts' and apparent hardening or softening of perspectives reflected in nuance and suggestions, otherwise unnoticeable to the uninitiated. The fact, as far as South Asia, the trajectory of terror and conflict in this region, and its 'peace processes' are concerned, is that nothing whatsoever happened in the New York 'summit' meetings, or in the ritual declamations at the United Nations General Assembly.
It is, however, on the sidelines of orchestrated diplomatic intercourse that the truth sometimes, accidentally, manifests itself; or, perhaps, escapes from the confinement of political postures, practiced falsehood and the banal scripts drafted for leaders by their underlings.
The most significant development, in this context, emerged from an apparent irrelevancy - the Pakistani dictator's chance (and extraordinarily obnoxious) remark on rape victims in Pakistan - revealing a mindset deeply rooted in a feudal and revanchist orthodoxy that militates against his loudly proclaimed pretensions to 'enlightened moderation'. As a storm of protest built up against the General's lack of enlightenment, Musharraf did precisely what he does best - he changed his colours, claiming that his statement had been 'misrepresented'. While the US Administration will, naturally, ignore this 'unofficial' faux pas [the Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, however, did take very official note of the statement] and continue to insist, as Condoleezza Rice did, that India needs to make 'some concessions' on Kashmir because Musharraf 'needed something to take back home', the General's obtuse remarks have not passed unnoticed in the US media, or 'back home', and will certainly erode his inexplicable stature and image in the US, and will eventually make continued support to the regime at Islamabad at least marginally more difficult for Washington.
Musharraf's disingenuous admission regarding A.Q. Khan's role in nuclear proliferation will also have a slow but corrosive fallout. Here again, he has been actively helped and protected by the US Administration and an amazingly compliant - if not servile - American Press that has kept the controversy over the Pakistani role in nuclear proliferation limited to North Korea, ignoring the much wider sphere of such activities, including Pakistan's supply of nuclear technologies to Iran - America's current bugbear. Washington has also helped keep alive the fiction that Khan was some sort of free agent peddling centrifuges across the world without state sanction, but Islamabad's complicity - and the survival in power of most of those who were involved in the structure of proliferation - is already widely known, and will, eventually, penetrate the insular American mind.
More immediately indicative of Pakistan's trajectory of failure, however, is the rising criticism 'back home', not only of his performance at New York, but the general trend of developments in the country, particularly the rapid deepening of military consolidation, the systematic deconstruction of the institutional and political framework of civil governance and democracy, and the widening sphere of disorder and violence, that bode ill for the country's medium- and long-term future, though they may create an immediate illusion of stability. Indeed, on the New York excursion, one prominent Pakistani commentator noted, "…what the hell is a president, ceremonious (sic) by constitution, doing in New York playing dice with our diplomatic future when we have a supposedly elected prime minister sitting at home uttering unconvincing platitudes about the welfare of the economy, while over 70 percent of the population is finding it hard to keep their heads above the water." [Iqbal Mustafa in The News, September 18, 2005). Reiterating the point, another commentator observed, "The very fact that he is in New York brings the question of his democratic legitimacy into bold relief, and gives the lie to his claim that Pakistan has been put back on the democratic rails with a functioning 'democratic government' led by a 'Prime Minister'." [Tarique Niazi, South Asian Tribune, September 15, 2005]
There are other and broad themes in Pakistani political, economic, social and cultural trends that will worry Musharraf and those in the 'international community' who have pinned all their hopes on the dictator's enterprise to 'restore democracy' and 'enlightenment' to his benighted country. The most significant of these is the continued subversion of the electoral process, once again abundantly visible in the mock elections organised for local councils, which were marked by the "re-drawing of constituency lines, widespread harassment of opposition candidates in the pre-poll scenario and poor arrangements on polling day", demonstrating "a determination to prevent people from participating in the political process". Activists in Pakistan have also noted the malicious targeting of non-governmental organisations - Musharraf's 'rape' remarks were, in fact, part of this campaign - growing intolerance, increasing violence against minorities, and the rising graph of sectarian terrorism and separatist militancy in the provinces.
Commentators have also noted Pakistan's 'humiliation', as per capita income and growth rates slip behind India's, when, "just imagine, till 1994 Pakistan was well ahead of India" on these parameters. And for all the sham of the General's bluff military manner, Transparency International's latest corruption index puts Pakistan down at 129, among the most corrupt of the 146 countries listed.
And while, at New York, Musharraf insisted that "we need to understand and address the motives behind terrorist acts", and sought to create emotive analogies between the Kashmir and Palestine conflicts, the Indian Prime Minister made it abundantly clear that "We must not yield any space to terrorism. We must firmly reject any notion that there is any cause that justifies it. No cause could ever justify the indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women and children." Singh added, further, "Our belief is that Pakistan still controls the flow of terrorism and they must stop it for any realistic progress."
It is against this backdrop that the charade of talks and declarations in New York needs to be assessed. This includes Musharraf's insistence on troop withdrawal from Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) - with further clarifications from Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Jahangir Karamat, that such a dilution of the Army's presence should occur in Kupwara and Baramulla, two of the districts worst affected by terrorism, contiguous to the Line of Control (LoC), and located on some of the primary infiltration routes used by the terrorists. This demand comes against the backdrop of a significant escalation in violence in June and July 2005, though August has seen the figures drop somewhat. India's foreign policy, however, cannot be framed against the context of every transient peak and trough of violence in J&K and must, in fact, relate to the continued existence of the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan, and to assessments of Pakistan's long-term intent and strategy, neither of which give any cause for sanguinity.
Unconfirmed sources suggest that US pressure on India during the Prime Minister's sojourn in New York sought concessions that Musharraf 'needed' precisely on the issue of troop reduction in J&K. If this be the case, it is sad commentary on the US Administration's understanding of terrorism and the imperatives of counter-terrorism responses, of the situation and balance in South Asia in particular, as well as on its commitment to a truly global and comprehensive war against terrorism. The unending hyphenation of the US relationship with India and Pakistan, and the persistent proclivity to impose parity between a demonstrable sponsor of terrorism and a nation that has been its primary victim and that has fought the world's war against terrorism for decades without recognition, cannot produce the transformations that South Asia needs. Worse, it condemns Pakistan to pathways on which its own ruination is predestined.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 12 -18, 2005
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Pakistan still controls flow of terror to India, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly indicated to the United States that Pakistan still controls the flow of terror to India and that it must be stopped if there has to be any meaningful progress in the peace process between the two countries. "Our belief is that Pakistan still controls the flow of terror to India and this must stop for any real progress," Dr. Singh told President George W. Bush during a meeting in New York on September 13, 2005. PressTrust of India, September 14, 2005.
BSF announces withdrawal from Srinagar and Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir: The Border Security Force (BSF) on September 12, 2005, announced withdrawal of nine battalions from the Srinagar and Anantnag districts in Jammu and Kashmir and made way for the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to take over counter-terrorism duties. Inspector General of Border Security Force (BSF), J. B. Negi, informed a press conference in Srinagar that the de-induction of the BSF from other districts of Kashmir Valley would follow as per schedule, and by 2007, the process was expected to be complete. He said that the CRPF had replaced the BSF in the two districts where the de-induction has taken place. "Since the inception of militancy, BSF has killed 2,673 militants and arrested 9,670 of them. The eliminated militants include 38 top-most commanders with the likes of Gazi Baba and Saif-ul-Islam," disclosed the Deputy Inspector General of BSF, K. Srinavasan. Daily Excelsior., September 13, 2005.
Maoists' cease-fire is a ploy, says the RNA: The Royal Nepalese Army (RNA), on September 16, 2005, reportedly described the three-month unilateral cease-fire declared by the Maoist insurgents on September 3 as a ploy to re-strengthen their military force. "They (Maoists) haven't stopped their activities. They are carrying out training, extortions and are recruiting combatants," RNA spokesperson, Brigadier General Deepak Gurung, told a press briefing in Kathmandu. He also said, "Our intelligence reports show that these activities are going to intensify during this [cease-fire] period." Nepalnews, September 17, 2005.
Three Army officers imprisoned for Al Qaeda links: A military court has reportedly imprisoned three military officers and ordered the dismissal of three others for having links with the Al Qaeda. According to Daily Times, Col. Khalid Abbasi, Major Adil Qudoos, Col. Abdul Ghaffar, Major Attaullah, Capt Dr. Usman Zafar and Major Rohail Faraz were tried by a military court in Panu Aqil Cantonment in August 2005 after they were arrested and then interrogated at Attock Fort. The military court, comprising Major General Ahmad Nawaz and Brigadier Mumtaz Iqbal, sentenced Major Qudoos to 10 years in prison, Col. Khalid Abbasi to six months and Col. Abdul Ghaffar to three years. Major Attaullah, Major Faraz and Capt Zafar were dismissed. Maj. Qudoos, an officer of the Signal Battalion, was arrested on March 1, 2003, after top Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was arrested from his Rawalpindi house. Col. Khalid Abbasi was posted at Signal Centre Kohat before his arrest on May 30, 2003. Col. Ghaffar was serving at the Army Aviation Headquarter before his arrest on March 4, 2004. Daily Times, September 19, 2005.
Only 208 Madrassas registered so far: Only 208 Madrassas (seminaries) have registered with the Government since the promulgation of the Societies Registration Act 1860 (Amendment) Ordinance 2005 on August 21, 2005, said officials in the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Most of these seminaries were independent and not a single seminary that belonged to one of the five Wafaqs (confederacy of seminaries) had reportedly registered. Vakil Ahmed Khan, Religious Affairs Secretary, said this was because the Ittehad-e-Tanzimat-e-Madaras-e-Dinya (ITMD) had refused to register. The ITMD, during a meeting last week, decided that it would not cooperate with the Government until and unless it addressed the concerns of seminaries. Daily Times, September 18, 2005.
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