SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
over the Festival of Lights
The serial bombings at Delhi on October 29, 2005, were described by one commentator as an ‘attack on the spirit of the nation’. Three days before the Hindu ‘festival of lights’, Diwali, days traditionally reserved for shopping for the celebrations, terrorists planted three bombs in crowded public places – the Sarojini Nagar Market, the Paharganj Market, and a public transport bus in Govindpuri – killing at least 59 persons and seriously injuring over 155.
No official determination has still been made regarding the group responsible for the attacks, but an analysis of preliminary evidence and past trends in terrorist activities – including the continuous succession of arrests and seizures of arms and explosives in and around Delhi – pointed unfailing to one or another of the many terrorist groups supported and sponsored by Pakistan. And the needle of suspicion becomes the more steady with the statement by the Islami Inqilabi Mahaz (IIM, Islamic Revolutionary Movement), claiming responsibility for the Delhi serial blasts.
While the claim is still to be verified, sources indicate that it is useful to note that the IIM is a front organisation of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), now renamed the Jamaat-ud-Dawa or JuD). Indeed, sources indicate, when the Lashkar first commenced operations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), it chose to initially operate under the banner of the Lahore-based IIM. While no extraordinary operations are attributed in India to the IIM, several of its cadres were arrested between 1993 and 1996, and these included Zulfikar Ali Shah, a Pakistani National, arrested in February 1993, who figured on the original list of prisoners whose release was demanded by the IC 814 hijackers in December 1999 (the list was subsequently pared down, and Shah was left out).
The IIM also featured in the US Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1997, Report in connection with the killing of four US citizens in Karachi:
It is significant that the charges for these murders were eventually pinned on two members of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), Saeed and Salim Ganja, by an Anti-Terrorism Court at Karachi, and a sentence of death was handed down in August 1999. However, a Karachi court subsequently acquitted the accused, and the actual perpetrators of the 1997 killings have yet to be found.
Available information, consequently, suggests that the 29/10 attacks were, in fact, engineered by the LeT, which has sought to distance itself from the incident by claiming the incident under this long-dormant identity – a practice that it has followed in the past with several other identities, including Al Mansoorian, Al Afreen and the Salvation Front. And it is significant to note that the LeT’s founder and Amir (chief), Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, operates freely in Pakistan, and has recently been much in the news leading the most prominent jehadi initiatives in the earthquake relief operations in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). There is no secret about his presence and freedom to operate in Pakistan, and his unambiguous links with the terrorist LeT. The LeT/JuD remain the most prominent representatives of the gaggle of sarkari jehadi groups in Pakistan – groups that enjoy the protection and patronage of the state and its covert agencies.
While definitive identification of the group responsible for this most recent atrocity must wait on the investigations currently under way, it is essential to recognize that this incident confirms the strategic continuity of Pakistan’s broad orientation towards India, and its sustained enterprise of encirclement, penetration and subversion, with an objective to do as much damage as is opportunistically possible, under the cover of (no doubt diminishing) credible deniability. It is useful to recognize, here, that the present attacks fall entirely within past patterns, and there have, in fact, been at least 25 occasions since 1997 on which bomb blasts have been executed in Delhi by Pakistan-backed groups, though this attack has been by far the worst in terms of casualties (followed by the Parliament attack of December 13, 2001, in which 11 persons were killed and 20 were injured).
There have, further, over just the past two years, been dozens of arrests of Pakistan-backed terrorists, and seizures of large caches of arms and explosives in and around Delhi. The groups connected with these arrests and seizures have prominently included the LeT, Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen (HM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (renamed Khaddam-ul-Islam), Al Badr, Hizb-e-Islami, as well as Khalistani groups, particularly the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) that was responsible for the May 22, 2005, serial blasts in two cinema halls in the city, and whose entire top leadership is headquartered in Pakistan.
It is important to recognize that, despite the very high toll in life inflicted by the present attack, it does not reflect very high levels of capability. Terrorist groups, when they are well entrenched in a particular area and have evolved sophisticated capacities, will attack strategic targets and vital installations; it is ordinarily when capacities are incipient, or have been significantly degraded by counter-terrorist and intelligence operations, that a group goes in for mass casualty soft targets of the kind witnessed on 29/10. Indeed, the long list of arrests and seizures connected with Pakistan-backed terrorist groups in and around Delhi over the past many years – and, indeed, across India, outside J&K and the Northeast, numbering at least 44 modules over just the 2004-05 period – are a measure of the many other potential threats that were neutralized by intelligence and enforcement agencies before they could be translated into action.
There is, however, no scope for complacency here. Apart from the tragic loss of life, given contemporary technologies, terrorists always retain a residual capacity for generating a major strategic threat, and this cannot be ignored. Regrettably, India’s responses have been restricted to mere policing and intelligence work, and these can never suffice in neutralizing terrorism that enjoys external state support. India’s policies have, moreover, encouraged Pakistan in keeping a twin track of negotiation and terrorism simultaneously open, and Pakistan knows that, as long as it verbally denies involvement and issues strong statements condemning specific terrorist incidents – Musharraf was quick to describe the 29/10 attacks as ‘criminal and barbaric’ – it can keep the larger enterprise going without danger of Indian retaliation, or even any significant shift in or derailment of the peace process. This reality was confirmed when, even as news of the enormity of the blasts was building up, several Indian leaders sought to reassure the media, and through them, Pakistan, that the incidents would have no impact on the course of the ‘peace process’, and a settlement was reached with Pakistan during the very night of the attack, on the opening up of five points along the Line of Control for relief to the earthquake affected populations in PoK.
Terrorism, however, cannot be defeated unless costs – indeed, unbearable costs – are imposed on its state sponsors. Regrettably, the Indian leadership does not appear to have the will, the imagination or the capacity to evolve strategies to do so, and will continue to hope that it can buy peace with Pakistan’s current dictator by offering more and more by way of economic benefits and political concessions. Historically, however, terrorists and their sponsors have only been encouraged by concessions. It is important, within this context, to recognize that the ‘peace process’ between India and Pakistan has had no impact on the trajectory of terrorist violence in J&K – and in other parts of India. This trajectory has demonstrated a steady downward trend since 9/11, irrespective of the alternating tensions or détente between the two countries, and is essentially related to a continuous diminution in capacities to engage in terrorism under cover of credible deniability as a result of increasing external and internal pressures on Pakistan. It is only by sustaining and augmenting such pressures through all means available that Pakistan will, eventually, be dissuaded from its enterprise of terror.
In the shadow of the great and natural disaster that has struck Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), another tragedy, in this case, fashioned by men, is being played out in the hidden Gilgit-Baltistan region (Northern Areas). Largely unnoticed, Gilgit has been under curfew since October 13, 2005, after a spate of killings that the administration is seeking to project as sectarian strife. Significantly, however, a majority of those killed have been demonstrators who have fallen to the bullets of the state’s paramilitary force, the Pakistan Rangers, and sources in Gilgit claim that, contrary to the official position, there is no tension between local Shias and Sunnis, but rather a deliberate effort from the outside, part of a long-drawn campaign, to create mischief in the region.
On October 11, 2005, hired Sunni gunmen opened fire on a group of Shias in Basen, 58 kilometres from Gilgit Town on the Ghezer road, killing two and wounding others. Two of the gunmen escaped, but a third was injured and thereafter arrested by the local police, and taken to the District Hospital, Gilgit. Some documents recovered from his possession indicated that he came from Kohistan in the NWFP. Shortly thereafter, however, the Pakistani Rangers, on orders from the ‘highest quarters’, forcibly removed the perpetrator from the hospital, apparently to avoid his identification and interrogation by the local police, which, sources in Gilgit indicate, would have exposed a larger conspiracy. At this stage, a crowd gathered and protests started, with people insisting that the culprit should not be taken away by the Rangers before the local police had interrogated them. The Pakistan Rangers resorted to strong arm tactics to disperse the protestors, and also kidnapped one of the student protestors, 15-year old Maqsood Hussain. The next day, October 12, his body was recovered, sparking widespread outrage in the town. On October 13, Maqsood Hussain’s fellow students and the townspeople organised a demonstration to protest his death in the Rangers’ custody. The demonstration was peaceful, but, after the protestors began to disperse, the Rangers opened fire, killing seven persons, including three women. The dead also included a former Chairman of the Municipal Committee, Gilgit, who was allegedly killed in his house. The death toll subsequently rose to twelve, after another five bodies were found in different parts of the city – including those of two Rangers. In a Press Release of October 14, 2005, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) noted that the Rangers had opened fire "after the protesters had dispersed and were returning home", and observed that the shooting appeared to follow "a distinct pattern of brutality and violence towards citizens".
In a purported bid to control the situation, the authorities arrested religious leaders of both the Shia and Sunni sect, though no clashes between the communities had been reported. The arrested leaders included, among Shias, Agha Rahat Al-Husaini, Shaikh Mirza Ali, Shaikh Nayyar Abbas, former Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) Member, Deedar Ali; and among the Sunnis, Maulana Qazi Nisar Ahmed, Chief of the Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat; Maulana Hussain Ahmad, Maulana Khalil Ahmad and NALC member Himayatullah Khan.
The ‘pattern of brutality and violence’ has been clearly in evidence over the past year, and according to various estimates, close to a hundred persons have been killed in Gilgit-Baltistan over the past year (data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management for year 2005, 81 persons had been killed till October 28) overwhelmingly in clashes with state Forces, but also in terrorist attacks engineered by ‘outsiders’, as well as retaliatory attacks by local forces.
Earlier, on September 10, 2005, Bilal Hussain of Sonikot Village, Gilgit, a teacher at the Gilgit High School No. 2, had been abducted in Gilgit, near Hotel Jamal, allegedly by officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). No charges have been brought against Bilal Hussain, nor has the Government declared his detention. He has not, however, been heard of since his abduction.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that there are indications of further trouble brewing in the region, with Shia youth congregating in Danyore on the outskirts of Gilgit, awaiting instructions from their spiritual leaders to march in protest on Gilgit. There are also reports of Sunnis having gathered in Jaglote and Chilas, demanding the release of their detained leaders.
Shia women also blocked the Karakoram Highway at several places to protest the presence of the Rangers in Gilgit. The women wanted regular soldiers to replace the paramilitary Rangers, accusing the latter of bias and abuse of their sweeping powers. Similarly, Shia agitators from the Hunza and Nagar Valleys of Gilgit District issued an ‘ultimatum’, on October 20, demanding that the Northern Areas administration to curb the powers of the Rangers. Some 25,000 Shia demonstrators said they would continue their protests until the powers of the Rangers were curtailed and they were replaced by another neutral and impartial force. The protestors also demanded that, if the Northern Areas Deputy Chief Executive, the NALC Speaker, and other members of the NALC were powerless, they should resign.
In Islamabad, the Shia Student Action Committed staged a demonstration at Aabpara Chowk on October 19, 2005, to protest against the Government’s actions in Gilgit-Baltistan, and to demand the release of arrested persons. The demonstrators displayed pictures of the slain Shia leader from the region, Agha Ziauddin Rizvi, and of his successor, Agha Syed Rahat Hussain al Hussaini, who is under detention. Earlier, on October 17, leading Shia clerics of various seminaries and organisations had threatened the Government with a nationwide campaign of agitation if Rangers were not removed from Gilgit and action is not taken against those who killed civilians. Addressing a press conference at the Lahore Press Club, representatives of the Mujma-e-Ahle Bait, Jamiatul Muntazir, Imamia Students Organisation, Imamia Organisation, Imamia Alliance, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and other organisations, blamed government agencies for incidents of sectarian violence in the Gilgit.
Significantly, 41 of the persons who have been detained (at the barracks built for the Northern Areas Scouts in Sakwar) after the October 11 clashes, went on a hunger strike against maltreatment and inadequate facilities in the barracks. The detainees, drawn from both the sects, jointly displayed handwritten placards outside their cells with the slogan, "Sunni-Shia Ittehad (Unity) for hunger strike".
Protests have now become a continuous process, on a near-daily basis, in the region, and threaten to snowball into a wider movement. However, given the past record, these may well attract extreme repression from state agencies.
Crucially, a jirga, formed on September 21, 2005, and headed by the NALC Speaker, Malik Muhammad Miskeen, had drafted an agreement to be signed by top local Sunni and Shia leaders, and top Shia cleric, Agha Rahat al Hussaini (now detained) had approved the draft agreement. The Sunni leader, Maulana Qazi Nisar, who was travelling, was to sign the agreement on his return to Gilgit, but was thwarted by the current spate of violence.
The Pakistan Rangers from Punjab were deployed in Gilgit after disturbances in the wake of the assassination of Shia leader Agha Ziauddin, on January 8, 2005, to add to the Frontier Constabulary that was already deployed in the area. A bulk of Northern Light Infantry (NLI) units, composed largely of locals (though officered by ‘outsiders’, mainly Punjabis), had been moved out of the region and deployed in Punjab and Waziristan. Only four NLI battalions out of 15 remain in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Pakistani administration has long been involved in a campaign that seeks to alter the demographic profile of the region, and to reduce the local Shia and Ismaili populations to a minority in Gilgit-Baltistan. In the Gilgit and Skardu areas, large tracts of land have been allotted to non-locals, violating the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions and the Jammu and Kashmir State Subject Rule, and outsiders have also purchased large tracts of land. One unofficial estimate suggest that over 30,000 Gilgit residents have fled the city and its suburbs since 2000, in the wake of orchestrated incidents of sectarian strife, followed by discriminatory and repressive action by the state Forces. Gilgit-Baltistan remains the poorest and most backward area in Pakistan, and is acutely lacking in education and infrastructure, with no more than a negligible presence of daily newspapers, radio or TV stations.
The Pakistani establishment has long supported an anti-Shia programme in this region. A local insurrection broke out in Gilgit in May 1988 and in order to suppress the rebellion, the Special Services Group of the Pakistani Army based in Khapalu was dispatched. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, then a young Brigadier, was in charge of the operations, in which he used Sunni tribal irregulars to execute a brutal pogrom against the locals. Truckloads of Sunni tribals were sent in from the Afghan border to the region, and they indulged in anti-Shia brutalities unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. After eight days of sustained violence, the Army ‘stepped in’ to restore peace. Later on, the Shia population was further alarmed when large numbers of Sunnis were brought in from Punjab and the NWFP to settle in Gilgit.
The anti-Shia pogrom resurfaced in 1993, when sectarian riots started again in Gilgit, leading to the death of 20 Shias. Year 2003 again saw trouble brewing in the Northern Areas over the Islamic textbooks that the Pakistan Ministry of Education has issued as part of the curriculum for the schools in the region. According to Shia community leaders, the textbooks promote Sunni thought and values and are an attempt to promote sectarian hatred between the two sects. Almost everyday, hundreds of primary and secondary school students boycott classes and stage protest rallies in Gilgit. Protests and violence have been simmering in the region since.
But the troubles of Gilgit-Baltistan, and the repeated cycles of state repression, have remained concealed behind an iron veil that has been pulled across the region by Islamabad, reinforced by international indifference to, and ignorance of, the plight of the people. In a significant break from the past, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs did express concern over the "severe repressive measures being taken against legitimate protests and demonstrations", in the aftermath of the October 11-13 violence.
Nevertheless, despite a long history of protests, Gilgit-Baltistan remains a neglected centre of inequity. As Abdul Hamid Khan, Chairman, Balawaristan National Front (BNF), expresses it, "International attention is focussed only on those political concerns that appear in the international media. Unfortunately, the international Press, particularly Western Press, is not bothered with a peaceful struggle. Only when a struggle turns into an armed struggle does it attract media attention. The people of Balawaristan (Pakistan Occupied Gilgit Baltistan) believe in peaceful political struggle, and that unfortunately does not attract the attention of the world community."
Peace Deals as a Tool of War
An ominous quiet prevails in southern Assam’s Karbi Anglong District after a series of macabre killings spanning almost a month. An analysis of official statistics relating to the violence reveals unexpected dimensions of the violence, suggesting that a particular community – surprisingly the majority in the District – bore the brunt of the merciless raids, suggesting that this was not, as has been widely projected, an ‘ethnic war’ that has been witnessed. Rather, the attacks had the character of an organized expansionist campaign by a particular ethnic militia, capitalising on absence of pressure from counter-insurgency Forces as a result of the prevailing ceasefire with the authorities.
As on October 29, 2005, a total of 88 people were officially reported killed, of whom 76 belonged to the majority Karbi ethnic group. The others killed include nine Dimasas, one Bodo, one Nepali and one Assamese. A comparable pattern is visible in the break-up of people who took shelter at the 55 relief camps set up in the District in the wake of the violence: of the 44,747 people listed at the relief camps till October 24, 2005, as many as 37,604 were Karbis. There were 5,687 Dimasas, and 1,456 persons belonging to an assortment of communities. Interestingly, the same skew is not visible in the destruction of property: as on October 19, 2005, out of a total of 1,014 houses burnt, 534 belonged to Karbis and 469 to Dimasas. Significantly, the Karbis constitute about 40 per cent of the District’s population of 812,000, and the Dimasas just three per cent.
On its part, the Government has admitted the role of local insurgent groups in the violence. Two rebel groups operate in the District: the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), pushing for ‘self-rule’ for the Karbis; and the the Dima Halim Daogah (DHD), primarily based in the neighbouring North Cachar Hills District, fighting for a separate Dimaraji State for the Dimasas. Incidentally, both UPDS and DHD had entered into a ceasefire with the Government – the DHD truce came about on January 1, 2003, and the UPDS ceasefire on May 23, 2002. Obviously, the UPDS cannot be behind the slaughter of the Karbis. The present slaughter of the Karbis is believed to be the work of the DHD and its supporters or some other shadowy Dimasa forces.
The UPDS ‘publicity chief’ Tung-e Nongloda squarely blames the DHD of being involved in the massacres of Karbis. In an cell-phone interview, Nongloda said: "The DHD is behind the killings of Karbis. That it was a systematic campaign by the group is clear because, between October 4 and 7, Dimasas living in scattered and isolated villages were evacuated to safety, after which the attacks on Karbis were launched." The UPDS leader’s claim, if true, can be an explanation as to why there were so few fatalities among the Dimasas, despite the widespread arson and destruction of property in Dimasa villages. If these claims are correct, the Dimasas had shifted to safety in areas where the community was in a majority, well before the violence was initiated.
The DHD, however, has refuted these charges. DHD ‘president’ Dilip Nunisa, in a telephonic interview from an undisclosed location, declared, "My group is not involved in the killing of Karbis. May be, ordinary Dimasa villagers or the Black Widow group could have decided to launch revenge attacks after three Dimasa auto-rickshaw drivers were found dead near the town of Manza (in Karbi Anglong district) on September 26, 2005." The Black Widow is a loose gang of armed men headed by Jewel Garlossa, one of the founders of the DHD, who has since broken away from the group. While official confirmation of the identity of the group or forces behnd the massacres is yet to come, there can be little doubt, nevertheless, that Dimasa forces were behind the raids.
Another aspect that requires attention is the fact that most of the Karbi victims had been brutally hacked to death with machetes, rather than being shot. This suggests possible conscious design, intended to create the impression that it was not AK-47 wielding rebels, but incensed villagers who were behind the attacks. Nevertheless, the manner in which 22 Karbi bus passengers were killed on October 17 – most of the passengers had their heads chopped off – would indicate the role of experienced and hardened killers rather than ordinary, albeit incensed, civilians.
Karbi leaders claim that the DHD is pushing for a Dimaraji State for the Dimasas comprising the North Cachar Hills District, parts of Karbi Anglong and the central Assam district of Nagaon. The present violence, Karbi leaders allege, is intended to ethnically cleanse the Karbis living in the Dimasa strongholds in Karbi Anglong District, before a final settlement is hammered out with the Government. On the other hand, if it is the Black Widow or any other Dimasa force that was behind the violence, the intention could be to corner the rival DHD ahead of a possible deal with the authorities.
Possibilities aside, the events in Karbi Anglong demonstrate that, while ceasefire deals with local insurgent groups might result in an cessation of hostilities between the rebels and Government Forces, these do not bring to an end the murky militant agenda or the bloody local politics of these violent groups. Worse, authorities appear consistently to fail to keep these rebel groups under check after a ceasefire agreement has been reached. Ceasefire violations by both the DHD and UPDS have been routine: despite a ban on such practices, rebel cadres have frequently moved out of their designated camps with weapons, and extortion is endemic. In the latest instance, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has accused both the DHD and the UPDS of having violated the ceasefire rules, and, Assam Governor Ajai Singh has called for disarming rebels from both the groups.
There is clear evidence that both the DHD and the UPDS were active players during the recent phase of violence. On October 19, nine UPDS cadres – four veteran members and five who had been newly inducted – were shot dead in an ambush by DHD men at village Tamulbari, near Diphu, the District headquarters. This was confirmed by UPDS leaders who said their cadres were killed while they were out ‘chasing’ DHD rebels, who were moving about in the area with plans to attack Karbi villages.
The Assam Government’s decision to request the Centre for a probe into the causes of the violence in Karbi Anglong by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is a positive step. If militant groups are found to be directly involved in violence during the ceasefire period, this would demonstrate the necessity of a comprehensive review of the Government’s policies in arriving at settlements with rebel groups, and the framing of a new set of ‘ground rules’ with groups that agree to a truce.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 24-30, 2005
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
59 persons killed in serial blasts in Delhi: At least 59 persons were killed and 155 others were injured in three powerful serial bomb explosions in the national capital Delhi on October 29, 2005. While two bombs exploded at busy marketplaces, one exploded inside a Delhi Transport Corporation bus. The first explosion occurred around 5.25 p.m. (IST) in Paharganj, central Delhi, the bus blast at 5.40 p.m. at Govindpuri in South Delhi and the third at 5.45 p.m. at the Sarojini Nagar market in South-West Delhi. At Sarojini Nagar, police suspect that the bomb was planted inside a van parked near the shops. Approximately 40 persons died in the blast here. The bomb at Paharganj is suspected to have been planted in a motorcycle or a rickshaw parked near a jewellery shop. The explosion in the bus near the Kalkaji Depot injured six persons, including the driver and the conductor. The Islami Inquilabi Mahaz (Islamic Revolutionary Front), which is linked to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), has reportedly claimed responsibility for the blasts.The Asian Age, October 31, 2005; The Hindu, October 30, 2005.
Ghulam Nabi Azad to be the next Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir: Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, is to be the next Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. He is to have a three-year term in accordance with the agreement on power sharing between the Congress Party and People's Democratic Party (PDP). Azad will be sworn in as the Chief Minister on November 2, 2005, the day when Mufti Mohammed Sayeed of the PDP completes his three-year term as the Chief Minister. Daily Excelsior, October 28, 2005.
Negotiations held between ULFA-backed PCG and Union Government in New Delhi: A round of negotiations between the Union Government and the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)-backed People's Consultative Group (PCG) was held in New Delhi on October 26, 2005. Briefing the press after the dialogue, which was held over two sessions, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, Sanjaya Baru, said that the Prime Minister was very optimistic about the whole process and was ready to discuss any issue raised by the PCG. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly told during the meeting, "The time has come to shed violence. Let us work together to begin a glorious chapter for the people of Assam. I am willing to listen to whatever concerns that you may raise." He also added, "I am a servant of our Constitution. You must recognize the limitations of a complex polity." The PCG spokesperson Arup Barbora said, "The first round of talks has ended in a positive manner. The Government of India is taking all steps to bring long-lasting and permanent peace to Assam. The Centre is very much optimistic that the ULFA too will respond in a positive way and come to a political settlement with the Government of India." Sentinel, October 27, 2005.
Government to grant amnesty to surrendered Maoists: The Government is reportedly considering the proposal of granting amnesty to Maoist insurgents who have surrendered to the administration. A fresh surrender policy, with or without arms, may become effective from January 13, 2006. There has been no immediate response to the Government's offer from the Maoists. The Government last made a similar offer two years ago. A home ministry spokesperson, Gopendra Bahadur Pandey, informed that more than 4,000 insurgents had surrendered since then. Pandey also said that the number had increased in recent months. Nepalnews, October 26, 2005.
Jihadis have stepped into administrative vacuum in earthquake-affected areas, says President Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf on October 26, 2005, acknowledged that extremist religious groups had stepped into an administrative vacuum, providing relief and humanitarian assistance in the earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan, but said the Government must outdo them. Gen. Musharraf told Financial Times that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Al-Rashid Trust (ART), organisations that are not officially outlawed but are on a watch list, were doing good and he would make sure they did not "draw people towards extremism or militancy." It quoted Musharraf as saying that the Government had warned Jihadi groups that if it saw any single activity of their involvement in anything other than welfare, the Government would proscribe them. "But now since they are there, certainly we would not like them to stop," added the president. Daily Times, October 27, 2005.
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