INDIA
PAKISTAN
NEPAL
BHUTAN
BANGLADESH
SRI LANKA
Terrorism Update
Latest
S.A.Overview
Publication
Show/Hide Search
HomePrint
 
    Click to Enlarge
   

SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 4, No. 3, August 1, 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

New Commitments, New Betrayals
Guest Writer: Amir Mir in Lahore
Senior Pakistani journalist affiliated with Karachi-based Monthly, Newsline

That Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf's repeated claims of having taken concrete measures to clip the wings of the jehadi groups and reform their religious seminaries across Pakistan were nothing more than rhetoric was proved recently when his own administration admitted that three out of the four London suicide bombers had been visiting madrassahs (seminaries) in the provincial capitals of Sindh and Punjab in November 2004, before returning to England in February 2005, only to carry out deadly bombings there.

  Also Read
The Darkness of 'Enlightened Moderation' - Kanchan Lakshman
The Jihad Runs Deep -- Ajai Sahni

Musharraf's much-proclaimed policy of 'enlightened moderation' has come under sharp criticism, both from within and outside Pakistan after the July 2005 terror attacks. Although Musharraf insists publicly he is determined to end all forms of terrorism, there is hardly any evidence that his Government has tried to dismantle the jehadi network on Pakistani soil. For long, Pakistan has been the nerve-centre of the jehadi mafia, providing safe haven to the ideologues of terror, masterminds of spectacular and horrifying attacks, and innumerable and hapless foot soldiers - the cannon fodder of the jihad. Unsurprisingly, it is also here that most terror conspiracies are busted; and the London terror attacks might prove no different.

Available information suggests that having visited the Jamia Manzurul Islamia, an extremist Sunni madrassah situated in the Cantonment area of Lahore, the British suicide bombers proceeded to Faisalabad. There, they met Osama Nazir, the now detained chief of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's (LeJ) suicide cell, at a small religious school in the city - Jamia Fatahul Rahemia, being run by Qari Ahlullah Raheemi, an extremist cleric considered close to the outlawed Pakistani militant outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM, now renamed Khuddamul Islam) led by Maulana Masood Azhar. British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, now under sentence of death for the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, was also considered close to Azhar.

In his televised address to the nation on July 21, 2005, some hours after the failed London Bombings, Musharraf renewed his January 2002 commitment to root out the evils of extremism and terrorism from the country. There was nothing new in his speech. The administrative measures for combating terrorism and extremism that he announced were no different from his earlier assurances. Indeed, in his televised interaction with journalists on July 25, Musharraf declared that the present crackdown would not be like the last one, where people were picked up and held for 10-15 days and then released; an open admission that the earlier crackdowns he had ordered were just an eyewash. This raises a basic question - if previous declarations were not followed up with effective action, how will the regime do a better job this time around?

While addressing a Press Conference in Rawalpindi on July 29, meant exclusively for the foreign media, General Musharraf confronted such skepticism, conceding that he had not taken a firm action against the militants since 2002, because he did not have "a free hand" at that time as a result of an unstable economy, the confrontation with India over Kashmir and insufficient international support for his presidency. He claimed further that he was now in a much stronger position to campaign against religious militants. "I am in a totally different environment. Today, I am very strong. We need to act against the bigwigs of all the extremist organizations. We are not going as fast as I would like to go. Maybe the boat would have capsized if the Government had pursued domestic militants more aggressively in 2002. We took action, but there were restraining factors", the General said.

In response to specific questions on the difference between the crackdown he had ordered in 2002 and now, Musharraf said the world and media should not judge the performance of his Government 'through the eyes of the past'. Replying to a western journalist's query why he had not been serious in his earlier attempts to curb militancy, Musharraf retorted, "You have to be realistic and take cognizance of the ground situation. By taking stringent action against fundamentalists, I would have risked the prospect of a million Talibans on the streets of Pakistan."

To judge the General 'through the eyes of the present', it is useful to note that, as in the past, he has again directed the law enforcement agencies to deal with extremist organisations and the threat of terrorism with their full might. His first declaration was that none of the sectarian and militant groups banned on account of terrorism and extremism would be allowed to operate under any name and those poisoning the young minds would be arrested and tried under Anti-Terrorism Laws. In this, he was repeating his resolve for the third time since the 9/11 terror attacks; yet, the fact is, many of the banned jehadi and sectarian organisations have simply renamed themselves and are working freely under changed identities.

As far as his declaration to arrest those poisoning young minds is concerned, not a single key jehadi leader has been arrested during the so-called crackdown. This includes, among others, two who are wanted by Indian authorities for orchestrating major acts of terrorism in India: Hafiz Mohammad Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT, now Jamaat ud Daawa), and Syed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Similarly, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to interview another two jehadi leaders - the Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM, now Jamiatul Ansaar) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (now Khudamul Islam) chief Maulana Masood Azhar). As things stand, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Fazlur Rehman Khalil and Syed Salahuddin are on the loose.

The huge extremist infrastructure that these leaders and their groups maintained before 9/11 to wage jehad in Afghanistan and Kashmir, remains intact. Two major militant groups - LeT and HM, both active in Jammu &Kashmir (J&K), have apparently been allowed to resume training activities at their camps in various parts of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that the peace process between India and Pakistan is on and many confidence building measures have been adopted by both countries to strengthen bilateral ties, militant circles confirm that their training camps were reactivated in April 2005 with the onset of summer and the melting of snow over the passes along the Line of Control (LoC).

As far as the arrests made during the ongoing crackdown against extremists are concerned, a majority are low-level workers of the banned groups who have been detained just to improve the tally. Most of them know full well that those rounded up in the previous crackdowns were released on the strength of simple affidavits saying they were not jehadis. There is, moreover, a huge discrepancy between official and non-official figures on the number of extremists arrested in the ongoing crackdown. The Pakistani media, quoting Government sources, reports 3,000 arrests throughout the country till July 30. However, the Secretary of the Ministry of Interior has been quoted as saying that 540 people were arrested, out of whom 260 had already been released by July 30, while the rest had been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao confirmed that 280 extremist militants had been booked all over the country.

Musharraf's second announcement said all religious schools will be registered by December 2005. The people of Pakistan have, again, heard this twice before - first time on January 5, 2002, and then on November 14, 2003. In fact, the traditional madrassah system continues to operate as the key breeding ground for the radical Islamist ideology and as the recruitment centre for terrorist networks. Musharraf's rhetoric on modernizing the religious school system has translated into little action, and his administration has failed to enforce the Madrassah Registration and Regulation Ordinance 2002, meant to reform religious schools. The new December 2005 deadline for the registration of all madrassahs will test and demonstrate the regime's resolve - or the lack of it - to tackle this issue.

As things stand, the registration of madrassahs by December 2005 seems to be a hard task to fulfill as the concerned authorities would have to register an average of 133 schools per day to ensure completion of the process in time. Of the estimated 40,000 religious seminaries operating in Pakistan, only about 10,000 are so far registered with the government while the remaining 30,000 are unregistered. Madrassahs are registered under two different Acts - The Societies Act 1925 and The Trust Act, 1982. However, not a single madrassah has been registered after Musharraf's July 21 speech because of inordinate delays in amending the out-dated Societies Act-1925.

As the Act is being revised by the Government, the religious affairs ministry has barred the auqaf (charity) departments from registering any of the seminaries. At the same time, conflicting statements by Federal Education Minister Javed Ashraf Qazi and Federal Religious Affairs Minister Ejazul Haq regarding the number of the registered madrassahs are creating confusion. While Qazi says 3,000 religious seminaries have so far been registered with the Government, Haq says the number of registered madrassahs is close to 10,000. In any event, some circles claim, the registration of madrassahs and their monitoring might impose some checks on their funding and links with jehadi outfits, but only a far greater commitment to a democratic polity would help isolate obscurantist institutions and individuals.

Musharraf's third declaration was that jehadi organisations will not be allowed to collect donations. The General has made this announcement at least six times since the 9/11 terror attacks. In reality, however, enforcement fizzles out after a brief drive, especially in cases where some of these groups use donations for social services and win adherents through humanitarian work rather than overt indoctrination. Each time this announcement was made in the past, the authorities removed donation boxes of jehadi organizations and their fundraising camps from public places. As soon as the dust settled, however, these boxes and campaigns would reappear.

Musharraf's fourth announcement was that the possession and display of arms would be strictly prohibited. Once again, it is general knowledge that successive 'de-weaponisation' campaigns in Pakistan have never been a success and the ban imposed on the issue of arms licenses had already been lifted in 2004. Illegal weapons are numerous and easily available across the country.

His fifth declaration was that strict action would be taken against those involved in the printing, publishing and distribution of hate literature. On the contrary, however, most of the major jehadi publications continue to be published from all the major cities of Pakistan and are being distributed without any check even after the ban. These publications are the most effective instruments to propagate jehad and the more prominent among these, Ghazwa, Majalla, Zarb-e-Taiba, Shamsheer, Zarb-e-Momin, which together boast a circulation of millions, are distributed free of cost. These publications feature jehadi ballads, interviews and profiles of young jehadis with big pictures, verses from the Holy Quran and letters from militants to inspire the readers and mobilize the youth. Though publishing inflammatory material and possessing unlicensed weapons are serious offences even under the ordinary laws of the land; the relevant provisions have never been enforced by the present Government.

Analysts say the Pakistani militant groups and the clergy that run madrassahs in the country have survived so far primarily because of their ideological affinity with the military and their common belief in Pakistan's rightful claim over Jammu & Kashmir. The root cause of the problem seems to be the jehadi orientation of the Pakistani military leadership and its continued alliance with fundamentalists. Recall that Jehad fi Sabilillah (Jehad in the name of God) continues to be the motto of the Pakistan Army, making its officers and soldiers believe they are the custodians of militant Islam worldwide.

BANGLADESH

The Show Goes On
Bibhu Prasad Routray
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

Bangladeshi troops, during the ongoing Army-Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) joint 'anti-crime' campaign, which began on May 21, 2005, are reported to have neutralised several camps of Myanmarese rebel groups in a series of raids in the border district of Bandarban in July. On July 24, a statement claimed that twenty-six fugitive rebels from Myanmar were arrested and 31 AK-47 rifles with 16,000 rounds of ammunition were recovered during the raids. On July 27, BDR personnel arrested two Myanmar citizens after a gunfight at Alekhang in the Bandarban District. An American-made M-16 rifle, a European-made G-3 rifle, 51 round bullets of M-16 and G-3 rifles, a mobile phone set, different military equipment and uniforms were recovered from the arrested persons.

  Also Read
Acts of Enmity -- Ajai Sahni & Bibhu Prasad Routray
From Denial to Tentative Confrontation -- Bibhu Prasad Routray

Previously, on June 12, Army and BDR personnel, in a joint operation arrested Tai Jo Khoy, the 'president' of Myanmar's anti-government guerrilla group, the National United Party of Arakan (NUPA), and three of his associates from a border village in the Narkelbunia area of Naikkhangchhari Upazila (Sub-District) in Bandarban.

It is easy to set a pattern to these ongoing activities and the 'results' that they produce in terms of the neutralisation of the terrorist and criminal elements in the country. In fact, Bangladesh is in a desperate search for a refurbished image amidst growing global concerns of the state's tolerance and promotion of Islamist fundamentalist and extremist values. The reality, unfortunately, is that these events are feeble attempts to please the Myanmarese military junta, whose goodwill is becoming an increasingly necessary commodity, as the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline negotiations hit roadblocks and both Myanmar and India start thinking in terms of circumventing Bangladesh altogether. The latest campaign also appears to be aimed at reinforcing the fašade of Government's impatience at the country's steady decline into a trough of religious orthodoxy, militancy and crime.

Bangladesh shares a 178-kilometre long unfenced border with Myanmar. The district of Bandarban accounts for 129 kilometres of this international border, while the remaining 49 kilometres are shared by the districts of Chittagong and Cox's Bazaar. The border is, to say the least, porous. The BDR has just a single border out-post (BOP) in the Bandarban district and another nine in the other two districts and is, consequently, severely handicapped in checking the traffic of men and material from Myanmar's restive Arakan province. As a result, these three border districts have turned into bases of several anti-Myanmarese-junta outfits, including NUPA, the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) and the RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organisation) and other Rohingya groups. The porous border and the inability to man it are, however, not the real problem on Bangladesh's border with Myanmar.

Indeed, the recent arrests of Myanmar rebels are essentially aimed at diverting attention from more radical Rohingya outfits such as the RSO. Set up in the early 1980s when extremist elements among the Rohingyas broke away from the more moderate main grouping, the Rohingya Patriotic Front (RPF), the RSO has a history of association with jihadi elements in Bangladesh. In association with radical Islamist groups, the RSO is known to have set up several madrassas (seminaries), allegedly with foreign assistance, in the Bandarban area. Most of these 'centres of excellence' allegedly provide training to militants in the name of religious studies. Several of the mosques in the Naikkhongchari area also provide physical training to students, drawn from various parts of the country as well as from the Rohingya community in Myanmar, who subsequently find their way to the Rohingya rebel camps for arms training. In the Cox's Bazaar district alone, the number of such madrassas is estimated to be over 2,000. Five 'training centres', along with several mobile centres, have come up in Naikkhongchari, one in Ukhia and one in Ramu. In the Chittagong District, the nerve centre of these Rohingya groups is located in the Chandgaon and Khatunganj areas.

By contrast, the military operations against Myanmarese fugitives have focused only on the weakest and least problematic of the rebel groups based in the country, while the most radical continue to be given a free run, along with their home-grown Islamist extremist associates. For instance, NUPA, a coalition of the Rakhaings or Buddhists formed in 1994 in the Arakan region consisting of several Arakanese rebel groups under the leadership of Bo Khaing Raza, has undergone at least four splits (in 1995, 1996, 2001 and most recently in May-June 2005), each time reducing the number of its cadres and also the number of guns and other arms in their possession. After the most recent split, NUPA is struggling even to maintain an independent existence.

Similarly, ARNO, set up in 1999, describes itself as "an organisation advocating democracy, peace, justice, equality and human rights in Myanmar". This group, which has its base in the Chittagong-Cox's Bazaar area, was set up after the merger of the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF) and two factions of the RSO, one led by Nurul Islam and the other by Dr. Muhammad Yunus. ARNO is now a relatively moderate organisation after the coalition attempt, which could have elevated it to a much bigger league, failed within months. A pale shadow of an outfit that once had 5,000 armed cadres brandishing AK-47 rifles, LMGs and rocket launchers, ARNO constitutes no significant threat, either to Bangladesh or to Myanmar.

Both NUPA and ARNO have, however, been involved in the small arms trade and a nexus with bigger players in the game, but their potential is severely limited. Overt attempts at establishing active linkages with Islamist extremists do continue, but have had limited success. Media reports in August 2004, for instance, claimed that ARNO was linked with the Harkatul-Jihad Al-Islami (HuJI), and NUPA with the Darul Uloom Madrassa. The report stated, further, "several madrassa teachers and students participated at the Rohingya National Convention (RNC) held between May 14-16, 2004. The RNC set up a working committee to train select students of madrassas in Bangladesh." ARNO published a press release on September 2, 2004 denying these allegations.

ARNO's 'commander-in-chief', Salimullah, had been arrested in Chittagong on January 22, 2001. Security agencies had claimed at that time that his interrogation revealed sufficient evidences of the group's links, not only with the RSO, but also with Islamist organisations such as HuJI and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). The Cox's Bazaar Superintendent of Police, in a report on the interrogation, subsequently disclosed that ARNO and RSO were operating with help from JeI in Bangladesh, and that a 'foreign organization' had helped them establish their connection with the Jamaat. A report in the Bengali daily, Jugantor, further asserted that ARNO was involved in supplying weapons to militant groups in India's north eastern State of Assam.

The southern districts of Chittagong, Bandarban and Cox's Bazaar, spread over 11,734 square kilometres, have, over the years, turned into meeting points for the Islamist jihadis in Bangladesh and the Rohingya groups from Myanmar. Apart from the lucrative small arms trade, which feeds the collaboration, the 'remoteness' of these areas has been exploited to carry out terrorist mobilisation, training and planning for eventual deployment and operations. The willingness of the regime to tolerate such growth has not only led to the establishment of an effective and well-oiled machinery for producing jihadis within the constituency of the 100,000 Rohingyas living outside the UNHCR camps, as well as the larger native Bangladeshi population, but has provided a safe haven for jihadis seeking passage or temporary refuge from various theatres of conflict around the globe.

Bangladesh's efforts at capping the growth of Islamist extremism have been, at best, nominal. Since February 24, 2005, when the Government announced a ban on two outfits, the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), after years of denying their existence, a handful of their cadres and leaders were arrested. Most of them have since been released. Tied down by the limitations of coalition politics, the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party has been accused of not only tolerating, but even facilitating the growth of Islamist extremism in the country. The more extreme of the Rohingya groups are essentially part of this protected network, though elements within the marginal groups may be symbolically 'sacrificed'. Such symbolism underlies Bangladesh's ostensible 'return to sanity' on the Myanmarese rebels. Unfortunately, none of this contains within it the policies, the actions or the necessary transformations that could reverse the country's steady slide into disorder.

NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
July 25-31, 2005

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

3
0
0
3

INDIA

     Assam

0
1
4
5

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

18
5
21
44

     Left-wing
     Extremism

7
0
7
14

     Manipur

3
0
0
3

     Uttar
     Pradesh

12
0
0
12

Total (INDIA)

40
6
32
78

NEPAL

3
2
1
6

PAKISTAN

1
0
1
2

SRI LANKA

4
0
1
5
 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


INDIA

Two civilians killed and ten journalists injured in terrorist attack in Srinagar: In an attack at Budshah Chowk in the heart of the capital city of Srinagar on July 29, 2005, terrorists killed two security force (SF) personnel and injured at least 18 civilians, including ten journalists, and four SF personnel. The two terrorists, who holed up inside two commercial complexes in the area for almost 24 hours, were subsequently killed on July 30 after over a hundred civilians, trapped in a number of buildings, were evacuated. A spokesperson of the Al-Mansooran outfit claimed, in releases to two local news agencies, that cadres of his group had launched the 'suicide attack'. Spokespersons of the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and J&K Islamic Front also claimed separately that cadres of their organisations had launched the strike. Daily Excelsior, July 31, 2005.

Centre extends cease-fire with NSCN-IM in Nagaland for six months: Consequent to "intensive discussions", the Centre and National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), decided to extend the prevailing cease-fire for another six months beginning July 31, 2005. "The ceasefire has been extended for six months for now and both sides have agreed in principle to extend it by another six months after expiry of the first phase," official sources told PTI over phone from Amsterdam. The truce has been in force in Nagaland since August 1997 and has been extended on a yearly basis. This is the first time that the cease-fire is being extended by six months to be followed by another six months. Press Trust of India, July 30, 2005.

Explosion in Delhi-bound train kills 12 persons: At least 12 persons were killed and 52 others sustained injuries in an explosion in one of the bogies of the Patna-Delhi Shramjeevi Express train near Jaunpur in the State of Uttar Pradesh on July 28, 2005. The blast occurred near the toilet of the train's general compartment, two bogies from the engine, at around 5.15 pm (IST), railway officials said. Preliminary observations by security agencies are reported to have suggested that the explosion may have been triggered by a timer device, although no official confirmation in this regard has been issued thus far. The Additional Director-General of Government Railway Police, B. K. Bhalla, said, "We have not received the forensic lab test report as yet, but circumstantial evidences point towards strong possibility of ammonium nitrate being used in the blast." Times of India, July 30, 2005.


NEPAL

Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba sentenced to two years imprisonment: On July 26, 2005, the Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) sentenced the former Prime Minister and Nepali Congress (Democratic) president, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and former minister, Prakash Man Singh, to two years imprisonment and a fine of Rupees 90 million each for alleged corruption in the Melamchi case. The RCCC also convicted former Secretary Tika Dutta Niraula, Executive Director of Melamchi Drinking Water Project Dhruba Bahadur Shrestha, Deputy Executive Director of the project Dipak Kumar Jha and contractor Jep Chhring Lama. Nepal News , July 27, 2005.


PAKISTAN

Foreigners will have to leave Madrassas, says President Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf said in Rawalpindi on July 29, 2005, that all the estimated 1,400 foreign nationals studying in the country's Madrassas (seminaries) would have to leave the institutions. "All foreigners are to be removed from Pakistan's more than 10,000 religious schools," General Musharraf said, adding that no new visas would be issued to non-Pakistanis wishing to study in a Madrassa. The ban would also apply to holders of dual nationality, he stated. "An ordinance to this effect will be adopted in the coming days as part of new rules requiring all seminaries to register with the Government by the end of the year," the President told foreign correspondents at Army House during a two-hour interaction. Commenting on the ongoing countrywide crackdown on Islamist extremism, the President claimed "I don't want to arrest the workers. I want the leaders of the banned groups. I'm not impressed by figures. We want to get all of the bigwigs." Dawn, July 30, 2005.

Al Qaeda has no command structure in Pakistan, claims Gen. Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf said in Lahore on July 25, 2005, that it was a misconception that Pakistan was the Al Qaeda headquarters. He said Osama bin Laden's network did not exist in the country anymore. "I say this with clarity that Al Qaeda has no command structure in Pakistan," claimed the President. Pakistan had arrested about 700 Al Qaeda activists from the country, had occupied their sanctuaries in Waziristan, had eliminated their command and control system, had broken their vertical and horizontal links and had devastated their communications system, he said, adding that Al Qaeda operatives could not communicate with each other through electronic devices. General Musharraf also confirmed that some of the London bombers had came to Pakistan for two to three months and that Pakistani security forces were investigating the purpose of their visits. Daily Times, July 26, 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



To receive FREE advance copies of SAIR by email Subscribe.

Recommend South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) to a friend.

 

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.