SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
J&K: The Threshold
Contrary to what some commentators are describing as the 'dramatic escalation' of violence in J&K, or the claims that troops "are barely able to contain the militants", the ground situation in the State, measured largely by the loathsome body-count, indicates that the past seven months have seen a relatively lower level of violence on point to point comparisons with the same period in previous years. Indeed, figures for the period indicate that the secular decline of violence, which began in 2001, is continuing. While 493 civilians were killed during the January-July period in year 2002, the corresponding figure was 399 in 2003, and 362 in 2004. 313 civilians have succumbed to terrorist violence in the January-July period in the current year. Further, 210 security force (SF) personnel were killed in 2002, 194 in 2003, 203 in 2004 and 129 in the current year over the same period. Overall, total fatalities for the first seven months from 2002 onwards have also shown a decreasing trend: 1,694 in 2002 to 1,438 in 2003 to 1,166 in 2004 and 1,087 in 2005. Addressing a press conference in the capital, Srinagar, on August 5, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed disclosed that terrorist-related violence had decreased by 25 percent in 2005. According to him, 1,217 incidents of violence had occurred in the last seven months, compared to 1,611 during the corresponding period last year. In first seven months of 2004, there were 41 suicide attacks and this year only 22 such attacks have occurred, Mufti disclosed.
The more recent and rather inordinate focus on J&K has primarily been the result of a series of high-profile terrorist incidents in Srinagar, as also the continuing hype with regard to the peace process. There has, of course, been a spike in violence in Srinagar. 89 persons, including 35 civilians and 30 SF personnel, have died thus far in 2005 (till July 31) as against 56 people in the corresponding period in 2004 in the Srinagar District. Among the major incidents of terrorist violence in the city during 2005 are:
July 29: In an attack at Budshah Chowk in the heart of the capital city, two SF personnel died and at least 18 civilians, including ten journalists, sustained injuries.
July 20: A Major of the Indian Army and two soldiers were among five people who died and 17 persons were wounded when a suspected suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into an Army vehicle near Burnhall School in the high-security civil lines area.
June 24: Nine soldiers were killed and 21 others sustained injuries when their bus was blown up in an explosion caused by the terrorists on the banks of the Dal Lake.
May 12: Two women were killed and at least 60 persons, including 25 children, were wounded when terrorists lobbed a hand grenade targeting a patrol party of the Border Security Force (BSF) at the main entrance of the Tyndale Biscoe School in the Lalchowk area.
May 11: At least two persons were killed and 50 others sustained injuries when terrorists triggered a car bomb explosion in the Jawahar Nagar area of the capital. Over a dozen vehicles and approximately 40 shops, bank branches and residential houses were damaged in the blast.
April 6: A day before the bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir was to be flagged off, two Fidayeen (suicide squad) terrorists attack the Tourist Reception Centre which was accommodating 24 passengers. Both the terrorists were killed in the ensuing gun-battle and seven persons, including a policeman, were injured. 45 persons, including the passengers, were subsequently evacuated to safety
February 24: Three police personnel, a woman and two terrorists were killed and four persons sustained injuries during a fidayeen attack at the Divisional Commissioner's office.
January 7: A Deputy Commandant of the BSF, two soldiers, one policeman and a civilian were killed and four persons sustained injuries when two fidayeen attacked the Income Tax office. While one of the terrorists was killed on January 7, the other was shot dead the next day.
Being the capital city, Srinagar is, in a certain sense, an obvious target. In a city with a heavy security presence, inevitably, soft targets like schools, residential and busy commercial areas have borne the brunt of attacks in 2005. At the time of writing, official sources estimated that at least 85 to 90 terrorists were present within Srinagar and its suburbs. Their intent and capacities to target Srinagar is a consequence of the fact that the capital has been, quite naturally, the more public face of the efforts underway for the State's return to normalcy. There is dramatic evidence of a return to a measure of normalcy in civic life, and increasing business activity, particularly in the tourism industry, the mainstay of the local economy. Domestic tourist flows into the Kashmir Valley, for instance, registered a record growth of 83 per cent during the first six months of 2005. More than 280,000 domestic tourists visited Srinagar between January to June 2005 as against a total of 358,000 visitors through 2004.
Another significant indicator of the levels of conflict is the scale of terrorist ingress. 15 Corps Commander, Lt General S. S. Dhillon, disclosed that, "Until April this year, infiltration was below normal, perhaps due to heavy snow and the ongoing peace process. Between May and June, infiltration picked up and was slightly above normal. But this month [July] the intensity has been high..." According to sources, between April 22 and July 15, 2005, approximately 40 infiltration attempts were foiled by the troops and 112 terrorists were killed during this period. In July 2005 alone, according to one report, there were more than 15 infiltration attempts, with 58 terrorists being killed. But increased infiltration attempts at this time of the year are not unusual, primarily due to melting of snow along the border. The 16 Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. Sudhir Sharma, underlined this 'routine aspect': "The desire to push in militants in large groups can only be explained on account of a backlog due to heavy snows this year. My assessment is, infiltration attempts will continue for at least the next two months."
Border fencing and advanced detection devices, including Israeli ground sensors, have provided the troops an advantage in uncovering infiltration. However, as is their wont, the terrorists have chosen new and ingenious methods to traverse this obstacle. Army sources indicate that the infiltrators are now using difficult and inaccessible terrain as new routes. For instance, an Army patrol intercepted a group of infiltrators on July 12, 2005, in the Gurez mountains of Baramulla district in North Kashmir. The infiltrators had reportedly crossed the Line of Control (LoC) through a mountain pass, into the rocky and snow-covered region, at a height of approximately 16,000 feet. In the subsequent operations, at least 15-18 infiltrators were killed by the troops. Infiltration through the Gurez sector has been rare, primarily because of the harsh terrain and poor weather conditions. And entry patterns have also reportedly changed. Infiltrators, conventionally, used to cross in small groups of four to five. In the current context, however, they are approaching the border in larger groups to deceive the troops. Explaining this, Deputy Inspector General of the BSF, S. Srinivasan, said the group is divided into three, while one of them take a direct route selected by the guide, another goes back to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) after giving firing cover to it (first group) and the third take another route to sneak into the Valley.
Furthermore, official sources said that terrorists are also attempting to enter India from Bangladesh and Nepal, to eventually travel to J&K. Drastic improvement in border management and the completion of fencing along the LoC has rendered ingress from Pakistan and PoK difficult, though not impossible. Consequently, cadres now also use the route from Bangladesh and Nepal, a route hitherto reserved for 'senior commanders' of the Jehad due to its relatively high cost.
Even as the number of terrorists killed has come down gradually (991 during January-July 2002; 845 in January-July 2003; 601 in 2004 and 645 till July 30, 2005), one of the crucial elements in the SF's summer operational strategy has been the number of terrorist leaders killed. According to sources, at least 72 of them have been killed in 2005. And this is a serious problem that the terrorist groups active in J&K are now facing: it is still not difficult to find foot-soldiers for the jehad, but it takes much more to replenish the loss of leadership on the ground.
While there has been a distinct reduction in the levels of violence, as reflected in most significant parameters, it is evident that the terrorists retain the capacities and potential to carry out major strikes in J&K and elsewhere in India. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee disclosed in Parliament on August 3, 2005, that recent reports indicated that a large number of launching camps along the LoC from Rajouri to Gurez Sector have been activated, where terrorists have been kept in readiness for infiltration. He also reiterated a point that was made by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister earlier, that the logistic infrastructure of terrorist training camps inside Pakistan and PoK remain intact.
The machinery that sustains such levels of infiltration and controls eventual targeting in terrorist operations is also well in place. For instance, top Army officers have disclosed that there are 28 control stations functioning in PoK, in touch with approximately 1,113 radio sets in the Valley alone. The total number of messages being generated is anywhere between 13,000-15,000 intercepts every month. And, according to estimates, more than Rupees 53.3 million passed through Hawala channels into terrorist coffers between January-July 2005, with the corresponding figure for 2004 estimated at Rupees 40.9 million. In short, the infrastructure to wage jehad - training, communications and funding - has been maintained in full measure across the LoC, despite Gen. Pervez Musharraf's repeated commitments to the contrary.
Notwithstanding the deligitimisation of terror and Pakistan's pre-occupation with its own conflicts on multiple fronts, almost 2,000 people succumb to terrorism-related violence in J&K annually -high by any standards, but appalling within a population of under eight million.
There are an increasing number of votaries, on both the sides of the border, of the idea that violence and dialogue can take place concurrently; that the extremists can continue with terrorist activity without prejudice to the peace process. While the peace dividend is yet to crystallize, it is crucial to recognize - however discomforting this may be - that terrorism remains, within this context, a strategically useful tactic and strategy.
The Stalemate that
The war in Nepal has acquired a false air of suspended animation; an impasse appears to have reached, with neither King nor rebel gaining ground - and the political parties long relegated to the margins. But nothing could be more misleading. Nepal is in continuous ferment, and the equation of power is shifting constantly, though it is yet to crystallize in an overwhelming advantage for any of the contending parties.
Among the more significant signs of the unsettling trend of developments was a district-level meeting between representatives of the agitating political parties and Maoist insurgents in Humla, a remote district in the Karnali region, on July 28, 2005. While details of the discussions were unavailable, both sides are said to have agreed to forge an alliance to continue their fight for the restoration of 'complete democracy' in Nepal, and the first signs of an agreement between the Maoists and the 'constitutional parties' are now emerging.
The current scenario developed after June 19, when seven political parties agitating for the restoration of democracy urged the Maoists to shun violence against their political activists and called for Maoist support for their ongoing pro-democracy movement. The seven-party alliance includes the Nepali Congress (NC), Nepali Congress - Democratic (NC-D), Communist Party of Nepal - United Maoist Leninist (CPN-UML), Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, People's Front Nepal, Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi) and United Left Front. Between them, these parties exhaust an overwhelming proportion of the political mainstream, and leave out only the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), a pro-Palace group, among the country's major political forces.
The very next day, Maoist 'chairman', Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, sent out a 'positive signal', stating, "Earlier, we were surprised at the way the political parties had been conspiring, directly or indirectly, with the despotic monarchy. Now, although late, the parties have given (their) commitment to (a) constituent assembly, absolute democracy and an end to the despotic monarchy." Subsequently, considering the "historic demand of the movement against authoritarianism as well as the request of the seven political parties", Prachanda issued strict directions to all organs of the party, the People's Liberation Army and the new 'People's Government', not to carry out physical attacks on unarmed persons 'even if they are criminals'. These announcements became stepping stones to an emerging alliance between the insurgents and the constitutional parties.
Certain differences, however, do persist within the seven party alliance itself, regarding the approach to the Maoists. Even CPN-UML General Secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal, urged caution, insisting on a peaceful movement for restoration of democracy during a meeting on June 21, where he stated, "Parties cannot trust them (the Maoists) as they have repeatedly committed mistakes regardless of their commitments expressed earlier." Another senior CPN-UML leader, Jhalnath Khanal added, "There exists (a) 'Pacific Ocean of distrust' between us. The Maoists need to walk several miles to fill the gulf."
On the other hand, the Chairman of RPP, Pashupati Shumshere Rana, had called on all democratic forces to evolve a 'national consensus' between political parties and the Monarchy, and urged the formation of an 'all-party government'.
These contrary pulls and pressures were ironed out when the 'strongman' of Nepal politics and prominent leader of the seven-party alliance, NC President Girija Prasad Koirala declared an 'open dialogue' with the Maoists to restore peace and to bring the rebels into political mainstream, 'irrespective of the consequences'. Responding to Koirala's statement, Prachanda expressed his readiness to collaborate with all political parties and called on them to constitute an official negotiating team in order to create a "massive people's pressure for a democratic way out". Ruling out the possibilities of resumption of peace talks with the Royal Government, the Maoist political wing leader and politburo member, Baburam Bhattarai, declared further that his party was "not attempting a final military victory right now, but is working for a negotiated political settlement either directly for a democratic republic or for the election to a Constituent Assembly."
Clearly, the incipient alliance between the Maoists and the political parties is intended to isolate the Monarchy. The political parties have realised increasing frailty in the wake of the 'King's Coup' on February 1, 2005. The Maoists had also, in the past, been heavily targeting the cadres of the political parties, to curtail their activities and influence across the country, and had substantially eroded their capacities across much of the country - particularly in rural areas. The Maoist deal with the seven-party alliance can create the basis for the restoration of some political activity, and may also, over time, create the foundations of a joint mass movement to pressure - or remove - the King. In the immediate future, it could secure wider acceptance for the Maoists in the international community, as they project the message that they are not against the idea of multiparty democracy in Nepal and are willing to settle the problem through a dialogue.
This certainly weakens the King's present position. The political parties have already conceded the Maoists major demands for a Constituent Assembly and the creation of a Republic and the abolition of the Monarchy as a centre of power in Nepal's political system. Analysts have long predicted that the longer King Gyanendra continues to hold on to absolute power, the more he will push the beleaguered political parties into a deal with the Maoists, and this appears to be what is now happening.
The response from the palace has been a ominous warning, with Government spokesperson Tanka Dhakal describing the 'ongoing attempts for an alliance with a terrorist outfit' as 'unfortunate'. In a thinly veiled threat, he added, "If the parties join hands with the Maoists, the Government will be forced to see them from the same viewpoint."
King Gyanendra has made claims that the situation in the country has 'improved' since February 1, 2005. On July 28, he asserted there had been "considerable improvementů in the internal law and order situation of Nepal." In its efforts to strengthen the King's position, the Royal Government had appointed the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of 25 District Development Committees (DDC) on June 13 under the Local Autonomous Governance Act. These positions had been vacant since 2002. But the move has been far from popular. Many of the nominated authorities had earlier been convicted under corruption and criminal charges. Nor, indeed, are there significant signs of the 'considerable improvement' the King has claimed in the law and order situation, with 1,331 persons killed during the six months of direct rule under King Gyanendra. Kathmandu's control over the West Central, Far West and Terai areas is now tenuous. Little of the North has ever been under formal governance. And the state's dominance of at least some of the eastern districts is also weakening. What remains is an iron control over a progressively beleaguered Kathmandu Valley.
Little is expected to change in this stressful and unstable equilibrium over the coming months. The rains preclude significant military and political activity. Thereafter, however, there is reason to believe that the Maoists will seek to escalate their campaigns - combining overground and underground movements to engineer disorders across the country, even as the King's isolation - both within the country, and from the international community of Kathmandu's erstwhile supporters - grows. At this stage, the political parties may easily become pawns in a possibly constitutional quest for absolute power. Failing this, violent and potentially chaotic pathways will be explored.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 1-7, 2005
Court confirms death sentence on Parliament
attack accused Mohammed Afzal
The Supreme Court of India on August 4, 2005
confirmed the death sentence of Jaish-e-Mohammed
activist, Mohammed Afzal, in the Parliament
attack case, but reduced the death sentence
of Shaukat Hussain Guru passing the order of
10 years rigorous imprisonment and a Rupees
25,000 fine instead. The apex court also upheld
the Delhi High Court judgment acquitting S.
A. R. Geelani and Afsan Guru, wife of Shaukat
Guru. On December 13, 2001, five Pakistani terrorists,
Mohammed, Haider, Hamza, Rana and Raja, had
attacked the Indian Parliament and were subsequently
killed by the security force (SF) personnel.
Nine SF personnel were killed and 16 others
sustained injuries in the attack. The
Hindu, August 5, 2005.
Government helping militants enter Afghanistan, alleges Leader of Opposition Fazlur Rehman: The Pakistani Government is deceiving the US and the West by helping militants freely enter Afghanistan from Waziristan, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Secretary General, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said on August 7, 2005. He told a press conference in Lahore that the Government should give the identity of the infiltrators and its (Government's) 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. This is hypocrisy. The rulers are not only trying to deceive the US and the West, but also hoodwinking the entire nation," he claimed. "We ask the rulers to reveal the identity of the people being transported to Afghanistan from Waziristan via Kaali Sarak in private vehicles, reveal who is supervising their trouble-free entry into Afghanistan and reasons for their infiltration," he said. The Government would have to decide whether it wanted to support jihadis or close down their camps, he said, adding, "We will have to openly tell the world whether we want to support jihadis or crack down on them. We can't afford to be hypocritical anymore."Daily Times, August 8, 2005
Lashkar-e-Toiba activist arrested in US: A Maryland resident, Mahmud Faruq Brent alias Mahmud Al Mutazzim, was arrested on August 5, 2005 in Newark, New Jersey, and charged with conspiring to aid terrorism by training to become a Jihadi fighter in camps in Pakistan, said a report in New York Times. Brent was accused of traveling to Pakistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks to receive training in camps operated by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the report said. Brent was an associate of Tarik Shah, a New York jazz musician who was arrested on May 28 on terrorism charges, according to the newspaper. Brent, in telephone calls and at least one meeting, had described his stay in the camps to Shah. He had also told Shah that he had been in the mountains in Pakistan training with "the Mujahideen, the fighters." Dawn, August 6, 2005.
Supreme Court rules Hisba Bill clauses as contrary to Constitution: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on August 4, 2005 ruled that several clauses of the Hisba Bill relating to the powers of an ombudsman, who is to be appointed under the law, as contrary to the Constitution. The court advised the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Governor not to assent to the law which was passed by the provincial Assembly on July 14, 2005, by a 68-43 vote. "For Reasons to be recorded later, we are of the considered view that Section 10 (b-c-d), 12 (1) (a-b-c), 23 (1-2-3-5-6-7-12-14-27, 25 (1-2) and 28 of the Hisba bill passed by NWFP assembly are ultra vires of the constitution, therefore Governor of the province may not assent the bill in its present form," Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said in a unanimous order after four days of hearing of the reference filed by President Pervez Musharraf against the bill under the advisory jurisdiction of the court. Dawn, August 5, 2005.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman deported from Dubai: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was on August 1, 2005, detained and deported from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for being allegedly blacklisted and a suspect extremist element. "I am unaware of reasons for deportation from an Arab Islamic state," he told The News. Authorities at the Dubai airport reportedly detained Rehman at a local hotel after denying him entry into the UAE and issued orders of his deportation several hours later. "It is not a matter of pride for the Government of Pakistan but a regrettable incident that how Pakistanis, especially a Parliamentarian and that too Leader of the Opposition, are being treated by brotherly Islamic country," said the Maulana. Jang, August 2, 2005.
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