SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Reform: A Habit of Deception
After decades of sponsoring hatred and terrorism, Pakistan is currently seeking redemption through a promise – repeated incessantly since 9/11 – to clean up its madrassas (seminaries), and to rid them of extremism and hatred, claiming that this would strike at the base and root of Islamist terror. The promise has raised great expectations in the West, and the aftermath of the London bombings provided another opportunity for President General Pervez Musharraf to do a reality-check on the course of his ‘enlightened moderation’.
For long considered a nursery for the global jehad, the madrassa system has been closely linked to Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives in Kashmir and Afghanistan, which have dominated the country’s historiography since its creation. Events in the recent weeks, separate but lying along the same continuum, reaffirm the world community’s uncertainty and suspicions regarding Pakistan’s commitment to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.
On August 29, 2005, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that the sanads (certificates) issued by madrassas are not valid as these institutions are run without statutory sanction and without affiliation to a recognised university or education board. The Court ordered the Election Commission not to recognise the results of those candidates who won seats in the recently held local elections but who hold madrassa degrees [Pakistani law has imposed a minimum educational requirement of Matriculation to hold electoral office.] The apex Court noted that madrassa sanads cannot be considered equivalent to a Matriculation Certificate if their holders did not pass examinations in English, Urdu and Pakistan Studies.
In its detailed verdict, the Court held, further, that madrassas were functioning illegally in the country, since they do not have affiliation with any University or Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education. The apex Court noted that unregistered madrassas do not teach a curriculum that can train students to face the ‘harshness of the modern world’. Seminaries, the Court observed, are not providing students with general education that could enable them to come into the mainstream of society and compete with the educated class for employment or other purposes, including elections. It noted that not a single religious educational institution had included in its curriculum subjects like English, Urdu and Pakistan Studies, even though the Inter-Board Committee of Chairmen had recommended this.
The highest Court in Pakistan was only validating what has already been extensively documented. However, in focusing on a failure to include English, Urdu and Pakistan Studies in the madrassa curriculum, the Court failed to recognize that President Musharraf’s approach to madrassa reform is itself skewed, and so are Pakistan’s state-prescribed educational curricula. In a scathing criticism of the educational system in its September 1 editorial, The Daily Times observed,
Nevertheless, the Court’s decision (unless it is blocked by a dictator’s fiat, or by legislative amendment) has significant potential impact for grass-roots politics in Pakistan where a large number of madrassa-alumni take active part in the affairs of the state. Incidentally, the qualifications of 68 parliamentarians with madrassa degrees were challenged in the Supreme Court in 2003 and a judgment is still awaited.
The Supreme Court judgment, however, does provide General Musharraf with a political tool for the management of erstwhile pawns in the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the alliance that is becoming more and more of an embarrassment and a burden to the dictator. Musharraf may well use the judgment as a sword of Damocles to discipline or neutralize the growing threat from this ‘extremist fringe’, since, were it to be applied, it could exclude an entire spectrum of Islamists from their present positions of power, and their membership of the national Parliament and the State Assemblies.
This strategy is, of course, not without risk, since these groupings have some grass-root support and, more ominously, linkages – indeed controlling interests – in many of the jihadi groups. Too hard a push could further alienate these forces and result in further radicalization of widening segments of the population. In a worst-case scenario, elements from some of these seminaries, independently or supported by closely-linked outlawed jehadi groups, could orchestrate retaliatory violence targeting the Government. Musharraf has, of course, demonstrated his mastery of manipulation over the past years, but his capacities for political management can be expected to come under a mounting challenge if he fails to exercise adequate control in the emerging circumstances.
These would compound the visible dissent arising out of the countrywide ‘crackdown’ announced on August 24, under which the Government ordered the country’s madrassas to register by December 31, 2005 or face closure. There are no official figures on the number of seminaries in Pakistan and estimates vary between 15,000 and 25,000. It also ordered the estimated 1,400 foreigners studying in Pakistan’s madrassas to leave or face deportation. The largest number of these foreign students reportedly hail from Afghanistan (estimated to be above 300) closely followed by Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.
Unsurprisingly, the Islamist forces decided to oppose the registration process. The Wafaq-ul-Madaris, Pakistan’s main confederacy of seminaries that runs approximately 8,200 institutions, is currently leading this opposition, along with the Tanzeemat Madaris Deeniya and Tanzimul Madaris Ahle Sunnat. The ulema (religious leaders) claim that the registration process is intended to curb the ‘independence and sovereignty’ of madrassas and is, consequently, not acceptable. Two days before the registration process began, the Wafaq-ul-Madaris terminated the July 2005 agreement it had signed with the Government to reform the madrassa syllabus and repatriate foreign students. Terming the registration move a ploy to control the seminaries, Islamist leaders met in Islamabad to unanimously reject amendments to the Societies Registration Act 1860, requiring all religious schools to be registered.
Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Secretary General of the MMA, while rejecting the ordinance (promulgated on August 18) regarding registration of seminaries, claimed that the madrassa syllabus contained no material encouraging sectarianism and extremism. Under the ordinance, the Government has set up five cells at the Centre and in the provinces to register the seminaries and collect basic data on them. Addressing a conference at the Madrassa Darul Uloom, Rehman demanded, "When we do not take a single penny from the Government, why should we furnish the details of our accounts to them?" Adding further, "We have returned to Assemblies only with the force of these religious seminaries. If their independence or survival is threatened we will resign forthwith." Maulana Samiul Haq, another stalwart of the Islamist movement and one of the most prominent patrons of the Taliban, expressed fears that Pakistan would become a secular state if the Government dismantles the madrassa system. Speaking at the Madrassa Taleemul Quran in Rawalpindi on August 26, Haq, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, said that the Government should not be at the US and the West’s beck and call, adding that Pakistan should try hard to uphold the freedom and character of the madrassas.
Articulating the Government stand, Religious Affairs Minister Ijazul Haq, son of the former President Zia-ul-Haq under whose leadership the ‘Madrassa culture’ in Pakistan was spawned, declaimed: "We will have zero tolerance against terrorism, zero tolerance against sectarianism and zero tolerance for hate literature." However, the rhetoric has not been backed with comparable action and the resistance to reform is widespread. For instance, the Rupees 5.8 billion Religious Seminaries Reform Project, launched to improve the standard of education in Pakistan’s seminaries, has still not been implemented in the NWFP, perhaps the worst affected provinces as far as radicalization and the jehad culture are concerned. The Federal Government had formulated the scheme in 2002 to teach subjects such as English, Pakistan Studies, Mathematics, General Science, Computers and Economics in the madrassas, and the Economic Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved it on January 7, 2004. ECNEC had approved PKR 5.8 billion for the project and 15.7 percent out of the sum was earmarked for the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). An unnamed official told Daily Times on August 22, 2005, that "not a single rupee has been spent from the amount, as the provincial Government has not yet implemented the scheme for reasons not known". It was from the madrassas of the NWFP that a majority of the Taliban had emerged.
There is some evidence of the military regime buckling under pressure from the Islamists. On August 26, the Government said that it would not check, investigate or even comment on audit details of accounts submitted by the seminaries. Federal Religious Affairs Secretary Vakil Ahmed Khan told Daily Times that only a brief report of the accounts’ audit would be sent to the registrar, who would neither check nor investigate the figures. He clarified that the seminaries were not bound to disclose names of their donors, but they had been asked to submit details of their expenses and donations. Seminaries are funded by a mixture of charity and donations, both from within and outside Pakistan. In 2001, the Government commenced partial funding in order to encourage the introduction of a ‘secular’ curriculum and PKR 1.654 million was disbursed during 2001-02 among madrassas who accepted the Government’s conditions. More evidence of the half-heartedness of reforms was provided when Vakil Khan told Reuters: "There is no punitive provision in the existing law. The Government will consider such things after December 31 and not before that."
The Islamist extremists have always rejected Government attempts at interference in their ‘empire’. The past few years has seen the Musharraf regime introduce two ordinances to control militancy in the seminaries but the clergy ensured that both were unsuccessful. The first ordinance, called 'Pakistan Madrassa Education (Establishment and Affiliation of Model Dini Madaris) Board Ordinance 2001' was promulgated on August 18, 2001 and endeavoured to reform existing curriculum by introducing secular subjects. Another mechanism, the Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance 2002, was introduced to control the enrollment of foreigners and to monitor them. Although exact figures are not available, a negligible number is reported to have registered and not a single seminary was closed for disregarding the ordinance.
In his address to the nation on January 12, 2002, General Musharraf had declared, "…madaris will be governed by same rules and regulations applicable to other schools, colleges and universities. All madaris will be registered by 23rd March 2002 and no new madrassa will be opened without permission of the Government. If any madrassa is found indulging in extremism, subversion, militant activity or possessing any types of weapons, it will be closed." These declarations have fallen on barren ground, and the new deadline for madrassa registration is now December 2005. Meanwhile, jehadi groups that were proscribed after the General’s January 12 speech (and that have been proscribed on two occasions since) were soon active again under different names, even as little changed on the madrassa registration front, and it was ‘business as usual’ for the extremists, after a brief flurry of apparent state action against them.
It remains to be seen how much decisive action the General can or will be allowed to take this time, especially since he claims that he is much stronger now than he was when he made his earlier attempts at reform. The past trajectory, regrettably, does not inspire optimism. Whenever Pakistan has been under the global scanner for Islamist terrorism since 9/11, a crackdown has been ordered. However, the endeavour to tackle Islamist extremism is suspect and the pattern remains consistent each time around: dispersed arrests and the subsequent release of a few hundreds foot-soldiers of the global jehad; the re-grouping of the outlawed outfits under different names; and eventual restoration of the status quo ante till the next major international terrorist incident. Meanwhile, many of the seminaries continue to propagate radical Islam and an ideology of unrelenting hatred, and to serve as recruitment and training centres for terrorist networks.
The promise of a purge of extremism in Pakistan, even if it is believed to have been made in good faith, has always remained unfulfilled.
Srinagar: The BSF Withdraws
"For help", reads the faded billboard stuck up by the Border Security Force’s (BSF) 145 Battalion on the skeletal remains of a building in Srinagar’s Chhanpora area which was gutted in a firefight with terrorists, "please contact 2430084". Starting the morning of September 12, there will no longer be anyone to take calls at that number.
New Delhi’s decision to withdraw the BSF from counter-terrorism duties in Srinagar, and replace it with formations of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), is of considerable symbolic significance. BSF troops were sent to Srinagar in 1990 after the State police force and the CRPF failed to contain growing violence. Although the Force took time to adapt to its new task, and attracted not a few complaints of excessive force, it soon won a formidable reputation. Since 1990, the BSF has been responsible for the elimination of 2,653 terrorists, among them the architect of the 2001 attack on Parliament in New Delhi, Shahbaz Khan. It also succeeded in securing some 9,375 arrests, including the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) ‘chief’ Maulana Masood Azhar, who was subsequently released from prison as part of a prisoners-for-hostages swap that took place when an Indian Airlines jet was hijacked in 1999. Almost 700 BSF personnel died in the course of its fifteen-year commitment in Srinagar
Coming days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leadership, in which the secessionist formation had called for the phased reduction of Indian counter-terrorism formations, the decision to withdraw the BSF from Srinagar appears to be aimed at consolidating the ongoing dialogue process. New Delhi had decided to hand over urban counter-terrorist operations to the CRPF in 2003, on the basis of the recommendations of a Group of Ministers who reviewed India’s security posture in the wake of the Kargil war. Some numbers of BSF troops were subsequently withdrawn from urban areas of Srinagar north of the Jhelum River. However, the withdrawal plan bogged down last year amidst concerns about CRPF’s ability to deal with the challenge before it. Two weeks ago, however, the BSF received orders to withdraw from Srinagar – the timing of which suggests that New Delhi wished to have a post-talks gift in hand for the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.
While most Srinagar residents are likely to react to news of the BSF withdrawal with some happiness, further evidence that the process of normalisation is gathering momentum, no great imagination is needed to see that India’s decision to withdraw the BSF from Srinagar involves considerable risks.
For one, CRPF units posted to areas in the city north of the Jhelum River a year ago have secured no great success. Bar the recoveries of some small amounts of weapons and ammunition, the CRPF has not succeeded in conducting a single independent offensive operation. Nor, on occasion, have its personnel displayed great competence: not a little criticism was generated by the CRPF’s failure to defend Srinagar’s Tourist Reception Centre against a fidayeen (suicide squad) attack in April 2005, on the eve of the departure of the first bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad. While the criticism might be unfair, for every counter-terrorism Force in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has had its share of dismal performances, it does point to the challenges ahead.
Principal among these are the recoveries of well over a thousand kilograms of chemicals used in manufacturing explosives from recent raids in southern and central Kashmir. In the main, these caches have consisted of commercially-available substances, like potassium permanganate and aluminium nitrate, rather than the Research Department Explosive (RDX), the traditional explosive of choice for terrorist groups in J&K. Used in several recent car bomb attacks – terrorists have, notably, learned to evade anti-sabotage road patrols by driving along with military convoys and then parking bomb-laden vehicles a short distance ahead of them – the new explosives caches suggest that the infrastructure exists for a major escalation of violence. The new materials suggest that Pakistan’s covert services have instructed jihadi groups to take measures to vest that country’s denials of involvement in terrorist activity in J&K with some plausibility.
If a large-scale bombing campaign does get underway this winter or next spring, the CRPF will be relatively ill-prepared to play an offensive role in targeting its perpetrators. Unlike the BSF’s somewhat obscurely named intelligence wing, the ‘G-Branch’, the CRPF does not as yet have a large network of assets within terrorist groups. For reasons that will be obvious to intelligence professionals, the G-Branch’s assets have been more than a little reluctant to work for new and inexperienced masters. Moreover, the CRPF’s independent signals intelligence capabilities, unlike those of the ‘G-Branch’, are rudimentary; its staff, unlike that of the BSF, has not acquired an intimate knowledge of the wireless operators of jihadi groups. Finally, the CRPF’s medium-weapons and explosives capabilities are frugal, as is appropriate for a police organisation. While such resources are rarely used in counter-terrorism work in Srinagar, they have on occasion been essential to success.
To all of these concerns there are, of course, credible counter-arguments. Much signals-intelligence work in Srinagar now relies not on the interception of traditional wireless traffic but of mobile phone communication, a task which is in the domain of India’s domestic covert service, the Intelligence Bureau. Given this fact – and the existence of Indian Army’s sophisticated signals intelligence apparatus – the loss of the G-Branch’s technical assets could be argued not to be of great significance. Second, the J&K Police, which will be the principal director of counter-terrorism operations, has demonstrated considerable competence in both offensive counter-terrorism operations over recent years. Its counter-terrorism officials have long worked with the G-Branch and, in many cases, have jointly handled its assets. As such, the handover may be smoother than might be expected in other circumstances.
India’s apparent willingness to experiment with its counter-terrorism formations has been in no small part enabled by the significant scale-back in the activities of the Hizb ul-Mujahideen (HM), and can be read as an effort to test the seriousness of Pakistan’s commitment to continuing its de-escalation of its not-so-covert war in J&K.
The largest terrorist group in J&K – and the one of greatest political significance, since its cadres for the most part hail from the State and have linkages with local political formations, both mainstream and secessionist – the HM has carried out few strikes of importance since 2002. Its posture has led politicians to call for efforts to bring about a ceasefire with the group, although it has rejected such overtures. India had ordered its Forces not to initiate offensive combat operations in the wake of the Kargil war, after some elements in the HM initiated a dialogue process with New Delhi. While that enterprise collapsed, amidst an escalation of violence Indian military commanders have made clear they have no wish to see repeated, some politicians believe it ought to be resuscitated.
Could something of the kind be brought about, at least in the mid-term? Since the May, 2004 elimination of Abdul Rashid Pir, the HM has not had an overall ‘commander’ for operations in J&K. Pir, a trusted confidante of the organisation’s Muzaffarabad-based ‘supreme commander’, Mohammad Yusuf Shah aka Syed Salahuddin, had been attempting to build a new support base for the organisation among mainstream political groups, like the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, following its desertion by its long standing patron, the J&K Jamaat-e-Islami. His loss was a considerable blow to the HM, coming less than five months after the killing of his predecessor, Ghulam Rasool Dar, just over a year after the elimination of the previous commander for operations, Ghulam Rasool Khan. Through the last several months, the HM also lost a number of powerful provincial commanders, notably Arif Khan, Shabbir Bhaduri, and, this March, Ashiq Butt.
For reasons that are unclear, the HM never despatched Amir Khan, Pir’s intended successor, to J&K. The alias Ghazi Misbahuddin, which the organisation now uses to refer to its ‘operational commander’, is in fact used by a several separate functionaries. Indian intelligence analysts, for the most part, believe the HM’s failure to despatch a ‘commander’ reflects organisational weakness. Another explanation is, however, possible: the HM may have learned its lessons, and sees no reason to have a single-point leader who can be targeted with ease. As things stand, the tasks of command have now been handed over to relatively low-profile second-rung leaders like Ibrahim Dar, a long-standing military aide to Shah, who has returned to J&K from Pakistan in recent months, and an individual code-named Salim Hashmi, believed to be a South Kashmir resident with over a decade of field experience with the HM.
If this second explanation is correct – and it should be underlined that it is at best speculative – there is the possibility that the HM’s relative quiescence in recent months is not only the consequence of its mainly-ethnic Kashmiri cadre’s wait-and-watch attitude on the peace process.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s September 11, 2005, declaration that he can "do business" with General Pervez Musharraf points us in the direction of an important component of the détente process in South Asia. There is, however, another component: getting security issues right within J&K itself.
If the somewhat quixotic conduct of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Government on security issues is a guide, there is at least some reason for concern. Consider, for example, its use of the Public Safety Act, a legislation that enables the preventive detention of terrorism suspects. In recent weeks, Chief Minister Sayeed’s government used the PSA to detain Asiya Andrabi, the head of an ultra-right Islamist women’s group known as the Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM). Andrabi’s offence was to have carried on a raucous campaign against restaurants in which men and women committed the crime of sitting together, as well as the sale of liquor. While Andrabi’s conduct during the protests was without dispute disgraceful, her activities posed no great threat to the state. Her arrest seems to have been carried out to embarrass the Hurriyat Conference, which had claimed New Delhi’s willingness to review the detention of PSA prisoners as a major gain from its talks with Prime Minister Singh.
On the other hand, Chief Minister Sayeed has shown a conspicuous unwillingness to act against those who do pose a demonstrable threat to both citizens and the state. In 2003, the Jammu and Kashmir Police detained Nasir Ahmad Jan, a Government-employed engineer, on charges of having aided terrorists who attacked a telephone exchange in Srinagar’s Indira Nagar neighbourhood, killing an Army officer, two CRPF troopers and an employee of the telephone company in the process. Jan’s arrest was based on the statements of Janzeb Kashmiri, a member of the two-person fidayeen squad who is now in jail in Jammu. Two years on, the Sayeed Government has refused to issue PSA warrants enabling Jan’s arrest – as indeed, it has done in hundreds of terrorism-related cases across Kashmir. Since Andrabi’s arrest makes it clear the Sayeed government has no principled objection to the PSA, its conduct is mystifying.
Such conduct is symptomatic of a larger malaise. Officials complain that covert funds sent by New Delhi for use in counter-terror operations have not reached cutting-edge formations: intelligence operations conducted by both the BSF and J&K Police have suffered from the hoarding of these funds by State officials for the last ten months. Service regulations within the police service have also been flouted, with a crippling impact on officer morale. Where vacancies existed for 37 officers to be promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police, for example, 59 were granted the job – the last on the list, in order of seniority, being a member of the personal security staff of the Chief Minister. All of this is, of course, part of business-as-usual in J&K. Such state-level messing with the apparatus of counter-terrorism, however, makes it that much more likely that the worst-case possibilities opened up by the BSF withdrawal will be realised – something that ought to merit, at the very least, a discreet nudge from New Delhi.
Between June 17 and 23, 2005, Police in Mizoram claimed to have destroyed one of the largest Myanmarese rebel bases in India, deep in the mountainous jungles of Mizoram State. The State Police Chief Lalngheta Sailo claimed that roughly 200 guerrillas and supporters living in the Chin National Front (CNF) camp near the border with Myanmar fled before the attack, and the vacant camp was demolished.
Earlier, on July 16, Mizoram State Police arrested 50 Chin drug traffickers, criminals and trespassers from various locations, including capital Aizawl.
Again, on July 31, State police sources claimed to have recovered arms hidden in a remote place near Vaphai village in Champhai district near the Indo-Myanmar border. The arms cache included a self-loading rifle (SLR), three .303 rifles, and one single barrel bottom load (SBBL) gun, as well as ammunition. The arms had reportedly been looted by the Chin Integration Army (CIA) led by Ngun Uk Lian in December 2004 from the Myanmarese Army, in the border town of Falang in Chin State.
These raids were part of ‘Operation Hailstorm’ targeting the Myanmarese rebels, a move largely seen as a fall-out of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Myanmar and New Delhi during the October 2004 visit of the Chairman, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Senior General Than Shwe. The Myanmar Army had launched operations against the infrastructure of Indian terrorists in the Sagaing Division in late 2004, most notably against that of Naga and Manipuri groups. The current raids in Mizoram are part of India’s payback package. Results of the Army operations in Myanmar and their impact on the capabilities of the North Eastern militants are not known. However, it is evident that the recent Indian moves against the foreign rebel groups may just end up being providing solutions to a host of problems afflicting Mizoram, in addition to gratifying the ‘men in uniform’ in Myanmar.
The recent attacks on the Chin rebels were not the first of their nature; similar attack had taken place in January 1996, when some 150 Assam Rifles personnel had targeted one of the CNF’s camps. The CNF cadres offered no resistance and fled. The camp and nearby houses were burnt down.
Mizoram shares a 404 kilometres long open and largely unmonitored border with Myanmar, and has traditionally been a favoured refuge for the predominantly Christian Chins, who have been demanding autonomy for the Chin State in the north-western part of Myanmar. They are bitterly opposed to the conversion drive by the military rulers who want them to adopt Buddhism. When Chin refugees started flowing into Mizoram following the 1988 military crackdown in Myanmar, the Mizos – themselves emerging from a protracted war with the Indian Union and, more importantly, sharing an ethnic bond with the Chins – played magnanimous hosts. New Delhi, oscillating between its age-old support to the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar and a new-found realism that sought to ‘engage with the powers-that-be’, chose not to act. Over the years, the eastern part of Mizoram as well as Aizawl, became host to about 40,000 Chins, and it is not surprising that the fleeing population also included cadres of militant outfits like the CNF, for whom Indian territory was a ‘safe zone’.
The CNF was created in March 20, 1988, on an agenda "to topple the chauvinist military dictatorship, to secure national rights and to uplift the nation’s economic and social conditions". The Chin National Army (CNA), which is the armed wing of the CNF, has a present estimated strength of about 800-1,000 cadres, including some 500 actual combatants. In 1989, CNA cadres reportedly received their first arms training at the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in the Kachin State. Nearly 70 trained cadres of the CNA entered the Chin State in 1991, and the group experienced an initial period of success and expansion. CNF’s military capacities, however, declined over the years and by about 1997 it was forced to move its base into southern Mizoram. Its headquarters, Camp Victoria, was established some time in 2002. Significantly, the camp, situated in dense forests, is accessible by a land route only from the Myanmar side.
Until 1992, CNF/CNA was led by ‘president’ John No Than Kap. John, facing the heat of the military junta, fled to India, but was subsequently deported to Myanmar, where he surrendered to the authorities. In the mid 1990s, the outfit executed several terrorist attacks, mostly from its base in India, in the townships of Haka and Falang in the Chin State. However, over the years, CNF/CNA, led by ‘chairman’ Thomas Thang Nou, has turned into an intelligence gathering resistance group, with very limited capacities to organise armed attacks against Myanmarese interests, though intermittent raids continue. Unconfirmed reports suggest that, in July 2002, an ambush on a motor vehicle by the CNA in Haimual township along the Indo-Myanmar border, led to the death of two Myanmarese soldiers. In addition, the CNF/CNA, due to their locational advantage, had managed to remain outside the ‘ceasefire agreement’, which the military regime had used to force a majority of rebel groups into submission.
The CNF/CNA has survived by entering into the production and sale of narcotics, teakwood and precious stones. It had developed an extensive network for drugs and arms trafficking in the region, with links to the arms bazaars in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, catering to the needs of militant groups operating in India’s Northeast. According to a Ministry of Home Affairs report in 2000, the CNF/CNA had also started collecting ‘taxes’ from the businessmen and transporters in the eastern part of Mizoram.
The Chin Integration Army (CIA), a renegade faction of the CNA, is believed to have come into existence in 1999 though, till early 2004, it continued to operate under the CNA name. The group was involved in a number of attacks on cross-border traders, travellers and local people, and was also involved in the arms and drugs trade. Its leader Ngun Uk Lian served a prison term in Mizoram for crimes including murder, drug smuggling and armed robbery. After being released on bail in 2003, Ngun Uk Lian re-entered the world of crime and militancy. On December 11, 2004, about 15 CIA militants ambushed an Assam Rifles patrol, killing an officer, Captain Sanjay Kumar. The CIA also lost three of its cadres in the attack, in which the terrorists were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and US made M-16s.
The CNA and the CIA have exploited their locational advantages to the maximum, functioning with a high measure of autonomy in territories with extremely low population densities and lower security force presence. The District headquarters in Champhai, the district which hosted the Chin rebel camps, is just 194 kilometres away from capital Aizawl, but the distance takes about 8 hours to traverse because of the precipitous terrain and a back-breaking road The problem of law and order in the border areas is managed by the Assam Rifles (AR), not the State Police, and the AR maintains, at best, a token presence in the area.
The Mizoram Government now appears to be determined to act against the Myanmarese rebels. On August 24, Chief Minister Zoramthanga declared, "Our government has already started identifying illegal foreign settlers in Mizoram and would be deporting them as soon as possible." It is, however, difficult to understand why it took nearly six months and prodding by the Myanmarese authorities for Aizawl and New Delhi to react, even after an incident in which one of its Army officers was killed. India’s long silence on the continuing drugs and arms trade by these groups, which has continued for years, is even more baffling. Nor is it comprehensible why India chose to remain passive despite the growth of the Myanmarese terrorist and criminal infrastructure inside its own territory, when it continues to complain about other countries that provide safe-haven to terrorists.
One difficulty, of course, is the ability of the rebels to flee across the border before an impending raid, which makes it impossible to deliver a final blow against the Chin rebels on Indian territory. Another problem is politics. Myanmar has used the presence of the North-eastern rebels on its territory as a bargaining chip in its dealings with India, especially on the democracy issue. In 1995, it suddenly called off the joint ‘Operation Golden Bird’, after India conferred the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding on Aung San Syu Kyi. Even after its numerous military raids in the area, commencing in the late 1980s, the Sagaing Division remains a favourite hunting ground for the Indian rebels, and India has pursued an implicit policy of quid pro quo.
Evidently, joint action between the Forces of the two countries will be necessary if any effective operations are to be executed against the terrorists and criminals who infest the border areas, and these would impact immediately and directly not only on the Myanmarese rebels, but also on the various rebel groups operating in India’s Northeast who secure safe-haven in the jungles across the Myanmar border.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 4 -11, 2005
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Maoists kill 15 civilians in Jharkhand: At least 15 civilians were killed and six others sustained injuries, according to preliminary reports, in an attack by cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) at Bhelbadari village in the Giridih district of Jharkhand in the early hours of September 12, 2005. Deputy Inspector General of Police, Neeraj Sinha, said that over a 100 armed Maoists were involved in the incident. Press Trust of India, September 12, 2005.
Prime Minister holds talks with the Hurriyat Conference: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with leaders of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in New Delhi on September 5, 2005, and is reported to have assured them that conditions will be created for reduction of armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) if there is a cessation of violence and an end to infiltration. During the two-and-a-half hour long discussion with a five-member Hurriyat delegation headed by Farooq, he agreed to review cases of all those held in detention and to a time-bound review of those held under the Public Safety Act and the now defunct Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). A press release issued after the talks said it was agreed to carry forward the dialogue process so that all shades of political opinion in J&K are involved. Daily Excelsior, September 6, 2005.
Chhattisgarh Government bans CPI-Maoist:
Following the September 3, 2005-landmine blast
in the Dantewada district that claimed the lives
of 24 security force personnel, the Chhattisgarh
Government, after an emergency meeting of the
Cabinet in Raipur on September 5, decided to ban
and its front organisations through an ordinance.
State Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam said: "any
organisation or group of individuals, involved
in illegal activities or terrorist activities,
will be initially banned for one year through
this ordinance and after examining their activities
the period can be extended." Newindpress,
September 6, 2005.
Maoist chief accuses Government of sabotaging cease-fire: The chief of Maoist insurgents, Prachanda, has accused the Government of trying to sabotage the unilateral cease-fire and forcing his outfit to withdraw it. In a press statement on September 10, 2005, he said: "The Royal regime has not only failed to reciprocate the ceasefire positively, but has started planned campaigns to sabotage it, to force us to withdraw the ceasefire at the earliest. It is compelling us to declare retaliatory attacks." Prachanda claimed that the Army has attacked insurgents in several districts like Bardiya, Kanchanpur, Jajarkot, Dailekh, Udaypur, Taplejung and Kaski, "We appeal to political parties, civil society, and the common people to raise voice against the conspiracy, and to monitor (the truce) and strengthen the movement against autocratic monarchy by bringing out the truth", he added. Kantipur Online, September 11, 2005.
Pakistan deploys 9,500 additional troops at Afghan border: Pakistan has deployed 9,500 additional troops at the border with Afghanistan to prevent infiltration by terrorists intent on disrupting the parliamentary elections in the latter, which are scheduled to take place on September 18, 2005. Pakistan now has approximately 80,000 troops at the border. Army spokesperson Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said on September 6, that the deployment was completed after an August 28 meeting in Islamabad of senior military commanders from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States to review security for the elections. Sultan also said Pakistan has set up between 40 and 50 mobile check posts and sent six transport helicopters and three helicopter gunships to the frontier "to beef up security and curtail activities of miscreants." Pakistan Times, September 7, 2005.
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