SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
There is a deep, indeed desperate, reluctance among governments and interlocutors – including international mediators – to acknowledge certain persistent and pervasive patterns of deception that have marked the engagement of terrorist and insurgent organisations in ‘peace processes’. The obsession with daily details and the interpretation by ‘experts’ of every possible nuance of each new statement, agreement or act consumes all attention, even as the fundamentals – the essential equation of power between the conflicting parties – shifts subtly and steadily in favour of violent non-state actors. This is the seduction of process that is being played out in Nepal, where a new and substantive agreement between the ruling Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists, arrived at on November 8, 2006, is now been celebrated by all, even as reports of the continuous, systematic and gross violation of the preceding three agreements (the twelve point and eight point agreements and the 25 point code of conduct continue to pour in from across the country.
The new agreement establishes a breathless timetable that creates the illusion of great and irreversible advances, with the objective of holding elections, monitored by the UN, to the Constituent Assembly by mid-June 2007. A unicameral Interim Legislature (Parliament) is to replace the existing House of Representatives and National Assembly by November 26, 2006, by which date an Interim Constitution would be promulgated. A ‘comprehensive peace agreement’ between the SPA and the Maoists is to precede this, on November 16, 2006. By November 21, all ‘Maoist combatants’ are to ‘gather into’ designated camps, even as the Nepali Army is to be confined to barracks. According to the agreement, bar a small quantum of arms needed for ‘providing security of the camp’, all Maoist weapons are to be put under a ‘single lock system’ with the ‘concerned side’ keeping the key of the lock. The UN would, however, monitor these stocks, and would install ‘a device with siren as well as recording facility’ to ensure that these weapons are not accessed. The Nepali Army would also be permitted to retain a ‘similar quantity of arms’ while its remaining arsenal would be similarly stored and sealed under a single lock system, similarly monitored by the UN. The main camps of the Maoists are to be established at Kailali, Surkhet, Rolpa, Palpa, Kavre, Sindhuli and Ilam, with three smaller camps located on the periphery of each of these ‘main camps’.
Under this benign dispensation, the remaining arrangement for the installation of a 330 member Interim Legislature and for holding of the subsequent elections to the Constituent Assembly are to be quickly completed. The Interim Legislature would have 209 members of the SPA and other parties that are members of the present Legislature – but, in an audacious and undemocratic exception, explicitly excluding ‘those who opposed the people’s movement’; 73 members ‘from the side of the Maoists’; and another 48 members from ‘sister organisations, professional bodies, oppressed ethnic communities and regions and political personalities to be nominated ‘based on understanding’. The 73 Maoist seats alone will make them the second largest presence in the Interim Legislature, just two short of the largest political formation – the Nepali Congress – at present. If they are able to secure a significant majority of the 48 seats for ‘sister organisations’, etc., they would directly control over a third of the Legislature.
In the interim, Pushpa Kamal Dahal @ Prachanda is poised to make the momentous transition from terrorist to world statesman. Interestingly, a media sponsored event at Delhi on November 17-18, 2006, will bring him as a speaker on the same platform as India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, and a galaxy of eminent others, including Jack Straw and Sonia Gandhi. In this, he appears to be following in the footsteps of Yasser Arafat who strutted onto the world stage at the UN and eventually won himself a Nobel Prize for Peace, even as he continued to head a terrorist organisation – the al Fatah. Prachanda has, however, assured all concerned that, “Once the peace accord is signed, we will honour every word of it.”
As with other powerful terrorist and insurgent groups in the South Asia region, who have engaged in ‘peace processes’ or ‘agreements’ with Governments, prominently including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka and the Taliban ‘elders’ in the Waziristan region of the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), there is little evidence that the Maoists will honour the letter and spirit of their covenant with the SPA. Indeed, there is enormous and augmenting evidence that the Maoists will continue with their campaigns of extortion and intimidation, on the one hand, and the continuous project of social and political engineering to secure the outcome they seek, on the other, even as they capture increasing space and – crucially – legitimacy, through the ‘peace process’.
It is crucial to assess current Maoist postures – and indeed the ‘peace process’ itself – not only in terms of the daily violations of prior agreements and the ‘code of conduct’, their continuous campaigns of intimidation, extortion, coercion, even torture and selective murders, as well as recruitment and training of armed cadres, but also in terms of manifest intent and the prevailing equation of power in Nepal. There have, for instance, been at least 675 abduction by the Maoists since the peace agreement of April 24, 2006 (till October 8, 2006), and as many as 21 killings by their cadres. The Industrial Security Group, comprising representatives of the Embassies of France, Germany, India, UK, USA and the Delegation of the European Commission, on September 7, 2006, stated: “The ISG noted with concern the many reports of increased Maoist extortion and threats made to employees, employers and entrepreneurs engaged in commercial, industrial and tourism activities since the Government and Maoist cease-fire were announced” (Emphasis added).
First, it is necessary to note that this is not a group that has been forced to the negotiating table; it is a group that has forced the Government, concerned external powers, and international organisations to the negotiating table. The current peace process is a decision imposed by, not on, the Maoists. It is, moreover, a decision imposed through a continuous, decade-long campaign of extreme violence, and they retain, in full, the capacity for this violence. Indeed, this capacity underlies all aspects of their engagement with the state and with external interlocutors.
It is significant that the power of the establishment in Nepal has steadily been shrinking; by contrast, the Maoist power is just as consistently augmenting, and there is much in the present agreement that will reinforce these trends. Crucially, the clauses relating to the confinement of ‘combatants’ to camps, and of weapons under the ‘single lock system’, reinforces the asymmetry between the insurgent and state forces. It would demand the most extraordinary naïveté to believe that the Maoists would, in fact, surrender the main body of their weaponry and declare the entire strength of their armed cadres. Indeed, in an organisation such as the Maoists, the distinction between the ‘armed’ and the ‘political’ cadres is, at best, inchoate. Though a token quantum of arms and cadres will certainly be put under the restraints of the camps and the ‘single lock system’, the bulk of their forces will almost certainly be kept out of the camps, and much of their arsenal will be salted away into caches across the country. In the meanwhile, the Army’s forces and weaponry, far more easily verifiable, will certainly and effectively be locked away.
More troubling is the fact that there is no evidence of the abandonment or dilution of the Maoist mass line. These, one must recall, are not ideologies that are easily relinquished, and they unleash dynamics that are not easily disrupted. Once released, they secure and sustain a momentum of their own. Engagement in the ‘peace process’ is not an act of accommodation or abnegation on the part of the Maoist; it is integral to their strategy for the seizure of power, which remains the uncompromised objective of their complex manoeuvres.
In this context, it is useful to note that Maoist forces have now established a defining presence in Kathmandu itself, and even as Prachanda was negotiating ‘peace’, his armed cadres were circulating around Kathmandu, demanding that each home lodge and feed at least 10 Maoist cadres, as thousands converged to attend a scheduled public rally that was to be addressed by Prachanda. There is, moreover, an enormous hiatus between what the Maoists are saying in public and what they are projecting within the organisation. Sources suggest that the top leadership has told members of the Maoist ‘core group’ that their engagement in the ‘peace process’ was tactical, and represented a change essentially of strategy, not of intent. It is against this backdrop that Prachanda, Baburam Bhattarai and Ram Bahadur Thapa alias Badal, the outfit’s highest ranking leaders, have publicly stated that they would not join the Interim Government, and would continue to look for alternatives to form their ‘own government’ that would allow them to implement their ‘progressive and revolutionary’ agenda. There is a slew of statements by other Maoists leaders that confirm the persistence of their ideological orientation and their commitment to the idea of protracted war, and it is significant that the Nepalese Maoists were represented in a meeting of Maoists from across South Asia (the Fourth Conference of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organization of South Asia, CCOMPOSA) held in August 2006, which reaffirmed the commitment to “advance revolutions for the seizure of power by armed force”.
Crucially, the UN ‘monitors’ have no capacity or force to ensure compliance with the terms of the various agreements reached with the Maoists. As is the case with the Norwegian interlocutors in Sri Lanka, the most they would be able to do is to maintain continuously inflating lists of violations, and to deliver homilies on the necessity of peace. The US Ambassador to Nepal, James Moriarty has, of course, been among the few voices to speak sharply of continued Maoist transgressions and the US Embassy at Kathmandu has strongly condemned the Maoist intimidation of American citizens and Embassy employees, warning the rebel outfit of the ‘consequences of such acts of extortion and violence’. But there would be little that Moriarty – already under sustained criticism from all quarters for his ‘interference’ in Nepal’s ‘internal affairs’ – can do, beyond huffing and puffing, in the face of continued Maoist violations.
The Maoists have manoeuvred themselves to the centre of the democratic and political processes in Nepal, paralysed the Army, neutralized the King; and they have done this without the slightest dilution in their own capacities for violence, and with a significant expansion – including a dominant presence in the Kathmandu Valley – in their capacities for mass mobilization. A former Nepali civil servant, Ram Shanker Lal, articulates the dread that now envelops the country: “Even when out of Government, they have been able to instil so much fear in us. I shudder to think what the Maoists will do once they join the Government.”
The Maoist objective in Nepal is not the sharing of power. It is the seizure of power. This is the reality that will crystallize over the coming months and years.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 6-12, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Seven persons killed in grenade attack outside mosque in Jammu and Kashmir: Seven persons, including five girls, were killed and over 50 others wounded, when terrorists hurled a grenade outside a mosque at Tahab village in the Pulwama district on November 10, 2006. The incident occurred around 1.20 p.m., when people were going to the mosque along with cleric Maulana Abdur Rasheed Dawoodi. Belonging to the Barelvi school of thought, he was reportedly specially invited to deliver a sermon. Deputy Inspector-General of Police (South Kashmir) Hemant Kumar Lohia said that it was the handiwork of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM). Even as the HM denied on November 11 that the youth captured by residents of Tahab was a militant of that organisation, 22-year-old Ghulam Nabi Mir alias Shora confessed in Army's custody before media that he had thrown the grenade on Maulana Dawoodi, on the direction of an over-ground activist, Gulzar Ahmed Mir alias Nikka Mir. Daily Excelsior, November 11, 2006.
Nine Maoists killed in Andhra Pradesh: On November 10, 2006, nine cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), including the State Committee member and Rayalaseema divisional committee secretary Obulesu, were killed in an encounter with the police in the Gopavaram reserve forests of Kadapa district. The others killed include Obulesu’s wife, Prasanthi, who was Guntur district secretary and Mallkarjuna, Anantapur district secretary. The remaining Maoists were yet to be identified. Police sources said that encounter occurred as special police parties accosted a group of 31 Maoists holding a meeting at Eddu Mora hillocks in Gopavaram. The Hindu, November 11, 2006.
Pakistani infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir has doubled in 2006, says Chief Minister: Pakistani infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir has doubled in 2006, according to Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who has, consequently, ruled out reduction of troops. An estimated 500 infiltrators have crossed into the State in the first 10 months, he told Press Trust of India in New Delhi, recalling that in the corresponding period last year the figure was less than 200. Firmly rejecting a Pakistani suggestion for reduction of troops, he made it clear that innocent people could not be left at the mercy of terrorists. The Hindu, November 6, 2006.
Government and CPN-Maoist reach agreement to end decade-long conflict: The seven-party alliance (SPA) Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) at midnight on November 7, 2006, reached an agreement to end the decade-old conflict and restore lasting peace through a six-point agreement. According to the agreement reached after over 14-hour-long negotiations between the two sides, the SPA and Maoists agreed that a peace accord will be signed by November 16 and all Maoists will go to seven cantonment areas by November 21. The insurgents will be lodged in the Ilam, Sindhuli, Kavre, Palpa, Rolpa, Surkhet and Kailali districts. There will be three other camps in each of the districts. All the Maoist arms will be locked up under the single lock up system with UN monitoring devices attached to each of the camps. The equal number of arms of Nepali Army will also be locked up.
There will be an interim legislature consisting of 330 members in which all the members of the House of Representatives and National Assembly, except those who were against the Jana Andolan (People’s Revolution) and nominated by the King, will remain as members of the interim legislature. According to the agreement, the Nepali Congress will have 75 members, CPN-UML and Maoists will have 73 Nepali Congress (Democratic) 42 and others will get 48 seats in the interim legislature.
The interim constitution will be announced by November 26 and the House of Representatives and the National Assembly will be dissolved once the existing House declares the announcement of the interim legislature and interim constitution. All the people’s governments and people’s courts run by the Maoists will also be announced to have been dissolved along with the announcement of the interim constitution and interim legislature. The interim government will be formed by December 1. The Himalayan Times, November 8, 2006.
42 soldiers killed in suicide attack at Dargai: A suicide bomber blew himself up at an army training centre at Dargai in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on November 8-morning, killing 42 and injuring 39 recruits of the Punjab Regiment Centre (PRC) and their instructor. “A man wrapped in a chaddar [shawl] came running into the training area and exploded himself where the recruits had gathered for training,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. According to an eyewitness, two unidentified men approached a group of 80 soldiers exercising in the open field and one of them set off a bomb tied to his body. Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said the attack was linked to the October 30-air strike on a Madrassa (seminary), used as a militant training camp, in Bajaur Agency in which 83 people were killed. “It may well have some linkages to the action taken by the security forces against a militant training centre in Bajaur on October 30,” he said.
Meanwhile, a man claiming to represent ‘Pakistani Taliban’ accepted responsibility for the suicide attack and threatened more such assaults to avenge the loss of the 83 people died in the Bajaur aerial strikes. In a phone call to The News from an undisclosed location, the Pashto-speaking man said a lone suicide bomber detonated his explosives-filled belt at the military parade ground near the fort in Dargai to kill soldiers undergoing training there. The caller identified his leader and commander as Abu Kalim Mohammad Ansari. Claiming that 275 volunteers had offered to take part in suicide bombings following the Bajaur attack, the caller argued that the ‘Pakistani Taliban’ had changed their earlier policy not to fight the Pakistan Army and the government. DailyTimes; The News , November 9, 2006.
45 civilians killed in Batticaloa during clashes between Army and LTTE: Many internally displaced persons were believed to have died on November 8, 2006, during an exchange of heavy artillery and mortar fire between the military and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the outfit-controlled Vakarai area of Batticaloa district. Daily News reported that more than 45 civilians were killed at Vakarai in the Batticaloa district as a welfare centre was allegedly hit by the retaliatory fire of the military. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) spokeswoman Hellen Ollafsdottir informed that monitors who visited the incident site had counted 23 bodies at hospitals where also 135 injured were treated. "The exact number of people killed in the incident is not yet known", Ollafsdottir said. However, the LTTE claimed that 50 to 100 civilians were killed when "indiscriminate fire" by the military hit a school building where the displaced are housed. The Hindu; Daily News, November 8, 2006.