SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
The ‘terrorism’ in Balochistan, President Pervez Musharraf informs us, has been ‘wiped out’. At Gwadar in Balochistan he stated, “We have been able to destroy over 50 per cent (terror) networks. We are also committed to wipe it out from the country.” He stated, further, that a handful of elements involved in disruptive activities consider themselves to be strong but they are not. “I am not a person to be subdued by cowardly attacks,” he declaimed, warning that if they fire “one rocket they will receive 10 hits.”
General Musharraf’s bravado notwithstanding, there is obvious concern in the Pakistani establishment about the widespread retreat of the state across an extended swathe of territory. Musharraf had himself conceded that “increasing dissatisfaction in smaller provinces was a major problem facing the country when he took over in October 1999.” A scrutiny of the conflict in Balochistan indicates that it has, since then, in fact becoming increasingly difficult to quiten the rebellion in the province.
Has the province calmed down after the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006? Are the tribal chiefs ready to throw in the towel and settle for ‘more autonomy’? These and related questions will be a matter of interest in the immediate future.
After the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006, and till November 16, 2006, thirty-two people, including 24 civilians, have died in 83 insurgency-related incidents in Balochistan. Before this, between January 1 and August 26, 414 persons, including 198 civilians, 134 insurgents and 82 soldiers, had been killed in at least 644 incidents. The insurgency evidently continues to simmer and there has been a steady stream of bomb and rocket attacks on gas pipelines, railway tracks, power transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure, as well as on military establishments and governmental facilities. Acts of violence are, according to Pakistani news reports “not confined to a few districts but are taking place in practically all the Baloch districts including Quetta.” Indeed, violence in the provincial capital, Quetta, has increased in the recent weeks, with as many as 14 explosions recorded since October 1, 2006. Landmine blasts continue to affect normal life in the province. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), there were 121 landmine blasts in 2006 (till September). At least 78 civilians and 28 soldiers were killed and over 150 people injured in these incidents. Farid Ahmed, HRCP coordinator in Balochistan, indicated that “All these incidents have taken place in the Kohlu and Dera Bugti areas.”
President Pervez Musharraf is reported to have met only “notables” from five Districts during his visit to Gwadar, rather than addressing a Jirga (assembly) of the Sardars (tribal chieftains). These notables were from Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Awaran and Lasbela. The Government had earlier announced that it was convening a Jirga of Baloch tribal elders in Islamabad on November 8, but it was subsequently postponed till November 17 and the venue shifted to Gwadar. Sources indicate that this was due to the unwillingness of some Sardars to attend the Islamabad Jirga. The eventual decision to allow only elders from five Districts to meet the President, as against the convocation of a Jirga, manifestly reduced the significance of the meeting at Gwadar. News reports indicate that the Sardari system in the old Makran division – which comprised Gwadar, Turbat and Panjgur – was abolished decades ago, while Awaran and Lasbela have a semi-sardari system. Pakistani columnist Amir Mir told SAIR that Islamabad even dropped the honorific 'Grand Jirga' and instead relabeled it as a meeting of 'notables'. No Sardar is reported to have met the president, according to sources in Pakistan. It is also a clear indication that Islamabad will not negotiate with the existing leaders of the insurgency, suggesting the persistence of a hard-line approach against them. This is entirely in line with Musharraf’s stated position that only three (Nawab Bugti, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawab Khair Bux Marri) of the 78 tribal chiefs were "troublemakers."
A Jirga has a unique position in the Baloch society, and there appears to be a competing facet to it now. Mir Suleman Dawood, the Khan of Kalat, (his grandfather Baglar Begi had signed the accession of what is present-day Balochistan province with Pakistan on March 27, 1948) called a Grand Baloch Shahi Jirga (grand meeting) on September 21, 2006, to protest against Islamabad's policies in Balochistan. With 95 tribal Sardars and 300 other ‘notables’ reportedly in attendance, it adopted a resolution condemning the killing of Nawab Bugti and Pakistan's "colonial occupation" of Baloch land. The Jirga, said to be the first of its kind bringing together so many chieftains under one platform in more than 100 years, adopted a resolution condemning what it called the "violation of its territorial integrity, exploitation of Balochistan's natural resources, denial of the Baloch right to the ownership of their resources and the military operation in the province." They also decided to move the International Court of Justice over what they said was the violation of an agreement between the former Kalat state, the then British Raj and Pakistan at the time of India’s Partition. The Shahi Jirga was also an indication that the largely reclusive Khan of Kalat is still a respected figure and may emerge as a future player in Baloch politics.
General Musharraf’s visit to Gwadar comes at a time when Bugti's Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) is reported to be ‘falling apart’. Pakistani news reports attribute this to the “disruptive interference of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.” While the JWP obviously faces a leadership crisis, sources in Pakistan told SAIR that secret agencies have gained control over the party. After the Bugti assassination, JWP members wanted to resign from their legislative posts but the Quetta Corps Commander threatened them with dire consequences, and they backed off. The party was weakened further after a few members, including Secretary-General Shahid Bugti, resigned from their positions after reportedly developing differences with Bugti’s son Jamil Bugti. However, recent reports now indicate that some rapprochement has occurred, and Shahid Bugti and others have declared that they would carry on with Nawab Bugti’s ‘mission’.
Writing in the Lahore-based weekly Nida-e-Millat on September 20, Maqbool Arshad notes: “Brahamdagh Bugti and Meer Aali Bugti [grandsons of Nawab Bugti] are viewed as strong candidates to become head of the Bugti tribe. Jameel Bugti and Talal Bugti [sons of Bugti] cannot be ignored – though they don’t have the majority on their side. Brahamdagh is a strong candidate because Nawab Akbar Bugti wanted him to be his successor, though some influential sardars of the tribe are opposed to his leadership, arguing that Aali Bugti has the right to become the sardar of the Bugti tribe because he is the son of the eldest son of Nawab Bugti i.e. Saleem Bugti. Reportedly, “The Bugtis are divided over the issue of succession. Nawab Akbar Bugti’s supporters want Brahamdagh Bugti to be the sardar. But another group wants to follow the traditions according to which the eldest son is sardar always. Saleem Bugti has died. According to tradition, Saleem Bugti’s son i.e. Aali Bugti has to become sardar… Akbar Bugti had three wives and six sons. His Baloch wife gave birth to four sons – Saleem, Talal, Rehan and Salal. Three sons have died. Talal is alive. Akbar Bugti’s second wife was a Pathan. She gave birth to Jameel Bugti. The third wife was Iranian and she gave birth to Shehzore Bugti. Thus there are five candidates for the office of sardar – Talal, Jameel, Shehzore, Aali and Brahamdagh.”
There is evidence of some disarray in the leadership of other Baloch nationalist formations. While Khair Bux Marri is silent, Attaullah Mengal has been vocal after Bugti’s death. The provincial assembly members from Mengals' party have resigned their seats. He had been issuing strong statements but has abruptly become quiet. Noted Pakistani writer Mohammed Shehzad told SAIR that “Agencies are talking to him. His son Akhtar Mengal has been offered the ‘job’ of Balochistan Chief Minister provided he stopped creating trouble for Musharraf.”
There has been a momentary dispersal of the insurgents into the largely inaccessible hills, according to sources. While there are some preliminary signs of their regrouping – they continue to attack a variety of state installations with impunity – a clearer post-Bugti strategy is yet to crystallize, though they are receiving instructions from Brahamdagh Bugti regularly and working accordingly. Reports of November 3 said Pakistani intelligence agencies have claimed that Brahamdagh is in Kabul and demanded that the Afghan Government extradite him. Brahamdagh, who was reportedly formally designated by Bugti as his successor, is accused of orchestrating the insurgency. There is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Subversion without Borders
On November 4, 2006, Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal stated that, in view of Pakistani militants using Nepalese territory as a hideout and base for infiltration into India, the Government might re-draft its extradition treaty with Nepal. Speaking at Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, he said Pakistani militants had "found a safe hideout in Nepal and it is a safe passage for coming to India… The Government would be unable to check this completely as Nepal is a friendly nation and we have a porous border with it. If the need arises, we might consider a new extradition treaty with Nepal.”
The Minister’s statement confirms a fact well-documented over the years. Nepalese territory has long been used by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as a launch pad for its activities against India. Taking advantage of India’s good relationship with Nepal that excludes a policy of ‘squeeze targeting’ the latter, the ISI has been able to exploit Nepal’s territory and the porosity of the 1,751 kilometre India-Nepal border to augment its subversive campaign.
The India-Nepal ‘open’ border runs across 20 Districts in five Indian States: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal and Uttaranchal. The term ‘border’ is a misnomer in this context, as people of both the countries can cross it from any point. The legality of the border is enforced through specific border check-posts, including 19 agreed immigration check posts, 22 mutual trade routes and 15 third-country transit routes. There are six transit points for nationals of other countries, who require entry and exit visas to cross the border. Locals, however, routinely cross over at any point, and the terms of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 offer virtually uninterrupted passage for illegal smuggling of goods, arms, ammunition and narcotics, as well as human trafficking from either side.
A 78-page Indian intelligence report dating back to the year 2000, titled ‘Pakistan's Anti-India Activities in Nepal’, detailed various aspects of Pakistan's ‘undeclared war' and its modus operandi, including support to NGOs promoting ill-will against India among the Nepalese Muslim community by circulating propaganda material received from Pakistan and elsewhere, support to radicalization in an increasing number of mosques along the border and the use of such mosques and religious centres to facilitate the movement of subversive and terrorist cadres and material across the border.
With the fencing of the India-Pakistan border in the Punjab and Rajasthan Sectors, the ISI has increasingly exploited India's open border with Nepal for infiltration of terrorists, arms, ammunition and explosives, to carry out strikes in various parts of India with the help of various Islamist groups directly supported by Pakistani state agencies. Reports indicate that militants have been crossing into and out of India through the porous Indo-Nepal border, particularly via Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar. Terrorist and subversive cadres based in Bangladesh go to Nepal through the same route, crossing into India from West Bengal. According to one Police officer, "Young men from Kashmir Valley, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other places, who are initiated into terrorism, often use the same route to reach the training camps apparently being run in the neighbouring countries."
The impact of such a permeable border has been felt on both the Indian and Nepal side. The ISI has used the Raxaul sub-division in Bihar as a recruiting ground for terrorists, with Birganj (the second largest city of Nepal), allegedly, being the nerve centre of such activities. Over the years Birganj has emerged as a major hub for the distribution of counterfeit currency, narcotics, explosives and arms into different parts of India through Bihar. In addition to the border Districts of North Bihar, the Kishanganj area adjacent to West Bengal has also reported significant ISI movement. In July 2006, the Intelligence Bureau Director, E.S.L. Narshimhan, visited Raxaul to take stock of reports of growing activities of militants and smugglers along the border, allegedly patronised by the ISI. Further, agencies indicated that at least 3,000 persons residing on the Indo-Nepal border, particularly in Sikrahna and Raxaul, had been enjoying dual citizenship by registering themselves in both India's and Nepal's voters' list.
Further, smugglers (including the network of Pakistan-based Dawood Ibrahim) and narcotics peddlers have taken advantage of the open border since long. Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former Intelligence Bureau Joint Director, in his book Fulcrum of Evil: ISI-CIA-AL Qaeda Nexus¸has disclosed that the ISI has been active through two subsidiaries – Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous and Joint Intelligence X – to carry out a systematic process of mobilisation among Nepal's Muslim population. Some of the groups aiding this process include the Nepal Islamic Yuva Sangh, Jamait-e-Islami Nepal and Nepal Muslim Seva Samiti. According to a March 27, 2006, report, there are around 1,900 madrassas (seminaries) on both sides of the India-Nepal border, including 800 on the Nepal side. Muslims constitute just 4.2 per cent of Nepal’s total population, of which 96.7 percent is confined to the Tarai region bordering India, constituting some 7.32 percent of the total population of the Tarai.
India’s Task Force on Border Management, in its report of October 2000 also confirmed ominous developments along the India-Nepal border:
Indian intelligence now believes that several underground groups in Nepal provide logistics and support to the militants taking shelter there. Some of these have been identified as the Kashmir Jama Masjid Democratic Muslim Association, Nepal World Islamic Council and Nepal Islamic Yuva Sangh. In some cases, such groups are known to have received funding from sympathisers based in Jeddah and other Asian cities. One of these groups is alleged to have links with the Islamic Youth Organisation based in Jakarta. Among others on the Indian intelligence watch list are Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis, Millat-e-Islami (which has links with Jamaat-e-Islami) and Jam Seraj-ul-Alam, which is based in Kapilvastu in South West Nepal.
The serial blasts in Mumbai (July 11, 2006), in Varanasi (March 7, 2006), in Delhi (October 29, 2005), and a foiled terrorist attack on the disputed religious site in Ayodhya on July 5, 2005, all exposed a Nepal connection. The arrest of two Pakistanis, Moiddin Siddiqui and Gulam Hasan Cheema, from a five-star hotel in Kathmandu on July 13, 2006, by the Nepal Police further corroborated these linkages. Then, on August 7, 2006, the arrest of a Dawood Ibrahim aide, Fazlu, from the India-Nepal border at Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh had been preceded by the arrests of two suspects in Mumbai blasts, Mohammad Kamal and Khaleel Aziz, from Madhubani in Bihar, again on the India-Nepal border.
Security agencies are also concerned over the free flow of fake currency notes in the denominations of INR 1,000 and INR 500. Police reportedly seized such fakes notes in more than 200 different places on the Indo-Nepal border over the past year. The printing and circulation of massive quantities of fake India currency has been an integral part of the ISI’s strategy for decades now. In one of the incidents of this kind, on August 7, 2005, the Uttar Pradesh Police arrested two suspected ISI agents, Mobin Ansari of Nepal and Ashfaq Ahmed of Gorakhpur in UP, from Delhi and recovered fake currency notes with face value of INR 68,500. The duo reportedly confessed that they used to smuggle fake Indian currency via Nepal through their own agents and circulate them in the bordering districts of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. In direct confirmation of the Pakistani role in the circulation of fake currency through Nepal, a Pakistan Embassy official, Siraj Ahmed Siraj, was detained by the Nepalese Police at Kathmandu, and counterfeit currency amounting to INR 47,000 and USD 9200 was recovered from him.
Following the imposition of Emergency in Nepal in 2001 the Maoists started taking advantage of the open border to take shelter in bordering States in times of adversity and also created a support arrangement with the Indian Maoists for safe haven, medical treatment and assistance in training. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs in its 2006 annual report said that 180 Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist leaders and cadres have been arrested from different parts of India over the last five years. It stated, further, that 140 Maoists had been arrested from 2001 to 2004 while 40 were arrested in 2005, adding that Nepali Maoists frequently visit the Indian States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for medical treatment. After the November 7, 2006-agreement between the Government and Maoists in Nepal, the infiltration by Nepali Maoists may witness a momentary lull. But without a solution crystallizing in Nepal, there is little grounds for lowering the guard on the India-Nepal border.
The Shasastra Seema Bal (SSB), a paramilitary force, which now guards the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar and West Bengal, is already in the process of augmenting its force and would position 45,000 personnel on the ground by March 2007. It has already urged the Bihar Government to connect all border outposts, presently numbering 148, through district roads and also favoured greater coordination between Central and State agencies against the growing ISI threat in the region. The Union Home Ministry is also considering the setting up of four integrated check posts (ICPs) along the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. ICPs are expected to be in place shortly at Raxaul and Jogbani in Bihar.
Grave dangers, nevertheless, continue to exist, and, given the nature of the neighbourhood and the campaigns of covert warfare against India by Pakistan and Bangladesh, as long as the Indo-Nepal border remains porous, the dangers of both subversion and terror emanating from Nepal will persist.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 13-19, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Terrorist threat to Indian oil reserves, indicates intelligence intercept: An Intelligence Bureau intercept of a message is reported to have indicated plans of the al Qaeda striking at Indian oil reserves. Though the intercept specifically refers to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) planning the attacks in tandem with the al Qaeda, a top-level meeting decided not to share the information for the moment with the visiting Pakistan Foreign Secretary. National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan held a high-level review meeting of the oil sector in New Delhi to share with the chiefs of the public sector and private oil companies the information about the threat to the oil reserves, particularly in the coastal regions of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh at Jamnagar and Visakhapatnam. A 9-page report on precautionary steps to be taken to foil any such attack, prepared by the National Security Council Secretariat was circulated at the meeting. Narayanan also told the meeting that the Intelligence Bureau has been asked to quickly draft a policy on the oil sector security. Though the intercept talks of only the oil reserves, the meeting was told that security measures will also have to be stepped up to protect the oil pipelines and major oil depots as any strike on them has potential to disrupt supplies affecting the economy. Kashmir Times, November 17, 2006.
India and Pakistan set up anti-terror mechanism: Pakistan has promised to "look into" evidence presented by India of cross-border terrorist links, even as the two countries set up a formal mechanism to "consider counter-terrorism measures, including through regular and timely sharing of information." A joint statement issued by the two sides said Additional Secretaries in the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministries would head the three-member-a-side mechanism. Confirming that India had presented some material about cross-border terror links, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan said in New Delhi on November 15, 2006, that the information pertained to earlier terrorist attacks, and not the July 11, 2006-Mumbai blasts. Speaking after the discussions, India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said information on the Mumbai blasts could be handed over only after a charge sheet was filed in court. Menon also said India had asked Pakistan to put an end to the activities of terrorist groups banned in both countries (such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba [LeT] and Jaish-e-Mohammed [JeM]). To a question whether terrorist camps existed in Pakistan, Menon replied in the affirmative. The Hindu, November 16, 2006.
Rayamajhi Commission report finds King Gyanendra guilty of oppression: The high-level Commission formed to probe the repression of April 2006-Jana Andolan (People's Movement) has reportedly found the King guilty. The Commission led by former Supreme Court judge Krishna Jung Rayamajhi is preparing to submit its final report to the Government shortly. According to preliminary information, the Commission has found around 170 persons, including the King, then ministers, security officials and regional administrators, guilty of suppressing the People's Movement. The Commission's report has reportedly recommended action against all the guilty persons. It has also pointed out the legal basis for taking action against them. However, in case of the King, since there is no law that allows the Government to take action against him, the report advises the Government to frame proper laws and then initiate action. The Commission was formed immediately after the success of the April 2006 movement. Nepal News, November 15, 2006.
60 terrorist camps destroyed in Balochistan, says President Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf has said that at least 60 terrorist camps have been raided and destroyed in Balochistan. Speaking to Balochistan nazims (chief elected official of local government) and notables in Gwadar on November 17, 2006, he said terrorists trained at the camps had taken part in anti-state activities like bomb blasts and blowing up of electricity pylons, gas pipelines and railway tracks. Dawn, November 18, 2006.
22 persons killed in sectarian violence in NWFP: At least 22 people were killed and several others injured in a sectarian clash between the Lashkar-e-Islami and the Ansar-ul-Islam in the Bara area of Khyber Agency in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on November 16, 2006. An Ansar-ul-Islam group led by Gul Maidan was heading towards Aka Khel near Bara when supporters of the Lashkar-e-Islami challenged them, fearing that the former wanted to take possession of Bara. The two sies reportedly used heavy weapons in the fight that continued all day long. Daily Times, November 16, 2006.
Parliamentary Defence Secretary confesses to being Lashkar-e-Toiba member: Major (retd) Tanvir Hussain Syed, Parliamentary Defence Secretary, disclosed on November 14, 2006, that he is a member of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). “I was a member of the LeT and I admit it on the floor of this House,” he told the National Assembly while taking part in a debate on Bajaur and Dargai. However, he did not explain what role he played in the banned outfit and when he joined it. "I am still a member of the LeT. I go to its congregations and deliver speeches," he said adding that he helps Jihadi activists whenever they asked him for his "co-operation." He did not say what kind of co-operation he extended to them. Daily Times, The Hindu, November 16, 2006.
NWFP Assembly adopts Islamic morality bill: The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Assembly on November 13, 2006, passed a revised version of the controversial Hasba Bill to establish a Taliban-style department under a cleric entrusted with the task of enforcing ‘Islamic morality’. The Bill is a revised version of one that was ruled unconstitutional in 2005 by the Supreme Court, following a challenge by President Pervez Musharraf under Article 186 of the 1973 Constitution. The Bill provides for the appointment of an anti-vice ombudsman enjoying sweeping powers to protect Islamic values and to “forbid persons, agencies and authorities working under the administrative control of the government to act against Shariah.”
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal described it as a step towards the Islamic system that it promised in its election manifesto. Law Minister Malik Zafar Azam presented the Bill in the house, with 69 amendments to 30 articles of the Bill. The Bill was opposed by the Awami National Party, Pakistan People's Party (Sherpao), Pakistan People's Party (Parliamentarians) and Pakistan Muslim League, whose one member did not toe the party line and supported the Bill. The Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Shahzada Gistasip, reportedly said there was no need to pass a Bill that had already been found to be repugnant to the existing laws by the Supreme Court. Under Article 116 of the 1973 Constitution, the Bill will now go to Governor Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai for assent. His predecessors, Iftikhar Hussain Shah and Khalil-ur-Rahman, refused to sign the Bill into law. Dawn , November 14, 2006.