SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Even as Nepal prepares for a landmark election in its transition process, a new conflict, inherently separatist in nature, is gathering pace in the country, as fatalities mount in the ongoing ethnic unrest that is affecting the southern part of Nepal. Ek Mani Nepal, Under Secretary of the Nepali Home Ministry, disclosed that violent demonstrations, largely orchestrated by the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (MJF, also known as the Madheshi Peoples’ Rights Forum), across the eastern and central Terai (moist land) Plains of southern Nepal, from January 19 to February 7, 2007, resulted in the death of 24 persons. 18 people reportedly died during clashes with the police; three in civilian confrontations; one was killed in a shootout involving a Maoist; a policeman died during demonstrations by Madhesi activists; and a truck driver was reportedly killed by the ‘Terai Cobra’ organisation, of which little else is known. MJF Vice-President, Kishor Kumar Bishwas, however, claimed that the death toll was 38. The current unrest began on January 19, 2007, when the Maoists reportedly shot dead a Madheshi demonstrator who was attempting to enforce a transportation strike to protest against the Interim Constitution.
The identity, profile and aspirations of the Madheshis have abruptly acquired increasing importance in the fragile political detente in Nepal. According to the 2001 Census, 48.4 percent of the over 23 million Nepalese in the country reside in the Terai region. "Madhesh, also known as Terai or Tarai, is the flat southern region of Nepal, extending from east to west. It occupies about 17 per cent of the country’s landmass. The word 'Madhesh' is said to be derived from 'Madhya Desh' meaning 'country in the middle'. Economically, Madhesh is the most productive region of Nepal, accounting for its most fertile lands and the overwhelming proportion of its agricultural output. In addition, a large number of agro-based industries, including jute factories, sugar mills, rice mills and tobacco factories, have been established throughout the region."
The contours of the emerging conflict envelop the familiar loop of underdevelopment, discrimination by the state, and political grievances – both real and perceived. The Madheshis have long been arguing that the ruling elite in Kathmandu discriminate against them. Although their immediate demand is for the creation of an autonomous Terai state within a federal system, their eventual aim is to secure separation from Nepal, because "ruling elites dominated by people from the northern hills have kept them out of jobs in the Government, Police and Army, and seats in Nepal's Interim Parliament." According to them, there is not a single Madheshi "employed at the Royal Palace; that only one of the 75 district chiefs is a Madheshi; and there are very few in the Army."
The Madhesi unrest now affects, at varying levels, all 20 Districts of the Terai: Banke, Bara, Bardiya, Chitwan, Dang, Dhanusa, Jhapa, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Kapilavastu, Mohattari, Morang, Nawalparasi, Parsa, Rautahat, Rupandehi, Saptari, Sarlahi, Siraha and Sunsari. The main protagonists are: the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) and the two militant factions of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM, People’s Terai Liberation Front) led by Jaya Krishna Goit and Jwala Singh. The MJF, of which former Nepali Congress minister Jayprakash Prasad Gupta ‘Anand’ is the general secretary, is active in 16 of the 20 Districts.
The JTMM split from the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M) in late 2004, alleging that the Maoists had ignored the people living in the plains, and went on to initiate an armed ‘rebellion within a rebellion’ in southern Nepal. Headed by Goit, a former senior leader of the CPI-Maoist plains’ unit (the Madhesh Mukti Morcha), the JTMM split recently with the splinter faction now led by Goit's former lieutenant, Jwala Singh. One of JTMM’s demands is an independent state for the Madhesis, and the group is now as viscerally opposed to the Maoists as it is to the Nepali Army. In an interview, Goit vowed that, "The people of Terai will drive them out… Every child in Terai will fight against the Army and the PLA [the Maoist People’s Liberation Army] and is willing to become a martyr."
Another Maoist break-away group, the Janatantrik Terai Liberation Front, has regularly threatened the Hill groups settled in the Terai, warning them to return to their villages. As a result, large sections of the non-Madheshi population have fled the Terai, and current reports indicate that the exodus continues.
Both the JTMM factions are reportedly minor groups with a cadre strength not exceeding a few hundred. However, they are openly and professedly violent in nature, having been tutored in the ‘Prachanda school of thought’. The two have been successful in creating a constituency of their own, primarily through the well-tested Maoist strategy of killings, abduction and extortion.
The Madhesis span the Hindu caste spectrum, from Brahmins to Dalits, and include linguistic groups such as the Maithilis and Bhojpuris, ethnic groups such as Tharu and Danuwar, and religious groups such as Hindus and Muslims. The Madhesis have generally been looked down upon by the dominant Hill People in Nepal, from which the top Maoist leadership is itself drawn. As Thomas Marks notes, the Maoist leadership is drawn overwhelmingly from the very ‘class enemies’ attacked by the party’s doctrine.
Elaborating on their conflict with the Maoists, Jwala Singh alias Nagendra Pasman, cited caste discrimination as a principal grievance:
We joined the Maoist party believing it was a scientific party… We performed all our duties honestly as per the party policy and direction from the party. But caste domination persisted inside the party. We used to send people of our areas to the People's Liberation Army but they would be bothered unnecessarily. There was discrimination among the Pahade (Hill area people) and Madheshi (Plains area people). We were unsatisfied with such abhorrence of caste inside a Marxist party, a scientific party. We said that since we have Madheshi fighters inside the Maoist party, our demands should also be addressed and the Maoist party's vision for Madhesh should be clear… Therefore, we put forward proposals that a separated command should be established in the Terai and the leadership be given to Madheshi people. Our demand was that Madheshi should be the in-charge and a Madheshi regiment should also be established. But some responsible friends of the Maoist party termed it dangerous to establish a Madheshi regiment in Terai area. Their opinion that establishing Madheshi army would pose threat to Pahade friends was discriminating. This is why we could not walk together. Maoist party could not keep its clear view on us, could not satisfy us, as a result we separated from the party.
The Jwala Singh faction’s demands include:
The intensity of the demonstrations and violence appears to have subsided, but the conflict is by no means over. On February 2, 2007, when the Government constituted a three-member team and invited Madheshi leaders for talks aimed at ending the unrest, Upendra Yadav, chairman of the MJF, stated that the agitation had only been ‘suspended’. On February 8, the MJF announced the suspension of the demonstrations for 10 days, after Prime Minister G. P. Koirala addressed the nation on February 7. In his speech, Koirala called on the Madheshi to resolve all problems through dialogue and announced the addition of electoral seats in the Terai Districts and the delineation of election constituencies based on population and geographical appropriateness. However, the MJF has demanded a "fully proportional electoral system" for the forthcoming Constituent Assembly election.
Crucially, the Madheshis are not satisfied with the Interim Constitution promulgated on January 15, 2007. Vijay Kant Karna, who heads a Madheshi rights NGO, Jaghrit Nepal, warned: "I assure you there will be no election if the Madhesh issue is not settled... this movement will not be stopped." Indications of a hard-line stance are visible in the fact that the Goit-led JTMM and the MJF have refused to talk to the Government unless Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula resigns and the deaths due to state action are investigated at the highest level. Yadav declared that Sitaula should quit, owning responsibility for the "brutal clampdown on peaceful agitations." Sitaula has, since then, reportedly tendered an apology, which has been rejected by Yadav, who declared, on February 15, "Mere apologies will not suffice. He has to resign. Only then we will sit for talks." However, the Jwala Singh-led JTMM and the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), which represents 50 indigenous organizations in the Terai, the Hills and the Himalayan ranges of Nepal, have reportedly agreed to hold talks with the Government.
While it may be too early to talk about another insurgency in Nepal, some conventional indicators of an emerging sub-state conflict already exist. In a scenario where the state is weak and a process of transition is underway, even minor incidents could spark off a full-scale rebellion. The ten-year old Maoist ‘people’s war’ has already cost the country over 13,000 lives, and Nepal today has little capacity to manage multiple insurgencies. Initial indicators, however, suggest that a struggling and unstable state has clearly failed to grasp the severity of the Madheshi unrest and continues to vacillate.
The current outbreak of violence has also generated a critique of the Maoists’ capacity or willingness to resolve issues of ethnicity and caste. Indeed, such issues had never been effectively addressed by the Maoists or by successive Governments. Unsurprisingly, both the Government and the Maoists have accused "royalists" and Hindu activists of involvement in the Madhesh unrest. Three former ministers of King Gyanendra, Former Deputy Prime Minister Badri Prasad Mandal, former Home Minister Kamal Thapa and former Forest and Soil Conservation Minister Salim Miya Ansari, have been arrested following "credible intelligence inputs which suggest their involvement in the continuing violence in the Terai region."
Diverse questions of identity are now coming to the fore in Nepal. While the world at large believed that the Maoists were the sole voice of dissent in Nepal, it is now clear that the insurgents had suppressed all dissent in the course of their ‘people’s war’. The Madheshi protest, currently articulated within an avowedly anti-Maoist spectrum, views the Government and the Maoists through the same lens. CPN-Maoist chief Prachanda's arrogant response to the unrest was that he would "not negotiate with criminals and gangsters." In an earlier interview, he declared, "The splinter groups in Nepal are very small, they are only located in a few districts, they have very small numbers, if we go with them in a clash we can cross them in one week." Further, speaking to Kantipur TV on January 25, Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai rejected any "need to talk with MJF or JTMM," describing them as "criminal groups without any base." Little surprise, then, that there is visible anger in Madhesh against the Maoist leadership and effigies of Prachanda have been burnt in public. Used to settling issues through the ‘barrel of the gun’, the Maoists, soon to be the governing class, demonstrate little flexibility in the face of dissent. However, their ability and, significantly, their willingness to accommodate other socio-political forces will certainly come under intense scrutiny in the immediate future.
The ongoing Madhesh unrest puts at risk the possibility of creating a safe and secure milieu that is imperative in order to hold scheduled elections in June 2007. Ian Martin, the United Nations Secretary General’s representative in Nepal, rightly noted, on January 26, 2007, that the election schedule "can only be jeopardized if the situation in the Terai continues or escalates." Kiran Dwyer of the UN noted further that the Terai "Is a tinder box that could spiral out of control."
Significantly, amidst the unrest in the Terai, the Maoists continue to recruit, intimidate and extort in the Madhesh region and across the country. On February 9, the Industrial Security Group (ISG) – which comprises representatives of the Embassies of France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the Delegation of the European Commission, along with their bilateral Chambers of Commerce – expressed its deep concern about continued extortion, kidnappings, and violence by Maoists against businesses and industries across Nepal.
In the run-up to the polls, the Maoists seek to ensure that no alternative centres of power emerge in the countryside. To this end, they would have to ensure that forces like the JTMM and, indeed, even mainstream political parties, are marginalised, forcibly or otherwise. The Maoists are currently engaged in ensuring that the preparation of the voters’ lists across Nepal does not work to their disadvantage. Thus, the Maoists decamped with the voters’ lists and other documents from the Kavre Village Development Committee (VDC) area of Dolakha District on February 9, 2007, after trying to force officials to enlist the names of their cadres, who were from other Districts. On the same day, Maoists seized all voters' list documents from the Salyantar VDC area of Dhading District, protesting that they were not included in the tasks of the collection and compilation of the voters' list. Maoists have also intensified their efforts to stop the relocation of Police Posts (initiatives are underway to re-establish Police Posts that had been shut down under Maoist threat and violence in the past) in several parts of Nepal. The Maoists have declared that they would not allow Police Post relocation till an Interim Government that included them had been formed. Further, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat disclosed on February 12, that the Government had no knowledge of how the Maoists were spending money released to them by the Government. Mahat revealed that the Government had released NR 350 million to the Maoists at various intervals for rations, logistic and other needs of the People’s Liberation Army personnel, adding, "But, the Maoists have not submitted the details of expenses incurred so far, from the fund."
The infant order that is struggling to establish itself in Nepal has yet to evolve the attitudes and mechanisms for democratic accommodation that will be necessary, not only to secure a stable Constitutional order, but even to preserve the tenuous peace that has been patched together after a decade of bloody warfare. To the extent that the historically violent Maoists continue to exert maximal influence over political developments in the country, there is much reason to believe that the transition in Nepal will be far from peaceful.
the Threshold of Open War
In the week when the cease-fire would have completed half a decade, there was very little to celebrate in Sri Lanka. The two signatories to the truce, the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have never been as close to open war in the past five years as they now are.
War rhetoric has replaced negotiations everywhere. In the capital, Colombo, Buddhist monks fasted, calling for an abrogation of the truce; in northern Jaffna, the grapevine was expecting a shift in trajectory from the Tigers on or after the fifth-year mark.
President Mahinda Rajapakse, under whose leadership the military has scored a series of successes, stated in Male, capital of the Maldives, that the LTTE would be soon flushed out of their last eastern strong hold of Toppigala. The LTTE are trapped in the area after fleeing vast stretches of land following operations by Government forces.
The Tigers have lost their holding power in the east considerably. Soon after the costal town of Vaharai fell to Government hands on January 19, 2007, the truce monitors, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) assessed that the LTTE was unlikely to retain control of the land in the Eastern Province.
Going by what transpired in Vaharai, the present momentum is with the Government Forces. The LTTE, for the first time in the last decade, fled leaving behind a large haul of arms, including two long range 152 mm artillery pieces. Their losses in terms of cadres have been hard to estimate, given the lack of access to the areas. However, military sources claim that more than 400 had been killed. The Sri Lanka Army’s (SLA) own casualty figures in the three-month operation to regain Vaharai included 120 dead.
The LTTE have regrouped in Toppigala, south of Vaharai. Cadres who were stationed in camps in the Kanchikudichuaru area in the southern Ampara sector have also reached Toppigala after fleeing an onslaught by the Police Special Task Force.
The loss of artillery power is likely to be a major factor against the LTTE. They had used the big guns to pound the Trincomalee Naval base and ships using the harbour. Government forces then pushed them back into the interior after taking control of Sampur, which lies at the southern end of the Trincomalee Bay. Now that they have lost two of their most powerful guns and at least another one is damaged beyond use, they would have to depend largely on shell fire and direct intervention of cadres to thwart an Army assault. Sources in the Karuna group, however, claim that the LTTE still has "one or two" artillery pieces in the Toppigala area.
The LTTE also suffer from a mid-level leadership crisis in the Eastern Province. The Tiger leadership in Kilinochchi had taken pains to boost the east with the presence of high-level military cadres since the defection of its former eastern military head Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias ‘Colonel’ Karuna. In March 2005, a year after the Karuna rebellion, two military commanders holding the rank of ‘Colonel’, Banu and Balraj, were stationed in the east. Both have now been withdrawn to the north. And elite cadres from units like the Charles Anthony Unit and the Jayanthan Unit were relocated to areas where incursions by the breakaway group and the security forces were likely.
However, in the battle for Sampur, the LTTE was unwilling to augment, or was prevented from pumping in, cadres and leaders. The SLA claims that a naval cordon had intercepted an attempt to bring in cadres. Top political leaders have now reached Kilinochchi and the fate of Suwarnam, the overall military commander for Trincomalee, is still unclear. The SLA maintains that he went silent on the LTTE communication network following an air attack on his base on January 14, 2007. The LTTE withdrew from Vaharai between January 16 and 19, 2007, and asserted that this decision was made considering the plight of the civilians who had been trapped in the town, and were denied supplies.
The LTTE command in Toppigala is headed by Ram, Ramesh and Nagesh. The breakaway Karuna group says that they will take the Tigers on in Toppigala. The Tigers have accused the Karuna cadres of working hand-in-glove with Government Forces. The Karuna group insists that it works independently. While the operation to regain Vaharai was on, the group carried out several attacks in the area, but has not publicly claimed any accolades for taking the town. It now states that cadres specially trained for jungle operations have been inducted into the Toppigala area. The Karuna group’s own strength has remained a matter of speculation, but members have claimed that it has at least 2,000 armed cadres circling the Toppigala area, including 200 special cadres. With their knowledge of the ground and terrain, the Karuna group has been able to plug escape routes. The Government is now openly announcing that it will take Toppigala and, in the words of President Rajapakse, drive out the Tiger ‘ghost’. And now, murmurs have begun that the North – the LTTE heartland – is next. But the Tigers are landlocked in Toppigala, with supply routes thinned out, and will be forced either to give up easily or fight to the bitter end. The North, however, is an altogether different ball game.
In the North, the Tigers are massed along with a sizeable civilian population, and fighting cadres alone could number as many as 20,000 with a naval wing and possibly a rudimentary air wing as well. The Government is also wary of the possibility of the war reaching the South, as it already has, on occasion. On January 6 and 7, 2007, twin bus bombs rocked the South, killing at least 20 civilians. On January 20, the Navy thwarted an attack by three LTTE boats on the main Colombo Port. An earlier attack on the Galle Port in November 2006 had driven tourist arrivals down, despite the relatively low success of the operation. On each occasion that Government Forces have launched a major operation to regain areas from the LTTE, the national capital, Colombo, has invariably ended up a target. Security in the city is currently at an all time high and is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future.
Military successes notwithstanding, Rajapakse is currently facing a major political battle, ironically with the very man who headed his successful presidential campaign in 2005. The powerful former Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, who was sacked on February 9, 2007, is now openly critical of the Government. In a letter sent to the President, he has spoken of alleged interference by the President’s relatives and advisors and the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, among other issues.
On February 22, 2007, the now notional ceasefire will complete five years. Just a week before this date, on February 14, the LTTE issued a statement to the effect that it no longer considered it self ‘an armed group,’ but rather a de facto state. The LTTE Peace Secretariat stated: "LTTE is no longer an "armed group" but is indeed a de facto state. A functioning de facto state like the LTTE is entitled to recruit those above the age of 17 but not send them to the battle front."
With political and military positions on all sides hardening, the times ahead don’t look good for the island nation.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
February 12-18, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
66 people killed in explosions in train in Haryana: In a suspected terrorist attack, 66 people, including some Pakistani nationals, were killed in explosions reportedly set off by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in two coaches of the Delhi-Attari special train for Lahore in Deewana near Panipat (Haryana State), about 100 kilometers from Delhi. The explosions occurred at 11.55 pm (IST) on February 17-night. The bi-weekly train left the Old Delhi railway station an hour earlier. Northern Railway General Manger, V.N. Mathur, told reporters that two suitcases were recovered from the spot – one from the rail track and one from the train. Both the suitcases contained IEDs – one of them also had incendiary material, either kerosene or petrol, he disclosed. He said he had talked to the gateman near Deewana Station, who told him that he had heard two "distinct explosions". "From this evidence we deduce that this was a clear case of sabotage," Mathur said. A senior police officer said a Pakistani national has also given information to police regarding some explosives being planted in the train. The official disclosed that Shamshuddin, the Pakistani national, was traveling in the train. The train runs non-stop from Delhi to Attari where the passengers are shifted to the Samjhauta Express, which goes to Lahore after customs and immigration clearances. The train only has operational halts at some stations, including Ludhiana and no passenger can alight or board en route. Times Of India, February 19, 2007.
Terrorists operating in big cities, says Home Minister Shivraj Patil: Amid reports of terrorist groups establishing legitimate businesses to fund their activities, the Government said on February 16, 2007, that such outfits are making inroads into big cities and operating clandestinely. "Terrorists are sneaking into big cities and operating clandestinely... They have been making their plans by hiding in the cities and will continue to do it," Home Minister Shivraj Patil said in New Delhi. His comments came in the wake of National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan’s remarks that some fictitious companies in stock markets of Mumbai and Chennai have been traced to terrorist groups. Patil said the influx of terrorists into major cities has a big impact on the national capital and asked its police force to remain on alert to frustrate designs to spread terror in the city. PTI News, February 17, 2007.
Terrorists manipulating stock exchanges, says National Security Advisor: National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan has said that manipulation of stock exchanges is the new modus operandi used by terrorist groups to raise funds for their operations and fictitious companies have operated in the Mumbai and Chennai stock exchanges. While addressing the 43rd Conference on Security Policy in Munich last week, the NSA said that some of these companies were later traced to terrorist groups. "Isolated instances of terrorist outfits manipulating the stock markets to raise funds for their operations have been reported. Stock exchanges in Mumbai and Chennai have, on occasions, reported that fictitious or notional companies were engaging in stock market operations", he said. He added that security agencies had detected many instances of funds received via banking channels from so-called safe locations such as Dubai and UAE that were intended for terrorist groups. The Hindu, February 16, 2007.
LTTE ship carrying explosives intercepted on the coast off Tamil Nadu: The Indian Coast Guard, on February 13-afternoon, intercepted a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ship carrying a suicide bomb jacket packed with explosive substances weighing seven kilograms, five detonators, and arrested five persons. The ship was seized by the Coast Guard in the Palk Bay, 20 nautical miles from Point Calimere in south Tamil Nadu. Besides the suicide bomb vest and detonators, five hand grenades, an AK-56 rifle with 124 rounds of ammunition and eight drums each containing 55 litres of liquid chemical were also found in the ship. Director General of Police, D. Mukherjee, said, of the five men arrested, one was serving as a driver for the LTTE, and four among the five were Sri Lankan Tamils.
A day earlier, the Indian Navy arrested two persons and seized 2.9 tonnes of components used for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in a boat off the Rameswaram Coast in Tamil Nadu. Preliminary enquiry revealed that the IED components were being smuggled to the LTTE cadres in Sri Lanka, according to Commodore Phillip Van Haltren, Naval Officer in Charge (Tamil Nadu). Indian Express; The Hindu, February 14, 2007.
Two Islamic charities closed: The Government has ordered immediate closure of all offices of the Al-Rashid Trust (ART) and Al-Akhtar Trust (AAT) throughout Pakistan after the United Nations Security Council declared them to have links with militant groups. Sources said that the Interior Ministry had directed the four provinces, the chief secretaries of the Northern Areas and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and the Islamabad Capital Territory District Administration to close the offices, schools, hospitals and other ongoing projects of ART and AAT in their respective areas. They have also been asked to detain the staff of the two trusts, impound their vehicles and confiscate equipment from their offices. However, an unnamed police official said, "We've been told by the federal government not to disrupt their welfare activities like hospitals and clinics." Daily Times, Reuters February 19, 2007.
17 persons killed in suicide bombing in Quetta: At least 17 people, including a senior civil judge, were killed and 30 persons injured in a suicide bombing in the District Courts compound of Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, on February 17. The blast occurred inside the courtroom of Senior Civil Judge Abdul Wahid Durrani at 11:05am (PST). "It was a suicide bombing which is evident from the recovery of the heads of two persons. One of them entered the courtroom and blew himself up," said Tariq Masood Khosa, Balochistan’s Inspector General of Police. "In the past, we have had to grapple with sectarian and nationalistic violence. This seems to be a blend of both as for the first time innocent civilians and government offices were targeted," he told reporters after the blast. Eyewitnesses said the bomber was a bearded man aged around 20. Seven of the dead were reported to be lawyers. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. Daily Times, February 18, 2007.
All Afghans to be repatriated by 2009: The Government has decided to repatriate all Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan by 2009. This was announced at a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Cabinet Committee held in Islamabad on February 15, 2007. The committee – headed by Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao – devised a strategy to send all Afghan refugees back to their homeland in three years, from 2007 to 2009. Under the strategy, four camps of Afghan refugees located in Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) will be removed in the ongoing year. In the first phase, two of them – one in each province – will be dismantled in March. According to official figures, approximately 2.4 million Afghans are living in Pakistan – one million in camps and 1.4 million in the urban areas. Since 2002, about 2.8 million Afghan refugees have reportedly been repatriated to their homeland. Dawn, February 16, 2007.
Sanctuaries of Taliban in Pakistan must be attacked, says US general: A top US military commander has called for "steady and direct" attacks on Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. Lt-Gen Karl W. Eikenberry, the outgoing commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, disclosed that senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders have set up training camps and recruiting grounds in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which they use for carrying out attacks in Afghanistan. Since September 2006, when Pakistan signed a peace deal with tribesmen in North Waziristan, "the cross-border attacks have tripled," he stated. "Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership presence inside Pakistan remains a very significant problem," Gen. Eikenberry told the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, warning of the "growing threat of Talibanization" inside Pakistan.
He was supported by senior US lawmakers who also accused Pakistan of continuing to allow the Taliban extremists to operate freely in the tribal areas. "The Taliban regularly ship arms, ammunition, and supplies into Afghanistan from Pakistan. Most suicide bombers came from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan," said Congressman Hank Johnson. "Components for improvised explosive devices are often smuggled across the Afghan-Pakistan border," he added. "Speaking in private, knowledgeable US, Nato, Afghan, and UN officials are nearly unanimous in asserting that the Pakistani intelligence service continues to collaborate with the Taliban and other insurgent groups operating out of its border regions," he stated. Dawn, February 15 , 2007.
FATA will be incorporated into NWFP, says President Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf has said that the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) will be amalgamated into the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) after the Taliban and al Qaeda elements are eliminated from the region. In an interview with ARY Television aired on February 14, 2007, Gen. Musharraf said the Government had started work towards this end in 2000 with the consent of tribal elders, who welcomed this step. "We should have amalgamated FATA into the NWFP province much earlier. We had the same idea when our Forces entered the area," he said.
General Musharraf also said people sitting in Pakistan undoubtedly planned the September 11 attacks in the US and were still planning more attacks. These elements are trying to spread "Talibanisation" in Pakistan, which would be disastrous and take the country backwards, he said. "These elements want to impose their brand of Islam on us but we don’t want that Islam that takes us towards backwardness," he said. The President said al Qaeda and Taliban had moved to Pakistan from Afghanistan and hurt Pakistani society. The Taliban are fighting in Afghanistan but are also getting support from sympathisers in Pakistan. "The problem lies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan but the major problem is in Afghanistan and we have clearly told the Afghan Government that we have done enough and now it is your turn to do something substantial," he claimed.Daily Times, February 15, 2007.
Britain warns it could withhold aid to Sri Lanka: Britain warned on February 18, 2007, it will withhold millions of pounds worth of aid to Sri Lanka if the island's Government fails to provide assurances it is fulfilling agreed human rights and defence spending conditions. Britain agreed in 2005 to provide Sri Lanka 41 million pounds ($79.9 million) in debt relief through 2015 in yearly installments of around 4 million pounds, as long as it meets conditions related to various issues, including human rights and defence expenditure. The British Government has written to its Sri Lankan counterpart asking it to clarify whether those conditions were still being met. "If the response doesn't reassure the UK Government that conditions agreed by both Governments are being met, we will not disburse the next installment," a spokeswoman for Britain's Department for International Development said. Relief Web , February 19, 2007.