SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Musharraf’s Pyrrhic Victory
pivot of the insurgency in the Balochistan province, Nawab
Akbar Khan Bugti, was killed along with 38 insurgents during
a military operation in the Chalgri area of Bhamboor Hills
in Dera Bugti District on August 26, 2006. At least 21 security
force (SF) personnel, including a Colonel, two Majors and
three Captains, were also killed in the intense clashes.
More than 24 insurgents were wounded and subsequently arrested.
Disputing these numbers, a spokesman of the Marri tribe,
Najeed Marri, told Dawn from Kohlu that 140 people
from the Bugti and Marri tribes had been killed in the air
and ground operations. He identified the area of the operation
as Karmowadh, 45 kilometres from Kahan, headquarters of
the Marri tribe.
major opposition parties, including Makhdoom Amin Faheem
of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed
of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), expressed shock and
grief over the death and restated their rejection of the
use of force in Balochistan. The London-based Muttahida
Qaumi Movement (MQM)
leader Altaf Hussain condemned the Nawab Bugti killing and
called for negotiations to resolve the insurgency. The Chairman
of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Raja Zafar-ul-Haq,
stated that the situation was similar to the obstinate and
unreasonable attitude adopted by General Yayha Khan, which
led to the loss of East Pakistan. Senior PPP leaders Amin
Fahim and Raja Rabbani also warned against the emergence
of ‘a 1971-like situation’ which resulted in the creation
of Bangladesh. What has alarmed the political parties in
Pakistan is the fact that such a senior leader has never
before been neutralized by the establishment, with the exception
of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged by General Zia-ul-Haq.
A political realignment, consequently, appears increasingly
likely and the Balochistan provincial Government could collapse.
Addressing an emergency press conference in Islamabad on
August 27, senior MMA leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri
termed Bugti’s death a “national tragedy in the history
of Pakistan… the biggest instance of cruelty and despotism”
adding that his alliance was "seriously contemplating" quitting
the coalition Government in Balochistan. If the MQM also
decides on a similar course of action, the coalition in
Sindh province could also collapse. Some of the Baloch leaders
have also said that they will vote in favour of the no-confidence
motion against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in the National
Assembly on August 29, thereby increasing the pressure on
the military regime.
Entirely in line with past declarations, General Musharraf termed Bugti’s killing a "great victory" and congratulated the SFs for the ‘achievement’. It is ironic that a regime which is negotiating with a far more menacing terrorist movement in Waziristan chooses to take such an uncompromising hard line against insurgent groups that seek fairly limited goals within the Pakistani rubric. This may, of course, reflect a realpolitik assessment on General Musharraf’s part that, while he can win in Balochistan by purely military means, the outcome in Waziristan is far more uncertain, and the costs of confrontation too high.
If Musharraf’s repression does not succeed in Balochistan, Bugti’s death will mark the beginnings of a greater consolidation of nationalist forces and a shift in tactics, from conventional guerrilla warfare – which is much more susceptible to detection and neutralization – to more decentralized and subversive means, including the targeting of infrastructure and assets outside Balochistan, and in urban concentrations, as well as an effort to bring in other groups, such as the Sindhis, the Seraikis, the Pashtun, and other disaffected political formations, into a broader insurgency. There is a danger, moreover, that the secular-nationalist Baloch movement may also see the influence of radical Islamist parties such as the MMA, which have, till now, remained restricted to the Pashtun areas of the North, growing in the Baloch areas of South Balochistan.
In an interview to the Karachi-based Newsline in February 2005, Nawab Bugti had said: “General Sahib [Pervez Musharraf] has promised to hit us in such a way that we will not know what hit us. In one sense it is quick death that he is promising us. They could do this to a few Baloch leaders, but not the whole Baloch nation.” His promised ‘quick death’ has come, but in death, as in life, he appears poised to remain the rallying force for the Baloch.
The nonstop violence in Pakistan’s Federally
Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the Pak-Afghan border
has become a cause of great concern for the United States
and her allies in the war on terror, especially Afghanistan,
given the fact that the Taliban have virtually taken over
the entire North Waziristan tribal area, which could be
used as a major military base to wage their resistance against
the US-led forces in Afghanistan.
deployment of over 80,000 Pakistani troops along the Afghan
border in the tribal areas to capture the fugitive Taliban
and al Qaeda elements, the situation is far from stable
in a region that is crucial to three world capitals -- Islamabad,
Washington and Kabul. Waziristan, often in the news due
to frequent clashes between Pakistani security forces and
the Taliban militants, is now more-or-less controlled by
the local Taliban, which has established a foothold in both
North and South Waziristan and has opened recruiting offices
these areas to hire new fighters.
Currently, the man responsible for launching the Taliban raids into Afghanistan is Maulana Sangeen Khan, an Afghan from the neighboring Khost province. In South Waziristan, Haji Mohammad Omar, a Waziri, is the commander of the resistance movement against the Pakistani security forces, while the Afghan operations run from the area are taken care of by Abdullah Mehsud, the chieftain of the Mehsud tribe. Never before has there been such an arrangement in centuries, where Mehsuds and Wazirs have fought side-by-side, and more, under the command of the Dawars.
Since there is no clear demarcation of the Pak-Afghan border, the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters sheltering in the tribal belt under the control of Wazirs, Mehsuds and Dawars easily cross the border and attack their targets on Afghan soil, using the mountain terrain to strategic advantage, and then melt into the villages located in the Pak-Afghan border areas. The result is that the al Qaeda-backed Taliban resistance movement in Afghanistan continues to gain strength in the tribal areas of Pakistan, which provide natural strategic depth to Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
Consequently, hardly a day now goes by without Afghanistan urging Pakistan to do more to help overcome insurgency in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan. The anxiety being expressed by the Karzai administration is understandable and not entirely misplaced, given the fact that much of the trouble along the border area of Afghanistan happens to be a result of the Taliban militia crossing over from the Pakistani side of the border. In the past, the Afghan mujahideen too had bases in the Waziristan region which they used as launching pads to make frequent incursions into Afghanistan to target the occupying Soviet troops.
Under these circumstances, the Musharraf regime is often blamed for whatever is happening in Afghanistan, given the quantum of activity within close proximity of the Pak-Afghan border. Many visiting US officials have stated time and again in the recent past that Islamabad should fulfill its international obligations by curtailing the movement of miscreants from its side of the border as it cannot simply absolve itself by asking Kabul to tighten control on the other side. They have made it clear that the issue is not just placing 80,000 Pakistani troops on the border, but rather how effective that force has been in accomplishing its mission objective.
On the other hand, the Army’s troops in Waziristan have apparently been bogged down by an insurgency which has proved to be more lethal and dangerous than the one in Afghanistan itself. The Taliban have turned their guns on the Pakistani forces, pro-government tribal elders and intelligence operatives. Statistically speaking, the Pakistani security forces have lost more personnel – almost three times more, since the operation was launched in 2004 – than the US has since 2001, in its ongoing war on terror in Afghanistan.
Before the ceasefire between the military and the militants in Waziristan was announced, ambushes and roadside bomb attacks against the Pakistani security forces had been as frequent as they were across the border, forcing the Army leadership to consider an out-of-the-box solution. Going by Musharraf’s own admission [in an interview with the British daily Guardian on May, 5, 2006] “Extremism in a Talibanised form is what people are now going for. Mullah Omar and the Taliban have influence in Waziristan and it is now spilling over into our settled areas”.
Musharraf did not mention the names of the ‘settled areas’ but the Districts falling under these areas include Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Hangu and Kohat, all in the southern North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and all very conservative and largely under the political influence of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), led by the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazlur Rahman. Yet in the same vein, Musharraf claimed quite amusingly that the war against al Qaeda had ‘almost been won’ in Waziristan. By saying so, the General contradicted none other than himself, because the increase in support for the Taliban and their leader Mullah Omar in Waziristan, as confessed by him, meant that the Osama-led organisation too would benefit from the surge in the Taliban’s popularity. Independent analysts say that al Qaeda may have suffered physical and infrastructural losses in terms of the decimation of its bases in Afghanistan and the killing and capture of its operatives, but there is no evidence to suggest that the ideology it professes has registered a decline.
Under these circumstances, it appears that the Taliban resistance movement in both Pakistan and Afghanistan will continue to gain strength until and unless Islamabad abandons its current policy which actually seeks to keep the Taliban alive in the hope of using them to retrieve its lost influence in Afghanistan.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 21-27, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Pataka kills four police personnel and a civilian in Naogaon:
Extremists of the Lal Pataka faction of the Purba
Banglar Communist Party (PBCP),
on August 25, 2006 killed four police personnel at Chowbaria
cattle market in Naogaon and decamped with their arms
and ammunition. A leader of the Jubo Dal, youth wing of
the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, too died during
the attack. The killings are believed to be in retaliation
for several incidents including the death of a top PBCP
leader in ‘crossfire’ with the Rapid Action Battalion
during July 2006 and 11 other outlaws in a police raid
in Pabna on August 17. Police sources said that three
rifles, a pistol and ammunition of the police personnel
were taken away by the extremists. The PBCP-Lal Pataka
subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack. The
Daily Star, August 26, 2006.
ISI continues to support terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, says Union Home Minister: Maintaining that Pakistan has not dismantled the terrorist infrastructure existing on its soil, the Government said on August 23, 2006, that the neighbouring country’s external intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) continues to provide "directions" and "logistics" support to terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) active in India. "We have not received any information on dismantling of terrorist training camps," Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said in the Upper House of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha). He said information about existence of terrorist training camps was passed on to Pakistan during the Home Secretary-level talks between the two countries. According to available inputs, the ISI continues to provide directions and logistics support, including recruitment, arms training and funds, to groups like the LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) and Al-Badr for terrorist related activities in Jammu and Kashmir despite Government’s peace initiatives and Prime Minister’s invitation to separatist leaders for two Round Table conferences.
inputs indicate Pakistan’s ISI continues to remunerate terrorists
for attacks on security forces and political leaders… The
serial grenade attacks on April 14 and July 11, 2006, in
Srinagar city and killing of tourists are reportedly the
result of directives received by the terrorist outfits from
across the border," said Patil. "We have given documents
pointing out to places where training is imparted to terrorists,"
he said, adding that Pakistan was in a denial mode.
Daily Excelsior, August 24, 2006.
ICDC submits draft of the interim constitution: The Interim Constitution Drafting Committee (ICDC) submitted the Draft Interim Constitution to the peace negotiating teams of the Government and Maoist insurgents on August 25, 2006. Coordinator of the ICDC and former Justice Laxman Prasad Aryal handed over the 76-page draft separately to the leader of the Government team and Home Minister, Krishna Prasad Sitaula, and coordinator of the Maoist team, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, during a function organised at the Peace Secretariat within the Singh Durbar premises of Kathmandu. The ICDC has recommended that the fate of monarchy should be decided by a referendum, which should be held along with constituent assembly election. The members of the panel decided to keep the King without any power but they are silent regarding the status of queen, crown prince and other royal family members. In the draft, the authority conferred by article 122 of the 1990 statute to the King to grant pardon and commute or remit sentences imposed by all courts and to appoint Ambassadors and to receive credentials from Ambassadors has been scrapped. There are 26 parts and 172 articles in the new statute as against 23 parts and 133 articles in the 1990 Constitution. Nepal News, August 26, 2006.
Nawab Akbar Bugti killed in military operation in Balochistan: Nawab Akbar Bugti, leader of the Bugti tribe and a prominent leader of the insurgency in Balochistan, and 38 insurgents were killed in a military operation in the Bhamboor Hills of Dera Bugti District on August 26, 2006. At least 21 security force personnel also died in the clashes. “Yes, Nawab Bugti has been killed in the operation,” said Federal Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani. Sources indicated that Nawab Bugti’s whereabouts were established by monitoring satellite phone intercepts. “It is presumed that Akbar Bugti and a number of other terrorists have been killed,” an official statement said.
Meanwhile, at least three persons were killed on August 27 as protests against the killing spread in the Balochistan province and Baloch-populated areas in Karachi. Protesters took to the streets of Quetta, burning vehicles, banks and a petrol station. Despite a curfew imposed by the Balochistan Government in provincial capital Quetta and Noshki district and the deployment of paramilitary troops, three people were killed in an exchange of fire. In Karachi, Baloch youth torched several shops and vehicles in the Baloch-populated areas including Kalri, Chakiwara, Baghdadi, Kalakot, Shah Bagh Lane, Singho Lane, Jehangir Road, Patel Para, Old Golimar, Asho Goth, Ghazi Town, Mawach Goth and Yousuf Goth. Dawn, August 27-28, 2006.
Cease-fire extended in North Waziristan: Militants in North Waziristan have extended the cease-fire by another 15 days as Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has joined efforts to help clear some obstacles to an agreement for restoring peace in the tribal region. “We are almost there. Everything has been decided. The story is almost finished but the Government is a bit slow in responding to certain things,” Abdullah Farhad, the militants’ chief spokesman told Dawn on phone from an undisclosed location. Dawn, August 26, 2006.
134 terrorist incidents between January-May 2006: The Interior Ministry said on August 25, 2006, that 134 incidents of terrorism had taken place in the country during the first five months of 2006. Addressing the National Assembly’s Question Hour session, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said that 129 people had been killed and 354 injured in terrorist acts occurring between December 2005 and April 19, 2006. Daily Times, August 26, 2006.
Clerics tell aid agencies in PoK not to employ women: Muslim clerics in the earthquake-affected Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) have reportedly told aid agencies to dismiss all local women employees or face violent protests. The threat was given to District officials and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Bagh on August 22, 2006. “We have told the administration that we will not allow NGOs to exploit our women and asked them to give a date suitable to them for removal of all female workers,” Syed Atta Ullah Shah, prayer leader of the Bagh central mosque, told AFP. “If our demand is not met then we will take direct action and extreme steps. There will be demonstrations and damage may be caused to public property and a law and order situation would be created in the area,” he warned. Shah claimed locals were angered by “obscene” activities at NGOs. “They hire beautiful girls and take them to Islamabad for enjoyment. They keep women in offices as decoration pieces because we know that women have no work and there is no such work that men cannot do,” Shah said. Daily Times, August 25, 2006.
Government will consider a new cease-fire if offered by LTTE chief Prabhakaran: The Sri Lankan Government stated that it would consider a new cease-fire agreement (CFA) with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) only if it was offered by their chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran. Government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said, "The Government's position is very clear: There has to be a meaningful and effective cease-fire. Once it is put in writing by the (Tiger) leader Prabhakaran, then the Government will consider it." He added that any new CFA would need to have clear conditions written into it, such as restricting the outfit’s access to the sea. "We have areas that are very vulnerable and we cannot have them pounding our naval headquarters in eastern Trincomalee," he further added. Daily News, August 25, 2006.