SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Through all the cacophony of mutual recriminations between State and Centre, the hysteria of ‘live’ reportage, and the confusion of analysis, one thing stands out starkly in the aftermath of the latest Islamist terrorist outrage – this time, a series of explosions targeting Court Complexes in Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, which killed at least 15: India remains hopelessly unprepared to deal with terrorism and its consequences.
It is, of course, nigh-impossible to prevent soft-target terrorist attacks; but after decades of experience, the state’s responses to such incidents should, minimally, have attained a modicum of professionalism, order and efficiency. Instead, chaos invariable reigns at every incident location after each such incident. The Police and emergency services’ responses are slow and clumsy, with a repeated and abject failure to secure the incident location, with crowds milling over the crime scene with impunity even long after the arrival of the Police, and with ordinary, untrained, albeit well-intentioned, civilians picking up the injured – and often the dismembered body parts of the dead – to transfer them to hospitals in whatever makeshift transport that is available, often increasing the trauma of injuries sustained by the victims.
The incompetence of responses is particularly manifest in the political commentary that follows each such incident, reflecting the appalling lack of comprehension that the country’s political leadership displays of the nature and dimensions of the terrorism that has come to afflict ever-widening areas in the country. Beyond the utter inanities of condemning the ‘dastardly deed’, wisely informing the public that this is a ‘terrorist act’, and expressing determination to fight the menace, there is little that could inspire confidence in the public that the people in charge have, in fact, a clue about what they are doing. In any event, once the media furore after the latest incident dies down, things tend to return to the routine, with no evidence of any coherent or significant change attitudes, orientation or capacities that could diminish the possibilities of future attacks, or improve the character and quality of future responses.
This was particularly visible in the ludicrous and ignorant ‘blame game’ that commenced immediately after the serial blasts in Uttar Pradesh. Chief Minister Mayawati was quick to call a Press Conference, where she declared that the attacks were no fault of her Government, because the central Intelligence agencies had failed to warn her that such an attack was imminent. That an individual who is serving her fourth tenure as Chief Minister of a State should display such complete ignorance of the Constitutional distribution of powers and obligations, reflects the sad plight of India’s political leadership. The Chief Minister then proceeded – incomprehensibly, if we are to accept her own argument of the Centre’s culpability – to transfer the Additional Director General of the Special Task Force (STF) responsible for counter-terrorism responses in the State, purportedly in order to facilitate "better operational purposes", and to berate State Police officers for their laxity.
The response to Mayawati’s accusations against the Centre came in the form of a ‘rebuttal’ by the Union Minister of State for Home, Sri Prakash Jaiswal, who declared that Uttar Pradesh had, in fact, been ‘alerted about the possibility of terrorist attacks at public places’. It is incomprehensible, again, how such a generalised ‘alert’ could have helped prevent an attack on any specific target.
The truth is, there was a sufficient history of Islamist terrorist activity in Uttar Pradesh over the past years, and specific intelligence available with the UP Police and administration relating to possible attacks against lawyers in the State to justify far greater vigilance and preparedness around the Courts in the State. According to the State Police, at least 34 Districts out of a total of 70, including the capital city, Lucknow, have been identified as ‘sensitive’ in terms of activities of Islamist terrorists and subversives backed by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). In November 2006, a UP Police report indicated that there had been terrorist-related crimes in 17 of the State’s 70 Districts – including Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi, which were targeted in the Friday, November 23, serial bombings. Another Police report indicated that "UP had emerged as one of the major centres of the activities of the ISI and its proxy terrorist groups in India, and that ‘sleeper modules’ had infiltrated several cities and small towns in the State, with both the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) active across wide areas of the State. In addition, the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was founded in the State, had substantial networks and support in several towns and Districts, including Lucknow, Kanpur, Aligarh, Agra, Faizabad, Bahraich, Barabanki, Lakhimpur Kheri and Azamgarh. Further recruitment drives by the SIMI had also been noticed in Jaunpur, Allahabad, Sonauli, Ferozabad and Hathras.
Significantly, according to the Union Home Ministry, out of 39 Pakistani espionage modules interdicted across the country between 2004 and November 20, 2007, 10 were located and neutralised in UP, in Agra, Meerut, Varanasi, Rampur, Lucknow and Saharanpur Districts. The South Asia Terrorism Portal database indicates, further, that, of the 91 terrorist modules that were identified and neutralised across the country (outside Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast) between 2004 and November 25, 2007, eight were located in UP.
Crucially, the now abruptly disgraced STF had, on November 16, 2007, arrested three suspected JeM militants with RDX, detonators, grenades, AK rifles and other weapons and ammunition. The group is believed to have been tasked to target various political leaders, including the Congress Party General Secretary and Member of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi. Earlier, on July 27, 2007, the STF had recovered two kilograms of RDX and two detonators from an industrial area on the Lucknow-Kanpur Road in Unnao District, following information provided by an arrested HuJI militant, Noor Islam Mandal of 24 Paragana District, West Bengal.
More specifically, there was a clearly recognized risk of attack against lawyers in UP, in view of their collective refusal to defend any accused in cases of Islamist terrorism in the past, as well as at least two incidents in which such accused persons were roughed up by lawyers when they were brought to the Courts to attend proceedings. There was sufficient intelligence relating to this danger within the State Police echelons.
How then were the serial blasts possible?
The answers are simple. First, as stated before, it is impossible to preclude the possibility of all soft-target strikes, except if specific intelligence relating to target, timing and operational agency is available – and no such intelligence was, in fact, available. Two, there is always a protected perimeter within which prevention is possible, but wherever such a perimeter is placed, the areas outside remain vulnerable – and it is physically impossible to extend the protective perimeter to all vulnerable areas. It is significant that the serial blasts on November 23 occurred, not within the Courts’ building complexes, where entry is monitored and some security measures are in place, but in the wider Court compounds, outside the security perimeter, where there is unmonitored public access. This is similar to the attack at the Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi on March 7, 2006, when the attack occurred just outside the Police barricades where people were frisked before entry into the Temple complex.
Crucially, however, such attacks occur – and will continue to occur with sickening regularity – because there are acute deficiencies in India’s Police and Intelligence capacities. Uttar Pradesh is a glaring case in point, with just 94 policemen per 100,000 population, as against a national average of 143, and international norms that recommend at least 250 per 100,000. Significantly, some Western countries have forces in ratios close to 500 per 100,000 population.
As regards national capacities for intelligence gathering, the less said the better. The Girish Saxena Committee, set up to look into the deficiencies of the intelligence establishment after the Kargil War, recommended massive upgrading of the country’s technical, imaging, signal, electronic counter-intelligence and economic intelligence capabilities, and a system-wide reform of conventional human-intelligence gathering. Every recommendation of the Saxena Committee was accepted by the Group of Ministers, who released their recommendations in February 2001. However, these recommendations remain unimplemented, over six years later, beyond a few symbolic changes. One of the recommendations called for a ‘multi-agency set up’ to confront the challenges of terrorism, and this was, at least formally, implemented through the creation of two new wings under the Intelligence Bureau (IB): the Multi Agency Centre (MAC), collecting and coordinating terrorism-related information from across the country, and the Joint Task Force on Intelligence (JTFI), for passing on this information to the State Governments in real-time. Regrettably, both MAC and JTFI remain under-staffed, under-equipped and ineffective, with even basic issues relating to their administration unsettled. Their principal objective, the creation of a national terrorism database, has made little progress. The JTFI was also given the responsibility of upgrading counter-terrorism capabilities in the State Police Forces, but no effective programmes for training or capacity enhancement have been initiated. Another critical aspect of existing intelligence gathering operations in India is that these continue to rely overwhelmingly on HUMINT, with the TECHINT component in urgent and drastic need for improvement. Difficulties of integration of intelligence, professionalism, autonomy and, crucially, modernization are acute, and in many areas the gap between capacities and needs is growing. India’s intelligence penetration is severely inadequate, and is overwhelmingly limited to urban and strategic locations, leaving vast hinterlands ‘uncovered’.
The Saxena Committee had, further, recommended at least an additional 3,000 cadres in the IB in 2001. Till date, just 800 additional posts have been sanctioned (in 2004), though the requirements would now be even greater.
Indeed, the results that the IB has been able to secure despite these tremendous capacity deficits are astonishing. While authoritative figures on the subject are hard to come by, sources indicate that the total manpower available with the IB for intelligence gathering across the country is no more than 3,500, in a population of over a billion people, and counter-terrorist intelligence comprehends only a very small fraction of the IB’s mandate.
Moreover, enforcement and intelligence agencies are further inhibited by unscrupulous and self-serving political interference that directly undermines national security. As K.P.S. Gill noted shortly after the November 23 attack,
The serial blasts in Court compounds in Uttar Pradesh are best seen as the latest link in a long chain of comparable terrorist attacks by Islamist groupings that have long received safe haven, sustenance and support from Pakistan and, increasingly, Bangladesh. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence that a number of Indians are now an integral part of the operational cadres of these groups, and that the networks of Islamist extremism and terror, assiduously cultivated by Pakistani agencies over the decades, have now established a substantial footprint across the country. If this threat is to be neutralised before it gets out of hand, and before it is infinitely augmented by compounding developments in the South and West Asian neighbourhoods, a tremendous effort of enhancement in India’s policing and intelligence capacities across State and Central institutions and agencies is an imperative. These are the issues that the country’s political executive needs to address, instead of trading nonsense in the wake of every terrorist strike, and then quickly lapsing into a habitual torpor.
Terai in Turmoil
Police and the Government officials in Nepal admit that they are losing control over the situation in the Terai region, along the country’s southern borders with India. On November 13, 2007, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nepal, made public its findings on the situation in the country since the signing of the peace pact between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist). The report said that at least 115 persons had been killed in 2007, till July, with most deaths occurring in the Terai. In an earlier report released on November 7, 2007, the eastern region office of the NHRC had disclosed that the security situation in the Terai region was steadily worsening, with one person killed every other day and two people abducted each day. The report also stated that most of the incidents of violence had occurred in the Siraha, Saptari and Dhanusha Districts of the Terai region.
Killings, abductions, violence, and disruptive political demonstrations and strikes continue in the region without any sign of relief for its beleaguered people. According to the Institute for Conflict Management database, 11 persons were killed by the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha faction led by Jaya Krishna Goit (JTMM-G) and another two by the Nagendra Kumar Paswan a.k.a. Jwala Singh faction (JTMM-J) between August and November 15, 2007, with a combined total of 37 incidents of violence by these groups. The Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), which is now registered as a political party, has also been involved in armed violence, though the total number of incidents associated with this group is a relatively low four over this period. 23 incidents involving various armed Terai groups were reported in July 2007, and another 14 in June 2007. In addition to the groups named above, a number of smaller armed groups operate with their own violent agenda, and the NHRC Regional Chief, Subarna Karmacharya, has indicated that over 20 such armed groups have been expanding their activities in the Terai. Karmacharya disclosed, further, that "at least two complaints are lodged at the NHRC office a day", and that most of the cases remained unreported due to the fear of reprisal by the armed groups. A similar concern was raised by the Nepali Congress Siraha District President, Sitadevi Yadav, who said that, "Police have lost control in the Terai Districts, and the victims don’t lodge complaints with the police because of its inefficacy."
The armed groups particularly target Government officials who hail from the Hill Region, openly threatening them to leave the Terai, or face dire consequences. Reports indicate that at least six civil servants have been killed in the Terai in 2007, and the inability of the Government to provide security to officials in the region has triggered widespread resentment in the bureaucracy. At least 415 civil servants in the Saptari District have resigned en masse, as a result, saying they were forced to do so after the continued killing of their peers and the Government's failure to provide security to its own employees. Employees of the Sarlahi and Siraha District administrations are similarly distressed. Protesting against the increasing insecurity, extortion and targeted abductions and killings, the Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries based in Sarlahi District had warned of mass resignation on November 18 if their concerns were not addressed by then. On November 7, the VDC secretaries had disclosed that four different Terai outfits had demanded NPR 5.8 million from them – NPR 2.5 million by the Samyukta Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (SJTMM), NPR 1.5 million each by the JTMM Jwala and Goit factions, and NR 300,000 by the Nagraj group of the Terai Cobras. With no significant response from the Government, 63 VDC secretaries resigned on November 18 in the Sarlahi District, citing the prevalent insecurity due to extortion and threats by various armed groups and the indifference of the authorities. Similarly, civil servants and teachers in the Siraha District decided to shut down all Government and non-government offices and educational institutions in the District for 11 days, commencing November 19, after their talks with the District Administration ended inconclusively. VDC secretaries in the Bara and Rautahat Districts also resigned en masse on November 19, citing the growing security threats from the various armed groups. All 98 VDC secretaries in Rautahat announced their resignation complaining of threats of physical attack, intimidation and extortion. Citing similar reasons, 70 VDC secretaries in the Bara District have also tendered their resignations.
Frequent strikes and violent incidents in the Terai are creating increasing difficulties in implementing development programmes. In October 2007, activities of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which assists needy families living across 30 Districts in the country, were badly affected, as food items could not be transported over the National Highways because of frequent strikes called by the various armed groups in the Terai. The WFP even warned that it would be forced to suspend its activities after one of its trucks was burnt on September 19 in the Dang District in the inner Terai region along the East-West Highway. On September 26, another truck ferrying 12 metric tons foodgrain to Dadeldhura for the WFP food aid programme was attacked and set ablaze by a mob in Dang.
Similarly, some education projects in the Terai, being implemented by European donors, have been affected due to strikes, with school projects disrupted by absenteeism whenever a strike is announced. Some foreign trainers who arrived in Kathmandu for educating national election observers also felt insecure, and refused to go to the Terai Districts to conduct regional training programmes. The Siraha Chief District Officer, Bal Krishna Panthi, is on record that the local administration "can’t control violence in the District", and that, "Special laws should be enforced here immediately". Panthi alleged, further, that politicians were patronising criminals. The Superintendent of Police of the Saptari District, Milan Basnet, had complained of the insufficiency of resources and manpower to control the situation in the District. Normal life has been badly affected across the region, particularly in Districts such as Saptari, Siraha, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Sunsari, Bara, Parsa, Kailali, Rautahat, Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam, Jhapa, Dhankuta and Morang.
In order to mobilise the sympathy and support of the people, the armed Terai groups declared a ‘cease-fire’ during the popular Dashain and Eid festivals in October 2007, subsequently extending these to November 17, in view of Deepawali and Chhath festivals, giving the further assurance that they would not stage any general or transport strikes during this period.
In a troubling new development, Rajendra Mahato, leader of the breakaway faction of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi Devi), had declared on November 5 that his party was forming a joint front with the armed outfits in the Terai to launch a ‘decisive movement’ in the region by mid-December 2007. He claimed that the movement would enforce Article 33 of the Interim Constitution to ensure proportional representation of the Madheshi people in all the organs of the state and would secure their rights through the Constituent Assembly elections. Mahato stated, "Now, we are conducting a Mechi-Mahakali programme to form the front and battalions to defend the Madhesh." He said that youth were being recruited in the ‘battalions’ and deployed to avert the agitation from turning violent and communal, as in the past. Mahato further indicated that such ‘battalions’ had been formed in 12 Districts, and one hundred youth were associated with each ‘District battalion’, and the number would be increased according to requirements.
In its efforts to regain some control over the situation, Kathmandu has been making overtures to the Madhesi armed groups. On October 25, the Minister of State for General Administration, Ramchandra Yadav, stated that the Government was ready to hold talks with the factions of the JTMM at any time and that the Government had sent invitations for talks to the Jwala Singh faction. No significant progress has, however, been made in this regard till now.
As a result, and in view of the deteriorating law and order situation, the Government decided, on November 13, to provide special security to leaders of political parties and to Government employees working in the Terai Districts. The Home Ministry has also directed the concerned District Administrations to request Government employees, political party leaders and activists to stay within a certain security perimeter and to make special security arrangements at public offices such as Courts, Land Revenue and Land Reform Offices. The Government has similarly decided to increase police patrolling and enhance co-ordination among security units in the Districts.
These measures, however, can hardly be expected to have decisive impact, considering the quantum of additional resources that have been made available for these tasks. The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police in the Eastern Regional Police Headquarters, Ravindra Pratap Shah, disclosed that the Government had deployed an additional 854 Police personnel because of the increasing incidents of crime in the region, including a Superintendent, a Deputy Superintendent, 17 Inspectors, 42 Sub-inspectors, 55 Assistant Sub-inspectors, 137 Head Constables and 536 Constables. Area police offices in Jhiljhile in the Jhapa District, Pakali in the Sunsari District and Kalyanpur in the Saptari District have been upgraded from B to A category. DIG Shah said a new riot control company had been posted in the Sunsari District, while a Police office at Sitagunj and a Ward Police office in Rajbiraj in the same District had been ‘reinforced’. With the addition of three Police Posts in the region, the number of Police units has gone up to 402. A ‘Rapid Action’ riot control contingent, comprising 600 personnel led by a Superintendent of Police is also deployed to patrol the East-West highway to ensure that there are no traffic obstructions or strikes on the highway, and to curb criminal and anti-social activities in urban areas in the region. Interactions between the Nepal Police and the Indian police have also been stepped up after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala observed that armed groups in the Terai were in contact with Indian extremist groups.
Despite these ongoing steps, the turmoil in the Terai continues unabated. The Government’s efforts to initiate a dialogue with regional groups have failed, and the sheer number of such groups, as well as their capacities for subversive and violent activities, has augmented continuously. Security responses have been far from adequate, with Kathmandu hoping for a ‘political’ solution that will help it avert the necessity of a law and order approach that it has little capacity for, and less of a stomach to implement. Given the perverse power dynamics that have emerged between the radical Madheshi groups and the Maoists, the ruling Seven Party Alliance (SPA) can hope for little relief from the disorders in the Terai.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 19-25, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Governor of Goa escapes assassination attempt in Nagaland: The Governor of Goa, S. C. Jamir, survived an assassination attempt on November 24, 2007, when his convoy was attacked with improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in the Mokokchung District of Nagaland. Two security force personnel were injured in the attack, which was the fourth attempt on the life of the former Nagaland Chief Minister. Officials said the attack occurred when Jamir's 30-vehicle convoy was passing near Changki around 6 am (IST). He was coming from his hometown, Mokokchung, and was heading towards the State's commercial hub of Dimapur. Sources said four of the six IEDs planted by militants exploded seconds after Jamir's vehicle passed by. Police suspect the attack was the handiwork of NSCN-IM, which had earlier dubbed Jamir as "anti-people and anti-national". However, the Naga outfit denied its involvement and alleged that the attack was "stage-managed". In 1993, Jamir was injured in an attack at Nagaland House, New Delhi. Another abortive bid on his life was made in Kohima in 1995. Four years later, he escaped another ambush on the National Highway-39 near Kohima. Times of India, November 25, 2007.
15 persons killed and 80 injured in serial bomb blasts in Uttar Pradesh: 15 persons were killed and 80 others injured in the near-simultaneous blasts targeting lawyers in Court premises in the three cities of Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh on November 23, 2007. In Varanasi, three blasts killed 11 persons and injured 45 people. Four persons were killed and 14 were injured in two explosions at Faizabad. In Lucknow, there was only one blast and no fatality was reported. Police sources said the banned Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) was behind the blasts. They suspected that the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants sought the help of HuJI as both have close ties with each other. A report indicated that, on November 17, lawyers of the Sessions Court in Lucknow assaulted three JeM militants who had planned to abduct Congress party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. Lawyers of the State had also refused to represent Wali Ullah, mastermind of the March 2006 blasts at the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi as also Jalaluddin Molla, a key HuJI militant arrested in the State in June 2007. Ammonium Nitrate and timer devices were used in triggering the blasts in Lucknow and Varanasi. Hindustan Times, November 24, 2007.
Pakistan Army using rivers for infiltration of militants into Jammu and Kashmir: The Pakistan Army has developed a new type of "floating air pillow" to infiltrate militants from newly developed routes through rivers along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in the Jammu sector. The "air pillows" were reported to have been successfully used by a group of five militants to infiltrate into Indian territory from Munawar Tawi along Sunderbani-Khour sector on the Rajouri-Jammu border, official sources disclosed. The new infiltration routes through rivers have been developed by the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as they were finding it difficult to push the infiltrators through the LoC and the IB in view of the fencing and installation of sophisticated electronic gadgets. "If movement of the militants while swimming is observed by security forces or the people, they could easily go deep into the waters to hide themselves. A special "breathing pipe" has been installed with the air pillow which will help the infiltrators survive while being deep in the waters", sources said. Daily Excelsior, November 22, 2007.
More than 200 persons killed in the Swat and Shangla Districts of the NWFP: In the continuing clashes between militants and security forces (SFs) the Swat and Shangla Districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), more than 200 persons, including 136 militants and 50 civilians, have died. Reports on November 26 indicated that the SFs had captured two strategic mountain positions of the militants and key routes to Imam Dehri in the Swat Valley. Troops, backed by artillery and helicopter gun-ships, captured the key positions of Najia Top and Usmani Sar after shelling the Imam Dehri, Koza Banda and Bara Banda areas on November 24-25. Reports through the week stated that more and more villages in the two Districts were emptied of their fleeing population. Civilians were reported fleeing in large numbers from various parts of Shangla and the Government sought the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to set up four relief camps. Unnamed officials stated that over 500,000 people have so far fled the region. A majority of them shifted to the Malakand Agency, Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Peshawar and Islamabad. Meanwhile, militants reportedly made announcements asking people not to leave their homes as they had arranged suicide bombers in case SFs came out of their bases to attack them. Daily Times; The News ; Dawn, November 20-26, 2007.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan after eight years of exile: Former premier Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on November 25, 2007, after eight years of exile and vowed to contest the general elections. Talking to the media after arriving in Lahore from Medina at 6.25pm (PST), he said all decisions regarding participation in elections would be made on the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM)’s platform. He said the APDM would participate in the elections if General Pervez Musharraf withdrew the Emergency declaration he issued on November 3, and released Opposition members who had been jailed. "Everything that was done must be reversed and drawn back completely… You must have a level playing field for fair elections," he said. He said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would never welcome ‘turncoats’, adding that he wanted to unite the PML and the PML-N. Daily Times, November 26, 2007.
More than 80 people killed in continuing sectarian violence in Parachinar: More than 80 persons have died in the continuing sectarian violence in Parachinar and other areas of Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). "We have reports that more than 50 people died in the clashes," an unnamed official said on November 24. Earlier, 28 persons were killed in the violence on November 19. The affected areas are Parachinar, Sadda, Pewar, Teri Mangal, Qunj Alizai, Maqbal, Mengak and Tangi. While the Army and Kurram Militia personnel have been deployed to control the situation, reports during the week indicated that security forces have not succeeded in ending the violence and the warring factions attacked each other’s positions with heavy weapons. A 16-member peace jirga (council) headed by Pir Haider Ali Shah had brokered a cease-fire on November 19, but it has not taken effect in some parts of the Agency. Daily Times; The News ; Dawn, November 20-26, 2007.
32 persons killed in two suicide attacks in Rawalpindi: Two suicide bombers, on the morning of November 24, simultaneously targeted military personnel and installations at two different places in Rawalpindi, claiming over 32 lives and wounding 55 others. In the first attack that occurred at 7.55 am (PST), the suicide bomber, while trying to enter the Hamza Camp, the main office of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), from the out-gate, hit the Agency’s staff bus. The blast, which occurred 200 metres from Faizabad at the Murree Road, killed over 30 personnel on the bus and among the guards standing at the main gate. At the same time near the GHQ, another suicide bomber blew up his car after hitting an Army check-post, when he was intercepted while trying to infiltrate into the high security zone. Two Army personnel were killed while one was injured in the second attack. The News, November 25, 2007.
Commonwealth suspends Pakistan’s membership: The 53-nation Commonwealth suspended Pakistan on November 22, 2007, after President Pervez Musharraf failed to meet a deadline to lift Emergency rule and resign as Chief of the Army Staff. The Commonwealth had given General Musharraf time until November 22 to lift the state of Emergency he imposed on November 3. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), charged with reviewing Pakistan’s membership, said that Gen. Musharraf had not yet lifted the Emergency rule and had failed to stand down as Army Chief. CMAG had therefore "suspended Pakistan forthwith from the Commonwealth... for its violations," Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said. Dawn, November 23, 2007.
Balochistan Liberation Army chief Balach Marri killed in Afghanistan: Baloch leader Nawabzada Balach Marri was killed along with his bodyguards in a clash somewhere inside Afghanistan on November 21, 2007, triggering widespread violence in capital Quetta and some other parts of the Balochistan province. Nawabzada Gazeen Marri, the elder brother of Balach Marri, confirmed his death while talking to the BBC. However, Gazeen Marri refused to name the place where he was killed. He also said that only his family members could decide about the burial of Mir Balach Marri, as "we do not want his body to be disgraced the way the rulers treated that of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti." Beeburg Baloch, a spokesman for the defunct Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), called journalists in Quetta to inform them about the nationalist leader’s death. He disclosed that two other Baloch leaders had also died in the clash. Some sources reportedly suggested that Balach Marri was killed in an air strike by NATO forces in the Gramshar area of Afghanistan’s Helmand province. They believed the Western forces had mistaken Marri and his entourage for Taliban militants. Nawabzada Balach Marri, who was the youngest son of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, had sought refuge in Afghanistan following the crackdown in the Marri and Bugti areas after the killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in 2006. He had been elected member of the Balochistan Assembly from his home constituency of Kohlu in the 2002 General Election. He never attended Assembly proceedings after the opening session. Balach Marri was thought to be the chief of the BLA. Daily Times; Dawn, November 22, 2007.
Elections to be held on January 8, 2008: The Election Commission (EC) announced on November 20, 2007, that polling for the National and Provincial Assemblies would be held on January 8, 2008. Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (Retd.) Qazi Mohammad Farooq, announced the schedule, which in effect means the beginning of the seven-week election process, with nomination papers to be filed from November 21 to 26. The scrutiny of the papers will take place from November 27 to December 3, appeals against acceptance or otherwise of the nomination papers may be filed by December 7 and decisions on such appeals will be taken by December 14. The nomination papers can be withdrawn by December 15 and the final list of candidates will be published on December 16. After the publication of the list, candidates will have 22 days of electioneering in accordance with a ‘code of conduct’ prepared by the EC. Dawn, November 21, 2007.
Supreme Court dismisses all petitions challenging General Musharraf’s eligibility to contest election: The Supreme Court on November 19 and 22, 2007, dismissed all petitions which had been filed before the proclamation of the state of Emergency, to challenge General Pervez Musharraf’s eligibility to contest the election for a third presidential term. These petitions were being heard earlier by an 11-judge bench, but most of its members stood deposed on November 3, after they refused to take the oath under the Provisional Constitution Order. The decision taken by a 10-member bench provides a way to allow the Election Commission to notify Gen. Musharraf’s re-election. Headed by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, the bench, on November 19, dismissed some of the main petitions for non-prosecution and the others for having been withdrawn. On November 22, it also dismissed a petition filed Dr. Zahoor Mehdi, which concerned rejection of his own candidature by the Chief Election Commissioner. Dawn, November 20 and 23, 2007.