SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Sledgehammer in Swat
During his address to the nation after declaring martial law on November 3, 2007, President and (now retired) General Pervez Musharraf had mentioned that terrorism and Islamist extremism had reached their peak, and that incidents of suicide attacks throughout Pakistan had increased manifold. However, Musharraf, now a civilian President, has, since then, used his Emergency powers primarily to imprison political opponents, civil society activists and media personnel. While his beleaguered regime concentrates its energy on clinging to power, the diffusion of turmoil across the length and breadth of the country and the intensification of multiple insurgencies shows no signs of abating. In fact, violence has actually worsened since the imposition of Emergency rule. More than 728 persons, including 341 militants and 293 civilians and 94 security force (SF) personnel, have died in November, making it the most lethal month in terms of fatalities not only in 2007, but since 2001. More than half of these fatalities have been inflicted in the Swat District of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). In fact, more than 624 people have died in the Swat District in 2007 in at least 134 incidents. Most of the victims of violence in Swat during in November 2007, the most lethal month, have been due to the indiscriminate strafing of villages by the Pakistan Army’s helicopter gunships. (Significantly, the actual fatalities may be significantly higher, as information flows and reportage in the region are severely restricted).
While President Musharraf labours to manage the fallout of his ‘second coup’, events in the Swat and the adjoining Shangla District of the NWFP, the centre of most of the current violence, are entirely out of Islamabad’s control. In fact, the situation reflects a clear failure of Musharraf’s counter-insurgency strategy and provides a disturbing picture of the magnitude of Pakistan’s slide into anarchy. In more ways than one, the state of play in Swat is a reflection of the crisis that afflicts Pakistan. While the march of radical Islam has been rapid and relatively unopposed, despite claims to the contrary, submissiveness and compliance has marked the character of the Pakistani state’s responses.
On November 29, 2007, military authorities said they had evicted militants from most of the troubled areas in the Swat Valley while all the displaced Government officials returned to their jobs in Shangla District after the retreat of Maulana Fazlullah-led militants of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) from their positions in the District Headquarters of Alpuri. Major Amjad Iqbal, the military spokesman in Mingora (Swat), told reporters that the majority of militants were either killed or had escaped to the mountains after the SFs targeted them in their hideouts. He said 230 militants had so far been killed in clashes with the SFs in the Swat and Shangla Districts. The military’s declaration of ‘victory’ is far from final – in an insurgency, holding or losing ground is of little significance, and sources indicate that the violence has merely shifted, with the militants tactically dispersed into the hills. Maulana Muhammad Alam, a close aide of Maulana Fazlullah, made a speech from his mobile FM radio in which he denied that the militants had left their positions and claimed that the real battle against the SFs had now begun, and would continue indefinitely. And at around 11:45 pm on November 27, through his FM radio channel, Fazlullah himself directed his armed followers to stop fighting and shift to safer places and wait for his other ‘important messages’ regarding the future line of action.
There has, nevertheless, been some reduction in the militants’ capacities. Reports on November 27 indicated that, after suffering ‘huge losses’, the militants in Swat vacated all the seized Police Stations and other Government buildings and decided to go underground, while the Government closed down all the FM radio channels in the District, including the one run by Fazlullah. The military claimed that they had captured two strategic mountain positions and key routes to Imam Dehri in the Swat Valley. Troops reportedly captured the key positions of Najia Top and Usmani Sar after shelling the Imam Dehri, Koza Banda and Bara Banda areas. On November 25, an unnamed commander of the Khan Khitab alias Baba group, which controlled the Matta sub-division in Swat, was reportedly killed.
With an area of approximately 1,772 square kilometres, the Swat District has a population of 1.5 million (according to the last census in 1998). It is a place of great natural beauty, with "high mountains, green meadows, and clear lakes" and was, till recently, a popular tourist destination. Located just about 160 kilometres from the national capital, Islamabad, five of the Districts' seven Sub-districts had fallen into the control of Islamist extremists.
Unsurprisingly, SF personnel, administrators loyal to Islamabad, pro-Government tribal leaders and journalists, have been the obvious targets of the rising extremist violence. The choice of targets has also expanded to include music and video shops, barber shops, internet centres, NGOs, girls’ schools, and cultural targets such as ancient images of the Buddha. According to the TNSM, all of these are ‘un-Islamic’.
With little evidence of state capacities to control or protect, the common people of Swat have been extraordinarily vulnerable. Indeed, thousands fled their villages in the Kabal sub-division and other areas of Swat after announcements were made by SFs asking them to leave the area, as the Army was set to launch a massive operation against what it called terrorists hiding there. Safdar Sial and Aqeel Yusafzai reported that about 60 per cent of the 1.5 million inhabitants have left the area. Unnamed officials confirmed, on November 19, that at least 500,000 people had fled the region. A majority of them had reportedly shifted to the Malakand Agency, Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Peshawar and Islamabad. A majority of villagers in areas like Sangota, Faza Gat, Hayatabad, Koza and Bara Bandai, Nangolai, Kanju, Shakar Dara, Sher Palam, Behrain, Mianadam, Oshu, Gabral, Shawar and Chakrial have also reportedly abandoned their homes. On their part, the militants are said to have made announcements asking people not to leave their homes as they had arranged for suicide bombers to attack the SFs, if the latter came out of their bases to attack the militants.
The supply of food and daily utilities has reportedly been disrupted to the Swat, Upper Dir, Lower Dir and Chitral Districts and the Malakand Agency because the main approach road, the Mardan-Malakand Road, had been blocked to all kinds of vehicular traffic since November 24. Cellular-phone services have been jammed while the landline telephone network has collapsed in the Shangla, Swat and Battagram Districts. Further, a large number of people who "wanted to move to safer areas from Swat, were reportedly stranded on the roadside, in fields and gas stations and other places on the Mingora-Malakand road. The government has been slow to set up camps for the displaced people at Barikot in Swat and far away in Risalpur in the Nowshera District."
Administrative control in Swat has for long shifted into the hands of the forces of radical Islam led by the TNSM. More importantly, the "tribal system of political administration is being dismantled, both by the presence of the Army and by terrorist violence orchestrated by groups and individuals linked to the Taliban/al Qaeda." Taliban-linked operatives have reportedly opened offices and set up check-posts at various places in the District. On October 9, Fazlullah had announced the formation of a ‘volunteer force’ to "control law and order and traffic problems" in the Matta Sub-division. He said that a Sharia court had already been set up in his native Imam Dehri village. The volunteer force called ‘Shaheen Commandos’, he disclosed, had started patrolling the area and marched through the Matta and Kabal towns.
A demoralised Police force is clearly no longer able to maintain law and order in the District. Demoralisation is now also rampant among the military, and this has been enormously augmented by the suicide attacks and demonstrative brutality of the Islamist militants. Two days after a suicide bomber targeted a vehicle carrying Frontier Constabulary personnel at Nawan Killi on October 25 and killed 18 soldiers and two civilians, the heads of two Frontier Constabulary personnel were paraded through the streets of Matta village near Saidu Sharif, the capital of Swat. Militants also publicly executed two SF personnel and seven civilians in the Swat District on October 26-27, taking the total such killings to 13. Maulana Sirajuddin, spokesman for the pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah, confirmed that they had conducted the beheadings. There have been a significant number of surrenders by Army and Paramilitary personnel. On November 2, TNSM militants paraded 48 SF personnel before the media in Swat. The SF personnel had surrendered during a week of fierce clashes. One unnamed soldier is reported to have stated, "The militants told us that we would not be harmed if we surrender. If not, then the entire population from the village below will climb up the hill and may kill you." The soldiers subsequently were given PKR 500 each before being released. One of the soldiers said that they do not want to fight with their Muslim brothers who are fighting for the implementation of Sharia.
Further, out of the 21 suicide attacks in the NWFP in 2007, four have occurred in Swat:
October 25: Eighteen soldiers and two civilians died and 35 others, including nine civilians, were injured in a bomb blast aimed at a vehicle carrying Frontier Constabulary personnel at Nawan Killi.
August 3: A suicide blast targeting the family of a Government official killed two persons and injured six members of the family in the Gora village.
July 15: At least 13 SF personnel and six civilians, including three children, were killed and more than 50 people sustained injuries at Matta, when two suicide bombers rammed two cars packed with explosives into an Army convoy early in the morning.
July 12: A suicide bomber killed three police personnel by detonating explosives wrapped around his waist in the Swat District. The suicide attack came moments after a military convoy passed through the area. Unconfirmed reports said that there were two suicide bombers.
The social sphere has for long been the focus of radical Islam in Pakistan. The Taliban was a state of mind even before it became a regime in Afghanistan. In a mirrored evolution, moral policing and social edicts are now an accepted reality in Swat: there is a total ban on music, Internet and CD shops. Maulana Fazlullah has altered names of places that he considers un-Islamic. Schools in the District, especially for girls, have been shut down. Radical clerics command men to grow beards and veil their women, cameras are banned, and people are being forced to stop watching television or listening to music. Since the onset of clashes in October, all schools have closed down and a polio vaccination campaign for children has been abandoned
Evoking disturbing memories of the appalling destruction of the centuries-old Buddha statues by the Taliban in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in March 2001, Fazlullah’s militant brigade in Swat twice attempted to demolish a 7th century Buddha statue in the Jihanabad village in September 2007. The militants believe such statues are ‘symbols of evil.’
According to the NWFP Home Secretary Badshah Gul Wazir, Maulana Fazlullah and his 4,500 armed volunteers had set up a ‘parallel government’ in Swat. Wazir also disclosed that foreign militants and members of outlawed groups were being sheltered in the troubled area. The TNSM, one of the five outfits proscribed by Musharraf on January 12, 2002, was formed in 1992 with the objective of a militant enforcement of Sharia. Ideologically, it is committed to transforming Pakistan into a Taliban-style state. In an August 1998-speech in Peshawar, Maulana Sufi Mohammed reportedly declared that those opposing the imposition of Sharia were wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of death).
While most of the violence and subversion in Swat is being orchestrated by the TNSM, sources indicate that at least some of the militants killed in November were from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) headed by Maulana Masood Azhar. In a speech he made at the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Raiwind near Lahore on November 12, Masood Azhar had declared: "Whatever Mullah Fazalullah is doing in Swat is just according to Islam. He is teaching the infidels a good lesson – the infidel Pak Army." There are also reports that JeM’s splinter group, the Jamaat-ul-Furqan and al Qaeda-linked militants are also supporting the TNSM. Militants of the Jamaat-ul-Furqan had set up check-posts on the main road in Shakkardarra and had taken positions on hills during the recent clashes with the Army and Paramilitary Forces, according to Safdar Sial and Aqeel Yusafzai.
Despite the recent setbacks, the TNSM militants have considerable support on the ground. Apart from the generic attraction that radical Islam now draws across Pakistan, the TNSM has been able to galvanise large sections of the Swat populace in the immediate past over the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) issue. Since many of the Lal Masjid students were from Swat, the military assault on the mosque in Islamabad generated sympathy for Fazlullah and his band of jihadis. While he had extended wholesome support to the Lal Masjid clerics, Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Maulana Abdul Aziz, a majority of the rallies and anti-Musharraf demonstrations to protest the assault on Lal Masjid were held in Swat. A day after the military assault on Lal Masjid on July 3, 2007, four civilians were killed and two Police personnel were wounded in a bomb blast that targeted a Police vehicle in the Swat District. One Policeman was killed and four others injured during a rocket attack on a Police Station in the Mata area of Swat District on July 4. The blast followed calls on a private Islamist FM radio station in the area for launching a jihad against the Government in retaliation for the confrontation in Lal Masjid in Islamabad. NWFP Police Chief, Sharif Virk, blamed Maulana Fazlullah for both these attacks. Fazlullah, in broadcasts on his FM channel on July 3 and 4, asked his supporters to take up arms against the Government to avenge the action taken against Lal Masjid and carry out suicide attacks.
One of Fazlullah’s core means for his propaganda campaigns is the FM radio. Maulana Fazlullah is also known as Maulana Radio for the ‘illegal’ FM radio stations that he operates to instigate an armed uprising, urging people to "prepare for jihad". In fact, there are at least 25 illegal FM channels operating in Swat District. These are being run by clerics affiliated to the TNSM, Tablighi Jamaat, Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman faction). Some of the clerics running these FM stations reportedly are: Maulana Ahmed Ali Shah in Bara Bandai, Maulana Mohammad Alam in Fatehpur, Maulana Ali Mohammad in Kota Barikot, Maulana Khair Mohammad in Shamozo, Maulana Mohammad Rehan in Parlai, Maulana Safiullah in Matta, Maulana Bakht Ali in Qambar, Mohammad Essa in Sharifabad, Maulana Mohammad Alam in Benori Madyan and Maulana Mohammad Fahim in Drushkhela. These radio stations, which can cover an area of up to four to five kilometres, cost a mere PKR 5,000 to set up.
It was on July 13, 2007, that Gen. Musharraf approved a plan for the immediate deployment of paramilitary forces in the Swat Valley to crush the militancy. He also directed armed forces personnel not to wear their uniforms in public in the NWFP for fear of a backlash from the Lal Masjid operation. He had then stated that the Federal security agencies would execute and monitor all military operations in the NWFP and the NWFP Government would only assist them. And a meeting presided over by President Musharraf on July 20 had approved ‘an all-encompassing strategy’ to combat terrorism, extremism and growing militancy in the NWFP. More than five months after the military moved into Swat, there is no indication of any order being restored.
Swat is crucial from the point of view of a larger front that al Qaeda is in the process of creating in Pakistan. Daily Times reported on November 27 that some Punjabi veterans of the Kashmir jihad now fighting on the side of al Qaeda, when interviewed recently, spoke of the fighting in Swat as a part of the grand strategy of "establishing small independent emirates" to be administered by them and their Islamist colleagues in Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur and in Afghanistan. And it is the Swat valley that many in the intelligence agencies of the West have identified as the likely location of al Qaeda's fugitive top leadership.
There are sections within the Pakistan establishment who are currently celebrating the ‘success’ of their helicopter-gunship campaigns and the limited ground engagement that has followed, which have, over the past days, been reportedly inflicting an average of 25-30 daily casualties on the Islamist extremists – though there is little independent verification of how many, among these, are in fact armed militants, and how many non-combatant and ‘collateral’ fatalities. But the ‘gains’ recorded in terms of the withdrawal of the extremists from the various Police Stations and Government establishments they had seized in the towns are only indices of the widening of the theatre of conflict into the larger and more complex terrain of the Hills, where the Army will tend to lose much of the advantage of its superior technologies. The fighting in Swat has, in fact, just begun.
On November 22, the Manipur Cabinet approved the extension of the ‘disturbed area’ status of the State for another year (from December 1, 2007 to November 30, 2008). The Cabinet meeting accepted that the law and order situation in the state had progressively worsened and asked the security forces to neutralise the gains made by the militant outfits by intensifying counter-insurgency operations.
With 361 deaths (till November 30) in the current year, Manipur remains the second most conflict ridden state in the northeast, behind Assam with 388 fatalities. With another month to go before the end of the year, fatalities in 2007 have already surpassed the 311 militancy-related fatalities that occurred in Manipur in 2006. While fatalities among the militants in 2007 have remained more or less comparable to the previous year, it has certainly worsened among the civilians and the security forces. According to the currently available data, civilian deaths have already increased by over 42 per cent and those of Security Forces (SFs) by 39 percent.Militancy related fatalities in Manipur: 2006-2007
*Data till November 30, 2007
Source: Year 2006: Ministry of Home Affairs & Year 2007: Institute for Conflict Management
Fatalities alone, however, do not reflect Manipur’s dire predicament. Activities of about 10,000 cadres of 15 militant groups of varying sizes and character, compound an endemic collapse of the administrative machinery, taking Manipur to the threshold of a failed ‘state’ within the Indian Union. Each of Manipur’s nine Districts (four in the Valley and five in the Hills) has been affected by the unending militant violence, severely impacting on the very limited local capacities for governance, justice administration, and the provision of minimal security to citizens. State Police sources indicate that, while almost all the 59 Police Stations have been reporting militant violence, as many as 32 of them have been slotted in the ‘high’ violence category.
The impunity with which militant outfits have carried on their activities in Manipur has been a matter of deep concern among policy makers over a number of years, and the year 2007 was no different. Interestingly, major incidents of civilian casualties (incidents in which three or more persons were killed) in the entire year numbered only two: on March 8, five migrant workers were shot dead by unidentified militants at Ningthoukhong Kha-Khunou Patmang in the Bishnupur District and on June 9, 11 Kuki tribals were killed by unidentified Valley-based in militants at Moreh in the Chandel District. The remaining 121 civilian fatalities were, thus, parts of sustained waves of ‘small’ attacks, each rooted in elements like defiance, occasional acts of bravado or of pure misfortune, failing to capture the fancy of the media and of policy makers.
Some of the militant acts that, nevertheless, caught the media’s attention included high profile attacks involving VIP targets. State Chief Minister (CM) Okram Ibobi Singh himself survived an attack on November 23, 2007, when security forces recovered an explosive device from Langthabal Hao-Lamkhai junction along National Highway 39 in the Imphal West District, minutes before the CM’s convoy was due to pass through the route. Three days later, on November 26, Manipur State Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker Th. Shyamkumar Singh’s convoy was ambushed by unidentified militants under Lamlai Police Station in the Imphal East District. Two SF personnel and a civilian driver were injured in the attack. There were, furthermore, several incidents of firing and grenade explosions targeting the residences of Ministers and Members of the State Legislative Assembly.
Media in the State has also been subjected to continuous challenges from the militants. Both the English language and the vernacular media are expected to carry the Press Releases by the militants and a failure to do so is often accompanied by threats and/or actual reprisal attacks. The situations, however, enter into a complex area when rival outfits forbid the publication of each other’s releases, pushing Media establishment into an irreducible quandary. On August 1 and again on October 11, for example, the two factions of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) issued respective bans on the media against publication of the other group’s materials, pushing the print and visual media in the State into a complete shutdown for several days. The State Government created further difficulties for the hapless media by instructing them not to publish any militant literature.
Apart from the overall insecurity resulting from the threat to and loss of life, Manipur now has one of the most comprehensive networks of terrorist extortion in the country, affecting almost every earning citizen in the State, even as the state and its agencies remain virtually paralysed – with the exception of the Army and Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs) engaged in a Sisyphean counter-insurgency effort that has done nothing to permanently diminish the intensity or expanse of extremist depredations. In the month of September 2007, drug stores in Imphal shut shop after militant groups sent in hefty extortion notes. The State Government’s assurance notwithstanding, the shops remained closed almost for a month, and were eventually forced open by the State Police. Similarly, five insurance companies in the State shut down business for about a fortnight in May-June 2007 after extortion demands by unidentified outfits.
The militant power demonstrated in the numerous ‘decrees’ issued during the previous years was further consolidated through new diktats in 2007. On October 6, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced a ban on the use of tobacco products and mitha manna (betel leaf). Several attacks were carried out on traders and shopkeepers selling these products in Thoubal, Bishnupur, Imphal East and Imphal West Districts. At least one such attack took place in the capital, Imphal, itself. On November 7, the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) announced a ban on use of Bengali-script textbooks in the junior primary stage (classes I to IV) in the Valley Districts from next year.
The State’s woes are further aggravated by the activities of Naga insurgents operating in neighbouring Nagaland as well as in the Hill Districts of Manipur. The impact of their activities has been most visible in the dominance that they maintain on the two National Highways, NH-39 and NH-53, cutting off Manipur’s links with Assam and mainland India at a whim. NH-39 connects Dimapur in Nagaland with Imphal and NH-53 links Silchar in Assam to Manipur’s capital. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) has set up 26 permanent ‘tax’ collection points along this stretch of the NH-39. The mode of ‘tax’ collection at these points is both systematic and elaborate. According to one estimate, every commercial vehicle passing through this route pays out at least INR 4,000 per trip as ‘taxes’ to the NSCN-IM. Truckers who fail to pay the ‘taxes’ and/or produce pre-paid slips are often beaten up and are forced to pay exorbitant ‘fines’. On many occasions, trucks have been looted or burnt for non-compliance. With no cooperation from either the State of Nagaland or the Government in New Delhi, the impact of such sustained extortion has been severely felt on the prices of essential commodities in Manipur, on a permanent basis.
Since 2005, eight Kuki militant outfits have been roped into a ceasefire agreement with the Army. However, such ceasefires, as evident in any other State of the region, have made little difference to the levels of violence. Inter- and intra-outfit clashes among the groups continued through 2007 in Thoubal, Churachandpur, Chandel and Bishnupur Districts. On May 29, the Zougam faction of the Kuki National Front (KNF) killed five of its cadres who deserted the outfit's camp at T Bijang in the Churachandpur District. On June 9, suspected Valley-based militants killed 11 persons belonging to the Kuki tribe in separate incidents at Moreh in the Chandel District. On June 24, six Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) militants, including a top leader identified as Thunder Kuki, his wife and his deputy, Kingson, were killed by a group led by the outfit’s ‘publicity secretary’ Mosaun Kuki, between Bongbal and Rongyang under Yairipok Police Station in the Thoubal District. The Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) chief, K. Hangshing, was killed by a rival outfit in his brother’s house in the Srinivaspuri locality of the national capital, New Delhi, on November 12.
Since its induction into Manipur in the late 1970s, the Army has led countless synchronised operations against the militants and their areas of domination, loosely described as ‘liberated zones’. However, the impact of these operations on the capabilities of the militant groups has, at best, been transient. With little help coming from the State Police Force, the militants have regained their ‘lost’ areas once the Army has withdrawn to its base areas. The most recent instance of this phenomenon was the campaign to gain control over the New Somtal area in the Chandel District. Spread over 1,000 square kilometres and located in the south-eastern corner of Chandel District along the Indo-Myanmar border, New Somtal has been a bastion of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) for the past several years. The inaccessibility of the area and its proximity to the Myanmar border have been cited as the difficulties which have prevented the Army from securing a conclusive victory in New Somtal. At least two major operations in 2006 (in January and December) had failed to clear the area of the UNLF presence. On November 18, 2007 the Army launched a two-pronged operation in New Somtal, targeting the ‘293rd battalion’ of the UNLF. Troops moved in simultaneously from the Khengjoi and Sehlon ridges and, by November 30, claimed to have ‘cleared’ seven villages of the militant presence. The Army claimed to have pushed the militants into the Myanmar side, but assertions to the contrary were made by the UNLF. Interestingly, no fatalities occurred in the continuing operation, in which the UNLF reportedly resorted to heavy 81 mm mortar shelling. In fact, while retreating, the UNLF had strewn the area with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) forcing the Army to use bulldozers to detect and detonate these.
The Army’s operations in the State appear to be clearly handicapped by the lack of adequate support from the State Police. In 2004, Manipur created the Unified Command Structure (UCS) to coordinate the activities between the Army, the CPMFs and the State Police, under the command of the Chief Minister. The UCS experiment has, however, been marked by a clear lack of unity of effort. While the Army is in favour of bringing back the Imphal municipal areas under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the State Government, which de-notified AFSPA from those areas in August 2004 under popular demand, has decided to maintain the status quo.
Police modernisation is long overdue in Manipur. In spite of a healthy Police-population ratio of 646 per 100,000 (the national ratio is 142) and a Police density (policemen per 100 square kilometre area) of 73 (the national average is 49), the State Police plays only a marginal role in the Army and CPMF-led counter-insurgency operations. Hostile terrain and demands of the militancy situation require additional recruitment – a necessity that was outlined as early as 1999, but was kept under wraps by the State Government. Between 2002 and 2005, Manipur recruited just 823 constables and 10 sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors. The bulk of the constable’s appointments (821 out of 823) was done in 2005. As per an estimate in 2005, 13 of the Police Stations in the State did not have a single vehicle and 11 Police Stations were not connected either by telephone or by wireless. Utilisation of the available resources has been far from satisfactory. For example, out of the INR 40.8 million made available by the Central Government for modernisation in 2004-05, the Manipur Police department could spend only INR 29.5 million.
Manipur is currently implementing an INR 248 million action plan for reduction of violence in the State. An entirely Central Government funded initiative, crucial components of the plan include recruitment of 1,640 Police personnel, including 404 in the Intelligence Branch of the State Police and 1,197 in the District Police units.
None of the major active insurgent groups has expressed a desire to engage in a dialogue process with the Government, in spite of the periodic appeals on part of the State Government. On the contrary, the UNLF, which celebrated its ‘43rd Raising Day’ on November 24, reiterated its demand for a plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations. Rejecting the peace talks as a "trap to suppress the liberation struggle", the UNLF ‘central committee’ underlined its commitment to the cause of independence of Manipur through a ‘vigorous armed struggle’.
Manipur’s tragic and sustained downward spiral continues, reinforced by the collapse of the State Government, and the Centre’s manifest lethargy in evolving an effective strategy of recovery. Interestingly, none of the militant groups in the State appears to be fighting to win in terms of any of their declared political objectives. The survival of the groups at current or marginally augmented strengths, the defence of their ‘spheres of influence’ and ‘dominance’ against sporadic Security Force onslaughts and internecine strife, and the ‘management’ of the networks of extortion, have become ends in themselves. For the common citizen of Manipur, the days of normalcy appear aeons away.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 26-December 2, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
10 police personnel and two civilians killed in Maoist-triggered landmine explosion in Chhattisgarh: 10 personnel of the Mizoram Reserve Police and two civilians were killed in a landmine explosion triggered by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres near Konta in the Dantewada District on November 29, 2007. The Police personnel were returning to Konta after some purchases from the weekly local market at Banda, when the private jeep they were travelling in was blown up by the landmine explosion. Police said the explosion was so powerful that the dead and mutilated bodies were traced in the vicinity of 300 to 400 meters from the blast site. Hindustan Times, November 30, 2007.
Emergency to end on December 16, says President Pervez Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf, on November 29, 2007, promised to lift the state of Emergency and withdraw the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) on December 16, 2007. In a brief address to the nation on the state television and radio, he urged opposition parties to refrain from boycotting the elections. "I am determined to lift emergency on December 16 and withdraw the PCO and hold fair and free elections on January 8," the President said hours after he was sworn in for another five-year term. He described his November 3 action as "extraordinary measures" needed to meet extraordinary circumstances. Musharraf termed national reconciliation as the most important ingredient for the continuation of development and the economic turnaround achieved in his 8-year rule. He said by allowing former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return home he had provided a ‘level-playing’ field to them. He also said he had fulfilled the promise of putting the country on complete democratic rails by hanging up his Army uniform and taking oath as a civilian President. Dawn, November 30, 2007.
President Pervez Musharraf retires as Chief of Army Staff: President Pervez Musharraf on November 28, 2007, handed over the command of the Army to the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. He passed the baton of command to Gen. Kayani at a ceremony held in the Army Hockey Stadium, close to the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. "Although I would not be in uniform tomorrow, my heart will continue to bear it, as it has been my family since I joined it at the age of 18. It is a sad moment for me to bid farewell to the Army after serving it for 46 years. This is life and every good thing has to come to an end," Musharraf told the Army top brass and Government leaders at the first-ever public ceremony organised for the change of command. Musharraf was sworn in as a civilian President the next day by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar. Dawn, November 29, 2007.
Most of Swat under military control, claims Army: Military authorities on November 28, 2007, said they had evicted militants from most of the troubled areas in the Swat Valley while all the displaced Government officials returned to their jobs in the adjoining Shangla District after the retreat of Maulana Fazlullah-led militants from their positions in the District headquarters of Alpuri. Major Amjad Iqbal, the military spokesman in Mingora, disclosed that the majority of militants were either killed or had escaped to the mountains after the security forces (SFs) targeted them in their hideouts. He said 230 militants had so far been killed in clashes with the SFs in the Swat and Shangla Districts. "Security forces entered the town of Imam Dheri, the main base of Maulana Fazlullah… He has gone underground," Major Iqbal told AFP. Earlier, the Chief Military Spokesman, Major General Waheed Arshad, said in Rawalpindi that 200 to 215 militants were killed in Swat and Shangla. The News, November 29, 2007.
17 civilians killed in bomb blast in Colombo: At least 17 civilians were killed and 37 others injured as a suspected parcel bomb exploded near a popular fashion store at Nugegoda Junction near Colombo at around 5.55 pm on November 28, 2007. Police believe that the bomb had been placed in one of the parcel counters at the No Limit clothing store by a suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militant who had left the incident site. "The explosion was due to a suspicious parcel bomb kept in the parcel counter of the No Limit fashion shop," military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. Daily News, November 29, 2007.
Peace with Government impossible, declares LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran declared, in his annual ‘Hero’s Day’ speech on November 27, 2007, that peace with the ‘genocidal’ Government was impossible. According to him, "The Sinhala nation is... trying to destroy the Tamil nation. It is unleashing unthinkable violence against another people. It only desires to find a solution to the Tamil question through military might and oppression." He said, "The current Government is never going to realize that the Tamil national question cannot be resolved by military oppression. All the Sinhala political parties are essentially chauvinistic and anti-Tamil. To expect a political solution from any of these Southern parties is political naivety." He declared, further, "Those who plan to destroy the Tamil nation will in the end be forced to face their own destruction." Making an appeal to the international community to change its approach to the Sri Lankan Government, he claimed that the world today is making the same mistake India made vis-à-vis Colombo several years ago. The Hindu, November 28, 2007.
Minister Douglas Devananda escapes unhurt in suicide attack in Colombo:The Eelam People’s Democratic Party leader and Minister for Social Welfare, Douglas Devananda, escaped unhurt when a polio affected woman suicide cadre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) blew herself up at his office at Isipathana road in the Narahenpita area of Colombo on November 28, 2007. While the Minister was in his office waiting to see members of the public, the woman was allowed to get into the office complex unchecked considering her disability, but the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Minister conducted checking on the physically challenged woman along with others who had come to see the Minister. However, the disguised LTTE woman cadre blew herself up when the physical checking was being done by the PRO. The blast critically injured the PRO, one Ministerial aide and one officer of the Ministerial Security Division, who succumbed to his injuries later. Daily News, November 23, 2007.