SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elections, held on April 10, 2008, are yet to produce a final result, with counting for the Proportional Representation seats still to be completed, but there is little doubt, in a world of winners and losers, that the Maoists have emerged as unambiguous victors. Parties that have traditionally been wedded to democratic and constitutional politics in Nepal – and their vacillating international backers, including India – are unquestionable losers, as are those who had thrown in their lot with the monarchy.
Of the 240 seats determined by the First Past the Post (FPTP) system the Maoists had secured 120, just shy of a simple majority, with one result yet to be declared at the time of this Assessment. The Nepali Congress (NC), with 37 seats, the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), with 33, and the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum of Nepal (MPRFN), with a surprise 29, lagged far behind. The once-powerful royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) was unable to secure even a single seat.
The Maoist ‘lead’, however, will shrink dramatically with the results of the Proportional Representation (PR) vote are finally tallied – something of an irony, since it was the Maoists who were most strongly insistent on the PR system, believing that they would fare better here, rather than under a purely FPTP vote. 335 seats in the 601 seat Constituent Assembly, which is to re-write Nepal’s Constitution over the coming 30 months, are defined by the PR vote, while the remaining 26 representatives are to be nominated by the Cabinet. With just over 9.7 million votes counted, out of the estimated 10.6 million votes cast, the Maoists account for just over 30.4 per cent of the present PR tally. [The NC follows with 21.45 per cent; the CPN-UML with 20.75 per cent; but the MPRFN, which did rather well with about 12 per cent of seats in the FPTP tally, with just 5.68 per cent.] By the time the vote settles, and the Cabinet nominees are defined, the CPN-M can be expected to end up with a final tally of around 230 seats – if the nominated seats are allocated on a proportional basis, or a few more, if the Maoists corner a lion’s share. They will, however, fall far short of the majority that they would need to railroad the Constitutional process according to their will.
The relative absence of overt violence during the elections, and the divided outcome, has given rise to many sanguine expectations on Nepal’s future. Some pundits in India have articulated the hope that India’s own rampaging Maoists will draw lessons from the ‘Nepal experience’ and join the democratic process (the Indian Maoists are certainly drawing lessons from their Nepalese comrades – but not this one). An overwhelming make-believe among commentators and international observers appears to be that the worst is now over, and Nepal is now firmly fixed on a trajectory of gradual – even if, possibly, slow – recovery and reconstruction, with the nightmare of the ‘people’s war’ left irrevocably behind.
What has been engineered in Nepal through the electoral process, however, is unambiguously a partial ‘seizure of power’. This seizure is no less a reality because it has not been effectively resisted by democratic forces. Nor, indeed, is the Maoist ideology any the less totalitarian because power is secured through a manipulation of democratic processes and institutions. The state may not have manifestly been captured through the ‘barrel of the gun’, but it has certainly been secured under the shadow of the gun. This is borne out by the wave of violence and intimidation that had preceded the elections, creating what the European Union’s election observers described as "a general atmosphere of fear and intimidation" under which the polls were eventually conducted. Domestic observers, including the Nepal Election Observation Committee (NEOC) and the Nepal Election Monitoring Alliance (NEMA), who had the deepest penetration, with thousands of observers positioned across the country, noted that the Maoists had systematically resorted to "threats, intimidation and violence to terrorise voters and political rivals."
More significantly, the Maoist leadership had, in the run-up to the elections, clearly and repeatedly stated that the election outcome would be rejected if the outcome did not favour their party, with Baburam Bhattarai, the CPN-M’s chief ideologue threatening a ‘new revolution’, and to ‘capture the state’ in ‘not… more than ten minutes". Ominously, Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, the Chairman of the CPN-M, had spoken of an undefined "new method" to "capture the Constituent Assembly through elections" in February 2008. The effect of Maoist tactics was, no doubt, compounded by widespread disillusionment with the mainstream parties – but the eventual outcome certainly reflects a quantum secured through strong-arm measures across the country.
The divided electoral outcome will of course, constrain the Maoists from their graver excesses, even as their relative strength in the Assembly will tempt them to encourage or coerce ‘cooperation’ with their agenda. Many have hoped that the Maoist commitment to pluralism and parliamentary democracy is now real, and eventually will be total; others believe that the inherent dynamic of this system will soon make the CPN-M ‘just another party’, vulnerable to the endemic corruption and ineptitude that has afflicted Nepal’s other political formations.
However, the Maoists will find it impractical, if not impossible, to entirely renege on their ideological agenda – even if we are to believe that their commitment will be sufficiently diluted by the lures of the many vices of the parliamentary system. It can, of course, be hoped that the Maoist-led regime that will eventually be installed at Kathmandu, will have the sagacity to reject the excesses of Stalinist Russia, of the Communist Party of China under Mao and the ‘Gang of Four’, or of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It is, however, difficult to imagine how it can carry its declared ideological agenda of national transformation forward without drastic attacks against those who currently control power, influence and wealth within the country’s long-stratified and stagnant order.
Crucially, the radical imperative is not only ideological, it is structural. Nepal ranks among the poorest countries of the world, with a per capita income of just USD 260 per annum, and 42 per cent of the population below the poverty line. Poor connectivity afflicts much of the country, with isolated and dispersed populations in the hill areas largely unconnected by roads. A large proportion of the cultivable land and of the rural population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. GDP growth has tended to lag behind population growth – with a consequent decline in per capita incomes, and a rising population in poverty. Worse, Nepal has one of the most rapid rates of population growth in the region, adding 11.25 million to its year 2000 population of 24.43 million by 2020, to realize a 46 per cent augmentation at 35.68 million (the current population is already estimated to have exceeded 29.5 million). This will push up population densities from 166 in 2000 to 242 in 2020, creating unbearable burdens on the country’s resources, which are already stretched to a limit.
The pressures on any regime at Kathmandu will, consequently, be acute, and on the Maoists, exceptionally so. While the party’s leadership now speaks of "10-15 years" to "reorganize the country", those who are denied the benefits of power within the party, the cadre who have been promised a Republican Utopia after the dismantling of the monarchy, and the larger populations who fail to secure at least some economic relief from a party that claims to have waged a ‘people’s war’ – and killed thousands – in their name, will have limited patience. The problems created by multiple demands of autonomy, as well as the limited (though enormously improved) representation to some ethnic groups in the CA (and in the new Government), will also create a significant conflict potential. With the strident Terai groupings securing a substantial representation in the CA (the two principal groupings have a combined total of 38 seats in the FPTP count, and 8.4 per cent in the PR vote, at the time of writing), there will be an inclination to vigorously push their own extreme autonomy agenda forward – something which will certainly be a thorn in the Maoist flesh.
The integration of the Maoist ‘people’s army’ with the Nepal Army, a necessary tactical objective and cherished goal for the Maoists, and a measure that has already been agreed to on principal by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA), is another source of potential friction. The Army leadership has expressed opposition to a politicised Force; the Maoists will never be secure without an ideologically committed Army. The imperatives of strategy and of the current distribution of power fairly clearly define the natural inclinations that will prevail.
The cumulative thrust of these tactical and structural factors is that the temptation to grand schemes of ‘social engineering’ will be inevitable and overwhelming. However, pushing such an agenda forward will be difficult, if at all possible, for the Maoists, within the framework of the present distribution of seats within the CA and whatever the contours are of the new coalition Government. A united opposition from the other parties could exercise an overriding veto on Maoist schemes, and, given the history of the fractious democratic polity in the country, spoilers are certainly expected to play a disruptive, if not defining, role.
In any event, fulfilling their promises to their cadres and to the people of Nepal at large is not an immediate or realistic option either under the emergent framework of governance, or, indeed, the demographic and resource profile of the country. Ironically, the real choice that confronts the Maoists today is to be spectacular failures as democrats, or to be spectacular failures as Stalinists or radical Maoists. With their engagement with democracy destined to yield rapid failures in the implementation of long-held promises, the temptation to totalitarianism – barely held in abeyance – will become overwhelming.
The world will do well not, too easily or too quickly, to forget that the party now ascendant in Kathmandu is still designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US Department of State, and that it has not, in a single statement, diluted its ideological commitment to its radical Maoist ideology, or renounced the option of a future resort to political violence.
the LTTE’s Global Network
A global onslaught against the international network of front organisations of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) appears to be coinciding with the domestic reverses the rebels are suffering within Sri Lanka. Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, France and the United States (US), which account for the major chunk of the roughly 750,000 strong Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora, and from where the outfit accrues its greatest financial and propaganda support, have taken stern action against LTTE proxies, severely affecting the Tigers capacities in their ‘final war of liberation’.
The LTTE, which opened its first overseas office in London in 1984, has its front organizations now operating from countries that also include India, Botswana, Burma, Cambodia, Denmark, Germany, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Qatar, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand, to name a few. The Washington Times, on April 7, 2008 reported that the LTTE’s political wing had established its branches in at least 12 countries, including the US. Veerakathy Manivannam aka Castro is the Head of the LTTE’s ‘International Secretariat’, the body which ensures the smooth functioning of the group’s global network.
The LTTE’s global activities can broadly be summarized into three principal categories: fundraising; arms procurement and shipping, and publicity and propaganda. Though each of these tasks invariably overlaps, there is a significant autonomy of operation in each.
The LTTE has created front organizations in about 50 countries across the globe, and most significant among these organizations include the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations; the Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations; the French Federation of Tamil Associations; the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils; the Illankai Tamil Sangam in the US; the Tamil Co-ordinating Committee in Norway and the International Federation of Tamils in the UK. These fronts also form sympathetic pressure groups and media units to harness political and economic support for the outfit from the politicians and human rights activists in the respective countries. They bring out or operate numerous magazines, radio and TV stations; carry out public demonstrations, display LTTE flags and emblems as well as photographs of its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and other leaders, sell and distribute literature glorifying the LTTE struggle and suicide attacks, and engage in publicity and propaganda among Tamil Diaspora to harness support and contributions.
Thus, as the LTTE came under tremendous pressure at home, pro-LTTE Tamil groups in Britain launched a campaign to highlight the ‘suffering’ of Tamils in Sri Lanka, with a protest outside Downing Street on February 24, 2008. Earlier, on January 16, Britain’s leading Tamil organisation, the British Tamils Forum, called for a boycott of Sri Lankan Airlines in a move to target the Sri Lankan economy, as part of their campaign for a separate Tamil homeland. On January 1, a calendar apparently depicting the logo of the LTTE and the map of a separate state of ‘Tamil Eelam’ was sold outside Hindu temples in London. According to an August 22, 2007, report, Tamil broadcasters in Australia glorify the LTTE and its chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and also engage in fundraising.
The LTTE has secured the support of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in these countries through its persistent publicity and propaganda campaigns. Prominent NGOs who have extended support include the Canadian Relief Organization for Peace in Sri Lanka, International Educational Development Inc., the World Council of Churches, the Australian Human Rights Foundation, the International Human Rights Group, the International Federation of Journalists (Pax Romana), the International Peace Bureau, the International Human Rights Law Group and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.
These activities are, of course, subordinate to the principal objective of the ‘International Secretariat’: to generate maximum financial resources to support the LTTE’s ‘final war’ in Sri Lanka. The LTTE is estimated to harvest between an estimated USD 10 million to USD 30 million a month through organizations such as the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils, Human Rights for Tamils, Melrose Publishers, the Tamil Center for Human Rights, the Tamil Coordinating Committee (TCC), the Tamil Eelam Economic Development Organization, the Tamil Relief Organisation (TRO), the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO), the United Tamil Organization, the White Pigeon, the World Tamil Movement (WTO), and the World Tamil Association (WTA), to name a few of the fronts engaged in these tasks.
These organization collects funds from individuals and business; by managing Hindu Temples principally serving Tamil Diaspora communities; engaging in businesses including the internet, community-based Tamil radio stations and subscription satellite TV, drug pedalling, particularly heroin from Southeast and Southwest Asia, shipping lines, travel agencies, human smuggling; as well as fixed income generation methods, such as the ‘Registration’ of the Tamil Diaspora. According to a May 6, 2007, report, the Armulmihu Hindu temple in Tooting in South London, which reportedly raises nearly £500,000 each year, may have possible links to the LTTE in Sri Lanka.
Through these global financial operations, the LTTE runs its arms network, headed by Tharmalingam Shanmugham aka Kumaran Pathmanathan aka KP, which acquire weaponry and munitions from countries like Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Burma, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Greece, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. KP has his main bases in Bangkok, Rangoon, Singapore and, more recently, in Johannesburg, and is alleged to have held various bank accounts in Australia, Frankfurt and London. According to the August 29, 2007, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report the Government of Eritrea is providing direct military assistance to the LTTE. There is cumulative corroborative evidence confirming the fact that the arms network has spread across the globe.
Reports also indicate that the Tigers receive military training in some of these countries as well. One surprising source of such training was uncovered in August 2007, when the Sri Lankan Government launched an investigation into claims that LTTE cadres received ‘police’ training in the UK after the 2002 cease-fire agreement (CFA). The probe was ordered after revelations by a 29 year old LTTE cadre, Kalimuttu Vinodkumar, who was arrested at a Police roadblock in Trincomalee in Sri Lanka, told interrogators that he was among 12 LTTE cadres sent on a three-month training programme to Northern Ireland, shortly after the CFA was signed. The course had been conducted by foreign instructors with the help of Tamil translators.
Over the years, the LTTE’s international support network has ensured that the Tigers became the only terrorist organization with its own military – an army, navy and air force – and clear control over a large swathe of land.
Things, however, started to change after the declaration of the ‘war on terror’ in the wake of the September 2001 incidents in the US, with international attitudes hardening against the LTTE. Despite this, the 25-nation European Union only banned the LTTE in May 2006. Earlier, Canada proscribed the outfit on April 10, 2006. India was the first country to ban the LTTE in 1992. The LTTE is also on a list of proscribed terrorist organisations in the US, and is currently banned in as many as 31 countries. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (United States) went to the extent describing the organization as one of the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world, as they had ‘inspired’ networks worldwide, including the al-Qaeda in Iraq. Corroborating linkages with the al Qaeda, a March 25, 2007, report indicated that the LTTE had supplied forged passports to Ramzi Yousef, who bombed the World Trade Center. Earlier, on March 10, 2007, Falk Rovik, chief spokesperson of Norwegians Against Terrorism, stated in Toronto that the LTTE had stolen hundreds of Norwegian passports and sold them to al Qaeda to earn money. According to a July 7, 2007, report, the UK declared the LTTE the ‘second most dangerous terrorist group’ in the world, after al Qaeda.
Nevertheless, the LTTE’s international networks have suffered major reverses in the recent past, with many instances in which leaders/cadres of the LTTE or their front organizations have arrested, sentenced to prison, or otherwise restrained, for a variety of subversive activity across the world. Some of the major incidents, in this context, include:
April 11, 2008: Counterterrorism police in Quebec and Ontario in Canada reportedly shut down the World Tamil Movement (WTM) office in Montreal, alleging that the organization has been raising money to finance terrorist activities in Sri Lanka.
January 10, 2008: A US District Court in Maryland sentenced, Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, a Sri Lankan resident in the US, to 57 months in prison and three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to provide arms, ammunition and other military materiel to the LTTE.
October 21, 2007: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP’s) Senior Liaison Officer for the Caribbean disclosed that more than 100 people, including key members of the LTTE, were arrested in the Caribbean with fraudulent travel documents, including Western passports forged with the aim of entering the US and Canada.
September 25, 2007: French Police arrested Ranjan, who was appointed by the Wanni LTTE to take charge of LTTE activities in France after the arrest of Parithi aka Nadarajah Mathienthiram, who was earlier in charge of operations in this country.
August 14, 2007: Three top LTTE suspects, Sujit Gunapala, Sasiljaran Teverajah and Satiepawan Arseawatap were deported to Sri Lanka. Gunapala, Teverajah and Arseawatap were arrested from the Ranong province in Thailand on May 12, 2003, with 10 Glock pistols and three HK Mark 23 pistols, and had remained under detention in Thailand for attempting to smuggle weapons to Sri Lanka.
June 21, 2007: Arunachalam Chrishanthakumar alias Shanthan, president of the British Tamil Association, the high-ranking agent of the LTTE, and head of finance, Goldan Lambert, were arrested by the British Police under the 2000 Terrorism Act. Subsequently, on July 5, 2007, a British Court froze all bank accounts belonging to Shanthan and wife, whose business ventures, as on July 2, 2007, amounted to four billion pounds sterling.
May 17, 2007: The Maldives Coast Guard opened fire on and sank a small vessel carrying suspected LTTE cadres after a 12-hour standoff at sea in the southern territorial waters of Maldives. The boat was carrying guns and mortar ammunition.
May 1, 2007: Australian Police arrested two suspected LTTE cadres, Aruran Vinayagamoorthy (who had access to USD 5,26,000 in two bank accounts between August 2001 and December 2005) and Sivarajah Yathavan, after raids in Sydney and Melbourne.
April 28, 2007: Six Sri Lankans, including the prime accused Satrubarajah Shanamugarajah alias Ruby, connected to the LTTE, were convicted for organized crime in Norway. More than Norwegian Kroner 5.3 million had reportedly been stolen in Norway's largest credit card scam, with links to LTTE cells in Canada, England, Germany and Sweden.
April 25, 2007: The ‘director’ of the LTTE in New York, Karunakaran Kandasamy, was arrested by the FBI in Queens, on charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. A FBI raid on Kandasamy’s office in Queens revealed evidence that he had raised millions of dollars for the Tamil Tigers through a front organization called the World Tamil Coordinating Committee.
April 1, 2007: The leader of the LTTE’s France branch since 2003, Nadarajah Mathinthiran alias ‘Parathi’ and Thuraisamy Jeyamorthy alias ‘Jeya’, who are in charge of fundraising in France, were among 17 LTTE suspects arrested. During 2006, the LTTE reportedly collected more than Euro six million, forcing each Tamil family to pay Euro 2000 per year and each Tamil shopkeeper Euro 6000 per year.
March 8, 2007: Haji Subandi, an international arms dealer from Indonesia, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Guam in USA to conspiring to export guns, surface-to-air missiles and other military hardware to the LTTE.
August 30, 2006: Indonesian police arrested 13 LTTE suspects during a raid in the southern Java coast. The suspects were reportedly moving to Australia.
August 22, 2006: 13 suspects with close links to the LTTE, including ‘Waterloo’ Suresh aka Suresh Skandarajah, were arrested from Buffalo, New York, San Jose, California, Seattle, Washington and Connecticut, following a RCMP and FBI probe into allegations that LTTE sympathizers in North America tried to buy missiles and move terror funds.
April 16, 2006: Canadian Police raided the office of the WTM in Montreal, the first raid after the Canadian Government proscribed the LTTE as a terrorist group, and seized computers, files, LTTE flags and other political documents.
The latest crackdown appears to be part of an international operation aimed at neutralizing the LTTE’s operations worldwide. However, proscribing the LTTE has tended to have only limited success, since the organisation simply sets up new fronts that continue activities earlier carried out directly by LTTE offices, or by other fronts that come afoul of the law. Thus, after the TRO was banned in the UK, fund collection for the LTTE was undertaken by a charity named White Pigeon. Similarly, when the Washington-based Intelsat Ltd. banned the National Television of Tamil Eelam (NTT) the official television of the LTTE, on April 21-22, 2007, the LTTE started its Paris-based Tamil Television Network (TTN), a pay television channel owned by Globecast, which was later shut down on May 3, 2007.
Even the limited successes against the LTTE’s international operations in the recent past have had tremendous impact on LTTE capacities on the ground. Nevertheless, the LTTE’s global network is far from defunct, and the intelligence communities in the many countries in which the Tamil rebels operate fronts will have to keep pace with the constant adaptation and inventiveness that remains a hallmark of the LTTE’s operations, both domestically and abroad. The Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US, Bernard Goonetilleke, in a recent interview, rightly noted that "a problem that is taking place 10,000 miles away from the coast of the US, is not a problem of Sri Lanka alone… Terrorist groups feed on each other." In the ever-shrinking global village, terrorist organisations with widely divergent ideologies and objectives are coming together to secure tactical and material advantages. If counter-terrorism is to succeed, the world community will have to establish a regime of even greater and more efficient collaboration and cooperation to neutralize the rising and diverse terrorist threat.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 14-20, 2008
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
ULFA leaders doing business in Bangladesh: The Government of India has confirmed that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leaders are carrying out business activities in Bangladesh. The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Radhika V. Selvi, informed the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) on April 16, 2008, that inputs suggest that the ULFA has been using the territory of Bangladesh to procure and smuggle arms and explosives into India. The Minister was replying to a question on whether ULFA commanders have a vast network running seven hotels and six nursing homes, besides procuring weapons through the port city of Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.
The Minister confirmed that India had handed over a revised list of 117 hideouts at the Director General [of the Indian Border Security Force and Bangladesh Rifles] level talks on April 9-11, 2008. According to information available with various agencies, a list of 141 hideouts of members of Indian insurgent groups living in Bangladeshi territory was given to the Bangladeshi side in October 2007, Selvi added. Assam Tribune, April 17, 2008.
CPI-Maoist involved in cultivation and trade of cannabis, says Minister of State for Home Affairs: The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sri Prakash Jaiswal, informed the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) on April 16, 2008, that cannabis cultivation and its trade have become a source of finance for the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. Jaiswal said that Maoists also get protection money from narcotics traders who engage in trafficking and also safe passage money from narcotics smugglers. "In its strongholds, the CPI-Maoist collects 'levy' from licensee cannabis cultivators who cultivate excess land over and above the permitted limits," he added. The Minister also mentioned that there is no specific evidence available to indicate any nexus between the country's Left Wing extremists, the Maoists of Nepal and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Economic Times, April 17, 2008.
Peace talks held between Union Government and NSCN-IM: The Union Government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) held talks in New Delhi on April 16, 2008. The outfit’s General Secretary, Thuingaleng Muivah, held discussions with the head of the Group of Ministers, Oscar Fernandes, and Chief Interlocutor, K. Padmanabhaiah, on issues of a separate constitution for Nagalim (Greater Nagaland) and the formation of a new faction, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Unification (NSCN-U) in November 2007. An official source said the Government might take strong action against the new outfit. The NSCN-U, which is not in a cease-fire with the Centre, is accused of moving around with arms in civilian areas and indulging in anti-social activity. More than 85 abductions for extortion allegedly took place in 2007. The NSCN-U is made up of cadres, many of whom are from the Sema tribe and who defected from the NSCN-IM. Telegraph, April 17, 2008.
Prachanda to head new Government in Nepal: CPN-Maoist chief Prachanda on April 20, 2008, declared that he will lead the next Government in Nepal. "I will soon become the head of the first republican government," Prachanda said during a victory rally in Kirtipur Municipality of Kathmandu. The CPN-Maoist has emerged as the single largest party by securing 119 seats out of a total of 240 for which polls were held under the first-past-the-post voting system. Ahead of the April 10 polls, Prachanda was projected by the CPN-Moist as a future President. But as the interim constitution does not have the provision for electing a President, he is expected to head the Government as Prime Minister, party sources said. He also assured the voters that Nepal would be declared a republic through the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, which will be held within three weeks of the announcement of all the results. Hindu, April 20, 2008.
Abductors demand release of suspects in Benazir Bhutto assassination case in exchange for abducted envoy: The abductors of missing Pakistan envoy Tariq Azizuddin have demanded the release of 12 prisoners, including the men suspected of plotting Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, in exchange for his freedom, the BBC reported. The kidnappers have demanded the release of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi, five Afghan Taliban militants and the three men arrested on charges of allegedly plotting Benazir Bhutto’s assassination — Aitzaz Shah, Hussnain and Rafaqat. The people demanded by the abductors in exchange for the release of the envoy are all reportedly linked to militant commander Baitullah Mehsud. Maulana Umar, spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), however said that his group had no involvement in the kidnapping of Azizuddin. News of Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin, who has been missing since February 11, 2008, surfaced when an Arab satellite channel broadcast a video of him on April 20. Flanked by his driver and bodyguard, Azizuddin urged the Government of Pakistan to secure his speedy release. Daily Times, April 21, 2008.
20 persons killed in clashes between Lashkar-e-Islam cadres and Kooki Khel tribesmen in FATA: At least 20 persons were killed in fighting between activists of the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) and Kooki Khel tribesmen of the Khyber Agency in FATA on April 16, 2008. A tribal elder from the Jamrud Sub-division claimed that the Government had done nothing to avert the clash, despite knowing of hostilities on both sides. Tensions surfaced after the Kooki Khel tribe refused to surrender to the 30-point agenda of LI. The groups are reported to have targeted each other's positions in the hills, using rockets and mortar shells, Geo News reported. LI is lead by cleric Mangal Bagh, who follows the puritanical Deobandi form of Sunni Islam. He has attempted to enforce a strict Taliban-style Islam in the region, provoking the tribesmen. "We can’t implement the Mangal Bagh brand of Islam on ourselves and our people," elders from the Katya Khel sub-tribe of the Kooki Khel tribe, gathered at a meeting, told Daily Times on April 15. They said they were "as much Muslims as Mangal Bagh and his men," adding, "He should not teach us Islam." Representing the sub-tribe, Haji Shamshad, Haji Muhammad Ashraf, and Haji Sarfaraz said they were being asked to hoist black flags on their houses and surrender before the LI cadres. "All their demands are absurd as we’ve already taken action against those involved in smuggling, the hashish trade, kidnappings for ransom, and murders," they said. Daily Times, April 17, 2008.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan organizes Ghazi Islam Conference in FATA: A two-day ‘Ghazi Islam Conference’ was organized by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Mohmand Agency of the FATA at the mausoleum of Haji Sahib Turangzai on April 15-16. Local ulema (religious scholars), Taliban leaders and delegations from the Tank and Swat Districts of the NWFP, and of North and South Waziristan, Kurram Agency, Orakzai Agency and Bajaur Agency, participated in the conference. However, the media has been prevented from reporting their names. Hundreds of people, including Taliban spokesman Maulana Umar, attended the event. Umar said that the conference’s objective was to enable the Taliban to spread the message of jihad. The conference participants established three check-posts on a two-kilometre-long stretch of road leading to the mausoleum in Ghazi Abad area on the Main Peshawar-Mohmand Highway, and guards armed with rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs reportedly surrounded the venue. The urs (death anniversary) of Turangzai traditionally held on April 14, 15 and 16 every year has been cancelled this year and replaced with the Ghazi Islam Conference, due to the reservations of the local Taliban, who said that the urs was ‘un-Islamic’. The Taliban has occupied the mausoleum since July 29, 2007. Daily Times, April 16-17, 2008.
Al Qaeda has new sanctuaries in Pakistan, says FBI chief: The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director Robert S. Mueller told a meeting in London during the second week of April 2008, that al Qaeda would not "go quietly into the night," having established "new sanctuaries" in "ungoverned spaces, Tribal Areas, and the Frontier Province of Pakistan." Addressing a meeting at Chatham House, Mueller said al Qaeda is resilient and its network is now diffused. He said a top tier is the core al Qaeda organisation, which has "established new sanctuaries in Pakistan", which means that it can "reconstitute its leadership, recruit new operatives, and regenerate its capability to attack." Daily Times, April 15, 2008.
106 LTTE militants and 11 soldiers among 119 persons killed during the week: 106 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and 11 soldiers were among 119 persons killed in separate incidents between April 13 and April 20. Among the major incidents, 13 militants were killed and three others injured as the troops launched attacks on LTTE hideouts at Kathankulam and Malikaittidal in the Mannar District on April 18. One soldier was wounded in the incident. Separately, the troops clashes with LTTE militants in the area east of Madhu and killed 12 of them, while injuring eight others. Further, on April 20, a Roman Catholic priest and human rights activist, Father Karunaratnam, chairperson of the North East Secretariat on Human Rights, was killed in a bomb blast at Ambalkulam in the LTTE-held territory, while he was travelling towards Kilinochchi. Sri Lanka Army; Colombo Page,April 14-20, 2008.
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