SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Bengal: State Myopia, Maoist Consolidation
Both West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union Minister for Steel, Ram Vilas Paswan would consider themselves plain lucky to have escaped the November 2 improvised explosive device (IED) explosion on National Highway (NH) 60 at Baroa, three kilometres from the District Headquarters of the West Midnapore District, lying in West Bengal’s south-west. Both leaders were returning from the Salboni Sub-divisional Headquarters in the District after attending the foundation-laying ceremony of a mega steel plant being set up by the Jindal Steel Works group. The IED went off barely 10 minutes after the Chief Minister’s and few minutes before Paswan’s convoy passed through the area, damaging a pilot jeep that was guiding the Union Minister’s convoy. At least six security force (SF) personnel were injured.
On November 7, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) claimed responsibility for the blasts, and clarified that the attack was targeted against the Chief Minister. CPI-Maoist’s secretary of the Bengal chapter, Kanchan, further warned that Bhattacharjee would not be safe in future, "even if the police strengthened his Z-plus security four times over… Countless explosions would take place in the near future."
Subsequent investigations have come up with revelations that expose inexplicable lapses on part of the Police. It is now clear that portions of the route were not sanitised before the Chief Minister and the Union Minister embarked on their return journey, as these did not fall in the "hilly terrain" category. Thus, no road opening patrol, a standard practice when important leaders are to pass through an area, had been conducted. As a result, a 1.2 kilometre-long wire that connected the IED with the trigger lay across an open paddy field went unnoticed. The incident reduced the deployment of over 1,200 SF personnel three days prior to the foundation-laying ceremony in and around Salboni to a farce. The deployment was partly in response to a statement by the CPI-Maoist which had opposed the setting up of the steel plant in the area.
The lapse is even more surprising not just because the State Police had failed to anticipate an incident of this nature in a Maoist stronghold like West Midnapore, but barely 10 days earlier the Maoists had detonated an explosion of almost a similar nature in the District. On October 22, four landmine explosions at Chaukisol, about two kilometres from State border with Jharkhand, resulted in the death of three persons, including a doctor and a nurse, part of a team that was returning from a health camp in a remote area. Even on that occasion a long wire that connected the landmines to the trigger was lying in the open and the Police had failed to act even after the villagers had informed them about it. Maoists later apologised for the incident claiming that they mistook the Health Department vehicle for a private vehicle being used by the SFs. The Maoists asked private vehicle owners not to rent out their vehicles to SFs, lest it might lead to similar incidents.
Police action subsequent to the November 2 incident has led to even more embarrassments for the State Government. Apart from arresting two active Maoist hit squad members and two linkmen from the area and recovering Maoist literature, two Bulgarian- and Italian-make pistols and around 35 rounds of ammunition from them on November 6, Police also picked up a local school teacher and three students aged 15-17 years for the Salboni area. Neither the teacher nor the students had any previous record of being Maoist sympathisers. A day later, all three students were released after Police told the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court of Midnapore that there was no evidence against them. The enraged tribal villagers, in the meantime, had dug up the roads in Lalgarh area in the proximity of the blast site to prevent the Police from carrying out raids in search of the Maoists. On November 7, they also gheraoed (encircled) the Police Station in Lalgarh town and cut power supply to the area protesting the arrest, a development that was described by the CPI-Maoist as "a symbol of people’s resistance".
The November 2 attack is believed to have been led by a three-member Maoist action squad consisting of Dwijen Hembram and Jaba Hembram of Jharkhand and Chandra Sekhar from Andhra Pradesh. Chandra Sekhar is considered to be an explosives expert and was seen in the West Midnapore District few days before the explosion. Reports indicate that the Maoist duo from Jharkhand had entered the State a month back and were living near Salboni under pseudo names. Search operations have been launched to nab the trio, but the State Police has an enormous job at hand, considering the fact that it does not have even photographs of these extremists.
Heads in the Police department have not exactly started rolling even after this major security faux pas, described as an "explosion in the electrical circuit" initially by the Police and as a "learning experience" by the State Police Chief A B Vohra afterwards. Immediately after the explosion, three cops in charge of guarding a bridge near the blast site were suspended. Seven more cops were showcased for negligence in duty and have been asked to "explain their role in supervising the area". Vohra has already submitted an investigation report to the State Government, the contents of which are not known. It is not clear, thus, such routine steps are adequate to address West Bengal’s vulnerability against Maoist insurgency that is no less lethal than what is being witnessed in several States in the neighbourhood.
There is, however, a method to such inadequate response of the Police, which portrays a limited influence of the Maoists in the State. It maintains that only four Districts-East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura are affected by extremist activities. Such a position, however, is neither supported by the assessments of Central intelligence agencies, nor is substantiated by available data on Maoist activities in the State. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) maintains 17 of West Bengal’s 18 Districts have witnessed Maoist activities, with three Districts (West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura) listed in the 'most affected' category. As per the database of the Institute for Conflict Management, in the first 10 months of the current year, left-wing extremism (LWE) related incidents were reported from 11 Districts, across the length and breadth of the State. Till the November 2 attack, 21 fatalities were reported from these Districts in at least 34 LWE related incidents. Eighteen of these fatalities were civilians, mostly cadres and local level leaders of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and its affiliated organisations. Two SF personnel were killed in separate ambushes by the CPI-Maoist in the West Midnapore and nearby Burdwan District in the month of May. The lone CPI-Maoist cadre to have been killed on February 15 in the West Midnapore District, was not due to any SF operation, but result of the fratricidal clash among the extremists.
Even reports of the West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department (CID) indicate that the Maoists network has spread to a large number of villages in Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia and Murshidabad Districts of southern parts of the State. On recent two occasions, Maoist cadres managed to snatch rifles away from the Policemen at Memari (Burdwan District) and Kandi (Murshidabad District). Police reports also indicate that the Maoists have managed to set up bases in the Kandi sub-division of Murshidabad. Similarly, stray Maoist activities have also been reported from Badkulla, Shantipur, Kotowali and some other places in the rural part of Nadia. Rajnagar and Nalhati in the Birbhum District have been described as newly entrants into Maoist strongholds.
West Bengal, where the naxalite movement had originated in the 1960s, is an integral part of the Maoist Red Corridor that stretches from Nepal way down along India’s eastern board to the southern State of Andhra Pradesh. Conservative estimates indicate the CPI-Maoist allots INR Six millions (approximately US$125,000) annually for its operations in West Bengal. Apart from the Districts like Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore, which were described by Chief Minister Bhattacharjee in 2005 as "plagued by the collapse or absence of rural governance", Maoists and their front organisations have also been active even in State capital Kolkata, where they mobilise people through periodic meetings and cultural activities. Their influence is also evident in all the six North Bengal Districts- Malda, West Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Koch Bihar. Periodic rallies by LWE outfits and their front organisations have been organised in these Districts, against popular issues including price rise. Maoist growth in West Bengal has also been accompanied by and remains a direct result of the subtle extremist intervention in issues of land rights, poverty and economic deprivation. Maoists joined and to an extent instigated the protests against land acquisition in the Nandigram Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project in March 2007 and the Singur upheaval in September-October 2008 that forced the TATA group to relocate their small car project to the western State of Gujarat. Maoist outfits regularly carry out protest movements over price rise in Jalpaiguri District.
No doubt such activities have been directly facilitated by the State Government’s position on the CPI-Maoist. Since the birth of this outfit in 2004, the Left Front government in West Bengal has refused to proscribe it. Chief Minister Bhattacharjee says that his government is inclined to wage an "administrative and political" campaign against the Maoists as merely banning them does not "isolate them from the masses". While the Chief Minister’s statement does carry some merit, there are no indications, however, that the State’s ‘administrative and political’ campaign is succeeding in controlling the Maoist march in the State that is increasingly showing signs of acquiring violent proportion.
Reluctant and limited SF operations against the Maoists in West Bengal are mostly led by the central para-military forces (CPMFs). Till end October, 10 companies of the para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were operating against the Maoists in south-western Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore and the North Bengal Districts. Following the serial explosions in Assam on October 30 and the upcoming election related duties in States that are going to polls, six CRPF companies have been withdrawn, prompting the ruling CPI-M to level charges of neglect and discrimination by the Central Government in New Delhi. In the editorial of People’s Democracy – the party’s weekly mouthpiece– the CPI-M described the November 2 attack as a "warning bell" and ascribed it directly to the recent withdrawal of the CRPF companies.
It has also been common place for Chief Minister Bhattacharjee to blame the state of affairs in West Bengal on neighbouring Jharkhand. He maintains that the entrenchment of Maoists in that State creates problem for the Bengal Police as Maoists often cross border into the safety of the Jharkhand after committing crimes in West Bengal. There is definite merit in this assertion as six of the eight Districts of Jharkhand that border West Bengal- Dumka, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Ranchi, West Singhbhum and East Singhbhum are strongholds of the Maoists, a status that remains undisturbed even in the face of intermittent SF operations. As many as 22 reported LWE incidents of the total 34 (till October 31) this year, have taken place in the six West Bengal Districts bordering Jharkhand. However, this theory of making Jharkhand responsible for West Bengal’s woes is entirely unsustainable in the context of the Maoist activities in the eastern, southern as well as the North Bengal Districts that share no border with the former. In December 2007, both West Bengal and Jharkhand did arrive at an understanding for carrying out joint operations within each other’s territory. Police stations in either States were empowered to contact each other to launch urgent joint operations, doing away with the standard practice of waiting for a clearance from the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) level officers in each State. Chief Minister Bhattacharjee, however, maintains that such operations have not yielded much result.
The policy of wishing away Maoist insurgency has cost several States dear and has contributed immensely to the rapid growth of LWE in the country. Incidents of the October 22 and November 2 variety serve as reminders to West Bengal about the urgency with which the State must now address the problem, not through political rhetoric, but through an approach that seeks to offset the consolidation of the extremists.
On October 31, 2008, two days after an earthquake killed over 215 persons and injured more than 500 others in Balochistan, President Asif Ali Zardari said in Islamabad that "the people of Balochistan have first right over their natural resources and the Government will develop the resources in a manner that local people will become stakeholders and partners in the development projects." While the President was only reiterating the customary platitudes in times of a natural calamity, the state of play in the strategic and resource-rich Balochistan province, which has long remained on the periphery of Pakistan's projects and perceptions, is fairly grim. The "dialogue with those who are up in the mountains" in Balochistan is unraveling, with several complexities emerging.
The momentum of the Baloch insurgency declined relatively in 2007, as some leaders either fled Pakistan or were neutralized by the state. The operational capacity of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent insurgent group in Balochistan, was considerably reduced in 2007. Violence was at relatively lower levels in 2007, with at least 245 persons, including 124 civilians, killed. By comparison, approximately 450 persons, including 226 civilians, 82 soldiers and 142 insurgents, were killed in 772 incidents in 2006. There has been a gradual increase in violence in 2008 and, despite the dialogue process, the insurgency continues to simmer, with a steady stream of bomb and rocket attacks on gas pipelines, railway tracks, power transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure, as well as on military establishments and government facilities. The insurgents retain capabilities to carry out acts of sabotage on a daily basis across the province and a political solution to the insurgency is nowhere in sight. Acts of violence are, importantly, not restricted to a few districts but are occurring in practically all of them, including the provincial capital Quetta. According to the Institute for Conflict Management database, in 359 incidents of insurgency-related violence in Balochistan, approximately 320 persons were killed and 484 others were wounded during 2008 (data till November 7). [Since media access is heavily restricted in the troubled areas of the Province, and there is only fitful release of information by Government agencies, the actual figures could be much higher].
Presently, there are at least five active insurgent groups in Balochistan: the BLA, the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), the Baloch People’s Liberation Front (BPLF), the Popular Front for Armed Resistance (PFAR), and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). According to Muhammad Tahir, "The number of BLA activists is not known, but Pakistani military sources suggest that there are currently 10,000 Baloch insurgents involved in separatist activities, of which 3,000 are active in the insurgency."
The insurgent movement, however, continues to defy unity. There was some expectation that some form of unity would emerge in the aftermath of the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, arguably the most powerful insurgent leader, on August 26, 2006. Islamabad’s counter-insurgency strategy has been a significant factor in sustaining the disunity. Mass arrests, long periods of imprisonment and assassinations have complemented military operations, resulting in a gradual and strategic decapitation of the insurgents over the last three and half years. During 2008, the operational priorities of the Balochistan Police have been to reduce the overall incidents of terrorism in the province, neutralize the capacities of BLA, reduce attacks on Punjabi settlers across the Province, especially in capital Quetta, minimize attacks on security forces (SFs) across the Province, especially in the capital Quetta, and arrest the most wanted militants notified for reward in the CID Red Book of the Balochistan Police.
Hectic efforts have been underway for some time now to bringing the Baloch to the negotiating table. President Asif Ali Zardari had "apologised" to the Baloch nation for the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, and his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had, in February 2008 called for an end to military operations in Balochistan. Subsequently, the PPP-led provincial Government of Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani began efforts to build a consensus. Events picked up pace in August and Rehman Malik, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs, announced in Quetta on August 28 that the names of all political leaders of Balochistan had been removed from the Exit Control List and 35 of the 54 checkpoints of the Frontier Corps (FC) in Balochistan were being abolished and relocated from urban areas to the Province’s borders. Malik announced that security agencies operating in the province are to work under the Chief Minister and new confidence building measures would be taken up to bring the tribal sardars (chieftains) to the negotiating table. The federal Government also stated that all detained political workers would be released and cases registered against them would be dropped after a committee formed to investigate their cases had forwarded its recommendations. As part of the reconciliation process, while the Balochistan National Party chief, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, has been released, the FC check posts have been removed from Quetta and Gwadar. There has also been a modest shrinkage in the control over Dera Bugti, the nerve centre of the insurgency. And on October 28, the Balochistan Reconciliatory Committee declared a three-pronged strategy to resolve the long-standing issues facing the province. The declared 3R strategy reportedly involved reconciliation with all political forces, rebuilding national institutions and reallocating resources. In response to the Government’s peace overtures, a unilateral cease-fire was announced by three insurgent groups – the BLA, the BRA and the BLF – on September 1.
All of this has, however, not had the desired impact in Balochistan as far as Islamabad is concerned. Violence continues to be an everyday reality in the Province, with approximately 84 persons killed and 38 others wounded in 29 incidents across Balochistan just between September 1 and November 7, 2008. Further, sources in Quetta say that the current ‘peace process’ has so far ignored the fundamental issues that sustain the insurgency and Islamabad is only involved in peace-keeping. Above all else, there is a tremendous trust deficit, since the Baloch find little reason in their history to put their faith in Islamabad. Such distrust is not likely to disappear soon. For instance, even with the ‘peace process’ underway, National Party information secretary Jan Mohammad Buledi disclosed, on August 16, 2008, in Quetta that about 600,000 acres of land had been allotted to a particular company at a price of PKR One per acre and another 200,000 acres of land was allotted to the Pakistan Air Force in the Lyari area of Lasbela District. The influx of populations from other Provinces into Balochistan has been another major issue for long.
Moreover, the fundamental issues, which include control over resources, equal authority, and autonomy, are yet to be addressed. There is also the crucial issue of missing persons. Rehman Malik has acknowledged that there are more than 1,000 missing people in Balochistan. General Abdul Qadir Baloch, a former provincial Governor and Army commander in Quetta, believes reports that hundreds of Balochis have been stripped naked, hung upside down, electrocuted, dunked in wells and killed. According to the nationalist parties, Islamabad will have to account for the mass arrests of leaders and insurgents during the last four years of disappearances and military operations. Many of the Baloch nationalists are demanding legal action against those responsible for military operations in the province and are not willing to hold any reconciliation dialogue with stakeholders of the previous regime. Baloch nationalists, consequently, remain disconnected from the current reconciliation process.
There is also the issue of endemic neglect and backwardness. Balochistan accounts for over 65 per cent of Pakistan’s gas output but, the Daily Times notes, is 78 percent without electricity; and 79 percent of its population has no gas supply. The province accounts for just 3.4 percent of all gas consumers in the country, as compared to 64 percent in Punjab. According to the Quetta-based analyst Arif Tabassum, "Natural gas is taken out from Balochistan but hardly two per cent of the Province's population gets benefit from it. The transporters of the whole province have access only to three CNG stations, located in Quetta city. The natural gas of Balochistan is purchased at many times less rate than of the other Provinces. The natural resources of Saindak and Rekodak are given to foreign entities on the orders of federal government. Gwadar Port is neither providing employment opportunities to the local population nor does the Province have any say in its functions… The agriculture and livestock sectors are not provided with the federal subsidised services that could improve the local economy. The posting and transfers of higher provincial bureaucracy is controlled by the federal government."
Successive regimes in Islamabad and Quetta have procrastinated on the issue of giving the Baloch a sense of ownership of their Province and are yet to recognise the aspirations for provincial autonomy. A significant issue that Islamabad, the insurgents and other stakeholders will have to engage with is how to alter the current fiscal arrangement, which is evidently unfavourable to the concept of provincial ownership of natural resources. The federal Government will have to rethink the National Finance Commission (NFC) award with special regard to Balochistan when it plans to apportion revenue shares among the provinces. Most parties in Balochistan oppose the idea of apportioning being based on the population criterion alone and have, for long, demanded that that the NFC give weightage to provincial area, poverty and backwardness as well. Robert Wirsing of the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies notes:
Practically, Quetta-based analyst Arif Tabassum points out, the recent confidence building measures can only "create some flexibility in nationalists to come close to the overall reconciliation process, but if these actions are propagated as the solution of problems, it will prolong the distance and create new resentments."
The federal Government’s commitment that the FC will be withdrawn and replaced by other security agencies has also been met with serious reservations in the Province. While the FC presence is strongly opposed, the Police is also not seen as an acceptable alternative. Indeed, one of the demands of the nationalists is the revival of the Balochistan Levies, which have been merged with the local Police in recent years, since the "local levies are better suited to serve the local communities; the predominantly non-Baloch Police is eyed with suspicion by locals and considered repressive and corrupt." For the record, one of the key recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan formed under President Musharraf’s regime was to retain the Balochistan Levies.
Furthermore, there has been no significant movement on the idea of troop withdrawal. For instance, the Government is yet to withdraw the FC from the Dera Bugti and Kohlu Districts, which are the hub of insurgency. Considering the strategic importance of these two districts, the FC troops are unlikely to be withdrawn from there in the proximate future. For the insurgents, troop withdrawal is a pre-requisite for any dialogue.
Rehman Malik, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs, has announced the formation of a committee to review cases against political leaders in Balochistan. According to him, "We are trying to persuade our angry Baloch brothers to throw away their weapons and join the mainstream to serve Balochistan and Pakistan." However, there have been no surrenders since he made that statement on August 28. Evidently, the Baloch insurgent is not ready to eschew violence under the prevailing circumstances.
At a certain level, the ‘peace process’ is seen merely as a tactic by Islamabad to buy time. Pakistan’s security forces are immensely over-stretched combating Islamist militancy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and elsewhere in the country. The momentary political management of the protracted insurgency in Balochistan would certainly give the SFs some relief.
It is, moreover, still not clear that Islamabad is now ready to radically transform the power sharing structure. Any fundamental changes in centre-state relations directed towards neutralizing the insurgency in Balochistan will surely be opposed by the long dominant Punjab and other provinces. More importantly, "the state is hardly in control of its territory elsewhere, its institutions are weak to the point of non-delivery, and there are foreign elements freely challenging the writ of the state." The protracted nature of the Baloch insurgency makes it clear that Islamabad’s overwhelming reliance on a military solution has failed in the Province, as it has elsewhere. Attempts at political management have also failed repeatedly in the recent past. Clearly, doubts still persist on Islamabad’s capacity to save Balochistan’s descent into absolute estrangement.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 3-9, 2007
Union Government to set up intelligence coordination group for the north-east: The Union Government has decided to set up an Intelligence Coordination Group for the north-eastern region to improve intelligence network and ensure sharing intelligence inputs between states and the Centre, particularly in the wake of the recent serial blasts in Tripura and Assam. The proposal came up for detailed discussion at a high-level meeting in the Home Ministry earlier this week, which was presided over by National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan. The meeting was also attended by Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and chiefs of Central security and paramilitary forces. Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials said an intelligence coordination group would facilitate the institutionalising and streamlining of intelligence inputs. The effort would be to analyse such inputs and convert them into "actionable intelligence" and communicate them to Forces deployed on the ground to enable them to launch operations. The Hindu, November 9, 2008.
Anti-Taliban offensive continues in Bajaur: At least 99 Taliban militants and six civilians were killed in the past week in a continued offensive by the security forces (SFs) against Taliban militants in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On November 3, 18 Taliban militants were killed in SF operations in the Mamoond tehsil (revenue area. On the next day, five Taliban militants were killed and several others injured in artillery fire and bombing by jet planes on suspected Taliban hideouts in the Dama Dola area of Mamoond tehsil. Operations were also carried out in several other areas of the Agency. On November 5, 11 Taliban militants were killed as SFs targeted Taliban hideouts in Gat Agra, Damadola and Janzai areas of Mamoond tehsil. On November 6, another 19 Taliban militants were killed during SF operations in the Mamoond and Nawagai tehsils. Officials said the dead include Taliban commander Wali Rehman who was known to shelter foreign Al Qaeda militants. Frontier Constabulary sources also claimed that the house of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) deputy commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad was destroyed in an air strike in Damadola along with a major Taliban ammunition dump in the area. At least 20 Taliban militants were killed and 10 others injured on November 7 as forces carried out air raids targeting Taliban hideouts in Damadola, Seweai, Sparay, Kharkay, Shinkot areas of Mamoond tehsil and Charmang and Zoorband areas of Nawagai tehsil. Jets also bombed the Aareb area of Mamoond tehsil targeting the house of Jaish-e-Islami leader Wali Rehman killing six members of Rehman's family. 16 Taliban militants were also killed during operations in the Sapri, Banda, Khakai, Damadola and Sewai areas of Mamoond tehsil on November 9. Six militant bases and an arms depot were destroyed in the offensive.
Meanwhile, in the Agency Headquarters Khar, a grand jirga (council) of tribal elders decided to take strict action against those found involved in anti-State activities. They said the houses of those found sheltering the Taliban would be set ablaze and they would be expelled from the area. The jirga decided to impose a fine of PKR Two million on those who sheltered the Taliban in their areas. The jirga members assured the Government of their full co-operation, and said they would fight alongside the SFs for restoration of peace in the Agency. Similarly, On November 5, the chief of the lashkar of the Barozai tribe in Ward Mamond, Haji Rahmatullah, claimed that more than 12 villages had been cleared of the militants over the past few weeks. He said most of the militants were either killed or injured during the drive, adding that the remaining fled to mountainous areas along the Afghan border. He said that tribal forces would continue to chase the militants till their complete elimination from the tribal region.
A suicide attack killed 22 tribesmen and injured 45 others at a Salarzai tribe jirga on November 6. The blast targeted a lashkar in Batmalani, about 40-kilometres northeast of the Agency Headquarters at Khar. "Two to three hundred members of the lashkar were finalising their strategy after demolishing houses of Taliban when the blast occurred," local Police sources said. Among the dead were lashkar head Malak Fazal Karim and his aides Malak Wazir Khan and Malak Sakhi. A man claiming to be a member of a previously unheard-of ‘Karwan-e-Nematullah’ accepted responsibility for the attack in telephone calls to journalists. Daily Times; Jang, November 4-10, 2008.
Afghan Government adviser abducted from Chitral in NWFP: Unidentified militants abducted Akhtar Kohistani, an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) from the remote Chitral Valley late in the night of November 2. He was on a personal visit to the township. A Police official disclosed that armed men abducted Kohistani from the house of one of his relatives, located in Seerdoor Kadak village of Darosh Valley. No one has so far claimed responsibility for the abduction. Chitral shares a long border with Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Kohistani is the fourth high-profile Afghan national to have been abducted from the Frontier province or adjacent tribal areas during the past one-and-a-half months. Earlier, Afghanistan’s ambassador-designate to Pakistan, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was abducted by four armed men from Hayatabad Township, Peshawar, on September 22, 2008. On October 31, unidentified gunmen abducted Zia-ul-Haq, younger brother of the Afghan Finance Minister, Anwarul Haq Ahady. A professor of Jalalabadís Aryana University, Abdul Haq Danishmal, was abducted from the tribal Khyber region on November 1. Jang, November 4, 2008.
Former Deputy Attorney-General admits to have lost son fighting alongside Taliban: A former deputy attorney-general, Raja Mohammad Irshad has admitted to have lost his son who was fighting alongside the Taliban against the American-led forces in Afghanistan soon after September 11, 2001. During a media interview Raja Irshad said, "He was a very brilliant Hafiz-e-Quran, he crossed border, he got martyred, in 2001, because he was inspired by Quran, I can never forget him." Raja Irshad served from 2002 to September 2008 as a deputy to various chief law officers. Dawn, November 4, 2008.
LTTE offers another cease-fire with Sri Lankan Government: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said on November 8 that the organization is ready for a cease-fire with the Sri Lankan Government. Quoting LTTE’s political head B. Nadesan, the Tamil Net said, "There is no hesitation on our side to reiterate our position that we have always wanted a ceasefire. It is the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) that unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire." He pointed out that "LTTE was only fighting a defensive war since Colombo has thrust upon Tamils an aggressive war." The website also said that Nadesan made the comments following recent reports of Tamil Nadu leaders seeking clarification on LTTE’s stand on ceasefire. Colombo Page, November 9, 2008.
80 percent of war against LTTE
complete, says Army Chief Sarath
Fonseka: Following troops
reaching just seven kilometres
south of Kilali lagoon, which
separates the Jaffna peninsula
from the mainland, on November
3, Army Commander Lt. General
Sarath Fonseka declared that
over 80 per cent of the war
against the LTTE has been completed.
Addressing the media at Saliyapura
in Anuradhapura, the Army Commander
said, following the death of
over 12,000 LTTE cadres in past
two and half years, "We are
sure that we will be able to
see an end to this war soon,
though we cannot give deadlines
to reach this task". Fonseka,
however, claimed that he is
confident of completing the
task of defeating the LTTE during
his tenure. Daily
November 4, 2008.