SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Epitome of Police Ineptitude
Nagaland remains the third-most violent theatre of conflict in India’s Northeast despite existing ceasefire agreements with the principal insurgent groups in the State, the Isak-Muivah (IM) and the Khaplang (K) faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). While the Ceasefire Agreements appear to have imposed enormous restrictions on the operations of the central security forces (SFs) consisting of the Assam Rifles (AR) and the para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a ‘free for all’ appears to be in place for the insurgents, who kill, abduct and extort with impunity. The Union Government chooses to describe the state of affairs as a ‘law and order problem’ to be tackled by the Nagaland Police. The State Police, however, have demonstrated an abject lack of will to rein in the rampaging insurgents.
According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data, Nagaland registered 154 fatalities in 272 insurgency-related incidents in 2007. Year 2008 had witnessed 244 such incidents claiming the lives of 175 persons till August 31. Nearly 35 percent of the total fatalities are those of civilians. The insurgency, however, is not just about the fatalities – a dominant proportion of which result from fratricidal clashes between the insurgent factions. The insurgents have established a regime of perpetual and pervasive fear among the people across Nagaland, with very little resistance from either the agencies of the state or from tribal community groupings.Nagaland: Insurgency-related fatalities: 2004-2008
*Data till August 31, 2008
Source: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
Almost similarly worded Ceasefire Agreements with both major outfits [with the NSCN-IM in 1997 and the NSCN-K in 2001], prohibit extortion in garb of ‘tax collection’, abduction for ransom and killings, smuggling of arms and ammunition, issuance of demand letters, issuance of threat or azhas (orders) to senior politicians and bureaucrats, movement and stay in populated areas with arms and in uniform, inter-factional clashes and targeted killing of rival cadres, stand off between cadres and SFs, and unauthorized concentration. In actual terms, however, none, barring stand offs between the SFs and the insurgents – essentially the consequence of self-imposed restrictions by the SFs – has been adhered to. During the last five years (2004-08), only seven SF personnel have been killed in Nagaland, including two para-military India Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel who were killed in the months of April and May 2008 in the south-western Dimapur and eastern Peren Districts.
The absence of an SF-insurgent confrontation has had little positive impact on the lives and security of common civilians, both in urban areas and in the countryside. Extortion regimes imposed by the militants have targeted everyone, from top politicians and administrators in the State down to common villagers. Refusal to pay has led to abductions and, on occasion, killings. Each faction has not only pursued a policy of eliminating tribal leaders sympathising with its rival, on occasions non-Naga traders have been attacked and killed in various places, including State capital Kohima and the commercial hub Dimapur. According to one estimate, over 60 affluent non-Naga traders have been abducted for ransom just between November 2007 and May 2008. At least 10 non-Naga businessmen have been killed in the State in 2008.
It would not be unreasonable to expect the Nagaland Police to impose some measure of order in this dismal scenario. With a staff strength of 20,784 (as of March 2007), the Police Department is the biggest Government Department in the State. Effectively, in this State of 19,88,636 people, one in every 95 persons is employed in the Police Department. The total number of Armed and Civil Police personnel stands at 11,947, of whom 6,450 are in the ‘Armed’ branch and the remaining 5,497 in the ‘Civil’ branch. Nagaland, thus, boasts of a Police population ratio (Policemen per 100,000 population) of 558, marginally higher than Manipur (554), which is the worst militancy-affected State in the region; and dramatically higher than Assam (178), the second most militancy affected State; and also far in excess of the national average, at 126. Similarly, Police density (Policemen per 100 square kilometre area) is 72.1 for Nagaland, significantly higher than the national average (44.4), as well as Assam (66.4) and Manipur (63.8).
Nagaland has also been extremely ‘efficient’ in spending funds made available by the MHA for Police modernisation. Available data indicates that its utilisation of the central funds between 2000-01 and 2003-04 was 100 percent. [In 2004-05, the usage was 68.98 percent, with incomplete utilisation figures]. A senior Police official told SAIR, in terms of weapons and facilities available, the "Nagaland Police is second to none."
Clearly, neither the relative Police strength nor the prevailing ‘modernisation’ in terms of weaponry and equipment, as well facilities for the Police, has led to any augmented capacity to secure control over the insurgency. The reasons lie in political ambivalence and a succession of policy failures.
Over the years, the Nagaland Police has paid scant regard to accepted principles of maximising competence of its personnel. In 2000, the Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms recommended, "There should be a greater recruitment of Sub-Inspectors instead of Constables. Recruitment to constabulary should be restricted till a teeth-to-tail ratio of 1:4 is achieved as against present ratio, which ranges from 1:7 to 1: 15 in different States." Nagaland, against a sanctioned strength of Officers to men ratio ranging from 1:11 to 1:12 during 2002-07, maintained a men-in-position ratio of 1:12 to 1:13. Moreover, in spite of having a constabulary in excess of the norms, the Department recruited another 435 constables over the period 2002-07, accentuating the problems of the Department, which is clearly oversized at the base with an insufficient number of officers to lead the rank and file. In fact, the Group D cadre (Lance Naik, Constable and non-combatant employees) the State has, as per available data between 2002-03 and 2006-07, been consistently overstaffed. It is significant that Police personnel and officers comprise just 57.48 per cent of the total strength of the Police Department. It is not a matter of great surprise that the Police Department spent almost 70 percent of its total budget in 2006-07 in paying salary to its personnel.
Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) data for the year 2006 indicates that an all-India average ratio of Inspectors to Constables at 1:47. The Nagaland Police, against the ratio of sanctioned strength of Inspectors to constables ranging between 1:64 to 1:69 during 2002-07, maintained a men-in-position ratio between 1:88 and 1:103 during this period. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the Nagaland Home Department – 2006-07 clearly highlights this "ad hoc and irregular policy" that "impacted on the promotional aspects of constables for effective control and utilisation of the Police force at the line level."
Apart from recruiting unnecessary personnel, mostly at the constable level, the Department has also critically erred in almost abolishing the basic necessity of training for its newly recruited personnel. The CAG report, in fact, maintains that as many as 91 Sub-Inspectors belonging both to the ‘Armed’ and ‘Civil’ branches and 144 Assistant Sub-Inspectors have remained untrained, till the publishing of the report in 2007. The report further notes that "Due to lack of basic training as per norms, 777 Recruit Constables remained without any stipulated work and the Department incurred an idle and unfruitful expenditure of the INR 49.7 million towards pay and allowances of these personnel from April 2006 to March 2007."
Despite the enormous Force available, the Police Department has failed to deploy its manpower rationally, either in terms of the security requirements or the distribution of population across various Districts and Police jurisdictions. In the southern Kohima District, where the State capital is located, for example, 75 percent of the population lives in rural areas. The District Police, acting on some inexplicable formula, allocates only four percent of its personnel to the rural areas. In the north-western District of Mokokchung along the inter-State border with Assam, just 23 percent of the Police Force is posted in rural areas, where 86 percent of the total population of the District live. Deployment in the rural and urban areas of Dimapur, where the bulk of internecine clashes between insurgent factions have occurred in the current year, is better, but in no way representative of the rural-urban distribution of population. While 60 percent of the total population of the District is concentrated in rural areas, they are served by only 47 percent of the total District Police Force. The CAG report, thus, notes, "Deployment of Police personnel in rural areas was significantly low in comparison to the urban areas. Due to improper deployment, the people in rural areas remained out of security coverage."
The grossly inadequate Police presence in the rural areas is inexplicable, given the fact that the 44 Police Stations in Nagaland are almost evenly distributed among rural (20 Police stations) and urban areas (24 Police stations). The near absence of rural policing creates the context of the virtually unchallenged movement and criminal activities of armed insurgent cadres in Nagaland’s countryside.
It is important to note that, in spite of the gradual limitation of the fratricidal clashes among the insurgent factions principally to two Districts (Dimapur and Kohima) in 2008 – a sharp decline from nine of the 11 Districts in the State in 2007 – the Police has remained incapable of imposing a modicum of order. According to the Institute for Conflict Management database, out of 73 such clashes reported till November 14, 2008, 53 took place in Dimapur alone while Kohima accounted for another 12. The remaining eight clashes were reported from Mokokchung, Mon, Phek, Peren and Wokha.
The Special (Intelligence) Branch (SIB) of the Nagaland Police, which should have been at the forefront of the battle against the insurgents, remains a wing with little achievement to its credit. Consisting of over 910 personnel, this Branch has failed to provide critical inputs for action against insurgent activities. Speaking to SAIR, a senior Nagaland Police officer stated that there has "not been a single instance where the District Intelligence Branch had provided any information for the past two years." He stated further that the SIB is bloated beyond requirements and consists of officers with "no evidence of professionalism and commitment." The Branch, he added, has become "a playground for cops only interested in keeping company of politicians and bureaucrats."
That the Police in Nagaland has best served the security concerns only of the powers that be in the State is further evident from the assertion in the CAG Report. Police personnel have not only been deployed much in excess of the requirement on VVIP/VIP duties. The report notes, "The Department has not reviewed the threat perception of various VVIPs/VIPs at periodical intervals to ascertain the need to deploy security guards". Sources told SAIR that "Providing security to the ever growing number of VVIPs in the State has led to critical neglect of intelligence gathering, crime prevention, investigation and conviction."
In return, the Political Executive in the State sustains and uncritically accepts the ineptitude and ineffectiveness of the Police Department. The Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) Government in the State, headed by Chief Minister Nephiu Rio, continues to maintain that factional clashes between the insurgents are ‘political’ in nature and are ‘largely unavoidable’ as long as the conflict exists. The Government, further, adopts a ‘soft’ line on other forms of criminal activities – extortion, abductions and killings, as well. To expect such a political establishment to take steps at providing a strong mandate for the Police to act as a force to counter the insurgency remains far fetched.
Police-led counter-insurgency operations were a critical factor in the elimination of militancy in the western Indian State of Punjab in the early 1990s. Within the Northeastern region, the State of Tripura, which was ravaged by a Bangladesh-aided tribal insurgency for over one-and-a-half decades, benefited immensely from an official policy that not only better equipped its Police force, but also made policing available to the population in the most inaccessible of places. Police-led responses have also been critical to successes against the Maoists in Andhra Paradesh. Even where central forces remain pivotal to the counter-insurgency effort, as in Jammu & Kashmir, the Police has come to play an increasing role in counter-insurgency. The lessons of these campaigns, however, have clearly been lost on Nagaland. A lack of will both within the political and the Police leadership is in clear evidence, and there is little to justify the colossal amounts that are currently being wasted on a bloated, ineffective and unaccountable Police Department in Nagaland.
A Peaceful Poll?
The seven phase Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, slated to commence on November 17, are taking place in the backdrop of the extended Shri Amarnath Land agitation, which impacted dramatically on both sides of the Pir Panchal. Adding to administrative and security concerns in the state are the frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan across the Line of Control (LoC) and international border. Authorities fear that firing from across the LoC and international border will escalate during the protracted polling process that will continue till the results are declared on December 28. In the first phase of polling on November 17, there are 10 assembly constituencies spread over four Districts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Of the 1,038 electoral booths in the Bandipora, Poonch, Leh and Kargil Districts for which elections are being held on November 17, more than half of them have been described as 'hyper sensitive' while the rest have been placed under 'sensitive' category. While over 600,000 people will cast their franchise on November 17, the remaining electorate in 77 constituencies will vote in six phases on November 23 and 30 and on December 7, 13, 17 and 24.
The past year has witnessed many intrusions from across the LoC and border both in the Jammu and Kashmir Divisions. The United Jehad Council, a conglomerate of 17 terrorist groups headquartered at Muzzafarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and headed by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Muhammad Yusuf Shah aka Syed Salahuddin, has given a call for a boycott of the elections, which creates an imminent danger of terrorist violence against candidates contesting and people participating in the election process.
Commenting on elections in J&K on Oct 21, 2008, at Islamabad, Yusuf Shah declared that United Jihad Council fighters were ‘sparing’ areas where Kashmiris were rallying behind the election boycott, but "we continue targeting Indian army camps and the border areas."
J&K continued to witness a decline in terrorism related violence through 2008, a trend that settled in after the peak of militancy in 2001. Total fatalities in 2008 were 490 (up to November 3), as against 777 in 2007 and 1116 in 2006. Nevertheless, efforts to push militants across the border from PoK continue, with at least five violations of the ceasefire between India and Pakistan coinciding with infiltration attempts. Two of these were successful, with the militants cutting the fence and taking people hostage at Chinore and Samba. The infiltrators were eventually killed in encounters, but not before three civilians, including a photojournalist, and a soldier were killed in Samba; and seven civilians were killed in Chinore. The present elections, consequently, will be played out under the continuing spectre of extremist violence and a boycott at least selectively imposed by militant fiat.
Articulating these apprehensions, the Director General of J&K Police, Kuldeep Khoda, said on November 15 that there was a possibility of militants attempting to disrupt the poll process, even though militancy-related violence in the State has declined by 40 per cent over the last year. "There have been grenade attacks by the militants in the last few days and we have got inputs indicating that they are not totally silent," Khoda said. He also said that campaigning passed off peacefully in all the ten constituencies for which elections are being held on November 17.
Against this backdrop, the electoral scenario remains murky. In Jammu, the battle lines are drawn between the main contenders: the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), though other regional contenders such as the National Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party (JKNPP) are far from weak and have the capacity to upset electoral calculations. In the Kashmir Valley, on the other hand, the National Conference (NC) appears to have secured a dominant position, with the Congress apparently reluctant to expand its base and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seen as a double agent playing both sides. The sparsely populated Ladakh region, which accounts for just four seats in the 87 strong Legislative Assembly is largely dominated by the Ladakh Union Territory Front and National Conference.
The Amarnath land controversy has created a deep impact on the hitherto unchallenged and overwhelmingly hegemonistic Valley politics. An undercurrent of psychological hurt and insecurity increasingly influences the political discourse, undermining possibilities of success for the poll boycott call by the separatists. People in the Valley are seeking an effective presence in the Assembly to upset and counter the probable unity in Jammu.
According to a Government spokesman, following the announcement of poll schedule for the State on October 19 and beginning of the process of making nominations for the first four phases, 862 political meetings have been organized across the State by November 12, with 406 of these taking place in the Kashmir Division and 456 in Jammu Division respectively. While 197 meetings had been held by the NC so far, the Congress organized 178 such meetings. The PDP followed with 166 workers meetings while the BJP organized 63; the BSP with 45, the NPP 41, and the PDF, 24. A number of independent candidates also organized 56 rallies and workers meets across the State.
The poll boycott call by the two factions of the separatist All Party Hurriat Conference (APHC) and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is part of the strategy to delegitimize the election process and at the same time exert pressures on the participants to remain amenable to separatist sensibilities. In the 2002 elections, both factions of Hurriat Conference had extended behind-the-door supported to the PDP while maintaining a boycott posture. At that time, the transfer of votes to the PDP resulted in the downsizing of the NC as the all-pervasive party in the Valley. It also created an alternative political pole flirting with soft secessionist agenda and exerted marked pressures towards a competitive secessionist agenda. Separatist pressures accomplished a virtual capitulation by the PDP, which declared that its new government did not have a representative role, but only a role to act as an ‘interface’ between separatists, India and Pakistan. Even as the PDP secured power through the polls, consequently, it was able to engineer the delegitimization of the electoral process, at least in the eyes of separatist rank and file.
The goals in the present election have not changed, but the PDP appears to have fallen drastically in esteem among the separatists. All significant separatist formations have expressed a lack of confidence in the PDP from time to time. The exposure by the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Congress Government regarding the role of the PDP in the Amarnath land transfer have undermined the party’s credibility in the Valley.
The NC, after its defeat in 2002, has sought to occupy the PDP’s political space this time around, with communal stridency dominating its campaigns and postures. The NC has executed an about turn and now supports trilateral talks, demilitarization and unconditional dialogue with terrorist groups and their state supporters, relentlessly seeking to portray itself as the real protector of Kashmiri aspirations. This would incline to reduce the PDP to a South Kashmir-centric political formation impeding the balanced development of the Kashmir region. The Amarnath land issue and the involvement of PDP in the land transfer to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) provided the NC with the required ammunition to project the PDP as an agent of the Centre and a traitor to Kashmiri aspirations.
Understandably, the PDP was canvassing for the postponement of Assembly elections in J&K, desperately seeking more time to bridge its distance with the separatists constituency and to allow people to forget its role in the land transfer row. Through the release of its ‘Self-Rule Document’, the PDP sought to unsettle the NC’s Greater Autonomy plank, but has failed to sell its proposals as a better proposition than the NC’s scheme. In sum, the separatists appear to have increased the scope of secessionist mobilization through ‘mainstream’ political parties, even as they continue with their boycott postures.
There is an effective third force emerging in the Valley with former Minister and PDP rebel Ghulam Hassan Mir declaring the formation of his new Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Party Nationalist (JKDPN). Mir has demonstrated a knack for keeping himself alive on the margins of the stiff competition between the PDP and NC, and has now emerged as a significant alternative for people fed up with the militancy and the competitive communalism of the NC and PDP. There is also significant talk of pushing a number of independent candidates into the Assembly with separatist support.
Several attacks against candidates have already occurred to impose the separatist boycott, but these have basically remained selective. Attacks have been orchestrated both by separatists and by the militants. For instance, on November 12, a NC candidate Mubarak Gul escaped an attempt on his life by militants in the M.R. Gunj area of capital Srinagar, the first such attack on any political leader after elections were announced on October 19. Gul, a three-time legislator, was visiting an ailing NC worker, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, when militants hurled a grenade towards Bhat's house. Earlier, in the first attack after the election was announced in J&K, militants on October 31 attacked a Police Station in Baramulla town, injuring 13 police personnel. Further, according to Police sources, unidentified persons set fire to the granary stores and band saw mill of six senior political workers, including one Congress and five NC workers, in Hajin Village in the Bandipore Assembly constituency. Given the overall structure of the electoral process and delimitation in the State, with its bias in favour of Kashmir, the boycott call can, however, be seen as little more than an exercise to undermine the legitimacy of the polls, rather than any attempt to effectively prevent participation. The actual objectives of the separatists remain far more complex, and include the securing of a proxy presence in the Assembly, both through mainstream parties and independents.
In Jammu, political calculations after the Amarnath agitation have gone haywire. Far from leading to a consolidation of the vote, fractures have deepened. The catalyst for this process of disintegration has been the stiff battle between the Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti (SAYSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party on the future course of action to be adopted. The BJP prevailed upon the Sangh Parivaar to allow the Sangharsh Samiti to fade away, rather than to emerge as a regional formation in Jammu. The creation of the Jammu State Morcha in the last elections was projected by the BJP as the principal reason for its dismal show, and the Sangh Parivaar accepted that any prominence to the SAYSS would undermine the BJP’s prospects. But the marginalization of the SAYSS dissolved the political focus which had mobilized large masses of the people against. Far from capitalizing on the environment generated by the Amarnath agitation, consequently, the BJP has allowed these focused energies to be frittered away, denying space to the emerging leadership in Jammu, which had garnered tremendous support during the agitation. The consequent advantage would accrue, necessarily, to the Congress. The absence of unambiguous postures on the Amarnath issue (indeed, the avoidance of this issue during campaigning) by the mainstream parties in Jammu has, moreover, created wider spaces for independent candidates.
These are, however, early days in the protracted poll process. With another six phases to come, it is would be premature to arrive at any definite conclusion on the trajectory of elections and their aftermath in J&K. Some satisfaction can, nonetheless, be derived from the fact that the run-up to the first phase has been relatively peaceful.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 10-16, 2007
Assam Chief Minister confirms ULFA and NDFB’s role in serial bomb blasts: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in a Press Conference at Guwahati on November 11 said that investigations revealed clear indications of the involvement of the cadres of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in the October 30 serial bomb blasts. He also said that forces based outside the country might have extended support to the militant groups to carry out the operation. He, however, said that it is not clear which force from outside provided help to the ULFA and NDFB militants as a number of anti-India groups have their bases in Bangladesh. He also expressed the view that no force from outside would be able to carry out any major attack in the State without the help of the "local militant groups." Assam Tribune, November 12, 2008.
Tribunal confirms ban on LTTE: A Tribunal constituted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act upheld on November 10 the ban imposed by the Union Government on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 14 for a period of two years. The LTTE was initially banned in India following the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991. Since then it is being renewed every two years. Under the Act, the Tribunal must confirm the ban within six months. The May 14, 2008 notification imposing the ban had said: "The Centre was of the opinion that LTTE is an unlawful association and there is a continuing strong need to control all such separatist activities by all possible means." The Hindu, November 11, 2008.
Centre extends ULFA, NDFB and HNLC ban by two years: The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on November 12 extended the ban on United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), both operating in Assam and the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), operating in Meghalaya by two years as these secessionist outfits have been found to be involved in many recent cases of militancy in North-East. The existing ban on ULFA expires on November 26. For the NDFB and the HNLC the ban will end on November 22 and November 15. Over the years, the Centre has banned 34 militant outfits, of which 13 belong to the Northeast. Telegraph, November 13, 2008.
Anti-Taliban offensive continues in Bajaur: At least 25 Taliban militants and two civilians were killed in the past week in a continued air and land offensive by the security forces (SFs) against Taliban militants in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On November 10, six Taliban militants were killed in the Sewai and Damadola areas when jets bombarded Taliban hideouts. Security forces also targeted Taliban positions in the Zorbandar and Sabagi areas of Khar, but there were no casualties. On November 11, seven Taliban militants were killed as troops targeted Taliban positions in Nawagai and Mamoond tehsils (revenue divisions). Artillery shells also hit civilian areas, but there were no reports of casualties. Security forces arrested 25 Afghan nationals from different areas of the Agency on November 13. Operations continued on November 14, in the Nawagai and Mamoond tehsil areas destroying Taliban hideouts. No casualty was, however, reported. On November 15, six Taliban militants were killed by troops in Mamoond. On November 16, another six Taliban militants and two civilians were killed by SF shelling in the Tanai area of Mamoond tehsil and Umrai area of Nawagai tehsil.
The Government supported tribal lashkars (militias) have also been able to inflict some damage on the militants. On November 16, a lashkar of the Orakzai clan killed 10 militants, while losing its chief Malik Fazal Mabud and important tribal leader Malik Jamdar Khan in gun-battles in Gutkai and Bandarae. Taliban spokesman Maulana Umer claimed that none of his men had been killed and said his fighters had captured 25 members of the lashkar. Previously, on November 11, 12 Taliban commanders surrendered to the political administration at a jirga (council) of Otmankhel tribes. On November 14, a tribal jirga of the Orakzai clan of Mamoond tribe held in Kuga area of Mamoond tehsil set a two-day deadline for the Taliban to surrender before a tribal lashkar or leave. The jirga told the Taliban that upon failure to leave by November 16, a tribal lashkar would torch their houses.
The three-day official deadline for Afghans to leave Bajaur expired on November 12. Earlier, the administration had given a deadline in September to all Afghans to leave the area or face deportation. But the order had been largely ignored. A notification recently warned the local population that they risked confiscation if they purchased property from Afghans. Dawn; Daily Times; Jang, November 11-17, 2008.
Anti-Taliban operations launched in Mohmand Agency: On November 13, security forces, backed by helicopters and tanks, launched an operation to flush out militants from areas around Charsadda and Peshawar as part of a wider plan to establish the Government’s writ in Mohmand Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While officials claimed that 21 militants had been killed and several others wounded in the operation, the local population put the death toll at 13, including seven militants and six civilians. One soldier was killed and another injured. A curfew has been clamped on parts of Charsadda, Peshawar and Mohmand and people in large numbers are reportedly leaving the area. With Cobra helicopters flying overhead, troops backed by tanks have advanced towards Pir Qalla, Juma Khan Korona and Michni areas considered to be militant hubs. Reports indicate that suspected hideouts of militants in 25 villages of Yaka Ghund subdivision adjacent to Mohmand Agency were attacked. Helicopters destroyed an explosive-laden militant vehicle in Badai Korona, killing six people. The house of a Taliban leader was destroyed in Qala Shah Begg. Raids also targeted militant hideouts in Lakaro subdivision of the Agency adjoining Bajaur. Militant bases in Qanadaro and Karier areas were destroyed. A Government school previously taken over by the militants in Sandokhel was also attacked.
On the day operations started, the political administration in the Agency warned the Mohmand tribes of imminent military operation if they did not sever ties with local and foreign Taliban. Pamphlets printed in Urdu language were distributed to the people. "We inform the people of Mohmand Agency that the (outlawed) Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has attacked Islam and Pakistan by killing innocent Muslims. The TTP has [hurt the cause of] Islam more than ever before," the pamphlet read. It further said, "We warn the Mohmand tribes to sever ties with Tehreek-e-Taliban’s Abdul Wali group as the Government is planning action against the group." "Get all elements of Abdul Wali group out of your homes, otherwise they will be targeted by helicopters and jet bombers", it added. Dawn; Daily Times; Jang, November 11-17, 2008.
Country suffered $34.5 billion losses in war on terror, says Foreign Minister: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news briefing in New York on November 13 that the country suffered huge losses, amounting to $34.5 billion, since 2001 for its role in the war on terror. Speaking to reporters after President Asif Ali Zardari’s participation in the trilateral summit, involving Saudi Arabian King Abdullah and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Qureshi said, "Pakistan paid a huge price, both in economic and human terms, to protect itself and the world." He said that the Government was still compiling figures of the losses and would reveal these in a report soon. He further said there has been a "visible change" in the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan since President Zardari assumed his office. Daily Times; Jang, November 14, 2008.
Troops capture Pooneryn: Pooneryn, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) bastion in the Northern Province, fell to the troops advancing amid heavy resistance in the morning of November 15, military sources said. Infantry personnel of 12 Gamunu Watch (12 GW) and 10 Gajaba Regiment (10 GR) crossed the hostile marshlands south of Pooneryn in the night of November 14 and cut off the Pooneryn-Paranthan road (B-69) close to Nallur before dawn on November 15. Troops then marched about 10-kilometers along the B-69 and entered into the Pooneryn town. Separately, the Sri Lanka Air Force MI-24 helicopters and fighter jets carried out a series of raids on LTTE artillery and mortar positions in the Muhamalai area of Jaffna District in the morning of November 15 in support of the Army troops clearing up the captured Pooneryn area.
The LTTE used Pooneryn as a launching pad to fire artillery barrages into the Jaffna Peninsula and taking control of Pooneryn will give the troops easy access to the remaining LTTE-held territories in the North. Defence analysts say the military can now capture Elephant Pass, a strategic LTTE stronghold which was taken from the Sri Lankan Army in fierce battle in 2000.
Army Chief, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, addressing the State media, said the whole A-32 road connecting Mannar to Pooneryn is now under Government control. President Mahinda Rajapakse, addressing the nation following the military victory at Pooneryn, reiterated his commitment to a political solution to the conflict and called on the LTTE leader to lay down arms and come to negotiations. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, November 11-17, 2008.