SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Six months after elections to the Constituent Assembly, and a hundred days after the Maoist-led Government took office, the news from Nepal is gloomy.
The conventional narrative of the changes in Nepal over the past two years has it that the country is drawing up a new social contract. The old rules no longer hold. The King is gone. A transition from a brutal decade-long war is underway. All marginalised groups are asserting themselves and grievances are finding varied forms of expression. The peace process and the Constituent Assembly provide a political platform to bring the Maoists into the ‘mainstream’, give a voice to the oppressed, draw up new rules, and improve lives of people. But this plot has got complicated because of confrontational domestic politics and an enhanced international role.
The Constitution-writing process has barely begun. Bringing the peace process to a logical end – be it in dealing with the future of the Maoist army or tackling issues of disappearances and justice for victims – appears to be an increasingly elusive goal. There is little improvement in service-delivery. On the contrary, anarchy seems to prevail in several Districts and villages, particularly in the Tarai. Militant youth groups are fighting each other. And the growing role and influence of foreign actors has meant that Nepal could once again become a site of competitive geo-political games.
In the face of all this, the one consistent fact is that of Maoist consolidation – both on the ground and in the capital’s corridors of power. Even as the Opposition continues to be in disarray, the former rebels have systematically gone about their political project of maintaining and expanding their hold over the country.
The Maoist goals and tactics were visible in the national cadre meeting of the party, held recently in Kathmandu, which succeeded in reconciling the perspectives of Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and senior leader Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’. The two schools of thought are often dubbed the ‘soft-liners’ and the ‘hardliners’; more accurate labels may be ‘pragmatists’ and ‘dogmatists’.
Both share the same goal – of creating a Janaganatantra – a ‘People’s Republic’. While Prachanda holds that this is the long-term aim, Kiran would like to push for it as soon as possible. Prachanda believes that institutionalising a federal democratic republic is the agenda for now, which translates into completing the peace process and taking the middle classes and international actors along. Kiran believes that the federal democratic republic has already been achieved and it is time to move to the next stage, which would mean blurring the distinction between party and state and pushing for class conflict. The compromise was that the party would adopt a People’s Federal Democratic National Republican line – ambiguous phraseology that could mean different things to different constituencies – and both sides agree that the task for now is using the state and all other means to consolidate the party’s control.
As political analyst Aditya Adhikari pointed out in a newspaper column, the Maoists are following a multi-pronged approach to achieve this aim. For one, they exercise real power on the ground, at least in the hills. With the bureacuracy playing pliant, this has meant that the vast machinery for dispensation of patronage is willing to do their bidding. From local tenders to control over forest groups, the Maoists have a decisive say. They have cleverly built up multi-class coalitions in many parts and have succeeded in reconciling interests.
In the meanwhile, the Nepali Congress (NC) has attempted to revive the party through high-profile rallies in select towns, but in the absence of a motivated cadre or a leadership that is willing to get its hands dirty on the ground, and the lack of any transformative agenda, it poses little challenge to the Maoists. The Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) faces a severe existential crisis and has a leadership that swings alternately from playing second fiddle to the Maoists, to supporting the NC. Thus the Maoists – with a strong organisation, control of the Government apparatus, and lack of any real opposition – call the shots.
The most significant change in Kathmandu has been the growing warmth in ties between the Maoists and the Nepal Army (NA). For those who thought that their bitter past would not allow the two sides to engage with each other, this may have come as a shock. But this relationship, and rapprochement, is happening at several levels.
The Minister of Defence, and Maoist military strategist, Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’ has built links with top brass, especially General Chatraman Gurung, who is next in line to succeed General Rookmangud Katuwal as the Chief of Army Staff. Badal, in fact, took Gurung with him on a visit to China. There have also been several rounds of meetings between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deputy commanders and Nepal Army officers – both serving and retired. Both sides need each other. The Maoists know that if they can influence and exercise real control over the NA, it would be a big step in their aim to consolidate as well as smoothen integration. The Army’s core aim is to protect its privileges. It feels that the Maoists are here to stay and it would be best to build direct links, than to depend on the NC, which has become considerably weaker politically, to protect its interests.
There is nothing wrong with the Army being accountable to the Maoist Minister of Defence – that is the essence of democratic control. But non-Maoists are worried about party-Army ties. For their part, Maoists point to Girija Koirala’s proximity to the Army Chief when he was PM and say, "It was ok when NC wanted to warm up to the military. When we do it, people suddenly complain."
The integration debate has picked up with the formation of the constitutionally mandated Army Integration Special Committee. It is headed by CPN-UML leader and Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam. Its members include Maoist leader and Defence Minister ‘Badal’, former PLA deputy commander and Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Janardhan Sharma ‘Prabhakar’ and a representative of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum. The NC has not joined the Committee, demanding it be given an equal number of seats as the Maoists.
But this will remain a thorny issue. The Maoist aim clearly is to get in as many PLA combatants, in a concentrated manner, into the Army and other security agencies. The Maoists have proposed a joint command which would pave the way for the formation of a new National Army. At the same time, there are sections within the Maoist ranks who do not want integration at all right now – and, in fact, would like to retain the PLA as a fifth force, a back up, until they can get them in on their terms. Despite rhetoric that integration must not happen at all, most non-Maoist forces see the need for integration as a part of the peace process. They would, however, like to keep the Maoist numbers in the NA to a minimum, ensure that these are confined to the lower levels, with entrants recruited on individual basis through merit and scattered across battalions and regions, to prevent any possibility of their grouping. The non-Maoist parties also oppose command level entry of any Maoist commanders into the NA.
Any compromise looks difficult at the moment, and would require detailed discussions – both at the political level, between political parties and the army, as well as at the technical levels. It would also require key international actors to nudge all sides into an acceptable compromise.
One of the vital Maoist strategies and focus has been to build up international legitimacy. Prime Minister Dahal has visited India twice – on a bilateral visit and then for a Bay of Bengal Initiative for MultiSectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) meeting. He has traveled to the UN General Assembly in New York. His first visit was to China to witness the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and he is now planning to embark on a bilateral political visit to Beijing.
This relationship with China, and China’s own interest in Nepal, has been the major change in recent months. High-level visits are so frequent that it is difficult to keep count. Minister for Information Krishna Bahadur Mahara has visited China thrice in the last six months. Defence Minister Badal travelled to China. Badal, Mahara and a few other Maoist leaders also went on what was a ‘secret’ trip across the border, accompanied by a Chinese official at the Embassy in Kathmandu. It was reported that China invited PLA commander Pasang to attend a military course, an invitation that has been put on hold after the opposition NC raised objections. Military delegations from China have visited Nepal twice in just the last fortnight. The Chinese Foreign Minister was in Kathmandu on a three-day visit on December 2 – 4, 2008.
It is not clear where this is headed. One of China’s core concerns is, of course, the Tibet protests, which continued in Nepal long after they had subsided in other parts of the world. China has been worried about the growing US role in Nepal, the entry and influence of the United Nations, and the synergy between India and the US on regional issues. Beijing felt that the Tibet protests were being backed by foreign embassies based in Nepal and passed a stern message to the Nepal Government to crack down. Prachanda obliged. But the interests go beyond the Tibet issue. China is reportedly very concerned about developments in the Tarai – it sees the Madhes movement as an Indian ploy to create trouble for the Maoists. Crucially, though, after its traditional ally – the monarchy – was abolished, China had been looking for a new friend in Nepal and has found one in the Maoists, who are thrilled, as they see this as a chance to play China and India off against each other.
India is obviously concerned, though some sections have tried to downplay the significance of these growing ties. This also comes at a time when India’s carefully constructed consensus between the NC and the Maoists has broken down; its assessment that the Maoist would be ‘tamed’ after elections has proven false; and New Delhi does not know what it would like to push on the integration front.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Kathmandu, along with a survey of the Kosi-affected areas, and a trip down to the Birgunj-Raxaul border, where an integrated check-post is in the pipeline, helped in pushing bilateral issues. But its real significance lay in its political undertones. Sources indicate that the Minister passed on several messages to the Maoist leadership. The first was a clear line that the Maoists had signed up for multi-party democracy and they had to abide by that commitment. Prachanda was also urged to keep this a ‘Nepali-owned’ peace process, a sign that the role of the United Nations political mission be kept to a minimum. He was warned not to engage in internal or external adventurism, a subtle way of suggesting that this growing engagement with China may invite a reaction. Mukherjee also asked the NC and the Maoists to work together, but that continues to be unlikely, given Girija Koirala’s confrontational mood and Maoist unilateral decision-making mode.
These developments are taking place even as things slide to the worse on the ground. In the Tarai, multiple armed groups have been operating. While using the struggle for Madhesi rights as a political cover and taking advantage of the weakness of the state machinery, many of these groups are engaged in largely criminal activities. The impact is a dismal security situation in the southern belt. One human rights group reported that at least 100 people were killed, 126 people were abducted, and 77 minor bomb explosions took place in the Tarai between May and October 2008.
Youth forces have been set up by major parties. If the Maoists have their notorious Young Communist League – often in the News for violations of the rule of law, intimidation and involvement in killings – the UML has set up its Youth Force (YF). While the two parent parties accept an uneasy power-sharing arrangement at the top, the young cadre is often embroiled in violent fights. A few weeks back, the YF alleged that YCL had abducted two of its members from Kathmandu and killed them in the neighbouring Dhading District. Many of these clashes are to do with division of spheres of influence and asserting claims over a share of the cash in key sectors.
The federalism debate has barely begun. One of the key challenges in the Constitution-writing process will be carving out borders for the new provinces as well as determining the power-sharing between the Centre and States. The Maoists have proposed an ethnicity-based federal mode. The Madhesi parties have demanded the entire Tarai as a single autonomous zone. Other parties are yet to come up with their proposals, though they are averse to ethnic models and would push for economic viability and geography as key determinants. Federalism has become an emotive issue, and when mixed with ethnic groups – many of them with their own militant forces – it has the potential to turn explosive. There is a real fear that this debate could spill over onto the streets, and it would be difficult to pull back at that stage.
As unfeasible as it may look right now, the only way to get Nepal back on a more stable path is to bring back the politics of consensus between key forces. The Government needs to focus on improving the law and order machinery and get its head down on development activities. The parties need to crack the whip on their youth cadres. The Constitution-writing process needs to be expedited. Ethnic grievances need to be addressed sensitively and in quick time. Discussions on integration need to be pushed, so that Maoist combatants find a future, without the Army becoming a tool of any party. Broader security sector reform, with the Army brought under firmer civilian control, is necessary. Those who suffered during the war need redressal. It is a long wish-list, but essential to provide relief to the Nepali citizen in search of peace and development.
Pradesh: Insurgent Spill-Over
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, during his meeting with senior Union Ministers in the third week of November 2008, sought INR Five Billion as a ‘peace bonus’ from the Centre for the continuing calm in his State. Dorjee rightly claimed at Delhi that there were no local militant outfits operating in Arunachal, unlike neighbouring Assam and Nagaland. The Chief Minister, however, failed to qualify that the tranquillity in his State was providing a perfect camouflage for the insurgents of neighbouring States to carry on with their decades-long efforts of area domination, transfer of arms, logistics, and recruitment drives, which continue unhindered in the ‘peaceful’ Arunachal frontier.
Arunachal has been the recipient of the ‘overflow of the conflicts from its neighbourhood’ since the 1980s. Nagaland Post quoting Government sources reported on April 21, 2008, that militant groups like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) were setting up well-entrenched bases in the Tirap, Changlang, and Lohit Districts of Arunachal Pradesh. An unnamed senior official stated, "The ULFA is not only setting up bases in the State but also using Arunachal Pradesh as a transit to Myanmar. We cannot allow our State to be used by militants from other states for anti-national activities." Further, a senior Police official declared, "Extortion and kidnappings are commonplace in parts of Tirap and Changlang Districts by the NSCN (sic). The area is gradually becoming a lawless region." The report also quoted the Chief Minister as earlier having said that the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K) was on a recruitment drive in the State and had abducted more than 50 local tribal youths to join the outfit. "These are serious issues and we cannot allow our peaceful state to be vitiated," he added.
Meanwhile, another report in November mentioned that the ULFA and NSCN-K were holding joint training sessions in the Lohit, Tirap and Changlang Districts fearing possible Army crackdowns in Assam and Nagaland. The report went on to say that a group of 30 newly recruited ULFA cadres were undergoing a two-month advanced training programme in villages bordering Changlang and Myanmar under the supervision of ‘sergeant commander’ Anjan Borthakur of the ‘B company of 28th battalion’ of the ULFA, the ULFA ‘publicity secretary’ Michael Deka, and the ‘commander’ of the NSCN–K, Siv Konyak.
Confirming these reports, a Police source disclosed, "After two months of training, the cadres will head for Myanmar to join other group members. It is an alarming trend. This is the first time that ULFA and NSCN-K are jointly conducting such advanced training courses in the State." The villages in Mahadevpur circle of Lohit District, the Pangchao circle of Tirap District and the Bordumsa circle of Changlang District are the outfits’ new safe havens. Both groups have held recruitment drives in Lohit and received ‘satisfactory response’, sources indicated. 40 new cadres were reportedly recruited in Mahikong, Malemna, Maling and Manchal areas under the Mahadevpur circle in the District. The NSCN-K also recruited about 20 cadres from Khanu, Khasa, Bonya, Konnu and Konsa areas of Tirap District in August, September and October 2008. Meanwhile, the ULFA is reported to have begun a fresh recruitment drives in Borkhet Chaimu, Chamro and Changlai villages of Changlang District.
The joint recruitment drive by the NSCN-K and the ULFA also coincides with the NSCN – Isak-Muivah faction’s (NSCN-IM) exercise of recruiting its cadres in the same region as well. Thus, a December 1, 2008, report indicated that at least 14 youth were abducted from Ninu village under Wakka circle of Tirap District in November as part of the NSCN-IM’s ongoing recruitment drive. The report added that a local man of Ninu Village, suspected to be an NSCN-IM cadre, had recruited 16 youth from the village, another two from Longsom, three from Bera and one from Konsa in the District, with a target to recruit 50 youth from Khonsa, Longding and Kanubari circles. The District Administration, however, was not sure whether the youth were abducted or whether they voluntarily joined the outfit. The NSCN-IM was also resorting to extortion by employing some locals in the area.
The competitive and collaborative recruitment by frontal militant formations of Assam and Nagalnd in the south-eastern Districts of Arunachal Pradesh is part of a wider configuration of the present conflict dynamics in the Northeast region. Tirap and Changlang have sizeable Naga populations, and are consequently drawn into the war for area-domination between the Khaplang and its bete noire Isak-Muivah factions. While, the NSCN-K has dominated both the Districts since the 1980s, NSCN-IM has also managed to establish itself in the area over the years. These two Districts have also emerged as one of the principal routes for the ULFA to carry out its focused activities in upper Assam through cadres based in Myanmar, its only safe have outside Bangladesh since the outfit lost all its bases in Bhutan after the military operation in December 2003. The increasing dependence on training camps in Myanmar has made the existing ties which the ULFA cadres developed with the NSCN-K while using its camps in the Sagaing Division of Myanmar, much stronger. The pressures on the ULFA to join hands with the NSCN-K in the recruitment drive in Arunachal increased dramatically as a result of the need to replenish the possible cadre crunch the group now faces in upper Assam, as a result of the unilateral cease-fire declared by leaders of ULFA’s ‘A and C companies’ the striking ‘28th Battalion’ on June 24, 2008. Part of Arunachal territory abutting both upper Assam and Nagaland is, consequently, a zone of converging interests between the NSCN-K and ULFA.
The vast expanse of the Arunachal-Assam border conjoining the other side of the upper Assam region also provides a corridor of escape for the militants from Assam. The security agencies, including the Police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), face a tough time tracking down the insurgents who exploit the riverine areas connecting Arunachal’s capital Itanagar, and Dollungmukh, with the Lakhimpur District of Assam, to escape. The Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Arunachal’s Papum Pare District, Bidol Tayeng, recently stated that the land along Rajgarh Ali in the Sonajuli-Durpong-Chessa-Chengmara-Hollongi area of the District had become a safe haven for underground elements. The militants, particularly belonging to Bodo outfits such as the erstwhile Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), had been using these areas to take shelter or to keep in captivity people abducted from the capital complex. The rivers of Durpong, Chessa and Chengmara, which link Itanagar with these foothill areas, were used by the militants as shortcuts to escape after abducting targeted persons. The foothills and forests of the Chengmara areas were the best hideouts to keep the abductees in captivity and their vulnerabilities have been demonstrated in the past. In 1997, the ULFA militants ambushed a convoy of Itanagar Police at Chessa and attacked the occupants with automatic weapons, killing five Policemen and injuring two on the spot. Getem Apang, son of former Chief Minister Gegong Apang, was abducted and kept captive in the Chengmara area on June 18, 2008. Another report suggested that along with Getem his friend Narain Rai was also abducted and kept captive by militants. Several traders and officials have also been abducted and kept captive in these areas. A trader of Itanagar, identified as Ulash Todi, was abducted and kept in captivity at Chessa in 2001. The Managing Director of the Arunachal Pradesh State Co-operative Society, S.N. Prasad, who was abducted from Naharlagun and was rescued by the Police from the Chengmara area. Further, two traders from Nirjuli area, J.P. Gupta and R.P. Choudhury, who were abducted in 2006, were rescued from the same area by the Police.
The years 2008 has also witnessed several insurgency related incidents in Arunchal Pradesh, including:
January 27, 2008: A NSCN-IM militant, Tikhon Mossang, was arrested from the residence of a former Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Tingpong Wangham, in Itanagar. Mossang had served extortion notices to several Ministers, high-ranking Government officials and politicians.
March 31, 2008: A group of ULFA militants made a quick getaway during an Army raid, but left behind a bag containing USD 100,000 in Manabhum Reserve Forest.
May 22, 2008: A top ULFA leader, Suren Borah alias Baba Sonowal, was arrested by the Army from Pasighat in the East Siang District. According to Army sources, "Bora was responsible mainly for providing logistical support to the members of the outfit who use Arunachal Pradesh as a major corridor for launching operations in Upper Assam."
June 17, 2008: Two ULFA militants were shot dead by Army personnel during an encounter at Bandarkhati Khamti village in the Lohit District. A pistol, a revolver and an improvised explosive device (IED) weighing ten kilograms were recovered from their possession.
August 29, 2008: Arunachal Pradesh Police arrested four persons, including a ‘major’ of the NSCN-IM, for running an extortion racket in the capital Itanagar.
November 16, 2008: A NSCN-K linkman, Hanjam Loham, was arrested by the Assam Rifles personnel from Kanubari in the Tirap District. He had served an extortion notice to villagers at Loksim.
The State’s response to such spill-over insurgency is manifested through a series of measures, including the proposal to set up a unified command consisting of the Army, Police and Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs), decision to allot 800 acres of land in the Papum Pare District for setting up a military establishment, and the launch of a purge operation by the Assam Rifles at Khonsa in the Tirap District. There is, however, little scope for this conflict afflicted State to permanently uproot the last vestiges of militancy from its soil in the foreseeable future.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 1-7, 2008
55 per cent voting in the fourth phase and 68.22 per cent in the third phase of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections: On December 7, 2008, an estimated 55 per cent turnout was recorded for 18 seats (12 in Kashmir Valley and six in Jammu) in four Districts amid stray incident of violence. Sporadic clashes between anti-poll protesters and Security Forces occurred at a few places while there was a grenade explosion at Sopore, but no one was killed. The voting was spread over Baramulla, Udhampur, Budgam and Reasi Districts. Gool Arnas, once the operational hub of the militants in lower Pirpanchal ranges, recorded a very high turnout (70 per cent), while Sopore, the home town of breakaway Hurriyat faction leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had the lowest turnout of 14 per cent. As per tentative data, 55 per cent of the electorate in Baramulla, Budgam, Udhampur and Reasi Districts cast their votes, Chief Electoral Officer B.R. Sharma disclosed.
Election authorities on December 4 said 68.22 per cent polling was recorded in the third phase of election in five Assembly segments of Kupwara District. "With reference to the presiding officers’ diaries of the five Assembly segment of Kupwara District, which went to polls on November 30 in the third phase of elections in the State, polling was recorded as 68.22 per cent," an official statement said. Giving further details, it said that 80.41 per cent of votes were cast in Karnah segment followed by 75.47 per cent in Handwara, 68.46 per cent in Lolab, 62.60 per cent in Kupwara and 61.46 per cent in the Langate segment. The Hindu, December 8 and 5, 2008.
Defence Minister warns of airborne terror threat: Defence Minister A.K. Antony on December 3, 2008, warned the Armed Forces of possible terrorist attacks from airborne platforms similar to the ‘9/11’ attacks in the US, at a meeting with the three Services Chiefs and Defence officials in New Delhi. The meeting, attended by Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, also reviewed the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan in the wake of reports that its Army was on a "high alert" following the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Antony asked them to be prepared to counter the threat of terrorists from the air and prevent a repeat of World Trade Center-type attacks carried out by al Qaeda. The Hindu, December 4, 2008.
Government urges Pakistan to take action against LeT founder and other terrorists: India has asked Pakistan to take action against three terrorists identified as Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the founder chief of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the Mumbai underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, believed to be living in Pakistan, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistan national freed from an Indian prison in exchange for passengers on a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in December 1999. Official sources said Saeed is one of three individuals in a list of 20 against whom India demanded immediate action by Pakistan. The Hindu, December 3, 2008.
Terrorists came from Pakistan, says Mumbai Police commissioner Hasan Gafoor: Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor confirmed on December 2, 2008, that the 10 terrorists who were involved in the multiple terrorist attacks had sailed in a merchant vessel from Karachi in Pakistan on the high seas, before boarding a hijacked fishing boat named Kuber. After being closer to Mumbai, the group left the trawler and took an inflatable rubber dinghy, and landed at Budhwar Park near Cuffe Parade. Each group carried timer-controlled improvised explosive devices (IED) and each of the terrorists was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a pistol, said the Police Commissioner. He also added that each of them carried between INR 2,000 and INR 5,000 in cash, and some foreign currency which might have been seized from the hostages. The attackers used a global positioning system (GPS) to chart their course. After reaching Mumbai, the militants used mobile phones fitted with Indian SIM cards, which were reportedly bought from Kolkata and Delhi. That helped them to communicate with their controllers through a voice-over-Internet connection, said Gafoor. The Hindu, December 3, 2008.
63 civilians and 33 militants killed in NWFP: At least 105 persons, including 63 civilians and 33 militants were killed during the week in NWFP. 13 Taliban militants and a trooper were killed in two clashes in Swat District on December 6. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) officials in Mingora said 11 militants were killed in shelling by helicopters in the Nalkot area of Matta tehsil (revenue division). Two more militants were killed and four wounded in an exchange of fire in the Sambat area of Matta. A day earlier, a car bomb explosion outside an Imambargah (congregation hall for Shia rituals) near the Qisakhwani Bazaar in Peshawar, capital of the NWFP, killed at least 34 persons and injured more than 150. Imambargah Alamdar Karbala and several adjacent buildings in the Kocha Risaldar alley were damaged and the ensuing fire engulfed buildings, markets and vehicles. NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that about 20 to 25 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast, which he said did not appear to be a suicide bombing.
Security forces (SFs) on December 4 killed 10 militants in Malam Jabba and Matta in Swat. "The troops targeted (Taliban) hideouts in Malam Jabba and destroyed a vehicle prepared for a suicide explosion," APP quoted the spokesman of Swat Media Centre as saying. In the Khwazakhela area of Swat, armed men killed two people on charges of ‘spying for the Government’ on December 4. Two more men were killed in Kabal tehsil (revenue division), while assailants killed a man in the Taj Chowk area of Mingora.
Five people, including three SF personnel, were killed and six others wounded when a suicide bomber rammed his auto rickshaw into a vehicle of the SFs at Pir Qala area of Shabqadar tehsil in the Charsadda District on December 3. Earlier, one soldier, six militants and six civilians were killed in an exchange of fire and shelling in Swat Valley on December 2. Eleven civilians were killed and 66 persons, including two soldiers, injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden mini-truck into the Sangota checkpoint in the Swat Valley on December 1. Daily Times; The News; Dawn, December 2-8, 2008.
57 persons killed in FATA: At least 39 militants and 17 civilians were killed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) during the week. Three people were killed in a missile attack by a suspected United States drone in the Mir Ali tehsil (revenue division) of North Waziristan on December 5. Intelligence officials and residents said those killed in the attack were Taliban militants. 21 persons, including 14 militants and seven civilians, were killed when fighter planes and helicopter gunships targeted various areas in the Lakaro tehsil of Mohmand Agency on December 3. Fighter planes and helicopter gunships bombed the hideouts of militants in Ziarat mountain, Ghaziabad, Bagh hill, Bhawatha, Shawa Farsh, Mamad Gatt, Alingar, Hazeena, Chinari and Karer areas of Lakaro. Three persons, including two women of a family, died when a shell struck their house in lower Chinari village of Lakaro on December 2. The security forces (SFs) carried out heavy shelling on suspected hideouts of the militants with artillery and mortar guns from Bhai Dag and Mamad Gat camps.
Six Taliban militants were killed in SFs operations in several areas of Bajaur Agency on December 2. Locals said troops targeted the Kosar, Bai Cheena, Jannat Shah and Charmang areas of Khar tehsil with artillery. The six militants were reportedly killed in the operation in Bai Cheena. Officials said several areas in Nawagai were now under the Army’s control. Earlier, fighter jets and artillery killed 15 militants in Bajaur Agency on December 1. The clashes occurred in several areas of Bajaur where troops are engaged in fighting with the Taliban since the launch of an Army operation in August 2008. "Artillery backed by tanks and fighter jets pounded underground bunkers and other hideouts of the Taliban, killing 15 of them during the last 24 hours," local administration official Mohammad Jamil told AFP. Daily Times; The News; Dawn, December 2-8, 2008.
Pakistani soil was used in Mumbai attacks, says Condoleezza Rice: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on December 7, 2008, there was evidence to suggest that people living in Pakistan were involved in the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. "There is evidence of involvement somehow on Pakistani soil," said Rice. "The investigation is still ongoing… Pakistan needs to co-operate transparently. They’ve said that they will. Clearly there are organisations that operate with longstanding involvement in this kind of activity (in Pakistan)," Rice added. She noted that "Americans also died in the attack and that the United States expected the full and complete cooperation of Pakistan and Pakistani action" in finding and punishing anyone linked to the Mumbai incident. "I made very clear to the Pakistanis that we are a friend of Pakistan, we are an ally of Pakistan, but when something like this happens, the United States expects Pakistan to act," she said. Dawn, December 8, 2008.
Operation against Lashkar-e-Toiba launched in PoK: Security Forces have launched a ‘quiet’ crackdown on activists belonging to the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT, also known as Jama’at-ud-Da’awa) in different parts of the country and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Dawn reported. In Muzaffarabad, capital of the PoK, a major Army operation was under way in the city suburbs on December 7 against a site being used by the Jama’at-ud-Da’awa, which is headed by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. Sources said that more than 20 members of the banned organisation and LeT ‘commander’ Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi had been arrested. There are reports that similar action is planned in some cities and towns of Punjab province. However, reports of the crackdown could not be confirmed from the Interior Ministry or Inter-Services Public Relations. Local residents in Muzaffarabad, however, said they had seen Army personnel taking control of the area along Shawai Nullah, some five kilometres northwest of Muzaffarabad, where the organisation possesses a large plot of land on which several buildings had been built. There were unconfirmed reports of an exchange of fire. In Chehla Bandi, soldiers are reported to be checking vehicles bound for the Neelum Valley. However, a Jama’at-ud-Da’awa office-bearer denied that a crackdown had been launched on his organisation in other areas. Dawn,December 8, 2008.
US wants four ex-ISI officials to be declared as international terrorists: The US has given four names of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials, including Lt-Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, to the UN Security Council to put them on the list of international terrorists. Gul confirmed that he was included in the list of those four or five former ISI officials whose names had been provided to the UN Secretary-General by the US Government to be included in the list of international terrorists under Resolution 1267 of the Security Council. Gul admitted that he had already met the Foreign Affairs Secretary to discuss the issue. A Foreign Office source said the issue had already been referred to the Prime Minister’s Office but no decision had been taken by the Government so far. Lou Fintor, the US Embassy spokesman, said the Embassy was unaware of the issue. The News, December 4, 2008.
Pakistan is closest to the intersection of nuclear weapons and terrorism, says White House: The White House said, on December 3, 2008, that it agreed with the bipartisan Congressional Commission’s report that Pakistan was closest to the intersection of nuclear weapons and terrorism. "I have no reason to disagree with it," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, when asked if the White House agreed with the report. The bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism reported earlier on December 3 that if there was a WMD attack on the United States, it would originate in Pakistan. "Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan," and "the focus of US policy should be to help Pakistan achieve political and economic stability," the report said. The report observed that while Pakistan was a US ally, "there is a grave danger it could also be an unwitting source of a terrorist attack on the United States—possibly using weapons of mass destruction." The commission urged the next administration and Congress to pay particular attention to Pakistan, "as it is the geographic crossroads for terrorism and weapons of mass destruction… Indeed, the border provinces of Pakistan today are a safe haven, if not the safe haven, for al Qaeda." Dawn, December 4, 2008.
Pakistan not responsible for Mumbai attack, says President Zardari: President Asif Ali Zardari said on December 2, 2008, that Pakistan was not involved in the terrorist attacks on Mumbai last week. "I think these are stateless actors who have been operating all throughout the region," Zardari said on a U.S. based television channel in an interview aired on December 2. He said: "The gunmen plus the planners, whoever they are, are stateless actors who have been holding hostage the whole world (sic)." Zardari stated that it was wrong to put the blame on Pakistan as the person arrested has no connection with Pakistan and he does not posses Pakistani nationality. "The state of Pakistan is in no way responsible," he told the media. The News, December 3, 2008.
More areas captured as troops move further towards Kilinochchi: Troops captured Kokavil, a key town on the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) road in the south of Kilinochchi after advancing three kilometers southwards from Murikkandy in the morning of December 1. "It was after 18 years that troops regained control of Kokavil town on the A-9 road," an unnamed senior military official said, adding, "With the capture of Kokavil town troops have taken full control of the A-9 road from Murikkandy in the south of Kilinochchi to Mankulam junction." Earlier, troops launched their operation from the north east of Mankulam, and cleared the A-9 road up to the strategic junction town of Mankulam after capturing the Mankulam town. Following the capture of Kokavil town the troops also took control of areas in the East of A-9 road after advancing their defence line towards the Eastern edge of the Iranamadu tank area. Troops on December 2 captured Periyakulam village, about one kilometre west of the newly-captured Otiyamale, in the Mullaitivu District. Periyakulam lies near Vavuniya and Mullaitivu District borders. The 59 Division troops captured the strategically important Alampil area, 10-kilometres south of Mullaitivu, while Task Force II troops captured the key junction town of Puliyankulam on the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) highway, military officials said. With the capture of these two areas, the entire A-9 Highway stretch of about 8.5-kilometres from the northern end of Omanthai Entry/Exit point has now been freed from Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The Defence Ministry said, "LTTE terrorists highly utilised the Nayaru lagoon located immediately south of Alampil as the major Sea Tiger operational base for logistic transportation from Mullaitivu via sea routs. It was also utilised by the Sea Tigers as a boat launching pad," adding that, with the fall of Alampil, Mullaitivu had become vulnerable. Troops of Task Force 2 moving eastwards across the main Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) highway captured Kanakarayankulam located about 10 kilometres north of Puliyankulam, in the Kilinochchi District on December 5. The troops had captured Puliyankulam on December 4. With the capture of Kanakarayankulam, Puliyankulam, Mankulam and Kokavil towns, troops have now cleared a 21 kilometre segment of the A-9 highway between Omanthai to the south and Kokavil to the north facilitating civilian movement into Government controlled areas. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, December 2-8, 2008.