SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Rewarding militancy and supping with the enemy has become an entrenched Pakistani habit. In its most recent manifestation, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Government hammered out a deal – widely described as a "surrender" by Pakistani commentators – with the banned Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM). On February 16, the provincial Government formally announced the implementation of Sharia (Islamic law), known as the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009, in the Malakand Division and Kohistan District. NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti told a Press Conference after chairing a jirga (council of elders) in provincial capital Peshawar: "The provincial Government in consultation with all political parties, Sufi Muhammad and ulema [scholars] with the approval of Federal Government introduced changes in the 1999 Nizam-e-Adl Regulation. Today I announce promulgation of Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (Amended) 2009…" He added, somewhat wishfully, "The regulations will be implemented in Malakand following the return of peace and restoration of the writ of the Government." The jirga was attended by a 29-member delegation of TNSM, leaders of political and religious parties, NWFP cabinet members and senior bureaucrats. Hoti stated, further, that the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 had been approved by President Asif Zardari following consultations with the TNSM representatives.
The provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain declared, "After successful negotiations... all un-Islamic laws related to the judicial system, those against the Quran and Sunnah [custom or manner of life], would be subject to cancellation and considered null and void,". He read an ‘announcement’ signed by three TNSM leaders and six NWFP Government officials that declared "null and void" all laws "contrary to Quran and Hadith." The announcement also requested the TNSM chief to co-operate with the Government for the restoration of peace in Malakand and promised that the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations would be implemented in the region after peace was fully restored.
The agreement was reached after extensive discussions between the militants and the NWFP Government in Peshawar on February 16, 2009. The Taliban in Swat had declared a unilateral 10-day cease-fire the night before the talks commenced. Earlier, on February 14, they had released Chinese engineer Long Xiaowei, who was abducted on August 29, 2008, as a ‘goodwill gesture’. In response, the Chief Minister stated, "We will reciprocate the militants’ 10-day armistice with a cease-fire for good." Hoti also said troops would remain in "reactive mode" instead of a "proactive mode" and would not target anyone unless threatened. However, he added, the Army should be removed only after peace has been restored.
The Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009 institutionalises a framework of Islamic laws and henceforth cases would be heard by ‘religious authorities’ (Qazis) and decided in accordance with Islamic injunctions in Malakand Division (comprising seven districts of Swat, Buner, Shangla, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Chitral and Malakand) and the Kohistan District of Hazara Division in the NWFP. Islamist extremists in Swat have long attempted, violently or otherwise, to impose Sharia and replace the secular jurisprudence which came into force after the former princely state was absorbed into the Pakistani federation in 1969.
Chief Minister Hoti has clarified that the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009 were in line with the Constitution of Pakistan, as these were the amended form of the regulations proposed for Malakand in 1994 and 1999. He said the new system had been devised to provide easy and speedy justice for the people and that both the Qazi and Police departments would be held accountable for any delay. He announced that all civil cases would be resolved within six months and all criminal cases would be decided within a maximum of four months. For its implementation, Hoti said, a task force comprising the Federal Secretary of the Interior, the NWFP Chief Secretary, the provincial presidents of the Awami National party (ANP) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Law and Home Secretaries, would be established.
The ‘deal’ in Swat constitutes an unambiguously desperate move to escape militancy in the Frontier. Such capitulation by the state can only increase the space for radical Islam and the operational capacities of militants who are already the de facto power across large swathes of Pakistan. More worryingly, all stakeholders, including the military, were reportedly taken on board before the agreement was signed. While the Army is on record as having stated that the situation in Swat was "not satisfactory", its spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, disclosed that the military had been asked to "back off". Reports indicate that month-long high-level discussions preceded a final decision arrived at during confabulations, in which President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani and Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti participated. In fact, President Zardari reportedly noted that, if peace could be achieved by introducing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009, these should be implemented immediately. Within the province, all political parties, including the PPP, the ANP, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman faction), the Pakistan Muslim League–Quaid, have endorsed the deal.
On the ground, intense violence continues to afflict the NWFP, although the guns have fallen silent in Swat since the ‘peace deal’ was announced. 572 people, including 274 civilians and 240 militants, have already died in the province in 2009 (till February 19). Approximately 2,944 people, including 1,021 civilians, 281 Security Force (SF) personnel and 1,642 militants, were killed and 1,748 were wounded in more than 2,183 incidents across the NWFP through 2008. The death count in 2008 registered more than a doubling over 2007, the year which had witnessed the sweeping transformation of the Frontier into a major battleground for radical Islam. While six out of the eight suicide attacks in 2009 occurred in the NWFP, 32 of the 59 suicide attacks in 2008 were located in the province. All the eight Districts where the Sharia is to be implemented are varyingly affected by violence and subversion, with Swat the worst affected.
People in Swat and elsewhere in the Frontier continue to be subjected to immense brutality. Nearly 200 girls’ schools have been bombed, an oppressive religious code is maintained with savage and public punishment, and those who defy the Taliban have been beheaded in public. Protracted fighting between the SFs and the Taliban has forced thousands of civilians to flee the Swat valley. While there are no official displacement figures, credible independent reportage indicates that up to 800,000 of the valley's 1.8 million people may have fled.
In a certain sense, the truce helps Islamabad and the Taliban. While the Taliban get de jure status and legitimacy, Pakistan’s embattled troops, who are already over-extended by a multiplicity of insurgencies, will get a breather. Reports indicate that SF personnel have refused to be posted in places like Swat, disregarding even the lure of higher salaries and more incentives, or the threat of punitive action. Javed Aziz Khan reported in The News on February 1, 2009,
The intensity of fear is palpable. 600 commandos of the newly set up Elite Police Force refused en bloc to be posted in Swat District, saying they would prefer sacking to being made "scapegoats." As one unnamed source disclosed to The News, "The services of around 600 commandoes of Platoon No-1 to Platoon No-13 were placed at the disposal of District Police Officer of Swat. They were supposed to join duty during the first week of January. However, none of them left for the troubled town." Parents of these commandoes had also reportedly refused to send their sons to Swat where Policemen have been slaughtered and strangulated publicly in the recent past. The NWFP Inspector General of Police, Malik Naveed Khan, stated, on January 29, 2009, that Police were being recruited from other provinces after officials in Swat resigned because of the Taliban threat.
With many of its activists and leaders having become victims of the Taliban, the ruling Awami National Party may also get some respite. According to the ANP central secretariat in Peshawar, the party has lost more than 100 activists in Swat Valley alone during the last seven months. Among the latest victims was Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Alamzeb Khan, who was killed in a bomb blast on February 11, 2009, in Momin Town in capital Peshawar. In fact, ANP legislators, including two provincial Ministers, five MPAs and a Member of National Assembly from Swat had stopped visiting their constituencies after the Taliban scrapped the 14-point peace agreement with the provincial Government in July 2008. There have been casualties and material losses for the ANP in other Districts of the Frontier as well. Almost all the ANP leaders, ministers and legislators are on the militants’ hit-list. With free movement of its cadre curtailed and governance affected, the ANP, which carries the secular legacy of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, more popularly known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’, is now ‘forced’ to deal with the armies of radical Islam. It is significant to recall, in this context, that the ANP secured 48 seats of the total 124 seats in the provincial assembly elections of February 2008; by contrast, the Islamist parties, under the banner of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) secured just 14 seats. Democratic validation, however, has little relevance when political representatives are staring down the barrel of a gun.
Whatever relief Islamabad, the Army or the provincial Government and political parties may currently experience, however, promises to be fleeting. By implementing the Sharia, the Government has not only granted legitimacy to the outlawed TNSM, but has helped it to come over-ground and regain its influence in Malakand, which was waning as a result of the proscription since January 2002 and the extended incarceration of Sufi Mohammed and many cadres. The TNSM’s legitimization is fraught with grave dangers for any residual democratic potential. A few days before the ‘peace deal’ Sufi Mohammed declared,
Sufi Mohammad, a former Jamaat-e-Islami leader, had earlier led a revolt in Swat in the 1990s, for the introduction of Sharia. He was arrested after leading thousands of extremists to fight alongside the Taliban against US-backed forces in Afghanistan in late 2001. Pakistani authorities released him in April 2008 in an attempt to placate the Taliban militants led by his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah alias Fazal Hayat, in Swat. Peace will now largely depend on the ailing Sufi Mohammed’s ability to persuade Fazlullah to end his armed campaign. Doubts, however, persist on whether he has adequate influence over Fazlullah, who has gradually developed strong and intricate linkages with Taliban factions outside the NWFP and with al Qaeda, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Too much faith, moreover, is being reposed in the idea that the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009 will usher in peace in the NWFP. If peace could be achieved by a mere reversal of legal systems or changes in administrative systems, Islamabad could easily replicate the idea across the country.
Worse, Sharia is conceptually open to subjective and widely divergent interpretations, unleashing significant potential for conflict between rigid sectarian factions. Among the very first conflicts could, for instance, emerge on who is to define or interpret Sharia. Disagreement is also unavoidable when the avowedly secular ANP will be pitted against forces like the TNSM and Taliban, who espouse their own vision of radical Islam.
Even as a beleaguered Islamabad fumbles about in search of an appropriate strategy, its misguided adventures appear, regrettably, to have US acquiescence. This ‘peace deal' has significant implications for the United States, especially on how it can prosecute the campaign against terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The United States said, on February 18, that it will wait for results before offering any comments on the peace deal. "We're in discussions or we're in contact with the Government of Pakistan, and we'll see what the results of their policy will be," State Department’s Deputy Spokesman, Gordon Duguid, disclosed. On February 17, Duguid had noted that the introduction of Sharia was "within the constitutional framework of Pakistan" and that it was not "an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss." Such a guarded reaction suggests that Islamabad had kept the US in the loop. However, Richard Holbrooke, the Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, while expressing concern, stated, "We are troubled and confused in a sense about what happened in Swat, because it is not an encouraging trend." He noted, further, that "previous ceasefires have broken down and we do not want to see territory ceded to the bad guys. The people who took over Swat are very bad people."
There is a school of thought in Washington and elsewhere that erroneously distinguishes between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban or between ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ Taliban.’ Successive US Administrations have tended to be indulgent towards the ‘moderate’ Taliban, subscribing to Pakistan’s reasoning that they can be won over and co-opted, unlike the ‘bad Taliban’, who are irreconcilable. The spectrum of tolerance for Pakistan’s delinquency since 9/11 has, moreover, gradually widened under the flawed rationale that applying greater pressure on Islamabad would compromise US operations in Afghanistan. Along with Pakistan's troublesome decision to release rogue nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan from detention, progressive Talibanisation represents a clear warning to the Obama administration that Pakistan is susceptible to what the US Joint Forces Command describes is "rapid and sudden collapse." While history has proven repeatedly that the appeasement of militants doesn't work, continued acceptance of Pakistan’s ‘terrorist blackmail’ can only lead to an undermining of the declared US policy of zero tolerance for terrorism, and a sinking into what Robert Blackwill described is "a swamp of moral relativism and strategic myopia."
The ‘peace deal’ in the NWFP is best seen as part of the Taliban’s strategic game-plan in its advance across Pakistan. As in the past, the Taliban will use this cease-fire to regroup, re-arm and consolidate its position in territories under its control, even as it works to extend its influence in contiguous territories. Peace processes only serve to embolden the radical forces, be it in Afghanistan, Pakistan or elsewhere. Far from ‘ushering in peace’, such deals have, in the past, provided the Taliban-al Qaeda combine secure safe havens and an opportunity to expand the sphere of their jihad. A parallel system of governance, including a harsh system of ‘justice’ and ‘tax’ collection, already exists under the command of the Taliban in the Swat Valley. The latest moves by the Government will merely institutionalise these aberrations.
The deal in Swat clearly rewards militancy and demonstrates Islamabad’s growing inability or lack of will to contest Islamist extremism. Ominously, it confirms a deeper and more dangerous reality: the Pakistani state is vulnerable to the extremist blackmail. Ceding spaces to Islamist extremists in Swat sets a precedent that the Taliban will now seek to replicate elsewhere in Pakistan. The Bajaur chapter of the TNSM has already demanded immediate implementation of Sharia in the Agency, promising, in return, its co-operation to establish the complete ‘writ of the state’, and accepting the Army’s presence in the region ‘till reconstruction work was completed’. TNSM’s Bajaur unit chief Ismail Muhammadi made this demand on February 15, while reacting to the Malakand pact, declaring, "After people's major demand of the enforcement of Sharia is met, the restoration of peace and purging the area of miscreants will become easier and the TNSM will be in a position to help establish writ of the government."
Embedded in the Malakand pact is Islamabad’s duplicity and desperation. A day before the Swat deal, President Zardari had warned that Taliban was trying to "take over the state of Pakistan", after having established its presence in "huge amounts of land" much beyond the tribal areas that form the group's original strongholds. "We have weaknesses and they are taking advantage of that weakness… we are fighting for the survival of Pakistan." But this declaration came even while the Swat deal was being hammered out with the extremists. Strategic confusion is now, inevitably, pervasive. Within three days of declaring that force was the only option against militancy, Zardari told Chinese journalists in Beijing, on February 16, that the fight against terrorism could not be won with guns and bombs alone.
The latest ‘peace deal’ in the NWFP will, most likely, be no more effective than previous misadventures of this kind. The ‘settlement’ with the TNSM will produce not more than a brief lull before a rising storm, even as Islamabad’s manifest weakness is exploited in new theatres across the country, creating expanding spaces for extreme violence.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
February 16-23, 2009
Government agrees to hand over ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia to India: Bangladesh said on February 19, 2009 that it has mutually agreed with India to hand over the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) general secretary Anup Chetia, who has been lodged in a Bangladeshi jail since 1996. "We have mutually agreed on the handover, now we have to decide on the formalities of how to hand over," Bangladesh's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hasan Mahmud told CNN-IBN news channel in Dhaka. The mutual agreement "will also include handover of Bangladeshi criminals who have fled to India," Mahmud was quoted as saying in a press release issued by the TV channel. He reportedly accused the previous Bangladesh National Party Government of nurturing terrorist groups like the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI-B). "Since 2001, the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami had ministers in their Government who chanted slogans to turn Bangladesh into Afghanistan," Mahmud said. He also added that "HuJI has cross-border linkages not only with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) but with other organisations also". Mahmud also conformed that the HuJI still has cadres in hideouts in Bangladesh and the Government was trying to locate them. The Hindu, February 20, 2009.
Terrorists could use shipping containers to smuggle nuclear weapons, says Navy chief: The Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said on February 18, 2009 that terrorists may use shipping containers for the movement of nuclear weapons and called for augmented safety measures at ports. "Container is the most likely means for the terrorist organisations for illegal transporting of nuclear weapons. Hence, the serious concerns about container security," Mehta told reporters at a seminar on "Port Sector - Developments and Security" in New Delhi. He said the country from where a container leaves should issue safety certificates. "Countries should certify that whichever container leaves the port is safe," Mehta added.
Meanwhile, intelligence sources on February 17 confirmed that Taliban pose a threat to India. Sources revealed that the Taliban have plans to attack western cultural centres in Indian cities. However, no specific intelligence inputs on the nature of the threat, the specific target, the timing or the group have been received. In the view of current security situation prevailing in Pakistan, security has reportedly been increased in foreign mission and other places of interest of western countries in India. Economic Times; Times of India, February 19, 2009.
same for three years,
says Union Government:
The number of
incidents has been
at more or less
the same level for
the past few years,
the Government informed
the Parliament on
February 17, 2009.
According to the
Union Minister of
State for Home Affairs,
there were 1,591
incidents in 2008
against 1,565 in
2007. At least 1,509
incidents were reported
in 2006. "However
the level of violence
in different (Maoist
hit) States has
time to time depending
upon the counter
measures taken by
them," Jaiswal said,
adding, "In the
recent past Maoist
violence has been
in Bihar, Chhattisgarh,
Jharkhand and Orissa."
He also said the
Government has decided
to establish 20
in areas affected
by the Maoist insurgency.
Taliban to consider permanent cease-fire in Swat: The Taliban said on February 22, 2009 they would decide within days whether to call a permanent cease-fire in Swat after the Government agreed to allow Sharia (Islamic law) in the valley. Muslim Khan, spokesman for Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, said they would review their current 10-day truce in the Swat valley when it expires on February 25. "We declared a 10-day cease-fire just after the agreement was signed and you will see an exemplary peace prevail in the valley once Sharia is enforced… In the next five or six days, our Shura [executive council] is meeting and it will decide about a permanent cease-fire," Khan told AFP. Fazlullah said the cease-fire would be made permanent provided the militants were confident about the Government’s intentions. He was speaking after talks with Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Mohammed, who signed the deal with the Government.
Earlier on February 21, the Government and the Swat chapter of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) agreed to a permanent cease-fire in Swat after Fazlullah accepted the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009, leading the Government to announce the reopening of schools and return of the internally-displaced persons. Speaking on his FM channel, Fazlullah indicated that he would give up fighting in Swat but would not surrender. Commissioner of the Malakand Division, Syed Muhammad Javed, told the media that the cease-fire would now be permanent. "Yes, both sides will observe a permanent cease-fire," said Javed. Fazlullah also reportedly made the same announcement on the truce in his address. Daily Times; The News, February 22 & 23, 2009.
Taliban form new alliance in Waziristan: Taliban have formed a new alliance, Shura Ittihad-ul-Mujahideen, in the North and South Waziristan as a formal announcement to this effect came on February 22, 2009. The new alliance would comprise groups led by the central chief of banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baitullah Mahsud, and the two reportedly pro-government commanders Maulvi Nazir of South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur of North Waziristan. The three, according to sources, met at an undisclosed location and decided to resolve their differences to foil the external forces’ designs for dividing the multiple Taliban groups based in Pakistan. They formed a 13-member Shura (executive council) to run the affairs of the new alliance. The News, February 22, 2009.
81 militants among 86 persons killed in FATA during the week: Four militants were killed and three others sustained injuries in the ongoing military operation in different areas of Khar and Mamond sub-divisions of the Bajaur Agency on February 22. Sources said Security Forces (SFs) shelled suspected hideouts of militants in the Inayat Kellay, Bad-e-Samor, Bhai Cheena and Shinkot areas of Khar sub-division and some areas of Mamond subdivision with gunship helicopters, artillery and mortar guns, killing four militants and injuring three others.
Eight suspected Taliban militants were killed in firing by helicopter gun ships and artillery shelling by the troops in Bajaur Agency on February 21. A day earlier on February 20, the SFs fired mortar shells at suspected hideouts of the Taliban in various areas of the Mamoond and Khar sub-divisions of Bajaur Agency, killing four Taliban militants, including a commander, and injuring several others.
14 militants were killed and several others injured when SFs shelled suspected hideouts of militants in different areas of the Bajaur Agency on February 19. Official sources said that SFs targeted hideouts of militants in the Inayat Killay, Bhai Cheena and Shinkot areas of Khar sub-division with gunship helicopters and artillery. Suspected militants on February 19 also shot dead a prominent tribal elder in the Chamarkand area of Lakaro sub-division in Mohmand Agency. The Mohmand-based Taliban spokesman Ikramullah claimed that their fighters killed Malik Ameer Rahman for getting perks and facilities from the Government. "All the pro-government elements would meet the same fate", he warned.
SFs on February 18 claimed killing nine Taliban militants by bombing their suspected hideouts in the Mamoond sub-division of Bajaur Agency. Another militant was killed and three more injured in a separate clash with the SFs in the Shandai area of Khar. The SFs on February 17 killed six Taliban militants during their ongoing operation to target suspected hideouts in Bajaur Agency. "Six militants were killed and scores injured during shelling by gunship helicopters in Inayat Qilay, Bhaicheena and Umerey areas in Mamoond tehsil [revenue division]," an unnamed official said. Meanwhile, the Taliban fired several rockets on the agency headquarters Khar, killing one woman and injuring four other people. According to AFP, three more civilians, in addition to the woman, were also killed after Taliban rockets hit houses, paramilitary barracks and a school.
At least 30 suspected militants were killed and three others sustained injuries in a missile strike on a refugee camp in the Kurram Agency on February 16, 2009. The three missiles believed to have been fired from a US unmanned aircraft destroyed a house used by a local Taliban commander. It was the first known drone strike in Kurram, AP reported. An unnamed intelligence official said field informants reported that Taliban showed up at the village bazaar and ordered 30 caskets. However, political authorities only confirmed 18 deaths from four missiles fired by two unmanned aircraft, while the local Taliban have claimed a death toll of 12. "Afghan Taliban were holding an important meeting there when the missiles were fired," an intelligence official in the area told Reuters. According to local sources, former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami was running the refugee camp. Surkh Pul, the locality of the drone attack, was once reserved for Afghan refugees and a school was built for their children.
SFs killed five militants and injured several others during shelling by jetfighters in the Khar and Mamond sub-divisions of Bajaur Agency on February 16. Several underground bunkers of the militants were also destroyed in the attack. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, February 17-23, 2009.
Mumbai was one of 320 potential world targets of the Lashkar-e-Toiba: Mumbai was one of the 320 worldwide locations on the list of potential targets for commando-style terror strikes, The Guardian reported on February 19, 2009. The report suggested that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the outlawed terrorist group that planned much of the attack from Pakistan, "had ambitions well beyond causing mayhem in India". "Western intelligence agencies have accessed the computer and email account of Lashkar’s communications chief, Zarar Shah, and found a list of possible targets, only 20 of which were in India," Guardian reported. Two of the November 2008 attack’s key planners – Shah and Lashkar’s operations chief, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi – are now in police custody in Pakistan, it said. The Guardian also said "there has been some speculation that raids in Spain which netted 12 men – an Indian and 11 Pakistanis – were a result of the investigations into Lashkar’s role in the Mumbai attacks". Daily Times, February 21, 2009.
32 persons killed as suicide bomber targets funeral of Shia leader in NWFP: 32 persons were killed and 145 others injured when a suicide bomber exploded himself in the funeral procession of a slain employee of the Tehsil Municipal Administration near the busy Shubra Square in Dera Ismail Khan on February 20, 2009. Sources said the funeral procession of local Shia community leader Sher Zaman alias Shera, who was killed in firing by unidentified persons on February 19, was heading towards Kotly Imam Hussain for his Namaz-e-Janaza (funeral prayer) and burial when a suicide bomber ran into the mourners and blew himself up. While there was no immediate claim for the blast, Police and witnesses blamed sectarian extremists. "We cannot immediately say who could be behind the bombing but it appeared to be linked with the ongoing sectarian attacks," said Saadullah Khan, the local police station chief. Riots broke out in the city following the blast, and Police confirmed that two people were killed in the firing that followed the suicide bombing. Daily Times; The News, February 21, 2009.
NWFP Government formally unveils Sharia in Malakand Division and Kohistan District: The NWFP Government formally announced on February 16, 2009 the implementation of Sharia (Islamic law) known as the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009 in Malakand Division and Kohistan District. "The provincial Government in consultation with all political parties, Sufi Muhammad and ulema with the approval of Federal Government introduced changes in the 1999 Nizam-e-Adl Regulation. Today I announce promulgation of Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (Amended) 2009… The regulations will be implemented in Malakand following the return of peace and restoration of writ of the Government," NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti told a press conference after chairing a jirga (council of elders) in Peshawar. "We will reciprocate the militants’ 10-day armistice with a cease-fire for good," the Chief Minister said. Hoti also said troops would remain in "reactive mode" instead of "proactive mode" and would not target anyone unless threatened. Earlier, the NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain read an ‘announcement’ signed by three TNSM leaders and six NWFP Government officials that declared "null and void" all laws "contrary to Quran and Hadith" in Malakand Division and Kohistan District of Hazara Division. Daily Times, February 17, 2009.
Two persons killed and 48 others injured as LTTE aircraft attacks Colombo: Two Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) light aircrafts were shot down by the Security Forces in Colombo and Katunayake following an attempt by the outfit to bomb Colombo city in the night of February 20. The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said following the detection of two LTTE aircrafts by the radar, the air defence system was activated and there was a blackout in Colombo City and suburbs for about an hour after 9.20 pm (SLST). However, one of the aircrafts managed to drop a bomb on the Inland Revenue Department injuring at least 50 persons and destroying the building. Two of the injured persons reportedly succumbed to their injuries later. Meanwhile, the aircraft was immediately shot down by the SLAF and its remnants were found in the premises. In addition, Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said another LTTE light aircraft was shot down at Katunayake. He said the dead bodies of the LTTE pilots and the wreckage of the aircraft shot down at Katunayake were recovered. The LTTE last launched an aerial attack on Colombo on October 29, 2008. Daily News, February 21, 2009.
289 civilians and 79 LTTE militants among 368 persons killed in North East during the week: 289 civilians and 79 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants were among 368 persons killed during intensified fighting in the North and continued violence in East during the week. 16 civilians, most of them belonging to three families, were killed in an artillery attack by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) at Iranaippaalai, located between the new and old safety zones, in the Mullaitivu District in the night of February 14, reported pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net. Further, the SLA launched indiscriminate artillery attack into the newly announced safety zone killing at least 108 civilians and injuring more than 200 on February 17, claimed Tamil Net. The artillery attack targeted Maaththalan, Pokkanai and Mullivaaykkaal areas. On the same day, the Security Forces (SFs) entered the Puthukuduiruppu west area of Mullaitivu District confining the LTTE to less than 80 square kilometres area. The SFs also recovered the dead bodies of 23 militants from the area. At least 50 civilians were killed and more than 70 others wounded when four Sri Lanka Air Force bombers dropped cluster bombs on internally displaced civilians at Aananthapuram in Mullaitivu District on February 18, Tamil Net claimed. Separately, 24 civilians were killed in the SLA artillery attack at Puthukkudiyiruppu in the Mullaitivu District on February 19, Tamil Net reported. 10 more civilians were killed in the Iranaippaalai, Aananthapuram and Valaignarmadam villages of the same District on the same day. In addition, SFs captured the entire Puthukkudiyiruppu west area in Mullaitivu District by February 19 afternoon and by evening the troops entered the Ampalavanpokkanai town. Further, troops captured Ampalavanpokkani village in Mullaitivu District after a fierce battle with the LTTE on February 20. Troops also clashed with militants in the Puthukkudiyiruppu, Puthukkudiyiruppu west, Chalai, Mulliyaweli and Ampalavanpokkanai areas of Mullaitivu District inflicting heavy casualties among the militants. During subsequent search operations, the troops recovered dead bodies of 10 militants from Puthukkudiyiruppu west and Ampalavanpokkanai. In another incident, 13 civilians were killed and 57 were wounded when the SLA launched an artillery attack targeting civilians within the 'safe zone' and the adjoining areas in Wanni. The SLA targeted Mattapan, Pokkanai, Valaignanmadam and Iranaippaalai areas in the Mullaitivu District, the report added. On February 21, 20 civilians were killed in an SLA artillery attack in the Mullaitivu District, Tamil Net claimed. In addition, troops clashed with the LTTE militants in the areas south and west of Puthukkudiyiruppu in the Mullaitivu District and subsequently recovered the dead bodies of 11 militants. On February 22, 33 civilians were killed in an SLA artillery attack in the Mullaitivu District. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, Febraury 17-23, 2009.