SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Framed by the narrow the slit in her veil, Shehzada Batloo’s eyes were level and strong. If there had been tears there for the son she had lost to police bullets, they had long ago dried. "I think all mothers should feel proud if their sons are martyred", Shehzada Batloo later said of her teenage son Samir Batloo, who was shot after the mob he stood with charged a Police post in Srinagar’s Fateh Kadal area. "I believe my son will vouch for me in the hereafter", she continued, "and I will be rewarded with an abode in paradise".
Across the Pir Panjal mountains in Jammu, Kuldip Kumar Dogra dramatically committed suicide at the end of a speech in which he demanded land for Hindu pilgrims at Amarnath. Hindutva leaders held out Dogra’s death as a model for emulation — and their audiences responded. Protestors have proved willing not just to die but to kill.
Ever since the Shrine Board protests broke out in June, a cult of death has flourished in both Kashmir and Jammu, as both Islamists and Hindutva groups have engaged in what they represent as a war for civilizational survival. In both Kashmir and Jammu, the soldiers of this war — mobs numbering tens of thousands — have swept the state before them.
On the morning of August 15, India’s Independence Day, Police personnel hoisted the national flag on the Clock Tower at Srinagar’s historic Lal Chowk — a ritual that had continued uninterrupted through the long jihad. Less than two hours after the flag went up, though, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel at Lal Chowk were told an Islamist-led mob was marching there, intending to hoist Pakistan’s flag on the tower. With strict orders not to fire, the CRPF pulled down the Indian flag rather than allow it to be ripped apart by the protestors. Elsewhere in the city, Islamist leaders like Asiya Andrabi were doing just that.
India’s strategy — if it can be described as one — in essence appears to be one of retreat. Ever since the Police opened fire on protestors seeking to march across the Line of Control (LoC) to Muzaffarabad, leading to street battles which led to the loss of at least twenty lives, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Government has withdrawn from confrontation. Large parts of historic Srinagar are in the de-facto control of Islamist groups, with Police and CRPF personnel holding a handful of fortified pickets at major street corners.
Perhaps the most spectacular demonstration of just how far the state’s retreat has gone became evident on August 18, after the J&K Government allowed Islamists to stage a massive pro-Pakistan protest in the heart of Srinagar — ignoring warnings from India’s intelligence services that the decision could lead to a meltdown of state authority. Led by the Tehreek-i-Hurriyat’s (TiH) Syed Ali Shah Geelani and the All Party Hurriyat Conference’s (APHC’s) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, at the time of writing, tens of thousands of protestors assembled at Tourist Reception Centre in an unprecedented show of strength, even as Police were ordered off the streets to avoid confrontation.
Srinagar District Commissioner K. Afsandyar Khan and Senior Superintendent of Police S.A. Mujitaba were earlier despatched to stage negotiations on the management of the scheduled protests with Geelani — a de-facto acknowledgment that the Islamist leader has emerged as an alternate source of administrative authority. Their request for the protest to be scaled down was rejected by the Islamist leader. Governor N.N. Vohra and his advisors then ordered Director-General of Police Kuldeep Khoda to move his Forces out of central Srinagar, to avoid clashes with protestors.
In essence, Governor Vohra’s strategy rests on assurances from Geelani and Farooq that the protests will remain peaceful. Advocates of this hands-off-the-mob approach note that similar assurances ensured a 100,000-plus gathering called to mourn the killing of Islamist leader Sheikh Aziz — who was fired on by the Police while attempting to march across the Line of Control (LoC), and thus became the first APHC leader to die of Indian, rather than jihadist, bullet injuries — remained peaceful.
Whether or not violence ensues, it is clear that the present strategy is leading to a large-scale erosion of state authority. Last week, Kulgam Senior Superintendent of Police, Imtiaz Mir, was reported to have been surrounded by a mob and compelled to shout pro-Pakistan slogans. Elsewhere, the homes of pro-India leaders of the National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have been torched; while leaders of anti-Islamist militia groups have been attacked. Former state Forests Minister Qazi Afzal and his colleague Dilawar Mir — both of whom supported the shrine board protests — are among those who have been targeted.
But just what is it that drives this anger? Is it resentment against India — or something more primordial? For answers, we can turn usefully to history.
"There is no Hindu or Muslim question in Kashmir", Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah said in 1948, "we do not use such language". His words were, at best, a comforting fiction.
As Jammu and Kashmir moved towards independence, both Hindu and Islamic neo-fundamentalist movements acquired strength in the region. Communal skirmishes punctuated the course of the freedom movement. In 1931, after Dogra troops killed 28 protestors in Srinagar, Hindu-owned businesses and homes were targeted. More communal violence broke out that September. Partition entrenched the communalisation. In Kashmir, Muslims watched the large-scale communal massacres in Jammu with fear. Sheikh Abdullah later described how deeply the experience had scarred his constituents. "There isn’t a single Muslim in Kapurthala, Alwar or Bharatpur", Abdullah said, noting that "some of these had been Muslim-majority states." Hindus in Kashmir had their own fears — fears driven by Pakistani state support for tribes engaged in a campaign of communal cleansing.
Freedom ought to have meant the birth of democratic institutions which could address these anxieties. Instead, elites in both Kashmir and Jammu accelerated the communalisation process. Navnita Chadha Behera, a scholar of regional conflicts in J&K, has noted that the State’s constituent assembly secured "a clear concentration of powers in the Valley through disproportionate representation."
Kashmiri elites used their new power to redress the historic grievances of their region’s Muslims. However, they demonstrated little regard for competing claims from Ladakh and Jammu. For example, the NC worked to give Kashmiri Muslims greater representation in the State bureaucracy. However, they marginalised Hindu Dogras, Muslim Gujjars, and Ladakh residents of both religions.
Five years after independence, the Praja Parishad launched an agitation against Sheikh Abdullah’s policies. Its leaders — an alliance of landlords and business elites angered by the redistribution of their assets — called for the abrogation of Article 370, the removal of Dogra imperial laws that allowed only State subjects to purchase land and the full application of the Indian Constitution . "Ek desh mein do vidhaan, do nishaan do pradhaan nahin chalengey", went the Praja Parishad slogan: "one nation cannot have two constitutions, two flags and two Prime Ministers".
Sheikh Abdullah used the rise of the Jana Sangh-linked Praja Parishad to stoke communal fears in Kashmir. In one speech, he claimed the Praja Parishad was part of project to convert India "into a religious state wherein the interests of Muslims will be jeopardised." If the people of Jammu wanted a separate Dogra state, Sheikh Abdullah said, "I would say with full authority on behalf of the Kashmiris that they would not at all mind this separation." Sheikh Abdullah had, tragically, transformed himself from a spokesman for all the State’s peoples into a representative of Kashmiri Muslims alone.
From 1977, the unresolved strains between Kashmir and Jammu became increasingly sharp. In order to fight off growing competition from the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Sheikh Abdullah began to cast himself as a defender of the rights of Muslims. He attacked the Jamaat’s alliance with the Janata Party "whose hands were still red with the blood of Muslims." NC leaders administered oaths to their cadre on the Quran and a piece of rock salt — a popular symbol of Pakistan. Abdullah’s lieutenant, Mirza Afzal Beg, promised voters he would open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road to traffic. It paid off: the NC was decimated in the Hindu-majority constituencies of Jammu, but won all 42 seats in Kashmir.
When the 1983 elections came around, politicians learned from experience. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi conducted an incendiary campaign in Jammu, built around the claim that the discrimination the region faced was because it was part of ‘Hindu India’. Across the Pir Panjal, Farooq Abdullah and his new found ally Maulvi Mohammad Farooq — secessionist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s father — let it be known that they were defending Kashmir’s Muslim identity. Matters went from bad to worse. At a March 1987 rally in Srinagar, Muslim United Front (MUF) candidates, clad in the white robes of the pious, declared that Islam could not survive under the authority of a secular state. MUF leaders built their campaign around protesting the sale of liquor and against laws that proscribed cow slaughter, which were cast as threats to the authentic Muslim character of Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir’s two-decade Islamist war sharpened the pace of communal polarisation within the state. Although Muslims in Kashmir were the principal victims of a jihad fought in their name, few politicians in the region proved willing to confront Islamists head on. Hindutva groups in Jammu adroitly leveraged the situation to cast the conflict in the state as a Hindu-Muslim contestation.
In both Jammu and Ladakh, the shrine war has strengthened forces who want the State divided on religious lines — a dramatic reversal of the situation in 2002, where the Jammu State Morcha, which called for such a Partition, was decimated. Islamists in Kashmir, too, have made it clear they see Partition — and the incorporation of the Muslim-majority areas north of the Chenab river into Pakistan — as the only way out of the crisis.
Partition plans for J&K aren’t new. In 1950, even as India and Pakistan were still struggling to emerge from the communal holocaust which had claimed between half a million and a million lives, the United Nations-appointed mediator on J&K, Owen Dixon, suggested that a solution to conflict in the State might lie in replicating the logic of Partition. Dixon’s plan was, at the time, rejected in both India and Pakistan. However, the iniquitous structure of State politics gave it continued life. Former Sadr-i-Riyasat (State President) Karan Singh was among those who put out variants of the proposal, on one occasion advocating the merger of Jammu into Himachal Pradesh, and turning Kashmir into a separate Muslim-majority state. Secessionists like TiH chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani and People’s Conference leader Sajjad Gani Lone; Hindutva groups; and the Pakistani state have all propagated variants on this theme since.
In 1999, the NC itself issued a blueprint for Partition. Based on the proposals of a committee in which opposition groups, religious minorities and the Jammu region were unrepresented, the State Government advocated the creation of six new provinces. Muslim-majority Districts Rajouri and Poonch were to be carved out from the Jammu region as a whole, and recast as a new Pir Panjal Province. Udhampur’s single Muslim-majority tehsil, Mahore, was to form part of the Chenab province, while the rest of the District was incorporated into Jammu. Even the single Districts of Buddhist-majority Leh and Muslim-majority Kargil, were to become separate provinces.
Later, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) threw its weight behind Hindu chauvinist groups in Jammu, who had revived the movement for the division of Jammu and Kashmir into three States, constructed along ethnic-religious lines
Now, the project has ripened. In Kashmir, Islamists have argued that the violence in Jammu — amplified through the publication of fictitious accounts of large-scale killings of Muslims and the destruction of mosques — is the true face of India. Muslims, they claim, have no future. Hindus in Jammu, for their part, have been told that the expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley is a precursor to their eventual fate at the hands of the state’s Muslim leadership. Faked statistics have been used to claim that the Muslim-dominated J&K Government denies Hindus representation.
Politicians in Kashmir and Jammu have done little to try and dam this rising tide of hate. Where Hindutva and Islamist groups have held dozens of protests, not one major political group has held peace rallies. No effort has been made, either, to build institutions that cut across social fissures. Kashmir and Jammu have separate bar associations, chambers of commerce, professional guilds of doctors and engineers — and even Press associations. For all practical purposes, residents of the two regions are social strangers, tied to each other by nothing but business — and mutual hatred.
None of this ought to be a surprise for us. Islamists have long been working to undermine the legitimacy of the secular-nationalist project in J&K — and with it, the keystones of the State’s incorporation in the Indian union.
In 2006, Islamists leveraged the uncovering of a prostitution racket in Srinagar to argue that secularism and modernity were instruments through which the Islamic cultural climate of Jammu and Kashmir was being undermined. Later, the rape-murder of teenager Tabinda Gani was used to initiate a xenophobic campaign against the presence of non-ethnic Kashmiri workers in the State. Just as the shrine board protests in Kashmir were beginning in June this year, Geelani asserted, "the State Government, in collaboration with New Delhi, wants to settle outsiders permanently in Kashmir to turn the Muslim majority into a minority." Soon after, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) bombed a bus carrying migrant workers — a grim reminder of just what kind of nation Geelani hopes will emerge from the struggle now underway in Kashmir.
Jammu, too, has seen a significant chauvinist mobilisation, feeding off the Islamist campaign in the north. Soon after the PDP-Congress alliance Government came to power, this new Hindutva leadership unleashed its first mass mobilisations. Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders claimed former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Saeed’s calls for demilitarisation and self-rule were existential threats. Pointing to the expulsion of Pandits from Kashmir at the outset of the jihad, Hindutva leaders asserted that Saeed was preparing the ground for the expulsion of Hindus — and Hinduism — from Jammu.
From 2003, Hindutva groups sought to forge these anxieties into a concrete political mobilisation around the issue of cow-slaughter. Hindutva cadre would often interdict trucks carrying cattle, and then use their capture to stage protests. It wasn’t as if the anti-cow-slaughter movement had stumbled on a great secret. For decades, cow-owning farmers — in the main Hindus themselves — had been selling old livestock, which no longer earned them an income, to traders from Punjab and Rajasthan. In turn, the traders sold their herds to cattle traffickers on India’s eastern border, who fed the demand for beef among the poor of Bangladesh. But Hindutva groups understood that the cow was a potent and politically profitable metaphor. Violence followed. In December 2007 for example, VHP and Bajrang Dal cadre organised large-scale protests against the reported sacrificial slaughter of cows at the villages of Bali Charna, in the Satwari area of Jammu, and Chilog, near Kathua District’s Bani town. Riots had also taken place in the villages around Jammu’s Pargwal in March 2005 after Hindutva activists made bizarre claims that a cow had been raped.
In 1947, Mahatma Gandhi had seen in Kashmir "a ray of hope in the darkness", as communal harmony held against the tide of mutual carnage that was afflicting other parts of the country. Today, in the midst of an apparently-permanent eclipse, J&K desperately needs leaders who can point its people in a direction where they might, once again, discover a glimmer of hope.
Even as Pakistan grappled with a President who refused to go ‘quietly into the night’, the state of play in the conflict afflicted North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has worsened in recent weeks. Irrespective of whether General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf remains as President or not, the multiple insurgencies across Pakistan will continue to deepen creating greater troubles for the already embattled coalition Government.
On August 15, 2008, NWFP Senior Minister and head of the Government’s peace committee, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, claimed that the ‘peace agreement’ with militants in Swat was still intact, and the Government remained open to negotiations to end the unrest. Commenting on the ongoing military operations against the militants, he argued, "This [operation] is the Government’s reaction to the militants’ actions (which) they took in violation of the peace agreement signed with the Government." Further, Bilour asserted that the Government was ready to talk to the militants in accordance with the peace deal that the two sides signed on May 21, 2008. He claimed the militants did not honour the agreement. The NWFP Government re-launched military operations against the militants on July 29, after the latter demanded that the provincial Government quit within five days for "not honouring the peace agreement". For the record, the May 21 peace accord did bring a momentary peace in the province, and remains formally in place, since neither of the two sides has scrapped the pact.
670 persons, including 297 civilians, 101 security force (SF) personnel and 272 militants, have already died in 2008 (data till August 15), and there has been a drastic increase in the violence after the breakdown of the truce on June 9. Since then, at least 302 persons – 90 civilians, 47 SF personnel and 165 militants – have been killed. [It is necessary to note that, given Islamabad's understated accounts, the suppression of the Press and erratic reportage from all the conflict zones, the actual numbers of fatalities could be considerably higher than those indicated above].
In the renewed military offensive ‘Operation Rah-e-Haq’, the militants’ positions in Matta and Kabal, the Taliban strongholds in Swat District, have been targeted vigorously. The SFs are presently hitting the mountain positions of the Taliban in the Peuchar, Namal, Sijbanr, Gat Shawar and Wenai areas of Matta Sub-division and Totano Banda and Deolai of the Kabal Sub-division. In response, the Taliban has, unsurprisingly, targeted the military in Swat, and, for the first time, the various security checkpoints in Saidu Sharif and Mingora, the Headquarters of the Swat District. A number of girls’ schools have also come under sustained attack. While the Taliban has targeted these two towns in the past through bomb blasts, including suicide bombings, the present series constituted the first attacks on girls' schools and SF checkpoints. In the post-truce period, the Taliban has also attacked policemen in the adjoining Buner District in what is a clear indication of their spread and influence, as also their intent to widen the conflict. Analysts like Rahimullah Yusufzai note that the militants will also try to launch attacks on SFs in the other adjoining Districts, such as Shangla, Upper Dir, Lower Dir and Malakand Agency. Yusufzai observes,
The attacks on girls’ schools have raised the concerns not only of security agencies but also of others in the Government and civil society. The militants in Swat destroyed 28 girls’ schools during the fresh wave of violence that erupted on July 29, in addition to 59 schools they had set alight or blown up in months of militancy before May 21. There were 566 girl schools — 489 primary, 51 middle, 22 high and four higher secondary schools — of which 159 schools are now non-functional. Of these, 87 have been torched or destroyed, while 62 have shut down due to the refusal of female teachers to attend, in view of precarious security situation, putting an end to the education of 17,200 girl students. The female literacy rate in Swat stands at 22.89 per cent and that of males at 52.79 per cent, with an overall literacy rate of 37 per cent. The dropout rate, particularly among girl students, has is rising dramatically.
Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan has said the aim of destroying schools was to pressure the Government and replace the education system:
Muslim Khan warned that, after the destruction of girls’ schools, it would be the turn of boys’ schools. Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban leader in Swat, has termed female education "a source of obscenity."
Military authorities have said their operations would continue till the areas were cleared of militants. "This operation is going to be decisive," Brigadier Zia Anjum Bodla, Army’s Divisional Commander, told journalists at the Circuit House in Gul Kadda on August 4. On its part, Taliban spokesman Maulvi Umar told Dawn that they would "retaliate with full force" if the Government "imposed a war" on them. On July 30, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) threatened to mount attacks across Pakistan in response to the renewed military action in Swat "We will start operations in the entire country, in the entire province... because we consider this an action against all Taliban… We will soon take a decision on starting operations".
An index of the grim situation in the Frontier is visible in the fact that the provincial capital, Peshawar, is extremely vulnerable, with militants pounding at its doors. As the Taliban advance gradually towards Peshawar, the NWFP Police Chief and top administrators issued warnings that, unless the Government takes decisive action, Peshawar would fall. "Peshawar is in a state of siege and if Peshawar falls, the rest of the Districts in the NWFP would fall like ninepins", an official told Dawn on June 25, 2008. Peshawar hosts the headquarters of the Army’s 11th Corps, the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary and the Police. Police Stations in rural Peshawar have long given up patrolling at night "after a contingent was blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade and charred bodies of policemen were retrieved and buried without allowing their dear ones to see their faces for the last time." According to journalist Ashfaq Yusufzai, "Not one of Peshawar’s 30 police stations stays open after 8 p.m. Police in rural Peshawar have stopped night patrols after a patrol was blown up in a grenade attack on May 29." Militants operating in the Matani, Adezai, Badhber and Mathra areas of Peshawar have regularly been attacking girls’ schools, CD and video centres, barber shops and Police establishments. Apart from the fact that rocket attacks were on the increase in Peshawar, militants have also resorted to blowing up electricity towers, a tactic applied regularly in Balochistan. Peshawar, with an estimated population of 2.3 million and counting, for instance, was plunged into complete darkness as militants blew up the 500KV major pylon near Sheikh Mohammadi Grid Station in the early hours of August 8. The blast also caused power suspension to the entire Peshawar District and some parts of the Southern Districts – areas of Kohat, Hangu, Lachi, Gorgorai and Pabbi. An official of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company said the attack was a reaction to the anti-Taliban operation in the Matni area. The same pylon had been blown up by militants on May 12. According to the Globe and Mail, militants have started openly entering Peshawar to threaten businesses they disapprove of, such as music shops.
In reality, the augmented presence of the Taliban in Peshawar is not unusual. They have always had a significant presence in the town and in the surrounding regions, including the Khyber Agency, Darra Adam Khel, Mohmand Agency, Shabqadar, Michni and Mardan. Furthermore, the capacities to repel any Taliban push towards Peshawar are lacking. For instance, the Inspector General of the NWFP Police, Malik Naveed Khan, said at Peshawar, on June 12, 2008, that the province had a 40 percent deficit in Police Stations and Police Lines buildings.
A trust deficit has dominated the dialogue between the Government and the rebels. While the Taliban, operating under the command of Maulana Fazlullah, have claimed that the Government has not withdrawn troops nor vacated SF checkpoints nor released imprisoned militants, as agreed, the provincial Government and security agencies argue that the Taliban has not disbanded its militia, they continue to carry out suicide attacks and to target the SFs and Government installations.
The NWFP Government is currently deliberating a three-year ‘comprehensive peace plan’, with an estimated cost of approximately USD Four billion which aims at reducing the militancy by 30 per cent. Among its objectives are the reduction of attacks on security forces, prevention of suicide attacks, reversal of the loss of civil governance, retrieval of areas lost to militants and regaining the space currently dominated by the forces of radical Islam. Within this rubric, the provincial Government intends to:
Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the province and part of the Plan drafting process, has however, conceded that the provincial Government does not have the capacity to implement such an all-encompassing plan, and has the capacity to utilise only up to USD 800 million. Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, though, is optimistic that international donors would respond to his call for contributing to the plan: "There is a great deal of interest. The Saudis, Americans, European Union, Scandinavians and Chinese have all shown interest in the peace plan." It remains to be seen how foreign funding for a security plan will be realized in a country like Pakistan where anti-American and anti-West sentiments are constantly on the high, and where the state’s capacities for implementation are poor and are being further and continuously eroded by militancy.
The provincial Government claims to have adopted a ‘multi-track approach’, instead of focusing merely on a ‘military solution’. However, this approach does not appear to have registered much of a beginning. On the one hand, the dialogue with the Taliban has remained a non-starter, while, on the other, military responses have only deepened the conflict. Complicating the issue for Islamabad is the fact that both negotiated settlements and a recourse to the use of force alone have augmented radicalization in the region.
A critical objective of any plan to bring normalcy to the conflict-wracked Frontier must be the implementation of a compatible strategy in FATA. Peace cannot be achieved in the NWFP without first achieving normalcy and a semblance of order in FATA. There is, for instance, a clear link between the militancy in Swat and Bajaur Agency in the FATA. The Taliban have been sending fighters from Bajaur and other tribal areas to reinforce the militant ranks in Swat whenever the need arises. In fact, the Taliban are able to "receive reinforcements from all over NWFP and even from other provinces in times of need."
Peace in Swat is also linked to the militancy in Darra Adam Khel, Hangu and Waziristan. The NWFP Government has, in fact, held a dialogue, separately, with the Taliban in Darra, Hangu, and Dir, and has also resorted to military operations in these areas. A combination of dialogue and force is being used across the NWFP and FATA. Multiple cease-fires – most of them momentary – and various dialogue tracks are currently underway, even as a military solution is sought. Such contradictions have only deepened cleavages and led to more violence.
Since they assumed office, the national and provincial Governments have been bogged down by the judicial crisis, the politics revolving around Pervez Musharraf and a serious economic crisis. In the absence of a national policy on combating the multiple insurgencies afflicting Pakistan, a currently clueless provincial Government has little chance of success in its efforts to end the NWFP’s "descent into chaos".
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 11-17, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Mastermind behind Ahmedabad blasts among 10 SIMI cadres arrested in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat: On August 16, 2008, the Gujarat Police announced the arrest of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) leader Abul Bashar Qasmi, who is alleged to have masterminded the July 26 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts. Gujarat Director-General of Police P.C. Pandey said Qasmi was arrested from a village in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh (UP) by a joint team of the UP and Gujarat Police. The Gujarat Police also said, with this arrest, they had unravelled the conspiracy that led to the bombings. Before Qasmi’s arrest, nine SIMI cadres were arrested from Ahmedabad and Vadodara. "We now have the entire details of how and where the plans for the Ahmedabad blasts were chalked out, who were the people involved and how the entire plan was operationalised," Pandey said. He also claimed that the same group was involved in planting bombs in Surat. The Hindu, August 17, 2008.
800 terror cells in India, says National Security Advisor: The National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan confirmed the unearthing of 800 terror cells operating with external support by intelligence agencies. In an interview with a newspaper from Singapore, he indicated that several of these modules are "not entirely foreign." He said, "Clearly, there is some kind of organisation we have to find out if that organisation is localised or there is an external group or module operating… We are concerned that there is a great deal of external inspiration and support, we are also concerned and are looking at a mastermind within the country." Without naming any country, Narayanan said that there was inspiration as well as support from abroad for terrorist activities being carried out in India. Times of India, August 12, 2008.
Inactive Islamist outfits revive operations in the Northeast, say intelligence reports: Intelligence sources reported that at least 16 Islamist militant outfits that were inactive over the years have revived their operation in the Northeast region in order to counter the current oust-Bangladeshi movement in Assam. The outfits were identified as the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam, Muslim Volunteer Force, Independent Liberation Army of Assam, Liberation Islamic Tigers’ Force, Islamic Security Force of India, Jamat-e-Islam, Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam, United Social Reforms Army, Islamic Sevak Sangha, United Reformation Protect of Assam, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), Students’ Liberation Front (SLF) and the Islamic Liberation Army (ILA). Sentinel, August 12, 2008.
20 persons killed in Jammu and Kashmir: Security forces opened fire across Jammu and Kashmir on August 12, 2008, in which 15 protesters were killed. Some of the worst violence was reported from capital Srinagar, where six protesters were shot dead, in day-long skirmishes between mobs and Police. Police killed another three protesters in the central Kashmir town of Lasjan, where Police said Islamist-led rioters had attempted to storm the home of the former Minister and People’s Democratic Party legislator Javaid Ahmad Mir. A Police officer was also seriously injured in the firing, which officials said was initiated by Mir’s panicked bodyguards. Soldiers killed three more protesters, including a woman, near the north Kashmir town of Paribal. A spokesperson for the Srinagar-based 15 Corps said the protesters, who were throwing stones at an isolated military picket, refused to disperse despite repeated appeals. A protester was killed in Anantnag, although confirmation on the cause of his death was not available. Police in the remote mountain town of Kishtwar killed two members of a mob that attacked homes belonging to the region’s Hindu minority.
Five persons, including senior Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, were killed on August 11 when the security forces opened fire at several places in the Kashmir Valley to stop thousands of people from marching to Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Over 230 people are reported to have sustained injuries. The protesters took to the streets to break the "economic blockade" of the Valley allegedly imposed by the Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti, which is leading the Amarnath land agitation. Sheikh Aziz, who was the chairman of the pro-Pakistan People’s League and senior executive member of the Hurriyat Conference, was leading the march, when the Army and the Police tried to stop it at Chehlan, around 16 km. from Baramulla, and opened fire. The 54-year-old Aziz was one-time head of the pro-Pakistan militant outfit Al Jehad. The Hindu, August 12-13, 2008.
Prachanda elected Prime Minister: Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), was elected the first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal on August 15 by a huge majority. In the election in the Constituent Assembly (CA), he won 464 votes against his rival, Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress, who got only 113 out of the 577 votes cast. Though the CA comprises 601 members, 594 are valid voters. The seats of six members, who had won from two constituencies in the CA elections, were reduced to one each. One member is still to be sworn in. The remaining 17 did not take part in the prime ministerial election. On August 14, the two major parties, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified-Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) had reached an agreement to support Prachanda’s candidacy, which was later backed by the smaller parties. Nepal News, August 16, 2008.
183 militants and 25 civilians killed in Bajaur Agency: At least 183 militants and 25 civilians were killed in Bajaur Agency during the week. Four militants were killed on August 17, 2008, when three Pakistan Army helicopter gunships targeted Taliban militants in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Earlier, the troops hit two vehicles in the Salarzai area, killing 14 militants on August 16. Three children were killed when a mortar shell missed its target and hit a house in the Cheengai village in Damadola. Sources said two militants were killed when a mortar shell hit a roadside post manned by the armed Taliban at Lagharay in Mamond Sub-division. Similarly, two unidentified bodies were recovered from the main road in Utmankhel. Seven suspected militants were killed when artillery shells were fired on their position on Khaza Ghar mountains in Mamond. 35 persons were killed when helicopter gunships attacked militants in several areas of the Bajaur Agency on August 15. The militants’ headquarters at Savei in the Mamond Sub-division was heavily bombed, killing 11 people. The building housed a so-called ‘Sharia court,’ a private jail and a store of weapons and ammunition. Witnesses said that militants attacked helicopters with anti-aircraft guns in Saddiqabad near Khar. At least five of the assailants were killed when the helicopters retaliated. In Mamond, at least 10 militants were killed and another 12 wounded. Earlier, on August 14, amid reports of the killing of prominent militant Taliban commander Maulana Faqir Mohammad in Bajaur Agency, the troops intensified the ongoing military operation, killing 33 Taliban militants. "Two vehicles carrying senior Taliban commander Maulana Faqir Mohammad and his close aides were targeted by two gunship choppers. But I am not sure whether he (Maulana Faqir) died in the attack or not," said a senior military official. 11 militants were killed in this attack. Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar confirmed the air attack but said Faqir Mohammad was unhurt. 22 militants were killed when gunship choppers targeted a seminary run by the chief of the Bajaur Agency unit of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and Taliban commander Maulana Mohammad Munir at Seway in Mamond sub-division.
On August 13, Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft and military helicopter gunships targeted militant hideouts in Bajaur, killing 21 people, including three civilians. Fighter aircraft and the Pakistan Army Cobra gunship choppers heavily bombarded hideouts in Pashat, Naraza and Mulla Said Banda in Salarzai Sub-division and Inam Khwaro and Damadola in the Mamond Sub-division. The officials claimed 12 militants were killed in the air strikes. In Jar Kalley of Utmankhel Sub-division, a group of militants sitting on the roadside to target the troops through IEDs were targeted by gunship choppers that killed six militants. In Pashat village, three tribesmen, including an elder, were killed when his house came under attack from a warplane. On August 12, a senior al Qaeda operative and 17 other militants were killed and several others sustained injuries when low-flying helicopters bombed their positions in Bajaur. Sources said Abu Saeed al-Masri alias Mustafa Mohammad Ahmad was killed in the air strike. The Egyptian-born Abu Saeed was reported to be a senior member of the Majlis-i-Shura and financial chief of al Qaeda. They said that Cobra helicopters precisely targeted militants’ positions in Shahnari, Haji Lawang, Ragha Dagg and Takht areas where security forces had been using air power since August 8. Security forces killed approximately 50 Taliban militants in clashes on August 11. "Some of the bombs dropped by jets on suspected militants’ hideouts in Tauheedabad and Damadola villages also hit many houses killing six civilians and wounding 12 others," a security official told AFP. Civilian casualties were also reported in the Charmang area of Bajaur and the Manja area of Khar. At least 13 members of a family, including women and children, were killed as a result of bombing at an unnamed village. Dawn; The News; Daily Times, August 11-17, 2008.
Suicide attack on police kills nine persons and injures 35 in Lahore: suicide blast in Lahore, targeting policemen standing guard on August 13, on the eve of Independence Day, killed at least nine persons and injured more than 35. The attack took place at the busy Dubai Chowk in the Allama Iqbal Town area at about 11:34 pm, as citizens poured into the streets before midnight to celebrate the 61st anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence on August 14. Among the dead were two Policemen and a woman. Witnesses said a young man with a beard blew himself up near a Police van that arrived at the Dubai Chowk traffic signal. Daily Times, August 14, 2008.
Six Pakistan Air Force personnel and seven civilians killed car blast in Peshawar: Six Pakistan Air Force (PAF) personnel and seven civilians were killed and 14 persons were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a bridge on the main Peshawar-Kohat Road in the southern part of Peshawar, capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on August 12. The explosion occurred when a van carrying PAF personnel was going from the Badbher PAF base to Peshawar. Police said it was not yet clear whether it was a case of suicide attack or of a bomb detonated by remote control. Among the dead were a six-year-old girl and two women who were going to a wedding ceremony. According to BBC, Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in response to military operations against militants in the Bajaur Agency. "It is an open war between us and them," he told The Associated Press. Dawn, August 13, 2008.
200 LTTE militants and 27 soldiers among 230 persons killed during the week: 200 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 27 soldiers and three civilians were among 230 persons killed in separate incidents between August 11 and August 17, 2008. The troops captured Mulankavil, the second most powerful administrative base for the LTTE in the Kilinochchi District, on August 13 killing 20 militants, including one area leader identified as Thennaman. On the same day, the troops attached to the 57 Division captured Kalvilan village in Mullaitivu District after two days of fighting. More than 30 militants were killed as troops repulsed six LTTE counter attacks to foil the advance of the troops into the village. At least 35 LTTE militants and two soldiers were killed while 48 militants and 10 soldiers sustained injuries as clashes erupted between the two sides at places north of Janakapura, Kiriibbanwewa, Panikkamadammadu, Kalaikadu, Poddimodikulam, Komankulam, Palamoddai, Navathkulama and north of Kalvilan in the Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts on August 14. Nine militants and a soldier were killed during clashes in the Nachchakuda and Panikkamadammadu areas of Kilinochchi District on August 15. Further, on August 16, the troops captured LTTE’s ‘Jeevan Base’ north of Andankulam in Vavuniya District. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, August 12-18, 2008.