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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 34, February 20, 2017

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


ASSESSMENT

PAKISTAN
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Return to Carnage
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

'Revengeful' and 'regrouped' terrorists are again on the rampage across Pakistan. During a span of just seven days (February 13, 2017 to February 19, 2017) Pakistan accounted for at least 205 fatalities [100 civilians, 21 Security Force (SF) personnel, 84 terrorists) in 22 terrorism-related incidents.

In the worst attack, on February 16, 2017, at least 88 civilians were killed and more than 343 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a historic Sufi shrine in the Sehwan town of Jamshoro District in Sindh Province. The shrine, built in 1356, was dedicated to Syed Mohammad Usman Marwandi, better known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. This is the worst attack, in terms of civilian fatalities, recorded in Pakistan since the December 16, 2014, Peshawar Army Public School attack which resulted in 150 fatalities, including 143 civilians. Daesh (the Islamic State) claimed the attack.

On February 15, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a government office in the Ghalanai area of Mohmand Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), killing five civilians. Another attacker was killed by the guards before he could explode his suicide vest.

On February 13, 2017, at least 14 persons, including eight civilians and six policemen, were killed and another 85 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Punjab Assembly Building on Mall Road, Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. The attack was carried out during a protest by a large group of chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers opposing a Government crackdown against the sale of illegal drugs. The dead included Captain (Retd.) Ahmad Mobin, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Traffic, Lahore, and Zahid Gondal, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Operations, Punjab Police. There was a significant presence of SFs in the area to manage the protest. The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for both the February 13 and February 15 attacks.

Earlier, on January 21, 2017, in the first major attack of the year, at least 25 civilians were killed and more than 87 were injured in a bomb blast at the Sabzi Mandi (vegetable market) area of Parachinar in the FATA’s Kurram Agency. In a text message sent to journalists, the al-Alami (International) faction of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ-A) claimed that it, along with the TTP-Shehryar Mehsud group, carried out the attack. The Shehryar Mehsud group did not independently claim the bombing.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the beginning of 2017, at least 284 terrorism-related fatalities (141 civilians, 32 SF personnel, 111 terrorists) have been recorded across Pakistan (data till February 19, 2017). In just these 50 days, at least five suicide attacks have been executed, resulting in at least 112 fatalities.

The dramatic surge in violence during the early days of the current year is significant, given the fact that through 2016, Pakistan had managed to maintain the declining trend of overall fatalities, on year on year basis, since 2010, barring 2014. [2014 recorded 5,496 fatalities as against 5,379 fatalities in 2013]. There were 1,803 fatalities (612 civilians, 293 SF personnel, 898 terrorists) in 2016, as against 3,682 (940 civilians, 339 SF personnel, 2,403 terrorists) in 2015. The number of major attacks (involving three or more fatalities) and resultant fatalities fell from 322 and 2,923, respectively in 2015, to 172 and 1,369, respectively, in 2016. The number of sectarian attacks and related deaths also declined – 276 fatalities in 53 incidents in 2015, as against 131 fatalities in 33 incidents in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, on December 21, 2016, a buoyant Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Federal Minister of the Interior, claimed (inaccurately) that Pakistan was the only country where the terrorism graph had recorded a sharp decline. He further boasted, “I can say with complete responsibility that as of now no terrorist networks exist in Pakistan.” On the same day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had declared that there was no presence of Daesh in Pakistan. More recently, referring to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations, told the UN Security Council on February 13, 2017, "This comprehensive approach has succeeded in expelling terrorist organisations from our territory and greatly constrained their ability to carry out lethal attacks, as evident from the dramatic decline in the number of such attacks, despite the cowardly attack in Lahore.”

These assertions were evidently premature and imprudent. Pakistan remains an extraordinarily dangerous place. Indeed, recent incidents demonstrate that several terror networks continue to thrive across the country, prominently including Daesh, JuA, and LeJ-A, among the domestically active formations, not to mention the many state-backed terrorist groupings that operate across international borders, into Afghanistan and India.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the large number of TTP 'commanders' who were operating out of the tribal areas in Pakistan when the Operation Zarb-e-Azb [Sword of the Prophet] was launched and who had managed to cross over into the bordering areas of Afghanistan, have decided to come together and form a 'united front', joining hands with other terrorist outfits. These 'commanders' of rival factions of TTP were fighting each other to establish dominance in their respective areas of influence. In November 2016, leaders of eight terrorist groups held a meeting in Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province for this purpose. Arranged by Yousaf Mansour Khurasani, chief of LeJ-A, the meeting was attended by Javaid Sawati, a close aide of former TTP 'chief' Mulla Fazlullah*; Wajid Mehsud of Jandullah; Maulvi Khatir of TTP-Sajna group; Shahryar Mehsud of TTP- Shahryar group; Abdul Wali of JuA; Mufti Ghufran of TTP-Khalifa Mansour group; and Mullah Daud of TTP-Qari Hussain group. On February 2, 2017, TTP-Sajna merged with the TTP-Fazlullah group.

In fact other parameters of violence registered in 2016 demonstrate that the crackdown against terrorists has failed to secure the nation beyond a point. Launched by the Pakistani forces in the aftermath of the attack on Karachi Airport on June 8-9, 2014, in which at least 33 persons, including all ten attackers, were killed, the crackdown has repeatedly been declared a success, but has also been repeatedly extended. Significantly, though overall civilian fatalities in Pakistan declined through 2016, Balochistan and KP registered increases in fatalities in this category. In the SF category, fatalities increased in the Punjab Province. The number of suicide attacks in 2016 remained the same, 19, as recorded in 2015, but the resultant fatalities recorded a sharp increase – 161 in 2015, spiking to 401 in 2016. Further, though Pakistan recorded 139 incidents of bomb blasts in 2016, as against 216 such incidents in 2015, the resultant fatalities increased from 495 in 2015 to 502 in 2016. Five suicide attacks resulting in 112 deaths have already been recorded in 2017.

On several accounts, Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been overhyped, and only targeted a few terrorist formations that had turned 'rogue', while allowing a multiplicity of other terrorist formations that operate out of Pakistani soil to thrive, with the attendant problem that there is little possibility of controlling one set without constraining the other. A more serious allegation, according to Arif Jamal, a US-based expert on political Islam, is that "actually, it [Operation Zarb-e-Azb] was aimed at weakening political parties and not eliminating terrorists."

Meanwhile, the favorable environment provided to 'pro-Government' terrorist formations has resulted in a further radicalization of Pakistani society, helping groups like Daesh to mobilize and recruit. Daesh’s spread, in turn, has helped rogue terrorist outfits to regain lost ground, as most of these have now established some linkages with Daesh, resulting in a measure of unity, consolidation and effective coordination.

SAIR has repeatedly highlighted the fact that the Pakistani establishment has, for long, provided open support to terrorist formations which has served its purported strategic interests. Most recently, Islamabad, in connivance with Beijing, opposed the imposition of an international ban on the Jaish-e-Mohammad ( JeM) chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, who openly operates out of Pakistan. JeM has been one of the most lethal terrorist groups operating in India, particularly in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, and has been responsible for a large number of major attacks . The group is closely allied al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, and has been notionally banned in Pakistan since 2002, though it faces no visible restraints. On the other hand, there is no conclusive proof to suggest that any action has been taken against Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban terrorists operating out of Pakistani soil and targeting the Afghan as well as Indian and other countries’ interests inside Afghanistan. Indeed, Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi, Speaker of National Assembly of Afghanistan, stated on February 18, 2017,

Terrorism remains a threat to the South Asian countries, including Pakistan but unfortunately rulers of Pakistan have always supported terrorism. This policy of Pakistan is not in the interest of the South Asian region. In the future it is going to be a big threat to Pakistan."

 It is widely believed that the aid which flows from the U.S. is one of the main sources of the Pakistani establishment's capacities to carry on its with policy of exporting of terrorism. Indeed, a report titled A New U.S. Approach to Pakistan: Enforcing Aid Conditions Without Cutting Ties released by the Hudson Institute and The Heritage Foundation in February 2017 observed,
"The new Trump Administration must review its policies toward Pakistan in order to more effectively contain, and eventually eliminate, the terrorist threats that continue to emanate from the country... Accordingly, the objective of the Trump administration's policy toward Pakistan must be to make it more and more costly for Pakistani leaders to employ a strategy of supporting terrorist proxies to achieve regional strategic goals... It no longer makes sense to waive the counterterrorism conditions on U.S. aid to Pakistan. The U.S. can and must better leverage U.S. military aid to encourage tougher policies against terrorists who operate from within Pakistan. While a grace period may have been merited for Pakistan seven years ago, it would be foolish to keep giving the Pakistanis a pass when it comes to taking action against terrorist groups that are directly undermining U.S. regional interests, not to mention killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Whereas U.S. government agencies were divided seven years ago over the nature and extent of Pakistan's support to the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist and extremist groups, today no one in the U.S. government disputes that Pakistan provides such support."

Regrettably, there is no immediate reason to believe that there has been any dramatic shift in U.S. policy towards Pakistan, though the broad theme of official pronouncements from the fledgling Trump administration suggests that such a shift is in the offing. In the absence of genuine and overwhelming international pressure, Pakistan is unlikely to alter its policy of 'export of terror' in its immediate and extended neighborhood, while it targets domestically active terrorist formations within Pakistan. Pakistani strategists continue to believe that such a policy has served the country’s strategic interests, and are inclined to ignore the devastating repercussions this policy has caused within the country.

*Note: In the original assessment published on February 20, 2017, it was incorrectly mentioned that Mulla Fazlullah was killed in March 2015. Media reports, however, indicate that Fazlullah is still alive and heading the 'parent' TTP. The mistake is rectified on February 23, 2017.

INDIA
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Telengana: Dwindling Threat
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On January 31, 2017, four Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were arrested by the Security Forces (SFs) from the Hanamkonda area in Warangal District.

On January 13, 2017, the District Police arrested a suspected Maoist from his house in Karimnagar town, Karimnagar District. Police recovered 50 rounds of ammunition of different weapons, five rifles, one Carbine 9 mm, and one .32 pistol from the hideout.    

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 24 Maoists were arrested in 2016 in Telengana, in addition to 33 arrested in 2015 and seven in 2014. Five Maoists have been arrested in the current year (data till February 19, 2017).

Mounting SF pressure also led to the surrender of 11 Maoists in 2016, in addition to 13 in 2015, according to SATP data. Importantly, on December 7, 2016, Uyka Dulaiah aka Joga (24), a senior leader of the rank of 'deputy commander' of the CPI-Maoist's Savithri Dalam (armed squad) operating in the restive Sukma District of Chhattisgarh, and carrying a reward of INR 300,000, surrendered before the Police in the Bhadradri Kothagudem District; on November 19, 2016, Sunnam Sridevi aka Nirmala (35), an 'area committee member' of the Charla Local Operating Squad (LOS) of the CPI-Maoist, carrying a reward of INR 100,000, surrendered before the Police in Bhadradri Kothagudem District; and on July 8, 2016,  Goli Srinivas aka Praveen (39), carrying a cash reward of INR 400,000, surrendered before the Police in Warangal District.  

Significantly, Maoist-related violence in the State recorded a decline through 2016 even in comparison to the low levels in the preceding year. According to the SATP database, Telangana registered just one fatality, a Maoist cadre, through 2016, as against four fatalities, including two civilians and two Maoists, in 2015. Since the State’s formation on June 2, 2014, Telangana has recorded eight fatalities, including four civilians and four Maoists. There has, so far, been no casualty in 2017 in Telangana in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-related violence.

The lone fatality was reported from Mehboobnagar District of Telangana on August 8, 2016. In 2015, fatalities were reported from three Districts of the State – one civilian each from Adilabad and Khammam; and two Maoists in Warangal.

Further, according to data provided by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), LWE-linked incidents in Telangana decreased from 11 in 2015 to seven in 2016. The State registered 14 such incidents in 2014. Similarly, attacks on economic targets by the Maoists also decreased from two in 2015 to one in 2016. There were no abduction incidents reported in 2016, as against two in 2015.

Nonetheless, the inherent danger from the Maoists persists in Telangana. According to SATP data, the Maoists were engaged in three reported exchange of fire incidents in 2016, the same as in 2015; five bandh (general shutdown) calls were issued in 2016, as against two such calls in 2015; and two incidents of arson were recorded in 2016, as against one such incident in 2015.

Moreover, according to SATP data, LWE-related violent incidents were reported from nine Districts (Khammam, Mehboobnagar, Warangal, Adilabad, Bhadradri Kothagudem, Jayashankar Bhoopalpally, Nalgonda, Nirmal and Rajanna Sircilla) in 2016. In 2015, violent incidents were reported from eight Districts (Khammam, Adilabad, Karimnagar, Medak, Mehboobnagar, Nalgonda, Warangal, and Nizamabad). Eight of the nine Districts which witnessed violence in 2016 were also listed by UMHA among the 106 Maoist-affected Districts across 10 Indian States.  

Further, dubbing the ruling TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) as a "feudal and capitalist" political formations, similar to all other parties which protected properties of landlords and capitalists belonging to undivided Andhra Pradesh, the CPI-Maoist Telangana State committee ‘official spokesman’ Jagan, in a release (media report published on May 22, 2016), appealed, "We are calling upon people and democratic forces to wage a struggle till the problems of drought, drinking and irrigation water and fodder are resolved." It is significant that TRS was seen to be close to the Maoists during the agitation for a separate State, prior to the division of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.

Worryingly, at least 17,061 Police posts are vacant in the State, against a sanctioned strength of 64,489, a 26.46 per cent deficit, according to the latest data provided by the Bureau of Police Research and Development [BPR&D], as on January 1, 2016. Moreover, the sanctioned strength of the apex Indian Police Service (IPS) Officers in the State is 112, but just 94 officers were in position, considerably weakening decision-making in the Force. The police-population ratio (Policemen per hundred thousand population) in the State was 130.71 per 100,000, as compared to an appallingly low national average of 137.11 [over 220 Policemen per 100,000 population are considered necessary for ‘peacetime policing’].

Despite the fact that the influence of the Maoists has reduced over the last few years across the country, their residual capacities and capabilities, cannot be ignored. The Maoists’ revival plan in Telangana demonstrates clearly that the rebels have not given up. It is imperative that the lacunae in the enforcement apparatus be addressed, before the Maoists are able to gather sufficient force to make a serious attempt to resurrect their fortunes.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
February 13-19, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

0
0
1
1

Left-wing Extremism

0
0
2
2

BANGLADESH (Total)

0
0
3
3

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

0
4
4
8

Left-Wing Extremism

Chhattisgarh

0
2
3
5

Jharkhand

2
0
0
2

Total (INDIA)

2
6
7
15

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

0
5
1
6

FATA

2
6
30
38

KP

2
4
6
12

Punjab

8
6
12
26

Sindh

88
0
35
123

Total (PAKISTAN)

100
21
84
205
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Government has constituted 'quick response team' in every District for combating militancy and terrorism swiftly, says Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan: Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on February 14 told the Parliament that the Government has constituted a "quick response team" in every District comprising members of all law enforcement agencies for combating militancy and terrorism swiftly. "Raids are ongoing to arrest militants by forming a special task group in districts," he said while replying to lawmakers' queries. The Daily Star, February 15, 2017.  


INDIA

Dawood Ibrahim funded Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation, reveals Naik's aide: In a revelation, it has come to the fore that Dawood Ibrahim used to fund Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). According to Zakir Naik's chief financial officer (CFO) Aamir Gazdar, "Dawood Ibrahim has funded Zakir Naik's NGO Islamic Research Foundation." Aamir Gazdar said, "the said funding by Dawood Ibrahim used to take place through a mediator - Sultan Ahmed." Zee News, February 20, 2017.  

Maoists raise their 'Bastar battalion' to fight CRPF, says an internal CRPF circular:The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) is raising the Bastar Tiger Battalion in Chhattisgarh to counter the Bastariya Battalion (BB) under the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), says an internal CRPF circular. "Maoists are raising Bastar Tiger Battalion, having strength of 150 men, to counter BB and have asked locals to provide at least one youth from each house," the CRPF circular said. The document states Maoists are "repeatedly" targeting those involved in road construction works and Security Forces (SFs) in Chhattisgarh. The New Indian Express, February 19, 2017.

Al-Qaeda using US preoccupation with IS to spread to India, says report:Al-Qaeda has used America's "preoccupation" with the Islamic State (IS) to regain strength in South Asia and preparing to spread its ideology in India from its "home" in western Pakistan, Bruce Hoffman, Director, Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, told members of the House Armed Services Committee. "Al-Qaeda has never changed, and it still sees itself in what it conceives as an existential struggle against the West and against the United States in particular," Bruce Hoffman, stated. NDTV, February 17, 2017.

Madhya Pradesh spy racket reveals ISI's 'plan-60' in India, reveals ATS:The Madhya Pradesh anti-terrorist squad (ATS) probe into the recently neutralised espionage ring in the state, run by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has led to disclosure regarding the spy agency's network spread across India under the project "Plan-60". While talking about the progress in the probe, ATS officials revealed that the espionage ring run by ISI was part of its "Plan-60" project the aim of which is to spread its network across India. "Under Plan-60, 10,000 ISI recruits in 60 cities in nine states in India have currently been operating. This was revealed during interrogations of the 19 arrested ISI operatives in MP as well as the records of their cell phone data," ATS sources told this newspaper here. The Asian Age, February 17, 2017.

Army chief warns tough action against stone pelters in J&K:Army chief Bipin Rawat, on February 15, warned those attacking Security Forces (SFs) during anti-militancy operations of "tough action", as the hostile conduct of locals was causing higher casualties in the Kashmir valley. The stern message from Rawat came a day after three soldiers faced heavy stone-pelting at Parray Mohalla of Bandipora when they were about to launch an operation against militants holed up there. Daily Excelsior, February 16, 2017.

Central Government of India opens to talks with insurgent groups abjuring violence in North East:Clarifying the stand of the present Union Government towards insurgents groups, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) has indicated to a parliamentary panel that it is open to negotiations with only those militant formations that abjure violence and opt for a solution within the Constitution of India. The Government proposes to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to deal with extremists/separatists of the northeastern region. The Assam Tribune, February 16, 2017.

16 cases of train sabotage in the last 40 days in 2017, Indian Railways suspect 'terror angle': Indian Railways suspect that sudden rise in the number of train accidents in the recent past are the act of sabotage. 'In 2017, in the first 40 days, there have already been 16 cases and this is abnormally high,' Mohammed Jamshed, Member Traffic, Railway Board stated. Terming it an 'abnormally high', a top railways official said that most of these 16 instances of rail sabotage in 2017 have occurred in non-traditional Left-wing extremism (LWE)- affected areas, and does not carry the signature of Maoist subversive activities. Zee News, February 13, 2017.


PAKISTAN

88 civilians and 35 militants among 123 persons killed during the week in Sindh: Seven militants were killed during a targeted operation between Pakistan Rangers Sindh and militants in Shah Latif Town of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, on February 19. At least 18 alleged terrorists were killed in a raid carried out by Pakistan Rangers Sindh in Ziarat Mai Garhi, Manghopir area of Karachi on February 17. At least 88 civilians were killed and over 343 others were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a historic Sufi shrine in the Sehwan town of Jamshoro District in Sindh on February 16. Daily Times; Dawn; The News; Tribune, February 14-20, 2017.

30 militants and six SFs among 38 persons killed during the week in FATA: Eleven suspected militants allegedly attempting to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan were killed in a clash with security officials in Sapperkot and Para Chamkani area of Kurram Agency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on February 19. SFs sources said four key militant commanders were killed in Mumazo area of Lower Orakzai Agency where a search and strike operation was conducted on February 17. Six terrorists were killed and 10 of their hideouts were destroyed during airstrikes near Pak-Afghan border in Khyber Agency. Three Levies personnel and two civilians were killed in a suicide attack in Ghalanai tehsil (revenue unit) of Mohmand Agency on February 15. Following suicide attack on Political Agent office in Ghalanai town of Mohmand Agency, Frontier Corps (FC) launched search operation in Sheikh Banda area and killed five militants. Three Frontier Constabulary (FCB) personnel were killed in an improvised explosives device (IED) blast in Khan Kot Zarmina area of Toe Khula tehsil in South Waziristan Agency on February 13. Daily Times; Dawn; The News; Tribune, February 14-20, 2017. .

12 militants and eight civilians among 26 persons killed during the week in Punjab: The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) on February 19 killed five Jama'at-ul-Ahrar (JuA) militants in a shootout in Dera Sami Patti area of Chubara tehsil (revenue unit) in Layyah District of Punjab. The CTD on February 15 killed at least six suspected JuA militants in an operation in Chak 10-R 98 area of Khanewal District in Punjab. At least 14 persons were killed and 85 injured when a suicide bomber struck February13-evening around 6pm outside the Punjab Assembly on Mall Road of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, during a protest. Daily Times; Dawn; The News; Tribune, February 14-20, 2017.

Names of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, aide added to ATA's fourth schedule: The Punjab Government has included names of