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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 37, March 14, 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

INDIA
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LWE: Challenging Reverses
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

On March 11, 2017, at least 12 personnel of the 219th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed and another four injured when Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres ambushed a road opening party in the dense forests near Kottacheru village under Bhejji Police Station in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh. Commenting on the attack, acting CRPF Director General (DG), Sudeep Lakhtakia stated, "The troops were part of the road clearing party that has been securing an under-construction road between Bhejji and Kottacheru. They were ambushed by Naxals [Left Wing Extremists, LWEs] who set off multiple hidden IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) on the ground and opened fire. The squad effectively retaliated before twelve made the supreme sacrifice." However, no casualty among the Maoists was reported. Meanwhile, the Maoists looted six INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifles, four AK-47 assault rifles, a light machine gun, at least 1,587 rounds of ammunition, an Under-Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), a 51mm mortar, and two radio sets from the slain personnel.

On March 8, 2017, four Maoists were killed in an encounter with personnel of the 205th battalion of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) of the CRPF in the forest area of Baskatwa under Gurpa Police Station in the Gaya District of Bihar. Acting on a tip-off of a meeting of top Maoist leaders in the area, the Security Forces (SFs) launched an operation. On seeing SFs, the rebels opened fire, leading to an encounter in which the four Maoists were killed. SFs recovered the rebels’ bodies along with their arms, including two INSAS rifles, one Self Loading Rifle (SLR) and one AK-47. The slain Maoists were identified as Anil aka Deepak, ‘zonal commander’ of the ‘Magadh area committee’, Rajesh Ravidas, a ‘sub-zonal commander’; Nepali Yadav and Uttam.

On February 1, 2017, the Maoists triggered a landmine explosion near Mungarbhumi in the Koraput District of Odisha, killing eight Police personnel and injuring another five. The explosion targeted a Police van carrying 13 Police personnel, on its way to the Police Training College in Angul District.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 92 persons have been killed in Left Wing Extremism-linked violence across the country in 2017 thus far (data till March 13, 2017). These included 23 civilians, 27 SF personnel and 42 LWEs. During the corresponding period of 2016, such fatalities stood at 111 (27 civilians, 19 SF personnel and 65 LWEs). There is thus a marginal improvement in terms of overall fatalities and, more importantly, civilian deaths. However, the dwindling ratio of SFs to LWEs killed is definitely worrisome. SFs have secured a kill ratio of just 1:1.55 during the current year, thus far, as against 1:3.55 during the corresponding period of 2016, and 1:3.7 through 2016.

There were a total of 433 fatalities in 2016 (123 civilians, 66 SF personnel, 244 LWEs) in LWE-linked violence across India, as against 251 fatalities (93 civilians, 57 SF personnel, 101 LWEs) in 2015. After recording a decline in overall fatalities for two consecutive years, overall fatalities saw a steep increase through 2016, and were the highest recorded since 2011 when 602 fatalities were recorded.

Maoist activities [LINK: MAP] were reported from 104 Districts in 13 States in 2016, and have already been recorded from 64 Districts in 14 States in 2017.

These numbers, however, appear to be significant underestimates. According to data provided by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), at least 500 deaths (213 civilians, 65 SF personnel, 222 LWEs) were reported from across the country in 2016, as against 319 deaths (171 civilians, 59 SF personnel, 89 LWEs) in 2015 in LWE-linked violence. There were another 79 fatalities (32 civilians, 14 SF personnel, 33 LWEs) during the first two months of 2017. During the corresponding period of 2016, there were 99 fatalities (39 civilians, 10 SF personnel, 50 LWEs). 

According to UMHA, at least 106 Districts in 10 States were Maoist affected. The UMHA assessment notes,
The States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar are considered severely affected. The States of West Bengal, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are considered partially affected. The States of UP [Uttar Pradesh] and MP [Madhya Pradesh] are considered slightly affected. There is major improvement in Andhra Pradesh, which was considered severely affected earlier. The CPI (Maoist) are making forays into Southern States of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and planning to link up the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats through these states. The CPI (Maoist) are planning to expand their area of activities and carve out a base for themselves in the tri-junction of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They are attempting incursions into Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, which has serious long-term strategic implications.

The significant increase in number of civilians killed (UMHA data) – 24.56 percent – in 2016 as against fatalities in this category in 2015 gives cause for concern. The primary reason for this steep rise is the growing belief among the Maoists that more and more civilians are acting as ‘police informers’, and that SFs are mostly dependent on local information in their anti-Maoist operations. The continuous losses the rebels have suffered at the hands of SFs underline and reinforce their belief.

In the most successful operations ever conducted by the SFs against the CPI-Maoist, since its formation in September 2004, SFs killed at least 30 Maoists in two successive encounters in the Bejingi Forest area, between Ramgarh and Panasput, in the Malkangiri District of Odisha on October 24 and 27, 2016. The slain Maoists included Bakuri Venkata Ramana Murthy aka Ganesh aka Prasad aka Ramireddy, ‘official spokesman’ of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) and ‘secretary’ of the ‘east division unit’ of the party; and Chemella Krishnaiah aka Bhaskar aka Daya, 'secretary' of the Koraput-Srikakulam 'joint division' of the AOBSZC. 

Indeed, CPI-Maoist’s 'East Division secretary’, Pratap Reddy aka Ramchandra Reddy aka Appa Rao aka Chalapathi, in an interview published on July 21, 2016, stated, “I must add that in the conspiracy to eliminate the Maoists party, the ruling classes and the State Government have been exploiting people in the tribal areas by converting them as police informer and agents. Such people are being given arms by the police and a special police officer (SPO) network created. It is such elements that we are eliminating.”

Not surprisingly, most of the civilians killed were branded as 'police informers'. According to UMHA data, 123 of the 213 civilians killed, i.e. 57.74 per cent, in 2016 were of alleged 'police informers'. In 2015, the proportion of supposed 'police informers' killed stood at 55.55 per cent. This proportion has been increasing steadily since 2013, when it was 40.07 per cent, rising to 40.99 per cent in 2014. Significantly, SFs have always denied that targeted civilians were ‘police informers’ and have argued that Maoists are killing civilians to infuse fear among them and, in turn, secure their support at a time when they are facing increasing setbacks.

Indeed, through 2016, SFs continued to strengthen their position in their fight against LWEs. According to UMHA data, the kill ratio in 2016 stood at 1:3.41 in favour of SFs, more than double the ratio in 2015 (1:1.50). At its worst, the ratio had dropped to 1:0.59 in 2007. The number of encounters with Police has also increased from 247 in 2015 to 328 in 2016, clearly indicating more engagement of the SFs' on the ground. On the other hand, during the same period, the number of attacks on SFs carried out by the Maoists came down from 118 in 2015 to 111 in 2016. Similarly, incidents of snatching of arms came down from 18 in 2015 to just three in 2016. SFs recovered 800 arms in 2016 in addition to 724 in 2015. 1,840 Maoists were arrested through 2016, in addition to 1,668 arrests in 2015. Mounting SF pressure has also resulted in significant surge in the number of Maoist surrenders, which increased from 570 in 2015 to 1,442 in 2016.

Further, while the Maoists held 41 'Jan Adalats' (‘People’s Courts’, kangaroo courts organized by the rebels) in 2015, the number fell considerably in 2016, to 21. The number of 'jan adalats' has been continuously declining since 2014, indicating diminishing control over areas in which such kangaroo courts could be organized.

Acknowledging their diminishing influence, CPI-Maoist 'East Division secretary', Pratap Reddy, in his July 21, 2016, interview, admitted,

The multi-pronged attacks by the state government through its security forces as well as own mistakes has led to the Maoists being in the situation now... we have faced setbacks... I would like to remind you that the party has faced difficult times in the past and regained its strength and lost glory... These hard times are only temporary... I can confidently say that the party will overcome this situation...

The recent surge in successful major attacks against SFs is a clear demonstration of the Maoist commitment to such 'pledges'. Though the respective State Governments and the Union Government have adopted several measures during last many years to contain this menace, they have failed to address several other challenges. Most importantly, though the Central Government has deployed more than "100 Battalions of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and a number of CoBRA Teams in LWE affected States" as "the strategy of the Government is aimed at addressing security vacuum in LWE affected areas" it has so far failed to take along the respective State Governments in enhancing their Police strength and quality. According to the latest data made available by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), none of the Maoist-affected States has been able to achieve its sanctioned Police strength. For instance, Chhattisgarh, the worst LWE-affected state has a police-population-ratio (policemen per hundred thousand population) of 214.92, against the sanctioned strength of 255.39. At the bottom end among Maoist affected States, Bihar has a ratio of 90.68, as against a sanction of a low 119.17. Similarly, the Police-area-ratio (policemen per 100 square kilometers area) is abysmal. However, among the Maoist affected states, Bihar has the best Police-area ratio at 99.61 (though much lower than the sanctioned strength of 130.92), while Andhra Pradesh has the worst ratio, at 30.95 (against the sanctioned strength of 36.93). More disturbingly, there is an acute shortage at the level of Police leadership as none of these States have a sanctioned strength of IPS (Indian Police Service) officers in position. Chhattisgarh has the lowest deficit – 12.62 per cent – among IPS ranks, while Odisha has the worst – 42.02 per cent.  The national average in all these categories is itself dismal.

Indeed, past experience has shown that major insurgencies in India, prominently including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Tripura, have been successfully defeated with the help of strong State Police Forces. It is, consequently, imperative that existing deficits be urgently addressed – both in terms of quality and the quantity – so that SFs can further intensify their operations on the ground, irrespective  of  the occasional reverses they have suffered. It is necessary, moreover, that SFs learn from and avoid the repetitive mistakes that have characterized the most significant of their misfortunes, as each major rebel success bolsters the sapping morale of the Maoists, and creates potential for new recruitment and resurgence.

 

NEPAL
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Unending Impasse
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On March 6, 2017, three protestors were killed in Police firing at Maleth, a Village Development Committee (VDC) in Saptari District, as Police tried to chase away the cadres of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) protesting against a mass meeting of the main opposition Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) as part of its campaign for local level elections. Another 25 UDMF cadres and three Policemen were also injured in the clash. The death toll, later, rose to five, as two persons succumbed to their injuries, one on March 8, 2017, and another on March 10, 2017, in the course of their treatment at the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences.

Irked by the Saptari incident, UDMF – which consists of seven Madhes-based parties including the National Madhes Socialist Party (NMSP), Nepal Sadbhawana Party (NSP), Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum- Republican (MJF-R), Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP), Sadbhawana Party (SP),Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party (TMSP) and Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal (FSF-N) – announced a two-day general strike in the Tarai region at an emergency meeting held in Kathmandu, on March 6, 2017. UDMF leaders also threatened to withdraw their support to the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led Government. UDMF’s constituent parties have a total of 39 votes in Parliament, and have been demanding an amendment to the Constitution, changing the demarcation of Districts and constituencies before the holding of local level elections. The Constitution Amendment Bill primarily deals with the aspirations of ethnic Madhesis and Tharus on the delineation of provinces in the newly established federal system.

UDMF cadres restarted taking to the streets on February 21, 2017, protesting the announcement of the dates for local elections by taking out a torch rally in Rajbiraj, the District headquarters of Saptari. On February 20, 2017, a cabinet meeting held at Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's official residence in Kathmandu decided to hold the local level election across the country in a single phase on May 14, 2017, amid opposition from the agitating Madhes-based political parties. Significantly, Prime Minister Dahal had given an assurance on February 17, 2017, that he would work on election preparations and the Constitutional Amendment simultaneously. On February 19, 2017, Dahal had reiterated that he would declare an election date only after reaching an agreement with the agitating Madhes-based parties.

The conflict escalated when UDMF cadres clashed with the Police on February 26, 2017, as they staged a demonstration at Gaur, the Rautahat District headquarters, in a bid to thwart a function being organized by the CPN-UML. Further, on March 2, 2017, CPN-UML and UDMF cadres clashed at Rajbiraj in Saptari District while the former were distributing pamphlets. Again, on March 3, 2017, UDMF cadres tarred the face of CPN-UML District Committee member Pratap Narayan Chaudhary, who, among other CPN-UML cadres, was distributing pamphlets at Machha Hatiya in Saptari District.

Earlier, protesting against the adoption of the new Constitution on September 20, 2015, the Madhesis had blockaded border points with India from September 23, 2015 and only ended the blockade on February 5, 2016, after 135 days. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 32 persons, including 29 civilians and three Security Force (SF) personnel, were killed in blockade-related violence.  

On November 29, 2016, in order to end the political logjam, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-Maoist Centre)-led Government registered a seven-point Constitution Amendment Bill at the Parliament Secretariat after the Madhesi parties had served an ultimatum, which ended on November 28, 2016, to bring an amendment proposal.

However, the Government's move came amidst strong objections from the main opposition party, the CPN-UML. In particular, the party objected to the proposal to change boundaries of Province No. 4 and Province No. 5. Significantly, on December 1, 2016, CPN-UML started to obstruct Parliamentary proceedings, terming the Constitution Amendment Bill anti-national. Since then, nine opposition parties including CPN-UML have obstructed House business, demanding that local level elections be held before the Constitution Amendment process.

On February 20, 2017, in order to appease these opposition parties, the Government decided to hold the local level elections on May 14, 2017, after a gap of 20 years. The last local elections in Nepal had been held in May 1997.  Remarkably, nearly three months after the registration of the Constitution Amendment Bill, with the opposition parties softening their stance and allowing deliberations on it, Parliament finally began general discussions on the Bill on February 23, 2017.

The opposition parties have, however, already declared that they will not allow the Bill to be endorsed by the House. On February 23, 2017, CPN-UML Chairperson K.P. Sharma Oli stated that his party would not let Parliament pass the Constitution Amendment Bill as it was ‘against the people’s will’, a position he reiterated on February 26, 2017. Meanwhile, on March 7, 2017, CPN-UML Secretary Pradeep Gyawali warned “We demand that the Government create political and administrative environment to hold the local polls. The elections can be and must be held, as the failure to conduct the polls will lead to the new Constitution's failure.” Moreover, turning down the Government’s plea to halt its election campaign and demanding that Government ensure full security to party rallies, CPN-UML senior leader Jhalnath Khanal declared, on March 8, 2017, “We have demanded that the government ensure full security to peaceful party rallies. If the government fails to perform its duty and we have to defend ourselves, the situation might become complex.” Significantly, CPN-UML’s campaign, which was halted for three days following the Saptari incident, resumed from Hetauda on March 10, 2017.

Exerting pressure on the political parties to expedite preparations for elections, the Supreme Court ruled, on February 22, 2017, that it is constitutionally mandatory to hold all three tiers of elections – local, provincial and federal – within the stipulated date of January 21, 2018. Further, on March 3, 2017, the Supreme Court ordered the Government to furnish a written statement about the Government's preparations for holding all three tiers of elections in line with the provisions of the new Constitution.  Meanwhile, in view of the upcoming local elections, Election Commission (EC) spokesman Surya Prasad Sharma announced, on March 9, 2017, that the Election Commission would deploy the chief election officer, election officers and other support staff to the ground from April 16, 2017.

However, at a meeting held in Kathmandu on February 24, 2017, the Federal Alliance, a coalition of Madhes-based and other ethnic political parties and organizations, asserted that the Alliance could not accept local level polls. Further, on March 4, 2017, the Alliance reiterated that the local level elections announced for May 14 should be postponed as they had been announced in a hurry. On March 7, 2017, the Alliance gave a seven-day ultimatum to the Government to endorse the Constitution Amendment Bill with revisions and withdraw the decision to hold the polls. It also decided to withdraw support to the Government if the deadline was not met. Although the Government enjoys a majority in Parliament without the support of the Alliance, the latter has been extending its support all the same. 41 lawmakers belong to the constituent parties of the Federal Alliance.

On March 8, 2017, UDMF submitted a five-point memorandum to Prime Minister Dahal demanding the withdrawal of the local elections’ programme, Amendment of the Constitution, keeping the local level structure within the provincial jurisdiction and implementing the three-point agreement reached during the formation of the Government. The Front also demanded a high level commission be formed to probe the Saptari incident, and steps be initiated to punish the guilty, declare the deceased martyrs, compensate the bereaved families and provide free treatment to the injured. The Front warned that it would withdraw support to the incumbent Government if its demands were not addressed within seven days. Dahal had assured the UDMF leaders that he would hold discussion with the ruling parties and the opposition and decide accordingly.

However, after a meeting with ruling coalition members on March 1, 2017, Prime Minister Dahal disclosed, “The parties have made it clear that they would vote against the Constitution Amendment Bill.” Further, on March 9, 2017, emphasizing the inevitability of the elections, Dahal said, “The new Constitution has ensured rights of the legislative, the executive and the judiciary to the citizens at the grassroots. And to implement the Constitution, elections are the only way out.”

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is under tremendous pressure with the main opposition party CPN-UML warning of stringent protests if the local polls were not held within the stipulated date and the agitating Madhes-based parties threatening to withdraw support and intensify protests after the seven day ultimatum if the Government failed to meet their demands. As election preparations proceed, the impasse is likely to continue.

 


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 6-12, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

2
0
3
5

Manipur

1
0
2
3

Left-Wing Extremism

Bihar

0
0
4
4

Chhattisgarh

1
12
0
13

Total (INDIA)

4
12
9
25

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

0
1
0
1

KP

0
2
15
17

Total (PAKISTAN)

0
3
15
18
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

BNP-JeI nexus patronizing militant activities after they failed to topple Government through arson attacks, says Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal: Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal attending on March 8 said that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) nexus is now patronizing militant activities after they failed to topple the Government through arson attacks due to mass resistance. The Minister said, "The anti-government quarters wanted to stop the progress of the country and destabilize the government. They patronize terrorists and arsonists. They are trying to label Islam as a violent religion. But, no religion promotes murders. Those who preach Islam at mosques and madrasas are not giving rise to militancy. Rather it is the conspirators who are behind the militants. We will uproot militancy with the support of all." Dhaka Tribune, March 9, 2017.  

BNP-JeI alliance had created Neo-JMB for carrying out secret assassinations across Bangladesh, says Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon: Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon on March 6 said that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) alliance had created Neo-Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for carrying out secret assassinations across Bangladesh. He said, "Neo-JMB proved its existence through the Holey Artisan Bakery attack at Gulshan in Dhaka. They created Neo-JMB to carry out militant attacks and secret killings. The people of Bangladesh are quite aware of the anarchy unleashed by the BNP-Jamaat." Dhaka Tribune, March 7, 2017.  


INDIA

12 CRPF personnel killed in Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh: 12 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed and two others injured in an attack by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) near Bhejji in Sukma District on March 11. Senior Police officials of Sukma District said that Maoist opened indiscriminate fire on a Road Opening Party (ROP) between Bhejji and Kottacheru. The rebels also looted six INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifles, four AK-47 assault rifles, a light machine gun, 1,587 bullet rounds, an Under-Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), a 51mm mortar, two para bombs and two radio sets from the slain personnel. The Times Of India, March 11, 2017.

474 civilians killed in Naxal violence since 1982, says Maharashtra Police: As many as 474 civilians have been killed in Naxal [Left Wing Extremism (LWE)] violence in Gadchiroli District since 1982, Maharashtra Police issued a statement giving the statistics. According to the statement, the total number of civilian deaths in Naxal violence till now stood at 474. Also, 312 citizens were injured. As many as 191 Policemen were martyred in line of duty and 511 injured in the Naxal-affected District. Similarly, Government property worth INR 107,030,299 was destroyed, while loss of private assets stood at INR 185,007,016. India Today, March 11, 2017.

Stone pelting hampering anti-militancy operations in Kashmir, says CRPF: A day after Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) 'deputy chief' Sabzar Ahmad along with some of his associates escaped from an encounter site in the Tral area of Pulwama District, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has admitted that stone pelting is hampering anti-militancy operations in the Valley and many militants have escaped from the encounter sites during the clashes. "The stone pelting is hampering our anti-militancy operations," said Inspector General (IG) CRPF (Operations) Zulfikar Hassan. The New Indian Express , March 7, 2017.


NEPAL

Elections were inevitable in order to decentralize Government's power to local level, says Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal:Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on March 9 said that the elections were inevitable in order to decentralize the Government's power to the local level. Dahal said, "The new Constitution has ensured rights of the legislative, the executive and the judiciary to the citizens at the grassroots. And to implement the Constitution, elections are the only way out." The Himalayan Times, March 10, 2017.


PAKISTAN

Ulemas must undo extremist narrative of religion, says PM Nawaz Sharif: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on March 11 during his visit to the Lahore based Jamia Naeemia asked Islamic clerics to reject in forceful terms all the religious decrees that incite violence in the name of Islam. "Hate is being spread in the name of religion and it is the duty of the Ulema to free it from hate and violence. One way of doing that is to reject all those fatwas that incite violence, [and] only the Ulema can do it," said the PM Nawaz Sharif. Dawn, March 12, 2017.

LeJ particularly active in the provincial capitals of Sindh and Balochistan, says report: Unnamed Officials involved in anti terrorist operations have revealed that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a proscribed organization, is particularly active in the port city of Karachi (provincial capital of Sindh) and Quetta (provincial capital of Baluchistan). The Organization is still the prime target of law enforcement agencies (LEA) for its close liaison with banned Jaam'at-ul-Ahrar (JuA). Most of the organization's activists have gone underground to escape arrests. The officials claim that LeJ's almost 90 percent network has been disabled by eliminating its top leadership. Daily Times, March 10, 2017.


SRI LANKA

Government will take action against any individual only if OMP acknowledges them as forced disappearances, says Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on March 8 told Parliament that the Government will take action against any individual, whether they are military or civil, only if the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) acknowledges them as forced disappearances. Wickremesinghe specified that investigations would be carried out on forced disappearances that had taken place during the last stages of war when a suspect surrendered either to the Police or the security forces."Action would be in accordance with the Office of Missing Persons Bill," he said. Daily Mirror, March 9, 2017.