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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 46, May 15, 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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Balochistan: Unabated Bloodshed
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least 10 labourers were killed and another two injured when unidentified motorcycle borne assailants opened fire at a construction site in the Pishgan area of Gwadar town in Balochistan on May 13, 2017. Senior Levies Official Muhammad Zareef stated, "All the labourers were shot at close range." The slain labourers belonged to the Naushahro Feroze District of Sindh. Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack comes a day after suicide bombing targeting a convoy of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JuI-F) leader and Deputy Chairman of the Senate (Upper house of Parliament) Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. At least 27 people were killed in the attack and another 40 injured in the Mastung town on May 12, 2017. The target of the attack, Maulana Haideri, is also General Secretary of JuI-F, and hails from Kalat. A motorcycle borne suicide bomber rammed into the vehicle in which the Maulana was travelling on the Quetta-Karachi National Highway. Haideri had just left a girls-only seminary after attending a graduation ceremony. Daesh (the Islamic State, IS, formerly Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham) claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement posted on the website of its propaganda agency Amaq without any elaboration. Haideri bulletproof vehicle saved his life. Though the explosion severely damaged the vehicle, he and his co-passengers escaped with injuries.

This was not the first time that JUI-F leaders have been targeted by terrorists in the past in the Province, despite the party’s long associations with the Taliban movement and leaders acting as negotiators between the terrorists and the Government in the past. On October 23, 2014, two persons were killed and 22 injured in a suicide blast targeting JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman on the Meckangi Road of Quetta, moments after he ended his address at a rally in the Sadiq Shaheed Football Ground.

On April 4, 2017, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri had invited the Taliban to join his party at news conference at the Peshawar Press Club, where he declared, “We invite them [the Taliban] to join JUI-F and achieve their objectives with the help of a peaceful and political struggle.”

Any slim hope of a sustainable peace in the Balochistan was destroyed after these attacks, despite the considerable decrease of 83.91 per cent in violence in the Province in the first four months of the year, in comparison to the same period last year. The first four months of 2016 had recorded 230 fatalities, including 144 terrorists/militants, 43 civilians and 43 SF personnel, while 2017 saw just 37 fatalities, including 16 SF personnel, 12 militants and 9 civilians. The two recent major attacks have inflicted fatalities equal to the total for the first four months this year. 

The complex, multilayered, seemingly never-ending security crisis in Balochistan appears more dangerous with the entry of Daesh on the scene. Balochistan has been under attack by separatists, insurgents, and Islamist terrorists for over a decade, and Daesh adds to the cumulative threat. The Government, however, insists that Daesh has no presence in the Province, a position argued by Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti on October 26, 2016. However, several of the major attacks in the Province, including the suicide attack on Lawyers of August 8, 2016 (75 persons killed), the Quetta Police Training College attack of October 24, 2016 (62 persons killed) and the Shah Noorani Sufi shrine attack of November 12, 2016 (55 persons killed) were claimed by ISIS.

Though Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on Maulana Haideri, the role of Baloch separatist militants cannot be ruled out. Haideri earned the wrath of Baloch separatists because of his support to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the Province while addressing a public meeting in Kalat on October 9, 2016, declaring that conspiracies being hatched by India and other elements against the CPEC project would be foiled. He added that JUI-F would continue its struggle to remove the reservations people had regarding the corridor project. A day before the attack on May 11, 2017, Haideri contended that his party would form the next Government in Balochistan in alliance with other political parties, including nationalist parties.

The suicide attack of May 12 and ethnic killings of May 13 in Balochistan occurred while Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif was in Beijing to ink agreements between Pakistan and China aimed at boosting cooperation in various sectors, on the sidelines of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Forum. Sharif arrived in Beijing on May 12, 2017, to participate in the OBOR Forum. CPEC is the flagship programme of OBOR, and is viewed by Baloch as a conspiracy by the Punjabi elite to plunder their land and resources.  

While Balochistan is the starting point of CPEC, the lion's share of projects under the programme has been assigned to Punjab, which has been assigned 53 per cent of the projects currently envisaged, according to Federal Ministry of Interior statistics shared with the Parliament on September 2, 2016. Out of the total of 330 projects, 176 are in Punjab while only eight have been allocated to Balochistan.

This has compounded the sense of neglect and marginalization among the Baloch people. on September 3, 2016, the Balochistan Republican Party alleged that the Province’s abundant resources were being diverted for the benefit of Pakistan's dominant province, Punjab. Similarly, on March 13, 2017, Munir Mengal, the President of Baloch Voice Foundation, asserted, that CPEC was a 'strategic design' by Pakistan and China to loot Balochistan's resources and eliminate their culture and identity.

Dubbing China as a 'great threat' to the Baloch people, UNHRC Balochistan representative Mehran Marri argued, on August 13, 2016, that "China really-really is spreading its tentacles in Balochistan very rapidly, and therefore, we are appealing to the international community. The Gwadar project is for the Chinese military. This would be detrimental to international powers, to the people's interest, where 60 percent of world's oil flows. So, the world has to really take rapid action in curbing China's influence in Balochistan in particular and in Pakistan in general." Asserting that CPEC would convert the Baloch people into minorities in their own homeland, Noordin Mengal, a human rights campaigner from Balochistan, stated that, with an influx of outsiders as a result of the project, the identity of the Baloch was being threatened.

Concern about the demographic transformation of Balochistan was reiterated in a report by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on December 28, 2016, which noted that, at the current rate of influx of Chinese nationals into Balochistan and after completion of the CPEC, the native population of the area would be outnumbered by 2048.

The May 13-killing of Sindhi labourers who were working on a road project are not specific CPEC-funded projects, but are part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor – a common target for Baloch separatist militants who view construction projects as a means to take over their land. Militants trying to disrupt construction of CPEC projects in the Province have killed 44 workers since 2014, according to Colonel Zafar Iqbal, a spokesperson for the construction company, Frontier Works Organisation (FWO). Colonel Zafar Iqbal stated, on September 7, 2016, that “The latest figure has climbed up to 44 deaths and over 100 wounded men on CPEC projects, mainly road construction in Balochistan, which began in 2014”.

The attack on labourers is an act of desperation from the Baloch separatist as their struggle for a sovereign nation has been losing tempo with the recent surrenders of their cadres. Around 500 militants belonging to different banned Baloch militant outfits surrendered to authorities on April 21, 2017. At a ceremony held on the lawns of the Balochistan Assembly building, the militants announced that they had abandoned the armed struggle against the Government and would join mainstream politics. Those who surrendered included 12 ‘commanders’ and 16 ‘sub-commanders’ of the militant organisations. The militants belonged to the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), BLA, Lashkar-i-Balochistan and some other groups. On the occasion of the surrender ceremony, one unnamed provincial official disclosed that around 1,500 militants of Baloch outfits had surrendered since the Government announced a political reconciliation programme in the Province under the National Action Plan (NAP). Earlier, on November 7, 2016, around 202 Baloch separatists belonging to various militant formations surrendered to Provincial Government authorities in Quetta.

On February 20, 2017, the Government deployed a special contingent of 15,000 personnel from the Maritime Security Force (MSF) and Special Security Division (SSD) to protect 34 CPEC related projects, including Gwadar and other coastal areas, and ensure safety of locals and foreigners working on CPEC projects. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayeed, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC, after a committee meeting in Parliament House on February 20, 2017, stated, “The SSD is a force that will provide security to 34 CPEC related projects, while the MSF will safeguard the Gwadar port and other coastal areas of the country,”. He said the SSD had been deployed in six zones from Gwadar to Gilgit-Baltistan, including all four Provinces and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). Despite all security arrangements, however, the militants continue to succeed in engineering major attacks.

Apart from CPEC related projects, there has been a systematic plundering of natural resources and neglect of real development in Balochistan by the successive Governments. As long as Pakistan’s all powerful Army and civilian leadership fail to address legitimate grievances of the Baloch people, Baloch separatism will persist. Worse, increasing Islamist terrorist activities in the Province compound instability and worsen the risks of violence and bloodshed.

INDIA
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Assam: BTAD: Discordant Accords
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On May 9, 2017, a Sub-Inspector of the 15th Battalion of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and a suspected cadre of the I.K. Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS) were killed in an encounter in the forests around the Manas National Park in Chirang District. One INSAS rifle was recovered from the encounter site.

On March 30, 2017, two NDFB-IKS militants, identified as Lukash Narzary aka Langfa and David Islary, were killed by the Security Forces (SFs) in an encounter at Simlagri under Amguri Police Station in Chirang District. One INSAS Rifle with 10 rounds of live ammunition, one 7.65 mm revolver with three rounds of ammunition and one Chinese grenade were recovered from the possession of the slain militants.

On February 9, 2017, unidentified militants shot dead two civilians, Bakul Rabha (40) and Saru (35), at Chengapara village under Kolaigaon Police Station in Udalguri District. Militants also set ablaze the hut of the deceased couple. "Since we found bullets, we are certain about the involvement of militants in the incident but we are yet to pinpoint the group. Both United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) and NDFB-IKS are active in the area and we are trying to identify the assailants," an unnamed Police official in Udalguri said.

These two districts – Chirang and Udalguri – along with two other districts – Kokrajhar and Baksa – form Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD). BTAD was formed after the signing of the Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) in February 2003 and the subsequent creation of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in December 2003 under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. BTC administers BTAD.

An earlier Bodo Accord of 1993 had led to the formation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). The BAC arrangement ended in failure; its territory was not fully demarcated resulting in confusion and conflict, and further resentment amongst the Bodo tribesman.

Despite the MoS, the region has witnessed continuing violence. According to partial data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since its formation on December 7, 2003, BTAD has registered a total of at least 452 fatalities, including 188 civilians, 21 SF personnel and 242 militants, in 285 incidents of killing (data till May 14, 2017).

Worryingly, in year 2016, BTAD witnessed at least 41 fatalities (19 civilians and 22 militants) as compared to 22 fatalities in 2015 (two civilians and 20 militants), thus witnessed an alarming increase of 86.34 per cent. Though the number of total fatalities in the region has witnessed a cyclical trend, on year on year basis, the incidents of killing have been constantly increasing since 2013. The number of killing incidents stood at 23 in 2016 as against 21 in 2015 and 14 in 2014. There were 11 such incidents in 2013 as against eight in 2012.

The region has already recorded six fatalities, including two civilians, three militants and one trooper, in three separate incidents in 2017 (data till May 14, 2017).

NDFB-IKS continues to be linked to most of the violent incidents in BTAD. Of 78 fatalities (73 civilians and five SF personnel) reported from BTAD since November 20, 2012, the date of the announcement of the formation of the outfit, NDFB-IKS has been found responsible for 69 (64 civilian and five SF personnel). Of 19 civilian fatalities reported from the region in 2016, NDFB-IKS was responsible for 16. While one surrendered NDFB cadre was killed during a group fight in a camp, two civilian fatalities remain unattributed. No SF fatality was reported in 2016.    

In the meantime, the outfit itself has suffered severe losses during ‘Operation All Out’ launched against the outfit on December 26, 2014, after the NDFB-IKS militants massacred over 69 Adivasis on December 23, 2014. The operation which still continues has resulted in elimination of 48 NDFB-IKS cadres.  

NDFB, the parent party, was formed on October 3, 1986, with the aim of creating a “Sovereign Bodoland’ and to secure “self-determination of the Bodos”. NDFB entered into a Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the Central and State Governments on June 1, 2005. However, following the October 30, 2008, serial blasts in Guwahati, which resulted in 81 deaths,  the organization suffered a vertical split – the pro-talks faction of NDFB (NDFB-PTF) led by B. Sungthagra aka Dhiren Boro, and an Anti-talks faction led by the Ranjan Daimari aka D.R. Nabla, NDFB-Ranjan Daimari (NDFB-RD). On November 20, 2012. NDFB-RD split into two – NDFB-IKS and NDFB-RD. NDFB-RD entered into a formal SoO agreement on November 29, 2013, and this has been renewed periodically. Most recently, on January 1, 2017, the SoO agreements with NDFB-RD and NDFB-PTF were extended by another six months.

Though talks are also being held with Adivasi militant groups, including the All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), Adivasi Cobra Militants of Assam (ACMA), Adivasi People’s Army (APA), National Santhal Liberation Army (NSLA), Birsa Commando Force (BCF) and Santhal Tiger Force (STF); anti-talks faction of the NSLA (NSLA-ATF) and Adivasi Defence Force (ADF) remain active in BTAD.

There is, moreover, a schism between the various groups inhabiting shared spaces in BTAD. Since its formation, the BTAD region has witnessed three ethnic clashes between Bodos and Non-Bodos. In 2008 clashes claimed 55 lives, 109 lives were lost in 2012 and 46 in 2014. During the May 1-12, 2014, violence, heavily armed NDFB-IKS militants targeted the Muslim community living across the Baksa and Kokrajhar Districts.

Worryingly, another emerging threat is the radicalization of Muslims and the presence of Islamist   militants in the BTAD. 31 Islamists militants [including 19 from Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)] have been arrested in the BTAD area since the October 2, 2014, Burdwan blasts in neighbouring West Bengal. Indeed, one of the key JMB operative, Lal Mohammed aka Ibrahim (30), suspected to be involved in the Burdwan blasts, reportedly told his interrogators that JMB’s subversive activities in Assam were to ‘counter Bodo aggression’ against Muslims. Ibrahim was arrested on April 18, 2015, from Jharkhand's Pakur District.

That the 2003 accord has failed to bring desired results is evident from the continuing violence in the region. Worse, even NDFB-PTF is demanding a separate Bodoland State. NDFB-RD also supports the creation of a separate State. The separate statehood demand is also backed by the All Bodo Student’s Union (ABSU), the initiator of the separate ‘Bodoland State’ with ‘Divide Assam 50-50’ slogan in the 1980’s. Claiming that the BTAD experiment has failed, ABSU ‘president’ Promod Boro observed, on April 27, 2017
Creation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) after the first Bodo Accord of 1993 proved futile, leading to its scrapping and a fresh Bodo Accord in 2003... After that, the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) experiment too has proved inadequate, convincing all Bodo groups that a separate Bodoland State is the only option left.

Promod Boro issued this statement a day after meeting Union Home Minister (UHM) Rajnath Singh along with Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and leaders of other Bodo organizations, including NDFB-PTF. In the meeting, Union Home Minister (UHM) Rajnath Singh had offered a vague assurance that, “Our Government will take all-out measures to ensure overall development of the Bodos living in Assam.”

ABSU renewed its demand for a separate ‘Bodoland State’ on December 2, 2010, on the grounds that BTC had failed to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the Bodos and that the Assam Government had failed to protect the identity, culture and language of the people. The creation of a separate Telangana State through the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India on June 2, 2014, was also a factor, since an implicit moratorium of the formation of new states was broken. Indeed, in an interview, published on August 20, 2013, Promod Boro argued, “It’s the same justification that was applied in Telangana, or before that in the creation of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. The aspirations are the same, only the people are different.”

BTAD has failed to address Bodo grievances, even as it has exacerbated conflict with other ethnic groupings. Such group-focused autonomous bodies give rise to further sets of grievances, both within and outside the target group. Clearly, generous developmental funding and autonomy are no panacea to ethnic insurgencies. Issues related to identities are barely static and are often competitive in the Northeast; consequently attempting to pacify individual ethnic groups through partisan accords in an ethnically diverse region is fundamentally flawed approach. Inclusive democracy, founded in the rule of law, and an urgent focus on long neglected issues of development are needed, even as groupings that choose armed violence are dealt with through effective counter-insurgency campaigns.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 8-14, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

0
1
5
6

Left-wing Extremism

0
0
2
2

BANGLADESH (Total)

0
1
7
8

INDIA

 

North East

 

Assam

0
1
1
2

Jammu and Kashmir

1
1
2
4

Manipur

0
2
0
2

Left-Wing Extremism

Chhattisgarh

0
1
1
2

Jharkhand

0
0
1
1

INDIA (Total)

1
5
5
11

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

37
0
1
38

FATA

2
0
0
2

Punjab

0
0
4
4

PAKISTAN (Total)

39
0
5
44
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

65 militants killed in 15 raids, says IGP AKM Shahidul Hoque: At least 65 militants were killed in the last 15 anti-militancy drives across the country, said Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hoque on May 13. The IGP said police officials are working hard to bust militant hideouts. A good number of militants were arrested in law enforcers' anti-militancy drive, he added. The Daily Star, May 14, 2017.


INDIA

Of 142 'IS-linked Indians', 96 held, questioned, or killed, according to Brookings India report: Out of 142 Indian citizens who have been suspected of links with the Islamic State (IS), 85 have either been arrested or interrogated by government agencies, and 11 have been killed, according to Brookings India report. Only 42 are possibly still active abroad — 16 of them in Afghanistan. While there was just the lone case of an IS-linked individual in 2013, and 6 cases in 2014, the number shot up to 35 in 2015, and 75 in 2016. Until the end of April 2017, a total of 35 IS-linked cases involving an Indian citizen had been identified. Indian Express, May 11, 2017.

37 million painkillers from India meant for IS fighters in Libya seized in Italy, says report: A ship load of tramadol, a synthetic opioid-like drug, from India to be sold to Islamic State (IS) terrorists in Libya to give them greater resilience has been seized by the Italian Police on May 10. The 37 million tramadol pills, worth USD 75 million, were found packed into three containers at the port of Genoa, labeled as blankets and shampoo and set to be loaded on a freighter bound for Misrata and Tobruk in Libya. Hindustan Times, May 11, 2017.

US blames Pakistan for deteriorating India-Pak ties, says report: The US administration on May 11, blamed Pakistan for deteriorating India-Pak relations and warned that the ties might worsen further if another "high- profile" terrorist attack emanates from across the border this year. "Islamabad's failure to curb support to anti-India militants and New Delhi's growing intolerance of this policy, coupled with a perceived lack of progress in Pakistan's investigations into the January 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for a deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016," Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing. Times of India, May 12, 2017.

Framework Agreement will protect Naga rights, says NSCN-IM: In an attempt to clear the air of confusion on the Framework Agreement signed between the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and the Government of India (GoI) on August 3, 2015, eighty one top NSCN-IM leaders from the State of Nagaland, in a joint statement on May 12, stated that the Framework Agreement which “embraces all Nagas and their territories is based on the uniqueness of Naga history” and it will protect ‘Naga rights’. The statement also mentioned clearly that the Framework Agreement speaks about recognition of the Naga identity and territories and they expressed their optimism over the Agreement. The Sangai Express, May 13, 2017.


PAKISTAN

37 civilians and one militant among 38 persons killed during the week in Balochistan: At least 10 labourers were killed and two others injured when motorcycle bourne unidentified assailants opened fire at the construction site in Pishgan area Gwadar town in Balochistan on May 13.

At least 27 people were killed and 40 others, including Senate Deputy Chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, suffered injuries in a suicide attack on his convoy in the Mastung town of same District on May 12. Daily Times, Dawn, The News, Tribune, May 9-15, 2017. 

Saeed held for spreading terror, says Pakistan's Interior Ministry: Founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamat-ud Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and his four aides have been put under house arrest in Lahore since January 30, 2017, for "spreading terrorism in the name of jihad," Pakistan's Interior Ministry told a judicial review board. Saeed appeared before the board on May 13 and said that he had been detained by the government in order to stop him from raising his voice for the Kashmiris. However, the Interior Ministry rejected his arguments and told the three-member board that Saeed and his four aides have been detained for "spreading terrorism in the name of jihad." Saeed was the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind. The Hindu, May 15, 2017

‘Will hit 'militant safe havens' inside Pakistan’, Iran warns: The chief of the Iranian Army Major General Mohammad Baqeri warned Islamabad on May 8 that Tehran would hit bases inside Pakistan if the Government does not confront militants who carry out cross-border attacks. Ten Iranian border guards were killed by militants on April 26. Iran said Jaish-al-Adl, a militant group, had shot the guards with long-range guns, fired from inside Pakistan. The border area has long been plagued by unrest from both drug smuggling gangs and separatist militants. "We cannot accept the continuation of this situation," Major General Mohammad Baqeri said. Dawn, May 9, 2017.

Anti-CPEC protests erupt in PoK as China opens its One Belt One Road summit: As China opened the One Belt One Road (OBOR) summit in Beijing, which is being attended by heads of state and government of over 23 nations, including Pakistan, protests broke out in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) against the ongoing construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project under the Belt and Road initiative. Various students and political organisations including Karakoram Students Organisation, Balawaristan National Students Organisation, Gilgit Baltistan United Movement and Balawaristan National Front have been protesting