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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 10, September 4, 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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The Mask of Politics
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow; Institute for Conflict Management

With the United States exerting more pressure, there seems to be urgency among terrorist formations/individual leaders operating out of Pakistani soil to gain 'political legitimacy' to counter any further existential threat. A "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" by the US on September 30, 2014, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, founder of the Kashmiri militant outfit Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), which operates in Indian Jammu & Kashmir, reportedly decided to form his own political party. Khalil confirmed this decision in an August 25, 2017, report:
Yes, I have been in touch with my colleagues and followers and we have even finalized a name for the party - Islah-e-Watan Party (IWP). For this purpose, the central Shura (executive committee) would soon meet to finalise details... We would like to condemn the derogatory statement made recently by US President (Donald) Trump. The US needs to know that Pakistan is neither Syria nor Iraq. If any step is taken against Pakistan, we would turn our lands into a graveyard for aggressive forces."
Media reports quoted an unnamed source in the group as saying, "Maulana (Khalil) has taken a lead from Maulana Makki's [Abdul Rehman Makki] decision to mainstream his (banned) outfit." Abdul Rehman Makki is the second in command of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).

It is pertinent to recall here that Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the 'chief' of JuD, the frontal organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, launched his political party, Milli Muslim League (MML), on August 7, 2017. Currently under 'house arrest' in Lahore, Saeed has 'nominated' Saifullah Khalid as the President of MML. Saifullah Khalid, a religious scholar and longtime 'official' of the JuD, at the formal launch of the MML party in Islamabad, announced,
We have decided to make a new political party, so that Pakistan is made a real Islamic and welfare state. Once he [Saeed] is released we will seek his guidance and ask what role he wants in this political party. We demand an immediate release of Hafiz Saeed.
Tabish Qayoum, a JuD activist who will work as spokesman for MML, disclosed that JuD had filed registration papers for the new party with Pakistan's election commission.

Saeed along with another four JuD members was put under house arrest in Lahore on January 30, 2017. They were detained under Section 11-EEE of Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act, which gives the Government the power to arrest or detain terrorism suspects for up to 12 months. The other four included Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Niaz.  Significantly, Saeed was put under ‘house arrest’ soon after Donald Trump assumed power in the US on January 20, 2017.

Saeed had been declared a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist" by the US on May 27, 2008, and was added to the UN 1267/1989 Consolidated List on December 10, 2008. On April 2, 2012, the US announced a bounty of USD 10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed for his alleged involvement in terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed at least 166 people, including six Americans.

Meanwhile, on August 16, 2017, the US designated Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen (HM) a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation”, within two months of declaring the its ‘chief’ Yusuf Shah aka Syed Salahuddin as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” on June 26, 2017. Salahuddin has for long been holding mass rallies across Pakistan and is believed to have strong mass base.

With mounting international pressure (especially the US), more such terrorist formations are likely to join the 'political mainstream' at a time when National Assembly elections are due in less than a year. Significantly, established political parties are currently in a crises, with the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), facing serious problems in the aftermath of the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following the Supreme Court's ruling in the Panama Papers case. The main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are also not on a strong footing, each riddled with its own controversies and scandals.

Given the past track record of all these parties – PML-N, PPP, PTI – there will be no surprise if they readily agree to ally with any of these 'terrorist political parties' to win the upcoming elections, or in a situation of weak or no majorities for any single formation.

Significantly, each of these parties had tried to woo Islamist extremists, and particularly the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), before the 2014 elections. Despite then-TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud’s declaration that “democracy is the system of infidels”, Nawaz Sharif repeatedly advocated a policy of appeasement towards the Taliban. In May 2013, he had declared, “A few weeks ago, the Taliban (TTP) offered dialogue to the Government of Pakistan and said, ‘we are prepared to talk’. I think the Government of Pakistan should have taken that seriously. [It] did not take it seriously.”

Similarly, PTI has taken a soft line on the extremists. Its leader Imran Khan continuously advocated a negotiated settlement with the TTP and its affiliates and, on April 22, 2013, had observed, “the Pakistan Tehrik-e-insaf will pull the Army out of the Pashtun-dominated tribal areas and restore peace through talks if it comes to power in the May 11 (2014) general election”. Earlier, in October 2012, Imran Khan had claimed that the Taliban were fighting a 'holy war' justified by Islam in neighbouring Afghanistan: "It is very clear that whoever is fighting for their freedom is fighting a jihad… The people who are fighting in Afghanistan against the foreign occupation are fighting a jihad."

The PPP’s approach towards TTP and its affiliates was comparably accommodating. On February 4, 2013, the then Federal Minister for Interior Rehman Malik declared, “We are ready to start talks with you (TTP). You tell us what team you would like to talk to, and let’s set an agenda.” Further, PPP leader and former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had close ties with the Taliban. According to a June 14, 2010, media report, while meeting 50 captured Taliban leaders including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in a prison to assure them that their outfit had his Government’s full support and that they would be freed soon, Zardari had reportedly stated, “You are our people, we are friends, and after your release we will of course support you to do your operations.”

The Sharif brothers' (Shahbaz Sharif has been the longtime Chief Minister of the Punjab Province) closeness to JuD is also well known. In the most brazen move, Saeed reportedly (April 2016 reports) set up a Sharia’h (Islamic law) court in Lahore  to dispense "speedy justice", taking up citizens' complaints and issuing summons carrying a warning of strict action in case of non-compliance. It was the first instance of such a parallel judicial system being established in the Punjab province. JuD claimed the ‘court’ only offers arbitration and resolves disputes in accordance with the Islamic judicial system, but failed to justify the summons. The impunity with which Saeed operated clearly confirms the support he receives from the ruling Pakistani establishment, in addition to the significant resources his organization has received from the state exchequer.

More recently, photographs featuring the then Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan with Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, the leader of the ‘banned’ sectarian terrorist Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ), had surfaced on social media. When a hue and cry was raised, the Minister was unrepentant and, indeed, offered a defence of ASWJ, stating, on January 14, 2017, that the Shia-Sunni conflict dated back 1300 years and was a part of Islamic history, and it was unfair (with regard to terrorism) to “link everything with ASWJ’s Chief”. Responding to a question in the Senate about his remarks that outlawed sectarian organisations should not be equated with terrorist outfits, Nisar raised the question whether it was "a crime" to suggest that separate laws should be formed to deal with groups proscribed on sectarian basis to remedy the "confusion being created". In a reply to the criticism he faced from PPP for meeting with Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, Nisar inquired, "How is it fair to link everything to Maulana Ludhianvi? Which PPP leader did not meet leaders of proscribed organisations in their time?" PPP’s association with the banned Peoples' Aman Committee (PAC), a Karachi based gang, is widely known . PAC, a Lyari criminal network linked to numerous targeted killings, reportedly works as PPP’s armed wing.

Meanwhile, religious fundamentalism continues to increase across Pakistan, with more and more people being killed in the name of god. According to the latest World Report, 2017, published by Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 19 people remained on death row after being convicted under Pakistan’s draconian Blasphemy Law, and hundreds awaited trial. Most of those facing blasphemy are members of religious minorities, often victimized by these charges due to personal disputes. Further, the HRW 2015 Report suggested that, since 1990, 60 people have been murdered after being accused of blasphemy. In 2015, the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) reported that a total of 724 Muslims, 501 Ahmadis, 185 Christians and 26 Hindus, who had been accused under innumerable clauses of the Blasphemy Law since 1987. The majority of these cases were for desecration of the Quran followed by blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

In such a scenario, the danger of more terror elements infiltrating into mainstream politics is very real. Worse, it is unlikely that these groupings will give up their terrorist activities, even as a measure of political impunity is secured by engaging in the electoral process. The ‘legitimacy’ that would be gained would also tend to amplify the ambivalence that has characterized international attitudes and policies with regard to such groupings.

INDIA
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Chhattisgarh: Narayanpur: Entering the Heartland
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On August 16, 2017, three cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) were arrested by the Security Forces (SFs) from Tumiradi village in the Narayanpur District of Chhattisgarh. The arrested Maoists were identified as Vijay Dhruva, Gore Hichami and Maniram Dhruva.

On August 9, 2017, SFs arrested a local CPI-Maoist 'militia commander', identified as Budhru Mandavi (23), from Kalmanar village in Narayanpur District. A CPI-Maoist banner and two pamphlets were found on him.

On July 31, 2017, in a joint operation SFs arrested four CPI-Maoist cadres from Bagjhar village in Narayanpur District. The arrested cadres were identified as Malu Netam (45), Baijuram Gawde (26), Ashiram Salam (42) and Shivnath Yadav. Malu Netam carried a reward of INR 2,000 on his head.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 25 Maoists have been arrested in Narayanpur District thus far in 2017 (data till September 3). During the corresponding period in 2016, 10 Maoists had been arrested. However, a total of 32 Maoists were arrested through 2016. There were no arrests in 2015, while 73 were arrested in 2014; 34 in 2013; 14 in 2012; 43 in 2011; and 25 in 2010.

Moreover, according to SATP data, at least 15 Maoists were killed in Narayanpur District in 2017 (data till September 3), as against six, during the corresponding period, in 2016, and a total of 16 through 2016. Total Maoist fatalities in 2016 were the highest ever recorded in this category in the District. The previous highs were recorded in 2010, at 15 Maoist fatalities, and 2011 at 12.

SFs have suffered one loss in the current year. During the corresponding period of the preceding year, SFs also recorded one loss, which was also the only loss in this category through 2016. Thus, the SFs have managed to secure a tremendous positive kill ratio in these two years – 1:16 in 2016 and 1: 15 in 2017 (data till September 3 for both years), the two best ever kill ratios recorded in favour of SFs in the District. On the contrary for three consecutive years – 2008, 2009, and 2010 – the Maoists had a better kill ratio against the SFs. The best kill ratio in favour of Maoists was recorded in 2008 - 1: 2.14. It is significant to note that the fatalities among SFs have declined considerably, from a peak of 27 fatalities in 2010, down to six in 2011, and one per year since then, with an aberration of two fatalities in 2015.

Fatalities in Narayanpur District and Chhattisgarh: 2007*- 2017**

Year

Narayanpur
Chhattisgarh
Narayanpur's share in % of Total killing
Civilians
SFs
Maoists
Total
Civilians
SFs
Maoists
Total

2007

6
1
4
11
95
182
73
350
3.14

2008

1
15
7
23
35
67
66
168
13.69

2009

0
6
4
10
87
121
137
345
2.89

2010

2
27
15
44
72
153
102
327
13.45

2011

1
6
12
19
39
67
70
176
10.79

2012

0
1
3
4
26
36
46
108
3.70

2013

0
1
5
6
48
45
35
128
4.68

2014

1
1
5
7
25
55
33
113
6.19

2015

3
2
3
8
34
41
45
120
6.66

2016

4
1
16
21
38
36
133
207
10.14

2017

3
1
15
19
17
55
53
125
15.2

Total

21
62
89
172
516
858
793
2167
7.93
Source: SATP, *Data till September 3, 2016.
* Narayanpur carved out on May 11, 2007.

Mounting SF pressure also led to the surrender of 215 Maoists in 2017 (data till September 3), according to SATP data. During the corresponding period in 2016, 112 Maoists had surrendered, and a total of 224 through 2016. In the current year, importantly, on August 25, 2017, seven cadres of the CPI-Maoist, including Manish Salaam (21), carrying a reward of INR 100,000 on his head, surrendered before senior Police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) officials at the Narayanpur District Headquarters. Earlier, on January 29, 2017, 195 lower rung Naxals [Left Wing Extremists (LWEs)], including 24 women, belonging to Janatana Sarkar ('people's government' unit) of the CPI-Maoist, surrendered in the District, expressing a wish to join the mainstream.

There has also been marginal improvement with regard to civilian casualties in the current year – three civilians were killed in 2017 (data till September 3) as against four in the corresponding period of 2016 (no further fatality recorded in this category in 2016). However, fatalities in this category, had been increasing, on year on year basis, since 2014, though the numbers were relatively low as compared to other Maoist-affected Districts across the across the country.

Indeed, the overall security scenario in the District is improving. Not surprisingly, according to an April 30, 2017, report, the worst Naxal-affected Abujhmad region in Narayanpur District, long neglected since Independence (1947), will be surveyed by the Chhattisgarh Government for the first time, to compile records of land holdings. The revenue survey will enable a population of at least 35,000, mainly tribals, residing in around 237 villages of Abujhmad to get pattas (title deeds) for the lands they possess.

However, Taman Singh Sonwani, then Collector of Narayanpur, admitted on April 30, 2017, "The completion of the survey is largely dependent on security arrangements. In several villages of Abujhmad, it is not possible to enter without security cover. Hence, it is not possible to predict when the process will be completed". Further, Superintendent of Police (SP) Santosh Singh stated, "Presently the survey is being conducted in the villages located close to security camps and eventually it will be carried out in the interiors."

A great deal still needs to be done to restore the order in this District, which continues to remain on the list of the 35 worst Maoist-affected Districts across the country. Narayanpur, moreover, falls under the troubled Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh, which remains the principal challenge for the state.

Narayanpur, one of Chhattisgarh’s twenty seven Districts, is surrounded with dense forests, hills, streams, waterfalls and natural caves. The forest cover of 2116.915 square kilometres accounts for 32.87 per cent of the District’s total area. As a result of the difficult terrain and natural protection it offers Narayanpur has had immense ‘geo-strategic importance’ for the Maoists, and has long served as a major transit route for the rebels to cross into the Naxalite affected areas of the neighbouring State of Maharashtra, giving them safe passage to orchestrate violence on both sides of the State borders. Despite reverses, consequently, the Maoists will certainly fight back to restore a measure of ascendancy in a region that they have dominated in the past.

On August 13, 2017, SFs neutralised a Maoist camp during an operation carried out in the dense forests of the Dandakaranya Range in Narayanpur District. During searches after the encounter, horses were recovered along with weapons and literature. Superintendent of Police (SP) Abhinav Deshmukh from Gadchiroli (Maharashtra), who led the operation, disclosed,
It is suspected that senior central committee leader Sonu Bhupati was holed up in the camp and was conducting meetings with commanders. The horses at the place could be for him and his close aides to move easily in the difficult terrain. Sonu Bhupati is chief of Dandakaranya range falling in areas of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Mallojula Venugopala aka Bhupathi aka Sonu is in charge of the Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee (DKSZC), the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), and the 'Golden Corridor Committee (which had been formed by the Maoists to target students and labourers in the industrial areas along the 'golden corridor' from Pune through Mumbai, Thane and Nashik in Maharashtra to Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Maharashtra) and is a member of the Central Regional Bureau of the CPI-Maoist. He is also the brother of slain Maoist 'Politbureau member' Mallojula Koteswara Rao aka Kishenji, who was killed during an operation in Burishole Forest in the West Midnapore District of West Bengal on November 24, 2011.

According to the SATP database, at least 17 encounters have been reported between the Maoists and SFs which in the District in the current year, as against six such encounter in the corresponding period of 2016, and 12 such through 2016. Besides, there were at least 13 incidents of seizure of arms and ammunition by the SFs in the current year, during which huge caches were recovered. In 2016, during the corresponding period, there were at least five such incidents of recovery, and nine through 2016).

The Maoists have also orchestrated violence to impede developmental works in the District. At least three such incidents have been reported in the District in the current year, as against one such incident in the corresponding period of 2016, and two incidents through 2016. In one such incident, on May 29, 2017, for instance, a group of 50 CPI-Maoist cadres set ablaze a private bus travelling from the Dhanora area to Orchha village in Narayanpur District. The Maoists had been opposing the road construction work in Jhorigaon, where road construction is underway at a brisk pace under security cover provided by the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the District Police. Earlier, on May 18, 2017, the Maoists had set ablaze a tractor and a mixer engaged in road construction work in the District, and had warned workers against getting involved in any construction works. 

The State’s failure to deliver the rudiments of governance and security in these purportedly inaccessible areas has always been misused by Maoists as an alibi to garner support from the local population. Now, as the State reaches out to people in these areas, the Maoists are afraid of losing their support base, though minimal, and can be expected to resist to the limits of their capacities. It is another matter, as an Expert Group to the Planning Commission in 2008, on ‘Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas,’ had noted, that even in areas which are not so inaccessible, “the absence of adequate public intervention, especially in education, health and employment has allowed the non-State actors to push their agenda among the people.”

On May 11, 2017, Chief Minister (CM) Raman Singh addressing a convention of Panchs [members of gram panchayats, village level local-self government institution] Sarpanchs (heads of gram panchayats) and farmers at the District Headquarters town of Narayanpur, calling on the Maoists to join the mainstream of the society and declaring, “There will be progress only when there is peace. There will not be development if schools, hostels and hospitals are damaged. The bullet from the gun only takes out a life of a human being (sic).” On the occasion, the Chief Minister laid foundation stones, dedicated 39 developmental works worth INR 76.5 million and sanctioned ten public-utility works worth INR 450 million in the District. In addition, INR 240 million was sanctioned for solar energy-based irrigation pumps to 500 farmers, INR 5 million for expanding the electricity distribution network in Narayanpur town, INR 4 million to develop sports facilities in the town, and INR 60 million each to construct 33/11 kilovolt electric sub-stations at Orchha and Akabeda. Two specialist doctors’ posts and two ambulances were also sanctioned for Narayanpur town. In addition, INR 50 million was announced to upgrade roads in the town. Chief Minister Singh also announced that electrification of 62 villages in the District had been completed and efforts were being made to provide electricity to 1,080 villages and 5,600 habitations over the next two years.

Effective and time-bound implementation of these projects will have dramatic impact on the local populations and will certainly erode the limited surviving Maoist base. However, all such implementation will depend heavily on continuing SF pressure on the rebels, and on operational success and widening and effective security cover into the Maoist heartland areas of Abujhmadh in Narayanpur and beyond.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 14-20, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

0
0
1
1

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

3
1
1
5

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Jharkhand

1
0
0
1

Telangana

1
0
0
1

INDIA (Total)

5
1
1
7

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

3
8
0
11

KP

2
0
0
2

Sindh

0
1
4
5

PAKISTAN (Total)

5
9
4
18
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

No threat of any major militant attack as organizational capability of Neo-JMB and ABT has waned, says DMP commissioner Mohamad Asaduzzaman Mia: Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner Mohamad Asaduzzaman Mia on August 16 claimed there is no threat of any major militant attack or security risk in the country as the organizational capability of militant groups like Neo-Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo-JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) has waned. "They've no strength to carry out any major subversive act. But one or two incidents might happen sporadically," he said while briefing reporters at the DMP Media Centre in Dhaka city. New Age, August 17, 2017.


INDIA

Around 80 militants sneak into Jammu and Kashmir this year, shows Multi Agency Centre data: Despite strict vigil along the Line of Control (LoC) to foil infiltration of militants from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), around 80 militants have sneaked in this year (2017) while Security Forces (SFs) achieved major successes against them by killing 133 militants including seven top 'commanders'. According to Multi Agency Centre (MAC) figures, around 80 militants have infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir till July 2017 from PoK. These militants mostly infiltrated from Keran, Gurez, Machil and Nowgam sectors of Kashmir and majority of them are in North Kashmir. Daily Excelsior, August 18, 2017.

34 new faces joined the ranks of militants in South Kashmir, says Police: Even as the joint combing operation, 'Operation All-Out', has succeeded in killing 35 militants in South Kashmir since April, 2017 the Police's counter-insurgency data suggest 34 new faces have joined the ranks. Police data, portray a grim picture of South Kashmir's four Districts despite "great successes" made by the Security Forces (SFs) by killing eight top commanders of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). "We have reports of 34 new faces joining the militants' ranks of both HM and LeT in South Kashmir since April when the operation against active militants was launched," said a top counter-insurgency Police officer.  The Hindu, August 18, 2017.

US terms Hizb-ul-Mujahideen a 'foreign terror outfit': The United States (US) on August 16 designated militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) as a "foreign terrorist organisation", nearly two months after declaring the group's 'chief' Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist. The designation, which slaps a series of US sanctions on the outfit, came against the backdrop of an upsurge in terror activities by the militant group in Jammu and Kashmir in recent months. "These designations seek to deny Hizb-ul-Mujahideen the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks," the State Department said in a statement. The Hindu, August 17, 2017.


PAKISTAN

Educated people major target for Daesh, says COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa: The Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on August