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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 16, October 16, 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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Misplaced Optimism
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow; Institute for Conflict Management

Optimistic about 'positive intents' shown by Pakistan, United States (US) President Donald Trump tweeted in the morning of October 14, 2017,
Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts.

Earlier, hailing the news of an American woman and her family rescued from terrorists in Pakistan on October 11, 2017, Trump in a statement released on October 12, 2017, observed,
Yesterday [October 11], the United States government, working in conjunction with the Government of Pakistan, secured the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan. Today [October 12] they are free. This is a positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government's cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region. We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations.

In 2012 (date not specified), Caitlan Coleman, an American citizen, and her husband, Joshua Boyle, a Canadian citizen, were taken captive and held hostage by the Haqqani Network, a terrorist organization with ties to the Taliban, and backed by the Pakistani state. Coleman gave birth to the couple's three children [a fourth died in infancy, according to Boyle, ‘killed’ by their captors, an accusation they deny] while they were in captivity. Boyle’s last call from freedom was to his in-laws (Coleman's parents), on October 8, 2012, to tell them that he was calling from an internet cafe in an "unsafe" part of Afghanistan.]

On the same day, October 11, 2017, of the release of the American–Canadian couple, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected the application of Milli Muslim League (MML), the political front of the Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD)/ Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), for registration as a mainstream political party. Rejecting the application, Pakistan’s Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Raza Khan observed, "The interior ministry's [Ministry of Interior] letter mentions that the MML is backed by banned terrorist outfits." MML was formed on August 7, 2017, and had applied for registration with the ECP in the same month. Subsequently, the ECP had sought the opinion of the Interior Ministry which, in its reply sent in September 2017, had written “There is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the JuD, and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are affiliates and ideologically of the same hue and the registration of the MML is not supported.” The letter reportedly mentioned that MML president Saifullah Khalid had claimed that Saeed and he were ideologically affiliated with each other's organisations.

MML had even participated in a by-election for the Lahore National Assembly (NA) seat held on September 17, 2017. In the election, won by Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Begum Kulsoom Nawaz who secured 61,745 votes, Yaqoob Sheikh, the MML-backed candidate, bagged 5,822 votes, more than four times the votes secured by the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) candidate Faisal Mir (1,414 votes). Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate Yasmeen Rashid, at the second position, bagged 47,099 votes. The seat fell vacant after the then Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif was asked to vacate the seat and resign as Prime Minister subsequent to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Panama Papers case. The winning candidate, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz is Nawaz Sharif’s wife.

As SAIR had noted earlier, with the US 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. Apart from MML, declared a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" by the US on September 30, 2014, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, founder of the terrorist Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), which operates in Indian Jammu & Kashmir, has reportedly decided to form his own political party: Islah-e-Watan Party (IWP).

On September 27, 2017, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif admitted that JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, LeT, and the Haqqani Network had become Pakistan’s liabilities: "It is very easy to say that Pakistan is supporting Haqqanis and Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. They are liabilities, I accept that they are liabilities. But give us time to get rid of these liabilities. You are increasing our liabilities further." The Minister was speaking at a session hosted by the Asia Society in New York.

These three developments followed US President Trump's announcement of his "Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia" on August 21, 2017, where he declared his intentions to forge a "Radical Redirection" in US policy towards Pakistan; and similar such assertions by senior US officials in recent past. Though these developments are now being hailed by many experts as 'key change in Pakistan's orientation towards terrorism', all celebrations are premature, and Pakistan’s game of deceit continues.

Indeed, while Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif conceded on August 27, 2017, that the state’s terrorist proxies had become a 'liability', he also argued, in an interview on October 9, 2017, "We have offered American authorities to visit Pakistan (sic) with evidence of Haqqani network's safe havens in the country. If they find any activity (of Haqqanis) in the targeted areas, our troops along with the US would destroy them once and for all."

Almost immediately thereafter, contradicting Asif’s ‘offer’, an October 14, 2017, news report quoted Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor as saying, "Whatever has to be done by Pakistan on its land is done by Pakistan itself. Many countries could not face terrorism. Our forces have full capacity. We can never allow any foreign boot on our ground."

In the context of Hafiz Saeed, similarly, while the Ministry of Interior, conceded in its September 2017 letter to ECP that "there is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the JuD, and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are affiliates" of MML, the Lahore High Court warned on October 11, 2017, that Saeed's house arrest would be set aside if the Pakistan Government (represented by the Secretary in Ministry of Interior) did not submit evidence against him. Saeed, along with another four JuD members, was placed under house arrest in Lahore on January 30, 2017, 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. On September 25, 2017, the house arrest of Saeed and others was extended for another 30 days by the Punjab Government. Significantly, the Punjab Government has now declared that no terrorism charges are pending Hafiz Saeed, paving the way for his release. A Punjab Government official told three-member Federal judicial review board headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan of the Supreme Court on October 14 that the Provincial Government ‘did not include charges of terrorism’ in the new order for Hafiz Saeed and his aides. Saeed's lawyer A.K. Dogar had urged the court to order the release of Saeed and his four aides since they are no longer under ATA. The Lahore High Court is expected to decide his application in the coming week after Justice Muzahir Naqvi asked the Government to file charges against Saeed. 

Earlier on June 2, 2009, a full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) accepted a habeas corpus petition and ordered the Government to release JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and another leader Colonel (Retd.) Nazir Ahmad, charged with involvement in 26/11 Mumbai attacks, as the Government failed to provide evidence to prove charges. Originally there were four petitioners to the case, but two other leaders, Mufti Abdur Rehman and Ameer Hamza, were released by a detention review board in May 5, 2009. Despite the Interpol's Red Corner Notice against Saeed, along with LeT 'military commander of operation' Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, issued on August 25, 2009, in response to India's requests for his extradition, on October 12, 2009, all cases against Saeed were quashed by the Lahore High Court and he was set free. The Court also notified that JuD was not a banned organization in Pakistan, and could work freely in the country.

In the meantime, revealing the state’s real intent of using terrorists as proxies and "strategic assets", ISPR’s Maj. Gen. Ghafoor, argued: “Having links is different from supporting. Name any intelligence agency which does not have links. Links can be positive, and (Dunford) did not say there was support (from the ISI).” He was referring to a statement made by General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a hearing on October 4, 2017, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where, when asked if “the ISI is still helping the Taliban,” he had responded: “it's clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups.”

Pakistan plays the ‘minimal satisfier’ to the furthest possible limit, conceding what it cannot refuse in specific instances, even as it retains its broader strategic purpose and instrumentalities. Under present and acute pressure from the Trump regime, despite President Trump’s opportunistic commendation, there have been marginal demonstrations of compliance, as in the Coleman-Boyle case, but the broader intent remains unaltered. No concrete and irreversible action has been initiated against any element of the principal terrorist proxies and their leaderships in their Pakistani safe havens – including the Haqqani Network, Taliban and the multiplicity of formations operating against India. Unless such action is clearly and successfully initiated, there will be no to Pakistan’s strategy of creating, sustaining and exporting terror.

INDIA
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J&K: JeM Inflammation
Nijeesh N.
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On October 3, 2017, terrorists carried out a pre-dawn fidayeen (suicide) attack on a Border Security Force (BSF) camp at Gogoland near the ‘high-security’ Srinagar International Airport in Srinagar District. An Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) of BSF was killed and three other Security Force (SF) personnel were injured in the attack, which ended with SFs’ killing the three terrorists involved, after a 10-hour long counter-operation.

On August 26, 2017, a group of fidayeens (suicide attackers) stormed into the District Police Lines in Pulwama District, killing eight SF personnel, including four Central reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and four Police personnel. The subsequent day-long encounter ended with SFs eliminating the three attackers. Five SF personnel were also injured in the gunfight.

On April 27, 2017, three Indian Army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO,) were killed when fidayeen stormed into an Army base at Panzgam village in Kupwara District in the morning hours. Sources said that terrorists stormed into the Army camp hurling grenades and firing indiscriminately, injuring at least five Army personnel. Three of the injured personnel died later. The Army’s Quick Reaction Team (QRT) killed two terrorists while a third managed to escape under the cover of darkness.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has recorded three suicide attacks in the current year so far (data till October 15, 2017). The Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for all three attacks.

Out of 34 suicide attacks, where the identity of the group involved has been established, resulting in 283 deaths and 363 injured recorded in J&K since 2000, JeM has been found involved in 11 suicide attacks resulting in 139 deaths and 63 injuries. During this period, J&K recorded a total of at least 63 suicide attacks resulting in 475 deaths and 602 injuries.

Worryingly, J&K has recorded an increasing number of fidayeen attacks since 2013, after passing through a phase of over three years (January 8, 2010 to March 12, 2013) during which no such attack occurred. The surge in these attacks followed the hanging, on December 13, 2001, of Mohammed Afzal Guru, convicted for the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, on February 9, 2013, and the subsequent formation of 'Afzal Guru Squad' in January 2014. Two civilians, nine SF personnel and five terrorists were killed in the Parliament attack.

Since the formation of the 'Afzal Guru Squad' in January 2014, J&K has recorded nine suicide attacks (where the identity of the group involved has been established) resulting in 85 deaths and 58 injured, of which JeM has been found involved in seven, resulting in 75 deaths and 32 injured. During this period, J&K recorded a total of at least 15 suicide attacks, resulting in 116 deaths and 81 injured. Some of the prominent suicide attacks carried out by the JeM, subsequent to the formation of its 'Afzal Guru Squad' (excluding the three mentioned above) include:

December 5, 2014: A group of heavily armed fidayeen terrorists stormed into the Army's 31 Field Regiment Ordinance Camp located at Mohra in the Uri Sector of Baramulla District near the Line of Control (LoC). In the ensuing gunfight, which lasted over six hours, 11 SF personnel, including one Lieutenant Colonel; and six terrorists, were killed. It was subsequently confirmed that the attack was carried out by JeM.

September 18, 2016: JeM fidayeens stormed an Army camp near the LoC in the Uri area of Baramulla District and killed 17 Army personnel. Another three Army personnel succumbed to their injuries later. At least four terrorists were also killed in the encounter.

November 29, 2016: Seven Army men, including two Majors, as well as three terrorists, were killed in a suicide attack on a camp of the 166th Artillery Unit at Nagrota, just about three kilometers from the 16 Corps Headquarters at Nagrota, in Jammu District. JeM claimed the responsibility for the attack.

Indeed, days after the fidayeen attack on the District Police Lines in Pulwama, on August 26, 2017, it was found that the terrorists had used charcoal to write slogans in favour of Afzal Guru. Starting with ‘AGS (Afzal Guru Squad)’, the slogan written inside one of the burnt DPL complexes read, “Afzal Guru ka intiqaam” (Revenge of Afzal Guru). Similar pro-Afzal Guru Graffiti had been found subsequent to the November 29, 2016, fidayeen attack, at Nagrota; and the November 25, 2015, suicide attack on an Army camp near the LoC at Tanghdar in Kupwara District in which one generator operator of the Military Engineering Service and three terrorists were killed.

According to intelligence reports terrorists behind the two most recent fidayeen attacks (October 3 and August 26, 2017) were from a group of 17 'Afzal Guru Squad' cadres who had entered India from across the border in the month of July-August 2017. Reports indicate that, after entering India, the group had split into small units and spread out into different parts of J&K. Soon after the October 3, 2017, BSF camp attack, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir Zone, Muneer Ahmad Khan confirmed that the three terrorists killed in the attack were part of 17-member group of JeM fidayeens who had infiltrated in July-August. He disclosed, further, "The inputs are these fidayeens (killed on October 3) were from the same group. Three of them were eliminated at Pulwama (August 26)… Four terrorists were killed in Uri on September 24. Six to seven of them are still at large and could carry out another attack”.

Though there has been a relentless effort by JeM to increase the level of threat through such attacks, SFs have managed to contain the onslaught, eliminating a significant number of terrorists, including the group’s ‘top commanders’, in recent past. According to partial data compiled by the SATP, of the 105 identified terrorists killed by SFs since the beginning of the current year, at least 14 belonged to JeM. Since the beginning of the current year, SFs have eliminated a total of at least 176 terrorists (data till October 15, 2017), the highest number killed in a year since 2011.

Most recently, in a major success, in an encounter on October 9, 2017, SFs killed the ‘chief operational commander’ of JeM, Khalid Ahmad aka Khalid Bhai aka Shahid Showkat, in the Ladoora village area of Sopore in Baramulla District. Khalid Ahmad, a Pakistani national, was the ‘mastermind’ behind the recent fidayeen attacks on October 3, 2017 and August 26, 2017 (above); and the attack on the 46 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) Camp at Khajabagh in Baramulla District on October 2, 2016, in which three persons (two terrorists and a soldier) were killed. An unnamed Police spokesman stated, “Khalid alias Shahid Showkat was constantly exploring the opportunities to kill the security forces/ police personnel and to attack police/ security establishments in the State. He was motivating youth and poor boys to join his outfit for execution of grenade attacks against monetary benefits on behalf of Pak-based JeM commanders.”

On September 24, 2017, the Army killed four JeM fidayeen in the Kalgi area near the LoC in the Uri sector of Baramulla and prevented what could have been a replay of the September 8, 2016, attack at the Uri Army camp. The General-Officer-Commanding (GoC) 19th Division of the Army, Major General R.P. Kalita disclosed that there had been intelligence inputs that terrorists were planning a major attack on Army installations in the Uri area for long and that these were intended for execution in the month of September: “They (the terrorists) seem to be newly infiltrated and must have come two nights before they were trapped in the village.”

Nevertheless, JeM’s suicide units remain a challenge. Worryingly, in July 2017, an audio message released in the name of Saadi, the pseudonym of JeM ‘chief’ Maulana Masood Azhar, urged cadres to execute attacks ‘everywhere from Kashmir to Kanyakumari’ [the southernmost tip of the Indian mainland] and to use the 'new weapons for war' instead of traditional ones such as guns, grenades and bullets. The JeM chief had further called for a ‘new style of attacks’ using instrument such as vehicles, electricity, petrol, fertilizer and more significantly, medicines. However, no such attack, using the ‘new style’ has been reported thus far.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is using the fidayeen as force multipliers of its intelligence apparatus (the Inter Services Intelligence, ISI) to keep ‘troubled’ Kashmir stewing. ISI now appears to have assigned JeM ‘centre stage’ following sustained international pressure to disassociate itself from its first choice the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Moreover, the drastically diluted capacities of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) have further limited ISI’s choices. It is significant to recall here that JeM had lost ISI’s favour in the wake of the December 14 and 26, 2003, assassination attempts targeting Pakistan's then President General (Retd.) Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf had survived the attacks unhurt.

Though no fool proof measures can be guaranteed against fidayeen ready to ‘sacrifice their lives’ to cause maximum harm to SFs or Government institutions, alert and well equipped Indian Forces have evolved measures to minimize damage after the September 2016 debacle at Uri. The decimation of leadership elements of all Pakistan-backed terrorist formations operating in J&K are certain to impact on capacities and motivation over time. Sustained pressure on the terrorists operating within J&K will eventually bring these groups to defeat, irrespective of the support and safe-havens they continue to receive from Pakistan.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 9-15, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

0
4
8
12

INDIA (Total)

0
4
8
12

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

5
1
0
6

FATA

0
4
0
4

KP

1
0
0
1

PAKISTAN (Total)

6
5
0
11
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


INDIA

No change in territorial boundary of North-eastern States due to Naga talks outcome, R N Ravi: Union Government interlocutor for Naga talks, RN Ravi asserted that the territorial boundary of any of the States of the region would not be affected while finding a solution to the Naga political issues. Talking to newspaper, Ravi said that the Union Government is keen on finding a comprehensive solution acceptable to everyone in Nagaland and that is why efforts were made to involve all concerned. He said that six more armed groups of Nagaland have already joined the peace process and the first round of formal talks involving all the groups has already been held. Assam Tribune, October 16, 2017.

Maoists acknowledge ‘setback’ as violence falls 53 per cent in six years: There has been a 52.6 per cent drop in incidents of Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) violence between 2010 and 2016, according to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data. Incidents of Maoist violence fell 22.5 per cent in the first nine months of 2017 compared to the same period last year, according to MHA figures published in September 2017. Police cases were registered for 625 incidents–compared to 807 in 2016–over this period, from assault and murder to arson. India Spend, October 16, 2017.

UMHA sets March 2019 deadline for completion of Indo-Bangla border fencing, says officials: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) has set a deadline to complete the fencing of India-Bangladesh border by March 2019. Disclosing this, a top unnamed Government official said on October 11 that the government has sanctioned the order to fence 3,326 Kilometers of the 4,096 km long India-Bangladesh border. “We have already completed 2,745.69 km of fencing… the remaining portion will be completed by March, 2019,” the official said. The Sentinel, October 11, 2017.

Indian soldiers killing five-six terrorists every day along the India-Pakistan border, says UHM Rajnath Singh: Union Home Minister (UHM) Rajnath Singh on October 8 said that Indian soldiers along the India-Pakistan border had been neutralising at least five-six terrorists every day and that he has asked them to give a fitting reply if Pakistan opened fire. Singh said that he had ordered Indian soldiers not to fire at their Pakistani counterparts first, but give them a fitting reply by “firing countless bullets” if Pakistan opened fire. Daily Excelsior, October 10, 2017.

Terrorist outfits are aiming to attack India to weaken its economy, states UHM Rajnath Singh: Stating that terrorist organisations are looking for opportunities to attack India to weaken its fastest growing economy, Union Home Minister (UHM) Rajnath Singh on October 9, asked the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to safeguard the country's strategic installations from militant attacks. Singh said the country was emerging as the fastest growing economy and it was among the top 10 economies. He said the country's economy would touch USD 5 trillion and would be among the top three economies by 2030. Times of India, October 10, 2017.


NEPAL

Parliament dissolved a day before candidates file