SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
August 8, 2009, marked a new beginning in the history of Sri Lanka. After a gap of over a decade local body elections were held in the Northern Province – the Jaffna Municipal Council (JMC) and the Vavuniya Urban Council (VUC). Though much should not be read out of the election results, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) victory in the elections for the VUC and its strong performance in the JMC has provided the Government an opportunity to carry forward its agenda for conflict resolution in the country.
Out of a total of 100,417 registered voters, 22,280 (22.18 per cent) caste their votes for the JMC elections to elect 23 representatives. While the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) – comprising the All Ceylon Muslim Congress, Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), Eelavar Democratic Front (Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students), Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO, Sri Sabaratnam Wing) – secured a majority of 13 seats, receiving 10,602 (50.67 per cent) of the 20,922 valid votes, the pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) or Tamil National Alliance (TNA) – comprising the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF, Suresh wing), TELO, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) – won eight seats, with 8,008 (38.23 per cent) of the votes. An independent group (Independent Group 1) and the Tamil United Front (TUF) – comprising EPRLF (Varathar wing), People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), TULF (V. Anandasangaree wing) – won one seat each. The main opposition United National Party secured less than one per cent of the votes in these elections.
In the elections for the VUC to elect 11 representatives, 12,850 electors out of 24,626 registered voters (52.18 per cent) caste their votes. The ITAK secured the majority, winning five seats, receiving 4,279 (34.81 per cent) of the 12, 292 valid votes, while the Democratic People's Liberation Front (DPLF) – including the EPRLF (Varathar wing), PLOTE, TULF (V. Anandasangaree wing) – won three seats, polling 4,136 (33.65 per cent) of the votes. The UPFA could only muster 3,045 (24.77 per cent) votes gaining, two seats and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won one seat with 587 (4.78 per cent) votes. The UNP secured just 228 (1.85 per cent) votes.
While, the JMC elections were last held on January 29, 1998 in which the TULF had emerged winner with nine seats and the PLOTE and the EPDP both securing six seats each leaving two seats for the EPRLF, the elections for the VUC councils were last held on March 1, 1994. Both the JMC and VUC were being administered by Special Commissioners before the elections.
Elections were also held for the Uva Provincial Council (PC) in the South East, to elect 34 members. The UPFA secured a majority with 418,906 of the votes cast (72.39 per cent), gaining 25 seats. The UNP emerged second, polling 129,144 (22.32 per cent) with seven seats. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Up-Country People's Front won one seat each. The UPFA had also won at the previous Uva PC Election held on July 12, 2004.
Though the UNP and TNA made allegations of malpractices and irregularities in the polls, election monitoring groups have said that the elections were relatively free of the violations and violence that had normally plagued previous polls in the country. The National Polls Observation Center (NPOC), for instance, described the Uva PC, JMC and VUC elections as "extremely fair and peaceful". No post election violence had been reported up to the time of writing.
With the completion of the UVA PC elections the Government has successfully conducted elections for seven out of the nine PCs, barring the Southern and the Northern Province. Meanwhile, the Governor of the Southern Provincial Council (SPC), Kumari Balasuriya, reportedly dissolved the Council with effect from August 3-midnight. Media Minister, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told the media on August 12 that the elections to the SPC would be concluded before October 15 and the Presidential and General election will be held before April 2010.
Colombo is looking for successful PC elections in the North before the General elections. A July 20, 2009 report said that the Government has already decided to conduct elections in other local Government institutions in the North soon after the conclusion of the JMC and VUC polls. The Government has advised political parties to prepare for local polls before the end of 2009, potentially paving the way for the Northern Provincial Council Elections. This was the pattern in the Eastern Province, where local body elections preceded the PC elections, to gauge the strength of the residual democratic institutions in erstwhile LTTE-controlled areas.
Unsurprisingly, President Mahinda Rajapakse, on March 23, 2009, launched the Uturu Mithuru (Northern Friends) Project for the development of the North. A Website, Uthuru Wasanthaya, (Northern Spring) was also launched. The project, under the leadership of Basil Rajapakse, Member of Parliament, Senior Advisor to the President, and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for the Development of the North, emphasizes infrastructure development, electricity, water supply and sanitation, agriculture, irrigation, livestock development, inland fisheries, health, solid waste disposal, education, sports, cultural affairs and transportation. This re-building and rehabilitation program is intended as a 'trust building exercise', but would have to go a long way before it succeeds, though the initial response from the people in the North has been encouraging according to the District Secretary, Jaffna, K. Ganesh.
The Re-awakening Project launched under the Nation Building Ministry with the financial assistance of the World Bank amounting to SLR 1.8 billion is a community driven campaign supporting livelihood development projects in 300 focal villages in the conflict affected Districts of Anuradhapura, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam, Moneragala, Mannar, Vavuniya, Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. Project Director P. H. Sugathadasa disclosed that the project aims to recreate lost assets among conflict afflicted people and to protect them from succumbing to a dependence syndrome. Under this program, projects have been provided with funds for medium scale infrastructure development works such as reconstruction of roads, irrigation tanks, drainage and canal systems, etc.
Concurrent to the Uturu Mithuru Project, the Government has launched projects worth SLR 1.058 billion to provide higher education facilities to children of the displaced, funded by the Asian Development bank and the World Bank.
Meanwhile, over 4,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were resettled in the North and East on August 5, following the re-settlement of 40,000 IDPs in the East on June 22. Reports indicate that the Government was making efforts to resettle the IDPs in their native places even before the scheduled 180 days program launched on May 21, and was trying to resettle them in batches to help restore their livelihoods, especially in areas where the de-mining process was over. The Government is also planning to resettle 75,000 IDPs to their original areas of residence, in four phases during the month of August, including 15,000 IDPs to villages in the Vavuniya District, and 25,000 IDPs to locations in the Kilinochchi District, according to a USAID report on the current situation, released on August 10. The Government plans to provide the returnees with 'care packages' consisting of shelter materials, cash grants equivalent to $220, with additional subsidies for farmers, and a six-month food supply, including USAID/FFP commodities distributed by the UN World Food Program (WFP). However, according to the USAID fact sheet, the Government has not provided, to date, a comprehensive framework for the implementation of the proposed return plan and for enhanced coordination with humanitarian agencies.
In another positive, the economy is showing signs of revival. The Colombo Stock Exchange has gained more than 32 per cent since the end of the war. Also, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said its Executive Board, on July 24, approved the USD 2.6 billion, 20-month Stand-By loan that Sri Lanka had requested to support the country's economic reform program. Upon approval from the Executive Board, Sri Lanka will be able to immediately draw about USD 322 million. The remaining amount will be given in installments upon quarterly reviews. The IMF had delayed the release of the fund as the Sri Lankan Government had applied for USD 1.9 billion in March, when the country's foreign reserves had fallen to a minimum.
Despite the signs of political, social and economic revival, however, a residual LTTE threat persists. On June 18, suspected LTTE cadres attacked the Vavuniya special Police unit when they attempted to search a vehicle during combing operations at Nelukulam in the Vavuniya District. Three militants were killed in the encounter, after Police opened fire in retaliation. Further, on August 12, on a tip-off from an arrested LTTE cadre, the military recovered a van filled with 20 powerful claymore mines, each weighing five kilograms, from Mannar and meant to be driven to Colombo, arresting three militants. Earlier, on August 9, the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) called on the public to provide any information to help arrest a female suicide bomber, who had reportedly entered the capital, Colombo, several days earlier. Reports also indicate that key LTTE cadres who have infiltrated Colombo and other areas on suicide missions targeting VIPs and top military personnel have now mingled in with the general population. "The security forces have launched an operation to apprehend them but the Government may provide them an opportunity to surrender to the security forces or the Police," an unnamed Defence Ministry Official was quoted as sying.
Quelling the threat of LTTE revival, thus, remains a significant challenge. Military checkpoints remain in place in different parts of the country despite the end of the war. "Still there are isolated LTTE cadres operating. They may be getting instructions from overseas operatives and sympathizers," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said on August 12, adding that the LTTE operatives overseas could be keen to carry out a suicide attack to re-energize demoralized supporters. Corroborating this, in an interview with Sunday Island, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse on, August 3, stated that the LTTE could be attempting to revive the organisation amid efforts by the outfit to rescue hardcore cadres concealed in Government-run refugees camps for Tamil civilians in the Vavuniya District. He said an organised campaign had been launched to free terrorists from refugee camps before Army and Police investigators, now engaged in a systematic screening process, closed in on them. Also, President Mahinda Rajapakse urged the international community to help in the crackdown against the international financing arm of the LTTE. He said the LTTE was still active in some countries, especially in South-East Asia and Europe. Daya Mohan, the senior-most LTTE leader to survive the military onslaught, and others, like 'Colonel' Ram, Nagulan, were still at large, according to media reports.
The threat becomes more real with the fact that there are 9,797 former LTTE militants, including some suicide cadres, currently detained at rehabilitation centers across the island. Speaking to the media, the newly appointed Commissioner-General of Rehabilitation, Major General Daya Ratnayake, on July 30, stated that the number would increase up to 20,000 in the foreseeable future. The vast majority of these cadres have received the LTTE's 'ten-day training' and some of these cadres had taken part in the burial of LTTE arms caches throughout the North. If any of these cadres are re-enlisted by the 'surviving LTTE leadership' after they are resettled, a potentially deadly insurgency could arise. The rehabilitation of LTTE cadres and their families would, consequently, be a gigantic task.
However, the arrest of the new LTTE chief, Kumaran Pathmanathan alias Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam alias Selvarajah Pathmanathan alias KP, from a South-East Asian country [there is some ambiguity over the specific location of the arrest – Thailand (Bangkok) or Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur] on August 6, has given Government efforts to neutralize the remnants of the LTTE a boost. An 'Executive Committee' had announced the 'restructuring' of the LTTE and the leadership of Selvarasa Pathmanathan, to define the future course of the movement, according to the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net in a July 21 report. Pathmanathan was brought to Colombo on August 7. The significance of this development was reflected in Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse's declaration that the victory against the LTTE was now 'complete' with this arrest, and that "it has thwarted completely the possibilities of LTTE raising its ugly head again." "Pathmanathan was busy re-establishing the LTTE. He even went to the extent of forming a `transnational' government. However, the timely and the prompt action made the arrest of KP imminent, shattering all his future plans," Rajapakse said. Nevertheless, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona clarified that Pathmanathan's arrest would not relax Sri Lanka's hunt for LTTE remnants operating abroad. Referring to LTTE operatives overseas, Kohona announced, "No, we are not going to relax until we get all of them. They are involved in gun running, people smuggling, drug dealing and fund-raising for terrorism."
The Sri Lankan military is planning to boost its manpower by more than 100,000 troops, purportedly to meet any future challenge, including the resurgence of the LTTE or any other armed formation. The troop build up, which will raise the Sri Lankan forces from 200,000 to 300,000, was announced by the Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka, on May 25. In addition, the Police Department is to set up 21 Police Stations in the North and a Tamil language training centre for Police personnel in Kilinochchi, in addition to Tamil language training centre at Kalladi. The country has total police strength of 75,000. According to an August 11 report, moreover, the Government had hired a Chennai-based firm, Barnas International Private Limited, to strengthen its surveillance network.
Further, reports indicate that 18 armed groups, holding more than 400 firearms, continue to exist in the East. On July 31, the Sri Lanka Police announced that, except for the Security Forces and Police, no other party will be allowed to carry weapons in the Eastern Province. The Deputy Inspector General of Police in the East, Edison Gunathilaka, said several main Tamil political parties who bore weapons in the past would also not be allowed to carry weapons any more. According to the new rule, the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), EPDP, PLOTE, and EPRLF were no longer allowed to hold weapons. Following the conclusion of the earlier announced amnesty period (the period granted for armed groups in the Eastern Province to hand over their weapons ended at 3:00pm on July 4), the Police have reportedly commenced raids to arrest people who continue to possess weapons. Earlier, on July 2, in response to the Government's appeal, Islamic militants surrendered their weapons to the Police, through the Association of Muslim Mosques, in the evening of July 4 at a ceremony held at Meera Jumma Mosque in the Kattankudi area of Batticaloa District. However, Gunatilake said the response from the Muslim armed groups to the Government's call had been poor, and that intelligence reports indicated that Islamist militants possessed 250 T-56 assault rifles, only a fraction of which had been handed over on July 4. On August 3, TMVP members who had weapons in their possession before they entered into mainstream politics, handed over a stock of arms and ammunition to the Army troops at Kudumbimalai in the Thoppigala area of Batticaloa District.
Despite the major gains, a permanent political solution remains elusive. President Mahinda Rajapakse, on July 6, insisted that such a solution to the ethnic conflict could come only after the presidential elections. On July 15, further, he rejected the idea of separate ethnicity-based provinces, though he affirmed that provinces could certainly have powers to enable them to handle local matters. While rejecting the idea of changing the demography of Tamil-majority areas, the President pointed out that demographic changes were already occurring in the Sinhalese-majority Colombo. Ruling out any special devolution for the wholly Tamil-speaking Northern Province, Rajapakse said the North could not have a model of its own. On August 10, again, President Rajapakse stated that the solution should be a home grown one, acceptable to all stakeholders, and not based on suggestions from other countries. He added, "Devolution can be done. We have that in our Constitution. We want to introduce a new chamber to share power with the minorities and the provinces. Federalism definitely is out in Sri Lanka."
Meanwhile, the TNA has envisaged a political solution based on self-determination, distinct and comprehensive autonomy to the historical homeland of Eelam Tamils. The TNA Parliamentary Group Leader R. Sampanthan, while addressing the Press in Jaffna on August 4, declared that a draft proposal was currently being drafted by the party, and would shortly be presented to Colombo, New Delhi and to the International Community. "All powers needed, including land, agriculture, industries and security, should be in our hands," Sampanthan said, adding, "Financial arrangements including powers to raise funds inside and outside of the island are also crucial." Earlier, an August 3 report said that the TNA parliamentary group has decided to meet President Rajapakse 'soon' to discuss a political solution to the national question. The TNA, on earlier occasions, had boycotted meetings with the President.
The strong performance of the TNA in the JMC and VUC could provide Colombo with an opening to deal with the problem in a more inclusive manner, as reports now indicate that the TNA is willing to negotiate with other Tamil political party leaders to create a common platform. The island nation is at a cross-roads in its turbulent history, one that it can best negotiate with a pragmatic and inclusive approach that could bring lasting peace in this strife-torn nation.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 10-16, 2009
Maoists' protest could derail peace process, says UNMIN: The UN on August 15, 2009, expressed concern over the protest launched by the Maoists to enforce "civilian supremacy" as it feared that the turmoil could adversely impact the Nepal peace process. Karin Langdren, chief of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which is tasked to supervise the peace process, reportedly met the Unified Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (UCPN-Maoist) Vice-Chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha and discussed the issues linked to the reconciliation process, including the integration of the Maoist insurgents and their rehabilitation. Expressing concern over the protest launched by the Maoists, the top UNMIN official indicated that the turmoil could adversely impact the peace process and the framing of the new Constitution. Shrestha, however, underlined the Maoists' commitment to the peace process and implementing past agreements. The Maoists have been blocking the Parliament and organising protest rallies in the capital Kathmandu since former Prime Minister and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda resigned on May 4, 2009, after President Ram Baran Yadav reinstated General Rukmangad Katawal, the Army Chief dismissed by Prachanda. The Maoists have announced a protest programme, which will last till mid-September 2009, to step up pressure on the CPN-UML-led coalition Government to overturn President Yadav's decision to reinstate General Katawal, who has now proceeded on a month-long leave ahead of his retirement in September 2009. Zee News, August 15, 2009.
154 militants and 25 civilians among 180 persons killed during the week in FATA: Unidentified armed men killed 18 Taliban militants on the Wana-Ladha Road in South Waziristan on August 15. The slain militants were affiliated with the Mullah Nazir group. Taliban sources in Wana said the bullet-riddled bodies of 18 militants were shifted to Wana in the evening on August 16. They said the militants had gone to the Paktika province in Afghanistan to fight the US-led coalition forces and were returning home when they were attacked by the armed men. The militants, under the command of Meeradin, were reportedly travelling in two pickup trucks, when they were ambushed by unidentified assailants at the Shawangi area in the Ladha sub-division in the morning on August 15. Ladha is inhabited by the Mehsud tribesmen and is under the control of the Baitullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. A senior Taliban commander of the Mullah Nazir group said they would not say as to who killed their men and why. "Either the Government, the Uzbeks or the Mehsud Taliban could be involved in their killing. But right now, we cannot say anything concrete," he said. In addition, three passers-by were killed and 25 others, including some women and children, sustained injuries when Security Forces (SFs) resorted to indiscriminate firing after a roadside bomb blast in the Darga Mandi area of North Waziristan Agency on August 15. Separately, two militants were killed and four others were injured during a clash with the SFs in the Charmang valley of Bajaur Agency on August 16.
12 Taliban militants were killed when helicopter gunships pounded several hideouts of Taliban 'commander' Hakeemullah Mehsud at Orakzai Agency on August 13. "We targeted hideouts of Hekeemullah Mehsud," said Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas. Military sources in Orakzai said that six of the bases in Tora Cheena and Chappar Ferozkhel areas had been razed. The sources said dead bodies of 12 slain Taliban militants were seen from helicopters. Separately, at least seven persons were killed in encounters between Taliban militants and a Lashkar (militia) in South Waziristan on August 12, AFP reported. In addition, a tribal elder – who led a militia against Al Qaeda-linked foreign militants in South Waziristan in 2007 – his bodyguard and two passers-by were killed in a remote-controlled bomb explosion at Wana in South Waziristan on August 13. Further, two pro-Government militia leaders were killed and their bullet-ridden dead bodies dumped in the Bajaur Agency on August 13. The dead bodies of two persons, who were shot dead on an unspecified date, were recovered from Bara revenue division of Khyber Agency on August 13.
Fierce clashes broke out between supporters of the slain Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud and the rival Turkistan Bhittani group at Jandola in South Waziristan on August 12 and each side claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties on the other. According to sources, militants loyal to Baitullah attacked Bhittani's men in the Soor Gher area and set ablaze 33 houses. They said that seven supporters of Bhittani were killed and 15 captured. Bhittani's men claimed to have killed over 50 attackers. According to Associated Press, at least 70 militants were killed in the clash. Two intelligence officials said that militants used rockets, mortars and anti-aircraft guns against Turkistan’s men. The officials, who cited wireless intercepts from the area, confirmed that at least 70 people had been killed. Bhittani, however, claimed that 90 fighters were killed and more than 40 houses destroyed. Separately, two schoolboys were killed and another injured on August 12 when a mine exploded in the Bajaur Agency. The three, all brothers, were playing when the explosive device went off in Nisarabad on the outskirts of Khar, local administration chief Adalat Khan said.
SFs used helicopter gunships in an operation against the banned Lashkar-e-Islam in the Bara sub-division of Khyber Agency on August 11, killing 17 militants and destroying six militant hideouts. The Frontier Corps Media Cell said a huge ammunition dump was also destroyed in the Shalobar area. A paramilitary commander separately told AFP that the operation was launched after militants fired rockets at a paramilitary checkpoint early on August 10 in an assault in Peshawar, the NWFP capital, which killed two civilians.
14 militants were killed and seven others sustained injuries in an attack by a CIA-operated drone at Kaniguram town in the Ladha sub-division of South Waziristan Agency on August 11. Tribal sources said the US drone fired three missiles at a house, which the militants had occupied from Zangi Khan Burki, a local influential trader, and turned it into their 'Markaz' or headquarters. Zangi Khan and his family had left their house and shifted to Karachi after tribal and foreign militants took over Kaniguram. Another house owned by the Agency councilor, Arif Zaman, located near the alleged headquarters of the Taliban, was also damaged in the attack. Sources close to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said all those killed in the attack were local tribal militants.
Unidentified men on August 11 killed eight Taliban militants in the Orakzai Agency and abducted two others. Official sources told Daily Times that armed men attacked a Taliban vehicle – en route to Mashti Bazaar from Ghaljo area – in Garhi village, killing eight militants, including a brother of Taliban 'commander' Sakhi. They said the slain militants were members of the Mashti tribe. Locals said the assailants could be Taliban militants from a rival group of Mufti Ziaur Rehman from the Akhel tribe.
SFs, backed by helicopter gunships and artillery, shelled hideouts of the militants loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur after a military convoy was attacked in North Waziristan on August 10. According to officials, 11 militants were killed when troops launched a counter-attack and fired heavy artillery and mortars to dislodge the militants from their positions. The military convoy was going to Mirali from Dosali when it was ambushed near Asadkhel, injuring three soldiers. Gul Bahadur’s spokesman Ahmadullah Ahmadi claimed that 32 soldiers had been killed and 14 military vehicles captured. In another incident, a paramilitary soldier was killed and three others sustained injuries when a bomb exploded near the Banda Post, about two kilometres from Miranshah. The soldiers were reportedly fetching water from a nearby spring when the bomb exploded. Separately, two women and two children were killed and nine others sustained injuries when a shell hit a house in the Shalobar area of Bara sub-division in the Khyber Agency, during fighting between the SFs and Lashkar-e-Islam militants on August 10. In addition, two militants were killed and three others sustained injuries in a clash between militants and SFs in the Hasham area of Bajaur Agency on August 10. Separately, Taliban militants killed a local tribal elder after abducting him on August 11 in the Mohmand Agency, while two of his family members are still in the group's custody. The bullet-riddled body of Malik Zahir Shah Gorbuz was found in the Shwafarsh area of Safi sub-division after he was kidnapped along with his son and another relative. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, August 11-17, 2009.
36 militants and seven soldiers among 46 persons killed during the week in NWFP: 18 bodies of suspected militants were found dumped in various parts of the Swat District while Security Forces (SFs) killed six militants and arrested 12 others elsewhere in the valley during a search operation on August 16, 2009. Official sources said 11 bodies were found dumped on the roadside in Kanju Dheri and Dewlai areas in Kabal sub-division. Eight of the bodies were recovered from the Kanju area. Three bodies were recovered from Islampur, one in Kota Aboha, another from Gumband Mera and two from the Gorai area. Another unconfirmed report said another three bodies were found in the Valley, raising the total to 21. In an interview with the BBC Urdu service, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the slain men weren’t in the custody of the SFs and the military had no hand in the killings. He also said people who had suffered at the hands of the militants might have killed them to take revenge. Since July 13 when the displaced people started returning to Swat, a total of 102 bodies have been found dumped on roadsides and on the banks of Swat River. Almost all of them were reportedly stated to be of militants. Meanwhile, the SFs claimed to have killed six militants at Ningolai in Kabal. The slain militants were identified as Sher Alam, Umar Rahim, Rehmat Ali, Muhammad Rafiq, Nawab Ali and Aftab.
A soldier was killed and three others sustained injuries in a suicide attack near a SF checkpoint in the Swat District in the night of August 16. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), a suicide bomber was moving towards the Naway Killay check-post when the soldiers asked him to stop. However, the bomber entered a house near the check-post and blew himself up, injuring four soldiers. One of the soldiers later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
A Taliban suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a security check post at Waliabad near Charbagh in the Swat District on August 15, killing three soldiers and a civilian. "An explosives-laden vehicle was rammed into a security checkpost in Waliabad near Charbagh, killing three soldiers and a civilian," the ISPR disclosed. "We believe the bomber was aiming to hit a target in Mingora, where locals celebrated Independence Day on a massive scale," an unnamed security official added. Separately, one Taliban militant was killed during a clash with the Police in the Kat Garh area of Hangu District.
On August 13, the SFs killed a Taliban militant and arrested 14 others, including a 'commander', at Swat. "Troops killed a Taliban, identified as Liaqat, in Liluani and arrested local Taliban commander Rahim Gul from Liluani village," the ISPR confirmed.
The SFs, during an 18-hour-long operation in Akhund Killay in the Kabal sub-division of Swat District, killed a militant commander and three others and showed their corpses to the media in Mingora on August 11. Briefing reporters, Lt-Col Akhtar of the ISPR said the SFs succeeded in killing four militants, including 'commander' Rahim Shah alias Fauji. Two others killed in the operation were identified as Wajid and Said Rahim while the name of the third militant could not be ascertained. An APP report, meanwhile, stated that about eight militants and two soldiers were killed during the operation. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, August 11-17, 2009.
President Zardari announces reforms package for FATA: Pakistan announced an Independence Day package of reforms for its tribal areas, including lifting a ban on political activities, which it said would integrate these areas with the rest of the country and marginalise militancy and extremism in the restive region. President Asif Ali Zardari, who rules directly over the seven semi-autonomous tribal regions known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) through the Governor of the North-West Frontier Province, announced the package of political, administrative and legal reforms on August 13, 2009. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the reforms took effect immediately, as the Constitution empowered the President to make regulations for "the peace and good governance" of FATA. Laws enacted by Parliament do not apply to the region.
Among the most important of the reforms is the announcement that political parties can now extend their activities to the tribal areas. Until now, political activity was barred in FATA. Announcing the package, Zardari said the people in FATA had been governed by a hundred years old "obsolete system of administration of justice" that did not give room for their full potential. The law had been "changed in accordance with the aspirations of the people and democratic principles while respecting local customs and traditions." In addition to removing the ban on political activities, the package also includes changes to the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), a colonial-era law that provided for arbitrary arrest and detention without the right to bail and the arrest of an entire tribe, including women and children below 16 years, as collective punishment. "Most of it has now changed with the amendments made in the FCR," said Babar. The Hindu, August 15, 2009.