SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
and the Ostrich
Addressing the ritual gathering of Chief Ministers (CM's) at the Conference on Internal Security at Delhi, on August 17, 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared, in reference to the "challenges posed by asymmetric warfare and terrorism", "We need to be ahead of the curve if we are to succeed…"
If this is, indeed, the criterion, then we are failing, abysmally, comprehensively. Worse, the entire system of the Indian state appears increasingly to be designed to fail. Structural infirmities now riddle the system, undermining, not only the capacities for response, but the very capacities to generate necessary capacities.
It is useful to examine where precisely India is located ‘on the curve'. The response to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai demonstrated, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we were way behind the curve. But what, since then?
The Prime Minister enumerated a list of achievements since 26/11 in his speech at the CMs Conference, including the establishment of four regional hubs of the National Security Guard (NSG) in four metropolii, and the further creation of two NSG ‘regional centres' "shortly". He also mentioned the creation of the National Investigative Agency (NIA), and sought cooperation to make it "a truly effective instrument in our fight against terrorism". The probable impact of these initiatives (or lack thereof) has been extensively discussed earlier, and cannot detain us here. Further, mention was made regarding the projected establishing of Quick Response Teams and Special Intervention Units at the State level – but, being State initiatives, there is no visible time limit on this process. A ‘well calibrated' Coastal Security Scheme was ‘being put in place' – but any review of available capacities would confirm that we are not an iota safer against terrorist attacks from the sea today, than we were on November 26, 2008.
Home Minister (HM) P. Chidambaram's speech at the same forum emphasized the gravity of the situation and, while listing some of the attainments of the post-26/11 period, nevertheless came to the somber conclusion that:
In other words, the ‘best achievements' were largely in the sphere of the unquantifiable – ‘determination', ‘unanimous support' and ‘acknowledgements' – whereas the cumulative and massive deficits of the system remained substantially where they were. There was some evidence that most State Governments were still dragging their feet on what needed urgently to be done. Vacancies against sanctioned strength in the State Police, which stood at 230,567 on January 1, 2008, "may have declined to about 150,000", but even this was "too large", the HM noted, articulating the modest objective that the States would work to wipe out this deficit by the end of March 2010. That sanctioned strengths stand at a fraction of what the country needed to confront existing and emerging challenges was not considered worthy of mention. The HM did, however, note that the strength of Police Stations, especially in rural and remote areas, ranged between 1+8 and 1+12. "This is totally inadequate. For a Police Station to be effective, its strength should be at least 1+40. State Governments may augment the strength of Police Stations…" But how is this to be done by States that are failing, often dramatically, to meet the personnel requirements of Police Stations at presently sanctioned strengths?
It is not the intention here to parse the PM's and HM's speeches. What requires recognition is that, despite an increasing – though still largely partial – recognition of the rising urgency of the situation, responses have remained sluggish and fitful. In some states, there is evidence of a slow limp in a direction that may prove positive; but it is far outstripped by the hurtling pace of augmenting challenges.
In a brief aside, interestingly, the Maharashtra Government – which presided over the 26/11 debacle – had separately made the absurd claim that it had put ‘new guidelines' in place, which "chart the course of action in the event of a nuclear, chemical or biological attack". A quick look at the response to the Swine Flu crisis in the State would not encourage any extraordinary confidence on this count. This is an increasing part of the problem. Administrators and politicians are picking up the set phrases of the terrorism discourse, but little of the understanding necessary for framing a strategic response.
Leaderships at both the national and State level continue to passionately advocate ‘out of the box solutions' (usually code for "I have nothing in my head"), but assiduously ignore the overwhelming challenge of creating and maintaining minimum capacities and standards within existing institutions. The disturbing reality is that basic capacities, not just for Policing or counter-terrorism, but, indeed, for governance, enterprise and social action, have been allowed to decline to such an extent that the most rudimentary tasks of nation-building, indeed, even of administrative maintenance, cannot be executed with a modicum of efficiency.
Ironically, this has happened over decades of a public and media discourse about ‘bloated government', 'massive police force', 'gigantic expenditure on the bureaucracy', the need to 'downsize government', and other politically correct slogans based on extraordinary ignorance of fact. A look at the most rudimentary statistics may help pull some heads out of the sand.
Deficits in capacities for Policing have been repeatedly emphasized on SAIR, and do not bear repetition. The Indian Police-population ratio, at 125/100,000 in end 2007 (it is expected to have risen significantly thereafter, though nowhere approaching what is necessary) is a fraction of the strength that is needed. The crisis in the Police leadership is even more acute – with overall deficits in the Indian Police Service Cadres alone standing at some 17 per cent, while officer cadres in the States are often worse off. Crucially, the States with the most urgent security predicaments are often the ones with the widest deficits. Orissa, for instance, "has a sanctioned strength of 207 officers in the top Indian Police Service (IPS) ranks, but only 97 officers in position." This is certainly a problem the Centre could be expected to address. Against this deficit, however, Orissa was allocated just four IPS officers out of the new batch of recruits in 2009, "a number that will not even account for those who would reach superannuation in the current year." Sanctioned strengths in the Police leadership of most States are, again, no more than a fraction of actual requirements.
But the Police are not the only organization in crisis – every governmental institution in the country has been hollowed out by political incompetence and ignorance. A look at the 'bloated bureaucracy' is particularly instructive.
The embedded principle in American democracy is that "the best government is the least government". Consequently, the state focuses as exclusively as possible on what are considered 'core functions' and minimizes engagement in welfare and in activities that can be taken over by the private sector. The administrative philosophy in India is the exact opposite, with the Government's fingers planted firmly in every possible pie.
That is why the ratio of Government employees to population in the two countries is the more astonishing: the US Federal Government has a ratio of 889 employees per 100,000. India's Union Government has just 295. Canada, which has a larger welfare component in governance as compared to the US, has a ratio of 1,408 Federal Government employees per 100,000.
The Railways – no doubt extraordinarily useful, but hardly within the sphere of 'core functions' of government – account for the largest proportion of Central Government employees in India: 1,398,139 out of the total of 3,320,842 – all of 42.1 per cent. If Railway employees were to be excluded from the strength of Central Government Employees, this would leave us with a ratio of just 171 Central Government employees per 100,000. Needless to say, the Railways are not the only 'non core' establishment under the Central Government. Significantly, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), including all Central Police organizations and Paramilitary Forces, accounts for just 834,090, less than 60 per cent of the strength of Central Government employees in the Railways (all figures estimated as on March 1, 2009).
Moving on to State and Local Government employees, we find that, in the US, these account for another 6,314 per 100,000; in sharp contrast, Uttar Pradesh has 352; Bihar, 472; Orissa, 1,007; Chhattisgarh, 1,067; Maharashtra, 1,223; Punjab, 1,383; Gujarat, 1,694. Worse, in India, the overwhelming proportion of Government employees is in the lower cadres, class III and IV, as against the 'thinking' element of the state in higher echelons. Even in the latter category, qualitative profiles, including modern and administrative skills, training and technological competence are severely limited.
Nagaland, however, boasts of figures that humble the US dedication to administrative efficiency: 16,085 State Government employees per 100,000 population. There is, however, little evidence of 'administrative efficiency' – indeed, of administration – in Nagaland. Numbers alone are, obviously, not the entire problem. But they are certainly a major part of the problem.
India, rightly, takes great pride in its Armed Forces, boasting of the 'second largest Army in the world'. At about 1.4 million, the current strength of the armed forces appears large in absolute terms. The reality, however, is that this strength is utterly inadequate in terms of the country's population, territory and strategic projections as an 'emerging global power'. India's ratio of Active Duty Uniformed Troops to population works out to about 1:866. China's ratio is 1:591; UK – 1:295; Pakistan – 1:279; USA – 1:187. Again, the Indian Armed Forces' technological and resource capabilities compare adversely to those of the modernized Western powers, and the Army is way overstretched in conventional defence and counter-insurgency deployments. Critically, there is an acute and mounting crisis in leadership cadres. The Army is short of 11,387 officers, against a current authorized strength of 46,615 (24.43 per cent deficit). The Navy is 1,512 officers short of its sanction of 8,797 (deficit: 17.2 per cent). The Air Force needs 1,400 officers to meet its sanction of 12,128 (deficit: 11.5 per cent). During the last five years, 4,300 officers of the Army, 1,177 officers of the Air Force and 1,096 officers of the Navy have chosen to seek premature retirement or have resigned from the service. Despite a significant dilution of standards over the years, the Armed Forces are finding it impossible to recruit sufficiently even to maintain currently sanctioned strengths among officers.
Given the magnitude of delays that mar the judicial process, it is not surprising to find that this institution is probably the worst off in terms of human assets. India has about 1.2 judges per 100,000 population. The Law Commission, in its 120th report, recommended a much-augmented ratio of 5 judges per 100,000 – a more than fourfold increase. But even this projected ratio would compare adversely with most countries that could be categorised as reasonably administered. Thus, USA has nearly 11 judges per 100,000 population; Sweden: 13; China: 17; and, at the top of the scale, Belgium: 23; Germany: 25; and Slovenia: 39!
The obvious 'solution', theoretically, would be to initiate massive recruitment to fill up these deficits. Government revenues have grown tremendously over the past decades, and this seems feasible. But it is here that the system hits a wall. Forget the lack of political will, corruption, bureaucratic delays, interminable selection processes, the absence of training capacities; India has an abysmal nine percent higher education participation rate, lower than the average for Africa, at 10 percent. Most Western states have higher education participation rates ranging between 35 and 70 per cent, and many are still experiencing shortages of qualified manpower – hence India's 'outsourcing' boom.
One study in 2005 determined that India would experience a shortfall of nearly half a million qualified workers by 2010. S.S. Mehta of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) observes:
An overwhelming majority of technical and university graduates, moreover, come out of third rate institutions and are, in fact, unemployable – lacking even basic language and reasoning skills. A recent NASSCOM study noted that, even after retraining, only about 25 per cent of technical graduates and 10-15 per cent of general college graduates were "suitable for employment in the offshore IT and BPO industries".
The reality is, for all our boasting about the 'youth bulge', India simply does not have the manpower profile to fuel a modern nation – and it will take decades before suitable profiles can be generated to meet the demands of modern governance, commerce and society. An Aspen Institute Study notes that the Indian middle class rose from about 10 million in 1991 to about 100 million in 2005. The gain is tremendous; the absolute number seems large. Crucially, however, on this count, the middle class still accounts for under 10 per cent of the total population!
The National Knowledge Commission has projected a requirement of 1,500 universities in India by 2015, as against just 350 universities today. Yet, when the Prime Minister announced the setting up of 20 new Indian Institutes of Technology, most experts felt that the teaching cadres required to man these new institutions could simply not be found without a radical dilution of standards.
India is a nation overwhelmingly of the uneducated and unskilled, who have no productive utility in a modernizing-globalizing economy. These are Marx's 'useless people', in a world of enveloping technological advancement. The situation promises only to get much worse. By 2020, India will add 330 million people – roughly two Pakistans – to its 2001 population of 1.04 billion. The largest proportion of this increase will be in the most backward States of the country, taking up their share in national population from 40 per cent to 50 per cent.
Within the context of this tremendous and augmenting challenge, popular slogans of 'good governance', 'people's empowerment', 'civil society', 'decentralisation', 'accountability', 'depoliticization', 'police and administrative reforms' – are all such scandalous nonsense. Unless Governments can secure the critical mass of qualified and efficient personnel to effectively meet the requirements of a modern administrative and security apparatus, the country's problems can only worsen. There is, unfrtunately, little evidence even of a modicum of attention being paid to this increasingly unmanageable problem.
Successive Governments in India have reduced systems to a level of intractable dysfunction that can only be breached if radical action to dramatically raise capacity generation is undertaken on a war footing. Unfortunately, mired in privilege and impunity, India's politics and administration remain incapable of going beyond incrementalism and precedent.
It is, perhaps, time the national bird was changed from the Peacock to the Indian Ostrich. The finest specimen of the latter genus can be found on Raisina Hill in New Delhi, but the species proliferates widely under the state's protection in official sanctuaries across the country, where they may be found with their heads untiringly buried in the sand.
At the Chief Ministers Conference on Internal Security in Delhi on August 17, 2009, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's asserted that joint operations by the West Bengal Police, Central Reserve Police (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF), launched on June 18, 2009 to regain control over Lalgarh in the West Midnapore District had "restored order in most of the villages and made it possible to restart development work."
On August 6, however, West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen, after a review meeting at Writers' Building (the State Secretariat), had candidly confessed that operations to flush out cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) at Lalgarh had failed: "Our target was to arrest the Maoists or flush them out of the area. But we have not been successful. The Maoists are continuing with the siege almost everyday (sic). Killings and abductions are regular." On August 13, Sen disclosed, 67 people, including 23 hardcore Maoists, had been arrested. Only one Maoist has, however, been recorded killed in the State in 2009, in a clash with Marxist cadres.
On August 7, a day after Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen's admission of failure, Maoists under the leadership of Bikash held a 'victory rally' attended by around a thousand villagers at Domohani, barely two kilometers from the Dharampur Police Station, in Lalgarh. In the rally, the Maoists assured people that they were completely prepared to take on the armed forces. Bikash claimed, "None of our people has been killed or arrested." However, a media report mentioned the arrest of 25-year-old Biswanath Mahato, a propaganda secretary of the CPI-Maoist and a close associate of Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji, a member of the CPI-Maoist politburo and head of the party's guerilla operations in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa. A day after the Home Secretary's admission, Bikash told The Hindu "The joint operation of the security forces has failed as it was bound to. The West Bengal Government should brace itself for further failures in the near future."
On the ground, indications of continuing Maoist dominance in Lalgarh are clearly visible. The Maoists operate openly with impunity in villages, enforcing their writ, and, according to an August 19, report, they "run medical camps and schools, have arranged drinking water by setting up tubewells, and also do social work. With the Government welfare schemes non-existent, all this means Maoists continue to have a strong base in the area and can count on villagers sheltering them."
Despite two months of intense combing operations by more than 4,000 troops in Lalgarh and its adjacent areas, it is now evident that operations by the Security Forces (SFs) are nowhere close to their objectives. Meanwhile, West Bengal has earned the dubious distinction of recording the highest civilian fatalities (51) among all the Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) affected States in 2009 (as on August 17), though on total fatalities it is ranked third, after Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Most of the civilian victims are cadres/supporters of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which has relied considerably on its armed activists in the struggle to regain lost ground in Lalgarh.
Maoist-related fatalities in West Bengal, 2005-2009*
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal
*Data till August 17, 2009
Fatalities in Left-Wing Extremism, 2009
* Data till August 17, 2009
Note: Compiled from news reports and are provisional.
Significantly, the number of civilian fatalities after the operations began on June 18, 2009, is 26 –higher than the 25 civilian fatalities in the months preceding the operations, this year. Significantly, there has not been a single Maoist casualty during the operations, and no Maoist killed by SFs in 2009. On the other hand, two SF personnel were abducted by the Maoists on July 30, and are yet to be traced. Earlier, one trooper was abducted on July 24, but was freed a day later.
A sustained Maoist consolidation is, moreover, in evidence. A report sent by the West Midnapore District Superintendent of Police to the Chief Secretary, as claimed by a TV channel on August 6, states, "We are afraid that the Midnapore, Jhargram town and Kotoyali police station may be attacked by the Maoists any time. Maoists have extended their base into forests like Manikpara, Rambasar and Sardiha. A group of seven to eight Maoist action squad members are moving around Lalgarh." Another report on August 19 indicated that a 300-member armed group of Maoists had sneaked into Lalgarh. In addition, the interrogation of four suspected Maoists arrested from Lalgarh on August 20 revealed that the Maoists were stockpiling arms in the forests of Lakshmanpur and Tarki, about six kilometers from Lalgarh, close to the Jhitka forests. Further, West Bengal Police sources indicate that the Maoists are operating in new areas to engage the SFs on fresh fronts. An over-extended Force, one senior officer asserted, was finding it difficult to extend operations to new areas in the forested terrain of Belpahari and Purulia.
The Maoist objective, it has been argued earlier is not to hold territory. It is to take the processes of radical political mobilization forward. Thus, there has been an intensification of protests and demonstrations by supporters of the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA), a CPI-Maoist front organization demanding the withdrawal of the Police from the Lalgarh area. The PCPA has been able to organize rallies attended by large numbers of villagers, despite the fact that its leadership is 'wanted' by the Police. The Maoist objective of mass radicalization appears to have been significantly achieved, and there is little evidence of fear of the Police and the State among large segments of the mobilized overground population in the area.
Overground mobilization has been backed by harassment of the SFs by armed attacks and ambushes, and the selective killing of cadres and supporters of the ruling CPI-Marxist. The Maoists have also targeted supporters of the Gana Pratirodh Committee (GPC, the People's Resistance Committee), an anti-Maoist group backed by the CPI-Marxist. Gurucharan Tudu, a 56-year old GPC member, was killed by Maoists at Jamjurki village, an adjoining block to Lalgarh on August 2. The insurgents also shot dead three GPC supporters at Aankro village, about 25 kilometers from Lalgarh, on August 5.
Crucially, the SFs have, so far, failed to target the Maoist leaders orchestrating the 'people's war' in Lalgarh. Despite all good intentions, Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji, Bikash and Chhatradhar Mahato, the PCPA chief, are at large, and are, in fact, in regular contact with the media, giving frequent interviews. This has put a question mark over the West Bengal Government's strategy and campaign against the insurgents. Traces of a muddled approach, vacillating between a clear-cut strategy of force, or the retention of some elements of ideological competition with the Maoists on the ground, remain. A July 21, 2009, media report revealed that State intelligence officers had identified Kishanji's location in their report submitted to the Director General of Police and the State Home Department. Kishanji was, at that time, camping with his aides at Dhulagheri, a forest hamlet near Dharampur in Lalgarh. No serious attempt was, however, made to apprehend him. Intelligence agencies also identified Nalini Mana, a woman Maoist cadre, who was keeping supply lines for the insurgents open. No effort appears to have been initiated to arrest her either. As operations began in Lalgarh, former Punjab Police chief K. P. S. Gill noted in The Telegraph:
West Bengal's Maoist problem is aggravated further by the absence of anti-Maoist operations in contiguous areas of the neighbouring Jharkhand State. Crucially, however, it remains clear that the mandarins at Writers' Building are still to find their feet after the successive shocks to the system over the past year, culminating in the swelling Maoist eruption. Worse, with State Assembly elections slated for 2011, it seems unlikely that the Marxists will find the backbone to take the hard decisions necessary to restore order and, indeed, their own ascendancy within the State. Other political formations can, moreover, be expected to seek advantage from, and to augment, the Marxists' discomfiture.
There are no prizes for guessing who will benefit from all this.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 17-23, 2009
Pakistani terrorist outfits planning more attacks, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: Inaugurating the Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security in New Delhi on August 17, 2009, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said "there is credible information of ongoing plans of terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out fresh attacks." Stressing that cross-border terrorism remains a most pervasive threat, he cautioned that "the area of operation of these terrorists today extends far beyond the confines of Jammu and Kashmir and covers all parts of our country." Manmohan Singh told the Chief Ministers that in dealing with the terrorist challenge, "we need to be prepared for encountering more sophisticated technologies and enhanced capabilities." He emphasised the need for guarding the sea frontier as vigilantly as the land border.
Sources said the Prime Minister's warning was based on intercepts of chatter among terrorist leaders, including November 26, 2008, Mumbai terrorist attack accused Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and Abu al Qama. The intercepts pointed to a plot for another massive terrorist attack via the sea route involving local LeT modules instead of Pakistani militants. The conspiracy has not ripened yet because of the disarray among the local collaborators of the LeT due to a crackdown on the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The Hindu; Times of India, August 18, 2009.
Centre to tackle Maoist insurgency with development and Police action, says Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram: The Union Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambaram on August 17, 2009, outlined the Centre's two-pronged policy – development and Police action – to tackle the Maoist insurgency. Addressing the Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security in New Delhi, he said, "However, the Naxalites are anti-development and have targeted the very instruments of development — school buildings, roads, telephone towers. They know that development will wean the masses away, especially the poor tribals, from the grip of Naxalites. Hence, these deliberate attacks on development activities." The Minister added that the Government's response would focus on Police action to wrest control of the territory dominated by Naxalites, restoration of civil administration and undertaking development activities. "We will encourage the State Governments to talk to the Naxalites — both individuals and local units — on condition that they give up their misconceived 'armed liberation struggle.' Let our message to the Naxalites be this: we will talk; we will act; we will restore order; and we will undertake developmental activities," Chidambaram pointed out. This was the second meeting of Chief Ministers on internal security in 2009; the first one was held on January 6. The Hindu, August 18, 2009.
43 militants and six civilians among 55 persons killed during the week in FATA: Unidentified men on August 23, 2009, killed pro-government tribal chief Malik Sarwar Khan Wazir and three others in South Waziristan. Sarwar was travelling from his home village of Dazha Ghundi to Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan, when gunmen attacked his vehicle, officials said, killing him, his son Bakhmal Khan, brother Gulzar and an uncle of 'commander' Nek Muhammad. In addition, a security official was killed and two others wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire in a mosque in the Khar sub-division of Bajaur Agency.
A pre-dawn drone attack killed at least 21 militants in North Waziristan Agency on August 21. According to sources, missiles fired by the suspected US pilotless plane hit a residential compound in Dandy Derpakhel village near Miranshah, frequented by militants mostly from the Punjab province. Militant sources claimed that women and children, and not their men, had been killed in the attack. The compound was adjacent to a large seminary set up by the Afghan militant 'commander' Jalaluddin Haqqani, said to be close to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. An unnamed official said the compound was used as a training centre for militants but he was not sure which group was running it. According to AP, the air strike targeted Siraj Haqqani, a Taliban 'commander' blamed for masterminding ambushes on American troops in Afghanistan, intelligence officials said. It was unclear if Siraj Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, was among the people killed in the attack, the officials said, adding that three women were among the dead.
Security Forces (SFs) on August 21 killed at least 12 militants in different areas of Mohmand Agency and destroyed several of their hideouts. SF sources said at around 2:00 pm, two helicopter gunships shelled militant strongholds in the Ghani Baba, Michni and Seperay areas of Yakkaghund Sub-division. "Twelve militants were killed and four of their hideouts destroyed during the operation," the Frontier Corps revealed in a statement.
SFs said on August 19 that they had killed five Taliban militants in Bajaur Agency. "Taliban fired at a security convoy near Kuz Chamarkand ... troops retaliated and killed five Taliban," according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Further, unidentified armed men shot dead three persons, including a soldier of the Bajaur Levies, in the Shago area while the SFs killed a militant and arrested four others in different areas of the Khar Sub-division in Bajaur Agency.
A militant on suicide mission rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into a check-post on the Bannu-Miranshah road in North Waziristan Agency in the evening of August 18, killing four SF personnel and injuring eight others. The bomber reportedly struck the Esha check-post located near Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, which was manned by Army and paramilitary personnel. Separately, three militants were killed in a clash between the militants and the local Lashkar (militia) in lower Orakzai Agency on August 18. Tribal sources said militants belonging to the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) clashed with the Lashkar of armed tribesmen in the Qazikhel and Storikhel areas. The clash continued for four hours and three militants belonging to Swat and South Waziristan were killed and several others injured. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, August 18-24, 2009.
18 militants and 12 civilians among 32 persons killed during the week in NWFP: Three persons were killed and 15 others sustained injuries in a powerful suicide blast close to the house of the slain Ansar-ul-Islam spokesman, Mobin Afridi, in the Momin Town area of Peshawar, the NWFP capital, on August 23. "Three people, including two women, were killed and 15 others injured when the suicide bomber blew himself up in a street after he ran short of ammunition," said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Qazi Jamilur Rehman. The bomb disposal squad estimated around eight kilograms of explosives and a large number of ball bearings and nails were used in the attack. The SSP said the attack was probably linked to the blast in Hayatabad in the evening of August 22, which killed Ansar-ul-Islam spokesman Mobin Afridi and his associate Haji Khan. Elsewhere in the province, unidentified gunmen shot dead an intelligence agency official and a trooper of the Pakistan Army late on August 22 in Nowshera District.
Two persons were killed and three others injured in a suicide blast in the Hayatabad area of Peshawar on August 22. Senior Superintendent Police, Qazi Jamilur Rehman, said it was a remote-controlled device and weighed around five to seven kilograms. He also said the bomb was attached to a vehicle carrying Haji Mubin, a spokesman for the Ansar-ul-Islam (AI), a Khyber Agency-based banned outfit, and another member of the organisation. Rehman said Mubin and his fellow passenger were killed on the spot. Separately, a revenue division official was killed when unidentified men attempted to abduct him and his colleague.
A suicide bomber blew himself up after he was besieged by the Security Force (SF) personnel in Kohat on August 21. Official sources said Police were informed that a 15-year-old suicide bomber would attack an Imambargah (mosque) at any time in the city. The SF personnel spotted the bomber in a bazaar with two hand-grenades in his hand and a firearm on his shoulder, the sources said. Seeing the Police party, the bomber ran away and forced his entry into the house of Inayatullah Jan in BB Pakdaman Street and took his family members hostage. Later, the women and other members of the family, except one Safdar Hashmi, were allowed to go out of the house. Eyewitnesses said the only hostage, Safdar Hashmi, managed to escape from the house and the Police party headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police Abdullah Khan fired tear-gas shells and bullets at the house. The bomber later blew himself up when he couldn't escape.
The body of a suspected Al Qaeda leader was found in a house in Peshawar, capital of the NWFP, on August 19. According to officials, the body with multiple wounds was of Abdullah Noori, son of Abdul Qadir, an Algerian believed to be Osama bin Laden's top aide. They said the man had been suffering from kidney ailment and was being treated by a private physician in a rented house in the Tehkal area on the University Road. Ten other people in the house were also arrested, but seven of them were later released. The other three are said to be foreigners, one of them from Algeria. Police said they raided the house on information that an important militant commander was hiding there.
Suspected militants on August 18 beheaded a man kidnapped from the Matani area of Peshawar on August 12. Kabir Hussain, who had come from the US and was on his way from Peshawar airport to his village Dabori in the Kohat District, was kidnapped by five armed men from Matani along with the taxi driver, Mira Khan, who was later released.
At least seven persons, including three children and two women, were killed and nine others sustained injuries in a bomb blast in a passenger vehicle at a petrol station in the Shabqadr Sub-division of Charsadda District on August 17. Driver Zahid Khan was getting fuel in his pick-up at the Attock Filling Station on Michni Road near Shabqadr town, around 20 kilometres northeast of provincial capital Peshawar, when the explosion occurred. The vehicle was carrying passengers from Shabqadr town to the Anbar Sub-division of the nearby Mohmand Agency, when the blast occurred. Leader of the Mohmand Agency-based Taliban, Qari Shakeel, reportedly claimed responsibility for the blast, saying they would continue such attacks on locals until the Government stopped raising armed militias against the militants. Separately, the SFs said on August 17 that they had killed 13 Taliban militants in Swat District and arrested 28 militants, including 20 who surrendered in Dir District. "Troops conducted a search operation in Shaheed Sar near Sar Qala, and destroyed the Taliban headquarters there... seven Taliban were also killed," said the Inter-Services Public Relations, adding that another six militants were killed in a search operation at Derai. Separately, 20 Taliban militants surrendered to the SFs in Dir. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, August 18-24, 2009.
Nine Policemen killed in Balochistan: The bodies of nine Policemen taken hostage in July 2009 by insurgents were discovered in Balochistan on August 17, 2009. "We have recovered nine bodies of dead policemen. They were kidnapped by the Balochistan Republican Army," said senior Police officer Kaleem Ullah. The corpses were found in Naseerabad, some 390 kilometres southeast of provincial capital Quetta, and the Police officers were thought to have been killed about four days ago, Kaleem added. The insurgents had taken 24 local Police officials and labourers hostage in late July. Three Policemen escaped, and the bodies of 12 others have already been found. Sarbaz Baloch, a spokesman for the Balochistan Republican Army, had earlier in August claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and deaths in a telephone call to reporters in Quetta. He demanded that the Security Forces leave the city. Daily Times, August 18, 2009.
Sipah-e-Sahaba chief Ali Sher Hyderi shot dead in Sindh: Armed men shot dead Allama Ali Sher Hyderi, chief of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), along with his associate Imtiaz Phulpoto at Khairpur in the Sindh Province on August 17, 2009. Sources said Allama Hyderi was returning home after delivering a speech at a religious gathering in the Dost Muhammad Abro village within the limits of the Ahmedpur Police Station, when he was attacked. Police sources said one of the attackers, identified as Aashiq Ali Jagirani, was also killed in retaliatory fire by Hyderi's bodyguards. Meanwhile, the SSP leader's murder triggered violence in major towns of Sindh. There were reports of firing in the air and armed SSP activists forced shopkeepers to close their shops. The Army and the Rangers were called out to assist the Police in maintaining law and order. The protesters removed the main railway tracks, suspending train links upcountry. There were reports that the house of the suspected killer had been torched by the people in Luqman town. Two persons were killed and another sustained injuries in firing by paramilitary forces who tried to stop an angry mob from removing railway tracks.
Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi has been named as successor to Allama Hyderi. Allama Hyderi, who hailed from Khairpur, was the fourth SSP chief to be killed since it was formed in the late 1980s. After the Sunni outfit was banned by former President Pervez Musharraf in February 2002, it was operating under the name of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jama'at. The News, August 18, 2009.