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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 20, December 1, 2003

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



Chhattisgarh: Democracy vs. 'People's War'
Nihar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

The infant State of Chhattisgarh (carved out of Madhya Pradesh in November 2000) is gradually emerging as another hub of left-wing extremism - popularly termed the Naxalite movement (the movement originated in Naxalbari [hence the term Naxal] in the State of West Bengal in the late 1960s). Even as the electorate exercises its franchise in Chhattisgarh today, December 1, to elect a 90-member State Legislative Assembly, in a major pre-poll attack on November 29, Naxalites of the proscribed People's War Group (PWG) attacked the Congress (I) candidate from Bijapur, Rajendra Pambhoi, in the South Bastar district between Guddipal and Modypal. While Pambhoi escaped the attack, seven security force (SF) personnel, who were part of his security convoy, were killed in the landmine blast. It was the third assassination attempt on Pambhoi by the PWG, which had earlier attacked his house and ambushed his vehicle near Raipur. This incident is bound to have a negative impact on voters who will think twice before casting their votes in an election which the PWG has demanded they boycott.

Several major incidents involving the Naxalites have occurred in the State this year, the worst of which were:

  • September 13, 2003: PWG cadres attacked and looted the Gidham police station in Dantewada district. One policeman was killed and seven others sustained injuries
  • April 24, 2003: Three Naxalites and two SF personnel were killed during an encounter in Takilod village, south Bastar region.
  • February 2: Nine persons, including four police personnel, were killed when PWG cadres set ablaze a private bus near Basagura in the Bijapur district.
  • January 13: PWG cadres killed two police personnel at Nistoor village in the Bijapur district.

After the announcement of the election schedule in Chhattisgarh on November 7, the left-wing extremists called for a boycott of elections, warning of 'dire consequences' for those who participated in the democratic process. Reportage from the State has indicated that the poll boycott call affected the election campaigning in the Bastar, Kanker, Dantewara and Surguja Districts. Official sources indicate that, in the run up to elections, as many as 17 encounters with Naxalites occurred, in which eight SF personnel, a civilian and four Naxalites were killed. Sources also disclosed that a day after Pambhoi's convoy was attacked, Naxalites planted landmines in Kanker and Dantewara districts to stop the movement of polling parties and paramilitary forces. The State Election Commission (SEC) said in the capital Raipur on Election day that Naxalites forcibly took away Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from five polling booths in the Bijapur Assembly Constituency before polling could commence.

Reports from Raipur also indicate that Naxalite formations had positioned themselves in the interiors of Kanker district to block the movement of polling parties. Huge caches of arms and ammunition had been seized by the security agencies in the run-up to the elections. In a continuous campaign of intimidation of voters, a gang of 20 PWG cadres had descended on Bastar's Kondurg Village last week, triggering panic among the shoppers in the local market. The villagers were warned to keep off polling booths or face 'action'. In another incident, Naxalites attacked a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaign vehicle near Antagarh in Kanker district. K.K. Chakravarti, Chief Electoral Officer, stated that the Naxalites had created serious law and order problems in the Bastar, Kanker and Dantewara districts.

In Chhattisgarh, while the PWG is active in Dantewada, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Kanker and Bijapur, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) has a presence in Sarguja, Jashpur, Koriya and Balrampur. According to State police estimates, approximately 18 Dalams (squads), armed with sophisticated weapons including AK series rifles and trained in the use of remote control explosive devices are active in the State. In Bastar, one of poorest regions of the country, the Naxalites have consistently targeted the lowest levels of governance. In fact, the situation has become so grim that more than 40 sarpanchs (local village heads) have been forced to resign after threats of violence by Naxalites. The violence has paralysed the local administration, making governance and policing virtually non-existent in such areas. The fear of the Naxalite terror contributes significantly to the persistence of the general level of backwardness in the region. There are also reports that local criminal syndicates are now replacing the PWG in some areas, increasing the urgency of putting developmental efforts here on a priority.

States bordering Chhattisgarh are also becoming more vulnerable to Naxalite attacks as the PWG makes efforts create a corridor of terror across the country by joining hands with like-minded groups extending from Nepal border in the North down to Andhra Pradesh in the South. Areas such as those in northern Andhra Pradesh, bordering Chhattisgarh on one side and Maharashtra on the other, are already major challenges to the Police forces in those States. The areas of Naxalite dominance in these States are overwhelmingly concentrated in tribal areas, whose backwardness and poverty are exploited by the extremists. In October 2002, the PWG had barred the entry of State Ministers and legislators into the Bijapur police district in Bastar region.

The gravity of the situation is borne out by the fact that amidst rising Naxalite violence and intimidation, the SEC has decided to use over a dozen helicopters, night-vision devices and mine detectors in the Naxalite-infested areas to ensure free and fear elections. The State Chief Electoral Officer, Kalyan Kumar Chakravotry, has indicated that elaborate security arrangements had been made at 15,671 polling stations to enable more than 13.5 million electors to exercise their franchise. Among these polling stations, 1,580 polling stations have been classified as 'hypersensitive' while 3,999 are in the 'sensitive' category. Most of the hypersensitive booths are located in the Naxalite-affected areas. The task of security agencies has been rendered more complex by the fact that groups like the PWG and MCC have a presence in nearly 40 per cent of the total geographical area of the State. Around 180 companies of para-military forces have been deployed in the State, including 65 sensitive areas in its tribal belt. At least 70 companies of paramilitary forces (approximately 7,000 personnel) have been deployed in Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada to restore public confidence.

In view of the Naxalite boycott call, Chhattisgarh's borders with adjoining Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been sealed to prevent a possible influx of Naxalites. Two months after the PWG's assassination attempt on Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu, no special measures by the authorities to curb Naxalite violence are apparent in the nine States where their presence has been registered, with the exception of the November 21 Central Coordination Committee meeting at Bhubaneswar in Orissa. This is an extraordinary failure, since Left-wing extremism extending across nine States constitutes perhaps the largest single internal security challenge in the country after terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The present security arrangement in Chhattisgarh cannot be expected to address public anxieties of the electorate in Naxalite-infested areas. The people of the region are aware that these are temporary measures, and the Forces will soon be withdrawn once the electoral exercise is completed. At that stage, the Naxalites are expected to wreak vengeance on those who may have dared to disobey their election boycott diktats. A 'free and fair' election is hardly a possibility in the absence of any significant operational successes against the Naxalites, and their increasing influence over widening swathes of the State.




Tactical Adjustments in the Terrorist Enterprise
Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management

Sources had earlier indicated repeated sightings of the Taliban's 'fugitive' leader, Mullah Omar, in Quetta, and confirmation eventually came from Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, who indicated that Omar had been seen praying at the Salim Plaza mosque in the border city, and accused Pakistan of deliberately 'turning a blind eye' to terrorism in the border region of Afghanistan. President Karzai added further that Quetta had emerged as a 'stronghold of terrorists' and that 'recruitment is being carried out in connivance with local authorities'. This was not the first such accusation by the Afghan President regarding Pakistan's role in the resurgence of violence in Afghanistan.

Earlier, in what one prominent Pakistani commentator described as 'a brazen display of bonhomie with the khakis' (the Pakistan Army), Masood Azhar, the Chief of the banned terrorist organization, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), subsequently renamed the Khaddam-ul-Islam (KuI), and banned again under this appellation, was reported to have been provided a platform in a grand mosque in the 'very heart of Lahore's military cantonment' to preach his 'doctrine of jihad'.

Meanwhile, President and General Pervez Musharraf continues with his declarations of support to the 'global war against terror" and the ritual of periodically 'banning' terrorist organizations. Six such groups had been banned on November 15 and November 20: Jamiat-ul-Ansar, Hizb-ut-Tahreer, Jamaat-ul-Furqan, Islami Tehreek-e-Pakistan, Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan and Khuddam-ul-Islam. Interestingly, every one of these were renamed groups, formed from those that had been banned in 2002. Another seven were to be banned "after Id-ul-Fitr" (November 26): Harkatul Jihad-ul-Islami (HJI), Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen-al-Aalmi (JMA), Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen Pakistan (TMP), Ahl-e-Hadith Youth Force (AYF), Tehrik Difa-e-Sahaba, Jamiat Ishaat Touhed-wal-Sunnah, Almi Tanzeem-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat (ATAS). While offices have been ceremonially sealed, empty bank accounts 'frozen', and a few token arrests made among the dispensable rank and file of the groups already banned, the top leadership of most groups (the exceptions are sectarian groups guilty of terrorist attacks within Pakistan, as against the 'more acceptable' groups who direct their malevolence outward, against India, Afghanistan, or the West in general) continues to be 'untraceable' even while addressing large public gatherings in prominent mosques located in cantonment areas. There have been repeated reports of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Army officers helping the Taliban - Al Qaeda resurgence, as well as supporting terrorist groups operating in the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), though such elements are being described as 'renegades.' Further afield, Pakistani terrorist groups linked to the Al Qaeda, particularly the Lashkar-e-Toiba (now the Jamaat-ud-Dawa) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad/Khaddam-ul-Islam, are reported to have been assigned pivotal roles in coordinating and executing the Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign in Iraq.

President Musharraf, however, continues to reaffirm his commitment to the US led 'global war against terrorism', and Pakistani Forces have on several occasions engaged with Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants along the country's Northern borders, arresting and killing many fighters, and handing over key figures to US Forces. A group of junior Pakistan Army officers has also been arrested for its 'links with religious extremists'. Musharraf has welcomed India's recent 'peace initiatives', and many read signs of a thaw in various 'confidence building measures', including Pakistan's most recent announcement of the resumption of commercial overflights with India. Needless to add, Musharraf has been eloquent in his declarations on the need for peace for the development of the South Asian region, and Pakistan's quest for 'good relations' with all its neighbours.

Where, precisely, does the truth lie in all this? The first element that needs to be factored in is a degree of complexity that excludes the reductionism of a categorical assessment on where the present Pakistani regime stands with regard to terrorism. The nearest credible generalization is that Pakistan does not appear to have abandoned its strategic commitment to the use of terror to secure its perceived geopolitical goals, and these goals remain tied closely to Pakistan's perception of itself as an 'Islamic power', and the proximity of its dominant or governing ideology to extremist political Islam. At the same time, external circumstances and pressures have forced it into a succession of tactical withdrawals and rationalizations on key goals, alliances and operations. Managing the consequent contradictions between the tactical and the strategic is creating enormous tensions that have impacted adversely on Pakistan's internal situation. In Baluchistan alone, for instance, within the first eleven months of the present year, at least 55 terrorist attacks, including a number of rocket attacks on the critical Sui pipeline and other gas installations (Baluchistan accounts for over 60% of Pakistan's total natural gas output), and on the Frontier Corps' troops and establishments, in which some 77 persons have been killed. This has provoked a degree of disquiet in the highest echelons of the state in Pakistan, particularly given Baluchistan's history of separatist unrest (a five-year long revolt in the early 1970s was brutally suppressed by the Army, and the province has always been restive against what it perceives as 'Punjabi exploitation').

At the same time, however, as the US led campaign in Afghanistan unravels, the operational space for terrorism in that country has expanded once again; once again, to be occupied by Pakistan's agencies and proxies. This fact is crucial to understanding the dynamic series of adjustments and adaptations that are currently occurring in Pakistan's use of terror, as well as in determining the degree to which the country's leadership remains committed in its engagement with the instrumentalities of terrorism. However, far from wearing out US patience on Pakistan's continued subversive role in Afghanistan, there is evidence that a demoralized US is increasingly inclining to 'franchise out' much of Southern Afghanistan to Pakistani proxies on the argument that, since Karzai's Forces remain ineffectual in the areas, since the small NATO Force (a strength of just 5,500) can barely manage Kabul, and since the 10,000-odd US Forces are committed essentially to 'smoking out' Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda, at least some measure of 'control' can be exercised through Pakistan. This is the dangerous slippery slope on which Pakistan had secured hegemony over Kabul in the early 1990s, and hopes to do so again, keeping the incentives for the sponsorship of terrorism high. The result is a revived and increasingly brazen Taliban army, swollen with new recruits from Pakistan, with no visible shortage of weapons, and coffers overflowing with drug money (the United Nations estimates a record 3,600 metric ton output of opium from Afghanistan in year 2003, with much of the trade controlled by the Taliban and warlords linked to Pakistan) and the contributions of the 'faithful'.

The future of Pakistan's support to terrorism, not only in Afghanistan, but across South Asia is currently being determined in Iraq - and this is, at least in some measure and in combination with the arduous winter, the reason for the temporary dilution of the terrorist campaign in J&K. It is useful, in this, to recall the statement by the Amir (Chief) of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Pakistan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, that the peace initiatives with India were a tactical move, so that the mujahiddeen could fight the 'Americans and Jews' in Iraq. The degree to which forces are actually diverted from Kashmir and other theatres to Iraq is yet to be seen, but Ahmed's statement is significant in terms of the strategic significance extremist Islam now attaches to the 'jihad' in Iraq.

The degree to which the 'resistance' in Iraq is seen to be successful will define the future expanse of operational spaces for terrorism in South Asia, indeed, across the world. There is need, here, to recognize an essential psychological asymmetry in the criteria of success and failure in this conflict: for the terrorist, not to categorically fail is to succeed; for the counter-terrorism coalition, not to demonstrably and irrefutably succeed, is to fail. Terrorists and their sponsors in Pakistan, despite periodic reverses, conflicts and contradictions, have drawn great encouragement from events in Iraq, and there is a current and emerging myth that, even as the mujahidden 'defeated' the Soviet superpower in Afghanistan, the 'forces of Islam' will humble the world's sole surviving superpower in Iraq.

Till the outcome of that engagement is decided, Pakistan will continue to sit on the fence, waiting and watching, with occasional and opportunistic forays on both sides, to retain or extend its strategic stakes as circumstances permit. In the interim, the processes of internal corrosion continue uninterrupted - generous 'developmental aid' notwithstanding - largely ignored within the enterprise of strategic overextension in which Pakistan has been engaged for over two decades.



Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 24-30, 2003

Security Force Personnel




     Jammu &








Total (INDIA)





*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


PCJSS announces agitation programme in Chittagong Hill Tracts: The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS), a political body of the indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), as part of its agitation programme, has called for a road blockade on December 2, 2003, and a dawn-to-dusk strike on December 8. The sixth year of the CHT peace treaty ends on December 2. The PCJSS has demanded a complete implementation of the peace accord signed in 1997 and resignation of Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, a parliamentarian from the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, from the post of chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB). PCJSS chief Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Shantu Larma has also threatened to intensify the agitation if the security camps were not withdrawn from the Hills before December 31. Meanwhile, Bhuiyan has threatened to resist the agitation programmes. Daily Star, December 1, 2003.

Arms and ammunition seized in capital Dhaka: Police in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka have reportedly seized four AK-47 assault rifles, two revolvers, 20 hand grenades, four time bombs, a large number of AK-47 bullets and explosives after an encounter with a criminal gang at Kuril Badda on November 30, 2003. Three persons, including two policemen, were injured in the incident. Subsequently, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia directed the Home Ministry to conduct an enquiry to identify the network and arrest the masterminds. An unnamed police official was quoted as saying that the arms and ammunition might have been smuggled in to be shipped abroad again. Daily Star, December 1, 2003.


Seven police personnel killed in Naxalite attack in Chhattisgarh: On November 29, 2003, seven police personnel were killed in a landmine attack by left-wing extremists - Naxalites - of the People's War Group (PWG) between Guddipal and Modypal in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh. The incident occurred while Rajendra Pambhoi, the Congress candidate from Bijapur constituency, was en route to Madded from Bijapur. The State Legislative Assembly elections are being held on December 1. Pambhoi escaped unhurt but seven police personnel, part of his security convoy, were killed in the blast. Indian Express, November 30, 2003.

Mafia don Abu Salem and associate Monica Bedi sentenced to jail in Portugal: Mafia don and prime accused in the March 1993 Bombay serial blasts case, Abu Salem, and his associate Monica Bedi were held guilty on November 28, 2003, by a Portugal Court on charges of forgery and the continued use of forged documents. Salem was charged on three counts by the Sixth Penal Court of Lisbon, which sentenced him to a prison term of four and a half years. His associate and film actor Monica Bedi was found guilty on charges of forgery and continued use of forged documents. However, the court sentenced her to a lesser term of two years, as Salem reportedly confessed to having secured a passport for her in the name of Sana Malik Kamal. Both were arrested in Lisbon, capital of Portugal, on September 18, 2002, on an Interpol 'red corner' notice. Meanwhile, confirming the prison terms, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, P.C. Sharma, said that the Portuguese Court on Extradition was also expected to pronounce its order on India's extradition request for Abu Salem. The Hindu, November 29, 2003.

Cease-fire with Pakistan comes into being: The formal cease-fire between India and Pakistan along the International Border (IB), Line of Control (LoC) and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Jammu and Kashmir began on the midnight of November 25, 2003. There was no firing from midnight on any part of the LoC, S.M. Sahai, Deputy Inspector General of Police on the Jammu side of the line, said on November 25. According to Sahai, the last shots fired between the two armies in that area were at 7:30 AM on November 25. Earlier, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said in Delhi that the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan, in their weekly telephonic conversation, agreed to the cease-fire accord. Separately, a statement of the Army Headquarters said, "Pursuant to the understanding between the Governments of India and Pakistan, the two DGMOs discussed the modalities of implementation of the proposal. It was mutually agreed that the ceasefire will be enforced between the two sides, along all the sectors of the IB, LoC and AGPL..." Daily Excelsior, November 26, 2003.


Interpol notice against 11 Maoist leaders: The Interpol has reportedly issued Red Corner notices against 11 Maoist leaders, including the chief Pushpakamal Dahal alias Prachanda, chief negotiator in the peace talks Baburam Bhattarai and spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara. According to Interpol's Nepal office, a similar notice has been issued against Chandraprakash Gajurel, who is currently under detention in India for traveling with fake travel documents. The Hindu, November 28, 2003.


Taliban chief Mullah Omar seen in Quetta, claims Afghan President Karzai: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has claimed that Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar was seen at Quetta in Pakistan last week. Karzai told London-based The Times that he had received information that Mullah Omar was spotted praying in a mosque in Quetta. Karzai also said that Quetta was a stronghold for Islamist extremists opposing the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed rejected Karzai's claim and said that he hoped the Afghan leadership would "desist from issuing statements which could impede relations between the two countries". Daily Times, November 30, 2003.

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen rejects India-Pakistan cease-fire: Speaking to the Agence France-Presse from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), a spokesperson for the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) said that the outfit would continue its attacks in Jammu and Kashmir despite the ongoing cease-fire between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC). "The ceasefire is by the two armies and not by the Mujahedin," said Salim Hashmi. While terming the cease-fire as posturing, he added, "In the absence of a permanent solution to the festering issue, all such steps will prove to be cosmetic and transitory." Nation, November 29, 2003.

Ten Pakistanis detained in Latvia for terrorist plot: Police in Latvia are reported to have detained 10 Pakistani citizens on November 21, 2003, in connection with a suspected terrorist attack targeting the visiting Israeli basketball team. "Bearing in mind the likelihood of a terror attack and illegal immigration, the Security Police informed the state border guard and the 10 Pakistanis were detained on November 21," said Kristine Apse-Krumina, an aide to the chief of the Security Police. She said security officials became suspicious after the 10 entered Latvia on November 18 to participate in an international martial arts tournament and only one of them participated. Kristine said the scrutiny of the Pakistanis' return airline tickets indicated that they were planning to leave Latvia aboard the same plane as the Israeli basketball players from Tel Aviv club Hapoel, due to play against Riga club Skonto. Nation, November 26, 2003.


LTTE proposals not a step towards secession, claims Prabhakaran: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, in his "Heroes' Day" address on November 27, 2003, denied allegations that the outfit was re-arming for war and also claimed that its counter-proposals are not a step towards secession. According to him, "The allegations leveled against our draft proposals that they aim to create an independent Tamil State or that they contain stepping stones for separation are not true. Our proposals do not constitute a framework for a permanent, final solution. Our draft proposals deal with an interim arrangement." He also refuted charges that the outfit has been rewarded too much during the cease-fire period and said instead that they have suffered heavy loses during the last two years, pointing to the sinking of what he called two LTTE merchant ships. However, the LTTE chief admitted that they are recruiting on a "small-scale" for maintaining an "administrative structure". Daily News, November 28, 2003.


The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


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