Terrorism Update
Show/Hide Search
    Click to Enlarge

Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 30, February 9, 2004

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



From Political Deadlock to General Elections
Guest Writer: Jehan Perera
Media Director, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka

With President Chandrika Kumaratunga's decision to utilize her presidential powers to dissolve Parliament on February 8, 2004, Sri Lanka will face its third general election in less than four years. What is especially remarkable is that the President reneged on her previous promises, including a written promise to the Speaker of Parliament, that she would not dissolve Parliament so long as the Government continued to enjoy majority support.

To all appearances the present political crisis and general election are a result of power play, and not the pursuit of the best interests of the country. The present Government had been in office for a little less than two years when the President used her presidential powers to take over the three key Ministries of Defence, Interior and Media. For nearly two years she had stayed on the sidelines and been ignored by the Government. On November 4, 2003, she struck, citing national security interests to justify the takeover that brought her back to the centre of the polity. But her actions after the takeover failed to demonstrate anything fundamentally different from those of the Government Ministers she replaced. The Government was crippled and its credibility eroded.

If public opinion polls and the views of business and religious leaders and other civil society groups are any indicator, this is not an election that the people want. Even the left coalition allies of the President, consisting of the Communist Party and the Trotskyite Lanka Sama Samaj Party (LSSP), urged her not to go for elections. With no exception, all of these groups urged the President and her arch rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to work together, if only for a year, to get the country's systems of basic governance in order. They recognised that, under the Constitution, the President and Prime Minister enjoyed concurrent mandates, both obtained from the people, and also constitutional power that had to be shared for effective governance.

The United National Front (UNF) Government headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe showed repeatedly that it had the backing of a clear majority in Parliament. But it failed to govern effectively after the President's take over of the three Ministries. The political deadlock made governance of the country a next-to-impossible prospect. As a result, strikes in the Governmental sector dragged on without a resolution, with new ones in the offing. Extremist attacks on Christian places of worship have been taking place with the police unwilling to prevent them and not a single arrest and conviction so far, although more than thirty churches were attacked last month alone. There was much that the President and Government could have done together. The independent Election Commission, established over two years ago, is still not functioning, due to the President's refusal to approve the nomination of the Constitutional Council, an independent body that she herself was instrumental in appointing. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE's) proposal for an interim self-governing unit for the North East, made on October 31, 2003, has met with no official response from the Government, which refused to engage in peace talks unless the Defence Ministry was restored to it by the President.

In the past week, however, there seemed to be a narrowing of the gap that separated the President and Prime Minister on the issue of power sharing. The Prime Minister, who had earlier been adamant about getting back the three ministries taken over by the President, seemed to be relenting under public and international pressure. The stock market, which had fallen by about 30 percent since the President's take over on November 4, 2003, registered a rise on information that the committee of high officials appointed by the two sides had reached agreement on the main issues. The President's rationale in dissolving Parliament at this juncture is difficult to understand. Either the President did not believe that the Prime Minister's change of heart was genuine, or she was finally pushed to take the decision to dissolve Parliament by members of her party and those of her new alliance partner, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Both surmises have some validity. Leaders of Government and the Opposition have seldom cooperated with each other, even when the national interest has been threatened. The President and Prime Minister have not been part of those earlier periods of governance when there was such cooperation. But the determining factor would surely have been pressure from the JVP.

Whatever the overall result of the general election, the JVP is guaranteed an increase in the number of their seats in Parliament due to the electoral agreement they have reached with the President's party, the much larger Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). But the JVP had one major concern. This was that the general elections should come prior to the provincial elections. The provincial elections would have provided both sides with a picture of their real strengths. It would have given the SLFP an opportunity to back out of the alliance if the results of the provincial polls were not positive to the new United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

Second, the JVP did not wish to become too committed to its partnership with the SLFP. They are mindful that previous alliances between left parties and the SLFP have led to the absorption of the small left parties by the mainstream SLFP. The JVP did not wish their identity as a 'revolutionary party' to be diluted with that of the SLFP in any long-term campaign for the people's vote. For the JVP having a general election soon after the formation of the UPFA was the main consideration. They have had their way.

With its new alliance with the JVP, the SLFP can believe that they too will do well at a general election. The new alliance would be combining the votes of two parties that contested separately at the last general election and together scored more than the ruling party. On the other hand, victory is not guaranteed for the UPFA. They are taking on a Government that has two major achievements to its credit during its two years in office. The first was bringing an end to the civil war that had developed a momentum of its own, and that seemed unstoppable, with powerful vested interests at play. The restoration of conditions of relative peace, despite all its shortcomings, is the greatest good that the country enjoys. Except for a few diehard nationalists, no one advocates a return to war to improve the situation in the country.

The second achievement of the Government was to resuscitate the collapsing economy and offer hope to the people that rapid economic development with international assistance was a real possibility. While the economic peace dividend did not reach the majority of Sri Lanka's poor, there still remained the hope that it would. Economic growth last year exceeded five percent, which was a marked improvement from the year 2001 when the Government took office, and the growth rate was minus one percent. A handsome sum of USD 4.5 billion had been earmarked by international donors for Sri Lanka over the next three years, conditional only upon progress in the peace process.

It is unlikely that the UPFA, with its vague economic policies that seek to combine the SLFP's acceptance of open market principles with the JVP's Marxist philosophy of self-reliance and inward looking development, can inspire popular confidence. This may also account for the strongly expressed desire of people and civic groups for the President and Prime Minister to work together for at least a year rather than go to the polls.

It also creates the danger that the new alliance will resort to narrow Sinhalese nationalist rhetoric in trying to convince the voters to elect them. The President and her party used this method with success at the Presidential election of November 1999 and the General Election of December 2000. Already, such a campaign appears to be underway, with SLFP spokespersons saying that the President dissolved Parliament to save the country from being divided and becoming a colony of foreign powers.

However, an effort by the UPFA to utilise the apprehensions of people regarding the peace process is likely to be a double-edged sword. An election campaign that targets the peace process for condemnation, and degenerates into racist sloganeering, is certain to alienate the ethnic and religious minorities who account for about 30 per cent of the population. Already the new alliance is viewed with suspicion by the Christian minority, with the JVP in particular suspected of providing support to extremist elements that are attacking and torching Christian churches. JVP affiliated organisations, such as the National Bhikku Front, have put up expensive posters throughout the country linking NGOs and Christians to an anti-Buddhist conspiracy that 'threatens the unity of the country'.

The most likely scenario, consequently, is a tightly contested race in which neither the UNF nor the UPFA is able to form a Government by itself. Both sides are likely to require parliamentary support from outside their respective alliances to form a viable Government. The largest party outside of the two main blocs is certain to be the grouping of Tamil parties of the Tamil National Alliance. They are expected to do particularly strongly in the North East, as they will have the full backing of the LTTE. There is no doubt that, along with the JVP, the other great gainer out of these elections will be the LTTE. The premature elections thus come as a golden opportunity for the LTTE to gain in legitimacy as an organisation that has the fullest backing of the elected Tamil representative of the North East.

The LTTE's position with respect to the conflict between the President and Prime Minister has been that it is prepared to negotiate with whoever is able to form a stable Government. In recent weeks, LTTE political leaders have been saying, both publicly and privately, that they are prepared to negotiate with President Chandrika Kumaratunga. These statements, made in different forms in London, Kilinochchi and Colombo by top LTTE leaders, constitute a shift in the stance of the LTTE away from a policy of restricting their dealings to the Government alone. After the President's party suffered a defeat at the General Elections of 2001, the LTTE made no secret of its antipathy to the President, an antipathy that she reciprocated in full measure.

However, it now appears that the LTTE has seen the disadvantages of limiting their negotiations to the Government headed by the Prime Minister. Undoubtedly, it was this Government that achieved the crucial breakthrough with them, which led to the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in February 2002. This was a document that required great political courage to sign and implement. The entry of LTTE cadres into Government-controlled areas and the opening of the A9 Highway to Jaffna were radical affirmations of trust in the peace process, and of the willingness to take risks for peace.

But two years after the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement, the LTTE has reasons for discontent. The LTTE's primary justification for pulling out of the peace talks in April 2003 was the lack of implementation of promises made during the six rounds of negotiations that took place between September 2002 and March 2003. The LTTE has felt acutely frustrated by their inability to gain access to international funding that would make them benefactors of the Tamil people. The new institutions of governance that were agreed to be set up for the interim period in the North East have yet to be implemented. The political crisis that pitted the President against the Government stalled any further possibility of establishing those institutions on the ground. After the general elections, the LTTE is likely to press the new Government to deliver on these institutions.

It has been reported that India cautioned the President against going in for a general election at this time. The enhanced legitimacy such elections would confer on the LTTE would make the Indian strategy of containing the LTTE's international influence, especially on the Indian State of Tamil Nadu, a more difficult one. The international community, which has stopped supporting militant organisations following the war against terrorism, would feel a greater empathy for an organisation that has performed well at elections, even if they are not quite free and fair. The fear of the LTTE looms large in the minds of all Tamil politicians who are aware of its policy of assassinating 'traitors' who take a stand different from that of the LTTE and thereby undermine its status as the 'sole representative' of the Tamil people.

In the event of a victory by the UPFA, the peace process with the LTTE is likely to come under increasing strain. Both the SLFP and JVP have been critics of the Norwegian-facilitated peace process, with the JVP taking a much stronger negative stand on the issue. Even peace talks with the LTTE are likely to be difficult, as the SLFP and JVP have taken divergent stands on the issue of self-determination for the Tamil people in the North East. While the SLFP has accepted the devolution of political power to the regions, the JVP's position is that only administrative decentralisation is permissible. On the other hand, the LTTE's own proposals for an interim self-governing authority exceed that of a normal federal system, making negotiations between the two sides a daunting prospect.

The situation is not much brighter with respect to prospects in the event of a victory for the UNF. Even if they score a convincing victory, the UNF will have to contend with the President's entrenched constitutional and legal powers, backed, to all appearances, by a sympathetic Supreme Court. There will be nothing that the UNF will be able to do to prevent the President from arrogating to herself the right to take over several Government Ministries, including the critical one of Defence. The Supreme Court has, in fact, ruled that the powers over defence are inherent in the Presidency. Therefore, a UNF victory will only take the country back to the same place it was at, prior to the dissolution of Parliament.

The best hope for the country is that, after all the fighting is done, and the two sides have battered each other into stalemate, the two leaders realise that they cannot govern without the support of the other. That is, if they live to lead the country. The elections threaten to be violent, and election campaigns offer much scope for political assassinations. Civil society and the international community will need to do their utmost to ensure that the elections are fair and free of violence.


Armed, Dangerous and Unaccountable
K.P.S. Gill
Publisher, SAIR; President, Institute for Conflict Management

The very suspicion of the presence of 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq plunged America into a premature war and increasingly ruinous engagement in Iraq; yet, incontrovertible evidence of proliferation by Pakistan only attracts an indulgent 'let bygones be bygones', and a reaffirmation of 'faith' in General Pervez Musharraf's 'leadership'. Has the American intelligence and South Asia policy community been 'embedded' in Pakistan for far too long to have retained a sufficient measure of objectivity? And could the succession of unwarranted indulgences towards Pakistan compromise stability in South Asia as well as America's own future security?

The past weeks' events in Pakistan will certainly go down as one of the most consummate political charades in recent history, and if they were not so dangerous, they would be farcical: within weeks of the cover being blown off Pakistan's nuclear proliferation activities in Libya (following similar disclosures, first with regard to North Korea, and then Iran; as well as unconfirmed reports of involvement in the relocation of Iraq's missing 'nuclear material' from Syria to Pakistan in October 2002), an 'investigation' was launched and completed; the 'sole culprit', A.Q. Khan, the 'father' of Pakistan's 'Islamic bomb', was identified, detained and 'interrogated'; he then appeared on national Television, abjectly pleading with a 'stern' Musharraf, after which he made a televised 'confession' of his wrongdoing, taking the full blame and implicitly exonerating his military masters; with fitting humility, he also 'apologised to the nation'; it would obviously be churlish, under the circumstances, not to let 'bygones be bygones', and worse than churlish to insist that investigations expose all the other culprits in the proliferation conspiracy - including (heaven forbid!) the country's present dictator; the Cabinet, consequently, recommends full clemency for the 'national hero'; and Musharraf, naturally bound by the collective will of the Cabinet, seals the amnesty. So, we are to believe, the entire criminal chapter of over a decade and a half of what CIA director George Tenet euphemistically describes as 'nuclear profiteering' by Pakistan, is closed.

All this is also immediately and unhesitatingly endorsed by the US Administration, which reiterates its faith in President Musharraf's 'stewardship' of his country. The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, also submissively echoes the American position, sympathising with Musharraf for "the very difficult situation that he has to deal with - he is dealing with a national hero."

On the sidelines of the grand sweep of this drama, A.Q. Khan had implicated Pervez Musharraf and three of his predecessor army chiefs - Jehangir Karamat, Abdul Waheed Kakkar and Mirza Aslam Beg - in the country's nuclear transgressions, and is also believed to have taken out an 'insurance policy' for himself by way of 'proof' that he sent out of the country with his daughter, to be released to the world in case a prosecution was launched against him.

In the meanwhile, Musharraf declares that his country "will never roll back its nuclear assets", nor would he accept any "independent investigation" by international agencies. He announces the test firing of the 1,240 kilometre-range Shaheen II missile 'within a month' to reiterate the country's commitment to its strategic nuclear missile programme, and simultaneously warns the national media against 'further speculation' on the military's role in peddling nuclear secrets, as such 'speculation' would be against the 'national interest.'

An 'anti-national' Press is not alone in its dissent from the orchestrated spectacle. In Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, warned that Khan's activities were "the tip of an iceberg" in the international nuclear black market. Former US Chief Weapons Inspector, David Kay also declared, "I can think of no one who deserves less to be pardoned."

It is useful to note here that Musharraf's strategy of response to the continuous succession of exposures on nuclear proliferation is identical to the strategy adopted with regard to Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism. First, complete denial; when this becomes unsustainable, denial of state sponsorship or involvement, and transfer of responsibility to non-state actors and institutions, or 'renegades', with token 'action' against some of these; eventually, where even this becomes unsustainable, some visible action in which some of these actors are 'sacrificed' to salvage his regime, with promises to the international community that past activities would be 'permanently wound down'. Core capacities, however, are never dismantled or destroyed.

If, within this context, Khan must be 'sacrificed' to maintain a minimally credible pretence that the Pakistani state and Army were not directly 'involved' in nuclear proliferation, so be it. In a few months, he will be restored to his 'normal' life, as happened earlier with the two Pakistani nuclear scientists (Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood and Chaudhri Abdul Majeed of the Ummah Tameer-e-Nau) who were in contact with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and were believed to have been trying to help him develop a 'dirty bomb'.

This strategy has generally been referred to as maintaining 'minimal credible deniability' while engaging in a multiplicity of illegal and perilous international adventures. Crucially, there are two sides to the 'credible deniability' coin: the pretence by Pakistan that it is innocent; and the acceptance of this pretence by the 'international community' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Generally, America and the West have ignored evidence of Pakistani involvement in terrorism and proliferation, either because their interests have not been threatened, or have sometimes been served, by such activities; or, especially in the post-9/11 period, because they feel that Pakistan's and Musharraf's 'stability' would be threatened by any sudden or harsh sanctions, and this is considered tactically unacceptable in the present context.

The fact is, Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation (as in its sponsorship of terrorism) has been an 'open secret' for a long time. Since the late 1980s, Pakistan has been 'marketing' nuclear technologies with little effort at secrecy - at one point through advertisements published in national newspapers, as well as through printed brochures that were widely circulated among potential clients by the AQ Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta, and a copy of which was recently published by The New York Times. It is also well known that Pakistan had developed and projected its nuclear programme as an 'Islamic bomb' and had received enormous financial support from a number of Islamic countries, including Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia, on an implicit quid pro quo agreement that would have involved sharing of technologies with the 'Islamic world'. Pakistan's missiles-for-nuclear-technology deal with North Korea is also well known, and these transfers had been documented by intelligence agencies years before 9/11. Indeed, there is not a single security commentator who would not be aware that virtually every single missile 'developed' by Pakistan was, in fact, nothing more than a reassembled version of a North Korean 'knock down kit'. At least some of these various proliferation activities have demonstrably taken place under the Musharraf regime. To pretend or believe that any or all of this could be done without explicit state and military sanction is the most arrant nonsense. Yet, all this was deliberately ignored by America and by the West.

This naturally forces the disturbing questions: has America, or have American agencies, in fact, been complicit in at least some of these proliferation activities? And have successive US Administrations deliberately misled the American people? While the immediate and malevolent shadow of Pakistan's activities has fallen within the region, particularly on Afghanistan and India, it is the inescapable truth that the 'nuclear dagger' is aimed irrevocably at the heart of the world's 'sole superpower', and the leakage of these technologies to rogue states and terrorist non-state actors across the world constitutes the gravest threat to the US. Peripheral players as well as recipients of the proliferating technologies have been targeted with the full force of punitive American and international sanctions, yet the primary proliferator and central protagonist in the sponsorship of international Islamist terrorism escapes unscathed, again and again, irrespective of the enormity of its transgressions. Every US Administration in the recent past has downplayed Pakistan's role in international terrorism and nuclear proliferation, and the present Administration is no exception.

America's 'strategy' for stabilizing Pakistan - indeed, South Asia - appears to be based on a single premise: unqualified support to Musharraf, with a combination of rewards and pressures to urge him to restore control over the jehadi elements in his country. This exclusive reliance on a single individual is substantially based on Musharraf's deceptive persona, his 'westernised' ease of attire and intercourse, and his apparent servility under US pressure. Apart from the dangers of operating without viable alternatives, such an approach is also based on a poor understanding of the man. Musharraf is, evidently, opportunist par excellence; his present perceptions tie him closely to the most immediate US interests. But the current 'global war' is a war of ideologies. Musharraf's fundamental commitments, and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan itself, are founded on an ideology in irreducible conflict with that of America. To fail to recognize this is to imperil all freedoms everywhere. To fail, equally, to recognize, behind the veneer of westernisation, the sheer absence of scruples and the ruthlessness of Musharraf's character is to create the circumstances for inevitable betrayal. This is the man who 'hijacked a country'; who betrayed his own elected prime minister; who has subverted democracy through a rigged national 'referendum' and a fraudulent election in which fringe Islamist extremist political formations were manoeuvred to the centre-stage of national electoral politics; who planned and executed the Kargil misadventure, which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of nuclear confrontation; who has directly supported terrorism, not only in India, but internationally, through the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine and its affiliates - openly before 9/11, and covertly and opportunistically since then; who led a campaign of pillage and slaughter in 1988 to crush an uprising in Gilgit in the Northern Areas of occupied Kashmir - a campaign that earned him the title, 'butcher of Baltistan'. He is a man, moreover, who constantly shifts stance, and who has blatantly misled and lied to the international community again and again, on matters of critical concern. To repose 'faith' in such a man is to succumb to a dangerous selective blindness.

From the very moment of its creation, Pakistan has been little more than an organized criminal enterprise masquerading as a nation-state. For years now, I have been arguing that Pakistan's nuclear capabilities will have to be shut down. Countries that cannot control their nuclear establishment and prevent illegal transfers of technology cannot escape the ambit of international controls. Countries that actively promote such illegal proliferation must draw upon themselves the harshest of international sanctions and inspection regimes. To fail in this course is to ignore the grave danger that such rogue states constitute, not only to peace, but to human survival itself.


A Future in Violence
Guest Writer: Dr. Thomas Marks
Adjunct Professor, US Joint Special Operations University, Hurlburt Field, Florida; Political Risk and Personal Security Consultant

Nepal finds itself at a turning point in its counterinsurgency, launched in earnest only with the November 2001 commitment of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) to the fray. Two-plus years have brought substantial progress in one sense, substantial deterioration in another. The result is that a resolution remains far off, even as the political situation continues to decline.

Politically, it would be difficult to imagine a more complex situation. A three-cornered struggle has resulted in deepening chaos and a widespread feeling of despair.

Ousted from power by the intercession of the King in October 2002, the major political parties have gradually committed their time and energy to their present posture, determined to provoke a confrontation with the Palace. Their own role in creating the circumstances which led to the summary dismissal plays little role in their reflections or calculations, and their current course revolves around a 'stir' that daily fills the streets with 'student demonstrations' equally set on a confrontation with the authorities.

For their part, the security forces, after tolerating the street action for some months, have apparently wearied of it now that violence (principally damage to private property) and anti-monarchy utterances (to include questioning the 'future' of the monarchy) have become central pillars of the campaign. From an impressive reliance on crowd control techniques that featured minimum repression, the police have recently begun to apply the lathi (baton) with regularity.

Waiting in the wings, of course, is the RNA, the ultimate guarantor of law and order. Thus far, it has merely observed the situation but will undoubtedly intervene if the monarchy is perceived as being directly threatened.

The threat of backing a 'republic' is seen by the political parties as their trump card, with the use of the term a surrogate for relegating the King to the status of non-player in national politics, either as a constitutional monarch or, through abolition of the institution altogether, as a private citizen. The parties themselves, due to their reliance on democratic centralism in their inner workings, are profoundly undemocratic and have a conception of 'democracy' that is but a facade for oligarchy - even claiming the right of their central organs to direct Government actions once a party is in power. Nevertheless, they have become increasingly drawn into a campaign against 'regression,' by which they mean the slide back into direct rule by the Palace.

Much that passes for political discussion in Kathmandu is, consequently, speculation concerning the motives of the monarch. His thoughts have recently been bared in a much-discussed interview with TIME magazine, where he made clear that he would not be a figurehead and would do all he could, in the absence of leadership from the parties, to return the country to a state where parliamentary elections can be held. The parties distrust his motives, and this spills out in public invective that is unlikely to bring compromise any closer. For his part, the King holds his public consul but is known privately to have been appalled at the personalities he finds leading the country deeper into the morass.

That the King, as reported in the Nepali press, stepped in only after no party proved capable of forming a Government - or willing, in at least one case, to try - has been forgotten as the blush has gone off what initially was a popular royal naming of minority party figures to carry out administration. The demand from the parties remains for 'new elections,' which most sources feel cannot be fairly held without the restoration of minimal order. That, though, is where the King came in.

On the ground, the insurgency is at a stalemate of sorts, neither able to go forward nor being knocked backwards, except in local instances. To be sure, the security forces have made dramatic strides, both in institutional and operational terms. The RNA, which was essentially a force committed to service as United Nations gendarmes, has become a more cohesive, functioning body capable of power projection. The Armed Police Force (APF), from its shaky beginning, has quickly gelled into a reasonable facsimile of India's Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Finally, the Civil Police (CP), from a posture where they were little more than (largely) unarmed sitting ducks have become more capable, not only of survival, but of carrying out of their normal duties in a situation of internal war.

A 'unified command' concept has begun to take hold, built around the establishment of four RNA divisions - territorial entities - that exercise overall command and control. These answer directly to national headquarters and have deployed within them the RNA brigades and various APF and CP units. Re-equipping the entire RNA with 5.56 rifles (though the US has taken the heat by supplying the M16A2, most weapons are apparently the INSAS from India) and 5.56 light machineguns is well underway, which has allowed the SLR to be made available not only to the APF but some CP elements as well. The latter is essential, as the onset of nationwide hostilities, which came only with the November 2001 Maoist general offensive, found two-thirds of the CP unarmed and the remainder handling only the 1941, bolt-action Lee Enfield, given in India to local forces.

Situations vary in the divisional areas of operation (AO), which run from west to central to east, with Kathmandu its own command. Recent focus on the situation in the Eastern Division, for instance, has seen substantial strides. In addition to the normal efforts to dominate the ground by establishing a grid and then engaging in coordinated, continuous patrolling (with battalions and companies as the C2 elements), preliminary efforts were made to stand up a local defence capacity. These were stillborn when international pressure by NGOs in Kathmandu resulted in orders to back off, but the concept was both appropriate and implemented in a viable manner.

Specifically, three instances of spontaneous local resistance to the Maoists were quickly reinforced by provision of training and some light arms (12-bores). Ex-RNA personnel were prominent in the militia thus constituted, and each was linked to a nearby RNA platoon that exercised C2 authority.

That such action should prove controversial is witness to the polarization that has set in within the Kathmandu political scene, exacerbated by the involvement of international organizations determined to push 'conflict mediation' as opposed to stability operations. From an initial position that sees the present Government as illegitimate, it is but a logical step to hold that employment of force by the security forces is not only illegitimate but directed against insurgents who have won for themselves a degree of legitimacy.

This view is not merely one of ideological posturing but is built on growing concerns - voiced not only by NGOs but by foreign missions - that lack of adequate C2 at the small unit level is causing, amongst the populace, casualty figures that in areas exceed those inflicted by the insurgents in their much more focused - and savage - terror campaign. A weak Government 'information management' campaign has caused a confusing situation to spin out of control, with the result that there are grounds for concern lest friendly missions be manoeuvred into a position where continued provision of aid and assistance is no longer possible.

What is at issue is the situation in the 50 per cent of the country that has largely been given up to the insurgents by the abandonment of a police presence and the inability of the security forces to maintain more than short-term presence. The insurgents - any numbers remain just 'best guesses' - have steadily expanded from their initial strongholds in the so-called 'Red Zone' of the Mid-Western hills, especially the Kham Maggar areas along the Rukkum-Rolpa borders (both districts of some 200,000-plus people). They now have a presence nationwide, including urban centres, and make use of the normal array of 'people's war' techniques.

Their position in villages is gained through a combination of persuasion and terror, with local circumstances throwing up willing manpower, particularly among the rootless young (long identified in all studies as a future source of trouble, if not incorporated into a more inclusive 'opportunity structure,' which Nepal, as an economic appendage of India, has been unable to provide). Most of the affected populace, as peasants (statistically 80 per cent of the whole), can make its peace with whatever force holds sway in an area. It is the 10 per cent (nationally) of the population that is rural gentry who are the targets of Maoist action and terror, and who have fled in increasing numbers (joined, also in rising numbers, by members of the peasantry who see continued presence in the hills as dangerous on all counts). Misguided security force repression often targets those who are identified as having assisted the Maoists, but such assistance, widespread though it is, stems principally from simply rendering unto Caesar he who in any area is Caesar.

The magnitude of the problem of security force indiscipline remains highly controversial, with the NGOs claiming it is rampant, while others are more impressed with the strides made rather than the errors committed. C2 remains a challenge of significant dimensions in an AO so topographically rugged and diverse. The country is divided into 3,913 villages, legally incorporated as Village Development Committees, when even South Vietnam had about 2,500. Hence, each hill valley (speaking of the main zones of conflict) becomes an isolated war, with the burden placed on a young, largely untested, junior leadership. Though security forces deny the worst charges, it is clear that the 'learning curve' experienced by all other nations forced into counterinsurgency will be much more difficult in a Nepal existing in an international fishbowl.

That any response by the state must be multifaceted, to include efforts at negotiation, is a truism that founders against the inner workings of the 'people's war'. To wit, no card game can be played when one side is using a marked deck. Interviews with prisoners, including both brigade and battalion level cadres, reveals a Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M) plan, briefed to key personnel in advance, to use the most recent rounds of several talks (which collapsed on August 27, 2003) not for negotiation but for tactical advantage. Conflict mediation, though it does incorporate an array of 'confidence building' steps, has yet to grapple the reality of a strategy that good-faith efforts at conflict resolution as an opportunity for consolidation of tactical advantages.

That the Maoists have infiltrated the present 'stir' by the political parties is beyond question, though hotly denied by them. The real issue is the extent of such penetration. Thus far, the united front campaign has not been as robust as one would expect, but in this, too, the Maoists have been completely logical. Prisoners disclose that the party's focus remains on armed action, and resource and manpower mobilization. Dominated areas are being turned into generators of combat power, particularly through forced draft of the young. "We will turn the schools into barracks, arm the young," observed one brigade-level cadre. "This is what Mao did."

Where the campaign to ape Mao has recently faltered is in its transition from 'hill tribe revolt' to ideologically driven insurgency. Cadres remain motivated far more by opposition than commitment to the Maoist dogma of the upper leadership (dominated by the 7-8 members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo); combatants even more so. It is the latter who have increasingly begun to question precisely what they have joined, and have thus been surrendering at a higher rate than previously. Particularly disturbing to some is the apparently random nature of terror inflicted, with the settlement of local scores emerging as a driver in the quest to eliminate 'spies.' Terror actions are carried out by sections (i.e. squads) and platoons that answer directly to the district-level cadres, with the main force battalions largely unaffected; but knowledge of savagery in the villages has begun to become more widespread within the movement, and this has had an impact on some.

Such local killing highlights a key analytical point: just how much control does the leadership exercise over the movement? Indicators are that the struggle continues to assert party discipline, but that the same challenges in C2 faced by the security forces are salient with the CPN(M). What is of most concern, then, is that the lack of adequate state presence in local areas cedes authority to the insurgent counter-state, as implemented by its minimally controlled cadres. These have made the use of violence in local affairs routine and pervasive, a reality few sources lay at the feet of the old-regime, prior to the declaration of people's war.

Hence, a turning point has been reached. On the one hand, the actual insurgency has reached the limits of its organizational capacity within the environment created by security force responses. This, however, is not altogether good news, because the dynamic of violent mobilization has taken root and will be difficult to eliminate, particularly given the commitment of some international forces to the prevention of stability operations, especially those which have a local defence component. Greater discipline within the security forces and a Government possessing greater legitimacy would go a long ways in addressing the conundrum. Yet this returns analysis to our beginning: In the absence of commitment, by the political parties, to a negotiated, ordered restoration of democracy, with security systematically restored to areas, there can be little save the present drift.



Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
February 2 - 8 , 2004

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &








Total (INDIA)





 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Portugal High Court orders deportation of Abu Salem to India: The Portugal High court has ordered the deportation of underworld don Abu Salem, a key accused in the 1993-Mumbai serial bomb blasts, to India. Official sources said that the Portuguese High Court had pronounced the order on February 3, 2004, and it had since been conveyed to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in India. Salem and his accomplice Monica Bedi have already been handed jail terms by Portuguese courts for entering the country on forged documents. Salem was sentenced to four-and-a-half years' imprisonment on three counts - entering Portugal on forged documents, causing injury to a policeman performing his duty and perjury. The two were arrested in the capital Lisbon on September 18, 2002. Central Chronicle, February 6, 2004.

Terrorist infrastructure still active in Pakistan, says Army Chief General N C Vij: Speaking in Kolkata on February 4, 2004, the Indian Army Chief General N.C. Vij expressed concern over the continuing presence of the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. The General said that even though India's peace overtures were on, Pakistan had not yet done anything to demolish the terrorist infrastructure. "Terrorists are still active in Pakistan and are communicating with other insurgent groups in Jammu and Kashmir. Our wireless intercepts show that militant groups are constantly communicating and chatting with each other across the border," he added. The General also said that though infiltration was down in Jammu and Kashmir as "it is always so during the winter months, it is likely to see a spurt during the summer, especially during May and June." Daily Excelsior, February 5, 2004.


President Musharraf pardons nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan: : President Pervez Musharraf has accepted the mercy petition of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, subsequent to the latter's admission of nuclear technology proliferation. "The hero admitted his guilt about proliferation. I have tried to shield him but one has to balance between shielding the hero and the country. Shielding a hero should not damage Pakistan. There is a very fine line between the two," Musharraf said at a news conference in Islamabad on February 5, 2004. The President, while stating that Dr Khan has finally accepted the guilt and mistakes, added that no coercion was employed on anybody who faced investigations, because there was documentary evidence available to show their involvement. Earlier, on February 4, Khan made a mercy petition to the President after admitting he had proliferated nuclear technology. After his meeting with President Musharraf, Dr. Khan read out a statement on Pakistan Television in which he offered his "deepest regrets" and "unqualified apology" to the nation for involvement in acts of proliferation. Dr. Khan also said that there was "never ever any kind of authorisation for these activities by any government official". Jang, February 6, 2004; Daily Times, February 5, 2004.


President Kumaratunga dissolves Parliament: President Chandrika Kumaratunga, involved in a power struggle with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, issued orders for the dissolution of the 225-member Parliament on February 7, 2004, paving the way for fresh general elections, to be held on April 2. The date for the new Parliament has been fixed as April 22, and nominations for elections will be received between February 17 and 24. Meanwhile, the Premier cancelled his scheduled official visit to Thailand following the dissolution. "I can't go to Thailand as a caretaker prime minister," he is reported to have said. The Hindu, February 8, 2004.


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.


South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

K. P. S. Gill

Dr. Ajai Sahni

To receive FREE advance copies of SAIR by email Subscribe.

Recommend South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) to a friend.





Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.