SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
after the Quake
Many in South Asia had hoped that the earthquake of October 8, 2005, which killed tens of thousands of people and affected millions on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) would put a halt, at least momentarily, to the terrorist campaign in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and allow for unhindered relief and rehabilitation operations. Some fantasists went so far as to see in this natural disaster a ‘window of opportunity’ for dramatic cooperation and an improvement of relations between India and Pakistan.
[The official death toll of the quake in J&K has been pegged at 1308, which includes 1206 civilians and 102 SF personnel. At least 6622 people are injured while 12 Army and 21 Border Roads Organisation personnel are still missing. While at least 40,000 people have died in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), 38,007 people have died so far in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan].
However, the terrorist campaign, evidently, recognizes no bounds and is not constrained by the humanitarian crisis in the wake of natural disasters. The assassination of J&K Minister of State for Education, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Lone, in the high security zone of Tulsibagh in capital Srinagar on October 18, 2005, is an indication that the Kashmir jihad will not be slowed down even by natural calamities. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) legislator, Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, escaped unhurt in a simultaneous assassination attempt at his house, approximately 300 yards from the Minister’s bungalow, though two security force (SF) personnel and a civilian were killed in these incidents. That terrorist groups would continue to maintain the now consistent and calibrated levels of violence is evident from the fact that, two days after the quake, 10 persons, belonging to four families, were killed by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) at Dhara and Gabbar in Rajouri district. At least 26 civilians, 18 SF personnel and 46 terrorists have died in terrorist-related violence between October 8 and October 23.
On the ground in J&K, the terrorists are also attempting to take advantage of the earthquake relief operations along the LoC. They carried out two unsuccessful infiltration attempts immediately after the quake in order to benefit from the disorder caused by the natural disaster. Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, stated, on October 16: "Militants have made about five infiltration attempts since the October 8 earthquake, including two on a single day. About 25-29 of them have been killed." With the SFs engaged in relief, rescue and rehabilitation efforts, the terrorists are scouting for soft targets and also attempting to push in as many infiltrators as possible. The timing is crucial, since winter is rapidly setting in and plans for subversion have to be in place before the mountain passes close. The quake may have rendered the terrorists’ task somewhat easier, since unconfirmed reports suggest that the porosity of the border has increased slightly, for instance in the Uri sector of Baramulla District near the LoC.
The assassination of Dr. Lone, reportedly carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), was intended to disrupt relief and rescue operations in the quake-hit Valley. It was also an attempt to bolster the ranks of the jihadis and mark their presence, especially after a significant loss of men and material in Pakistan and PoK. The challenge for the security establishment in J&K is now two-fold: maintaining their guard even as they struggle to complete relief and rehabilitation work before the onset of winter. The terrorists are expected to attempt to take advantage of this and negate the balance that the Forces are currently maintaining. To that end, there could be more high-profile incidents in the coming months, although the overall level of violence is not expected to see any drastic increase, primarily due to snow in the higher reaches and because of the cumulative impact of the earthquake.
While authoritative assessments are unavailable, a fair amount of damage is reported to have occurred to some terrorist training camps in Pakistan and PoK. According to sources, camps of groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), LeT, Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM), HM and Al-Badr, which were located within a radius of 10 kilometers from the epicenter of the quake in Muzaffarabad, have been damaged. A wireless intercept of the TuM indicated that one of the outfit’s building near Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, had been destroyed and some cadres were buried under it. The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) training centres at Balakot and Batrasi (NWFP), the JeM camp at Attock (Punjab province), Al-Badr’s at Oghi (NWFP), an LeT camp at Mansehra (NWFP) and an HM recruitment camp at Jungle-Mangal (PoK) have also been damaged.
Major General M. S. Balhara, General Officer Commanding Kilo Force in J&K, stated: "We have intercepted many messages of militants in North Kashmir and they all indicate that around 600-700 militants were killed in the quake. The control stations of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have been destroyed, too, across the Line of Control opposite Kupwara sector. The launching pads of militants have also been smashed by the quake." Balhara added that an LeT message intercepted at Shamshabari range revealed that the group had lost 200 cadres in one PoK camp. At a briefing by the Union Home Ministry in New Delhi on October 16, Director General of Military Operations, Lieutenant General Madan Gopal, stated that the Hizb and LeT had suffered major losses in their PoK camps. While the exact number of destroyed camps is yet to be ascertained, it is safe to assume that significant destruction would have occurred to the jehadi infrastructure since the whole city of Muzaffarabad has been flattened. Sources said that communication centres of the HM (near Muzaffarabad) and TuM were among those that suffered severe damage.
Nevertheless, the jihadis are currently regrouping with the prevalent atmosphere also offering them an opportunity to reinforce their support structures within PoK and in Pakistan, at the expense of the administration, which has come in for a great amount of flak for its delayed and ineffective response to the disaster. Groups that advocate radical Islam consider relief efforts and social aid to people who have been disregarded by the state as an important part of their strategy. According to Mohammed Shehzad, who has reported extensively from the earthquake-hit areas in Pakistan and PoK, "the civil administration was seen nowhere in Muzaffarabad. The Army was in the bulk but it was not helping the people… A number of lives could have been saved had the Army soldiers helped the civilians. But the Army took no such initiative. Its officers still wore the starched uniform and the shining shoes; puffed the imported cigars; and ate the rich meals (sic)." Damningly, Saeed Bokhari, a schoolteacher at Chalpani, a village ten kilometers away from Muzaffarabad, said, "the Army is showing preference for the relatives of soldiers in rescuing victims."
The state’s acts of commission and omission have reportedly sparked off enormous hostility against the Pakistan Army and the Musharraf regime. Indeed, it is this gathering animosity that has conferred legitimacy on the jihadi presence in the day-to-day chores of rescue and relief. Jamat-ud-Daawa, the parent organisation of the LeT, is reported to have diverted a considerable part of its network towards relief efforts. Among the other Islamist groups that have contributed to quake relief are the Karachi-based Al-Rashid Trust (ART), one of the 27 groups and organisations listed by the US State Department on September 22, 2001, for their involvement in financing and supporting a network of international Islamist terrorist groups; and the charity wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Musharraf regime’s vacillating and deficient response has led people to seek assistance from the jihadis. The JD, according to credible Pakistani reportage, has emerged as the most "effective relief agency that has built up an excellent rapport with the victims." In Muzaffarabad, JD activists, numbering around 350 and connected through wireless telephony, manage 16 ambulances, motorboats, mobile X-ray machines/operation theatres, and are feeding approximately 3,000 people daily, according to the Pakistan Media Monitor. It also has an orthopedic unit near Sangam Hotel in Muzaffarabad under the supervision of Dr. Amir Aziz, who was arrested in 2002 (subsequently released) for treating Osama bin Laden.
While relief efforts by groups such as the JD have provided much-needed succor, the inevitable gratitude of grief-stricken families will come in handy for the larger goals of the jihadis. There is some evidence already of the Islamist extremists recruiting for the jihad from amongst the quake-affected populace. The Pakistan Media Monitor quotes Mohammad Lateef, a 16-year-old resident of Moongbajri, a small village in Bagh District, as stating: "I would repay their help by joining them next summer and fighting the atrocious Indian Army".
More insidious is the hidden and potentially long-term impact of the natural disaster on the socio-political landscape of the region, which has for long been the epicentre of the Kashmir jihad. For instance, the quake has destroyed almost all the schools in PoK. District Bagh (100 km from Muzaffarabad) had 341 schools for a population of 500,000 while Muzaffarabad, capital of PoK, had 1,512 schools for a population of 900,000 people. Virtually all school buildings in these areas have been flattened out, and thousands of students face an uncertain future, especially with the Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz himself indicating that reconstruction and rehabilitation ‘would take decades’. The jihadi groups, within such a milieu, would find it far easier to bolster their ranks. According to Mohammad Amir Rana, there are more than 1,200 Madrassas (seminaries) in PoK being run by groups like the LeT, JeM, HM, Al-Badr, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Barq, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Jamaat-e-Islami (some of these, would, no doubt, also have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake). Further, the extremists are also propagating the view that the quake was the ‘punishment of God’ (Azab-e-Elahi) for abandoning the jihad.
And while the Government has banned adoption of quake-hit children, groups like the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and JD have announced, through mosque loudspeakers, banners and pamphlets, that they will adopt children orphaned by the earthquake. "The Jamatud Dawa has a huge complex at Misrial Road in Rawalpindi, by the name of Maaz bin Jabal. We will set up colonies in the complex where these children would be put up according to their age. Various ayahs (nursemaids) will raise them, ensuring motherly love," said Zafar Iqbal, head of the JD’s ‘education wing’. The JD has more grandiose plans of rehabilitation. It plans to provide ‘education’ to students whose schools have been destroyed by the quake. "We have a huge hostel in the Muridke Markaz that is spread on 170 acres. We will shift the affected students there to continue their studies. Moreover, we have 180 schools in Punjab. We hope to accommodate every affected student," Iqbal added.
With the state’s writ undermined by its ineffective responses to the earthquake, and with popular frustration and anger against the regime growing, the terrorist groups have easily occupied the space created by the humanitarian crisis, and have become more brazen about their activities. More significant, however, is Islamabad’s continuing ambivalence towards the jehadis. While President Musharraf told CNN on October 20 that banned religious groups would not be allowed to conduct relief efforts in the quake-stricken areas, the Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao, while acknowledging the role of Islamist groups, declared, they are "the lifeline of our rescue and relief work." General Musharraf has also stated that, "everyone is motivated to help the quake victims. I am not going to prevent anyone from helping the people."
While the quake has undoubtedly inflicted some damage on the jihadi infrastructure in Pakistan, the setback is expected to be momentary, and would be more than compensated by the emerging circumstances and by the accelerated replenishment rate of cadres. There is also an expectation of the renewal of state support after a modicum of stability is achieved on the relief and reconstruction front.
of a Peaceful Election
Compared to past standards of violence during elections in Bihar, the first phase of elections to the Legislative Assembly on October 18, 2005, was peaceful. This is the more significant since the 57 constituencies in which elections were held are spread across 12 Maoist (Naxalite) affected Districts in central and South Bihar. One person was killed amidst sporadic clashes during the elections.
Preliminary reports indicated that an estimated 43 per cent of the 1.23-crore electorate exercised their franchise. The Deputy Election Commissioner, Anand Kumar, stated that polling in the 12 Districts of Patna, Kaimur, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Bhojpur, Buxar, Gaya, Arwal, Jehanabad, Nawada, Jamui and Banka was largely peaceful. Bihar is to witness a four-phased polling (October 18 and 26; November 13 and 19) for a total of 243 seats, out of which at least 50 constituencies are regarded as being vulnerable to Maoist violence.
According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Bihar was the worst affected State in 2004, with Maoists active in 30 out of its 38 districts, and with 155 Left Wing extremist-related killings between January and November 30, 2004, up from 128 in 2003. A total of 72 people, including 21 civilians, 21 security force (SF) personnel and 30 Maoists, have died in year 2005, till September 30 [data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management]. In addition to their traditional stronghold Districts of Patna, Gaya, Aurangabad, Arwal, Jehanabad, Rohtas, Jamui, Bhojpur and Kaimur in South and Central Bihar – in the vicinity of the affected Districts of the neighbouring Jharkhand State – the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) is increasingly establishing its presence in the north Bihar Districts of West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Muzzaffarpur and Darbangha, abutting Maoist-affected areas in Nepal.
Before polling commenced on October 18, a CPI-ML activist, Musafir Paswan, was shot dead in the Warsaliganj constituency of Nawada District, considered to be highly-affected by Left Wing extremism. Incidentally, during the February 2005 Elections, 15 people, including 11 police personnel, had died on the first day of polling.
On September 18, the ‘Bihar-Jharkhand Special Area Committee’ of the CPI-Maoist had given a call to boycott the elections. In a two-page appeal, it stated that the People’s Guerrilla Army was ‘fully geared’ to enforce the boycott. The Maoists had followed up the boycott call with attacks on a railway station at Chakand in Gaya district during the night of September 26, and on the newly constructed Parasbigha Police Station in the Jehanabad district on September 28.
However, in some of the areas of Maoist dominance or presence, initial reports indicate that there was a high turnout of voters, thus suggesting a defiance of the Maoists’ diktat. For instance, at Imamganj, the ‘secretary’ of a Maoist sub-zonal committee had issued a statement asking people not to vote. In defiance, a large number of voters in the Latua, Kharar and Kothilwa villages, under Imamganj Assembly constituency, which is on the Bihar-Jharkhand border, are reported to have exercised their franchise. During the February 2005 elections, even SF personnel feared to reach these villages, dotting the ‘red belt’ of Gaya district. However, such defiance could prove costly, since the Maoists will, as in the past, retaliate, and this could mean anything from tonsure, lashes, chopping off nose and ears, or in extreme cases, even death.
The administration had taken various security-related decisions to ensure a free and fair election in Bihar, a State infamous for violence on polling day or otherwise. The Election Commission (EC) ordered the sealing of Bihar's borders with the neighbouring States of Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh in order to block the movement of Maoist cadres. The Maoists have always used the contiguous borders with these States to their advantage and the run-up to the current round of elections was no exception.
Prior to the first phase of polling, Indian Air Force (IAF) choppers patrolled the sky and approximately 90,000 security force personnel were deployed in the Maoist-affected region. The fact that security was given top priority was evident when Chief Electoral Officer N. K. Sinha told reporters in the State capital Patna that the EC had made it clear that polling, which is through Electronic Voting Machines, would not be held in booths where security was not provided. Officials of the Bihar Government reportedly claimed that all booths had been protected in the light of the EC's decision. The vast security network also reportedly included commandos on an aerial vigil aboard two M-18 choppers of the IAF, giving cover and assistance to the security forces’ deployed on the ground. The SFs, unlike earlier occasions, were also provided with anti-mine vehicles and mine detectors.
The EC also re-scheduled elections in four Assembly constituencies of Gaya district after reports of heightened Maoist activity. The four, Gaya town, Gaya Mofussil, Belaganj and Bodh Gaya, went to the polls on October 21 and security forces were deployed on a massive scale. Superintendent of Police Sunil Kumar Jha said that 65 companies of central para-military forces comprising over 6,000 personnel had been deployed at 1,005 polling stations in the four constituencies.
According to Sinha, 70 per cent of the polling stations would be covered by approximately 43,000 central paramilitary force personnel and the rest by the Bihar Military Police, District Armed Police and Home Guards. The central paramilitary forces had, in the run-up to the elections, undertaken an elaborate area domination exercise in Bihar. The Border Security Force (BSF) deployed 75 companies for area domination in 12 districts highly affected by Naxalite violence, from September 18, 2005. Since this deployment, BSF units arrested 114 miscreants, including Left Wing extremists, and seized 47 firearms and a large quantity of ammunition from their possession. Chief Secretary G.S. Kang released information in Patna on October 15 that, in the preceding three months, the police had seized 3,000 firearms and 10,000 cartridges, and unearthed over 100 illegal gun factories.
Under intense pressure from this drive, a majority of the State’s Maoist leadership is reported to have exited Bihar to relatively safer havens in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. That adjoining States would be crucial to the Maoist strategy of subversion was evident when the Jharkhand Police, on October 14, seized 11 powerful landmines, each weighing 30 kilograms, near the Baniadih forest in Chatra district, which is approximately six kilometers from the bordering district of Gaya in Bihar.
While the CPI-Maoist is not reported to have given a call to vote in favour of any particular party in the current elections, it is widely known that they do impress upon the electorate not to vote for ‘class enemies’ and in particular, parties which seek the support of private armies of the landlords, like the Ranvir Sena. The Ranvir Sena, an outlawed militia of upper caste landlords, has decided to support the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance in the current elections. It claims to enjoy support in many areas of the State, particularly among the influential Bhumihar, a land-owing upper caste. From Bhojpur District, where it was formed over a period of time, the Ranvir Sena has spread its tentacles to the Jehanabad, Patna, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Gaya, Bhabhua and Buxur Districts. It mobilises the landed gentry in these districts against the CPI-Maoist and other left-wing extremist groups.
The role of the Maoists in past elections has been ambivalent. While they have issued poll boycott calls and at times even forcefully imposed these, there have also been reports of tacit support being extended to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Bihar supremo and Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. Support of the lower castes and the subaltern classes has been critical for the politics of both the RJD and CPI-Maoist. To that extent, there is a commonality in the social base of both these forces and this is reflected in their mobilisation strategies and organisational structure.
More importantly, after the September 2004-merger of the People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) leading to the formation of the CPI-Maoist, the Maoist leadership is reported to have split on caste lines in the State. This could have an impact on the emerging political map of Bihar, at least from the point of view of elections and the ubiquitous caste dynamics. Though still dominated by the Yadavs, there is now a sprinkling of chieftains from the Dushadh and Harijan communities with a following of their own. Bhageran Paswan and Sitaram Ravidas have emerged as senior leaders from these communities. While the Yadavs enjoyed the support of these communities and that of the ‘Most Backward Class’ in the pre-merger era, now the major caste groups have their own leaders who prefer to vote according to the emerging caste dynamics.
There are reports that the Maoists have used the President’s rule period to consolidate their presence in Bihar, and this would go some way in explaining the relatively low-levels of violence over the past six months (fatalities total a moderate 28 over this period). This period was used for a deeper penetration into society, with Maoist leaders seeking to impress upon people that the democratic experiment has been a failure. The inability of political parties to offer a stable government after the fractured mandate of the February 2005 elections has inadvertently helped the Maoist cause in Bihar’s interior areas. Bihar Governor Buta Singh has already gone on record describing the Maoist problem as "quite alarming", and admitted in his August 15 speech that Maoist activities, especially at the Nepal border, had witnessed an increase.
The decrease in Maoist violence during the Assembly elections should not be viewed as a sign of weakening of the Maoists in the State. On the contrary, the Maoists have been discerning enough not to risk their armed cadres against a massive deployment of central paramilitary forces, who were on a high alert. Any operation against the security forces during this period would negate the principle element of Guerilla warfare: surprise. The massive deployment of security forces, however, disguises certain facts with regard to policing in the State. Posts of about 200 constables and 35 Sub-Inspectors are reportedly lying vacant in almost each district of Bihar. A violence-free election is definitely a feather in the cap of the administration, but it should not lead to a false sense of security.
Rebel guns have been silent for more than six weeks now. But whether this cease-fire would turn into a peace process forcing the Government to reciprocate remains an open question. Whatever may have provoked the Maoists to unilaterally declare a ceasefire with a pledge that they would not kill any civilian, nor would initiate offensive operations against the security forces well ahead of the Dussehera (a Hindu festival), it has certainly given some respite to common people. The Maoist cease-fire came into effect for three months from September 3, 2005.
The most plausible explanation is that, by unilaterally calling off their offensive just six days before King Gyanendra was to embark on a trip to the United Nations (UN) to solicit international support against ‘terrorism’, the rebels succeeded in disarming him quietly. The ceasefire also sent out a message that the Maoists were prepared to take any risk – but were a step ahead of the Government – in seeking a resolution to the conflict, preferably with UN mediation. The King cancelled his visit under a variety of embarrassing circumstances, including the striking off of his name from President Bush’s guest list, along with another seven dictators considered ‘enemies of democracy’ by the West. Within Nepal, the Maoists were trying to convince democratic forces that the King could not be trusted any more to remain ‘totally constitutional’ within the framework of the present constitution, and that it was, consequently, high time that the political parties and the Maoists came together to have a new constitution drafted through an elected Constituent Assembly.
As a follow-up to the ceasefire, the seven pro-democracy political parties authorised their two top leaders – G.P. Koirala , President of the Nepali Congress (NC) and Madhav Kumar Nepal, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) to hold dialogue with the Maoists in an effort to bring them into the political mainstream, and with a strict proviso that they would abjure violence. The Maoist ‘ideologue’, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has already acknowledged, albeit indirectly, that, since both Nepal’s southern and northern neighbours – China and India – have refused to recognise or support their movement as an acceptable way of bringing about political and associated changes, and as even the citizens do not appear supportive, joining hands with pro-democracy political parties for a ‘democratic republican Nepal’ is the tactical option for now.
It is, however, equally clear that a ‘republican’ Nepal is not something that the King will willingly concede. For that, the political parties and the Maoists would need a sustained, decisive and peaceful campaign, but the crowds on the streets over the past eight months since the ‘King’s coup’ on February 1, 2005, do not indicate that the kind or scale of mass support needed would, in fact, be readily available. The political parties are also counting more on the international support – mainly from democratic countries including the US, UK, the European Union (EU) and India, besides the UN, which has been asking the King to seek conciliation with the political parties.
The King has, however, done nothing to conceal his contempt for the political parties, dismissing them as corrupt and incompetent. Nevertheless, he did take cognizance of international pressure when he announced that elections to the House of Representatives would be held by mid-April 2007, fully restoring the present Constitution. The King’s announcement implies that he is no longer rigid about ruling the country for three years, as announced on Feb 1, 2005, in his ‘takeover’ speech. Secondly, by asking the international community to contribute to the successful and fair conduct of elections, he has clearly acknowledged that there could not be real democracy restored in the country without the people being able to elect their own Government. The King’s move also leaves the international community with a Hobson’s choice – to support the move for the restoration of democracy through elections under the King’s aegis, or let political parties ‘work together with the Maoists, who most of you have called terrorists’. So far, British Ambassador Keith Bloomfield has raised doubts over the possibility of holding elections within the current conflict scenario. As he expressed it, peace is what Nepal needs first.
This has no doubt left the pro-democracy international community in dilemma – but that is not their predicament alone. The Maoists are equally confused. Party supremo Prachanda and key ideologue Bhattarai remain divided on the issue of capturing state power through ‘armed struggle’, or to seek power through an alliance with the democratic parties in deference to the realities of the 21st century. For the time being, it seems that Bhattarai’s line has prevailed, but their new found allies at home and the international community are cautiously watching whether the insurgents can be trusted.
The evidence is ambivalent. Violence levels have dropped, of course, and the Maoists have remained true to their word on the ceasefire. Nevertheless, even during the first one month of the unilateral truce, they have abducted nearly four hundred people from different parts of the country, and they were released after varied period of ‘indoctrination’. The Maoists’ extortion spree continues, and the security forces fear that the ‘terrorists’ are exploiting the so-called ceasefire to make a safe move to Kathmandu. According to a senior Army source, "the Royal Nepal Army certainly contemplated reciprocating the ceasefire, but we had strong indications that it was only tactical". Dr Tulsi Giri, Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers, noted further, "Why would the Government need to reciprocate? This ceasefire agreement is between the Maoists and the political parties." Dr. Giri also made it clear that the Government would ‘welcome’ G.P. Koirala’s efforts to bring peace through negotiation with the Maoists, adding sarcastically, "We will give him the full credit and he will be a national hero. Many pro-dialogue forces tend to side with the Government on this count. Can peace be achieved without a party to the conflict – the Government – being asked to join the peace process?
Nepal’s politics evidently remain suspended at a crossroads, with no clear indication that some direction will easily be recovered. An EU delegation (October 4-6), led by Tom Phillips, Director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, warned that the state was on the verge of collapse, and suggested that conciliation was the only option. The King’s announcement of elections followed shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, acceptance of international advice has been grudging and partial, and the King is still refusing to open a dialogue process with the political parties.
The Maoists, on the other hand, hope that even if their tactical ‘partnership’ with the political parties does not work in their favour, the collapse of the state or the current system would still ensue. But a Maoist success remains uncertain. That is why they have, through their ceasefire declaration, sought UN mediation. The Nepali assessment, however, is that India would remain an obstacle to any move for UN or international mediation.
A group of leaders from Nepal’s main political parties, along with General Vivek Shah, former Military Secretary to the King, is currently in the US on the invitation of the Atlanta-based Carter Center at a meeting that would, among other things, explore the ‘outside’ role in the resolution of Nepal’s conflict. It must be clear, however, that outside forces can, at best, only facilitate processes, it is the internal actors who will have to move closer. Unfortunately, a willingness to do so is not visible. Of course, it would be a positive and successful move on the part of the political parties if they are able to encourage the Maoists to extend their ‘ceasefire’ beyond the originally announced three months, ending on December 3, 2005, thus increasing the pressure on the Government to reciprocate. If they fail, however, and the Maoists call of their ceasefire, this would force them to negotiate with the King from a position of increasing disadvantage, and to struggle to find the means to create a conducive atmosphere for holding the promised elections.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 17-23, 2005
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Government proscribes Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami: The Government, on October 17, 2005 proscribed the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI), branding it a 'self-confessed terrorist outfit'. A Home Ministry statement to this effect said, "Based on the existing information, the Bangladesh Government has banned Harkatul Jihad Al Islami." It added, "Harkatul Jihad Al Islamic is a self-confessed terrorist outfit. Its activities are very sensitive and it is identified as a terrorist outfit." The Daily Star, October 18, 2005.
Minister of State for Education assassinated in Jammu and Kashmir: A terrorist assassinated the Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Education, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Lone, while Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) legislator, Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, escaped unhurt in a similar attempt in the high-security Tulsibagh area of capital Srinagar on October 18, 2005. Two security force (SF) personnel and a civilian were also killed in the incidents, for which the Islamic Front and Al-Mansooran have claimed responsibility. Two terrorists, believed to be a suicide squad, intruded into the colony, where the houses of Ministers and Legislators are located. One of the terrorists entered Dr. Lone's house and fired at the SF guard, Sonu Prakash, killing him on the spot. He subsequently entered the room of the Minister and opened fire, killing Dr. Lone and two civilians. Simultaneously, the other terrorist attacked Tarigami's residence, approximately 300 yards from the Minister's bungalow, after he was denied entry. On being challenged by the SFs, the terrorist hurled a grenade and fired indiscriminately, killing one of the SF personnel, identified as Abdur Rasheed. However, the other SF person managed to kill the terrorist in retaliatory action. Daily Excelsior, October 19, 2005.
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