SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
The appellation ‘failed’ or ‘failing state’ has vociferously been rejected by Pakistanis for years now, but it is amply clear, after what some have described as General Pervez Musharraf’s ‘second coup’ on November 3, 2007, that Pakistan is little more than a thuggery, where the Supreme Court can simply be overrun by troops and its Chief Justice dismissed with less ceremony than would attend the sacking of a peon in a civilized country.
Those who express shock at these developments have apparently forgotten that this is precisely what Musharraf did in 1999, when his troops overran the residence of an elected Prime Minister, and secured his dismissal and eventual exile with comparable lack of ceremony.
At that time, his actions attracted sharp censure and sanctions from across the world – but 9/11 and the marriage of convenience with the Bush Administration obviously changed all that. While some pro forma regrets have certainly been expressed, it is clear that, as far as the main thrust of international responses is concerned, it is to be business as usual with the Musharraf regime. Of course, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has made some appropriate noises to the effect that the US "does not support extra-constitutional measures", but this militates against the history of US foreign policy and particularly the policies of the current Administration. In any event, the impact of any condemnatory statements was quickly diluted by reassurances from the Pentagon that it had no plans to cut military assistance – the bulk of US aid – to Pakistan. It is significant that the US Central Command Chief, Admiral William Fallon, was in Islamabad at the time of the declaration of the Emergency. The cumulative thrust of US postures suggests that there is clear prior or subsequent US approval of Musharraf’s latest initiative.
Interestingly, India has declared the Emergency an ‘internal problem of Pakistan’ and expressed the pious hope that "conditions of normalcy" (whatever these may be in Pakistan), "will soon return". ‘Regret’ and ‘grave concern’ has also been variously expressed by other world leaders – but nothing that would trouble Musharraf on the international front has been, or is expected to be, initiated.
For all his rhetoric about the threat of terrorism and extremism – and the embarrassment these had caused him personally, as well as his Government – this coup was principally directed against the judiciary and was uniquely intended to thwart the possible adverse Supreme Court decision on his controversial ‘re-election’ to the post of President while he continued to hold the office of Chief of Army Staff. This, as Hussain Haqqani notes, is crucial: "In the past… generals have suspended the Constitution to remove from power unpopular rulers, usually weakened civilians. This is the first time an unpopular military ruler has suspended the Constitution to save his position."
However, the marginal augmentation of power that Musharraf may believe he secures through this extreme measure, will be more than offset by the progressive crystallization of his regime as the target of all opposition – both violent and non-violent. It is, of course, unrealistic to expect the emasculated political parties – particularly Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) – to put up much resistance. But street protests, led by lawyers, have the potential to snowball into something much bigger (as they did in Karachi in May 2007). Nevertheless, while the democratic opposition may easily be intimidated or even quelled by extreme force – though not without domestic and international political consequences – the violent opposition by the Islamist extremists can be relied upon to escalate continuously. The Emergency is already being projected by the radical constituency as an effort "to remove any remaining obstacles to the prosecution of the US-led 'war on terror' in the region" and to clear the grounds for a dramatic intensification of the campaigns against the Islamist radicals in Pakistan.
It is evident that only an all-out campaign against the Islamists, particularly in the progressively Taliban-al Qaeda-dominated North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), is the only possible justification Musharraf can offer over the coming months, to keep both his domestic and international constituencies at bay. And it is clear that such a campaign will secure complete US support – if it has not already been presented to and approved by the Bush Administration. What is in question, however, is the nature of such a campaign, and the Pakistan Armed Forces’ capacities to sustain it over an extended period of time. There are widespread reports of demoralisation, desertions and the refusal by ‘outside’ (particularly Punjabi) regiments of the Army to serve in Waziristan and the NWFP, and a number of surrenders by Government forces – Army, Police and Paramilitary – to small Taliban contingents, which indicate a growing unwillingness, ideological conflict and ethnic polarisation within the Forces in their operations against the Islamists. On November 1, 2007, the Taliban paraded 50 ‘captured’ paramilitary troops in the Swat Valley. Again, on November 3, the militants confirmed that another more than 100 Security Forces personnel had been ‘captured’ in the same area. On November 4, the militants in South Waziristan freed 211 soldiers, including a Lieutenant Colonel and a Major – who had been ‘captured’ without firing a shot on August 30 – in an exchange deal against the release of 28 militants from Government custody. Most of these ‘captures’ are, in fact, desertions or willing surrenders, with not a shot exchanged, and Musharraf is reported to have castigated the soldiers who were captured in the August 30 incident as having "acted unprofessionally". Unconfirmed Indian intelligence sources claim that Pakistan Army communications’ chatter indicates 160 cases of desertion by soldiers – principally in the NWFP and FATA – in just five days between October 11 and October 16. Military operations against the Taliban-al Qaeda forces in NWFP and FATA have inflicted high costs on the Government troops, with a low kill ratio of 1:1.37. The Pakistan Army does, of course, retain enormous power to inflict harm on the country’s population, but its monopoly on such power has been lost, and its capacities are now challenged by jihadi contenders seeking a wider space in Pakistan’s disordered political structure. Clearly, any intensification of the military campaigns against the Islamists in Pakistan will push the Army to the knife-edge, pitting traditional loyalties and religious fervour against an ebbing professionalism, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the Army and, indeed, the entire existing power structure in the country.
The residual option, consequently, would be the dilution of ground troop operations and an increasing use of Air Power and, consequently and necessarily, a more indiscriminate campaign with potentially massive ‘collateral damage’ on patterns characteristic of US ‘counter-terrorism’ campaigns. It is significant, within this context, that Pakistan has acquired or is in the process of acquiring a range of hi-tech ‘smart’ bombs and missiles from the US, with laser guidance systems and backed by night-vision cameras and laser designators that would enable pilots to strike at purported ‘terrorist’ concentrations with or without friendly ground troops in a target area. It has, for some time now, been evident that these weapon systems have been supplied to Pakistan for use in ‘counter-terrorism missions’. Given the spread and magnitude of the Islamist insurgencies in NWFP and FATA, however, an aerial campaign, in order to effectively quell extremist capacities, would have to be nothing less than genocidal. And while Musharraf has given fair warning of his intentions – declaring, "do not expect the same level of civil liberties and human rights…" – there will be natural limits to the scale of devastation he will be permitted to inflict on his own people, even under the cover of blanket censorship and repressive measures against the media. In any event, the Islamists have developed their own channels of information dissemination, and what happens in the NWFP and FATA will not long remain secret.
In effect, Musharraf gains little – beyond his personal continuance in power – by the declaration of the Emergency. It is a move, moreover, that will take the processes of institutional decay and disintegration further forward in Pakistan. The Musharraf dictatorship has already infinitely weakened Pakistan over the past eight years, and the extreme measures that have now been adopted will augment centrifugal forces in the country, even as they destroy the possibilities of any alternative – and particularly democratic – leadership emerging.
Pakistan’s future remains wedded to chaos, and it must be clear that the unqualified support, on ludicrous ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) logic, that is currently being extended to the military regime in the country will become progressively unsustainable. It cannot remain sufficient for the ‘international community’ – and particularly the US and neighbours such as India – simply to make the right noises, but continue with policies on Islamabad unchanged. A course correction will eventually be forced by events, but would best be initiated before the necessity becomes overwhelming, and the options further circumscribed.
With the killing of S.P. Thamilchelvan, the leader of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the de facto number two of the organisation, Colombo has clearly declared its intent to initiate the decisive confrontation with the rebels which has been inevitable since the Sri Lanka Army’s (SLA’s) successes in the Eastern province through July 2007. That it was the clear intent of the Mahinda Rajapakse Government to consolidate its hold on the East, and then move compellingly against the North had been abundantly clear over the past months. If any doubts remained, they would be cleared by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake’s declaration, after the strike that neutralised Thamilchelvan, that "Our security forces are targeting the (LTTE) hiding places and safe houses… They will not stop the relentless pursuit of terrorists." The Prime Minister also made it clear that the Government was not willing to enter into another cease-fire with the LTTE at the present stage, though a formal offer of ‘unconditional talks’ was made. The rebels can hardly be expected to take kindly to such an offer under the present circumstances, and the LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, while mourning Thamilchelvan’s demise, reaffirmed that the rebels would "continue to travel on our path towards the goal with renewed determination." Sri Lankan analyst D.B.S. Jeyaraj notes, "He was very close to the LTTE leader. His demise may bring about a hardening of attitude in the LTTE hierarchy." The pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance has already threatened, "Although his death is destined to create thousands of new Thamilchelvans who will doubtless serve our freedom struggle with dedication, we shudder at the repercussions for peace of this act by the Sri Lanka Government."
Thamilchelvan was killed in a Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) air strike at Thiruvaiaru, a location three kilometres South of Kilinochchi, at around 6am on November 2. Simultaneously the fighter jets also pounded a Black Tiger camp in the East of Iranamadu. Five other LTTE leaders, ‘Lieutenant Colonel’ Anpumani alias Alex, ‘Major’ Mihuthan, ‘Major’ Nethagy, ‘Lieutenant’ Adchgivel and ‘Lieutenant’ Vahakai Kumaran were also killed in the air strike. Defence sources claimed that Alex was the chief of LTTE’s "strategic communication division" and in charge of handling all communication activities between its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and the other "international terrorist agents" and the targeted location was an international communications centre and a centre for logistics, arms procurement, fund raising and operational matters.
The LTTE Peace Secretariat had already confirmed these losses shortly before the SLAF confirmation. Thamilchelvan was also posthumously promoted to the self-styled rank of ‘Brigadier’ - the first occasion the outfit has promoted one of its leaders to this rank. Prabhakaran also appointed P. Nadesan, a Sri Lankan police defector who joined the Tigers and later became a member of the Tiger peace negotiating team, currently in charge of Tamil Eelam Police, as the new Political Head. Prabhakaran also accused the "Sinhala nation" of having "killed our dove of peace". It is useful, in this context, to review the career of the LTTE’s ‘dove’. Thamilchelvan was the outfit’s main interlocutor at the last round of peace talks with the Sri Lankan Government in October 2006 and had emerged as the international face of the separatist group. However, the "terrorist turned political head" (as described the Media Centre for National Security, MCNS) lacked the negotiating skills of his predecessor, Anton Balasingham (who died of cancer on December 14, 2006) and was widely thought to have failed as an interlocutor. Lakshman Kadirgamar, the late Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka (who was assassinated by the LTTE on August 12, 2005) once remarked, "Balasingham was the moderate of the lot. Those who have emerged now are the hardliners." Remarkably, in an interview with Associated Press in July 2007, Thamilchelvan had said, "(We will) weaken the military capacity of the Government of Sri Lanka, which will invariably end up hitting economic targets as well," – a statement that would be difficult to associate with a ‘peace interlocutor’. Thamilchelvan played a pivotal role in a number of attacks on members of the security forces in the recent past, including the assaults on Kilaly, Muhamalai and Nagarkovil Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) in August 2006. According to the MCNS his military experience commenced with deadly attacks on the Jaffna-based Indian Peace Keeping Force and Security Forces in 1985, a few months after he joined the LTTE. He had emerged as Prabhakaran’s most trusted aide and was his personal bodyguard during Prabhakaran’s visit to India in 1984, His killing is a body blow for the LTTE’s strategic plans. Thamilchelvan's closeness to the Tiger leader also helped him to rise in the rebel hierarchy. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he held various command positions in the strategically-important Jaffna region. Many accuse him of leading a group carrying out assassinations in that area at the time. Thamilchelvan was the highest-ranking member of the LTTE to be killed by SFs since the emergence of violence in the island nation in 1983.
It is significant that the attack that neutralised Thamilchelvan was only the second major strike to have been directed against Kilinochchi since the resumption of hostilities in July 2006. Colombo had tended to keep Kilinochchi outside the scope of its military operations because of the location of the LTTE’s political headquarters there, and the concentration of civilian populations in close proximity to the rebels administrative infrastructure. This had conferred a measure of immunity and freedom of operation on the LTTE leadership. However, an estimated 69 LTTE cadres were confirmed killed following two separate aerial and artillery attacks at Chempankundu in the Pooneryn area of Kilinochchi District on September 25 while a rehearsal of an LTTE ‘Passing out Parade’ was in progress. Following specific intelligence, Air Force fighter craft had struck the target around noon. At about 4.30 pm the same evening, a volume of heavy artillery fire directed by ground troops of the Army caused further losses, preventing the outfit from proceeding with the event any further. Reports suggested that several LTTE leaders were in attendance on the occasion.
The SLAF had, in fact, been carrying out regular attacks on targeted LTTE locations in the Northern sector ever since its military victory in the East, where aerial attacks had preceded the final ground offensive. A comparative escalation can now be expected across the North. Thus, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated, after the November 2 attack on Kilinochchi, "This is just a message that we know where their leaders are. I know the locations of all the leaders, that if we want we can take them one by one, so they must change their hideouts… When the time comes only, we take them one by one."
There has been a continuous escalation of violence between the Security Forces and the LTTE since the election of Mahinda Rajapakse as President in November 2005. The military offensive in July 2006 inflicted heavy losses on the LTTE, forcing the rebels into flight from their erstwhile Eastern strongholds, and wreaking considerable damages in rebel capacities in the Jaffna and Wanni sectors. As of October 31, according to the data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, 4,082 LTTE cadres and 1,042 SFs have been killed, in addition to 1,066 civilians, in a total of 6,190 fatalities, since July 2006.
With the depleted Tigers yet to be defeated finally, the Government appears determined to carry forward its offensive operations, rejecting any temptation to re-engage in an illusory ‘peace process’. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had made Colombo’s perspectives abundantly clear on October 28, 2007, in the aftermath of the October 22 LTTE aerial and artillery attack on Anuradhapura Air Base, declaring that terrorism would be wiped out militarily as it was clearly evident that the LTTE was never in search of a politically negotiated peaceful solution to the ethnic crisis. He added, further, "Despite the diverse interpretations of our successes and our failures, we are far more superior than (sic) the LTTE. This is what we had overlooked in the past and the battle was dragging on. However, we observe now that we have broken the spine of the LTTE. We have seized much of their arms and ammunition and killed many of their cadres. They are being defeated even in the Vanni. As never in the past, we have chased after many LTTE floating weapons ships and completely destroyed them in the deep seas. We are convinced that the LTTE is now weakened." He articulated the Government’s determination, moreover, not to "pass this ethnic problem to the next generation."
Colombo is clearly readying for a final showdown, and the LTTE has limited capacities to resist the state’s armed forces in positional warfare. Inevitably, its stealth and terrorist strikes against state and civilian targets in the Sinhala heartland will escalate, and this will bring extraordinary economic pressures to bear on the Government. Whether this will suffice, this time around, to thwart a tremendously augmented Sri Lanka Army and Colombo’s triumphal mood, remains to be seen.
In the ongoing battles to win the ‘war’ between the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the security forces in Northeast India’s Assam State, the Government seems to have registered a distinct advantage. There is a growing impression that the ULFA — among the region’s most potent insurgent groups — has been hit by a possible ‘conflict fatigue’, resulting in its cadres surrendering to the authorities by the dozens. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has disclosed that between September 24, 2006 — when a temporary truce between the authorities and the ULFA ended — and October 31, 2007, a total of 655 ULFA militants have surrendered to the authorities across the State.
The latest mass surrender took place on November 1, 2007, when 64 ULFA militants, including Ujjwal Gohain, ‘finance secretary’ of the group’s crack Myanmar-headquartered fighting unit called the ‘28th battalion’, gave up before Police, Army and civil administration officials at an Assam Police base in Guwahati. A week earlier, on October 23, 2007, 31 ULFA rebels had surrendered in a function at an Army brigade headquarters near Guwahati. Fourteen militants each from the ULFA had surrendered on two earlier occasions — at the Army’s 2nd Mountain Division headquarters in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh District on October 29, 2007, and before the Assam Police in Guwahati on September 6, 2007.
The ULFA may prefer to dismiss these surrenders as nothing but ‘dramas’ stage managed by the Government, but the rebel group cannot ignore the fact that it is fast losing its cadre strength. In addition to the surrenders, quite a large number of ULFA militants have either been killed by security forces or arrested. In just a year, starting September 2006, in the three eastern Districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar, under the jurisdiction of the 2nd Mountain Division (and not in the whole of Assam), Army troopers on the ULFA trail killed 51 militants from the group and captured 95 others. The police and the paramilitary have also neutralized a number of ULFA militants in independent operations. It must be noted that more than 90 per cent of the militants neutralized over this period belong to the ‘28th battalion,’ which has staging areas across the international border in Myanmar, according to Army sources.
"You must take note of the fact that ULFA rebels are surrendering despite the peace efforts breaking down," Chief Minister Gogoi told this writer. The Government is evidently suggesting that the ULFA rank-and-file are tiring out with no end in sight to the insurrection for an independent homeland that is already 28 year old. Strategists within the Government and its security agencies would like to believe that the ULFA is cracking up because the authorities have given out enough indications that they are not in any hurry to resume the peace process with the rebel group. Fresh appeals to the Government by groups and individuals known to be pro-ULFA have, so far, been ignored both by the central and the State governments. Peace efforts, which began in September 2005 with the ULFA appointing an 11-member negotiation panel called the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), broke down a year later, after three rounds of talks, with both sides putting up conditions and counter-conditions.
A complex of factors is believed to have triggered the present spate of surrenders, including:
The cumulative reverses faced by the ULFA are expected to impact on the organization in a number of ways. Security agencies are of the opinion that the rebel group has already been ‘outsourcing’ risky jobs like planting explosive devices to prevent its cadres from being killed or captured. The group could also be forced to recruit cadres who may not be ideologically motivated to be a part of its operations, and who may, consequently, quit at any time. Moreover, reports of surrenders at regular intervals have the potential to give out signals that could make even the ULFA’s unflinching over-ground supporters lose faith in the organization, and force the leadership to engage in a measure of introspection.
In any analysis of the ULFA’s strengths and weaknesses, it is important to arrive at a figure of the number of cadres in the group. Some reports, quoting Army sources, had put the number of ULFA rebels at 3,000 at one stage, while others reports have put the number at anything between 4,000 and 6,000. By contrast, however, official Assam Police figures (obtained by former State Home Commissioner T.L. Baruah under the Right to Information Act) claim that between 1998 and 2005, a total of 3,324 ULFA militants had surrendered to the authorities. Adding to these the number of ULFA militants who surrendered between September 2006 and October 31, 2007 (655, as stated by the Chief Minister), the total comes close to 4,000. In this simple arithmetic, militants who may have surrendered between January and September 2006 have not been taken into account, nor have the numbers of militant captured been included. Further, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal database, a total of 1,950 militants were killed over the 1998-2007 period (till October 31, 2007), a large majority of them belonging to the ULFA. Clearly, with a constantly shrinking recruitment base, this scale of attritional losses will bring unbearable pressure to bear on the organization and its capacities to sustain the insurgency.
Evidently, the ULFA will have to orchestrate some ‘drama’ of its own if it is to survive. The probabilities of high intensity strikes, even if these involve ‘stealth bombings’ on soft targets to demonstrate its strike potential, would, consequently, increase in the proximate future. There may also be a vigorous demand for resumption of the peace process by certain groups across Assam. There is an obvious uncertainty regarding what will follow, though it is clear that the continuing reverses do not spell a necessary beginning of the end for the ULFA insurgency in Assam. That is principally because the issues behind the rise of the ULFA, ever since its formation on April 7, 1979, still remain to be tackled. And the group’s slogan of the ‘political’ and ‘economic’ independence of Assam can only be met or addressed politically. Had a purely military solution been possible, the ULFA militancy should have been dead and gone after 17 years of a sustained counter-insurgency offensive under a Unified Headquarters of the Army, Police and Paramilitary Forces. Nevertheless, the Government now appears to be in a position of dominance, and it remains to be seen if this can be translated into a final resolution of the problem, or will prove to be just one of the transient dips in the trajectory of insurgency in the State.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 29-November 4, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Former State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman Babar, sentenced to 17 years imprisonment: The Metropolitan Special Tribunal-9 in Dhaka on October 30 sentenced the detained former State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman Babar, to 17 years' rigorous imprisonment (RI) for possessing illegal firearms and ammunition at his residence in capital Dhaka. Babar was convicted for keeping an unlicensed revolver and 25 bullets of a .32 bore rifle in his possession. The Court awarded 10 years' RI for possessing illegal firearms under Section 19(A) of the Arms Act, and seven years' RI for possessing ammunition under Section 19 (F) of the same Act. In his observations, the judge said the accused, who held the portfolio of State Minister for Home and was also a lawmaker, violated the law by keeping an unlicensed revolver and 25 bullets in his possession and control. The defence lawyers said they would file an appeal with the higher court after getting a copy of the judgement. Daily Star, October 31, 2007.
11 policemen killed in Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh: 100 cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), on November 2, ambushed a Police party near Pamedu Police Station of Bijapur District and killed 11 policemen, including six Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel. The Maoists first triggered a landmine explosion and then indiscriminately fired on the policemen, killing 16 of them. However, five injured policemen managed to escape and reported the ambush at the Pamedu Police Station. The incident occurred when the Police party was on its way to receive a team of department officials coming from Gollapalli with money drawn for salary disbursement. While 16 police personnel were initially suspected to have been killed, only 11 dead bodies were recovered from the site. Subsequently, five policemen returned to police station. The Hindu, November 3 & 5, 2007.
Previously, on October 29, five Special Police Officers (SPOs) were killed and three seriously injured when around 250-300 CPI-Maoist cadres surrounded a Police party near Pamulavayi village in Bijapur District and opened indiscriminate fire. A Police team including 16 SPOs and four constables was on its way to Gangaloor, when they came under attack. Police sources said that the attack was well-planned, as the rebels opened fire from all corners, not allowing the Police party to retaliate. The Maoists also decamped with some weapons recovered from the Police party. The Hindu, October 30, 2007.
State of emergency promulgated in Pakistan: President Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of Emergency in the country and promulgated a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) holding the Constitution in abeyance on November 3. The Order also removed the Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and imposed stringent curbs on the media. An official statement without using the word 'President' for Musharraf said, "Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf has imposed a state of Emergency in the country and issued a Provisional Constitutional Order." While the Constitution was kept under abeyance, the Senate, National Assembly and the Assemblies of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan were not suspended. The local Governments would also continue to work. The proclamation of the Emergency order reportedly cited "increasing interference by some members of judiciary" and increasing terrorist attacks as reasons behind the step.
Following the imposition of the Emergency, a nationwide crackdown on lawyers, politicians and civil society activists continued. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on November 4 said that up to 500 people had been detained since November 3. PML-Nawaz spokesman Ahsan Iqbal, however, said that over 1,200 people had been detained. Among the arrested were former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Munir A. Malik, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Acting President Javed Hashmi, former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Hameed Gul, Sindh High Court Bar Association President Abrar Hassan and lawyer Ali Ahmad Kurd. Sources in the judiciary disclosed that 14 Supreme Court (SC) judges, who refused to take oath under the PCO have been detained at their residences. A senior lawyer claimed that security personnel surrounded the houses of all such judges. Their telephone landlines and mobile phones had also been blocked. The sacked Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, reportedly had no access to newspapers or television.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said, on November 4, that the Government was committed to holding general elections. He added, however, that "there could be some timing difference on the election schedule but we have not decided yet." The Prime Minister said no decision had yet been made on whether Parliament will extend its tenure, due to end on November 15. "We are still deliberating. In an emergency the parliament could give itself one year," Aziz added. Separately, Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem said, "Elections will be held but the dates may be adjusted because of emergency rule in the country. Nothing is certain at the moment." Daily Times, November 4 & 5, 2007.
70 militants killed in NWFP: Fierce clashes ensued in the night of October 31, between militants and the security forces at Khwazakhela town in the Swat District of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), with conflicting reports about casualties. The NWFP Home Secretary, Badshah Gul Wazir, put the number of casualties at 60-70, all militants, while the Taliban spokesman claimed that only one of their colleagues and seven civilians, including two women, were killed. There were, however, some independent reports of the killing of 56 people, including 41 militants and 11 SF personnel, and injuries to some 26 persons. According to some reports, a Frontier Corps (FC) camp also came under the Taliban siege, but the Home Secretary rejected these accounts. Sirajuddin, the spokesman and military commander of Maulana Fazlullah, claimed that they had taken at least 70 paramilitary soldiers and two foreigners hostage. The News, November 2, 2007.
LTTE political wing leader Thamilchelvan killed in air raid in Kilinochchi: S. P. Thamilchelvan, the political wing leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its de facto number two, was killed in a Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) air strike at dawn on November 2. The SLAF MiG 27 and Kfir fighter jets conducted precision raids in the south of Kilinochchi, resulting in the death of 40-year-old Thamilchelvan and five other outfit leaders. The SLAF spokesman, Group Captain Ajantha Silva, confirmed that operations were carried out in Thiruvaiaru, a location three kilometres South of Kilinochchi around 6 a.m., following receipt of 'very reliable information', identifying the location as a meeting place of LTTE leaders. "Our pilots had taken a precise target and it was further confirmed with the LTTE admitting that Thamilchelvan was killed in the air strike," Silva said, adding, "Simultaneously the fighter jets also pounded a Black Tiger camp in the East of Iranamadu." Five other leaders 'Lt. Col.' Anpumani alias Alex, 'Major' Mihuthan, 'Major' Nethagy, 'Lieutenant' Adchgivel and 'Lieutenant' Vahakai Kumaran were also killed in the air strike. Their meeting place has now been confirmed as an international communications centre run by 'Lt. Col.' Alex. It was also a centre for logistics, arms procurement, fund raising and operational matters.
The LTTE posthumously promoted Thamilchelvan to the self styled rank of 'Brigadier' after his death. It has also declared three days of mourning in areas they dominate. The LTTE chief Prabhakaran also appointed P. Nadesan as the new Political Head. The LTTE's military spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan said that Nadesan, who is currently in charge of Tamil Eelam Police, will be in charge of both departments from now on.
Separately, welcoming the news of Thamilchelvan’s death, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the military would target the rest of the outfit's leaders. "This is just a message that we know where their leaders are. I know the locations of all the leaders, that if we want we can take them one by one, so they must change their hideouts." "When the time comes only, we take them one by one", he added. Daily News, November 3, 2007.
Colonel Karuna arrested in London: Leader of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal (TMVP), the political wing of the breakaway faction of the LTTE, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias 'Colonel' Karuna was arrested in London in the morning of November 2, following a joint operation between the newly-created Border and Immigration Agency and the Metropolitan Police in London. He was arrested for travelling on a forged passport, Home Office sources said. The Hindu, November 3, 2007.