SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
The amir (chief) of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baitullah Mehsud, one of Pakistan’s most wanted men, is reported to have ordered his militants to "immediately cease their activities" in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). "Baitullah Mehsud has issued directives to all his comrades that in order to restore peace in the region, they should cease their activities forthwith both in the tribal region as well as the settled Districts of the NWFP," said a pamphlet released in South Waziristan and the adjoining areas of Tank, Gomal and Dera Ismail Khan on April 23, 2008. "He has warned that his directives should be complied with and those violating them will be publicly punished," it said.
A 15-point Draft Agreement, to be signed between the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan and the local political administration, envisages an end to militancy, exchange of prisoners, withdrawal of the military and resolution of issues in accordance with local customs and the Frontier Crimes Regulation. "The Draft Agreement contains clauses under which both sides will not take armed action against each other. The military will be withdrawn from certain areas, attacks on security forces will be stopped by militants," an unnamed security official was quoted as saying in The Post. The Draft Agreement requires
The Mehsuds would not use their soil for any anti-state activity nor would they allow anyone to do so, the Draft Agreement reads further. Mehsuds would "also furnish an undertaking not to create any parallel administration; respect writ of the state; contact the political administration for resolution of their problems while the administration would decide matters in accordance with local riwaj (customs) and the Frontier Crimes Regulation with the cooperation of local elders." Crucially, the Draft Agreement requires "Mehsud tribes to expel all foreign militants from their territory and undertake not to give them shelter in future."
The ‘truce’ is a consequence of negotiations between the TTP chief and the Government, mediated through tribal interlocutors. Maulana Omar, the TTP spokesman, said the dialogue was "coming to fruition" and the agreement would incorporate demands from the two sides. He disclosed that discussions were under way on two tracks – at the provincial level to restore peace in the settled Districts, including Swat and Darra Adam Khel; and separately for FATA. The Government believes that the current round of dialogue is more likely to succeed since they are being conducted with tribal leaders, not just with the militants.
The Draft Agreement envisages that the para-military Frontier Corps would replace the military in the FATA. Maulana Omar claimed that the Army had begun pulling out of the Mehsud-dominated area as a result of the dialogue. A military spokesperson, Major General Athar Abbas, however, denied that any orders had been issued to pull out the Army.
Maulana Omar has claimed that the TTP had in its custody more than 100 military, paramilitary and Government officials. They would be released after the signing of the peace accord through a grand tribal jirga (council). He said the Government had released three of their people, including Maulana Sufi Mohammad, chief of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws, TNSM). "There will be full compliance from our side," he declared. "Those failing to abide by the orders will be hanged upside down in bazaars," the TTP statement warned.
That a ‘peace process’ is underway is now evident. Maulana Sufi Mohammad was released, after being taken from his hospital bed for talks with Ameer Haider Hoti, the NWFP Chief Minister, in Peshawar. Hoti told Daily Times that he was receiving "satisfactory feedback" from the Malakand region after the release of Maulana Sufi Mohammad, whose group, TNSM, has pledged to renounce violence. TNSM signed a pact eschewing violence in return for being allowed to peacefully campaign for Sharia (Islamic law). Security forces, however, have the right to "act against" any extremists who attacked the Government. The TNSM, one of the five terrorist groups proscribed by President Pervez Musharraf on January 12, 2002, was formed in 1992 with the objective of a militant enforcement of Sharia. Ideologically, it is committed to transforming Pakistan into a Taliban-style state. Sufi Mohammad is reported to have organised thousands of people to fight the Northern Alliance (NA) in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2001. However, a majority of them were either killed or arrested by the NA. Some, including Sufi Mohammad, managed to return to Pakistan, only to be arrested. The TNSM operates primarily in the tribal belt, including Swat and the adjoining Districts of the NWFP.
However, Muslim Khan, a spokesman for Sufi Mohammad's son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, whose militants are fighting the security forces for control of the Swat Valley, said they would not call a truce. "We welcome the release of Sufi Mohammad, but we will only lay down arms when the Government would enforce Shariah," Khan said. Nevertheless, sources indicate that a dialogue is also underway with Maulana Fazlullah and the Government had also initiated a dialogue with the Taliban soon after winning the elections in February 2008, on the perception that President Pervez Musharraf’s ‘military-oriented tactics’ had failed and were only spawning more violence.
Within the euphoria that ‘peace deals’ characteristically trigger, it is useful to recall that this is Islamabad’s fourth ‘non-military’ attempt to pacify the Taliban-led militants since military operations commenced in July 2002, and that the Musharraf regime had repeatedly dabbled with the ‘political solution’ as well, with no success. The first agreement, known as the Shakai deal, in 2004, failed to end violence and eventually collapsed after Nek Muhammad, whose ‘surrender’ in April 2004 was a widely publicized event, turned his back on the Army. He was eventually killed in a targeted missile attack on June 17, 2004. A second effort also failed after the agreement signed in February 2005 with the influential Mehsud tribe broke down after Abdullah Mehsud, a Taliban-aligned leader closely linked to the Binoria seminary in Karachi, reneged on the deal and reverted to violence. On September 5, 2006, Taliban leaders in North Waziristan signed a ‘peace agreement’ with the Government, promising to halt cross-border movement and stop attacks on Government installations and security forces. The salient features of this deal included the assurance that there would be no cross-border movement for militant activity in Afghanistan; on its part, the Government pledged not to undertake any ground or air operations against the militants and to resolve issues through local customs and traditions; both parties were to return each other’s weapons, vehicles and communication equipment seized during various operations; foreigners living in North Waziristan would have to leave Pakistan, but those who cannot leave will be allowed to live peacefully, respecting the law of the land and the agreement; the agreement would come into force with the relocation of the Army from checkpoints in the region; the Khasadar force (a local tribal force) and Levy personnel will take over the check-posts; tribal elders, mujahideen and the Utmanzai tribe would ensure that no-one attacked security force personnel and state property. This third ‘peace agreement’ broke down in January 2007. While the guns were silent, pledges that the Taliban militia would not cross into Afghanistan for terrorist strikes and would also not provide safe havens for foreign militants in Waziristan, remained unfulfilled, and there was no guarantee that militants not on board would abstain from cross-border incursions or attacks on Pakistanis within the FATA.
Despite this continuous history of failure, and the consolidation of radical Islamist forces under the rubric of transient peace agreements, there is qualified support from the US Administration for the peace initiatives of the new dispensation in Islamabad. Nevertheless, aware of the dangerous ramifications of negotiating with terrorists, a top State Department official said a judgment depends on whether the groups keep their pledge against using force: "You have to talk to people… The Pakistani Government is engaged in discussions designed to stop violence. It's got to be done in a way that produces results, that reduces violence," said Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher. He noted that there had been such efforts in the past, but unsuccessful ones because they were not enforced. The White House, however, gave a guarded response. Spokesperson Dana Perino said, "We have been concerned about these types of approaches because we don't think they work… What we encourage them to do, is to continue to fight against the terrorists and to not disrupt any security or military operations that are ongoing in order to help prevent a safe haven for terrorists there."
In an interview to Newsweek on April 21, 2008, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani spelt out a ‘three-pronged strategy’ to combat terrorism, especially in FATA. "We are ready to hold talks with all those who lay down arms and adopt the path of peace," he said. In his first policy statement in March 2008, Prime Minister Gillani explained his broad strategy:
Regrettably, efforts at reconciliation have often meant the creation of safe spaces for terrorism. The new Government headed by Gillani continues to labour under the misconception – as was the case with the predecessor regime – that ‘talking with the devil’ will bring rich dividends to the embattled country. Islamabad’s new masters are treading a much-worn path in gambling with ‘dialogue and development’ as their principal strategies to curb militancy in FATA and elsewhere.
Within FATA, terrorist violence and subversion affects all of the seven Agencies – Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan – in varying degrees. The writ of the state has always been fragile in Waziristan, but levels of violence have been continuously augmenting. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal database, throughout 2005, 285 people, including 92 civilians and 158 terrorists, were killed in Waziristan in 165 incidents. In 2006, the death toll was 590, including 109 civilians, 144 soldiers and 337 terrorists, in 248 incidents. 1,681 persons, including 1,014 militants, 424 civilians and 243 security force personnel, were killed in the region in 2007. And in 2008, 726 persons have died so far [till April 27, 2008]. Considering Islamabad's understated accounts, the suppression of the Press and erratic reportage, the actual numbers could, in fact, be much higher.
Peace agreements reached during the Musharraf regime clearly gave the Taliban, al Qaeda and allied jihadi groups a chance to regroup, build up their strength and consolidate. In more ways than one, the deals between the Government and the Islamist extremists are a signal that the Pakistan Army has failed in its quest for a military victory. When operations were launched against the Taliban-al Qaeda combine in the FATA in 2002, the Army, under enormous pressure from the US, was convinced that a military victory was essential. More than five years down the line, it is the proponents of a violent jihad who have achieved strategic successes. Moreover, Pakistan’s incapacity to prosecute the war on terror in FATA, in part, due to disastrous deals with the militants, has also augmented the already gigantic terrorist problem in neighbouring Afghanistan.
In the immediate future, after a formal signing of the new Agreement, the Army is to withdraw from the tribal areas; detained Taliban operatives will be released; their arms and ammunition is to be restored to them; and crucially, they will have full freedom of movement and activity across FATA and the adjoining districts of the NWFP. There is also a parallel ‘peace process’ underway in NWFP, where there is now a full fledged militant movement which is no longer a spillover effect of the radicalism in FATA. There is no reason to believe that the new ‘peace’ will not augment the influence of the Islamist extremists and their operational capacities. This, precisely, has been the outcome of such deals in the past. The new Government has clearly begun on a disastrous note by caving into the demands of the Taliban, to engineer an unequivocal retreat for the state.
Arunachal Pradesh — one of India’s most talked about frontiers, along China’s Tibet region — is likely to have a unified command, involving the Army, Police and Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs). This new security arrangement is not meant to guard the rugged Himalayan heights along the border with China, but is being created to ensure effective maintenance of law and order within this state of over a million people, through better synergy among the various security forces (SFs).
General (Retd.) J.J. Singh, Arunachal Pradesh’s new Governor, who was, until recently, the Chief of the Indian Army, has confirmed to this writer that a proposal to set up a Unified Command structure in the State was currently being examined by Chief Minister Dorji Khandu and his Cabinet. The General, who is more than familiar with Arunachal Pradesh and its strategic importance, stated that the Unified Command, if approved by the State Cabinet, would be headed by the Chief Minister, while the General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Army’s Tezpur-based IV Corps, in northern Assam, would be in charge of its operations. "We plan to have a unified command on the same lines as the one existing in Assam. The idea is to deny the insurgents breathing space in another state," General Singh added.
The Unified Headquarters was set up in Assam on January 24, 1997, six years after the Government first launched military operations against the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a separatist group fighting for a ‘sovereign, socialist Assam’ since 1979. For the past decade, since the Unified Headquarters came into being in Assam, insurgents from Assam and Nagaland have been escaping into adjoining Arunachal Pradesh and further into neighbouring Myanmar. In fact, the ULFA’s most potent strike unit, called the ‘28th battalion’ or the ‘Kashmir Camp’ is based in Myanmar, across Arunachal Pradesh.
Arunachal Pradesh has been facing the impact of the spill-over of insurgency from Assam and Nagaland for more than a decade now. Moreover, a dozen home-grown insurgent groups, which had sprung up in Arunachal Pradesh with backing from the Naga rebel groups — both by the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM and NSCN-K) — though they have failed to flourish. The question, consequently, arises — what precisely has changed on the ground in Arunachal Pradesh to provoke the move to set up the Unified Command structure in the State? Could this be nothing more than an attempt by the State’s new Governor to make his presence felt?
An assessment of the quantum and character of the spill-over insurgency in the State can be had by a review of the few incidents that have occurred in the recent past:
Going by the scale of insurgency in some of the other north eastern Indian States, particularly Manipur and Assam, violent activities by rebels operating from or transiting to Myanmar through Arunachal Pradesh is insignificant. But what is significant and cannot be ignored is Arunachal Pradesh’s strategic location – this is a State that opens into Myanmar, Bhutan and China. Particularly after Beijing has chosen to be vocal about its claim on Tawang (an important seat of Buddhism) or for that matter the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, New Delhi would not like this frontier State to slide into the grip of separatist rebel armies with their potential to create unrest.
Prodded perhaps by the new Governor, this strategic criticality would explain, in substantial measure, the decision to set up a Unified Command to choke the ULFA and Naga rebels, block their access to bases in Myanmar (up to 5,000 NSCN-K and ULFA rebels are known to operate jointly and share camps in Myanmar), and block the defunct local armed gangs from possible resurrection.
The idea of the Unified Command may be new to Arunachal Pradesh, but the State has sought to check crime and insurgency through different measures in the past. In August 2002, the State Assembly pushed through a rather harsh Anti-crime Bill to help tackle organized crime and insurgency. With the State Governor's assent on October 3, 2002, the Arunachal Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act, 2002 (APCOCA), became law. Less than a year after this legislation came into effect, the Arunachal Pradesh Police arrested Tingpong Wangham, a Cabinet Minister, and T.L. Rajkumar, a Congress Legislator, under APCOCA, on charges of having ‘links’ with the NSCN-IM. They were later released on bail and denied any links with the rebels.
Whether or not the two politicians had links with the insurgents is not the key issue, but, what Wangham had told this writer has significance within the present context of the move to set up a Unified Command. Wangham stated: "I come from an insurgency affected area. We often get written notices from the rebels as well as threatening telephone calls. At times, we need to reply to certain notices sent by them (rebels). On certain occasions, we being public leaders, need to meet certain people to find out whether those who have sent a particular notice are genuine rebels of that particular group or not. We keep the authorities informed of such things most of the time. Now, it is unfair and incorrect to term these actions on our part as evidence of links with insurgents. After all, the ground situation needs to be understood and taken into account."
The move to bring the security forces in Arunachal Pradesh under a Unified Command could bring about better synergy among the different security agencies and deny the rebels operating through the State the scope to act as a cohesive group. Rebels from outside the State are having a field day and groups like the NSCN-K were even held responsible by the authorities of having abducted more than 40 local youth in January 2008 and forcibly taken them to Myanmar to join its ranks. The Army operating in adjoining Assam has all along being handicapped by the fact that its troops were not entitled to cross over, beyond 20 kilometres, into Arunachal Pradesh in hot pursuit. Moreover, the Police top brass in Arunachal Pradesh were getting used to directing whatever operations it was carrying out in the disturbed Tirap and Changlang Districts from their offices in Itanagar. All this is bound to change once the Unified Command comes into force and is operationalised. Past experience, however, suggests that results will come only if this new structure actually operates as a unified command of different forces and not a competitive command, with each force trying to outsmart the other to take credit.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 21-27, 2008
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Maoist violence on the rise, says Union Government: The Union Government, in its status paper on Naxalite (Left Wing Extremism) activities, said that Naxalite violence and casualties in their attacks registered a rise in 2007 compared to the previous year. The status paper, released on April 23, 2008, however, said that the problem was mainly restricted to four States — Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa — which together accounted for over 80 percent of the cases. A total of 696 fatalities were reported in 1,565 incidents in 2007. In the previous year, 678 deaths had occurred in 1,509 cases of Left Wing Extremism related violence. The Paper further said that the number of Police Stations affected by Left Wing Extremism in 2007 fell to 361, compared to 395 in the previous year. Times of India, April 24, 2008.
Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed involved in most terrorist attacks, says Home Ministry report: The involvement of Pakistan-based outfits has been observed in most of the terrorist attacks in India, as groups from across the border continue to sponsor terrorist and subversive activities in the country, the Union Home Ministry said in its Annual Report for 2007-08. "The hand of Pakistan-based terrorist organisations – LeT and JeM – and, increasingly of the Bangladesh-based HuJI, known to have close links with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), has been observed in most of these cases," the 167-page report said. The incidents showed these groups have been using sleeper cells in the country to carry out such activities, and have also been using the territory of other neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, it said.
The report said that, as part of its counter measures, the Government has banned 32 groups as terrorist organisations under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. It also said the Centre has adopted a multi-pronged approach and strategy for countering the activities of Pakistan’s ISI and PoK-based terrorist groups. "This includes intensive patrolling and surveillance on the borders, including border fencing, floodlighting and strengthening of coastal security arrangements to check infiltration," it said. Deployment of Central Paramilitary Forces to aid the State Police forces in areas prone to terrorist violence, and heightened vigil and security arrangements in and around vital installations, are among other counter-measures being taken by the security establishment. The report said, regular sharing of intelligence with the State Governments and among various agencies was carried out besides strengthening of arrangements and mechanism for intelligence gathering, particularly at the cutting edge level. MHA.
No change yet in CPN-Maoist status as terrorist outfit, says US official: The US State Department's Deputy spokesman Tom Casey has said that there has been no change yet in the status of Maoists as a terrorist outfit despite their winning the election. "We have an organization being placed on the list of designated foreign terrorists organizations. (It) has legal requirements that are placed on us. We have to honour those legal requirements and we'll certainly do so in the case of Nepal," he stated, and hinting of a possible review, said, "You have an organization that moves away from violence and terror and participates in a political process and engages in those kinds of legitimate activities, that would certainly, I think, give people an opportunity to at least look again at that situation and that organisation." "But at this point, you know there's no change in their status and we'll follow the law as appropriate," he added further. Nepal News, April 22, 2008.
Baitullah Mehsud orders cease-fire in FATA and NWFP: The leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baitullah Mehsud, has ordered his militants to "immediately cease their activities" in the FATA and NWFP. "Baitullah Mehsud has issued directives to all his comrades that in order to restore peace in the region, they should cease their activities forthwith both in the tribal region as well as the settled Districts of the NWFP," said a pamphlet released on April 23, 2008. "He has warned that his directives should be complied with and those violating them will be publicly punished," it said. A spokesman for Baitullah confirmed the contents of the pamphlet circulated in South Waziristan in FATA and the adjoining Districts of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan in the NWFP. A 15-point draft agreement, to be signed between the Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan and the local political administration, calls for an end to militancy, exchange of prisoners, withdrawal of the military and resolution of issues in accordance with local customs and the Frontier Crimes Regulation. Dawn, April 24, 2008.
10 militants and a Frontier Constabulary trooper killed in FATA: A Frontier Constabulary (FC) soldier died and another sustained injuries on April 23, 2008, in an exchange of fire between Pakistani security forces and the Afghan Army "due to a misunderstanding" at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Nawa Pass in the Bajaur Agency of FATA. Up to 10 militants of a group which attacked the Afghan check-post and caused the "misunderstanding" were also killed in the clash. A Press Release issued by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that militants had attacked the Daud Qilla check-post in Afghanistan early in the morning of April 23. The Afghan Army started firing in the direction of Pakistani forces with heavy weapons and Pakistani troops reportedly retaliated and the exchange of fire continued for some time. The ISPR said the exchange of fire occurred due to a "misunderstanding" between the Afghan troops and the FC personnel. Daily Times, April 24, 2008.
TNSM chief Sufi Muhammad freed by NWFP Government: The NWFP Government has released Maulana Sufi Muhammad, chief of the banned militant organisation Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), under a peace deal to restore normalcy to Swat and its adjoining areas. "Sufi Muhammad and the jirga [council] have given assurances that he and his companions will remain peaceful," NWFP Information Minister Sardar Hussain Babek told AFP. A copy of the six-point agreement issued to media late on April 21 said suicide bombings and the killing of innocent people had necessitated the accord. Under the agreement, the TNSM will continue to pursue a peaceful struggle for the enforcement of Shariah, while respecting the law and condemning those who commit violence. Sufi Muhammad was arrested in 2001 while attempting to return from Afghanistan, where he led thousands of Muslim volunteers in the Taliban’s fight against the US-backed war on terror. Meanwhile, Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas, said the military was not involved in the Government’s decision to release the TNSM chief, AP reported. Daily Times, April 22, 2008.
381 LTTE militants and 53 soldiers among 462 persons killed during the week: 381 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 53 soldiers and 28 civilians were among 462 persons killed in separate incidents between April 20 and April 27, 2008. 13 militants were killed during separate encounters with the troops in the Kathankulam, Veddayapiru, Veddayampuramkulam, Adampan and Malikaittidal areas of Mannar District on April 20. Separately, MI 24 fighter helicopters of the SLAF neutralized an LTTE mortar location and one of the outfit’s forward command posts in the area east of Adampan, killing 12 militants. The troops, in a pre-dawn attack on April 21, captured the LTTE main operation base in Mannar, codenamed ‘Lima-3’, located east of Kathankulam. A stretch of about 1,300 meters also came under the troops’ control while seven militants were killed in the operation. Also, more than 169 militants and 43 soldiers are reported to have died in a fierce gun-battle between the security forces and LTTE cadres in and around Muhamalai FDL (Forward Defence Line) in the Jaffna District on April 23-morning. On the same day, at least another 16 LTTE militants were killed during encounters in the area north of Janakapura and Kiriibbanwewa in the Vavuniya District. One soldier was also killed while five others sustained injuries during the incidents. At least 27 militants were killed in fighting in the Malikaittidal area of Mannar District when the troops attacked and captured the outfit’s fortified bunker line and a trench line on April 24. Three soldiers were also killed and another seven injured in the clashes. Meanwhile, 26 civilians, including seven women, were killed and 40 others were injured when the LTTE militants detonated a bomb inside a Ceylon Transport Board bus parked at the public bus stand in the Piliyandala suburb of Colombo, at around 7:00 pm on April 25. At least 19 LTTE militants were killed and several others wounded when the troops also attacked several LTTE hideouts and captured their trench lines at different places in Mannar and Vavuniya Districts. Further, an LTTE light aircraft bombed military FDLs in Welioya on April 27, the military said. Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said three bombs were dropped by the LTTE at the military FDLs in Welioya but caused no damages to property or personnel. Sri Lanka Army; Colombo Page, April 20-27, 2008.
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