SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Dramas in a Theatre of Despair
Gilgit-Baltistan ranks among the most beautiful places in the world. It is, however, a region of the most enduring oppression and despair. This dark corner of Jammu & Kashmir, illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, has largely remained outside the spectrum of international attention and concern. Harsh controls over the entry and movement of the Press, both domestic and international, choke off information flows within and from the region, even as the population is silenced by an overwhelming military and intelligence presence, illegal detentions and ‘disappearances’. Periodically, however, Islamabad orchestrates a charade, largely for the benefit of the fitfully apprehensive international community, and in efforts to divide and dilute increasing sub-nationalist sentiments and demands, variously, for human rights, autonomy or independence.
A fifth "package drama" since 1971 has now been announced by Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani. This comes after the October 2007 "comprehensive package" – introduced by then President Pervez Musharraf, purportedly to "help bring the region at par with the rest of the country" – failed to secure the slightest improvement in this unhappy land. It is significant that the Musharraf package came as a damage control exercise after the passage in the European Union Parliament of the devastating report by the EU rapporteur, Baroness Emma Nicholson, which, while deploring "documented human rights violations by Pakistan" declared unambiguously that "the people of Gilgit and Baltistan are under the direct rule of the military and enjoy no democracy". Nicholson’s report was scathing, both on sheer oppression of the people, on the complete absence of legal and human rights and of a Constitutional status, as well as on the enveloping backwardness that had evidently been engineered as a matter of state policy in the region
Over the past two years, echoes of the Nicholson report continue to reverberate in the international discourse, even as there are growing concerns regarding the re-location of Islamist extremist and terrorist groups in Gilgit-Baltistan, and a growing restiveness in the region's predominantly Shia population. It is against this backdrop that Prime Minister Gilani signed the "Empowerment and Self-governance Ordinance, 2009, for Gilgit-Baltistan", on August 29, 2009. Through the Ordinance, President Asif Ali Zardari explained to a delegation of leaders from Gilgit-Baltistan, the Government had given "internal freedom and all financial, democratic, administrative, judicial, political and developmental powers to the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan."
How, then, does Manzoor Hussain Parwana, Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM), which demands ‘full autonomy’ for the region, describe the Gilani ‘package’ as an "Ordinance for Advancement of Slavery"? And why has the Ordinance been rejected as an outright fraud by virtually all political formations struggling for constitutional, political and human rights in Gilgit-Baltistan? Why do leading parties even in Pakistan condemn the Ordinance as a "unilateral decision of (the ruling) Pakistan Peoples Party", while others reject it as an attempt to "annex these regions through a presidential ordinance and by imposing governor’s rule"?
The reality quickly reveals itself in the most cursory examination of the provisions of the Ordinance. The Ordinance ostensibly gives Gilgit-Baltistan its own ‘elected’ Legislative Assembly and Chief Minister, but takes away with one hand what it endows with the other. It is in the Governor that all real power is vested, and this would be an ‘outsider’, appointed by the President of Pakistan. Significantly, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, since they have been granted no Constitutional status in Pakistan, do not vote to elect the President, the Prime Minister, or the members of the National Assembly. The Chief Minister may not select his own Council of Ministers, but must act in this regard on the ‘advice’ of the Governor. Critically, the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly cannot discuss or legislate on any issues relating to defence, foreign affairs, and crucially, finance, security and the interior. The ordinance awards no constitutional rights, guarantees or freedoms to the people. In effect, nothing has changed in what the region’s only weekly, K2, describes as ‘Sarzamin–be–Ain’, the "Land without a Constitution".
On examination, it is clear that the new ‘package’ only brings "a change in nomenclature rather than genuine political reforms". It offers little that is concretely different from the Musharraf ‘package’, and has quite rightly been dismissed as ‘old wine in new bottles’ by a wide consensus of political leaders across Gilgit-Baltistan. Indeed, premonitions of the puppet Assembly were already visible in the Emma Nicholson Report:
Creating a Legislative Assembly under an Islamabad-dominated Gilgit-Baltistan Council, and allowing the ‘election’ of a Chief Minister, cannot, consequently, conceal or alter the circumstances that have been closely documented in the Nicholson Report:
Indeed, the new Ordinance simply reinforces the Constitutional limbo within which Gilgit-Baltistan exists, continuing with the substantive provisions of the Musharraf package, in continuity with the succession of ‘Legal Framework Orders’ under which the region was ruled over the preceding four decades. The new order is just another attempt to perpetuate and conceal the "political atrocities on the people in the occupied region", and to "buy time and hide violations of human and political rights".
It is useful, within this context, to review the contours of the illegal occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan. When the British granted Independence to India, the 565 ‘Princely States’ – including Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) – technically became ‘sovereign states’. Consequently, following the collapse of British paramountcy in 1947, the entire Gilgit agency was restored to the then Dogra King, Hari Singh, who eventually acceded to India. Pakistan, however, fomented and supported a rebellion in the region, and seized control, consolidating its administration through a succession of illegal ruses, such as the Karachi Agreement of 1949, under which entirely unrepresentative officials signed ‘letters of accession’ and ‘ratified’ Pakistani administrative control over the region. Crucially, a Supreme Court judgement in 1999 took note of the legal and constitutional anomalies, as well as the denial of basic rights and development, in Gilgit-Baltistan and explicitly directed the Pakistan Government, among other things,
A decade later, Pakistan has failed to meet even the minimum requirements of the clear and specific direction of its own Supreme Court.
The region continues, consequently, to be "directly administrated by fiat from Islamabad… The bureaucracy, primarily drawn from the North West Frontier Province and Punjab, has intensified the sense of alienation and negated any semblance of self-rule in the Northern Areas." Balawaristan National Front (BNF) leader, Nawaz Khan Naji, notes, "In every department, the chief is from Pakistan, the other, secondary positions are locals."
These legal and constitutional anomalies have been compounded by what the non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) describes as "a distinct pattern of brutality and violence towards citizens". The Pakistani administration has long been involved in a campaign that seeks to alter the demographic profile of the region, and to reduce the local Shia and Ismaili populations to a minority. In the Gilgit and Skardu areas, large tracts of land have been allotted to non-locals, violating the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions and the Jammu and Kashmir State Subject Rule, and outsiders have also purchased vast landholdings. One unofficial estimate suggested that over 30,000 Gilgit residents had fled the city and its suburbs just between 2000 and 2004, in the wake of orchestrated incidents of sectarian strife, followed by discriminatory and repressive action by state Forces.
Three different sects of Islam, Shia, Sunni and Ismaili are prevalent in Gilgit-Baltistan, with the Shias dominating, unlike other parts of Pakistan, where Sunnis constitute the overwhelming majority. With the very small exception of Chilas, Darel and Tangir villages of the Diamer District, Shias constitute the clear majority across the rest of the region.
However, Islamabad’s direct rule has allowed Pakistan to engage in a vast campaign of demographic re-engineering, opening up the region for colonisation by Sunnis who are brought in with a number of incentives, including ownership of lands and forests. Following the construction of the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistan to China in 1978, the region saw a swelling Sunni influx from the Pakistani ‘mainland’ – essentially Pathans. Sources in Gilgit-Baltistan indicate that large tracts of land continue to be allotted to Afghan refugees and Pashtuns from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). BNF’s Nawaz Khan Naji observes:
A sectarian polarization has been continuously encouraged in Gilgit-Baltistan since the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto regime in the mid-1970s. When Sunnis in Gilgit objected to Shia processions and the construction of a stage on the city’s main road, these activities were immediately banned. Shias subsequently protested the ban and the Police fired on them. The seeds of a sectarian polarization had been sown, but the situation worsened dramatically under General Zia-ul-Haq, when the military dictator encouraged cadres of the radical Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) to extend its activities to the Gilgit-Baltistan region. A local (Shia) insurrection broke out in Gilgit in May 1988, with people demanding wider rights. In order to suppress the rebellion, the Special Services Group of the Pakistani Army based in Khapalu was dispatched. Former President Pervez Musharraf, then a young Brigadier, was in charge of the operations, in which he used Sunni tribal irregulars to execute a brutal pogrom against the locals, earning himself the sobriquet ‘butcher of Baltistan’. Truckloads of Sunni tribals were sent in from the Afghan border to the region, and they indulged in anti-Shia brutalities unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. After eight days of sustained violence, the Army ‘stepped in’ to ‘restore peace’.
The anti-Shia pogrom resurfaced in 1993, when sectarian riots started again in Gilgit, leading to the death of 20 Shias. Later, the Shia population was further alarmed when large numbers of Sunnis were brought in from Punjab and the NWFP to settle in Gilgit. This Government-supported migration towards Gilgit-Baltistan has been hugely successful and, according to unofficial estimates, the 1:4 ratio of non-local to local people in the region, which prevailed in January 2001, had dipped to an alarming 3:4 by June 2004. The Shias retain a slim but continuously diminishing regional majority, but there are areas where concentrations of Sunnis already outnumber them. A cycle of sectarian killings has, moreover, become a continuous feature of the Gilgit-Baltistan political landscape, escalating repeatedly during religious festivals and periods of political tension.
Cyclical tensions and strife compound an extended campaign of intimidation, terror and inspired sectarian violence. There is cumulative evidence of an accelerated radicalization of Sunni organisations in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially since 2001, with the shifting of base of a number of terrorist groups – some affiliated with al Qaeda – to ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and to Gilgit-Baltistan. Abdul Hamid Khan of the BNF records:
There is, moreover, "evidence to indicate that the sectarian violence in the NAs, in particular at Gilgit, is being planned and orchestrated from other Pakistani provinces, especially the North West Frontier Province." Very significant quantities of weapons have also been seized in Gilgit-Baltistan, and are shipped in from the neighbouring provinces, even as "the tactics used by sectarian terrorists in places like Quetta, Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, and elsewhere are now being employed in the Northern Areas."
As the Nicholson Report clearly noted, moreover, the entire Gilgit-Baltistan region remains mired in extreme poverty and backwardness, with a pervasive absence of most basic amenities. Even the Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA) Ministry, which is charged with the development of the region, conceded, in the late 1990s, that the ‘Northern Areas’ "have been neglected for the last 50 years… (and) still rank in the most backward areas of the country."
In late August 2005, a 10-member group from the HRCP visited the Northern Areas to assess the level of social services and infrastructure in the region. The mission was fiercely critical of the inadequate structures of governance, the appalling justice system, and the paucity of social services available to the people of the region.
An index of regional backwardness can be found in the Education sector. While current data for the region remains unavailable, in 1998/99 the overall literacy rate in the Northern Areas was estimated to be 33 per cent – substantially below the national rate of 54 per cent. There were significant disparities between the male and female population: the estimated literacy rate for males was 40 per cent, whereas the estimate for females was only 25 per cent.
More significantly, there are wide disparities even between the number of educational institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan and ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, reflecting Islamabad’s peculiar orientation towards, and biases against the former: Thus we find a total of 787 educational institutions at all levels, servicing a total population of 870,347 in Gilgit-Baltistan, as against 6,094 institutions in ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, servicing a population of 2.97 million (population figures: 1998 Census).
A comparison of the number of public health facilities in the Gilgit-Baltistan and ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ again reveals Islamabad’s partiality. Gilgit-Baltistan has a total of 305 public health facilities in all categories, hospitals, dispensaries and first aid posts. ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, in sharp contrast, has a total of 4,585 public health facilities across a much wider range of categories. Most of Gilgit-Baltistan’s settlements lack proper sewerage and drainage systems, with the result that virtually all the water supply is contaminated with human and animal waste, leading to a wide range of diseases. In January 2000, for example, the Army Field Hospital at Gilgit reported that some 47,152 patients had been treated for cholera over a period of just four months.
The region also suffers from under-utilization of its natural resources. Although the Northern Areas have tremendous potential for hydropower generation, and are, indeed, seen as a primary source of both water and power for the rest of Pakistan, the region fails to meet its own energy demands. Gilgit-Baltistan currently has the lowest per capita rate of energy consumption in Pakistan and firewood is still the main source of domestic energy. Field surveys conducted by the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) with German technical assistance revealed that 99.6 per cent of all respondents used firewood as fuel for domestic purposes. Kerosene is currently the second most widely used energy source in Gilgit-Baltistan. Even in its ‘electrified’ regions, kerosene is commonly used because of limited coverage of the population and frequent disruptions of the power supply. There is a large and rapidly growing gulf between existing supplies of electricity and regional demand.
Despite a long history of protests against Islamabad’s discriminatory policies, against growing sectarianism and violence, and against brutal state repression, Gilgit-Baltistan remains a neglected centre of inequity and widespread suffering. Pakistan has utterly and continuously suppressed the people of Gilgit-Baltistan; denied them the most basic constitutional and human rights; blocked access to development and an equitable use even of local natural resources; and repeatedly and brutally suppressed the local Shia majority, even as it seeks to violently promote Sunni sectarianism in the region.
Gilgit-Baltistan remains an ‘area of darkness’, of deep neglect and exploitation, and of the denial of political rights and identity – indeed, a violation of every conceivable element of the very ‘self-determination’ that Pakistan advocates abroad. Circumstances in Gilgit-Baltistan constitute an international humanitarian crisis. Yet, for decades, Pakistan has set a distorted international agenda of discourse, treating areas under its occupation – ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and Gilgit-Baltistan – as settled issues, even as it violently promotes and stridently proclaims a ‘dispute’ over the Indian-administered State of Jammu & Kashmir. Regrettably, the poorly informed international community has accepted this travesty of history.
The troubles of Gilgit-Baltistan, and the repeated cycles of state repression, have remained concealed behind an iron veil that has been pulled across the region by Islamabad, reinforced by international indifference to, and ignorance of, the plight of the people. It is now time to administer correctives and to deny to Pakistan the fruits of aggression and criminality that have accrued for over six decades, in the process creating immense suffering on a hapless sectarian minority in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The cease-fire agreement between the Government of India and the Assam-based militant National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) has been extended for a period of six months, till December 2009. The truce extension came following a meeting between representatives of the Union Home Ministry and NDFB at New Delhi on July 4, 2009, after the previous cease-fire term ended on June 30.The NDFB first signed a cease-fire agreement with the Union Government on May 25, 2005, and the truce has since been extended periodically.
The cease-fire, now in its fifth year, has, however, still to bring peace to the Bodo-dominated areas of Assam, and the ‘peace process’ is still to progress beyond the rudiments of the cease-fire agreement. NDFB spokesman Sanjarang thus declared, "The Government has assured us to hold peace parleys (sic) during the current term… In fact, we wouldn't have agreed to go for another extension (of the ceasefire) had the Government not committed to hold peace negotiations during the current term… If they (the Centre) fail to hold talks in the next six months, we will regard this as their defeat."
These years of ‘truce’ have seen numerous violations of the ground rules of the cease-fire by NDFB cadres. Sanjarang, however, claimed that NDFB cadres have remained confined to three designated camps since the accord. Approximately 1,027 NDFB militants, excluding the married ones, are reportedly living in three designated camps at Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Borbori in the Baksa District of western Assam.
In addition to cease-fire violations, the state faces the complexity of having to deal with two NDFB factions. Notwithstanding the May 2005 accord, NDFB chief Ranjan Daimary and his supporters remain holed up at safe havens in Bangladesh. The distinct lack of progress in the peace talks has deepened divisions between the Ranjan Daimary faction that continues to oppose any dialogue with the Government of India and the pro-talks faction that consists of Assam-based senior and middle level leaders who came over-ground following the truce. The pro-talks faction is presently led by Dhiren Boro alias B. Sungthagra.
Within the NDFB, there has always been a conflict between the moderates who support a dialogue and hardliners who oppose any peace talks with the Government, undermining the relevance of the ongoing peace process, with a section of the outfit still engaged in militant activities.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, there were at least 45 cease-fire violations by the NDFB between May 26, 2005, and the 0ctober 30, 2008, serial blasts which killed 87 persons and injured over 200. The NDFB stands accused of having orchestrated these blasts. There were 82 arrests, nine cases of surrender, five cases of extortion, and nine relating to abduction during this period. While NDFB militants shot and killed nine persons, it lost 21 cadres in various encounters with the Security Forces during this period. Thereafter, between October 30, 2008, and September 9, 2009, there have been 105 cease-fire violations by the NDFB.
On the ground in Assam, violence and subversion is attributed to both the factions. Consequently, the extension of the cease-fire is not expected to lead to any worthwhile improvement. In fact, the truce extension with the pro-talks faction came amidst operations by the Security Forces (SFs) against militants of the anti-talks faction. 45 militants of the anti-talks group were killed by the SFs between April 1, 2009, and July 4, 2009.
The pro-talks leader, Dhiren Boro, had, earlier in 2009, indicated that his faction was willing to drop its demand for sovereignty and to participate in elections. However, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had told journalists in New Delhi on January 1, 2009, that the cease-fire extension with the NDFB would depend on the report of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) currently probing the serial bombings of October 2008. On January 6, 2009, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had made it clear that "the NDFB would have to abide by the ground rules in letter and spirit and should not engage in violence. If they involve in any violence in future we will be forced to take action against them."
Ranjan Daimary does not recognize the new Dhiren Boro faction, and has vowed to continue the 'struggle' for the 'freedom' of Bodos in Assam. Cadres living in the three designated camps remain confused over the issue of loyalty. Though Ranjan Daimary is based in Bangladesh, there are a number of cadres in the designated camps who remain loyal to him. This has translated into several fratricidal incidents, though these are not at a dangerous level presently.
There has been a series of surrenders in the recent past, with at least 63 militants laying down arms thus far in 2009. Among these, 42, including a number of ‘corporals’ and ‘lance corporals’, mostly from the outfit’s "4th battalion", surrendered before the Assam Police at Mushalpur in Baksa District on January 13. "The organisation no longer has the old ideology and we have lost confidence in the leadership. So we decided to surrender," 27-year-old ‘corporal’ Dino Boro confessed. On January 25, eight NDFB militants surrendered before the Superintendent of Police of Golaghat District. Later, on February 28, five NDFB cadres surrendered along with a large cache of arms and ammunition before the Red Horns Division of the Indian Army at Rangiya in Kamrup District. Eight NDFB militants surrendered before the Golaghat District administration on March 18.
Security sources indicate that the anti-talks faction has strong bases in Bangladesh with at least 100 cadres in at least 10 bases, some of which are in the Khagrachari area. The Ranjan Daimary faction does not, however, rely only on its Bangladesh-based cadres for subversive activities in Assam. Information gleaned from arrested NDFB militants from time to time has established the fact that he still commands the loyalty of some cadres staying in the Government designated camps and others who are still at large in Assam. The problem has been compounded by the Government’s sluggishness in consolidating the peace process. Many of the NDFB cadres, who have been doing almost nothing since they moved into the designated camps several years ago, are tempted to return to militancy and have joined hands with the anti-talk faction, which continues to engage in violence across Bodo-dominated areas. Some of the significant incidents involving NDFB cadres in 2009 include:
August 16: Two Army personnel and an NDFB militant were killed in an encounter at Garugaon on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border area under Dhekiajuli Police Station of Sonitpur District. The Army personnel were conducting a search operation in the Garugaon area after getting intelligence on the movement of militants. During the search operation, the Army came across a four-member group of the Ranjan Daimary faction of the NDFB who were engaged in an encounter.
June 30: NDFB militants shot dead four members of a family at Naharani Grant village under Rangapara Police Station in Sonitpur District. The deceased were identified as Munna Pal, his wife Subhapati Pal, younger brother Tunna Pal and his three-year old son Pankaj Pal.
June 22: Five NDFB militants were shot dead and a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered in two separate incidents in Assam. Three NDFB militants, including ‘area commander’ B. John Wan, were killed in an encounter with SFs at Majbat in Udalguri District. In another incident, two NDFB militants were killed in an encounter with the Police and Army at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur District.
June 17: SFs shot dead three NDFB militants during an encounter at Auguri village under Gogamukh Police Station of Dhemaji District. The militants were taking shelter in the residence of one Niranjan Swargiary.
June 14: Four militants of the anti-talks faction were shot dead and another was arrested by the SFs near Jhargaon village in Baska District.
June 4: Four NDFB militants were shot dead by the SFs during encounters in the Sonitpur and Udalguri Districts. While two militants were killed at Khanamukh in Sonitpur District, two others were killed during another encounter at Jingebil in Udalguri District.
May 19: SFs shot dead six NDFB militants in a jungle under Dokmoka outpost of Howraghat Police Station in the Karbi Anglong District. Police sources said the militants taking shelter in a transit camp inside a deep jungle near Donghaf opened fire as the SFs advanced towards the militant camp.
It has been established from investigations into the serial blasts of October 30, 2008, that the Ranjan Daimary faction is taking help from the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to execute terrorist strikes in Assam. An unnamed Home Ministry official stated, on November 9, 2008, "We have found that the Bangladesh-based HuJI has provided the expertise to ULFA and NDFB as none of them has the technology to explode such devastating bombs." While speaking in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said, on December 16, 2008, "The HuJI of Bangladesh had perpetrated the October 30 Asom serial blasts in which NDFB were also involved." The Government had intelligence inputs that the NDFB and other insurgent groups in the Northeast have been working with the HuJI, the Home Minister added. The Ranjan Daimary faction has, moreover, established links with the ULFA. Investigations into the serial blasts of October 2008 revealed the close nexus between the two terrorist organisations. Further, security sources believe that the anti-talks faction of the NDFB, ULFA, and the Black Widow (BW) outfits have joined hands, as they were under pressure from the ongoing SF operations against them.
According to SATP, the anti-talks faction has killed 16 civilians and three SF personnel in 2009. A number of abduction and extortion cases have also been registered by the Police against NDFB cadres. Operations against the group have led to 61 militant fatalities in 2009. The Ranjan Daimary faction, facing the heat, called for a 12-hour general shutdown across Assam on August 5, to protest against what it alleged were ‘systematic killings of the Bodo community’ by the SFs. B. Barbai, who claimed to be the 'Sergeant Major' of the NDFB's General Headquarters, said the Assam Police and Army has been killing common people in the name of operations against the NDFB.
The renewal of the cease-fire agreement will do little to alter the ground situation in the Bodo areas of Assam. As long as the anti-talks faction retains capacities to act in the State, and to command the loyalty of at least some cadre – including a proportion of those residing in designated camps in Assam – there is little possibility of bringing the ongoing violence to an end.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 7- 13, 2009
Security agencies prepares fresh list of top militants: Security agencies have prepared a fresh list of top militants, their kingpins and political mentors in the country's south-western region, as they launched a drive on September 5 to arrest the criminals. Names of 280 armed operatives of different outfits and criminal groups, 80 linchpins and as many as 150 political mentors, have been included in the list, officials said. A number of high officials of law enforcement agencies in the region confirmed that a fresh list has been made, but declined to disclose the exact timeframe of the drive. "Those people may be influential because of their political clout or other powers. When they shelter or patronise criminals, they also become criminals in the eyes of law," Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police of Khulna Range Sheikh Hemayat Hossain said. "Our action is now against those who are criminals," the DIG added. The list prepared in 2004 had names of some 2,200 criminals of 12 militant outfits and crime rackets, along with a number of their political patrons, while the second list prepared in September-November of 2008 included names of 2,847 criminals and their godfathers.
Meanwhile, sources said that the process of preparing a fresh list started after a directive from the Government amidst escalating violence and killings in the 10 militant-infested Districts of the south-west. At least 269 people have been killed, mostly by different militant outfits, in the 10 south-western Districts since January 2009. Kushtia tops the list, with 70 murders, followed by 49 in Jhenidah, 46 in Jessore, 30 in Khulna, 26 in Chuadanga, 12 in Meherpur, 11 in Satkhira, nine in Bagerhat, and eight each in Narail and Magura.
Further, State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku stated, on September 10, that the Government would get tough against the militants in the south-west if they did not return to normal life. "They should grab the opportunity of the present democratic system. If not, the Government will intensify the ongoing crackdown in the region to capture them," Tuku declared while talking to reporters at his secretariat office after a meeting with US Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Michael S .Owen. Tuku said that they had a discussion on a wide range of issues. The US official offered training and technical assistance to the Police and Rapid Action Battalion, he added. The Daily Star, September 11, 2009.
193 Black Widow militants surrender in Assam: A total of 193 leaders and cadres of the Black Widow (BW) outfit surrendered about 70 weapons to the Police and moved into a designated camp in North Cachar Hills District to pave the way for a "meaningful dialogue in a peaceful atmosphere." The BW leaders and cadres led by a self-styled ‘deputy commander-in-chief’, Daniel Dimasa, moved into a designated camp set up at a yet-to-be inaugurated Red Cross Hospital building, about five kilometers off the headquarters town, Haflong.
Confirming the development, Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch) Khagen Sarma said that more leaders and cadres of the militant outfit would follow suit. The outfit had submitted a list of 138 weapons and 350 militants are expected to come out and move into the designated camps. The Centre had set a September 15 deadline for the outfit to surrender arms and confine cadres to designated camps, while their leaders sit for peace talks with the Government. "We are not terming it a surrender. We have called it surrender of arms for meaningful dialogue in a peaceful atmosphere. They have got some demands which can always be discussed in a peaceful atmosphere. It will be a new model for the other militant outfits. If any militant outfit is really serious about peaceful negotiation, then they do not need any gun to do that," he said. The Hindu, September 14, 2009.
Government approves surrender policy for Naxals: An immediate grant of INR 150,000, monthly stipends during training and even monetary incentives for surrender of weapons are all there for the asking for the Naxalites (Left Wing extremists) under a surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy approved by the Union Government on September 7.
An immediate grant of INR 150, 000 would be kept in a bank in the name of the surrendered extremist as a fixed deposit, which may be withdrawn by him or her after completion of three years, subject to good behaviour, to be certified by the authorities designated for this purpose by the States concerned. This money can also be utilised as collateral security/margin money against loans to be availed of by the surrendered extremist from any bank for self-employment. Persons eligible under the scheme may be imparted training in a trade/vocation of their liking or befitting their aptitude. They shall be paid a monthly stipend of INR 2,000 each for a maximum period of 36 months. However, if the surrendered extremist secures any employment in Government or any gainful self-employment, the monthly stipend will be discontinued. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also offered money incentives for surrender of weapons which include INR 15,000 for depositing one AK 47 or AK 56 or AK 74 Rifle. INR 25,000 will be given for each RPG/Sniper rifle, INR 3,000 for one Pistol/Revolver, INR 1,000 for a rocket, INR 3,000 for a Remote Control Device, INR 1,000 for Improvised Explosive Device, INR 3,000 for one mine, INR 20,000 for a SAM Missile and INR 10,000 for a Satellite Phone. The guidelines are applicable to those Naxalites who surrender with or without arms. The policy for the Naxalite-infested States was evolved by the MHA as part of a multi-pronged strategy to bring the extremists back into the mainstream against a backdrop of rising Naxalite violence. Times of India, September 8, 2009.
Security threats from Pakistan have not lessened, says Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram: Security threats to India from militant groups operating from Pakistani soil have not diminished, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Washington on September 11. He also said that there was an increase in infiltration from Pakistan in the last four months. He conveyed New Delhi’s concerns during meetings with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top security officials of the President Barack Obama’s Administration. Concluding his four-day US visit, Chidambaram told journalists in Washington that he was going back to India with a "lot of ideas." One of these was establishing something on the lines of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre of the U.S. Set up in 2004 under a presidential executive order, the Centre, staffed by over 500 personnel drawn from 16 departments and agencies, spearheads US efforts to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analysing threat perceptions and sharing information with friendly countries. Chidambaram said that he had told the US officials about Pakistan not prosecuting perpetrators of the November 26, 2008, Mumbai terrorist attacks, including the mastermind Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), who was roaming free in that country despite evidence provided by India. "I did brief them on the state of the trial of Amir Ajmal alias Kasab [the lone surviving LeT militant in the 26/11 Mumbai attack] in India and I also did mention about no progress in Pakistan with respect to the five or six people they have arrested. And Hafiz Sayeed remains a free man. I think that is enough. They know how to draw the lessons from that statement," Chidambaram added.
In addition, the Union Home Minister has given to US officials a list of 60 Pakistani terrorists killed by the Indian Security Forces in various encounters in different parts of the country and 10 arrested in the last one year. A top Government official on September 11 said that Chidambaram had compiled the list before leaving for the US for a four-day visit and shared it with the US officials. "Their names and addresses in Pakistan were given in the list," the official said.
Meanwhile, the Union Government is contemplating launching a publicity blitzkrieg in the Pakistani media about the activities in India of the terrorists belonging to that country. The campaign could be in the form of advertisements. The Hindu ; Times of India, September 12, 2009.
Prachanda threatens Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML to accept 45-point demand: Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, the chairman of Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (Unified CPN-Maoist) on September 11 issued a threat to the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) to accept their 45-point demand, or else brace for a new movement. "This is not the third people’s movement," he said, "This is just a trailer of a historical struggle, which is in the offing." Prachanda made this statement while addressing a public meeting organised by the Newa State Committee of the party’s United National People’s Movement (UNPM). The Himalayan Times, September 12, 2009.
Government and Maoists agree to discharge disqualified PLA combatants: After a two-month deadlock, the Government and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (Unified CPN-Maoist), on September 10, reached an agreement to resume the process of discharging disqualified People’s Liberation Army (PLA) combatants from the camps. As per the agreement, the process of releasing the combatants could start shortly after the Dashain (religious) festival. The agreement was reached in the presence of Representatives from the United Nations Mission in Nepal, the United Nations Development Fund, the Norwegian Ambassador, and political party representatives. Due to lack of cooperation from the combatants, the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction had to stop the process on the very day it reached the camps to release 4,008 disqualified PLA members on July 17. The Government had targeted the completion of the process by early November. However, the Maoists did not provide support to the Government mission. Nepal News, September 11, 2009.
79 militants and 19 civilians among 105 persons killed during the week in FATA: A blast targeting a Security Force (SF) convoy in the Mandi Kas area of Khyber Agency killed three troops. The roadside blast also injured two SF personnel and destroyed three vehicles. The SFs cordoned off the area following the attack. At least three people were killed when troops pounded the area.
The SFs backed by helicopter gunships killed at least 22 terrorists in the Tirah and Sandapal areas of Khyber Agency during the ongoing operation against Taliban-linked militants on September 12. Official sources said 12 vehicles and three Taliban hideouts were also destroyed in the operation. The SFs extended the curfew enforced in Bara for the eleventh consecutive day and continued targeting Lashkar-e-Islam hideouts in various parts of the Agency.
Unidentified militants shot dead three Shinwari tribesmen on the main road in Landikotal. Two of the deceased were brothers, identified as Arshad and Jamshed Shinwari. One of them was the son-in-law of former senator Hafiz Abdul Malik, who is a brother of Zakat and Ushr Minister Noorul Haq Qadri. The three men were driving from Torkham to Peshawar when they were attacked near Khyber Takya. The two brothers were killed on the spot, while the third person died on his way to hospital. Witnesses said the attackers were in a blue Corolla and after gunning down the three men, abandoned the car in the nearby mountains.
Separately, unidentified militants fired three missiles at the Jandola Scouts Fort in the South Waziristan Agency, killing two officials and injuring four others on September 10. The missiles, fired from the nearby mountains, landed inside the fort, official sources said, but did not disclose the identity of the officers killed or injured in the attack. Separately, three suspected Taliban militants were killed after they attacked a Police vehicle on patrol at an unspecified place in FATA. Police also seized six grenades, a Kalashnikov, a gun and a pistol.
A tribal elder, identified as Malik Amanullah Khan Wazir, was killed, and two others were injured in a remote-controlled bomb blast in South Waziristan on September 9.
At least 24 militants were killed and their hideouts destroyed in the counter-insurgency operation "Operation Bia Daraghlam" at Bara Tehsil (revenue unit) of the Khyber Agency on September 8, said security officials. The officials said troops targeted militants in Zao and Kamarkhel, killing 24 of them and destroying two hideouts. "Security Forces (SFs) killed at least 24 militants and destroyed two militant headquarters and two hideouts," according to a Frontier Corps statement.
At least seven people – including four children who were on their way to school – were killed when unidentified militants tried to abduct the schoolchildren in the Lower Orakzai area of Orakzai Agency. Elsewhere in the Orakzai Agency, six militants were killed and four hideouts destroyed in air strikes at a village east of Kalaya.
A US missile strike from a drone killed at least 10 Taliban militants in the North Waziristan Agency on September 8, said officials. "The strike targeted a Taliban compound in Dargamandi village of North Waziristan, killing 10 militants," a senior security official said. Another official confirmed the casualties, and said a US drone fired two missiles at the compound. He said it was not immediately clear whether any "high-value targets" were present in the area at the time. Residents said they had seen the drone hovering in the sky, and had been expecting the missile attack.
Unidentified gunmen killed Qari Iqbal, chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and a close aide of Maulvi Faqir, in Khar, headquarters of Bajaur Agencyon, on September 8. Political administration officials said that unidentified gunmen fired at Iqbal before sunset, killing him on the spot. Iqbal was Bajaur TTP chief Maulvi Faqir’s deputy and was wanted by the Government. After the killing, the administration imposed a curfew for an indefinite time in Khar.
At least 15 persons were killed in SF’s operations and a drone strike in Khyber and North Waziristan Agencies on September 7. SFs killed 10 militants in the remote Tirah Valley on the seventh day of "Operation Bia Daraghlam". Security officials said that 12 houses being used by militants had been destroyed in the Akakhel, Shalobar, Malikdin Khel and Sipah areas of Bara, while a militant stronghold and five hideouts were destroyed in the Tirah valley. Separately, a missile fired by a US drone hit a house and a madrassa (seminary), killing at least five persons and wounding six others, security officials said. "The strike targeted a madrassa and an adjoining house in Machikhel village in North Waziristan," an unnamed security official said. "At least four people were killed and six others injured," the official said.
Five soldiers were killed when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in South Waziristan on September 7, a day after troops killed 33 Taliban militants as part of a weeklong campaign in the Khyber Pass, officials said. The blast struck a routine military patrol en route to Wana from Tayarzai. "The patrol was sent ahead of a military convoy to check the security on the road and a bomb planted by the Taliban went off and killed five soldiers," an unnamed intelligence official said. Daily Times, September 8-14, 2009.
54 militants among 59 persons killed during the week in NWFP: Two Taliban militants and a soldier were killed in the ongoing operation in Swat, Security Forces (SFs) said on September 13. Troops conducting a search operation in the Kuz Bamakhela near Matta were attacked by the Taliban militants. One soldier and two Taliban militants were killed in the ensuing battle.
The SFs shot dead eight Taliban militants, including three Afghans, and injured nine others during operations in Swat and Malakand areas on September 12. A security officer was also killed and another was injured in the clashes, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said. Sources said that the SFs arrested nine militants, while 12 others surrendered. In addition, five militants and a trooper were killed when the troops carried out a search operation at Samter near Banjot. One soldier was also injured, while nine militants were arrested during the operation.
Troops killed two Taliban militants in the Swat District on September 11.
At least 21 Taliban militants, including six foreign nationals, were killed and 14 others were arrested by troops in the Swat District on September 10. Security sources said the Taliban militants were killed during a search operation in Banjot. Six of those killed were suspected to be Uzbeks holed up in a house. The Swat Media Centre confirmed 15 deaths in the area. The sources said there had been reports about the presence of senior Taliban ‘commanders’ in Banjot on the outskirts of Mingora.
Separately, an ISPR statement said that troops conducted a search operation in the Takhtaband and Batkhela areas, killing one Taliban militant and arresting seven.
Troops killed 15 Taliban militants during operations in the Swat District on September 9. "15 Taliban were killed in Banjut, Jambil and surrounding areas during a search-and-cordon operation," according to a military statement. A huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives was also seized during the raids. The ISPR said a soldier was also killed in the fighting.
On September 8, masked gunmen abducted a Greek national, Athanasee Laironaise, from Bamboret valley of Chitral, killing one of his Police guards and injuring another. A Chitral Police official said that the incident took place some 22 kilometers southeast of Chitral, when over 25 masked men broke into a compound and abducted the Greek national. The slain Police guard was identified as Zafar. The official said Athanasee was supervising the construction of Kalash House, which is being built by a Greek NGO for Kalash tribesmen.
Unidentified militants killed a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid party, Tahir Khan, at Kanju in the Swat District. Daily Times, September 8-14, 2009.
UK airline bomb plot reveals Pakistan’s links: A plot to blow up at least seven transatlantic aircraft of a UK airline, using liquid explosives, was masterminded from Pakistan, British intelligence services said, as more details emerged on September 8, of the complex planned attacks. British Police were forced to go to extraordinary lengths to build their case against the men who, prosecutors said, were hoping to cause more deaths than the September 11, 2001, attacks. The trial, which ended in the convictions of three British Muslims on September 7, was peppered with evidence that members of the London-based gang were frequently in contact with figures linked to al Qaeda in Pakistan. "In terms of al Qaeda involvement, there is a large part of this plot that has been thought through or invented in Pakistan," one senior counter-terrorism source said after the trial. "This was a calculated and sophisticated plot to create a terrorist event of global proportions," the Crown Prosecution Service said after the verdict. The jury was shown intercepted emails in which Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Tanvir Hussain and Assad Sarwar asked Pakistani contacts for advice on building bombs in drinks bottles to detonate on flights over the Atlantic. Prosecutors believed the absence of evidence establishing these links had led to a jury in the first trial in 2008 failing to reach a verdict on the plot to blow up the planes, forcing a second trial. Reports said the men’s main point of contact was Rashid Rauf, a British-born Muslim, who had fled to the Tribal Areas in 2002 after the murder of his uncle, and developed strong links with al Qaeda. Intelligence services also reportedly believed he was a key contact of the gang in the 2005 bombings of the London transport system, which killed 52 people. The trial heard that Ali had already been identified as a dangerous radical when he was stopped at London’s Heathrow Airport in June 2006 on his return from a trip to Pakistan. Over the next few months, they monitored Ali and his colleagues experimenting with injecting drinks’ bottles with a mixture of the explosive liquid hydrogen peroxide, which they planned to carry on to flights and detonate with a bulb filament. But what was reportedly the biggest counter-terrorism operation ever mounted in Britain, costing $57 million, was almost thrown into jeopardy by US intervention. Daily Times, September 9, 2009.
US funds were diverted to strengthen defense against India, says former President Pervez Musharraf: Former President Pervez Musharraf has said that military aid provided by the US to Pakistan for the war against terror during his tenure had been used to strengthen conventional defences against India, the first such admission by any top Pakistani leader. Musharraf admitted that he had violated rules governing the use of the military aid, and justified his actions by saying he had "acted in the best interest of Pakistan." In an interview with Express News channel, he said he "did not care" whether the US would be angered by his disclosure. He said that he was not ready to compromise on Pakistan's interests.
Musharraf, who is currently living in London, said that if he had not supported the US in the war against terror after the 9/11 attacks, American forces could have entered Pakistan to capture its nuclear assets. He said it was also possible that the US and India could have jointly attacked the country. Musharraf said Pakistan's nuclear programme was so advanced during his tenure that scientists had not only begun enriching uranium but had also developed plutonium-based weapons. Asked about scientist A. Q. Khan's claim that he had been forced to make a confession about running a nuclear proliferation network, Musharraf said Khan "had done a lot but he was lying that he was forced to apologise before the nation". Times of India, September 14, 2009.
Threats to President Mahinda Rajapakse still exist, reveals Minister: Although the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was completely defeated, certain plots to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapakse are in the process, the Government said on September 10. Speaking at the emergency debate in Parliament, leader of the House, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said, as a result of those attempts, the Government needs to extend the emergency further. He pointed out that the recovery of several claymore mines near the place where the President's helicopter was kept grounded recently in Badulla, was the closest attempt to kill the President. He added further that some persons were indirectly assisting these attempts by demanding the lifting of the emergency.
Meanwhile, the Parliament extended the State of Emergency for another month with a majority of 87 votes. The bill received 100 votes for and just 13 against it. For the first time, Sri Lanka's Marxist party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, which has supported the Bill since August 2005, abstained from voting and walked out of Parliament. Colombo Page, September 11, 2009.
LTTE’s global network used vigorously against Sri Lanka, says Export Development and International Trade Minister G. L. Peiris: Even after the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on Sri Lankan soil and the destruction of its leadership, the global network of this terrorist organisation continues to be used vigorously against Sri Lanka, Export Development and International Trade Minister G. L. Peiris said in London on August 31. The Minister was addressing a group of eminent British lawyers, including Queen’s Counsel, in London.
Peiris said the situation had changed with the arrest of senior LTTE personalities outside Sri Lanka, and the remaining activities of the terrorist organisation could be expected to wind down as a result of these developments. "It is important for the international community to be aware of the extent and tenacity of the misinformation campaign engaged in by groups of interests close to the terrorist organisation. The aim and objective of these interests was to ensure that foreign governments and multilateral organisations adopt hostile postures intended to stultify Sri Lankas development efforts at a particularly critical and sensitive time," Minister Peiris observed. "While exorbitant sums of money were being invested in this persistent effort to distort and misconstrue every aspect of the contemporary Sri Lankan scene, opinion leaders have a vital role to play in ensuring fairness and objectivity in assessing what is taking place in the country", he said. Daily Mirror, September 11, 2009.