SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Pakistan’s slide towards state failure accelerated dramatically in year 2007, and the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27 was a sharp reminder that the country’s progressive collapse was much more rapid and irretrievable than most had envisaged. In more ways than one, 2007 was a cumulative reflection on all of President Pervez Musharraf’s errors of omission and commission since he took power in the coup of October 1999.
A simple truth in vast regions of Pakistan today is that the state has withered away. A wide array of anti-state actors is currently engaged in varying degrees of violence and subversion in an extended swathe of territory. A cursory look at the map indicates that the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and Balochistan are witnessing large-scale violence and insurrection. Violence in parts of the Sindh, Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan has also brought these areas under the security scanner. Islamabad’s writ is being challenged vigorously – violently or otherwise – in wide geographical areas, and on a multiplicity of issues. Well over half of the territory presently under Pakistan’s control, including Gilgit-Baltistan and ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’, has passed outside the realm of civil governance and is currently dominated essentially through military force.Terrorism-related Fatalities in Pakistan, 2007
Source: Institute for Conflict Management Database
Year 2007 unambiguously demonstrated that the flag of extremist Islam continues to flail vigorously and violently across Pakistan, even as state agencies appear less in control, and more vulnerable. In a welter of violence, at least 3,599 persons, including 1,523 civilians, 597 security force (SF) personnel and 1,479 militants, were killed in 2007. While militant and terrorist violence has been reported from all the provinces, the worst affected were FATA followed by the NWFP. Fatalities in 2007, at 3599, were substantially more than double the fatalities in the preceding year (1471). The number of civilians killed remained marginally higher than the number of militants and terrorists killed – a continuing trend since 2003. A sharp increase in terrorist violence was recorded after the Army’s assault on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad on July 11, 2007. Indeed, the first half of 2007 (January-June) was marginally less violent than the same period in 2006 – with 869 fatalities in 2007 as against 984 in 2006. [It is necessary to note that, given Islamabad's understated accounts, the suppression of the Press and erratic reportage from all the conflict zones, the actual numbers of fatalities could be considerably higher than those indicated above].
There are more than 100,000 soldiers deployed in FATA to confront the Taliban, al Qaeda and other militant groups who have created safe havens there. Five years after military operations were launched against the Taliban–al Qaeda combine in FATA, the radical alliance is the chief proponent and vehicle of a violent jihad that has achieved major strategic successes and significant victories. 1,681 persons, including 1,014 militants, 424 civilians and 243 SF personnel, were killed in the region in 2007. Next to the Northern Province in Sri Lanka, FATA is now the second most violent sub-national geographical unit in South Asia. The writ of the state has always been fragile in Waziristan, but levels of violence have been continuously augmenting. 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.
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. While incidents of subversion were reported from all Agencies in 2007, violence was predominantly concentrated in North Waziristan, Kurram and South Waziristan. While violence in Kurram is largely sectarian and local in nature, year end reports indicate that the persistent violence in this Agency is due to the infiltration of militants, including some foreigners, belonging to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and al Qaeda in Waziristan and NWFP.
Since July 15, 2007, when the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan unilaterally terminated the 10-month old truce with Pakistan’s military regime, there has been a crescendo of violence in Waziristan. Across North Waziristan, military convoys have been attacked on a regular basis with sophisticated explosive devices and, particularly worryingly for Islamabad, the incidence of frontal assaults on "military outposts by the militants numbering 50 or even more" were increasingly reported through 2007. Militants carried out ten suicide attacks on military and other Government targets in Waziristan in 2007. While Government installations and military positions in Waziristan are already being targeted, militants from the tribal areas also carry out ‘revenge attacks’ in other parts of the country. The Taliban are now in effective control of most of North Waziristan and, more crucially, have full freedom of movement and activities across the region.
Unsurprisingly, the fallout of spiralling violence in North Waziristan is being felt in neighbouring South Waziristan. After nearly two and a half years, militants attacked a military target at Dargai in South Waziristan on August 13, 2007. Out of the ten suicide attacks in Waziristan in 2007, two occurred in the South. However, the militants in North Waziristan, on January 2, 2008, extended a cease-fire they had announced on December 17, 2007, till January 20, 2008.
Another vital aspect of the narrative of conflict in Waziristan during 2007 is the increasing number of desertions by security force personnel, as well as large groups of such personnel being taken hostage by the Islamist militants. This has generated something of a domino effect and has cast a demoralising shadow over security agencies across Pakistan. On current indications, the capacities of the military to counter the Taliban-al Qaeda combine in Waziristan have been seriously compromised. As SAIR noted earlier:
The magnitude of the state’s withdrawal is tangible. In fact, even during the truce period, senior officials seldom ventured into North Waziristan to review the state of play in the region. The administration virtually lives at the mercy of the militants and are unable to exercise any real authority. Musharraf’s attempts at "the delivery of justice, social service and security to the tribal people to inculcate a sense of ownership in them" have failed miserably.
President George Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser Frances Fragos Townsend’s July 22, 2007, statement that "there are no options that are off the table" as far as direct US intervention in Waziristan is concerned compounds the problem for Islamabad, which will surely be pushed to ‘do more’ by Washington in an election year.
2007 witnessed the sweeping transformation of NWFP as a major battleground for radical Islam. At least 1,190 persons, including 459 civilians, 538 militants and 193 SF personnel, were killed in 2007. Significantly, 27 of the 56 suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2007 occurred in the NWFP. There have been three instances in 2007 when the province witnessed two suicide attacks on a single day. The violence in NWFP is, in fact, the most disturbing index of the magnitude of Pakistan’s slide into anarchy. The breakdown and chaos in NWFP has been rather swift. In fact, throughout 2006, a comparatively small number of people, 163, were killed in the province in at least 84 incidents. Two years ago, the province was only witnessing very sporadic violence, though it ranked as a low-intensity conflict zone which could potentially explode due to spill-over effects from neigbouring FATA. The NWFP has now abruptly crystallized as the core of Islamist militant mobilisation in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, even as Islamist radicals rapidly expand their presence across Pakistan’s other provinces. It is significant that the NWFP is a region where the state’s presence has historically been relatively strong, and the situation has never been even remotely comparable to the traditionally ungoverned FATA.
A more dangerous facet of the escalating instability in NWFP is that processes of radicalisation have been strengthened immensely under the Musharraf regime. There has also been a continuous and enveloping strengthening of processes of Islamist radicalisation in the NWFP ever since the Islamist alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, secured an absolute majority in the Provincial Assembly in an election that Musharraf rigged in their favour in October 2002.
22 of the 24 Districts in the Province are presently affected by various levels of militant mobilisation and violence. While violence was predominant in the Swat and Shangla Districts in 2007, Taliban-al Qaeda presence and militant activity was also reported from Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Karak, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Mardan, Malakand, Charsadda, Peshawar, Nowshera, Tank, Hangu, Kohat, Mansehra, Kohistan, Swabi and Chitral Districts. Administrative control in Districts like Swat, Shangla, Tank, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki Marwat, Kohat and in other parts of the Province, has gradually been taken over by the forces of radical Islam. Indeed, a demoralised Police force is clearly no longer able to maintain law and order in these areas.
The NWFP has emerged as a safe haven and area of expansion for militants from Waziristan, which they already dominate, as well as extremist elements from other parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Caretaker Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Nisar A Memon confirmed, on December 20, 2007, that, following action by the security forces, terrorists had moved from South Waziristan to North Waziristan and then to Swat. While there is a considerable spill-over of militancy from the tribal areas to the settled areas of NWFP, the fact is that the state has itself ceded space to radical Islam. The state’s retreat in neighbouring Waziristan has further emboldened the Islamist radicals and led to a greater assertiveness, with militants now operating openly and without fear.
The widening trajectory of violence in NWFP demonstrates a graver failure of the Musharraf regime. Past experience in South Asia has shown that the recovery of geographical spaces, once anti-state violence escalates beyond a certain threshold, is extraordinarily difficult. Musharraf’s "combination of incompetence and brutality" has little capacity to restore order in the NWFP – or, indeed, in the widening sphere of chaos that is all of Pakistan.
The Balochistan province – accounting for approximately 44 per cent of Pakistan’s landmass – is now afflicted by an encompassing insurgency. Currently, all 30 Districts of Balochistan are affected either by a sub-nationalist tribal insurgency or, separately, by Islamist extremism. Most of the violence in Balochistan is, however, 'nationalist' and there is no co-operation between pre-dominantly Pashtun Islamist militants in the North and the Baloch nationalist insurgents. Structural and constitutional biases prevailing against the provinces feed popular anger and the insurgencies, and militate against any possible solution to the Baloch problem, particularly given Islamabad’s track record of intransigence.
On the face of it, it seems that the province has relatively calmed down after the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006, by the military. The momentum of the Baloch insurgency declined relatively in 2007, as some leaders either fled Pakistan or were neutralized by the state. The operational capacity of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent insurgent group in Balochistan, was considerably reduced in 2007 and is expected to remain diminished in the immediate future. At least 450 persons, including 226 civilians, 82 soldiers and 142 insurgents, were killed in 772 incidents in 2006. Violence in 2007 was at relatively lower levels, with at least 245 persons, including 124 civilians, killed in the year. But, the insurgency continues to simmer, and there has been a steady stream of bomb and rocket attacks on gas pipelines, railway tracks, power transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure, as well as on military establishments and Government facilities. The rebels are still capable of carrying out acts of sabotage on a daily basis across the province and a political solution to the insurgency is nowhere in sight. Acts of violence are, importantly, not restricted to a few Districts, but are occurring in practically all of them, including the provincial capital Quetta.
Still reeling under the loss caused by the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2006, the Baloch insurgents were dealt another significant blow when Nawabzada Balach Marri, purported chief of the Balochistan Liberation Army, was killed on November 21, 2007. Marri was reportedly killed along with his bodyguards in a clash somewhere inside Afghanistan, triggering widespread violence in Quetta and other parts of the province. Mystery shrouds Marri’s killing, as some reports suggested he was killed in Afghanistan while others stated it was in Pakistan.
Adding to the Baloch insurgency are the Islamist militants concentrated in the north of the province, who are orchestrating violence on both sides of the Afghan border in their areas of domination. There were regular reports throughout 2007 of the presence of al Qaeda-Taliban operatives in Balochistan. In fact, Abul Haq Haqiq aka. Mohammad Hanif, an arrested Taliban spokesman, reportedly told Afghan intelligence in January 2007 that the fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar was living in Quetta under the protection of the Inter-Services Intelligence.
The Federal Government’s experiment of maintaining peace in Balochistan by converting the ‘B’ areas (where the Police do not operate) into ‘A’ areas (under Police jurisdiction) has failed to secure desired results, with the crime ratio in ‘A’ areas increasing alarmingly over the past three years. The ‘Levies’ Force policed 95 per cent of Balochistan five years ago, while just five per cent of the area was under Police control. The Government abruptly decided to abolish the centuries-old community-based Levies Force, replacing it with the Police. Presently, 22 districts of Balochistan are ‘A’ areas and eight ‘B’ districts are yet to be converted. Official statistics stated that as many as 1,170 people had been killed in Balochistan since 2004. The number of murder cases in levy-controlled areas was 542. More murders took place in 2005 (456) as compared to 2004 (373) in ‘A’ areas.
Compared to 2006, when approximately 201 persons were killed and 349 others injured in 38 incidents of sectarian violence, there has been a substantial increase in the fatality index in 2007 when 441 people died and 630 were wounded in 341 incidents.Sectarian Violence in Pakistan, 2007
Source: Institute for Conflict Management database
Most of the fatalities in sectarian violence occurred in the Kurram Agency, which has emerged as the new sectarian battleground. In fact more than 300 people have been killed in the Agency just since November 2007. The main Tull and Parachinar Highway has been closed since the last week of November 2007, leading to an acute shortages of edible items and medicines in Kurram Agency. In an indication of the worsening situation, Afghan officials said on January 3, 2008, that about 900 families most of them Sunnis, had fled across the border in the preceding two weeks, to the provinces of Khost and Paktia.
Despite the occasional reverses, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the main Sunni militant group, has retained a substantial capacity to strike in the area, and, more significantly, has emerged as a key provider of logistical support and personnel to al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan. Among the others, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), and the Shia groups – Sipah-e-Mohammed Pakistan (SMP) and the Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP), lay low during 2007. They have not, however, altered their organizational structures and objectives and, though their cadres remain underground, they continue to function.
The foundations of sectarian terror share their ideological bases with Islamist extremist groupings engaged in a wide range of international terrorist incidents and movements, and it is evident that the operational capacities of both these are yet to be significantly eroded. The crackdown targeting sectarian groups has failed to produce the desired impact, and continuing sectarian violence across the country suggests that the underground networks and support structures of sectarian groups, particularly those of the LeJ, remain unimpaired, and may, indeed, have achieved greater complexity and resilience through their linkages with other terrorist organizations.
There were 56 suicide attacks in 2007 as against seven in year 2006. 729 persons, including 552 civilians and 177 SF personnel, were killed and 1,677 persons injured by 58 suicide bombers involved in these incidents in 2007. The magnitude of Pakistan’s slide towards chaos is best illustrated by the fact that, between March 22, 2002 (the first suicide attack) and end-2006, there were 22 suicide attacks; in 2007 alone, there were 56 such attacks. In 2007, the fidayeen (suicide squads) unceasingly targeted Army convoys and check-posts, police stations and training units, government officials, restaurants and mosques. While 27 of the 56 suicide attacks occurred in the NWFP, there were 13 in FATA and five attacks in the national capital, Islamabad. While there were three instances in 2007 when the NWFP witnessed two suicide attacks on a single day, the province also witnessed the first suicide attack by a woman when, on December 4, 2007, a female suicide bomber blew herself up in a high security zone in the provincial capital, Peshawar. Except for the suicide bomber, who was said to be in her mid-30s, no other casualty was reported in the blast. The intensity of suicide attacks in Pakistan is such that there were eight instances during 2007 when there were multiple suicide attacks across the various provinces on a single day.
Evidence that the Pakistani footprint of terror continues to torment Afghanistan was available in abundance. For instance, more than 80 per cent of suicide bombers in Afghanistan are recruited and trained in neighbouring Pakistan, the United Nations said in a report in September 2007. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, in its report ‘Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan (2001-2007)’, stated that "The tribal areas of Pakistan remain an important source of human and material assistance for suicide attacks in Afghanistan." According to the report: "Little is known about the identity and motivation of suicide bombers in Afghanistan. They appear to be young (sometimes children), poor, uneducated, easily influenced by recruiters and draw heavily from madaris [religious schools] across the border in Pakistan."
Pakistan's slide under Musharraf is dominated by increasing macro-imbalances, high levels of poverty, and poor human development indicators. A "record current account deficit, stagnant exports, an increasing fiscal deficit, social indicators that are still amongst the worst in Asia, an energy shortage and rising inflation with artificially-controlled prices are just a few of the challenges faced by Pakistan’s economy."
Syed Fazl-e-Haider, a Quetta-based development analyst, projects, "Foreign direct investment and portfolio flows are likely to decline, negatively affecting Pakistan’s external liquidity position, given its large current account deficit of about 4.8 per cent of gross domestic product. The country may encounter increasing difficulty in refinancing its external and domestic debt if lenders’ risk aversion toward Pakistan increases. In addition, fiscal slippages may arise, pushing deficits beyond the government’s target of 4 per cent of GDP, jeopardizing the currently favorable debt trajectory."
Many of the significant indicators of social and living standards in Pakistan have reportedly gone from bad to worse in the last five years. According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) survey 2005-06, the total enrolment in Government schools has been on a steady decline since 2001-02 when it stood at 74 per cent. The PSLM survey 2004-05 reported "decrease in the share of primary enrolment that is in Government schools. The overall share has declined from 72 per cent in 2004-05 to 65 per cent in 2005-06." Full immunization of children has declined from 77 per cent in 2004-05 to 71 per cent in 2005-06. The survey reveals that more than 30 per cent population did not have toilet facility while more than 41 per cent people did not have any sanitation system. In Pakistan, World Bank estimates indicate that only 57 per cent of girls and women can read and write and in rural areas only 22 per cent of girls have completed primary level schooling, as compared to 47 per cent of boys.
Balochistan has the smallest number of educational institutions, the lowest literacy rate among both males and females, the lowest ranking in the Gender Parity Index and the smallest presence of private educational institutes in the country, according to the National Economic Survey (NWS). About six per cent of the schools in Balochistan do not have buildings, nine per cent lack electricity, 12 per cent are devoid of clean drinking water and 11 per cent are without proper latrines. The province also has the smallest number of educational institutions – 10,381 against the national number of 216,490, out of which 106,435 are located in the Punjab, 46,862 in Sindh and 36,029 in the NWFP. According to the NES, "out of the total number of institutions, 48 per cent are to be found in the Punjab, 22 per cent in Sindh, 17 per cent in the NWFP and 5 per cent in Balochistan." Accounting for approximately 44 per cent of Pakistan’s landmass, Balochistan is the largest province with the lowest literacy rate.
Sindh and Punjab have, among the four provinces, shown the highest increase in literacy rates between the fiscal years 2001-02 and 2005-06, according to a report released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Punjab currently has the highest literacy rate, 56 per cent (47 per cent in 2002), followed by Sindh at 55 per cent (46 per cent in 2002). NWFP follows with a literacy rate of 46 per cent (38 per cent in 2002). A growth rate of two per cent was recorded in Balochistan, which showed a literacy rate of 38 per cent at the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year. Pakistan has the highest mortality rate for infants (70 per 1,000) and children under the age of five (101 per 1,000) in South Asia, according to a SBP report.
However, the report indicated that a comparative analysis of basic health indicators of Pakistan reflects that the country has shown significant improvement in terms of per capita health spending, life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality rates, immunisation of children, and human and physical health infrastructure. The situation, however, is not satisfactory when compared to countries in South Asia and East Asia. "Life expectancy in the country is relatively low as compared to most countries [in South and East Asia] while mortality rates indicate more dismal conditions — Pakistan has the highest rate in the mentioned group," the report stated.
Around 89 of Pakistan’s 112 Districts are facing problems of food insecurity, including malnutrition, under-nutrition, hunger, diseases and poverty, according to a World Food Programme study. The study, the first of its kind in Pakistan, was done to identify food insecure segments in urban areas of Pakistan. The study declares 39 Districts extremely vulnerable, 31 very vulnerable and 19 vulnerable to food insecurity. Among the Districts with food security it places 15 districts under the category of normal and eight under the sufficient category.
The threat to liberal Pakistan, scholar and political commentator Ayesha Siddiqa notes, is not necessarily from the mullahs but from the state supporting extremist elements and partnering with them to fulfil certain narrowly defined military-strategic objectives. Incrementally since 2000 and specifically during 2007, the Musharraf regime extensively weakened the three main components of a state – the Constitution, Judiciary and Political System. In fact, his regime, beleaguered by large scale internal strife and terrorism, continues to engineer the weakening of most civil institutions of governance.
Year 2007 saw militants not only carving out definite and well protected sanctuaries and liberated zones across the wide areas in Pakistan, but also bring the jihad to the mainstream urban expanse and into the full glare of the global media. The jihadi leadership is now not only able to recruit a staggering number of suicide bombers but is also able to forge ranks across the country without any difficulty. Indeed, the year saw the call for jihad at unprecedented levels of vigour and potency.
2007 was also the year the Islamist extremists brought the war to the capital Islamabad and its military garrison, Rawalpindi. The insurrections in Waziristan and NWFP have now transcended their geographical borders and manifest themselves in wide locations across Pakistan.
During 2007, the armed forces were clearly over-extended in many parts of the country, with not much success in their manifold counter-insurgency duties. Multiple conflicts are clearly bleeding the Army with high fatality rates, desertions and endemic demoralisation.
Politically, project democracy suffered irreparable damage in Pakistan in 2007, despite the ample push from the US, which regrettably continues to personalize its foreign policy options in the country.
Almost all state institutions are now intricately linked to the trajectory of terrorist and political violence in Pakistan. Consequently, the misuse of these institutions is at a present peak. Abusing and disempowering state institutions, Pervez Musharraf has manipulated his way into another Presidency – though he was forced out of his uniform. Pakistan’s destiny as a nation remains captive to President Musharraf’s uncertain destiny, irrespective of how the now deferred National Assembly elections play out, and whatever new ‘Government’ is installed. Pakistan currently faces several daunting challenges which have now come to affect its own survival as a nation-state. Musharraf’s much-hyped "enlightened moderation" has entirely failed, if at all it was intended to be implemented. Absent a drastic re-engineering of its structure of power, Pakistan threatens to "continue to grow into a bigger problem, both for itself and for the world."
Meghalaya has seen an almost continuous diminution in trends in violence since 2003, and year 2007 saw a continuation of this salutary decline. Total fatalities in 2007 fell to 18, including four civilians, one member of the security forces and 13 militants. Year 2006 had witnessed 26 killings; 2005, 24; 2004, 47; and 2003, 79.Insurgency related fatalities in Meghalaya: 2006-2007
Source - 2006: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
2007: Institute for Conflict Management
The banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) remains one of Meghalaya’s most potent insurgent groups, claiming to represent the majority Khasi tribe. During 2007, several HNLC cadres deserted their camps in Bangladesh, and surrendered in Meghalaya. On July 24, 2007, Meghalaya Chief Minister D.D. Lapang presented Julius Dorphang, ‘chairman’ of the outfit, and four of his colleagues, to the media. Dorphang and his associates had reportedly surrendered on July 23, after having crossed over into Indian territory from Bangladesh. Addressing a News Conference in Shillong on July 26, Dorphang indicated a course to push ahead with his pro-Khasi demands while remaining over-ground and shunning violence. As indicated earlier in SAIR , this decision by HNLC’s ‘brain’ and principal organizer, to work within the ambit of the Indian Constitution, has not reduced the group to a spent force. HNLC’s recalcitrant ‘commander-in-chief’, Bobby Marwein, and ‘general secretary’, Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, who have still stayed back in Bangladesh to carry on with the insurrection, are now viewed by Dorphang as the main "stumbling blocks in the peace process." According to an authoritative estimate, between 75 and 100 cadres, including women’s wing members and couriers, remain at the disposal of the active HNLC leadership to carry on with its violent anti-State agenda.
Extortion remains the dominant form of insurgency-related offences witnessed in the State in 2007, and the HNLC has been the principal actor in such drives. Intelligence sources disclosed, in December 2007, that the HNLC has resumed its extortion drive in the coal belt of Borsora in the West Khasi Hills District. The outfit demanded INR 500,000 from coal exporters owning ten or more trucks, while those with five but less than ten trucks were asked to pay INR 250,000 to 300,000. The HNLC has also undertaken an extortion drive against non-tribal businessmen in the Police Bazaar area of the capital, Shillong. Police sources stated, in July 2007, that some businessmen and mobile service providers had received extortion notices from the outfit. Police suspect that top HNLC leaders are using Bangladeshi nationals as couriers to ferry extortion money, since they have lost faith in their own lower rung cadres. Thus, on February 20, 2007, two HNLC cadres, Lord Canning Thongni and Everywell Leroy, who surrendered in capital Shillong, confessed that they used to hand over extortion revenues to Abdus Salam, a Bangladeshi national. Women are also used as agents to pick up the demanded amount from places where the ‘finance wing’ cadres fail to reach. "Even after the arrest of a few women who worked for the HNLC in the past, some women are still helping the outfit in collecting money in Shillong and Dawki in Jaintia Hills," an unnamed senior Police officer disclosed on November 4. He mentioned, further, that before going on an extortion drive, the women make ‘missed calls’ to top HNLC leaders based in Bangladesh, who back them up in various ways to negotiate and secure the amount.
To tide over its dwindling cadre strength, the HNLC appears to have entered into arrangements with groups from neighbouring states to carry on its extortion activities. State Police sources have indicated that the HNLC was being helped by the Tripura-based National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) in Jaintia Hills; the Nagaland-based National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) in West Khasi Hills; and the Assam-based National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in areas of Ri-Bhoi District. The presence of the Manipur-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and United National Liberation Front (UNLF), and the Assam-based Black Widow, has also been reported in the State. Apart from the opportunity to extort, Meghalaya’s reputation of being a point for illegal arms deals is also attracting such groups to the state. On October 17, the Meghalaya Police confirmed the presence of arms dealers in capital Shillong. B. K. Dey Sawian, the Director General of Police, said that Shillong, being a cosmopolitan place, has attracted various militant groups to come to purchase arms from the arms dealers in the city.
The Assam-based United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) continues its gun running and extortion activities across the Garo Hills. According to intelligence reports, during the latter half of January, at least 10 to 15 armed ULFA cadres reportedly infiltrated into the East Garo Hills District in two groups from the Krishnai-Agya stretch of the Assam-Meghalaya border, after counter-insurgency operations were launched in the Kamrup and Goalpara Districts of Assam. Meghalaya Police stated that three kilograms of RDX and eight grenades, recovered from ULFA cadre Raju Basumatary on January 19, were part of the arms consignment for the ‘27th battalion’ of the ULFA. Basumatary confessed during interrogation that he had brought RDX and arms from Bangladesh through Garo Hills and then to the Ri-Bhoi District. Addressing the media in New Delhi on August 21, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had stated that the ULFA had set up camps in Meghalaya along the India-Bangladesh border. ULFA was also involved in extortion activities at Phulbari, Garobadha, Mendipathar and other adjoining areas in the West Garo Hills District. Both Army and Border Security Force sources confirmed that the ‘109th battalion’ of ULFA was operating from the Garo Hills, exploiting the border with Bangladesh. On October 28, 2007, ULFA militants opened fire and later looted INR 700,000 from an employee of Virgo Cement Company, Razib Uddin Ahmed, between Jenjal and Anogre areas in the West Garo Hills District.
One relatively new actor augmented the extortion drive in the coal export areas of the State during 2007: the Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF), a Garo group that was formed on July 19, 2005, to fill the vacuum created by the entry of the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) into a cease-fire agreement with the Union Government on July 23, 2004. Apart from three Garo Hills (East, West and South) Districts, the LAEF has also operated in parts of East and West Khasi Hills Districts and Ri Bhoi District. The outfit has reportedly built linkages with NSCN-IM as well its bete noire, the Khaplang faction (NSCN-K). A June 22, 2007, report confirmed its established linkage with the NSCN-K. Meanwhile, the Meghalaya Police stated, in the first week of September, that some of the LAEF cadres had fled to Dimapur in Nagaland and were in constant touch with the NSCN-IM leaders. Shortly after his arrest from Jorabhat, the LAEF 'chief' Peter Marak confessed during interrogation that the NSCN-IM had sold as many as 15 AK-47s, 25 automatic M20 pistols and three powerful Universal Machine Guns, besides over a hundred hand grenades, to the LAEF. Explaining the collaboration between the two groups on extortion, Police Chief Sawian, on October 17, 2007, disclosed that the NSCN-IM had set up a camp in the Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills, with the help of the LAEF, to extort money from coal traders in the District. As has been the case with other outfits of the region, the LAEF has got the political patronage to sustain its operation. Assam Tribune reported on August 23 that "the LAEF has, since its inception in 2005, been rumoured to be patronised by members of a prominent political party from Meghalaya."
The cease fire and operation of splinter groups has, however, not coincided with the complete withdrawal of the ANVC from the Garo insurgency. The Joint Monitoring Committee meeting, held between representatives of the ANVC, Meghalaya Government and Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the national capital New Delhi on December 12, expressed concern over the continued extortion being carried out by the group, and stressed the need to strictly adhere to ground rules of the cease-fire agreement. On August 17, Bernard Marak, the ‘organising secretary’ of the ANVC, was arrested from Tura in the West Garo Hills District, on charges of extortion. He was later released from Police custody in November. Police disclosed that several complaints had been lodged against Marak, also known as Torik Jangang, by the truckers. Three of his associates arrested on August 16 had also confessed to their involvement in the racket. They had been extracting INR 20 from each truck plying in Tura, posing as members of the truckers' association. Marak was also manning the ‘liaison office’ of the militant group at Tura. Apart from extortion, ANVC militants have also engaged in fratricidal killings. On September 6, Nabat Marak, a cadre of the Achik National Liberation Front Army (ANLFA), was shot dead and his body was buried by suspected ANVC militants at Chidimit village near Songsak in the East Garo Hills District. Police stated that he had deserted from the ANVC in 2005 and later joined the new outfit.
Pakistan's external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is also known to have tried to consolidate its network in Meghalaya, with the wider objective of destabilizing the economy, and has funded terrorist groups by means of circulating fake Indian currency notes in the entire Northeast. On May 14, 2007, the Meghalaya Police is said to have exposed the modus operandi of the ISI in circulating fake currencies in the Rasinagre and Doomdooma villages of the South Garo Hills District, along the India-Bangladesh border. Rasinagre village was the main route through which Bangladeshi nationals sneaked into the neighbouring Indian villages and lured the poor local youth into criminal activities. The ISI had engaged one Sira Mustafa alias Samrat and Kalek Ali from Munsipara of Mymensingh District in Bangladesh to push fake currencies into India, using some 15 youth from Rasinagre for the activity.
The United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), the Assam-based Karbi militant group which had, over the years, targeted the Khasi-Pnar people inhabiting the Assam-Meghalaya border, asked for peace talks over the Block I and Block II areas of the Karbi Anglong District in Assam. The then Meghalaya Chief Minister, J.D. Rymbai, appreciating the offer on January 31, 2007, stated that this was a positive move on the part of the militant group to recognise the Khasi-Pnar people as "sons of the soil of Karbi Anglong," which would help in ending the reign of terror that has afflicted these two areas for the last five years. On February 16, however, State Home Minister R.G. Lyngdoh refused to negotiate with the UPDS and said that the issue of the ‘disputed’ Blocks-1 and II areas would be resolved between the two State Governments.
On the domestic front, the peace process with the HNLC has also not moved any further after its ‘general secretary’, Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, expressed the group’s willingness to engage in negotiations. Addressing the ‘20th raising day’ of the outfit on August 15, 2007, he stated that the group was keen to end bloodshed and was willing to sit for tripartite talks involving both the Union and State Governments.
The Meghalaya Police registered some counter-insurgency successes in year 2007. On August 22, Peter Marak, the LAEF ‘chief’, was killed during an encounter with Police personnel near a militant hideout in a forest near the Kalak village in the East Garo Hills District. Another LAEF cadre was also injured in the encounter. Again, on October 30, five Bangladesh-based HNLC militants, who were trying to kill the group’s surrendered chairman, Julius Dorphang, were shot dead by Police personnel during an encounter at Cleave Colony under Laitumkhrah Police Station in the East Khasi Hills District. The State Police, meanwhile, lost a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), identified as Raymond P. Diengdoh, while neutralising an HNLC hideout and killing a militant in the Paham Umdoh forest near Byrnihat in the Ri-Bhoi District on November 7, 2007. The proscription of the ANVC and HNLC was also extended by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, on May 23, for another two years, till May 15, 2009, due to their continued anti-national and anti-social activities.
As regards the border fencing, the key deterrent against infiltration and movement of militants to the State from Bangladesh, Governor M. M. Jacob, in his address to the Legislative Assembly on March 12, 2007, stated that a high level Coordination Committee had been set up to look into the grievances of the people protesting against the fencing. He further mentioned that the Government was considering a proposal to set up a Directorate of Infiltration.
The State claims to have a robust ratio of 360 police personnel 100,000 population, as against the national average of 126 claimed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Police density in the State works out at 39.8 per 100 square kilometers of area, a little below the national figure of 44.4. There has been an increase of 0.87 per cent in Police and training expenditure between 2004-05 and 2005-06, well below the national average of 1.18 percent. For modernisation, the State Police has utilised grants worth INR 66 million (Central Government funds: INR 59.4 million; and State Government – INR 6.6 million) out of a total Police modernization expenditure for the country of INR 8.52 billion.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 31, 2007-January 6, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
439 people killed in militant violence in Assam in 2007: Assam Police stated that in the year 2007, 286 civilians, 24 security force (SF) personnel and 129 militants were killed in 500 incidents of violence. While 750 civilians were injured in different militancy-related incidents, SF personnel arrested 1,627 militants belonging to various groups in the State. Police added that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was the worst hit, as a number of hardcore cadres of the outfit were either arrested or killed during the year. 75 civilians were abducted by the militant groups in 2007 and 55 of them were rescued. Assam Tribune, January 3, 2008.
Seven soldiers and a civilian killed in terrorist attack at CRPF camp in Uttar Pradesh: On January 1, 2008, seven Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and a civilian were killed in a pre-dawn terrorist attack on the para-military CRPF Group Centre at Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. Three more CRPF personnel, a civil Policeman and a Home Guard were injured in the attack. Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary J.N. Chamber disclosed that the attack was carried out around 2.45 am (IST) by two suspected fidayeen (suicide squad) militants dressed as CRPF constables. They breached the outer security (which is the responsibility of the State Police), and started firing indiscriminately from AK-47 rifles on the security post, the guard room and the control room. The terrorists subsequently escaped under cover of darkness. Although no outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack, security agencies suspect that it was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). The Hindu, January 1, 2008.
Military or intelligence agencies not involved in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, says President Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf on January 3, 2008, denied accusations that the military or intelligence services were involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad, Musharraf said he had invited British investigators to assist in the probe into her death to dispel any suspicions about official involvement in her assassination. "We don't mind going to any extent, as nobody is involved from the Government or agency side," he said. He also denied there had been a security lapse and implied that Benazir, who was greeting supporters through the sunroof of her armoured vehicle at the time of the attack, was partly responsible. "Who is to be blamed for her coming out of her vehicle?" he asked. The Post, January 4, 2008.
Chief of LTTE’s "military intelligence" killed: Chief of the "Liberation Tigers Military Intelligence", self-styled ‘colonel’ Charles aka Shanmuganathan Ravishankar, was killed on the evening of January 5 in a "random claymore attack" by the Sri Lanka Army’s Deep Penetration Unit at Pallamadu in the Mannar District, the pro-LTTE TamilNet stated in a report. Charles, who has been in charge of internal intelligence within the ranks of the LTTE ground forces and led an external operations corps and regular combat force that has been deployed in Mannar District, was killed along with three LTTE "lieutenants" in the ambush, while they were travelling in a van between Iluppaikkadavai and Pallamadu at 3:10 pm. Confirming the news, the Sri Lanka Defence Ministry said that Charles was deputy to Pottu Amman, the chief of the LTTE’s intelligence wing. The Hindu , January 7, 2008.
Government withdraws from Cease-fire Agreement: The Sri Lanka Government on January 2, 2008, decided to withdraw from the Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). At a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake proposed the annulment of the CFA, signed in February 22, 2002, between the then United National Front Government and the LTTE, Government spokesperson Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said. "All the Cabinet Ministers agreed for that and the Premier was tasked to inform the matter to the Norwegian facilitators soon (sic)," he said. "The Government decided to officially withdraw from the Ceasefire Agreement since it is futile to continue with the Ceasefire with no indication that LTTE is willing to enter the peace path," the Minister stated, adding further, "The Ceasefire has been violated by the LTTE more than 10,000 times. The Cabinet decision will be put into practice by using the terms and conditions of the Ceasefire Agreement itself." Colombo Page, January 3, 2008.