Post-26/11: What India needs to do

31 01 2009

Source: DNA INDIA

In the introduction to her book What Terrorists Want, Louise Richardson explains why she studied terrorism “to try to establish why an otherwise responsible parent, student or teacher would chose to join a terrorist movement and remain in one and why a group of people would collectively choose to kill innocent people they do not know in order to advance some goal unlikely to be achieved in their lifetime.”
What happened in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and continued for three days raises just these and several other questions. And what we have seen is no longer a proxy war, but an all out assault on the Indian state. It is an attack on all Indians and all Indians will have to be prepared to fight this one. It is far too serious to be left to politicians.
It may be state policy in Pakistan to use jehad as a deadly instrument of foreign policy and as a force equaliser against the superior Indian military, but then that state has the manpower willing to act as its emissaries in this bloody game virtually sure that they will die. There is a terrorist rationality in this seeming irrationality — of dying unsung for a cause unfulfilled. Perhaps the incident itself is the rationale. Perhaps the incident coverage by the media provides the narrative and renown for the future. Or perhaps, the debate that ensues with the pseudo-liberal platitudes provides some justification.
The terrorists who attacked Mumbai were seeking a global audience for their expression of hatred and the spectacular act was part of their psychological warfare.
Their inspiration may be the desire of their leaders and ideologues — like Syed Qutb, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Ibn Taymiyah and even Hafeez Saeed — to return to the glory of 7th century Islam. This would inevitably put them into conflict with the 21st century world including a large percentage of Muslims. Pakistani rulers have used Kashmir as glue for organising groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a policy instrument against India. It may now be getting out of control.
Why now?The question that many ask is that given Pakistan’s present political uncertainties, an economic crisis despite having just received an IMF bailout, and a security predicament in the NWFP and US pressure to co-operate, given the kinds of peace overtures coming from the president, why did it feel it necessary to indulge in this kind of adventurism. Maybe these are the very reasons why this adventure was necessary. All this is part of a devious plot, to create a crisis on the eastern frontier by having this terrorist act which is difficult for the Indians to ignore, then move troops away from the Fata and NWFP which would alarm the US/Nato in their battles against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The ensuing tension on the eastern frontier would absolve Pakistan of having to fight America’s war in the west unless the US is able to assure Pakistan that its eastern flank is not endangered by Indians.
A major terrorist incident in Mumbai would provoke an Indian reaction, raise tension and alarm the US. Kashmir would be back on the radar screen of the new president. So, if India could be made to see reason in this, Pakistan would be able to help the American cause in Afghanistan. There is considerable writing in the US precisely on these lines and a major terrorist action would be useful in impressing the new president anxious to find a different path to solving the Afghanistan imbroglio. The hope would be that the Americans would be able to leave Afghanistan with Pakistani assistance, Pakistan would have access to Afghanistan and Kashmir and, finally, the LeT would be the heroes.
As it is, the Pakistan army has been fighting its Fata campaign very half-heartedly and has been more interested in obtaining steady cash inflow of money from the US. The Pakistanis do not want to eliminate the Taliban as they would have future uses for it in Afghanistan and Kashmir in a post-US phase.
Sushant Sareen feels that there will be immense US political, military and economic pressure on Pakistan to prevent it from entering into a deal with the Islamists. If the Pakistanis defy the Americans, then they risk economic collapse and military confrontation with the US.
On the other hand, acceptance of US demands will cause public outrage as the US and Pakistani forces take on the Taliban and the Taliban retaliate by hitting in major towns and cities. In this context, the Mumbai plot was a way to pre-empt this pressure.
Over time, the Pakistani Taliban have been able to or been allowed to take control of large chunks of territory in Fata and Swat. The startling disclosure that Baitullah Mehsud, till recently accused of assassinating Benazir Bhutto, had now been declared a Pakistani patriot, who would allow the army to pull out and concentrate on the Indian frontier, could be an indicator of the shape of things to come.
It is possible that there is a strong difference of opinion in the Pak army about priorities — whether Pakistan should be fighting America’s war in the NWFP and killing their own Muslim brothers in the province or fighting its own war in Kashmir and against India.
Possibly, there are those in the Pak army who feel that Pakistan must not be seen to be fighting its own people -although that never bothered the Pak armed forces whenever they have had to tackle the Baloch. Maybe this is a victory for the Islamists inside the Pak army.
The Pak army’s badge of professionalism is heavily imbued with Islamic overtones. The Pakistani soldier and officer are different from the officers who graduate from Khadakvasla, Sandhurst or West Point. The man from Kakul trains under the motto ‘Jehad fi’isbillah’ — Jehad in the name of God. He leads a modern Islamic army and genuinely believes that he is the ‘protector of the faith’ and the ‘defender of the realm’.
And this army is steadily losing control of parts of its territory in the northwest as the Taliban spread deeper into Pakistan.
Pak army’s guided missileThe LeT (Army of pure), whose involvement in the Mumbai attacks is now established, is an Islamic terrorist force in Asia with links to Al Qaeda. Its network extends across South Asia, has links in Afghanistan, and has received generous donations from the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia. Besides, it also has the support of the Pak army and the ISI. Seed money came from Osama bin Laden and there have been generous donations from rich Pakistani businessmen. Saudi Arabia has sustained this outfit with considerable funding.
The political wing of the LeT, the Markaz Dawa Irshad, (renamed Jamaat ut Dawa renamed Idara Khidmat e Khalq) today runs 200 mainstream Dawa schools, 11 madrassas, two science colleges, an ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks. Its recruits are not ill-educated madrassa students, but well educated and educationally qualified urban professionals.
The Lashkar continues to have training camps in Muridke, with its headquarters near Lahore. The LeT has conducted operations in Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and SE Asia. The Lashkar is an invaluable asset to the Pak authorities as it enables it to keep the Kashmir option open even while supporting the US campaign in Afghanistan.
It is sometimes assumed, incorrectly, that the LeT is a Kashmiri outfit. It is a purely Punjabi Pakistani group. As an associate of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews and then later to include Hindus, its scope of activity is beyond Kashmir.
As Wilson John of the Observer Research Foundation points out Hafeez Saeed’s favourite verse from the Quran is Wajahidu fi Sabilallah (Wage a holy war in the name of God). It was not too long ago when the LeT chief Hafeez Saeed told his followers in Lahore from where he usually doles out inflammatory sermons against India when he said, “India understands only one language — the language of Jehad”.
This was on October 13, 2008, a few weeks before the attacks on Mumbai were launched or as one can suspect, maybe by then the operation had already begun.

Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Reasearch and Analysis Wing. The second part of this article will appear tomorrow





analysis: Swat under siege —Abbas Rashid

24 01 2009

Source: Dailytimes

Both India and Pakistan do not seem optimally positioned in terms of internal dynamics to deal with the pressing issues they face. The dissensions within will allow the militants to secure even greater space

One indicator of the state of Swat is the fate of its schools. According to one estimate, over the last fortnight, around twenty schools have been burnt down — more than one a day on average. The total number of schools in Swat that have been destroyed has now exceeded 150. Most are girls’ schools. In fact, few schools in the area are actually functioning because of understandable concerns on the part of parents and teachers for the safety of the children.

There are doubts expressed sometimes as to who is responsible for this. Obviously, it is not possible to rule out the involvement of more than one element. But the Taliban have often enough made clear their aversion to girls’ education and the experience of their rule in Afghanistan provides ample testimony as to their determination in this regard.

But what are we doing about the havoc being wreaked in Swat?

Earlier this week members of parliament passed a resolution expressing solidarity with the people of the valley, pledging to “stand up for the protection of their rights in the face of the onslaught by non-state actors”.

We are not quite sure just how this will happen. On Thursday, President Asif Zardari met security chiefs and politicians to discuss the violence in Swat and elsewhere in the northwest, and said the government was following a “three D” policy of dialogue, development and deterrence.

The problem, however, is that dialogue and short-lived peace deals have been tried before, only to have the Taliban return to the area stronger than before. Development interventions are not possible unless preceded by peace and a modicum of stability. And so far, the fairly substantial presence of military and paramilitary forces in the area has somehow not deterred the Taliban from terrorising the people of Swat and FATA, forcing large numbers to leave their homes and flee the area. The majority of the police force is no longer performing its duties and even the security advisor suggested as much when he declared Thursday that the police would have to work at restoring their credibility.

But Swat is now in the grip of a broader Taliban-led insurgency challenging the writ of the state in FATA and increasingly in the settled areas of the NWFP. And a successful counter-insurgency strategy operation cannot be carried out by a demoralised police force. While the military and paramilitary forces have carried out successful operations in the area, there is a general sense that the initiative still rests very much with the Taliban who seem to be running short neither of arms, men or money in what is nothing less than an unrelenting drive to take effective control over large areas of Pakistan and force millions of its citizens to do their bidding.

An ISPR spokesman Wednesday blamed the situation in the area partly on the two months of truce agreed by the new provincial government with the militants, giving them a chance to regroup and tighten their grip. That may be so. Earlier, this was a strategy followed by the military under President Pervez Musharraf as well.

Now, again, the federal government has sought the services of JUIF chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to negotiate with the Taliban. It is unlikely that the latter will agree to anything less than exercising effective control in large parts of the NWFP and imposing their own version of sharia that, among other things, rules out education for women and polio shots for children.

Clearly, a negotiated peace is the best option but it should not be a synonym for the surrender of the writ of the state. In the alternative, force has to be judiciously but effectively used to restore confidence in a terrorised populace. And while the Maulana may be the right person to negotiate with the Taliban, he might need reminding that his party lost in the last elections, held less than an year ago, and the ANP and the PPP won convincingly in the area: it says something about the preferences and aspirations of the people as opposed to those of the militants and terrorists.

Meanwhile, there is a level of uncertainly created by the fallout from the bomb blasts that killed so many innocent people in Mumbai last November. As the threats from India mounted, Pakistan made it clear that it would move troops fighting the insurgency to its eastern border and some were reportedly redeployed.

A major redeployment would obviously provide the Taliban with the opportunity to consolidate their gains and advance further. But, the pressure from India now seems to be receding and with the new US administration headed by Barack Obama, it is likely that there will be an attempt to put a regional initiative in place with regard to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Richard Holbrooke has been reported as Obama’s choice for the position of US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan But an important part of his mandate could be Pakistan-India relations as well. President Obama spoke during his campaign about the need to resolve the Kashmir issue and the recent remarks made by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband are indicative of the thinking in western capitals that a ‘regional’ solution may not be entirely possible without some kind of a settlement on Kashmir.

Pakistan, for its part, has made it clear that it will go along with any settlement acceptable to the Kashmiris, while India remains deeply suspicious of any third party involvement as indicated yet again by its sharp reaction to the Miliband’s remarks. However, India needs to resolve the Kashmir issue not for Pakistan but for itself just as Pakistan has to meet the challenge posed by the Taliban in FATA and the NWFP not in support of the US war on terror, but for its own integrity and survival as a nation-state.

For now, however, both India and Pakistan do not seem optimally positioned in terms of internal dynamics to deal with the pressing issues they face. The dissensions within will allow the militants to secure even greater space. To deal effectively with the growing menace of militancy and terrorism, both countries need to allow for a regional approach to the issue.

Abbas Rashid lives in Lahore and can be contacted at abbasrh@gmail.com





TALIBAN says India is an "eternal enemy".

5 08 2008

Will India be able to counter this Eternal enemy the TALIBAN
Source: Rediff
August 05, 2008 17:29 IST

A top local Taliban [Images] leader has dismissed contentions by Pakistani officials that India is helping militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“We are true Muslims and true Pakistanis and are more concerned about the country’s safety than any other countryman,” Maulana Faqir Muhammad, “deputy commander” of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, told the News daily.

He said they consider India as an “eternal enemy”.

Muhammad, who leads the Pakistani Taliban in the Bajaur tribal region, also rejected reports that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed or wounded in a recent US missile strike in South Waziristan Agency.

Referring to the Taliban’s peace talks with the Pakistan government, he said the authorities were not sincere.

“We are very clear about the talks. We never denied talks with the government. If the government were not aggravating the situation here, we too would not do so. We do not want activities inside the country so that we can focus more attention across the border,” Muhammad said.

His comments came as pressure mounted on Pakistan from various countries, including the US and Afghanistan, to rein in militants operating from its soil.

He said the Pakistan government had committed “excesses” in the Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province. “If the government stopped the operations in Swat, the situation would automatically calm down within no time, but if the government continued the operation, it would face more resistance,” he warned.





TALIBAN says India is an "eternal enemy".

5 08 2008

Will India be able to counter this Eternal enemy the TALIBAN
Source: Rediff
August 05, 2008 17:29 IST

A top local Taliban [Images] leader has dismissed contentions by Pakistani officials that India is helping militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“We are true Muslims and true Pakistanis and are more concerned about the country’s safety than any other countryman,” Maulana Faqir Muhammad, “deputy commander” of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, told the News daily.

He said they consider India as an “eternal enemy”.

Muhammad, who leads the Pakistani Taliban in the Bajaur tribal region, also rejected reports that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed or wounded in a recent US missile strike in South Waziristan Agency.

Referring to the Taliban’s peace talks with the Pakistan government, he said the authorities were not sincere.

“We are very clear about the talks. We never denied talks with the government. If the government were not aggravating the situation here, we too would not do so. We do not want activities inside the country so that we can focus more attention across the border,” Muhammad said.

His comments came as pressure mounted on Pakistan from various countries, including the US and Afghanistan, to rein in militants operating from its soil.

He said the Pakistan government had committed “excesses” in the Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province. “If the government stopped the operations in Swat, the situation would automatically calm down within no time, but if the government continued the operation, it would face more resistance,” he warned.





An ostrich mentality

30 05 2008

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=115304

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Ikram Sehgal

Whenever the economy is in trouble, central banks the world over take measures to ease pressures on the business community by lowering discount rates, as done recently by the US Federal Reserve Board and the Bank of England. Intervention is normally anathema to “free market” theory but the fear of a domino effect on the economy evoked a rescue effort. Raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy does fight inflation. In Third World countries with large blue-collar workforces fighting unemployment must be the moral objective. This is at variance with IMF practices and beliefs. While inflation lowers the buying power of salaries, it is still preferable to be employed and have some food on the table for the family than not have any money to buy food.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has woken up from years of slumber, raising the discount rate and banking charges. And that is meant to control inflation? Manufacturers and merchants will simply pass the rate rises onto the consumers, the common man has had it. Did Governor Shamshad Akhtar consult the government-in-power, what will the PPP answer to the populace? She should have anticipated the rise in inflation. The last SBP Quarterly Report was oblivious to it. Lack of anticipation also failed to prevent a run on the Pakistani rupee and enact pre-emptive measures when the world economic situation was staring us in the face for months. The US dollar was already taking a pounding because of oil prices, and food shortages worldwide were front page news. While the sudden SBP frenzy is not by itself responsible for the stock market downturn, it is certainly a contributing factor. Her recent “Asia Banker” award notwithstanding, is Dr Akhtar up to facing national economic crisis on this scale?

There are signs we may weather the “atta” crisis because of (1) early measures regulating the internal flow (2) reducing smuggling to Afghanistan (3) a bumper wheat crop expected shortly and (4) staggered wheat imports for bolstering buffer stocks. Despite protests from the NWFP and Balochistan, we must keep on hanging tough about internal movement of wheat and atta stocks while keeping supply pipelines open. Why are we being generous in giving Hamid Karzai 50,000 tons of wheat when he badmouths us all the time?

The US is impatient with the peace initiatives in FATA and Swat. While one must not negotiate with terrorists, we must differentiate between terrorists and militants. Those crossing the border into Afghanistan are mostly militants but could also be “equal opportunity” terrorists, Baitullah Mahsud’s forays reaching innocents in cities and towns deep inside Pakistan. Since he has publicly boasted about sending his fighters across the border into Afghanistan, with what credibility do we oppose “hot pursuit” and Predator strikes on locations in FATA’s terrorist-infested areas? The unfortunate Catch-22, further radicalism and virulent anti-Americanism. Both the US and Pakistani interest lie in stopping militant activity on either side of the border, with Mahsud’s terrorists faction isolated from other militants. This fine balancing act is a calculated risk, requiring both understanding and patience from the US. Incidentally our media are accessories to murder, giving media time to terrorists. Pakistan’s must be the only fourth estate in the world that helps spread the terrorist message of hate and suicide bombings. We must act more responsibly, the blood of innocents pays for the media space given to terrorists.

Maulana Fazlullah and his “holy army” in Swat terrorised the local population, imposing brutal authority with great savagery in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. They had to be militarily eliminated; this was done in brilliant fashion by the Army. Maulana Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, has been in government custody since returning from Afghanistan (of his own choice for self-survival because he got his “volunteers” slaughtered by the Coalition air strikes and Northern Alliance during the short, sharp Afghanistan war post 9/11). Rashid Dostum buried thousands of surviving Pakistanis, handed over by Mullah Dadullah in Konduz during Ramzan in 2001 for his own freedom and that of his Afghan followers, alive in containers in Shebergan. Estranged from Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah took over the TSNM during his absence. The ANP government in the NWFP acted pragmatically in releasing Sufi Mohammad and entering into a peace deal with him to counter Fazlullah’s residual influence.

Trying to push the 62-clause Constitutional package through Parliament in one go is not advisable, some points will likely get short shrift. Can the PPP muster a two-thirds majority? Even in a joint session of Parliament the numbers don’t add up! The major stumbling block is the proposal to reduce the Chief Justice’s tenure to three years, making him retire before he becomes active, in effect the “minus one” formula. The president will hardly agree to giving away his powers to appoint the Chief Justice, the Chief Election Commissioner and the services chiefs.

We should not allow Musharraf-specific emotion and prejudice overwhelm our good judgment, Article 58 (2) (b) and the National Security Council (NSC) should be retained. Without these the Armed Forces would have to declare martial law (thus committing treason technically) when the situation spins totally out of control. Any presidential move should be qualified, if imposing 58 2(b) fails due judicial scrutiny, the president should resign. The appointment of the services chiefs should not be politicised in the manner Mian Nawaz Sharif did when he was prime minister. Even though Musharraf certainly had merit, two course-mates senior to him, Ali Quli and Khalid Nawaz, had no less. The choice of Musharraf was political for Mian Sahib’s own personal benefit, it rebounded in his face. The president should forward three choices to the prime minister for public scrutiny by a joint parliamentary committee. If their recommendations are in variance to his, the president should consult with the prime minister and the committee. The same process can be followed for the post of the chief justice, as well as for the CEC.

When denials to outlandish rumours without any foundation are not handled professionally, the perception will be “the lady doth protest too much,” as my good friend and colleague Kamran Shafi has duly noted. The ISI’s political cell undercuts (in public perception) the Army’s firm (and welcome) resolve to stay away from politics. Col Skorzeny, Germany’s “Commando Extraordinary” during World War 2 had it right when he said, “Politics is the soldier’s curse!” Deviation from the ISI’s primary mission is not only a waste of public money, time and effort, it undermines this national asset’s tremendous potential (and successes) in keeping the country secure from external dangers, demeaning the achievement of the vast majority of the agency’s magnificent rank and file who get a bad name simply by association.

With its political wing transferred lock, stock and barrel to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the ISI must be actually (not theoretically) under the prime minister’s control. Rather than honestly facing unpalatable facts, this country excels in burying its head in the ground and circumventing the truth as they did in 1971. For the sake of the country we profess to love, stand up and be counted, instead of continuing to put our heads in the ground and closing our eyes and ears to existing realities.

We do not need an ostrich mentality!

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder 9.com