Monday, April 6, 2009


"Don't blame the common man if he does not take the government's orders seriously. What happened to the deweaponization ? The paramilitary forces looked on helplessly when the TNSM activists drove past the check points with guns mounted on their vehicles. Why should the common citizens believe this government when it says that it would take concrete steps against religious extremists and then buckles under such pressures, and withdraws plans to bring about procedural amendments in the controversial blasphemy law?

"Mere tough talk will not convince the people. Action speaks louder than words. How will the government liberate the 'great majority of moderate Pakistanis' held hostage by a minority of religious extremists when it cannot liberate itself from the extremists? People remain unconvinced. They say that the establishment has not divorced its religious allies altogether. This is just a separation. There will be a re-union once the situation cools down in Afghanistan. It will continue to need the support of the religious extremist groups for as long as Kashmir issue remains unresolved.

"Notwithstanding their present hibernation, the Jihadi outfits would continue to operate, along the holy war in Kashmir. They would continue to push political goals in Pakistan as well.

"The government says the extremists stand exposed and that it plans to unveil an action plan against them in the next three weeks or so. The taste of the pudding is in eating it. Time will tell how sincere is the administration in taking on religious extremism."

So wrote Mr. M. Ismail Khan, a Pakistani analyst, in the "Dawn" of Karachi on November 29, 2001, in response to the repeated reiteration by Gen.Pervez Musharraf, since September 11, 2001, of his determination to eradicate extremist and terrorist activities from Pakistani soil. The comments were provoked by the action of the military junta in not preventing the crossing- over of thousands of heavily-armed jehadis from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan into Afghanistan, at the height of the US air strikes against the Taliban to join the Taliban in its so-called jehad against the US. Thousands of them got killed by the US air strikes and in the fighting with the Northern Alliance.

If many in Pakistan itself have thus been doubting the sincerity of Musharraf in wanting to make a total break from extremism and terrorism, India is totally justified in adopting a cautious approach to his telecast of January 12 and in wanting to see credible action on the ground against terrorists operating against India before appropriately reciprocating to his speech and the follow-up action.

In pursuance of Musharraf's telecast announcement of January 12, 2002, Lt.Gen. (retd) Moinuddin Haider, Pakistan's Interior Minister, issued a notification on January 15, 2002, formally banning the following five organisations under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, which was got enacted by the then Prime Minister, Mr.Nawaz Sharif, and under which Sharif himself was got prosecuted and jailed by Musharraf after capturing power on October 12, 1999: the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LET), the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JEM), the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the Tehreek-e-Jafferia Pakistan (TJP) and the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM). All of them, except the Shia TJP, have a strong Deobandi-Wahabi orientation. On the other hand, the Sunni Tehreek, which is of Barelvi orientation, was placed only under observation and not banned.

According to the notification, Section 11E of the Act provides that where any organisation is proscribed, the required measures against it will include: its offices, if any, shall be sealed; its accounts, if any, shall be frozen; all literature, posters, banners, or printing, electronic and digital or other material shall be seized.

It said: "Publications, printing or dissemination of any press statements, press conferences of public utterances by or on behalf of or in support of a proscribed organisation shall also be prohibited".

"The proscribed organisation shall submit all accounts of its income and expenditure for its political and social welfare activities and disclose all funding sources to the competent authority designated by the government. The provincial governments have been directed by the federal government to take immediate action. The Interior Ministry has also asked the provincial governments to furnish a report in this regard."

Of the five banned organisations, the TJP and the SSP are registered as political parties under the relevant Pakistani law and had been contesting elections. Registered political parties cannot be banned without the concurrence of the Supreme Court. The military junta got over this requirement under the pretext that since these two organisations had contested the 1997 elections under different names and had subsequently changed their names, they should have got themselves freshly registered as political parties, which they had not done.

The TJP had contested the 1997 elections as the Tehreek-e-Fiquah-e-Jafferia Pakistan and the SSP as the Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. The TJP and the SSP came into existence after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. The TJP was formed at the instance of the Iranian Intelligence to protect the interests of the Shias and was funded by the latter. It extended its activities to the Shia majority areas of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Northern Areas--NA (Gilgit and Baltistan) and started a movement for constituting these Shia majority areas into a separate province of Pakistan to be called the Karakoram province.

In 1988, there was a violent uprising of the Shias in Gilgit, which was ruthlessly suppressed by Musharraf, who was given the task of dealing with the revolt by Zia-ul-Haq. Musharraf had a large number of Sunni Pashtun tribesmen from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) led by Osama bin Laden brought into Gilgit. They carried out a massacre of the Shias in the NA as well as the adjoining NWFP areas. It is believed by many in Pakistan that the crash of the aircraft in which Zia was travelling from Bahawalpur in August 1988 resulting in his death was caused by a Shia airman from Gilgit sympathetic to the TJP in retaliation for this massacre.

To keep the Shias of Gilgit under control, Musharraf encouraged the the SSP, which had come into existence in the Punjab in the early 1980s at the instance of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to extend its activities amongst the Sunni population of Gilgit and to politically organise them against the the TJP. Since then, there have frequently been clashes between the TJP and the SSP followers in Gilgit, the latest outbreak of such violent incidents having taken place in June, 2001, before Musharraf's visit to India for the summit talks with Mr.A.B.Vajpayee, the Indian Prime Minister.

The SSP, which, as stated above, originally came into existence in the Punjab province of Pakistan and spread from there to Sindh, was funded and used by the ISI and the Saudi intelligence for dealing with the Shias in Pakistan and for assisting the Sunni Balochis in the areas of Iran adjoining Pakistan's Balochistan province. The SSP acted in concert with the Iraqi-funded Mujahideen-e-Khalq in fomenting an anti-Teheran revolt amongst the Sunnis of Iran. The revolt was ultimately crushed by the Iranian authorities.

Towards the end of the 1980s, the SSP, much to the discomfiture of the ISI, started demanding that Pakistan should be proclaimed a Sunni Republic and the Shias declared non-Muslims. This led to violent clashes between the two organisations. The SSP and its militant wing called the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) carried out a massacre of the Shias in Punjab and Sindh. In Karachi, many Shia doctors and other intellectuals were massacred by the SSP. The SSP also carried out murderous attacks on Iranian nationals residing in Pakistan, including an Iranian diplomat in charge of the Iranian Cultural Centre in Lahore, and some Iranian military officers who had come to Pakistan for training.

To protect the Shias, the TJP formed its own militant wing called the Sipah Mohammad (SM). In 1996, the ISI had used the trained cadres of the SSP from the Punjab and Sindh for helping the Taliban in the capture of Jalalabad and Kabul. Hundreds of SSP cadres took part in the successful Taliban assault on Kabul in September, 1996. The SSP became an important component of the Taliban and joined Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jehad Against the US and Israel in 1998. It was used by bin Laden and the Taliban for the massacre of the Shias (Hazaras) of Afghanistan.

Concerned over the uncontrollable anti-Shia activities of the SSP and the LEJ in Pakistani territory, Musharraf banned the LEJ and the SM under the Anti-Terrorism Act on August, 14, 2001, but, despite this, the LEJ has continued to be as active as before with the connivance of sympathetic officers of the military-intelligence establishment.

Hundreds of SSP cadres fought along with the Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz and Kabul post-September 11, 2001, and suffered a large number of fatal casualties due to the US air strikes. The survivors have since returned to Pakistan and it is the fear of an anti-US and anti-Musharraf backlash from them which has led to the ban on the SSP.
The TJP or its SM have not indulged in major acts of terrorism. The TJP had refrained from participating in the post-September 11 anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan. But, Musharraf has banned it too lest a ban only on the Sunni organisations cause anger amongst the Sunnis, who constitute about 80 per cent of Pakistan's Muslim population. The USA views the TJP with suspicion because of its perceived proximity to the Iranian intelligence and would, therefore, have reasons to be gratified by the ban on it.

As a result of the policy of divide and rule followed by Musharraf and the ISI since he seized power in October, 1999, one saw for the first time in Pakistan sectarian terrorism inside the Sunni community itself between the Sunnis of the Deobandi faith belonging to the SSP and the LEJ and those of the Barelvi faith belonging to the Sunni Tehreek formed in the early 1990s to counter the growing Wahabi influence on Islam in Pakistan and the Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat formed in 1998 by Pir Afzal Qadri of Mararian Sharif in Gujrat, Punjab, to counter the activities of the Deobandi Army of Islam headed by Gen. Mohammed Aziz, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

This led to frequent armed clashes between rival Sunni groups in Sindh, the most sensational of the incidents being the gunning down of Maulana Salim Qadri of the Sunni Tehreek in Karachi in May, 2001, by the SSP, which led to a major break-down of law and order in certain areas of Karachi for some days.

While banning the strongly Deobandi SSP, Musharraf has refrained from banning the strongly Barelvi Sunni Tehreek and the Tanzeem. The Deobandis became quite powerful under Zia, himself a devout Deobandi, but numerically they are in a minority in Pakistan's Sunni community. By sparing the Barelvi organisations, Musharraf has sought to ensure that the majority Barelvis would not create trouble for him.

The junta has till now applied the ban only to the activities of the five organisations in Sindh, Punjab, the NWFP and Balochistan and has not yet extended it to the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the NA, but Government spokesmen have been saying that it will be ultimately extended to those areas too.

The position in the NA is complicated by the fact that the 29-member Northern Areas Legislative Council includes ten legislators belonging to the TJP. Haji Fida Mohammad Noshad, the deputy Chief Executive of the Northern Areas, which is the top most post offered to the Council members by Islamabad, is also a member of the TJP though he contested the election independently and later joined the party. The Northern Areas Cabinet includes two TJP members--- Sheikh Haider and Imran Azeem.

The TNSM (Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Islamic Law. Official slogan: "Shariat or Shahadat"--Islamic law or martyrdom ) led by Mufti Sufi Mohammad is an exlusively Pashtun organisation of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), consisting of the tribal areas adjoining the Peshawar, the Kohat, the Bannu and the Dera Ismail Khan districts and the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Orakzai, Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram, and North and South Waziristan.

The FATA, comprising the territories lying between the administered districts of the NWFP and the 'Durand Line', is spread over an area of 10,510 square miles with a population of a little over three million Pashtuns. It is known as Pakistan's Corsica or Wild West. According to the "Dawn" of Karachi, out of 16,988 registered proclaimed offenders in the NWFP, 99 percent have taken shelter in Darra Adam Khel, Orakzai, Kurram, and Khyber Agencies. It has some of the world's largest illegal arms manufacturing and smuggling groups and prosperous narcotics smugglers. The local population has more arms and ammunition than the population of any other Pakistani province or region.

Even though the FATA is supposed to be directly administered by the Federal Government in Islamabad, the local Mullahs and tribal leaders have effective control over the area and its people and had virtually talibanised it long before the Taliban made its appearance in Afghanistan in 1994.

The TNSM first made its appearance in the Malakand area in 1994, when, instigated by the ISI to have the Benazir Bhutto Government discredited, it staged an armed revolt in support of the enforcement of the Shariat. The ISI used it along with the SSP for assisting the Taliban in the capture of Jalalabad and Kabul in September 1996.

Since then, the TNSM, with the ISI's blessings, had established a close working relationship with the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. Nearly 2,000 of its armed cadres are reported to have been killed by the US air strikes in Afghanistan. It is widely believed in Pakistan that despite the detention of Sufi Mohammad by the junta since November, 2001, his followers in the FATA have given shelter and protection to the surviving leaders of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, including, according to some, bin Laden himself and his family.

Embarrassed by these reports, Musharraf has found himself constrained to ban this orgasnisation too, but there are as yet no reports of any vigorous action by the military-intelligence establishment to smoke out the Taliban and the Al Qaeda leaders.

There were four Pakistani organisations in the Army of Islam of the Afghan war vintage, which the ISI had diverted from Afghanistan to Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) from 1993 onwards---the JEM, the LET, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen HUM) and the Al Badr. Of these, the first two have been very open in their anti-India activities in Pakistani territory, make no secret of their terrorist activities in J&K and have been indulging in acts of terrorism outside J&K too as was demonstrated by their attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on December 13, 2001.

As against this, the HUM and the Al Badr maintain a comparatively low profile in Pakistan and have in recent months kept their acts of terrorism confined to J&K. While banning the JEM and the LET, Musharraf has refrained from banning the HUM and the Al Badr, thereby indicating that he wants to act only against acts of terrorism in other parts of India and not in J & K.

Moreover, he has attributed the ban on these two organisations to their terrorist activities inside Pakistan and not inside India. The JEM was suspected in the assassination of Moinuddin Haider's brother in Karachi in December, 2001. Apart from this, it was not involved in acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory. However, it is perceived to be anti-Shia and has had a history of links with the SSP. In fact, its leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, started his career as a terrorist under Azam Tariq, the dreaded head of the SSP.

The LET has had no history of acts of terrorism in Pakistan. All its terrorist attacks have been directed against Indian nationals and interests in Indian territory. So far, 1,957 persons belonging to the five banned organisations have been detained and 615 of their offices sealed. Of them, 735 were detained and 336 offices sealed in Punjab; 852 arrested and 180 offices closed in Sindh; 337 detained and 81 offices shut in NWFP; 15 arrested and an equal number of offices sealed in Balochistan; and 18 persons arrested and 3 offices closed in Islamabad.

There has been no action against their leadership, members and infrastructure in the FATA, the POK and the NA. The majority of those arrested belong to the political and administrative cadres of these organisations. There have been practically no arrests of their trained terrorists. They (estimated 5,000) are reported to have either escaped to the FATA, the POK and the NA or gone underground in other parts of Pakistan.

The follow-up action so far has belied expectations that at least this time the junta would give evidence of real sincerity.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director,Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: )

No comments:

Post a Comment