Thursday, April 23, 2009




Like the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has evolved in less than a year from a bunch of suicide bombers to a conventional army capable of set-piece, stand and fight battles with the Pakistani Army and para-military forces. This conversion has been facilitated by the recruitment of a large number of retired Pashtun ex-servicemen living in the Pashtun tribal belt in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in the Malakand Division of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Swat Valley and the Buner District, less than a hundred kms from Islamabad, which was occupied by the TTP earlier this week without any resistance from the local security forces, form part of the Malakand Division.

2. The agreement signed earlier this year by the coalition Government in the NWFP headed by the Awami National Party (ANP) with Sufi Mohammad of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-a-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), which is a constituent unit of the TTP, for the introduction of Sharia courts covers the entire Division, consisting of seven districts and not just Swat. Now that the agreement, despite strong criticism from abroad, has been got approved by Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani by the National Assembly and signed by President Asif Ali Zardari, the TNSM has lost no time in expanding its control to areas of the Malakand Division outside Swat. The occupation of the Buner district is the beginning. The occupation of the other districts will follow.

3. What should be of great concern to both India and the US is that the TTP, which was seen till recently as merely a collection of young suicide bombers with limited capability for territorial control and dominance through conventional forces, has started demonstrating that it has evolved into a conventional army, which can fight, occupy and administer territory. Thus, the TTP has evolved into a mirror image of the Neo Taliban. It shares with the Neo Taliban its objective of fighting for the defeat of the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. At the same time, it has its own independent agenda of expanding its territorial and ideological dominance to other areas of the Pashtun belt in the NWFP initially and then to non-Pashtun areas. The Neo Taliban does not approve of this independent agenda, but does not oppose it actively.

4. The Pakistan Army headed by Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, its Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), has shown neither the will nor the inclination to counter the advance of the TTP and then roll it back. It is not Kayani’s worries about what could happen on the Indian border, which have come in the way of a vigorous response to the TTP’s military advance. It is his worries over the continuing loyalty of the Pashtun soldiers, who constitute about 20 per cent of the Army, and of the Frontier Corps and the Frontier Constabulary, which are responsible for his anxiety and keenness to make peace with the TTP. The Frontier Corps and the Frontier Constabulary consist predominantly of Pashtun soldiers recruited in the FATA and the NWFP, officered by deputationists from the Army. These units have been showing less and less inclination to fight the TTP. They have been either avoiding a confrontation with the TNSM and the TTP or in some cases just deserting and surrendering to the TTP units.

5. According to reliable sources in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), it is pressure from an alarmed Kayani to reach an accommodation with the TNSM and the TTP, which set in motion the negotiations with Sufi Mohammad and the developments that have followed. The Army and the para-military forces have already conceded territorial control to the TTP in the FATA and in the Malakand Division of the NWFP. By re-locating his forces and by reducing the Army’s presence in these areas already under the domination of the TNSM and the TTP, Kayani is reportedly hoping to prevent an ingress of the Pakistani Taliban into other parts of the NWFP and beyond.

6. The objectives of the TTP are presently limited to ideological unity of all Muslims in Pakistan based on the Sharia and the ethnic unity of all the Pashtuns in the Af-Pak region to wage a relentless jihad against the US-led NATO forces till they vacate Afghanistan. It has the motivation and intention to extend its ideological influence to non-Pashtun areas too, but is not yet in a position to establish territorial dominance in those areas. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain apprehends that the TTP wants to set up a strong presence in Karachi, which has the largest Pashtun community in Pakistan after Peshawar.

7. Confronted with the worsening ground situation in the NWFP and with the danger of a possible collapse of the strategy of President Barack Obama even before it was taken up for implementation, the US is acting like a cat on a hot tin roof. There have been understandable cries of alarm not only from Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, and Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, but also from White House spokesmen. Cries of alarm and the preparation of yet another national intelligence estimate on Pakistan alone will not help. What is urgently required is a national intelligence estimate on US policy-making towards Pakistan, which has been leading it from one critical situation to another.

8. A study of the course of US policy-making would show how those Pakistani leaders who are toasted one day as frontline allies against extremism and terrorism turn out to be either accomplices of terrorism or capitulators to terrorists and extremists the next day. Pervez Musharraf belonged to the first category. Zardari belongs to the second. Despite nearly 60 years of close US interactions with the political and military leaderships in Pakistan, the US has not been able to acquire any enduring influence over policy-making circles in Islamabad. The US has very little to show in terms of changed policies in Islamabad in return for its unending pampering of successive regimes in Islamabad with the injection of more and more money and military equipment. The time has come to stop pampering, but there is a reluctance in the Obama Administration---as there was in the preceding Bush Administration--- to do so due to fears that a stoppage of US assistance and pampering may result in a failed state with the control of its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the jihadis.

9. Unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan has reached a stage where the outcome---ultimate jihadi control of the State and its nuclear arsenal--- may be the same whatever the US does----whether it continues pampering or stops doing so. It is a thankless dilemma. It is easy to criticize the US strategy or the lack of it, but difficult to suggest a viable alternative. The starting point of an alternative strategy has to be a cordon sanitaire around the areas already under the control of the TTP and a crash programme for the economic development of the Pashtun areas not yet controlled by the Taliban. Obama’s plans to spend billions of dollars in the areas of the FATA already under the control of Al Qaeda and the Taliban would produce no enduring results except to waste the US taxpayers’ money. This money should be better spent on immunizing those areas where the influence of the Taliban has not yet spread.

10. An equally important point of the strategy should be to step up the US Predator strikes in the FATA and to extend them to Swat in order to keep the Al Qaeda and Taliban elements running for cover all the time and make it difficult for them to plan new strikes and get them executed.

11. The third point of the strategy should be to restore to the Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan its original role of primacy as the internal intelligence and internal security agency of Pakistan. Over the years, the IB has been reduced to the position of a powerless appendage of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its top ranks militarized through the induction of serving and retired military officers. This has to be reversed.

12. These are medium and long-term measures, which would take time to produce results. The questions requiring an immediate response is how to protect Pakistan from itself. How to stop the advance of the Taliban? How to confront it ideologically? For this purpose, the US needs objective allies in Pakistan. It has none so far. It has been working through opportunistic allies in the army and the political parties. They will accept all the money from the US, but will not produce results.

13. The objective allies have to be found in the Pashtun community. All the talk in Washington DC about their being good Taliban and bad Taliban is ridiculous. But there are good Pashtuns and bad Pashtuns. The US should urgently identify the good Pashtuns and encourage and help them to take up the fight against the Taliban ideologically. After the elections in Pakistan in March last year, I had pointed out that the ANP, which came to power in Peshawar, was a party of good Pashtuns and that the US should work through it, forgetting its past links with the Communists in Afghanistan and the erstwhile USSR. I was given to understand that a couple of ANP leaders did visit Washingtin DC, but beyond that nothing further was done. Now the ANP-led Government in Peshawar has conceded ideological victory to the TNSM in Swat. Despite this, the US should persist with cultivating it and other good Pashtun elements in parties such as the Pakhtoonkwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai. They constitute the progressive component of the Pashtun community and they need to be strengthened and encouraged to counter the Taliban. The present US policy of depending on repeatedly failed elements in the Army and in the mainstream political parties is not working. The regional Pashtun forces have to be encouraged to take up the fight against the Taliban.

14. The survival of Al Qaeda in the FATA and the rise and spread of the TTP are due to support from large sections of the Pashtun community. The resistance to them has to come from the Pashtun community. It cannot come from the likes of Zardari, Gilani and Kayani. ( 24-4-2009)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, the Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



( Written at the request of the “Hindustan Times” , New Delhi )

The decisive defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is ferociously fighting probably its last battle in a small piece of land (about 20 sq. kms) with little chance of winning it, is partly due to the follies of Prabakaran, its chief, during the last four years and partly due to the determined and ruthless manner in which the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have carried out their operations.

2. Among his follies, one could mention his split with Karuna, the legendary conventional fighter from the Eastern Province and his followers, his increasing reliance on terrorism after the desertion of the conventional fighters led by Karuna and his working for the defeat of Ranil Wickremasinghe, former Prime Minister, in the Presidential election in November, 2005, which was won by Mahinda Rajapaksa.

3.During its existence, the LTTE had developed a capability for conventional warfare as well as for spectacular acts of terrorism. Its best conventional fighters came from the Eastern Province and many of its suicide terrorists from the Northern Province. Unhappiness among the conventional fighters that the suicide bombers from the North were accorded greater importance and honours by Prabakaran led to their desertion under Karuna’s leadership. Karuna helped the Sri Lankan Army in its operations against the LTTE.

4. Deprived of the strong conventional capability, the LTTE increasingly relied on terrorism and intimidatory attacks by its small fleet of aircraft in its fight against the Armed Forces. Its reliance on terrorism at a time when the international community was developing a policy of zero tolerance for terrorism after 9/11 deprived it of even the little public and political support which it had enjoyed in the West. The European Union countries declared it a terrorist organization and took vigorous action to stop its gun running.

5. No Sri Lankan leader was more sympathetic to the aspirations of the Tamils than former President Chandrika Kumaratunge and Wickremasinghe. The latter was prepared to concede in a large measure the political demands of the LTTE within a federal set-up. If Prabakaran had responded positively to the gestures from Wickremasinghe, the latter would have enabled the LTTE to retain control of the territory which it had occupied and given it a measure of autonomy in return for the LTTE giving up its demand for an independent Tamil Eelam.

6. Prabakaran, who had an inflated belief in his own prowess and in the perceived invincibility of the LTTE, spurned his gestures and worked for his defeat in the Presidential elections. His calculation that Rajapaksa would be a weak and indecisive President, whose Sinhalese extremism would further polarise relations between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, proved terribly wrong.

7. Rajapaksa turned out to be one of the strongest and clear-headed Presidents Sri Lanka has had. He came to office determined to defeat the LTTE as an insurgent and terrorist organization first before addressing the aspirations of the Tamils. He gave his armed forces the wherewithal in terms of money and equipment to enable them defeat the LTTE. He also resisted international pressure to reach a political accommodation with the LTTE. He was determined that the political accommodation will be with the Tamils after the defeat of the LTTE and not with the LTTE.

8. The improved morale and capabilities of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have definitely contributed to their remarkable success in relentlessly rolling back the LTTE from the areas controlled by it, but this success was facilitated by the ruthless use of air strikes against the LTTE.

9.Did Indian assistance also contribute to the success of the SL Armed Forces? The Government of India denies having given any offensive equipment and training to the SL Armed Forces, but Sri Lankan officers and leaders have themselves been saying that the success of their Armed Forces was made possible by Indian assistance. The failure of the Government of India to counter these claims has created growing suspicions not only among the Sri Lankan Tamils, but also among sections of the people of Tamil Nadu that the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh has not been very straightforward and that it had given more assistance to Sri Lanka than it has admitted.

10.The LTTE’s brutal assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 created a revulsion for it in Tamil Nadu. If it has since managed to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of some sections of public opinion in Tamil Nadu, the Manmohan Singh Government and its senior functionaries cannot escape the responsibility for it. The failure of the Government to condemn the air strikes and its seeming helplessness in the face of the humanitarian disaster affecting over 200,000 Tamils have cast it considerable public support in Tamil Nadu and made support for the Sri Lankan Tamils once again a popular cause. Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by the LTTE has been forgotten.

11. People tend to compare what they perceive as Manmohan Singh’s helpless attitude in the face of the repeated rejection by the Rajapaksa Government of the requests for a humanitarian approach to Rajiv Gandhi’s action in sending the Indian Air Force to drop humanitarian supplies to the Tamils despite strong criticism of the Indian action not only by the SL authorites, but also by the international community.

12. What next after the defeat of the LTTE? Rajapaksa has been repeatedly promising that he would address the aspirations of the Tamils for greater political and economic rights. Will a bloated Army and the Sinhalese extremist elements allow him to keep his word even if he wants to or will he, egged on by his army, try to impose a dictated peace on the Tamils? One has to keep one’s fingers crossed. (23-4-2009)

(The writer is former Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India. )

Wednesday, April 22, 2009



The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is in its death rattle. It was decisively defeated by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces weeks ago, but a handful of its leadership headed by Prabhakaran has cynically and cruelly prolonged the agony of the Tamil civilians by using them as a buffer and human-shield in order to delay the re-establishment of the writ of the Sri Lankan Government in a miniscule piece of territory (about 20 sq.kms), which has been declared by the Government as a no-fire zone to avoid collateral casualties among the civilians still under the control of the LTTE and to enable them to escape from the clutches of the LTTE.

2. Prabhakaran is a leader with a split personality. During the 26 years he has dominated the Tamil landscape in Sri Lanka, he had shown a remarkable organizing capacity and an ability to motivate his followers to perform virtual miracles. His motivating his cadres to acquire a capability for action by air and sea would go down in the history of insurgency and terrorism as indicating an organizing capability of a high order. The LTTE under his leadership managed to bring almost the entire Tamil-inhabited territory in the Northern and Eastern Provinces under its control. The determined manner in which the LTTE fought against the Indian-Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in the late 1980s and frustrated its efforts to defeat it spoke highly of its capabilities for a conventional warfare.

3.If Prabhakaran had the activities of the LTTE confined to conventional warfare and developed the LTTE as a purely insurgent force, which targeted only the armed forces and not innocent civilians, he would have acquired greater support from the international community for the Tamil cause. The rational side of his personality as illustrated by his organizing capabilities had to constantly contend with a highly irrational side, which drove him to simultaneously take to terrorism of a shockingly brutal kind.

4. The targeted killings by the LTTE of many Sri Lankan Tamil leaders, who were perceived by Prabhakaran as possible impediments to his rise as the unquestioned leader of the Tamil community, and its brutal assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 were the outcome of the irrational side of his personality. No other Indian leader had done more to help the Sri Lankan Tamil cause than Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Only a sickly and sickening irrational mind could have ordered the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and Laxman Kadirgamar, a highly-respected Tamil leader, who was a senior adviser on foreign policy to former President Chandrika Kumaratunge. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on Prabhakaran’s orders shocked Indian public opinion----including public opinion in Tamil Nadu--- and weakened Indian support for the Tamil cause. The assassination of Kadirgamar shocked the Western public opinion and led to the declaration of the LTTE as a terrorist organization by the Western world, thereby denying the last vestiges of Western support for the Tamil cause.

5.As the LTTE faced one defeat after another during the last three years from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces---initially in the Eastern Province and finally in the Northern Province---- the irrational side of Prabhakaran’s personality erased his rational side. His shocking use of the Tamil civilians in order to delay the final end of the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaign undertaken by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces is driven by this irrational streak in him, which now dominates his personality.

6. The prolonged agony of the Sri Lankan Tamils caused by the final bout of Prabhakaran’s irrationality and loss of lucidity in thinking has to be ended. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces, which have shown patience till now and deliberately slowed down their operations, cannot be faulted if they have come to the conclusion that the time has come to liberate the no-fire zone too from the clutches of the LTTE by undertaking limited operations with small arms and ammunition even at the risk of some collateral casualties to the civilians.

7. The desperate attempt of Prabhakaran to use the civilians to protect himself from the advancing Sri Lankan Army can be attributed to the total loss of lucidity in his thinking and his consequent inability to face the bitter truth that he and his organization have been defeated decisively by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and that there is no chance of their staging a come-back. The Requiem for the LTTE could be written without fears of going wrong, should the LTTE stage a come-back as it had done on occasions in the past. It has been defeated beyond recovery. His conventional as well as terrorist capabilities are in shatters. Earlier conventional wisdom that small groups of the LTTE might still be able to keep indulging in sporadic acts of terrorism in different parts of Sri Lanks needs re-consideration. His desperate delaying action at the cost of immense suffering to the Tamils, whose cause he claims to espouse, is meant to give him an opportunity to seek safe sanctuary either in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere from where he could try to re-start his fight against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. It is in the common interest of India and Sri Lanka that Prabhakaran is finally able to make peace with his Maker by either being killed by the Armed Forces or by taking his own life. A defeated Prabhakaran, if left alive in India or elsewhere, would not be a threat, but could be a nuisance for both the countries.

8. After the final death of the LTTE, which is expected any day, what is the future of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause? Would a Requiem for the LTTE also mean a Requiem for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause? Hopefully not. It is in India’s interest that the LTTE as a terrorist organization is destroyed once and for all, but it is not in India’s interest that the Sri Lankan Government and Armed Forces proceed from the destruction of the LTTE to the destruction of the Tamil aspirations for greater political and economic rights in their traditional homeland and for greater human dignity.

9. Let us not forget that ever since our independence in 1947, the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan, the Balochs and Sindhis of Pakistan and the Tamils of Sri Lanka have been India’s natural allies. It was this reality which persuaded Indira Gandhi to assist the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan to achieve their independence. Even though successive Governments in New Delhi refrained from supporting the causes of the Sindhis and the Balochs, Indian public opinion sympathized and continues to sympathise with their cause. It was sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause at New Delhi when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and in Tamil Nadu, which induced India to take up their cause in the 1980s.

10.There is no reason why India should not pride itself and seek to be the paramount power of the region. To emerge and remain as the paramount power, we need natural allies in the region around us. We should not let the legitimate aspirations of our natural allies---whether they be the Sindhis and Balochs of Pakistan or the Sri Lankan Tamils--- be crushed by a brutal regime--- whether in Islamabad or in Colombo.

11. Since 1947, the Balochs rose twice in revolt in favour of independence for their homeland. On both occasions, they were defeated by the Pakistani Armed Forces as decisively as the LTTE by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The Pakistani leadership brutally used the Air Force against the Balochs to crush their freedom struggle. Undaunted by this, the Baloch people, under a new leadership, rose in revolt for a third time two years ago and their third war of independence is still going on.

12. The remarkable victory of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces against the LTTE was partly due to their improved counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism capabilities made possible by Indian assistance in the form of training and sharing of intelligence and partly due to their emulating the Pakistani Armed forces in the brutal use of the Air Force against people whom they portray as their own. Just as the Balochs were defenceless against the brutal Pakistani air strikes, the Sri Lankan Tamils were defenceless against the Sri Lankan air strikes.

13. The US has used air strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan----but in foreign territory and against foreign nationals. Only three countries in the world have used air strikes in their own territory against their own people---- the Pakistanis against the Balochs, the Russians against the Chechens and the Sri Lankans against the Tamils.

14. President Mahinda Rajapakse has repeatedly promised that once the LTTE is defeated, he would be generous in meeting the political aspirations of the Tamils. He gives the impression of being a sincere man, but will the Sinhalese Army with its head bloated by its success against the LTTE allow him to do so? The indicators till now are not encouraging. Many Sri Lankan officers might have been trained in India, but their mindset and their attitude towards the minorities have more in common with those of their Pakistani counterparts than with those of their Indian counterparts. Therein lies the danger that after winning the war against the LTTE, the Government, strongly influenced by a victorious army, might trey to impose a dictated peace on the Tamils.

15. If the angry Tamils once again look up to India, there is no reason why we should not reciprocate provided a new leadership emerges in the Tamil community and it has drawn the right lessons from the brutalities of the LTTE.

16. The LTTE is deservedly dying, but long live the Tamil cause. (22-4-2009)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: )

Sunday, April 19, 2009



As we have been facing a grave problem of insurgencies and terrorism of different hues----jihadi, ideological, ethnic and separatist--- in different parts of the country since 1947, one would have expected a serious and professional debate on insurgency,terrorism, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism during the election campaign---- particularly from the Congress (I) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The expectations have been belied.

2.There has been hardly any meaningful debate, which has been trivialised by both the Congress (I) and the BJP. Personal attacks and exchanges of mutual recriminations and ridicule of a highly personalised nature by both the parties have become one of the defining characteristics of the election campaign. While the Congress(I)'s campaign has been marked by false projections and assertions with a cover-up of the failure of the Governments at the Centre and in Mumbai to prevent the terrorist attack in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, the campaign of the BJP has been rich in rhetoric and negative with almost the entire focus being on the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) by the Congress (I) led coalition and its perceived reluctance to carry out the death sentence passed by a court on Afzal Guru for his role in the attack on the Indian Parliament House on December 13,2001.

3.It is surprising that the BJP and other Hindutva organisations,which like to project themselves as strong on counter-terrorism, have not been able to come out with positive ideas as to how to deal with the threat. Their approach has been more tactical and denunciatory than strategic and reflective. The result: the public is none the wiser as to what changes it could expect from any new coalition Government that might come to power after the elections.

4. The various insurgencies confronting the country since 1947----whether the tribal insurgencies in the North-East or the left extremist or Naxalite (Maoist) insugencies in the tribal belt in Central India--- started during the long Congress (I) rule between 1947 and 1977. While the Congress (I) was able to find a political solution to the insurgencies in Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura, it has been totally at its wit's end in dealing with the left extremist or Naxalite (Maoist) insurgency, which continues to gather strength and adherents and spread its area of political influence and territorial dominance despite tall claims by the intelligence and security agencies of eliminating many Maoist cells.

5. After the Congress (I) came to power at the head of a coalition in 2004, it had set up a special task force of the party headed by one of its Members of Parliament (MP) from Andhra Pradesh to recommend a strategy on counter-insurgency in the Naxalite-infected areas.Its report-- for whatever its worth--- has been gathering dust without implementation. The Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, has made more statements and issued more warnings on the threat posed to internal security and our economic progress by the unchecked activities of the Naxalites (Maoists) than on the threat posed by the Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorists. From this, one would have thought that his
Government would have come out with at least a workable counter-insurgency strategey to deal with the Naxalites since the so-called vote bank politics does not operate in their case.Surprisingly, the statements and warnings of the Prime Minister have not been translated into concrete action on the ground.

6.During the 28 years that have seen terrorism emerge as the most serious threat to internal security, the Congress (I) has been in power for 18 years---from 1980 to 89, from 1991 to 96 and now since 2004. During this period, the BJP was in power for six years from 1998 to 2004. Other coalitions headed by V.P Singh,Chandrasekhar, Dev Gowda and Inder Gujral were in power during the remaining four years.

7. Khalistani terrorism, the ethnic terrorism of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the Pakistan-sponsored separatist-cum-religious terrorism of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) started when the Congress (I) was in power due to the mishandling of the grievances of some sections of the Sikh community in Punjab and in the Sikh diaspora abroad and of the grievances of sections of the Assamese students over the Government's failure to take action against the hundreds of thousands (now millions) of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh into Assam. The ground work for the proxy war of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in J&K started when the Congress (I) was in power before 1989. This proxy war started in J&K when the V.P.Singh-led coalition, which had the support of the BJP,was in power in 1989-90 and it acquired momentum after the Congress(I) returned to power in 1991. The unchecked infiltration of Pakistani terrrorist organisations into J&K started in 1993 and it spread to other parts of India subsequently.

8. Both the Congress (I) and the BJP have to be held equally responsible for the spread of jihadi terrorism to other parts of India outside J&K starting from the Mumbai blasts of March 1993. The demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya by a Hindutva mob in December,1992, acted as the trigger for the spread of jihadi terrorism to other parts of India..

9. The Congress (I) has to be held equally responsible because it was in power in New Delhi at the time of the demolition and its inaction in the face of reports and assessments that the Hindutva elements congregating in Ayodhya might target the Masjid indirectly facilitated the demolition. The role of the BJP was public knowledge,but not the negligence of the Congress (I) Government led byNarasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister. He failed to act on the advice of his senior bureaucrats to dismiss the UP Government and impose the President's rule in order to protect the Masjid.

10.While the Congress (I) has to be blamed for the birth and growth of terrorism in many parts of the country, it has had a better record than other governments in dealing with terrorism after it started threatening the country. The credit for the petering-out of Khalistani terrorism in Punjab and the bringing under some control of the indigenous terrorism backed by the ISI in J&K should largely go to the Governments headed by Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.

11 There were eight hijackings of aircraft of the Indian Airlines to Pakistan by terrorists when Indira Gandhi was in power--- seven by the Khalistani terrorists and one by the Jammu & Kashmir LiberationFront (JKLF).She refused to concede the demands of the hijackers in any of these cases. Similarly, she refused to concede the demand of the JKLF kidnappers who kidnapped Ravi Mhatre, an Indian diplomat posted at the Indian Assistant High Commission in Birmingham, in 1983for the release of Maqbool Butt, who had been sentenced to death for an act of terrorism, The terrorists killed Mhatre. She retaliated by having the death sentence on Maqbool Butt carried out. The only instance of weakness by a Congress (I) Government was in not taking action against the terrorists responsible for occupying the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar in 1993. They were allowed to escape into Pakistan by Narasimha Rao in return for their agreeing to lift the siege.

12.The Congress (I)'s Prime Ministers---- Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao---realised the importance of covert action by the intelligence community to counter Pakistan's proxy war. They had a well though-out strategy for countering Pakistan's proxy war. Covert action formed an important component of this strategy. It played an important role in countering the ISI's designs in Punjab. This
capability was reportedly wound up by Inder Gujral when he was the Prime Minister in 1997.It should also be underlined that in 1993 Narasimha Rao had succeeded in having Pakistan declared as a suspected state-sponsor of terrorism by the Clinton Administration --- though only for six months.

13.The BJP's record in dealing with insurgency and terrorism, when it was in power between 1998 and 2004, was marked by the mishandling of the hijacking of an IAC aircraft to Kandahar by terrorists of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) in December 1999, which led to the release of three notorious terrorists from detention of whom one MaulanaMasood Azhar later founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) and another Omar Sheikh had Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, kidnapped and murdered in Karachi. Maulana Azhar released by the BJP-led Government later played an important role in the conspiracy to attack the Parliament House.

14. In the history of Indian counter-terrorism, there have been two instances of pathetic surrender to the terrorists by the Government.The first was in 1989 when the V.P.Singh Government shockingly surrendered to the demands of the indigenous Kashmiri terrorists to release some terrorists under detention in order to secure the release of the daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the then Home Minister, who had been kidnapped by the terrorists. The second was in 1999 when the BJP-led Government agreed to release three terrorists---two of themPakistani nationals--- to secure the release of the IAC passengers.

15. However, I would blame more the bureaucrats in the national security establishment under the BJP-led Government than A.B.Vajpayee,the then Prime Minster, L.K.Advani, the then Home Minister, and Jaswant Singh, the then Minister for External Affairs, for the Kandahar fiasco. The bureaucrats were responsible for ensuring that the aircraft was not taken by the hijackers to a hostile territory where commando action would not be possible. They failed to do so.Once they mishandled the hijacking and allowed the aircraft to reach Kandahar, no commando action was possible because Kandahar is in hostile territory and Pakistan would not have allowed an Indian plane carrying commandoes to overfly its territory. As a result of thismishandling by the bureaucrats, the BJP leadership was in the unenviable position of having no other option but to swap the three terrorists for the release of over 100 innocent passengers. Manmohan Singh has been less than honest in comparing his action in sending commandoes to Mumbai during the terrorist attack of November,2008, to the BJP's failure to send the commandoes to Kandahar. Mumbai is in Indian territory, but Kandahar is in hostile foreign territory. A commando raid in Kandahar was out of the question.

16.The BJP, when in power, failed to implement its pre-election promise to issue a White Paper on the ISI's proxy war in India and to have Pakistan declared as a state-sponsor of terrorism. What was more,the security bureaucracy was surprised by the BJP-led Government's decision not to reverse the decision of Gujral to wind up the covert action capability.

17. Against this, the BJP's dubbing the Congress (I) led Government as soft in dealing with terrorism would hardly carry conviction. All political parties without exception mishandled counter-terrorism.They viewed terrorism not as a national threat to be countered with determination but as a political weapon to be exploited for partisan purposes.

18. There was a consistency of firmness in the policies of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao in dealing with Pakistan. Such a consistency was missing in the policies of the Government led by Vajpayee as well as its successor Government headed by Manmohan Singh. Both of them followed a policy of "kabi garam, kabi naram"(sometimes tough, sometimes soft). Vajpayee's decisions to go to Lahore in February 1999 to meet Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister,and to invite Pervez Musharraf to India in 2001 and take him on a high-profile visit to Agra for talks were taken without consulting the intelligence community on the implications of the decisions on the ground situation. Both the visits ended in an embarrassing fiasco.

19. It swung to the other extreme after the attack on the Parliament House in December 2001 and confronted Pakistan with the threat of a war by mobilising the Armed Forces and keeping them in the mobilised state for nearly 10 months without achieving any results on the ground. The anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in February 2002 after the massacre of some Hindu pilgrims travelling by train at Godhra allegedly by some Muslims and widespread perceptions in India and abroad of conscious inaction by the Narendra Modi Government in the initial stages deprived the Vajpayee Government of any moral high ground in its confrontation with Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.The Muslim anger over the riots added fuel to jihadi terrorism.

20. The much tauted coercive diplomacy with a doubtful outcome was followed by another swing by the agreement reached by Vajpayee with Musharraf in Islamabad in January 2004 under which Pakistan agreed that it would not support any terrorism emanating from Pakistani and Pakistan-controlled territory. The BJP-led Government mishandled the overtures for peace talks from a section of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) in 2001.This section had got tired of terrorism. This mishandling enabled the Pakistan-based leadership of the HM to identify and eliminate the members of this section.

21.Manmohan Singh's record in dealing with Pakistan on the terrorism issue was no better than that of the Vajpayee Government.He swung to the soft extreme when he signed an agreement with Musharraf at Havana in September,2006, for setting up a joint mechanism for dealing with terrorism despite strong reservations from the security bureaucracy and non-Governmental security experts over the wisdom of this action.When he was embarrassed by the November,2008, terrorist attack, which was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) from Pakistani territory at least with the complicity of the ISI, if not at its instance, he swung to the other extreme of coercive diplomacy There has been a meaningless debate between the Congress (I) and the BJP as to who has been more coercive in dealing with Pakistan. Neither has been as seen from the post-Mumbai surge in infiltrations into J&K by Pakistan-trained terrorists.

22.It must be said to the credit of P.Chidambaram, who took over as the Home Minister after the Mumbai attack, that of all the HomeMinisters since Rajesh Pilot, who was Minister of State for Internal Security under Narasimha Rao, he has shown greater lucidity and energy in dealing with at least Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, though his record against the ULFA and the Naxalites (Maoists) is yet to be felt on the ground.His strategy as unveiled in the beginning of April shows the beginnings of a professional approach... Please see the report in'The Hindu" of April 8,2009, titled "Congress Unveils Roadmap to Tackle Terror".

23. Some of the points in the road map such as the setting up of a Permanent Crisis Management Group ( a war room) and the preparation of an operating manual( a war book for counter-terrorism) are old ideas of R.N.Kao, when he was the Senior Adviser to Indira Gandhi before her assassination in October,1984. These ideas were evolved by Kao in the context of the then raging Khalistani terrorism. The idea of a better state of preparedness by the counter-terrorism community was originally Rajiv's. Other ideas in Chidambaram's strategy such as improving the rapid response capability, the concept of joint action in which all agencies are jointly responsible for dealing with terrorism and improving threat-level communication not only to various layers of the bureaucracy, but also to the public have been heavily borrowed from the post-9/11 counter-terrorism architecture set up by the Homeland Security Department of the US.Chidambaram has paid welcome attention to strengthening the number and capability of the police, in order to strengthen its role as the weapon of first resort against terrorism.

24. His strategy seeks to deal comprehensively with terrorism----particularly of the jihadi, Pakistan-sponsored kind--- as a threat to national security. The measures outlined by him are meant to deal with acts of terrorism----preventive as well as dealing with them when prevention fails. But it hardly speaks of measures to deal with terrorist organisations in order to impose a high rate of attrition on them. It was the success of the Sri Lankan counter-terrorism machinery in imposing such a high rate of attrition on the LTTE, which has contributed to its remarkable success against the LTTE. The attrition component is missing from Chidambaram's strategy.
25. Despite this, it is a good beginning and shows a professional approach to counter-terrorism. One would have expected such a professional approach to emerge from the BJP, which projects itself as having greater expertise and a greater number of experts in counter-terrorism. But one's hopes have been belied. Its entire thinking seems to be based on the belief that the re-introduction of the POTA and the execution of the death sentence on Afzal Guru would mark the death-knell of terrorism. It would not. There is more to counter-terrorism than additional powers for the Police, which are necessary, and deterrent punishments.
26. The inability of the Government to prevent the Mumbai 26/11 attack provided the BJP with a wonderful pre-election opportunity to analyse what went wrong in Mumbai and confront the Government with a professional debate on its sins of commission and omission. It has failed to grasp the opportunity.(20-4-2009)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Monday, April 13, 2009



The unrelenting political confrontation between the supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai Prime Minister, now living in exile abroad and those opposed to him, which started in 2005 and led to a brief period of military rule in 2006-07, has taken a nastry turn. His supporters, who have been agitating in the streets of Bangkok since December,2008, for the resignation of Abhisit Vejjajiva , the PrimeMinister and fresh elections, managed to force the cancellation of an ASEAN summit with leaders from India, China and Japan at Pattaya on April 11,2009, despite the strong security measures taken by the Government. The cancellation of the summit has been widely interpreted as a major blow to the prestige of the Prime Minister, who had staked his personal reputation on the Government's ability to hold the summit as scheduled.

2. The expectations of the supporters of Thaksin that the Prime Minister would resign following this humiliation have been belied. On the contrary, the Prime Minister, who enjoys the support of Bangkok's political and business elite, which looks upon Thaksin as a rural upstart, has imposed a state of emergency, called out the army and directed the security forces to disperse the supporters of Thaksin,who have been gheroing (surrounding) the offices of the Prime Minister and some other Ministries since January. A few days ago, they even allegedly surrounded the houses of some Privy Councillors, who are advisers to His Majesty the King, who is highly respected by the people.This unprecedented act of defiance by the supporters of Thaksin came in for strong criticism, but despite this the protesters have shown no signs of relenting in their agitation against the Prime Minister.

3.The Army's attempts to disperse the protesters and arrest their leaders have been resisted by the supporters of Thaksin, leading to at least two reported instances of controlled firing by the Army on the protesters after midnight on April 12. Seventy of the protesters are reported to have been injured. There are no reports of any fatalities.In a message from his exile to his supporters, Thaksin is reported to have warned of a revolution, if the Government uses force against his supporters.

4. The political confrontation, which was triggered off by allegations of arbitrary and corrupt governance by Thaksin and his erratic style of functioning when he was the Prime Minister twice before the military coup of September,2006, has been made worse by the divide between Bangkok and rural Thailand. The Bangkok elite,which has always exercised like the Parisian elite of France, a disproportionately large influence over the country's political landscape despite its numerical minority, had difficulty in accepting a leader, who owed his political rise and survival to the support of the rural poor and not to the elite of the capital. Thaksin is Thailand's Laloo Prasad Yadav, a regional and rural leader, who has consistently ridiculed and challenged the urban elite's pretension to superior wisdom and right to govern the country.

5.Thaksin, an ex-policeman of Chinese origin, who himself came from Chiangmai in the rural north, gravitated to politics from the world ofbusiness, where he had made a name as Thailand's telecom tycoon after leaving the police. He tried to introduce into the corridors of the Government the lessons on efficiency and success which he had learnt in the corporate world. Even his worst critics admit that his contribution to improving governmental efficiency and the resulting economic prosperity was considerable. For a tycoon from the corporate world, he showed more sensitivity to the welfare and problems of the rural and urban poor than any professional politician had done in the past.

6. What undid him despite this was the widespread perception in Bangkok of nepotism and corruption and his seeming disregard for the rules of the democratic game. The overwhelming support of the rural poor for him and his ability to win elections with their support made him disregard the views and criticism of the urban elite, which united against him in 2005 to start a long period of street agitation in the name of good and democratic governance free of the evils associated with his tenure.

7. They projected his continuance in politics as incompatible with good and democratic governance and boycotted the parliamentary elections of April, 2006, which robbed the elections of any constitutional validity despite his securing a majority for his Thai Ruk Thai party. He made a temporary exit from the post of Prime Minister in order to satiate the opposition and make it amenable to participation in a fresh election, scheduled for November, 2006.

8. When the opposition agitation seemed to have started losing steam as a result of his temporary exit, he resumed charge again as the caretaker Prime Minister, thereby provoking them again into a state of confrontation. It was the intervention of the King, who is venerated by the entire country, which managed to restore a semblance of balance to political life in the country. But this did not change his ways of functioning. The on-again, off-again political confrontation between him and the opposition and his chronic inability to change his style of functioning endangered political stability in Thailand, creating fears of its likely negative impact on its prosperous economy.

9. In the face of this confrontation between the Bangkok elite and the rural "aam admi" (common people), who solidly stood behind Thaksin,who has done more for the rural poor than any other Bangkok-centric political leader, the Army intervened in September,2006, and took over power after dismissing Thaksin, when he was away to New York to attend a UN session. He went into exile in London, where his daughter lives.

10. The army, which held power for a little more than a year, had the Constitution amended to make it difficult for Thaksin's party to return to power. It was got declared illegal due to corrupt practices.When fresh elections were held, the supporters of Thaksin, under a new name, managed to come back to power. Thaksin returned from exile and continued to guide his party without holding any position in the party or the Government.

11. His opponents struck back with a street agitation during which they occupied the Bangkok airport for 10 days last September. The Supreme Court intervened and the new party of Thaksin and many of its leaders were held guilty of corrupt practices. Thaksin managed to go into exile once again evading a warrant for his arrest on a charge of corruption and misuse of office. The Government of his supporters was replaced by a Government of his opponents headed by Abishit, aBritish-born Thai, who is the present Prime Minister.

12. The four-year-long confrontation between the Bangkok/urban opponents of Thaksin (known as the yellow shirts from the colour of the T-shirts they wear) and his rural supporters (known as the red shirts) is having a severe impact on the Thai economy, with tourism badly affected. Unless the elite of Bangkok reconciles itself to the political rise of the rural forces and accommodates them in the political structure of the country, this confrontation will not only continue, but will become nastier and unpredictable. The ultimate losers will be the urban elite. The impoverished rural masses have nothing to lose because they have nothing by way of prosperity.The Bangkok elite, which has prospered due to the economic development in the country since the 1990s, has much to lose if the confrontation takes an unpredictable turn. (13-4-2009)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. )

Saturday, April 11, 2009




The arrests earlier this week by the British Police of 11 Pakistanis,who had reportedly come to the UK on student visas, during aninvestigation into a suspected plot for multiple terrorist attacks onsoft targets draw attention once again to possible threats fromlegitimate visitors to the UK . Residents of Pakistani origin in theUK ---characterised as home-made jihadis--- had played the lead rolein the terrorist strikes of July, 2005, in London and in the thwartedconspiracy discovered by the British Police in August,2006, to blow upa number of US-bound flights. The perpetrators or the intendedperpetrators had independently, on their own, decided to organise theattacks and those involved in the July,2005, attacks had then gone toPakistan for being trained in the fabrication of explosives fromcommonly available materials and using them in improvised explosivedevices (IEDs).

2. Threats from legitimate visitors to the UK---as distinguished frompermanent residents--- are not new. The attempted terrorist strikes inLondon and Glasgow in June 2007 saw the involvement of legitimatevisitors---one of them an Indian Muslim student who died of burnsafter a thwarted attempt to blow up the Glasgow airport. There was nodefinitive evidence to connect those involved in the London-Glasgowincidents with Pakistan.

3. The latest arrests are significant for the larger number ofsuspects involved and their arrival in the UK ostensibly for higherstudies with legitimate visas issued by the Britishdiplomatic/consular missions in Pakistan after due verification oftheir antecedents. The issue of the student visas to them would showthat they had not come to the adverse notice of the British earlier.

4. The investigation is in a very preliminary stage due to hasty,premature arrests of the suspects caused by a breach of security byAssistant Commissioner of Police Bob Quick, who carried openly in hisarm in a manner readable by journalists with powerful cameras adocument, which had reportedly summarised the reasons for thesuspicion against them. The Police officer admitted the breach ofsecurity committed which could have compromised the pre-arrestinvestigation and alerted the Pakistanis that they are underinvestigation. To pre-empt the persons figuring in the list fleeingthe country or going underground, the police organised hasty raids ata nember of places such as the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester,Liverpool and Clitheroe in Lancashire. The indications till now arethat the police were able to arrest all those suspected and that noone figuring in the compromised document has managed to evade arrest.

5. The resignation of the distinguished police officer and thesubsequent arrests have given rise to considerable media speculationregarding the nature of any plot in which the arrested suspects mighthave been involved. It has even been speculated that the arrestedpersons were planning to carry out simultaneous explosions at crowdedplaces during the Easter holidays.

6.From the acceptable indicators available so far, all one can saywith confidence is that the British technical intelligence hadprobably overheard these persons discussing among themselves whatappeared to be a terrorist plot. They had identified them, put themunder surveillance and were making enquiries about them. Before theseactions could be completed the breach of security by the policeofficer occurred forcing the police to pick up the 11 suspects evenbefore their investigation had made significant progress. As a result,while the police had been able to collect evidence of a possibleterror talk by the detained Pakistanis, they had not been able tocollect evidence which would show that the plot had progressed fromthe talk mode to the preparations mode. The interrogation of thedetained suspects should show whether the suspects had made anypreparations on the ground for making their talk a reality.

7. During the investigation, the British Police would, inter alia, befocussing on the following questions: To which part of Pakistan thesuspects belonged----tribal or non-tribal areas? Where did they studyin Pakistan? Had they known each other before coming to the UK orwhether they came to know each other after arriving in the UK? Didthey have any association with any fundamentalist or terroristorganisation in Pakistan? Which organisation contacted them topersuade them to volunteer themselves for the terrorist strikes? Hadthey been recruited for the terrorist plot before they left Pakistanor after their arrival in the UK? How were they planning to carry outthe strike---with explosives or hand-held weapons?

8. The past terrorist strikes or attempts in the UK were in anger forthe British role in Iraq. The anger has now dissipated. The Britishtroops have also started withdrawing from Iraq. Anger over the Britishrole in Iraq is, therefore, unlikely to have been the trigger.However,there is considerable anger in the Pashtun tribal belt in theAfghanistan-Pakistan region over the British role in southern andeastern Afghanistan. Next to the US, the UK is playing the most activerole in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pakregion---particularly in the Helmand provice of Afghanistan.

9.There is, therefore, a strong possibility that the plot thwarted atthe very beginning in the UK had its motivational origin in the Af-Paktribal belt. Sections of the British media have projected the plot asof Al Qaeda inspiration. For security reasons, Al Qaeda avoids directcontacts with Pakistanis either in the Af-Pak region or abroad. Itprefers to have them recruited through intermediaries such as theLashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), theHarkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) or theTehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). A direct Al Qaeda role in thethwarted London plot is of low possibility.

10. The LET, the HUM, the JEM and the HUJI have trans-nationalsleeper cell networks---- all of them across the sub-continent and inSouth-East and West Asia, the HUJI in Central Asia too and the LETand the HUM in the UK and the US too. The TTP did not have atrans-national network outside the Af-Pak region till the beginning oflast year---not even in India. Pashtun terrorists had never operatedoutside the Af-Pak region. The reported discovery by the SpanishPolice of a suspected sleeper cell owing loyalty to Baitullah Mehsud,the Amir of the TTP, in Barcelona in January,2008, was the firstreported instance of a TTP presence in the West. The London cell justunearthed by the British police may turn out to be the secondinstance.

11. As a result of the considerable tightening up of anti-explosivecontrols in the West and Australia by the Police with theco-operation of the public, terrorist attacks of the 2005 type arebecoming very difficult to organise. That is why the London-Glasgowplotters tried using gas/fuel cylinders. This option is stillavailable to the terrorists even in the West and Australia.

12. One has been seeing since the Mumbai terrorist attack of November26 to 29,2008, that mass casualties and mass publicity through themedia are becoming the driving force of terrorist attacks. It was soeven in respect of 9/11, but repeats of 9/11 have become verydifficult due to tightened physical security. Terrorists are revertingto commando-style attacks with hand-held weapons to achieve theseobjectives. After Mumbai, one had seen them doing this in Kabul,Lahore twice and in Kandahar.

13. Commando-style attacks with hand-held weapons are much easier toorganise in the West and Australia than attacks with IEDs. There ishardly any gun control in the US. Gun controls are stricter in othercountries, but the controls are not yet foolproof as one saw in arecent incident in Germany.If it is still easy for irrationalindividuals to play havoc with guns, how much easier it should be forwell-organised and well-motivated terrorists? That is a question whichshould worry counter-terrorism experts and which should call for theirfocussed attention. (12-4-2009)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Wednesday, April 8, 2009




I have been in receipt of the following message on April 8,2009, from ECOTERRA International, which disseminates a periodic "Somali Marine& Coastal Monitor": "Danish owned and US-American operated MV MAERSK ALABAMA, a container ship of 14,120 gross tonnage underUS-American flag with a 21 men crew of at least 20 U.S.-American nationals, who are said to be all unharmed according to the company thatowns the vessel, had been sea-jacked this morning at 07h30 on the Indian Ocean off the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu and about 280 miles(450 kilometers) south-east of Eyl, a town in the northern Puntland region of Somalia. The vessel was en route to Mombasa, Kenya, when itwas attacked about 500 kilometers (310 miles) off Somalia's coast, the statement issued by Maersk Line Ltd. said. The 20 unarmed crewmembers fought back against the four hijackers and hours later regained control of their vessel, according to second mate Ken Quinn.Quinn, sounding harried in a terse mobile phone call to CNN, said the crew had released one of the pirates they had tied up for 12 hours. Butthe hijackers were refusing to return Captain Richard Phillips. "Right now, they want to hold our captain for ransom and we're trying to gethim back," Quinn told the US network. "He's in the ship's lifeboat," he said, explaining the four pirates had taken the lifeboat off the MaerskAlabama and that Phillips was in touch with his crew via ship's radio. "So now we're just trying to offer them whatever we can. Food. But it'snot working too good." Quinn added: "We have a coalition (vessel) that will be here in three hours. So we're just trying to hold them off forthree more hours and then we'll have a warship here to help us."

2. The message continues: "Quinn said that all four pirates were on the lifeboat, after sinking their own boat after they seized the containervessel. Earlier, the crew took one pirate hostage, trying to swap him for their captain, but the deal went wrong, he told the American CNNnews channel. Though the ship is the sixth seized within a week in the dangerous region around Africa, Cmdr. Jane Campbell, aspokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said it was the first pirate attack "involving U.S. nationals and a U.S.-flaggedvessel in recent memory." No American merchant vessel has been attacked by pirates since 1804 during the North African Barbary Wars. USPresident Barack Obama's chief spokesman said the White House was assessing a course of action. Press secretary Robert Gibbs toldreporters that officials there monitoring the incident closely. Said Gibbs: "Our top priority is the personal safety of the crew members onboard." The White House offered no other immediate details about what actions it was considering. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitmansaid there has not yet been any communications from the pirates for ransom. But he would not go into military plans. "I'm not going tospeculate on any future military actions," Whitman said, when asked what the U.S. military may do.Whitman said there are still no U.S. Navyships within view of the vessel, and instead they are still "hundreds of miles away. "The nearest U.S. Navy warship was about 300 nauticalmiles away at the time of the hijacking," other U.S.-American government sources said. No action has been taken so far, a spokesman forthe U.S. military's 5th Fleet in Bahrain said first, according to CNN. "There is a task force present in the region to deter any type of piracy,but the challenge remains that the area is so big and it is hard to monitor all the time," 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Nathan Christensen said. USArmy Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Hibner, a Pentagon spokesperson, said later on Wednesday that the US Navy destroyer Bainbridge wasen route to the scene. The cargo ship is directly owned and operated by a Maersk subsidiary in Norfolk, Virginia, Maersk spokesman MichaelStorgaard said. "We have very strict policies on the vessel ... crews are trained to handle these types of situations," Storgaard said fromMaersk's headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark."

3. The message further adds: '5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Nathan Christensen said U.S.-flagged ships are not normally escorted by the military,unless they request it from the U.S. Navy. The 155-metre (511-foot) vessel had been due to dock in the Kenyan port of Mombasa on April 16.The hijacked boxship is run out of the huge merchant and naval base of Norfolk by Maersk Line Ltd., a division of Denmark's A.P.Moller-Maersk Group and was carrying emergency relief to Mombasa, Kenya, when it was hijacked, said Peter Beck-Bang, spokesman forthe Copenhagen-based container shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, but analysts wondered, since relief food is usually shipped as bulk andnot by a rather expensive container-ship. Though the shipping company has had some Defense Department contracts it was said this timenot to be on a Pentagon job when attacked, a governmental statement read. The high seas standoff drew an expression of concern fromHillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, who called on the world to unite to "end the scourge of piracy". "

4.The message clarifies that the information contained in it came from "own sources, AFP, AP, Al-Jazeera, Pentagon, White House et al". Anearlier message of April 6,2009, from ECOTERRA INTERNATIONAL had said: "With the latest captures and releases now, still at least 17 (18with an unnamed sole Barge which drifted ashore) foreign vessels with a total of not less than 297 crew members accounted for (of which110 are confirmed to be Filipinos) are held in Somali waters and are monitored on our actual case-list, while several other cases of ships,which were observed off the coast of Somalia and have been reported or had reportedly disappeared without trace or information, are stillbeing followed. Over 134 incidents (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) have been recorded for 2008with 49 fully documented, factual sea-jacking cases (for Somalia, incl. presently held ones) and the mistaken sinking of one vessel by anaval force. For 2009 the account stands at 52 averted or abandoned attacks and 14 sea-jackings on the Somali/Yemeni pirate side as wellas one wrongful attack by friendly fire on the side of the naval forces. Mystery pirate mother-vessels Athena/Arena and Burum Ocean as wellas not fully documented cases of absconded vessels are not listed in the sea-jack count until clarification. Several other vessels withunclear fate (also not in the actual count), who were reported missing over the last ten years in this area, are still kept on our watch-list,though in some cases it is presumed that they sunk due to bad weather or being unfit to sail. In the last four years, 22 missing ships havebeen traced back with different names, flags and superstructures. "

5. Despite the deployment of anti-piracy patrols from a number of countries including India, China and Japan, the Somali pirates continue tooperate with virtual impunity and have been collecting millions of dollars in ransom money. The vast area involved, the inabilitry of theinternational community----due to legal and operational reasons---to undertake land-based operations against the pirates in Somalianterritory and the suspected (by me) lack of co-ordination among anti-piracy patrols from different countries have come in the way ofeffective and deterrent action against the pirates, who are becoming more and more audacious and innovative.

6. A number of questions remain unanswered: Are different pirate groups operating autonomously of each other or is there a commoncommand and control? Who are the leaders of the different pirate groups and where are they based? Apart from the pirates themselves andtheir leaders, are there any other beneficiaries of the ransom money? Since Al Qaeda has been very active in Somalia for over a decade,does it have any links with the pirates and is it financially benefiting from the ransom payments?

7. The possibility of links between Al Qaeda and at least some of the pirate groups needs to be taken seriously. Ever since 9/11, Al Qaedahas been wanting to organise a major act of maritime terrorism to disrupt word trade and movement of energy supplies. Many of thesepirates----if well-trained and well-motivated by Al Qaeda---- could provide a new source of oxygen to it. The time has come to treat thecampaign against the Somali pirates as seriously as the campaign against Al Qaeda. (9-4-2009)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies,Chennai. E-mail: )

Tuesday, April 7, 2009



We have not seen an act of jihadi terrorism--- suicide or suicidal--- committed or attempted by self-radicalised Muslims originating from the sub-continent since the attempted terrorist strikes in London and Glasgow in June,2007, internationally and since the wave of suicide terrorism in Pakistan during 2007-08 in the wake of the commando raid in the Lal Mosque of Islamabad in July,2007.Many tribal girls coming from poor families in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were killed when they resisted the commandoes of the Pakistan Army.

2. The years 2007 and 2008 saw a large number of acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan committed or attempted by the so-called Jundullas---soldiers of Allah. These were self-radicalised individual Muslims, not belonging to any organisation, who took to suicide or suicidal terrorism --- either on their own or in association with acqaintances--- in order to give vent to their anger against the Pakistan Army or the US or both. These self-radicalised individuals were also called free-lance jihadis. They indulged in terrorism as an act of reprisal and for upholding the honour of Islam and not for earning money.

3. While the level of suicide terrorism in Pakistan remains as high as it was during 2007 and 2008, the perpetrators are increasingly teen-age or even child mercenaries who joined the terrorist organisations for money and were then motivated to volunteer for suicide terrorism by the leaders of these organisations. As the Time magazine has pointed out in a very good analysis of the confessional statement of Azam Amir Kasab of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who participated in the terrorist attack in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, what initially drove him into the waiting arms of the LET was the poverty of his family and his own miserable life. It was not religious anger, but frustration arising rom a miserable existence which made him join the LET. The brain-washers of the LET converted this frustration into religious anger by showing videos of alleged atrocities against Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India and the world and made him volunteer for the suicidal mission. The offer of money for him and his family helped in converting a poor, frustrated boy into a religious fanatic, who was prepared to kill and be killed.

4. Available details of some of the recent terrorist strikes in Pakistan---- whether by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Baitullah Mehsud or the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)---- show that the extreme poverty in Pakistan's tribal belt and in the villages of Punjab is increasingly being exploited by the Pakistani jihadi organisations----including the anti-India ones such as the LET--- to recruit volunteers from poor families with offers of money to them and their families for brain-washing and subsequent exploitation for suicide or suicidal missions.In the past, the promises made to such volunteers related to heaven after their death, but the promises now being made relate to a better life for their near and dear ones if they undertake a suicide or suicidal mission. Promise of money for their families and not virgins for them in heaven if they "martyr" themselves is the new motivating factor.

5. The leaders of the Pakistani jihadi organisations such as Baitullah, Prof-Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed of the LET, Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Qari Saifullah Akhtar of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and of the Afghan Taliban such as Jalluddin Haqqani and his son Serajuddin have stepped up their recruitment through offers of money to children and teen-agers from poor families and turning them into suicide or suicidal terrorists. A suicide terrorist who killed nearly 30 Shias at Chakwal in Pakistani Punjab on April 5 was reportedly only 15 years old. The other suicide terrorist from the TTP, who killed eight persons in an attack on the barracks of a Frontier Constabulary unit at Islamabad on April 4, was reportedly less than 20 years old. Well-informed Pakistani sources say that Baitullah has about 300 child and teenager recruits from poor families at his disposal for undertaking suicide and suicidal missions.

6. The phenomenon of an increased flow of recruits from poor families has been accompanied by a decline in instances of acts of suicide or suicidal terrorism by self-radicalised individuals. This decrease can be attributed to four factors. Firstly, the intense tribal anger after the Lal Mosque raid has started subsiding. Secondly, the improvement in the ground situation in Iraq, which has consequently practically disappeared from the TV screen. Thirdly, the greater care observed by the US forces in Afghanistan while using air strikes against the Neo Taliban, which has reduced the number of civilian casualties. And fourthly, the equal care observed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US in using Predator strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the Pakistani tribal belt, which too has reduced casualties of innocent civilians. One no longer sees the kind of large demonstrations by local civilians which one used to see after the Predator strikes in 2006 and 2007. The anti-US anger in the tribal belt has not subsided, but it is not as intense and as virulent as it was during the period when civilian casualties due to US air and Predator strikes were high.

7. The phenomenon of suicide or suicidal terrorism by self-radicalised Muslims is not yet dead, but it is declining, but it could pick up again if the civilian casualties due to the actions of the US-led NATO forces go up again. The decision of the NATO to appoint Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister, as the NATO Secretary-General is likely to become a new source of anger and could lead to fresh acts of terrorism by self-radicalised Muslims. The former Danish Prime Minister is widely disliked in the Islamic world because of what was seen as his failure to act against a cartoonist who produced cartoons which hurt the feelings of the Muslims of the world.

8.How to prevent the stepped-up exploitation of poverty by the jihadi leaders mentioned above for maintaining the tempo of suicide or suicidal terrorism? Economic development and lesser poverty is a long-term solution. Equally important is the targeted elimination of such jihadi leaders who transform frustration due to poverty into religious fanaticism and the targeted destruction of their infrastructure which transform the recruits from poverty into suicide or suicidal terrorists. ( (8-4-09).

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Sunday, April 5, 2009



Richard Holbrooke, President Barrack Obama's special envoy for Pakistan and Affghanistan, starts his second visit to the region with a halt in Pakistan from April 6,2009. He will be accompanied by Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, who reportedly made before a Congressional committee recently the astonishing remark that he felt "comfortable" with the security arrangements made by the Pakistan Government for its nuclear arsenal. He is not the only one to feel so comfortable with the security outside Pakistan's nuclear establishments. So do Osama bin Laden and Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. They feel comfortable too because they know that penetrating them with the help of their accomplices would be as easy for them as the recent penetration of the police training school in Manawan in the Lahore area and of the barracks of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) in Islamabad on April 4 was. It is no longer a question of whether they will organise a commando-style raid into Pakistan's nuclear establishments, but when and how .

2. I am reproducing below an article on Pakistan & the Taliban written by me on November 10,2001. It is available at (6-4-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


by B. Raman

In its keenness to assert the primacy of its national interests and strategic objectives through any means, the US has over the years made heroes out of surrogates, whose only qualification was that they were prepared to do its bidding. Ultimately, it ended up with the mortification of seeing these heroes of yesterday becoming the Frankensteins of today, endangering the very US national interests to protect which they were initially created.

Afghanistan provides a good case study of this. The dramatis personae in the more than two-decade-old Afghan tragedy --whether Osama bin Laden and his terrorists' mafia, Mullah Mohammed Omar Akhund and his Taliban Shoora or the innumerable "Mujahideen" commanders and Pakistani jehadis playing havoc in different parts of the country in the name of Islam--- were all the original creations of the CIA, ably assisted by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Through their depredations, they have made Afghanistan perhaps the only country in the world to register a decline in population with that of Kabul reduced by half and with the largest proportion, anywhere in the world, of widows with no male relatives.

They have turned Afghanistan into a breeding ground of medieval obscurantist forces which have been spreading their tentacles to Dagestan and Chechnya in Russia, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Xinjiang in China, Pakistan itself, Jammu & Kashmir in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Southern Philippines.

And the Americans have created for themselves a situation where the choice is not among various policy options, but policy nightmares.

The way the Taliban, which was backed by the US from its creation in July,1994, to its capture of Kabul in September,1996, has heaped indignities on the women of Afghanistan and reduced them to less than human beings in the name of Islam, is without parallel anywhere else in the world.

While justifying the attitude of the Taliban towards women's role in society, the then Taliban Ambassador in Islamabad, Maulvi Saeedur Rahman Haqqani, said at a seminar at Islamabad on May 2, 1999: "In Muslim societies, we respect and cherish our women. We treat them like precious jewels and keep them in an ornamental box."

What is the ground reality?

Under the pre-1992 Najibullah Government, 70 per cent of the academics--members of the teaching faculties of schools and colleges--- 60 per cent of the medical personnel and 30 per cent of the Government servants in Afghanistan were women. They played an active role in politics and diplomacy too.

This high percentage was due to the spread of higher education amongst women and also due to the shortage of men to occupy civilian jobs because of the enlistment of a large number of men in the army to fight the "mujahideen".

After its capture of Kabul in 1996, the Taliban removed all girls from educational institutions, banned any fresh induction and sacked all women from jobs where they might have to interact with men. They are now allowed only in those jobs in which their interaction would be only with other women. Wearing of burqa was made obligatory.

The Taliban promised to at least partially restore the educational rights of women after the war against the Northern Alliance ended and after the economic situation improved. One doesn't know when that would be, now that it is facing two wars---one against the Northern Alliance and the other against the US-led international coalition.

The results since 1996:
* An increase in the instances of suicide by war widows unable to support their children.

* Before 1992, Kabul did not have a single woman beggar. In 1999, the figures for which are available, it had an estimated 35,000, most of them widows with children--former academics, doctors, nurses and government servants--with no other means of feeding their children. Visitors to Kabul had remarked on their shock and indignation at the Taliban when they discovered that behind many a burqa of beggars approaching them for alms stood an English or French or Russian-speaking woman, highly educated with a sophisticated and cultured mind. They were heartlessly sacked for no other reason than that they were women. The Mullahs' anger was particularly directed at women who had their higher education in Hindu India, Communist USSR or the "decadent" West, where, according to the Mullahs, women were allowed to "run around like wild animals."

* Some Western non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) started a vocational training centre where the children of these widows could be trained in some craft so that they could support themselves and their mothers. The Taliban banned the enrollment of girls in this centre. As a Pakistani columnist remarked: " It would seem that for the Taliban, training boys and girls together would be unislamic, but letting them beg together in the streets is not so." It is many of these begging women and children who have now been killed by the US air strikes. They had no place where they could take cover from the air strikes.

* Women were banned from witnessing any sports meet. The only public gathering at which their presence was allowed and even encouraged was to witness the stoning to death of convicts for adultery.

The anti-woman attitude of the Taliban was evident even from October,1994, onwards when it started curtailing the rights of women in town after town captured by it, but the outside world, particularly the US and West Europe, reacted against it only after the Mullahs started enforcing their orders not only against Afghan women in the entire territory under their control, but also against foreign women working in the offices of international organisations and NGOs after the capture of Kabul.

Next to women, the Shias were a major target of the brutalities and indignities of the Wahabi-Sunni-dominated Taliban Shoora and its militia called Lashkar Mohammadi. Public observance of Moharrum was banned. So too the Shia tradition of their women joining the men in prayers during Moharrum and visits to graves of their relatives.

The "News" of Pakistan (April 26,1999) quoted Mr.Ghulam Mohiuddin, a Shia leader of Afghanistan, as stating as follows: " Even the Hindus in India allow the Shias to practise their religion, but the Taliban are denying us this basic right."

After the Taliban captured Herat on the Iran border and, subsequently, the Bamiyan province, there were reportedly large-scale massacres of the Shias and forcible re-settlement of the Shias in the Sunni-majority villages in the rest of Afghanistan and their replacement by Sunnis brought to Herat and Bamiyan from other provinces. This was done to reduce the Shias to a minority in their traditional homelands.
Before October 7,2001,the Taliban had only three achievements to its credit---improvement of law and order, restoration of electricity supply in towns and resumption of farming in 70 per cent of the cultivable land in the country.

Better law and order was through rigorous enforcement of Islamic punishments such as amputation of arms and stoning and crushing to death. Some Pakistani analysts pointed out that such punishments were more frequent against non-Pashtoons and Shias than against Pashtoons and Sunnis.

The Taliban's agricultural policy benefitted poppy cultivation more, through priority in fertiliser distribution to poppy farmers than to cultivators of other agricultural products.

While offences such as theft, housebreaking, murder, rape, adultery, sodomy etc were immediately punished after a sham of a trial, there was no Islamic punishment for heroin production and smuggling.

There was a strongly suspected nexus involving the poppy farmers, all of them Afghan citizens, the heroin producers, all of them Pakistani drug barons resident in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan and 30 Mullahs constituting the Kandahar-based Taliban Shoora with Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Amir, at the top.

The only effective arm of the Taliban administration was the militia, which brought 90 per cent of the country under its control within five years, and the Ministry for the Promotion of Islamic Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. A new intelligence agency, largely officered and headed by serving and retired ISI officers, was created and placed under the direct control of the Amir.

The militia was a hotchpotch of students from the madrasas in the NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh, former Pashtoon officers and soldiers of the late Najibullah's Soviet-trained armed forces and Pakistani ex-servicemen and serving military personnel, given leave of absence by the Pakistani military, to enable them assist the Taliban. The Pakistanis constituted about 70 per cent plus of the strength of the Taliban militia.
During important battles, the militia was also assisted by Pakistani militant organisations such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the virulently anti-Shia Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan, the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami and the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Arab volunteers of bin Laden's Al Quaeda (055 Brigade).

Despite its hotchpotch character, the discipline and religious motivation of the militia have remained surprisingly strong. It fought extremely well against the forces of the Northern Alliance led by the late Gen. Ahmed Shah Masood and is now withstanding the US onslaught with no apparent signs of demoralisation as yet.

The large casualties suffered by the militia during the battles for Mazar-e-Sharif in 1997 and 1998 and the battles in Bamiyan in 1998 and 1999 did not affect its morale. However, there were reports of difficulties being faced by the Taliban in making fresh recruitment to make up for the losses--particularly from the Durrani sub-tribe of the Pashtoons, which was the main recruiting ground in Afghanistan. These shortages were, however, made up by a fresh influx of madrasa jehadis and ex-servicemen from Pakistan.

The rest of the administration was in a chaotic state. There was no functioning central bank; nor were there any gold reserves and officially accounted for foreign exchange reserves. The tax collection machinery was ineffective.

There was no public scrutiny of Government policies, decisions and actions, no open discussion of the state budget, no policy and decision making infrastructure. Policy and decision options were not examined for their likely impact on Afghanistan's future and on its relations with the rest of the world before being adopted.

The Amir and his associates in the Shoora look upon themselves as on a divine mission and there is a touching, but disturbing faith in divine intervention to help them out of problems. Since they have convinced themselves that they have been the beneficiaries of divine guidance, they do not feel the need for human guidance and advice from the non-clerical, civilian bureaucracy, which has consequently been reduced to merely an instrument for carrying out the decisions of the clerics, without any voice in policy and decision-making.

This delusion of a divine mission also made the Amir insensitive to public opinion not only inside the country, but also in the rest of the world. The Amir is strongly motivated by the Pashtoon concept of "izzat" (self-respect) and tends to look upon any suggestion of concessions to international opinion as an affront to his "izzat".

This should explain his obstinate refusal to respond to outside pressures for controlling the spread of terrorism, to expel bin Laden and to control heroin production and smuggling.

Afghanistan, under the Taliban, has two capitals --the administrative capital at Kabul, which is the seat of the Government which interacts with foreign interlocutors, and the spiritual capital at Kandahar, where the Amir, his Shoora and the intelligence agency headquarters were located before October 7,2001. The Amir was hoping that Kandahar would one day become the spiritual capital of triumphant Wahabi-Sunni forces in Dagestan, Chechnya, Xinjiang, Pakistan, Kashmir in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Southern Philippines.

The Amir hails from village Nodeh and grew up in village Singesar in the Mewand District near Kandahar. Mewand is as holy and historic a place for the Pashtoons of Afghanistan as Kosovo is for the Serbs. According to Afghan historians, it was at Mewand that the Pashtoons trounced the advancing British troops.

Malalai, a Pashtoon woman of Mewand, earned a heroic reputation by fighting shoulder to shoulder with her male brethren and rallying them against the British troops. What an irony of fate that the descendants of this heroic woman should find themselves chained inside a burqa by the descendants of her male brethren!

It was as a protector of women's honour that the Amir won the admiration of the Pashtoons of Kandahar in July, 1994, when he gathered a group of boys from the local madrasas, raided the house of a local "Mujahideen" commander, who had become notorious as a rapist, and killed him. From a protector, he degenerated into an oppressor of women's rights.

The fact that the about 40-year-old Amir hailed from the legendary Mewand District gave him a halo in the eyes of the simple, God-fearing, proud Pashtoons and they followed his commands implicitly.
Instead of leading them into the new millennium to make Afghanistan once again a tolerant, progressive Islamic state with equal rights for women and men, for Muslims and non-Muslims, for Pashtoons and non-Pashtoons, for Sunnis and Shias, he chose to lead them back to the middle ages in the name of God.

The Amir is a man with little exposure to the world outside Kandahar and its environs. It is said that he has never travelled to the non-Pashtoon areas. Many say he had never been to Kabul since it was captured by the Taliban in September,1996, but some others assert that he had visited it once. He hardly knows Pakistan outside Peshawar and Quetta.

He lets the Mullahs of the Government in Kabul interact with domestic as well as foreign interlocutors. Since they do not know the Amir's mind while negotiating, one had the strange spectacle of the interlocutors from Kabul reaching agreements in principle to subsequently find these agreements rejected by the Amir. This was happening repeatedly.

Before October 7,2001, the Pakistan Government's predominant influence in Taliban-controlled territory was mainly in the civilian administration, which had and continues to have many Pakistani advisers, the intelligence agency and the militia. Its influence in matters religious was limited. However, Pakistani religious leaders such as Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Maulana Samiul Haq had and continue to have very strong influence over the Amir and the other members of the Taliban leadership.

The former Prime Minister, Mr.Nawaz Sharif, was intelligent and rational enough to realise that the obstinacy of the Amir and his Kandahar-based Shoora in dealing with issues such as the deportation of bin Laden, women's rights etc was creating serious difficulties for Pakistan in its relations with the US, that the anti-Shia and anti-Iran policies had caused a set-back to Pakistan's relations with Iran and that the Taliban's obscurantism had frustrated Pakistani aspirations of emerging as the gateway of Central Asia.

However, he was unable to assert himself because there were---just as there are still--- too many Pakistani cooks spoiling the Afghan broth. These included the religious fundamentalist parties with Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamaat-ul- Ulema Islam (JUI) in the forefront egging on the Amir and his Shoora to stick to their hard line, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the ISI, the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and his then Chief of the General Staff (CGS), Lt.Gen. Mohammad Aziz, who is now a full General and is the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

During her second tenure as Prime Minister (1993-96), Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, who distrusted the ISI, let the IB working under the supervision of her Interior Minister, Maj.Gen. (retd) Nasirullah Babar, handle the Amir and his Taliban. Maj.Gen. Babar, a trusted officer of her father, the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, was the head of the Afghan desk of the ISI under her father and used to claim that he could make the Afghan Pashtoons dance to Pakistan's tune. He used Musharraf, then Director-General of Military Operations (DGMI) and Mohammad Aziz in his Taliban operations despite Aziz's association with the ISI, which was distrusted by Benazir.
On coming back to power in February, 1997,Sharif transferred the responsibility back to the ISI. The then Maj.Gen. Mohammad Aziz, who was the No.2 in the ISI, also directly supervised the Afghan desk.
When Sharif appointed Lt.Gen. Khwaja Ziauddin, who comes from a family of Pakistan Muslim League loyalists, as the DG of the ISI in October,1998, Musharraf, who distrusted Ziauddin, had Maj.Gen.Aziz, then Deputy DG,ISI, promoted as Lt.Gen. and posted as the CGS instead of posting an already serving Lt.Gen. to this important post as was the tradition. Simultaneously, he had the responsibility for handling the Taliban transferred to the DMI and reportedly ordered that Lt.Gen. Aziz would continue to supervise this work.

Addressing the English-speaking Union of Pakistan at Karachi on April 13,1999, Musharraf said that the collapse of the Taliban would lead to a disintegration of Afghanistan, which would not be in Pakistan's interest. He was of the view that Pakistan should continue to back the Taliban unmindful of US pressures and let time moderate the policies of the Mullahs.

Since the middle of 1998, there were indications of unhappiness amongst the Mullahs of the administration in Kabul, who had to bear the brunt of the international criticism regarding the Taliban's policies on bin Laden and women's rights, over the unbending obstinacy of the Amir and his Mullahs of Kandahar. The Shoora was even reported to have foiled a coup attempt and made a number of arrests.

The late Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, the then head of the interim ruling council in Kabul, who occupied the No 2 position in the Shoora and who was projected as the most trusted man of the Amir, was reported to have developed differences with the Amir when the latter rebuked him for not taking a strong line during the visit of Mr.Bill Richardson, the then US Permanent Representative to the UN, to Kabul in April, 1998 to discuss the terrorism issue.

Thereafter, Mullah Rabbani did not enjoy the trust of the Amir and spent more time in Dubai for medical treatment than for doing his job in Kabul. He died of cancer in April last. The Amir has not so far appointed a regular head of Government in his place.

The Shias of not only Afghanistan, but also Pakistan have been seething with anger against the Amir for the massacres of the Shias of Herat and Bamiyan. The Shias have a long memory for atrocities perpetrated on them as one saw in the death of Zia-ul-Haq in the plane crash of August,1988.

The NWFP has many Hazaras, the same tribe to which the Shias of Bamiyan belong, and the Hazaras are known to bide their time, even if it meant years, before avenging atrocities committed on them.
On August 24, 1999, there was an unsuccessful attempt by unidentified elements allegedly to kill the Taliban Amir at Kandahar through an explosion outside his house. The explosion killed some bystanders, including a close relative of the Amir, but the Amir himself escaped. The Shias were suspected of having organised the explosion.

Under Musharraf:

After Musharraf seized power on October 12,1999, the presence of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment in the Taliban-controlled territory increased and Afghanistan became a veritable Pakistani colony. This was facilitated by the past nexus of many of the Mullahs of the Taliban with Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment.

Certain common characteristics define these Mullahs:

* Many of them, though stated to be Kandahari Pashtoons, feel more comfortable talking in Urdu, the Pakistani official language, than in Pushtoo, their mother tongue, or Dari or Farsi, taught in the schools of Afghanistan before 1992 and used for official purposes by the then Government of the country. This is attributable to the fact that they were either born in Pakistan or grew up there.

* Few of them except some like the Amir and Jalaluddin Haqqani had distinguished themselves in the jehad against the troops of the erstwhile USSR and of the then President Najibullah before 1992. Accounts by Taliban spokesmen and its supporters in Pakistan project the Amir as having played a legendary role in the jehad against the Soviet troops, during which, according to them, he lost an eye. However, these accounts are unverifiable and his detractors allege that he actually lost his eye as a child while playing with other children.

* Many of them started their career as clerics in Pakistan Army units. The late Zia-ul-Haq, a devout Deobandi, had a large number of clerics inducted into the Education Department to teach the Holy Koran and the Arabic language to school students and in Army units to teach the Holy Koran and to conduct the daily prayers. This policy was continued by the subsequent civilian Governments too under pressure from the military- intelligence establishment and the religious parties. Thus, even before their capture of power in Kandahar, Herat, Jalalabad and Kabul between 1994 and 1996, many of these clerics had a long history of association with Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment, having been paid Government servants of Pakistan.

* Having spent a large part of their lives in Pakistan, few of them knew Afghanistan outside Kandahar before they were placed in power by Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment.

* Not having fought before 1994, few of them had any military experience and hardly ever having lived in the country before 1994, none of them had any political and administrative acumen. The post-1994 battles, which led to the Taliban ostensibly assuming control over 90 per cent of the country's territory, were largely waged by militias, consisting of Pakistani servicemen and ex-servicemen, trained jehadists of Pakistan's Islamic parties and the dregs of Najibullah's army and of the various Pashtoon-dominant Mujahideen groups, which had distinguished themselves in the battles against the Soviet troops in the 1980s. Since the Taliban has had no experience of running the administration, the administrative chores in the capital Kabul and in the rest of the country were largely performed by retired Pakistani civil servants assisted by the civil administrators of Najibullah.

Before October 7, 2001, there was a clear division of responsibilities between the clerics of the Taliban on the one side and the serving and retired public servants of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment and civilian Government services on the other. While retaining a strict control over political, military and administrative affairs, Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment had left considerable autonomy of functioning to the Taliban in religious matters.
As a result, the obscurantist fervour of the Taliban assumed an autonomous momentum of its own as was seen in its suppression of the political, economic and social rights of women, its export of terrorism in the name of jehad to the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia and even Xinjiang in China, much to the discomfiture of Pakistan, and its destruction of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan in the beginning of this year.

The Taliban rejected foreign allegations that it was running training camps for Islamic terrorists in its territory. It did admit, however, that there were camps where Muslims from different nations studied the Holy Koran and the Sharia, learnt to live, work and eat together and were trained in the use of weapons of self-defence so that they could protect themselves and their religion. It compared such camps to the Israeli kibbutz and criticised what it described as the hypocrisy of the non-Islamic world in accepting the kibbutz as legitimate centres for community living and self-defence, but denouncing similar camps in its territory as terrorist training camps.

It did not deny that Osama bin Laden, reportedly related by marriage to the Amir, had been given sanctuary and hospitality in its territory. It pointed out that the decision to let him come and live in Afghan territory was taken by the Burhanuddin Rabbani Government, in consultation with the Benazir Bhutto Government, before the Taliban captured Kabul in September, 1996, and criticised the US for campaigning against the presence of bin Laden only after the fall of the Rabbani Government. It asserted that it kept a tight watch over his activities to prevent him from indulging in terrorism and said that it was prepared to hand him over for a trial only if the trial was to be held according to the Sharia in an Islamic country.

The Taliban's obscurantist fervour started threatening to infect the civil society in Pakistan itself, aggravating the sectarian divide between the Sunnis and the Shias and the medievalisation and the warlordisation of the die-hard Islamic elements, particularly in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). This consequently gave rise to the oft-expressed fears of a possible Talibanisation and medievalisation of Pakistan itself.

Pakistan is not the first country to be affected by the contagion of Islamic fundamentalism. Many other Islamic countries had earlier seen the rise and, sometimes, even triumph of fundamentalist elements. But, what distinguishes Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan from that in other countries is the irrational mindset of those in the forefront of the fundamentalist drive.

This irrational mindset is seen in their words and actions such as their emphasis on the religious duty of the Muslims to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) not only to defend the Islamic State of which they form part, but also their religion, their oft-expressed willingness to consider using WMD, if necessary, to defend Islam, their chattelisation of women etc.

The Pakistani madrasas, which have been the breeding ground of this religious irrationality, had infected the clerics too, whom Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment had constituted into the Taliban. The establishment turned a blind eye to it in its eagerness to use the Mullahs to assume control over Afghanistan, but its folly came home to roost, post September 11,2001.

The action of the Taliban earlier this year in dynamiting the statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan was but one more expression of this irrationality inherited by the Mullahs of the Taliban from their mentors and masters in Pakistan. Earlier, they enslaved the women of Afghanistan in the name of Allah, looted the Buddhist cultural treasures in the Kabul museum in 1996 in the name of Allah, massacred the Uzbecks of Mazar-e-Sharif and the Shias of Bamiyan in the name of Allah and then sought to destroy Allah Himself or rather a manifestation of Allah in the name of Allah.
However, the destruction of the statues of the Buddha was not the first act of cultural and religious vandalism in Afghanistan. An equally outrageous act of vandalism was seen after Najibullah was overthrown in April 1992 and after the Pakistani led and staffed militias captured Kabul in September, 1996.

In April 1992, after the Mujahideen captured power in Kabul, Lt.Gen. (retd) Hamid Gul, Ms.Benazir Bhutto's Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in her first tenure, Lt.Gen. (retd) Javed Nasir, DG, ISI, under Mr.Nawaz Sharif, and many other senior officers of the military- intelligence establishment rushed to Kabul to take possession of the Soviet-supplied Scud missiles from the armoury of the fallen Najibullah's army. After doing so, they helped themselves to whatever Buddhist artifacts they could lay hands on in the Kabul museum.
Those left behind by them were loaded into Pakistani army trucks by Pakistani military and intelligence officers in September 1996 and shifted to Pakistan for being sold to international art smugglers.

Major-General Babar and Musharraf justified the shifting of the artifacts to Pakistan by saying that they would be kept in the safe custody of the Pakistan Government and restored to Afghanistan once the fighting ended and a Government enjoying the support of all ethnic groups was set up in Kabul.

International media and public opinion closed their eyes to this cultural vandalism reminiscent of the vandalism perpetrated by the Nazis in the occupied territories during the World War till the "Guardian" of the UK and the "Sydney Morning Herald" of Australia exposed it in articles published last year.

Against this background, the absence of feelings of outrage in large sections of Pakistani society and in the regime itself and the muted reactions of Musharraf over the destruction of the Buddha statues was not a matter of surprise.

What was a matter of surprise and concern to all right-thinking persons was that after the initial expression of outrage, the rest of the world tried to rationalise, in retrospect, the Taliban's act of vandalism with the argument that the isolation of the Taliban and the lack of engagement with it might have contributed to its outrageous act. This was exactly what Pakistan and the Taliban wanted the world to believe.

Since taking over as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in October, 1998, Musharraf's conduct in relation to the bin Laden issue was anything but straight. On seizing power on October 12,1999, he countermanded the orders of Sharif to the ISI to co-operate with the CIA in a commando operation to capture bin Laden and take him away to the US just as it had co-operated in the capture and the whisking away to the US of Mir Aimal Kansi, who assassinated two CIA officers in Langley in January, 1993, and Ramzi Yousef, involved in the explosion in the New York World Trade Centre in February, 1993.

When the then President Clinton visited Pakistan in March, 2000, Musharraf assured him that he would himself visit Kandahar and persuade the Amir to co-operate with the US in the bin Laden case. He went back on this assurance. Instead, he sent to Kandahar his Interior Minister, Lt.Gen.(retd) Moinudeen Haider, to meet the Amir. Haider came back and reported the failure of his mission. Musharraf thereupon advised the US to interact directly with the Taliban since, according to him, the Taliban was not amenable to Pakistani influence.

Musharraf continued to give the impression to Washington as if he was still trying hard to moderate the Taliban and persuade it to co-operate with the US in the deportation and trial of bin Laden and to release the American, German and Australian volunteers of the Shelter Now International organisation, who are currently detained in Kabul on charges of indulging in Christian missionary work under the cover of humanitarian relief.

He was under tremendous pressure from Washington on the Taliban issue. The US was more concerned over the threats to its nationals emanating from the Taliban, bin Laden and his International Islamic Front For Jehad against the US and Israel than over the escalation in terrorism in J & K and over the threats to the lives of non-Americans from the same jehadis in other parts of the world.

Moderating, if not countering, the Taliban was one of the main themes of the discussions during the feverish comings and goings between Islamabad and Washington between June and September,2001--the visits Mr.Abdul Sattar, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, to the US in June, of Mrs.Christina Rocca, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, to Pakistan July-end/beginning August, of a three-member team of the US Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees led by Mr.Bob Graham, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to Pakistan in August, of Mr.Inamul Haq, the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, to Washington in August, of Gen.Charles F.Wald, chief of the US Air Force in the US Central Command, to Pakistan in August and of Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, the then Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to Washington in September.

During these meetings, Pakistan , as in the past, claimed that it had very little influence over the Taliban and, at the same time, promised that, despite this, it would try its best to moderate the Taliban. One of the main purposes of the ISI chief's visit to the US was also to plead with the US to delay the stationing of UN monitors in Pakistani territory to monitor the implementation of the UN sanctions against the Taliban regime, which was strongly opposed by the religious organisations.
Musharraf was also attributing the unabated activities of Islamic extremists from the Pakistan-Afghanistan region to India's alleged atrocities in J&K, which, according to him, was acting as fuel and oxygen to the religious extremist fire.

While thus projecting to the US the image of a reasonable, co-operative man, who was as concerned as the US over the activities of the Taliban, he and Aziz covertly egged on the Taliban and bin Laden's forces to escalate their attacks on the Northern Alliance and complete quickly their conquest of the areas under the control of the Alliance before the US pressure became irresistible and Washington resorted to a more active response against the Taliban.

The Taliban, at the urging of Musharraf, stepped up its offensive against the Northern Alliance, and the explosion triggered off on September 9,2001, by two Arab (Algerian?) suicide bombers of bin Laden, who were interviewing Ahmed Shah Masood, the Commander of the Northern Alliance, under the cover of TV journalists, was choreographed from the ISI headquarters in Pakistan.

On September 12,2001, within 24 hours of the jehadi terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC,Musharraf, after consulting his Corps Commanders, ordered an emergency scram to evacuate from the Taliban-controlled Afghan territory, all Pakistani Govt. personnel, serving as well as retired, serving in the Taliban's militia, civil administration and intelligence agency, and all jehadis belonging to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Al Badr undergoing training in the training camps in Afghan territory.

Airports, including the one in Islamabad, were temporarily closed for traffic to enable the evacuation by air from Kabul and Kandahar of all senior Army officers, serving and retired, serving in the Taliban. Under the UN sanctions, there is a ban on all flights to and from the Taliban-controlled territory. Despite this, Musharraf and his officers decided to take a risk by evacuating the senior officers by air.

All junior officers and civilian personnel were ordered to return to Pakistan by road as best as they could. Similar instructions were issued to the jehadis undergoing training in Afghan territory, preparatory to their induction into Jammu & Kashmir.

The two visits by Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, the then DG, ISI, to Kandahar---on the second occasion with a group of Pakistani Mullahs---ostensibly to pressurise Mulla Mohammad Omer to hand over bin Laden to the US or to an European country was at least partly meant to gain time to complete the evacuation of Pakistani Government personnel and the jehadis.

However, there was no evacuation, either actual or ordered, of the Pakistani students of the various madrasas in Pakistan, most of them belonging to Maulana Fazlur Rahman's JUI, who have been fighting along with the Taliban Militia against the Northern Alliance troops.
They were reportedly asked to stay on and continue to assist the Taliban Militia. Islamabad's military junta was worried that the evacuation of the Pakistani Army personnel and any disruption of the Taliban's Militia set-up by US air strikes might enable the Northern Alliance to re-capture Kabul and other territory lost to the Taliban since September,1996.

The junta was and continues to be worried that if the Taliban's resistance against the Northern Alliance collapses and the Burhanuddin Rabbani Government returns to power in Kabul, it would be strongly anti-Pakistan and pro-India, pro-Russia and pro-Iran. It wants to prevent this from happening.

In the meanwhile, the death of at least 35 jehadis of the HUM fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance due to the US air strikes created considerable embarrassment for Musharraf, who has till now been maintaining that the HUM is an India-based indigenous Kashmiri freedom-fighters' organisation despite its offices being located in Pakistan and its leaders indulging in open activities in Pakistani territory and that there are no Pakistanis in the Taliban.

Renowned international defence experts have been saying since the Taliban captured Kabul in September,1996, that it is a largely Pakistani organisation, clandestinely controlled and guided by the military-intelligence establishment.

In a special assessment on the Taliban's fighting potential issued on October 8,2001, the day after the US air strikes started, the "Jane's Defence Weekly" of London stated as follows:

* "The Taliban have displayed an innovative approach to warfare characterised by the use of surprise, mobility, speed, impressive logistics support and an efficient command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) network.

* " All unusual in the context of warfare in Afghanistan, these elements, along with other evidence, have lent credence in the past to reports of involvement at both planning and operational levels by Pashto-speaking Pakistani military intelligence advisers or technically retired Pakistani military personnel acting on secondment. This was the case during the Taliban's 1998 Summer and Autumn campaign and 1999 Summer offensive.

* "Taliban forces have generally come from three distinct backgrounds: former students of madrassas (religious schools) in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, who constitute the ideological core of the movement; former Mujahideen or jihadi (holy war) groups whose commanders joined the Taliban for financial or ethnic reasons; and officers of the former pre-1992 Afghan Army, many from the hard line, Pashtun nationalist Khalq (Masses) wing of the communist party. The latter have formed a skilled, professional core in artillery, armour, communications and in the air force, but some of these former communists were purged in late 1998.

* "More recently, another distinct element has been playing an important military role: Pakistani and Arab religious volunteers. The Arabs, mostly deployed on front lines north of Kabul, are estimated to number between 500 and 600. Pakistani volunteers are far more numerous. By late 1998, as many as 9,000 to 10,000 Pakistanis were serving in Taliban ranks. These different backgrounds have inevitably resulted in some friction. To minimise this, Taliban troops are kept in separate units based on nationality and, in some cases, region, district, or tribe. "

Since the beginning of the US-UK air strikes, at least another 3,000 volunteers from the Binori (Karachi) and other madrasas in Pakistan are estimated to have been rushed to the North to join the jehad against the US declared by the Taliban Amir. Some of the jehadis of organisations such as the HUM, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami etc, who were withdrawn post-haste after September 11, have been sent back to North Afghanistan to assist the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.

Initially, the US and the UK heeded the request of Musharraf to refrain from bombing the forward positions lest this enable the Northern Alliance capture Kabul. However, there has been an unannounced change in their position since October 18,2001, when they not only started bombing the forward positions ignoring Musharraf's pleas not to do so, but also concentrating the air strikes against the 055 Brigade of bin Laden and the Pakistani units, which are identifiable distinctly.

Reports from the North say that the American commanders, who have been surprised by the continuing good morale of the Taliban leadership, the unity of its leaders and by their dogged resistance, have concluded that it is the presence of the large number of well-trained Pakistani jehadis and Arabs which has been preventing the collapse of the Afghan component of the Taliban. They seem to feel that till the Arabs and the Pakistanis are neutralised, the Taliban cannot be defeated.

This has been resulting in increasing number of casualties among the Pakistanis. The initial refusal of the Pakistani junta to let the dead bodies of the HUM jehadis killed by US strikes be brought to Karachi for burial on October 24 under the pretext that they were not Pakistanis led to violent demonstrations in Karachi with the Police being forced to open fire to control the demonstrators. Ultimately, the military junta relented and let the bodies be taken to Karachi. The Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami announced in Karachi on November 8,2001, that 85 of its jehadis, including two senior commanders, have been killed in North Afghanistan. Their body bags have not yet been brought to Pakistan.

Two significant aspects of the first month of the US "war" in Afghanistan need to be highlighted:

* Almost all the civilians killed (estimate 2,000 plus) are poor Afghans.

* Almost all the Taliban militia personnel killed (500 plus, including about 20 Arabs) are Pakistanis. The HUM and the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami have publicly admitted their fatal casualties ( a total of 120 ). The JUI, the Sipah-e-Sahaba, the LET and other Pakistani organisations have not admitted theirs.

The USA seems to be determined to continue the air strikes on the Pakistani units with the Taliban even at the risk of the continued arrival of body bags in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore inflaming the local population and weakening further the position of Musharraf.

It is said in Islamabad that the US military commanders have started showing signs of disquiet over the wisdom of depending on the assurances of Musharraf. There is a creeping feeling that Musharraf has not been sharing with them real time intelligence of value, has been deliberately avoiding giving any intelligence about the location of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda leadership and has not been taking any action to stop the fresh influx of jehadis to join the Taliban ranks and against many retired officers of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment, who have been advising the Taliban on how to counter the US. It is these retired officers, who had learnt Psywar techniques from the CIA in the 1980s, who are behind the Psywar savvy being displayed by the Taliban.

In the US media, one could already discern increasing signs of doubts over the wisdom of their action in having hastily embraced Musharraf and showering lollipops on him in anticipation of his helping the US capture bin Laden and his brains trust, which he shows no signs of doing.

The Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has practically been running till September 10,2001, the Taliban militia and intelligence. If it had sincerely wanted to help the US capture bin Laden and his associates, they would have been by now dead or alive in US custody. The fact that this has not yet happened is eloquent testimony to Pakistan's double game.

Note: This is an updated and consolidated version of the papers on the subject disseminated by us since September, 1999.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. )