Friday, March 12, 2010




The two suicide attacks against army vehicles in the Cantonment area of Lahore on March 12,2010, which caused 45 fatalities, nine of them of military personnel, were followed by six low-intensity blasts in non-military areas which did not cause any fatalities. The Pashtun Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its Punjabi associate the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) are reported to have claimed responsibility for the two suicide blasts. No responsibility has been claimed for the subsequent low-intensity blasts.

2. The suicide blasts highlight the continuing capability of the TTP to operate in non-tribal areas with the help of its Punjabi associates despite the losses suffered by it in the Pashtun belt in recent weeks due to the effective missile strikes by US Drones (pilotless planes) against TTP hide-outs in North and South Waziristan.

3. The selection of the targets by the TTP and the LEJ for their three major strikes this week in Lahore reflects their continuing anger against the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which is the police agency for counter-terrorism coming under the Ministry of the Interior, the police of Punjab, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Army. This anger, which came to the fore after the Army's commando raid in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July 2007, has been kept alive by the USA's Drone strikes and by the Pakistani military operations in the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in South Waziristan and the Bajaur Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). These military operations are seen by the TTP and its Punjabi associates as undertaken under US pressure. The anti-US and the anti-Army anger are fanning each other.

4. The focus of the retaliatory attacks have been in the NWFP and the FATA, from where many of the Pashtun recruits of the Frontier Corps,
a para-military unit officered by the Army, come, and in Punjab from where the Punjabi soldiers of the Army come. By keeping up the attacks in Lahore and other places in Punjab, including Rawalpindi, and in the Pashtun belt, the TTP and its Punjabi associates are trying to create a divide between the Punjabi officer class and their Punjabi and Pashtun soldiers and thereby weaken their loyalty to the officers.

5. There have already been indications of some dilution of discipline and loyalty among the Pashtuns of the FC, but there are as yet no indications of a similar dilution among the Punjabi soldiers of the Army. The military leadership would be worried that if the jihadis keep up the pressure it could over a period of time have a negative impact on the Punjabi soldiers and this could affect the Army's capability against India.

6. The Army's concern is how to keep up the seeming co-operation with the US against Al Qaeda and the Taliban without letting it weaken its capability against India. It cannot discontinue its co-operation with the US which has kept the Pakistani economy afloat. The Pakistani State badly needs the cash flow from the US.By expanding their operations in Punjab, the TTP and its Punjabi associates are seeking to convey a message to the military leadership that its continued support to the US operations in the FATA and Afghanistan could weaken the loyalty of its Punjabi and Pashtun soldiers and dilute its capability against India.

7. The TTP, despite the availability of a large number of Pashtun suicide bombers, would not be effective in Punjab without the co-operation of Punjabi terrorist organisations, which provide local sanctuaries, logistics and recruits. There are principally five Punjabi terrorist organisations---the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the anti- Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ). Of these, the LET has not been affected by the anti-Army anger. It continues to maintain its loyalty to the Army. It follows a dual policy of co-operating with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban against the US and with the Pakistan Army against India. For reasons not clear, the HUM has not been very active in recent months.

8. The HUJI, the JEM and the LEJ have been whole-heartedly co-operating with the TTP in its anti-Army operations. Whereas the LET pays equal attention to the jihad against the US and India, the HUJI, the JEM, the LEJ and the TTP are for the moment paying greater attention to their jihad against the US and the Pakistani Army than to their jihad against India. They prefer to leave the responsibility for the jihad against India to the LET.

9. According to Amir Mir, the well-known Pakistani journalist who writes for the "News" (March 13,2010), 1,217 persons were killed in 80 suicide bomber attacks during 2009. This was the higest figure of fatalities in a year since the Lal Masjid raid. Of the 1,217 fatalities, 863 were of civilians and the remaining 354 belonged to the security and law-enforcement agencies. Of them, 137 belonged to the police, 102 were Army officers and Jawans, 51 were FC personnel, 28 were staff members of the Inter-Services Intelligence, 22 belonged to the Khasadar Force, 12 belonged to the Pakistan Rangers and two others were employees of the Pakistan Navy. On an average, 72 civilians and 30 security and law-enforcement agencies’ personnel lost their lives every month in 2009 due to suicide bombings.

10. According to him, there has been a steep rise in fatalities due to suicide bombings between January 1 and March 12 this year as compared to the corresponding period of last year. There have been 321 fatalities in 15 suicide bombings till March 12 this year as against only 105 during the corresponding period last year.

11. He writes: "Authorities investigating the unending spate of suicide bombings are of the view most of these attacks have been carried out by the Punjabi Taliban belonging to four sectarian-cum-Jihadi groups which are working in tandem with the Pashtun-dominated Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. They believe several South Punjab-based members of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, who had taken part in the Afghan war, have now tied up with the TTP to carry out suicide attacks across Pakistan, especially targeting key military installations. South Punjab has grabbed the attention of Pakistani authorities over the past few months because of the involvement of the Taliban in a spate of Fidayeen-style suicide bombings, including the one targeting the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on October 10, 2009."

12. What would be the impact of these attacks and the resulting fatalities on the morale of the Punjabi soldiers? It is likely that many of the civilians killed were the relatives of soldiers. The Army could come to the conclusion that the only way it could maintain the morale of its Punjabi soldiers is by intensifying its proxy war against India while pretending to co-operate with the US against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.One of the tempting options for the Army will be to wean the HUJI and the JEM away from the TTP by persuading them to join with the LET against India. If it succeeds, it could reduce the pressure on the Army.

13. The increase in anti- Pakistan Army terrorism in Punjab has to be closely monitored by India in order to assess its impact on Pakistan's proxy war against India. ( 13-3-10)

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




In an apparent message to Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff, and Lt.Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), two suicide bombers struck at military vehicles moving through the cantonment area of Lahore on March 12,2010, killing at least 39 persons, six of them army personnel, and injuring 95 others.

2. While no claim of responsibility has so far been made, the needle of suspicion points at the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as the Pakistani Taliban is known, and its Punjabi terror associate the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ). Police sources in Lahore suspect that the attacks were in reprisal for the stepped-up Drone (pilotless plane) strikes by the US, the arrests of some Afghan Taliban leaders by the Pakistani authorities and the reported deaths since the beginning of this year of three important terrorist leaders due to the Drone attacks---- Hakimullah Mehsud, the Amir of the TTP, whose death has so far been denied by the TTP,Qari Mohammad Zafar of the LEJ and Abdul Haq al-Turkistani, the Amir of the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET). While the still unadmitted ( by the TTP) death of Hakinullah was reported to have taken place in January, the other two deaths were reported to have taken place in February.

3. The TTP and other organisations associated with it such as the LEJ have been threatening the Government and its military-intelligence establishment with reprisal attacks if the Drone strikes and the military operations in South Waziristan and the Bajaur Agency are not called off and the army reinforcements sent there withdrawn.

4 The twin suicide attacks against military vehicles in Lahore took place two days after Gen.Kayani was reported to have given an extension of service to Pasha, who is due to retire later this month, and a few days before the expected arrival of Kayani and Pasha in Washington DC for talks with their US counterparts. One could expect more reprisal attacks on military targets in the coming days to step up pressure on the Army and the ISI to reverse the present policy of co-operation with the US. ( 12-3-10)

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



Given below are my replies to a set of questions on the Maoist insurgency in India e-mailed to me by a journalist of a Brazilian online journal:

1 Who are the Maoists in India nowadays?

The Maoists are the cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), who are fighting against the State in the tribal areas of Central India-----mainly in Andhra Pradesh,Chattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa and West Bengal.They also have some activity in Maharashtra and Bihar. It is essentially a movement of Maoist ideologues for the capture of political power through the barrel of the gun by exploiting the economic grievances of the poor tribals of central India.

2. How did they appear? Do they keep the same ideology from the Cold War?

It is a movement inspired by the ideology of Mao Zedong. They believe in Mao's tactics of capture of political power through a rural revolt of poor and exploited peasants and landless workers.Among the foreign ideological influences on them are those of the Chinese Communist Party under Mao, the Shining Path of Peru and the Maoists of Nepal. Even though the Chinese Communists discarded much of Maoist ideology after his death, his followers in India continue to follow them. They look upon the present leaders of China as revisionists.

3 What is the relation with the Communist Party?

They do not agree with the ideology of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other leftist parties which are against violence and which believe in acquiring political power by contesting in elections. The Maoists are fighting against the present Government of CPI (Marxist) in West Bengal which came to power through elections.

4 What are the main objectives of the group?

Capture of political power through a rural insurgency of the rural poor in order to work for the uplift of the poor people. It is essentially a movement of the rural poor and the backward tribals. It has no popular support in the urban areas and from the industrial workers.

5 Maoists and Naxalites are the same thing?

The Maoists' violent struggle originally started in the 1960s in a village called Naxalbari in West Bengal. They used to be called Naxalites. They have now spread to other areas outside West Bengal and call themselves Maoists. Yes, the Naxalites and the Maoists are one and the same.

6 Can we compare them to radical Islamist groups?

One cannot. The jihadi terrorism is an urban movement. The Maoist movement is a rural insurgency. The jihadi terrorism is a religious movement against non-Muslims. The Maoist movement has nothing to do with religion. The Maoists don't believe in religion. The Maoist movement is a movement of the rural have-nots. The Maoists are Indian citizens. It is an indigenous insurgent movement. The jihadis are a mix of radicalised Muslims from India and Pakistan. They are trained in Pakistan by its Inter-Services Intelligence with the help of Pakistani jihadi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). The jihadi movement is a global movement. The Maoist movement is not.

7 Are the Maoists more dangerous than Al Qaeda? Why?

Al Qaeda is a terrorist organisation with a global political and religious agenda. The Maoists are an insurgent organisation with a purely Indian and social class agenda. Al Qaeda believes in indiscriminate killing of civilians. The Maoists believe in targeted killing of civilians. Apart from the security forces, the Maoists kill only those civilians whom they look upon as class enemies such as landlords and forest contractors. Al Qaeda has till now not posed a threat to India's internal security because it has practically no support in the Indian Muslim community. The Maoists pose a serious threat to India's internal security because they have considerable support from the rural poor in the tribal areas of Central India.

8 From where does their philosophy come from?

Already answered above

9 Do the Maoists have support from sectors or regions in India?

Already answered above

10 Why and how the Government have to deal with them?

The Government has to follow a two-pronged policy. It has to undertake a crash programme for the economic and social development of the poor tribals in Central India and take legal action against landlords and forest contractors and government officials exploiting and harassing the poor tribals. At the same time, it has to take action against the armed cadres of the Maoists and their leaders. It should not succumb to violence. It should show a caring attitude to the poor tribals.

11 In which extension this support makes more difficult the operations of the authorities?

The operations of the authorities are rendered difficult by the failure of the Government to modernise rural policing, poor road communications in the rural areas, and the lack of co-operation from the people of the areas who have sympathy for the Maoists.

12 How does the modus operandi work? Is it similar to the Al Qaeda’s one?

It has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It is a rural insurgent movement which has to be dealt with using a mix of techniques----better rural policing, better attention to the grievances and problems of the rural poor, crash development of the rural areas, and strengthening the capability of the security forces to collect intelligece from the rural areas and prevent the Maoists from moving in large groups and attacking the security forces.The Maoists don't use improvised explosive devices. They use land mines. They often use weapons captured from the security forces. The Maoist modus operandi is more like the modus operandi used by the communist insurgents of Malaya, Thailand and Burma in the 1950s and the 1960s.

13 To deny the existence of a group or just combat could lead to a reinforcement of Maoists?

Question not clear

14 The strategies to fight against them are the same that they use with Al Qaeda?

Already answered above.

15 Can the Maoists make a major attack as Mumbai in 2008?

The Maoists have made many major attacks on the security forces, overran their posts, and captured large quantities of arms and ammunition. But they did not receive the kind of attention the LET received in Mumbai on 26/11 because they operate in rural areas and not in urban areas. They operate far away from the TV cameras. They don't attack iconic targets. They attack class targets in rural areas.

16 Are there links with terrorists groups in others countries?

They have ideological ties of solidarity with Maoists in countries such as Nepal and the Philippines. They don't have operational links.

17 Is there any peace agreement between the Government and the Maoists? What can we expect in a closer future?

There is no peace agreement. The Government is prepared to hold talks with them on their grievances if they give up the use of violence for achieving political and economic objectives and surrender their arms and ammunition. They are not prepared to. The Maoists pose a typical dilemma to Govt. policy-makers----security vs development. Without security, there can be no development.Without development, there can be no security.How to harmonise the requirements of security and development?.No answer to this question has been found so far.(12-3-10)

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