October 2007

Vol 7 - No. 4
 

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SOUTH ASIA - Pakistan | October 2007

 


______________________________________________________________________________

 

News Briefs

 

An Islamist takeover               Tipping Point          PoK: Asia’s last Colony                      



 (Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
  map are not members of SAARC)

Uncertain Respite for Musharraf 

BY KANCHAN LAKSHMAN
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; 
Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

It is now almost certain that Pakistan’s destiny as a nation will remain captive to President Pervez Musharraf, with or without his uniform. Musharraf heaved a sigh of relief on September 28, 2007, after the Supreme Court judgment dismissed the Opposition’s petitions on the dual office issue, clearing the way for him to contest the October 6 election to the nation’s highest office while remaining the Army Chief.

A nine-member bench of the Supreme Court dismissed six similar constitutional petitions (filed by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and others) challenging the holding of two offices by President General Pervez Musharraf and his candidature for re-election in uniform, declaring them "not maintainable". The 6-3 majority verdict "did not touch upon the substance of the petitions. Nor did the Bench make any observation on the recent changes to the election rules made by the Election Commissioner, favouring President Musharraf." The verdict simply maintained that the "petitions, which pleaded for the Court’s intervention since an issue of public importance relating to fundamental rights was involved, could not be maintained on these grounds." The short order read:

 

For reasons to be recorded later, as per majority view of 6 to 3, these petitions are held to be not maintainable within the contemplation of Article 184 (3) of the Constitution. As per minority view of Mr. Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Mr. Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and Mr. Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, all petitions are held to be maintainable under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution and are hereby accepted. Constitutional petition No. 63 of 2007 re: Dr Anwarul Haq vs Federation of Pakistan and others is disallowed to the extent of seeking permission to contest the election to the office of president. As per majority view, these petitions are hereby dismissed as not maintainable.

 

In a certain sense, this is a complete reversal of the more recently manifested independence of the judiciary and the assumed political role of the highest court of justice. Legal analysts opined that the Court did not discern the "substance of the petitions" since it was badly divided and may have also wanted to avoid any plausible confrontation with the military regime. Qazi Hussain Ahmed, one of the petitioners, "had earlier declared to the Press that the opposition parties have reservations regarding the attitude of the judges who, he feels, have been compromised and are under Government pressure."

 

Despite this ‘technical victory’, Musharraf is not yet out of the woods. A fair amount of uncertainty still exists with regard to the course of the rapidly changing political process. Moreover, he must also fulfil the promise he made to the Supreme Court that "if elected" he would doff his uniform before taking a fresh oath of office.

 

However, the processes of elections, et al, do not change the fundamentals of the troubled situation in Pakistan. Irrespective of the configuration of the political formation that would assume power once the Presidential elections and the various ongoing ‘deals’ with political parties – including exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), there is no real transformation since the military would remain at the helm of affairs and the flag of extremist Islam would continue to flail vigorously across Pakistan, even as the state gradually withers away.

 

Nevertheless, escalating crises are immediately at hand, among them, the issue of a failing Musharraf’s grip on the Army after he doffs his uniform. What would be the contours and powers of a civilian presidency? Would the Army’s power-play undergo a radical shift after Musharraf relinquishes direct command? Reports indicate that General Musharraf has already appointed loyalists to key posts in the Army and reshuffled the hierarchy before his promised resignation (a commitment he has made to the Supreme Court, not to mention his wider public commitment and assurances to the American leadership) from the post of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). The significant among these new appointments is that of Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj as Director-General of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Once considered "General Musharraf’s eyes and ears as head of the Military Intelligence," Taj, as a Brigadier, was also Musharraf’s military secretary during the 1999 coup. He succeeded Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, who is widely believed to be a possible successor to Musharraf as Army Chief. Maj. Gen. Mohsin Kamal has been appointed as Corps Commander of Rawalpindi, a key post historically connected directly to the trajectory of power in Islamabad and the succession of coups the country has experienced. Kamal replaced Lt. Gen. Tariq Majid, another possible successor to Musharraf as COAS. Further, Musharraf promoted six top commanders to the rank of Lieutenant General. In combination, these various moves are obviously designed to ensure continued control of the Armed Forces after he assumes the identity of a ‘civilian President’, eight years after he ousted Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup.

 

Amidst a fair amount of speculation on the ‘transition’ to a civilian presidency, it is crucial to note that General Musharraf, "during his six-day-long discussions [in July 2007] with his top military aides in Rawalpindi after the restoration of the Chief Justice, is said to have been advised by his then Corps commanders that the best thing for him to do is to seek an "honourable exit"."

 

Meanwhile, with narratives of a crisis-ridden presidential election escalating, the diffusion of turmoil across the length and breadth of the country and the intensification of its multiple insurgencies shows no signs of abating. Indeed, "the growth and resurgence of emboldened extremists continues to form a dangerous backdrop to power jockeying in Islamabad."

 

In a welter of violence, at least 1,896 people, including 655 civilians, 354 security force (SF) personnel and 887 terrorists, have died in 2007 (till September 30). This adds to the 1,471 persons, including 608 civilians and 325 SF personnel, who died in terrorism/insurgency-related violence in Pakistan during year 2006. Crucially, the 2006 level already reflected well over a doubling in fatalities since 2005, when a total of 648 persons (including 430 civilians and 81 SF personnel) were killed in insurgent and terrorist conflicts. Large and widening tracts of Pakistan are now clearly violence-afflicted with an extended array of anti-state actors engaging in varying degrees of armed activity and subversion. A cursory look at the map indicates that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan are witnessing large-scale violence. Islamist extremist activities in parts of the Sindh and Punjab provinces have brought these areas under the security scanner as well. The writ of the military regime under General Musharraf is currently being vehemently challenged – violently or otherwise – across wide geographical areas, on a multiplicity of issues, and with the troubles reaching into the heart of Islamabad and Rawalpindi as well.

 

The magnitude of Pakistan’ slide into anarchy is best illustrated in the fact that between March 22, 2002 (the first suicide attack) and 2006, there were 22 suicide attacks and just in 2007 (till September 28), there have already been 41 of them. In the past three months, the fidayeen have unceasingly targeted Army convoys and check-posts, police stations and training units, government officials, restaurants and mosques. Another indication of the state collapse is visible in the fact that a small group of approximately 20 militants captured at least 280 soldiers, including a colonel and nine officers, after intercepting a military convoy in the Momi Karam area of Luddah subdivision in South Waziristan on August 30, 2007. Not a single bullet was reportedly fired by the soldiers. At the time of writing, the soldiers were still being held hostage.

 

A more dangerous facet of this escalating instability is that processes of radicalisation have been strengthened immensely under the Musharraf regime. The NWFP has swiftly crystallized as the core of Islamist militant mobilisation in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region even as radical Islamists rapidly expand their presence across the other Provinces. It is significant that the NWFP is a region where the state’s presence has been relatively strong in the past, and the situation has never been even remotely comparable to the traditionally ungoverned FATA. A comprehensive failure to control the widening insurgencies, sectarian strife and Islamist terrorist violence, now envelope large swathes of Pakistan.

 

Evidently, Pakistan’s problems will not vanish with the October 6 ballot and General Musharraf’s almost certain re-election as President. The state of play across Pakistan continues to remain critical, and a ‘civilian presidency’ or an ‘elected’ civilian Government in the immediate future will not only continue to face problems ensuing from processes of radicalisation and the retreat of state, but may well be part of the circumstances resulting in their acceleration. Irrespective of the dramatis personae, Pakistan will continue to remain the "epicentre of global instability", and its unfortunate reality is that every new ‘solution’ will bring with it new and potentially greater problems.

 

[Source: South Asian Intelligence Review]

 

Tipping Point

 

BY KANCHAN LAKSHMAN
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; 
Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

 

Note: This article was written prior to the Supreme Court judgement.

 

That President Pervez Musharraf is currently facing his toughest challenge ever is now a given. While this may not be the end-game for the General, there is a vast churning process underway in Pakistan. Whilst the direction and outcome of this process remains uncertain, what is beyond doubt is that the balance of power in Pakistan has undergone, and will continue in the immediate future to undergo, a radical transformation. This will certainly lead to far-reaching changes in the political and security milieu of South Asia.

 

With his tenure nearing an end, his popularity at an all-time low, and challenges to his regime mounting, General Musharraf is currently attempting to engineer his re-election through a strategy based essentially on unprincipled alliances and the manipulation of Constitution.

 

Musharraf intends to secure re-election for another five years between mid-September and mid-October 2007. (His current term as Chief of Army Staff expires in November 2007 and elections to the National Assembly are scheduled to take place in January 2008.) He does not enjoy sufficient popular support to win a free and fair election, and the now activist Supreme Court could prevent ‘pre-rigging’ and rigging of the electoral process. Aware that the next Parliament may not re-elect him, Musharraf’s strategy is to push through his re-election with the current Legislature in place, where he enjoys a majority.

 

His nomination for re-election is, however, vulnerable to an adverse verdict from the Supreme Court. A constitutional amendment can, however, neutralize this risk, though this would require a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. He thus urgently needs backing for such a constitutional amendment, and also some assurance from the Opposition that there will be no street mobilization and countrywide civil unrest on the issue. It is within this scenario that the military regime is attempting to arrive at an alliance with the Pakistan Peoples Party, headed by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who, ironically, was exiled by Musharraf, under enveloping charges of corruption, after he came to power in the October 1999 coup d'etat.

 

The Musharraf-Benazir power sharing pact envisages, inter alia, the following:

  • General Musharraf doffs his uniform which he recently termed as his "second skin";

  • Benazir will support General Musharraf's bid for re-election without any fear of judicial review;

  • Benazir will be allowed to contest the General Elections in 2008;

  • She could be the Prime Minister as part of the arrangement;

  • She will not be prosecuted for corruption charges during her previous tenures as Prime Minister (1988-90 and 1993-96); and

  • Benazir wants the Musharraf regime to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow her to serve a third term as Prime Minister.

Further, the 'King's Party', the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid-e-Azam), or PML-Q, is reportedly negotiating for a separate deal with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Leader of the Opposition, whose own faction of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam is part of the Islamist alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). However, the MMA has not officially stated its position on the issue. Rehman, nevertheless, has admitted that he had been "offered the office of the Prime Minister in exchange for his support in the pre- and post-election period to President Pervez Musharraf."

 

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is the other major player. Its leader Nawaz Sharif, also a former Prime Minister, was exiled to Saudi Arabia by Musharraf, and has now got a new lease of life after the Supreme Court ruled, on August 23, that he "can return to Pakistan unhindered." Sharif, however, remains bitterly opposed to General Musharraf and is expected to return to Pakistan on September 10.

 

Politically, Musharraf has alienated too many forces. There is an intense conflict between the executive and an increasingly activist judiciary, which is basking in its new found independence. Conscious of the current mood in the country, President Musharraf and his advisors are currently attempting to secure an arrangement that allows for the continuance of the military’s stranglehold, albeit with some modifications. There are many indicators of a Dictator cornered. For instance, Musharraf recently stated that "There is a need for forgiving and forgetting the past because of the present political scenario and for moving ahead."

 

While much about the various deals is informed speculation at the moment, there are some indications that the present scenario could abruptly translate into a plausible new Pakistani version of ‘democracy’. At the core would be a new National Assembly constituted through purportedly ‘free and fair’ general elections and Pervez Musharraf as an ‘elected’ civilian President. The Musharraf-Benazir pact could, according to noted analyst Ayesha Siddiqa,

 

…reformat Pakistan military's partnership: shifting it from a military-mullah alliance to a military-liberal alliance (which was also the case during the 1960s). Such a marriage of convenience against religious extremism and cultural conservatism would be highly attractive to Pakistan's main external patron, the United States. The new relationship would need to be secured politically, the most likely mechanism being the manipulation of the electoral process that has so often been the forte of Pakistan's Army and its numerous intelligence agencies.

Reports indicate that the Musharraf-Benazir negotiations are being facilitated by both Washington and London. The international community, it appears, is "still eager to give Musharraf the benefit of doubt." The West’s record of engineering flawed democracies across the globe has, however, been disastrous. And assuming that the deal goes through, the US will have to deal with two strong forces, adding to present complexities. On countering terrorism, Benazir, who has the dubious distinction of having actively engineered the formation of the Taliban though the Inter-Services Intelligence, on the one hand, and Musharraf, on the other, have wide differences. Moreover, unprincipled alliances like the ones currently being designed will not strengthen democracy in Pakistan. History has shown that such pacts have only helped to consolidate the military’s control over power.

 

Amidst all this wheeling and dealing, the security scenario continues to deteriorate. The intense conflict between the Pakistani state and forces of radical Islam and other anti-state actors is expanding continuously. Large tracts of Pakistan are now clearly afflicted by escalating violence. The daily reports of the incidence of insurgent and terrorist activities in Pakistan communicate the enormity of the trajectory of violence and instability that has been undermining the authority of the state in progressively widening areas of the country over the past years. 1,584 people, including 554 civilians, 287 soldiers and 743 militants, have died in 2007 (till August 31). The flag of extremist Islam is, thus, fluttering vigorously across Pakistan, even as the state gradually withers away.

 

Among the multiple insurgencies currently raging in Pakistan, the bloodiest is under way in Waziristan – and it is symbolic of the decline of the State. In 2007 (till August 24), approximately 755 people, including 94 civilians, 97 soldiers and 564 militants, have already been killed in 174 incidents, an unambiguous indication of the state of play in this most troubled region. The extent of the state’s retreat is visible in the latest incident when a small group of approximately 20 militants captured over 150 soldiers (some reports mention 300 soldiers) after intercepting a military convoy in the Momi Karam area of Luddah subdivision in South Waziristan on August 30, 2007. At the time of writing, the soldiers were still being held hostage. Zulfiqar Mehsud, a spokesman for Taliban ‘commander’ Baitullah Mehsud, has declared that, "Our foremost demand is the implementation of the Sararogha agreement [February 2005], which binds the Government to contain the movement of troops in South Waziristan."

 

President Musharraf’s options are manifestly diminishing, and there is much evidence currently indicating the stratagems of a cornered man. He could still survive and engineer another false democratic setup, increasingly tailored to suit the interests of his external patrons, through a combination of crass opportunism and realpolitik. But Pakistan is now clearly at a potential tipping point. Jugnu Mohsin, publisher of The Friday Times, aptly notes: "After a period of relative quiet, for the first time in a decade, we are back to the old question: it is not just whither Pakistan, but will Pakistan survive?"

[Source: South Asian Intelligence Review]

PoK: Asia’s last Colony


BY Guest Writer: MAHMOOD BAIG
President, Jammu and Kashmir National Students Federation

 

On August 13, 2007, the people of what is called ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ [AJK, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). ‘Azad’ means ‘Free’] organized a ‘Long March’ in an assertion of the unity of the AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB, referred to in Pakistan as the ‘Northern Areas’) region, rejecting the arbitrary division of populations within Kashmir, and the restraints on travel and people-to-people contacts that have been imposed by the Pakistani establishment. The traditional routes between AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan have been shut down by the Pakistan Government since its occupation of the region in 1948, and two exclusionary systems of governance have been established in these two constituent units of PoK. The ‘Long March’, from Muzaffarabad, the capital of AJK, to Gilgit, organised by the National Students Federation (NSF) and supported by virtually all nationalist Kashmiri organisations in AJK, sought, through acts of civil disobedience, to focus global attention on the backwardness of the state and the excesses of the Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies. The NSF leadership had, consequently, announced that the Long March would not stop at any Pakistan Army checkpost en route to Gilgit, and would not submit to any search or identification processes imposed by Government agencies, as the Pakistani Army was an alien occupying Force. The arduous long march, through high mountain passes and across extended glaciers, and through unmarked routes, claimed the lives of two volunteers, Sardar Amjad Khan and Raja Bahzad Khan, who died when the march hit adverse weather conditions in the upper reaches of the Neelam Valley.

 

The NSF has repeatedly emphasized the fact that the divided areas of J&K should be united, and the first step in this direction should be the unification of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan under a single State Assembly, and the natural routes between AJK and GB should immediately be restored. The trade between Pakistan and China should pass over these routes through GB and AJK, and this trade should come under the authority and jurisdiction of the administration of united AJK-GB, with royalties for this trade flowing to this administration from Pakistan. By redirecting the Pakistan China trade to these routes, not only would the time and cost of transport of goods to Rawalpindi and Lahore be substantially reduced, the areas along these routes would experience an economic renaissance, with benefits accruing not only to the people of this region, but also to the people of Pakistan. There would also be an inevitable impact on the excesses currently committed by the Pakistan Army in the region.

 

After 60 years of Pakistani rule, the majority of people in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan live in conditions of extreme backwardness, and are denied all socio-economic rights and, in the case of GB, constitutional recognition and the most basic political freedoms. For six decades, governments in AJK, which are installed on the commands of the Pakistan Army, have not been able to provide even the most basic necessities to the people. Consequently, the area remains mired in poverty and has been reduced to a playground of the intelligence agencies and jihadi forces. The Government in AJK is virtually a proxy administration appointed by Islamabad. The puppet regime in Muzaffarabad, the capital of AJK, needs permission from those at the helm of affairs in Islamabad on even the most minor administrative issue.

 

AJK suffers immensely across the socio-economic matrix. For instance, there is not a single institute for technical education – a medical or engineering college – in the region even in this modern age. There is no public or private sector industry worth its name. The common people of the region can only secure employment in demeaning menial occupations in the region, or in the lowest echelons of the service industry in Pakistan. People of ‘Azad Kashmir’ can ordinarily be found working in hotels, or as street hawkers in Pakistan’s large cities, such as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala. The local population derives no benefits whatsoever from the region’s rich forest, mining and water resources. The forests across vast regions have been clear-felled, and the entire wood has been transported to Pakistani markets or has been exported by Pakistani contractors to other countries. The Pakistan Army is also involved in smuggling the timber of thousands of precious Deodar trees, as well as endangered flora and fauna, out of the region, and into Pakistan.

 

Islamabad’s rulers have also consistently sought to transform the demographic dynamics of the region. According to one report, "As per the 1991 census, residents of ‘Azad Kashmir’ are mostly Sunni Muslim and predominantly Punjabi-speaking, with barely 20 per cent Kashmiris." Similar patterns of demographic destablisation are being engineered in GB. There has been a large scale expropriation of land and residency rights of the indigenous populations in AJK. Further demographic shifts are being engineered, with an aggressive policy of resettlement of the ethnic Hazarawals and Afghans (Pashtuns) in the Neelam Valley, with large tracts of land being allocated to, or bought by, these outsiders, who are liberally provided residency permits. The State has very large mining resources and, for instance, the Neelam Valley has a significant deposit of unique rubies, which are, again, taken into Pakistan, with no benefits accruing to the people of the region or even of the Neelam Valley.

 

As regards the region’s tremendous water resources, successive Pakistani Governments, whether military or civilian, have left no stone unturned in their plunder. Pakistan is increasing the height of the Mangla Dam without the consent of the people of AJK. Mirpur town was submerged under the Dam, but the electricity generation is done outside AJK, so that all revenue and power generation benefits go to Pakistan. The Pakistani people have obstructed the construction of dams in their own areas [protests that have thwarted the Kalabagh Dam project in Mianwali District, in the Punjab Province, and bordering the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), are a case in point], but the Army can simply trample over the rights and territory of the Kashmiris. The latest example of this continuing oppression is the raising of the height of the Mangla Dam by 30 feet, as a result of which the people of Mirpur will be displaced once again. Pakistan has never paid any royalties for the Mangla Dam project to AJK, nor is their any intention of making such payments in future. As one commentator has noted, Pakistan argues that the construction of Mangla Dam is "a consequence of the 1961 Indus Basin treaty between India and Pakistan with the World Bank acting as guarantor. The Azad Kashmiris, particularly the Mirpuris, argue that water is a Kashmiri natural resource commandeered by the Pakistani state to the disadvantage of Kashmiris."

 

There are no representative democratic structures in AJK. Pakistan’s ‘hypocrisy about Kashmir' is visible in the very nature of the equations that have been imposed on AJK and its citizens through the 1974 Interim Constitution, which prescribes various limitations for the ‘autonomy' granted to the region.

 

Defence, foreign affairs, security and currency are put outside the purview of the ‘autonomy'. Further, apart from the Legislative Assembly, a 14-member ‘AJ&K Council’, has been formed and is headed by the Pakistan Prime Minister as Chairman and the ‘AJ&K’ President as Vice-Chairman. Islamabad nominates five members to the Council from the Members of the Pakistan National Assembly and there are three ex-officio members. The Chairman, along with these federal nominees, gives the Government of Pakistan a majority in the Council as, of the 14 members, there are only six members elected through the ‘AJ&K’ Legislative Assembly. This Council exercises wide ranging powers.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), "Pakistani officials dominate the Council and major bureaucrats occupy key decision making posts… the Chief Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the Accountant General and the Finance Secretary (of the region) come from Pakistan." Indeed, a number of secondary or non-strategic administrative posts also go to Pakistanis, and are increasingly dominated by ex-Army officers. Thus, the current Health Secretary of the State is retired Major General Jehangir Anwar Khan, who, ironically, maintains his offices and permanent residence at Islamabad, and not in the State Capital, Muzzafarabad.

 

Dissent in AJK has been methodically suppressed by Pakistan over the years. The HRCP, in its report, State of Human Rights in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, in July 2004, noted that "Fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association are often infringed in AJK under various pretences, despite claims to the contrary by the officials." Further, the UNHCR Human Rights Watch World Report 2007, stated:

 

Defence, foreign affairs, security and currency are put outside the purview of the ‘autonomy'. Further, apart from the Legislative Assembly, a 14-member ‘AJ&K Council’, has been formed and is headed by the Pakistan Prime Minister as Chairman and the ‘AJ&K’ President as Vice-Chairman. Islamabad nominates five members to the Council from the Members of the Pakistan National Assembly and there are three ex-officio members. The Chairman, along with these federal nominees, gives the Government of Pakistan a majority in the Council as, of the 14 members, there are only six members elected through the ‘AJ&K’ Legislative Assembly. This Council exercises wide ranging powers.

 

Tight controls on freedom of expression have also been a hallmark of government policy in Azad Kashmir. Pakistan has prevented the creation of independent media in the territory through bureaucratic restrictions and coercion. Publications and literature favouring independence are banned. While militant organizations promoting the incorporation of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir state into Pakistan have had free rein to propagate their views, groups promoting an independent Kashmir find their speech sharply, sometimes violently, curtailed.

 

Since its formation in 1966, the NSF has been struggling for unity and freedom of the whole of Jammu & Kashmir. NSF units, which exist in all the educational institutions in AJK, work to create ideological awareness among the students. The NSF has worked as the avant garde on issues relating to students and the general public, as a result of which many of its cadres have been victims of excesses by Pakistani intelligence agencies. Many have been imprisoned, hundreds have been prosecuted for sedition, and dozens have been killed. Even today, dozens of NSF cadres are in jail.

 

The socio-political and cultural landscape of the region has been adversely affected since it has been the epicentre of the Kashmir jihad for a long time. Pakistan military intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has set up the puppet headquarters of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) – a group that can have no independent presence in the State – in Muzaffarabad, while all other groups engaged in violence in Indian administered Kashmir, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Al Badr, etc., have camps and offices in the capital and elsewhere in ‘Azad Kashmir’. The Muttahida Jehad Council (MJC), a conglomerate of Pakistan-based jihadi outfits, again run as a proxy of the ISI, also has ‘headquarters’ in Muzaffarabad, though it is incapable of creating or maintaining an independent setup in AJK. The LeT and the JeM, however, while they substantially owe their existence to ISI support, have managed to create a space for themselves in the State, and enjoy at least some support outside the Pakistani establishment and agencies. The principal terrorist training camps still being run in the State belong to the LeT, which has emerged – particularly after the earthquake of October 8, 2005, when state agencies used the LeT to channel much of the relief to affected populations.

 

The clergy in AJK has always exploited religion to impose the will of the Pakistani secret agencies and the Army, and has always projected the falsehood that any opposition to the Army or its institutions constitutes a threat to Islam. The Kashmiri people have remained silent in this oppression essentially to avert this purported threat and have borne the excesses of Islamabad, and have, in the process, lost not only their fundamental rights, but all rights whatsoever. This exploitation continues, although there is an increasing awareness among the people today, and occasional voices of protest can now be heard against the excesses of the state.

 

Pakistani intelligence agencies have divided the people of PoK on sectarian lines, and the people live largely under the shadow of insecurity, conflict and violence. Islamist extremists have sought to forcefully impose their perverse notion of Islam on the people of AJK and have, for instance, banned tape recorders and routinely compel people in public places and on public transports to offer namaaz (prayers). Wherever their camps are established, the entry of common people is banned, and the poor people who foraged for forest resources or cut grass in these areas are refused entry. If some people mistakenly enter these areas, they are locked up in the private detention centres maintained by these radical groups.

 

Conditions changed somewhat after the devastating earthquake of October 2005. A dialogue was established between Pakistan and India, after which the activities of the jihadi groups were somewhat limited. The freedom with which their units moved around in the streets of Muzaffarabad and other parts of AJK has undergone relative curtailment. However, their camps remain in place, and their activities continue. The European Parliament Report, Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects (Rapporteur: Baroness Emma Nicholson, May 2007) stated that "activities of constantly mutating AJK-based terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harakat ul-Mujahedeen have caused hundreds of deaths in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and beyond." The region, it said was, "where fundamental institutions and regional stability have been constantly undermined by organised crime and infiltration across the LoC [Line of Control] by radical Islamist networks exploiting the rugged terrain." While the report laments the "continuing political and humanitarian situation in all four parts of Jammu and Kashmir, it draws particular attention to the democratic deficit in AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan, where, regrettably, Pakistan has consistently failed to fulfil its obligations to introduce meaningful and representative democratic structures."

 

After the 2005 earthquake, the Pakistani media projected one of the many jihadi groups, the LeT, as a messiah for the affected populations. The leaders of the LeT, who often have the title ‘Abu’ prefixed to their names, used the generous relief aid to accumulate great personal wealth and many of them in fact entered into multiple marriages as a result of their sudden prosperity. Every LeT leader now has at least four wives, and the ‘Abus’ receive allowances for wives, children, house and travel. Even before the earthquake, these groups maintained schools, colleges, hospitals and workshops, but after the earthquake and the generous relief funding to the tune of billions of rupees, the jihadis have opened their institutional complexes, hospitals and madrassas (seminaries) in Muzaffarabad, and these have become places where the common people are subjected to extortion. Such hospitals, constructed on relief funding, do not even offer free treatment. Shavia Nallah, the LeT hospital built on relief funding, has been constructed on a public park, and the adjoining private properties have also been forcibly occupied by the group. When some opposition was generated, LeT militants shot at and wounded one of the local youth. The hospital was eventually set ablaze by the enraged mob on June 11, 2007.

 

Incipient protests, such as the Long March of August 2007, at best bring the harsh conditions under which the people of PoK live, to the attention of the global community. Regrettably, such attention has been limited, and the free rein that Pakistan enjoys over these regions and its populations, remains largely unaffected by such fleeting interest. It is in the shadow of international neglect that the rights of the people of AJK and of GB have been systematically violated, and a tyrannical order has persisted for over 60 years.

News Briefs

President Musharraf can contest election while being Army chief, says Supreme Court: The Supreme Court on September 28, 2007, cleared the way for President Pervez Musharraf to contest the October 6 presidential election while remaining Army chief, by dismissing as "non-maintainable" all petitions challenging his eligibility. The 6-3 majority verdict of the nine-judge Bench did not, however, touch upon the substance of the petitions. Nor did the Bench make any observation on the recent changes to the election rules made by the Election Commissioner, favouring President Musharraf. The verdict said the petitions, which pleaded for the court’s intervention as an issue of public importance relating to fundamental rights was involved, could not be maintained on these grounds. Among the three dissenting judges was Rana Bhagwandas, who headed the Bench. The Opposition parties and the legal community denounced the verdict, and called into question the independence of the judiciary. However, the Attorney-General, Malik Qayyum, denied that there was any government pressure on the Bench and reiterated that President Musharraf would step down as Army chief after his election. The Hindu, September 29, 2007.

129 security force personnel killed in suicide attacks since January 2007: As many as 129 personnel of the Pakistan Army, Frontier Constabulary (FC) and 56 policemen were killed in 22 suicide attacks in nine months since January 2007. According to an Interior Ministry report on suicide attacks, 51 suicide attacks took place since January 2007 till September 17, in which 14 attacks targeted military personnel, four targeted the FC, four targeted the Police, while the remaining 29 targeted the civilian population. The report said that the Lal Masjid military operation in July 2007 had caused an increase in suicide attacks on Army and Paramilitary Forces. According to the report, the deadliest attack on the Pakistan Army was conducted on September 14 in Tarbela Ghazi, in which a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the Army mess, killing 16 personnel of the Special Services Group. It is for the first time in military history that militants targeted the elite force of Pakistan Army and that too in a highly secure and fortified military base. The report also reveals that the military was mostly targeted in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas. Mir Ali, Miran Shah and Tank remained the most favoured targets of suicide bombers. During the period in question three suicide attacks also took place in the Punjab targeting the Army. The first attack was conducted in Kharian Cantonment on March 29 and the second and third in Rawalpindi on September 4. According to the report, 56 Police personnel died in four suicide bombings during this period. The deadliest attack on the Police was carried out in Qissa Khawani Bazaar, Peshawar, on January 27, during the holy month, killing 12 police officials, including a Deputy Inspector General of police. Daily Times, September 21, 2007.

Osama bin Laden declares war on President Musharraf: The al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has vowed to retaliate against ‘infidel’ President Pervez Musharraf for the killing of Lal Masjid cleric Ghazi Abdul Rashid, US Websites said on September 20. "We in al Qaeda call on God to witness that we will retaliate for the blood of Ghazi and those with him against Musharraf and those who help him," a Website quoted Laden as saying. In another video, al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri warned that General Musharraf would be ‘punished’ for Ghazi’s killing. He also called on Muslims to fight the US and its allies around the world. "Let the Pakistan Army know that the killing of Ghazi and the demolition of his mosque have soaked the history of the Pakistani Army in shame... which can only be washed away by retaliation against the killers of Ghazi," he said. Daily Times, September 21, 2007.

Poll rules amended for Musharraf’s re-election: Pakistan’s Election Commission amended rules that bar Government servants from contesting Presidential polls, a move that paved the way for President General Pervez Musharraf’s re-election to the top post, drawing sharp reaction from opposition parties which vowed to block it. Secretary to the Election Commission, Kunwar Irshad, said on September 16, that the poll panel has amended Presidential election rules, so that Article 63 of the Constitution, which has a clause to bar Government servants from participating in elections unless they have been retired for at least two years, no longer applies to the President. Irshad said the rule of Article 63 (K) stating that "if he (the candidate) has been in the service of Pakistan or of any statutory body or any body which is owned or controlled by the Government or in which the Government has a controlling share or interest, unless a period of two years has elapsed since he ceased to be in such service" has been amended to exempt Musharraf who continued as Chief of Army. Irshad said the EC will announce the schedule of Presidential election within next two to three days.

The All Party Democratic Movement (APDM), headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), said it would en masse resign from the Assemblies if Musharraf went ahead with the re-election plans. Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People's Party (PPP) issued a statement "rejecting" the amendment as "unconstitutional and illegal" and saying that it amounted to "rigging" the polls. APDM alliance leaders, including chairman of PML-N Raja Zafarul Haq, and President of the Islamist Muthahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Qazi Hussain Ahmed, said they would resign from Assemblies the day Musharraf files his nomination. Daily Times, September 17, 2007.

95 militants killed in North Waziristan: At least 95 militants are reported to have died during clashes with the security forces (SFs) in North Waziristan. Taliban militants attacked a military base near the Afghan border on September 13, 2007, leading to an encounter with the SFs in which at least 50 militants and two soldiers were killed. Military spokesperson Major General Waheed Arshad said that the SFs repelled repeated militant attacks. Army helicopters and ground fire destroyed four militant positions, he added. A day earlier, 40 militants were killed in an attack by Army helicopter gunships in the Shawal area of North Waziristan. Major General Arshad confirmed that Pakistan Army helicopter gunships and artillery were used in the operation against militants, who had established their hideouts in the Shawal area and were involved in attacks on military convoys. Dawn, September 14, 2007; The News, September 13, 2007.

20 soldiers killed in suspected suicide attack in a high-security military area near Islamabad: At least 20 persons were killed in a bomb blast in a high-security military area in Tarbela Ghazi near Islamabad on September 13, 2007. The bomb exploded in the mess of Karar Company of the Special Services Group. The communication and wireless system of security agencies was also affected by the explosion. Two unnamed intelligence officials told AP that it was a suicide attack, and that the bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the canteen where dozens of commandos were having dinner. The Tarbela facility, about 100 kilometres south of Islamabad, is the headquarters of the Special Operation Task Force, a unit of the Pakistan Army’s elite Special Services Group, which had been set up with American aid to neutralise al Qaeda. Media reports stated that the Karar Company had participated in the Lal Masjid operation. The News; Daily Times, September 14, 2007.

19 persons killed in suicide attack in NWFP: 19 people were killed and 15 others wounded when a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up near a thickly-populated area of Bannu Choongi in the Dera Ismail Khan district of North west Frontier Province (NWFP) on September 11, 2007. The incident occurred at around 3:10 pm (PST) when police directed a suspected passenger of a pickup on the way to Kech village to come out and submit to a body search. As the passenger came out of the vehicle, he blew himself up, killing 18 people on the spot, including two police personnel, who wanted to search the bomber. Another person succumbed to his injuries later, raising the death toll to 19. Deputy Inspector General Police, Habibur Rahman, disclosed that the bomber was 14 to 15 years of age. The News, September 12, 2007.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif deported to Saudi Arabia after brief arrival in Islamabad: Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was, on September 10, 2007, arrested and deported to Saudi Arabia, four-and-a-half hours after he arrived in Islamabad from London to challenge President Pervez Musharraf’s rule. The PIA flight PK-786, carrying the former Prime Minister, his party workers and journalists, landed at 8:45am (PST) at Islamabad International Airport, but Nawaz Sharif refused to leave the aircraft for about 90 minutes. Surrounded by commandos and officials, he eventually stepped off the aircraft and was escorted to the Rawal Lounge, where he reportedly refused to hand over his passport to immigration officials. An unnamed official said Nawaz Sharif was shown arrest warrants for corruption and money laundering charges and a copy of his year 2000 exile agreement. "Government officials and some Saudi officials held talks with him for about two hours," a source said. Sharif later arrived in Jeddah, where the official SPA news agency reported: "Nawaz Sharif is a guest of Saudi Arabia, which welcomed his coming to live in the kingdom once again." Daily Times, September 11, 2007

Afghan suicide attackers coming through Pakistan, says UN: The spiraling number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan is often carried out by young Afghan men who pass through religious schools in Pakistan, a United Nations report said on September 9, 2007. Some attackers appeared driven by anger at the presence of international forces and the civilians being killed in their anti-Taliban operations, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) study said. Others were motivated by religious zeal or were young boys who had been abducted and forced into the task or somehow persuaded they would survive and earn rewards such as cash, a motorcycle or a cell phone, it noted. The report cited a "senior" Taliban commander as saying that 80 percent of suicide attackers passed through recruitment centres, training facilities or safe houses in Pakistan's Waziristan area. "The tribal areas of Pakistan remain an important source of human and material assistance for the insurgency generally but suicide attacks in particular," the report said.

There were 77 suicide attacks in the first six months of 2007, about twice the number for the same period in 2006 and 26 times higher than from January to June 2005, the survey disclosed. In 2007, till June, suicide bombings killed 193 people, including 121 civilians, even though three-quarters of the attacks were targeted at Afghan and international security forces, it stated. 62 Afghan security personnel and 10 international soldiers were also killed. AFP, September 9, 2007.

30 persons killed in two suicide attacks in Rawalpindi: 30 people were killed and 70 others wounded in two suicide attacks at Qasim Market and RA Bazaar in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on September 4, 2007. The first suicide bomber targeted a bus that was carrying about 35 employees of a defence agency to their office near the Qasim Market, killing at least 20 people. Soon after, another blast occurred near the RA Bazaar police station, killing 10 more people. Military spokesperson, Major General Waheed Arshad, said the attacks were suicide bombings aimed at targeting personnel of the security forces and other people. Four army officers were among the dead and 15 among the injured, he disclosed. The News; Dawn, September 5, 2007.

150 soldiers abducted in South Waziristan: Militants in South Waziristan abducted around 150 Pakistan Army personnel and shifted them to their hideouts in the mountains on August 30, 2007. They reportedly laid siege to two Pakistan Army convoys which were on their way from Wana and Shakai to Ladha subdivision. Both the convoys comprised 16 vehicles in which around 150 soldiers were traveling. The militants accused the soldiers of violating the peace accord signed between the Government and Taliban on February 9, 2005, under which, security forces were to have withdrawn from the areas inhabited by the Mehsud tribesmen. However, military spokesperson Major General Waheed Arshad said "Sometimes soldiers cannot reach their destination in time due to either bad weather or other reasons… there is no suggestion of kidnapping or fighting." The News, August 31, 2007.

ISI still supports al Qaeda and Taliban, says former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has alleged that elements of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) "continue the alliance with both the Taliban and al Qaeda to this very day" on the premise that Pakistan’s security requires "strategic depth" in the shape of a friendly or pliant Afghanistan. In an interview to YaleGlobal, Bhutto said that the ISI was continuing to adhere to the old arrangement, "even if it means supporting fanatics." Daily Times, August 29, 2007.

[Source: South Asian Intelligence Review]


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