INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO.511
(Given below are my answers to some of the questions which I have received in response to my article of March 30,2009, on the terroriststrike at Manawan in the Lahore area on the same day and the subsequent developments related to it)
Did the terrorists attack a police academy or a police training school ? Different reports have described the attacked institution differently.
The terrorists attacked a police training school of the provincial Government of Punjab where junior police recruits of the rank of constablesand above are trained before they are inducted into the Punjab police on the completion of their training. The school has a total of about 800 trainees, who had started their training in February,2009. They have had a little more than four weeks of training so far and have not yetbeen exposed to weapons' training. Hence, they were not in a position to defend themselves. They were in the parade ground for themorning parade when the terrorists attacked and there was total panic. Many ran out of the campus through the main gate and were hencesaved. Others rushed into the administrative and faculty buildings and took cover. While the initial casualties were in the parade ground, thesubsequent ones were inside the buildings, when the terrorists chased them inside the buildings. In addition to the 800 trainees, the schoolalso has about 200 administrative and instructional staff, many of whom put up the initial resistance to the terrorists before the reinforcements arrived.
How many terrorists were there?
The Pakistani authorities are still not sure on this. All they are certain is that three suspected terrorists blew themselves up on the terraceof one of the buildings, when they were cornered by the reinforcements from para-military forces (Rangers) and the Army. The police have registered a First Information Report against 10 unidentified persons and taken it up for investigation. This would indicate that on the basisof the debriefing of those inside the campus the police have estimated the total number of terrorists involved as about 10.
Have the remaining seven terrorists been captured?
The picture is confusing. The Pakistani authorities had initially claimed to have captured six of the terrorists. The "Dawn" of Karachi of April1 has stated that four "suspects" were captured inside the premises. Other sources in the police say that none of the remaining seven terrorists could be captured. They say that all the seven managed to escape by taking advantage of the confusion which prevailed insidethe campus.
Rehman Malik, the Internal Security Adviser, has claimed that the security forces had captured a terrorist who was an Afghan national and who was trying to throw a hand-grenade at an Army helicopter?
This person, whose name was subsequently given as Hijratullah, was captured outside the campus. He was not part of the 10-member group which raided the school.
How many fatalities were there in the entire incident?
There has been confusion on this also. The initial reports from eye-witnesses gave the total number of fatalities as 20 and the injured as about 90. Subsequently, the authorities claimed that seven police trainees and two civilians were killed. Many questioned these figures. A joint funeral ceremony was held on April 1 for the police trainees killed. There were only seven bodies.
Have the police been able to establish the identities of the three terrorists who allegedly blew themselves up?
Not so far.
What are the available details of the raid?
The platoon drill started at 7-15 AM. About 330 trainees divided into platoons were drilling on one side of the ground. The remaining 470 trainees divided into platoons were drilling on the other side. Seven terrorists entered the parade ground by climbing over a wall nearerthe side where the 330 were drilling and threw hand-grenades. Seven of the trainees were killed. The remaining three terrorists forced theirway in through the main gate. If the police version is to be believed, all the seven police fatalities were incurred in the first few minutes ofthe raid as a result of the hand-grenades. During the remaining part of the raid, which lasted nearly eight hours, the police trainees did not suffer any fatalities, but many were injured. This is somewhat strange.
What weapons were used by the terrorists?
AK-47s, M-16s and hand-grenades.
Have any claims of responsibility been made by any terrorist organisation?
Immediately after the attack, a self-styled Taliban operative who identified himself as Omar Farooq was reported to have telephoned acorrespondent of the Associated Press to claim that a group called Fedayeen al-Islam had carried out the attack and that he wasspeaking on their behalf. He reportedly said: “As long as the Pakistani troops do not leave tribal areas, these attacks will continue.”
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and some Western news agencies reported on March 31 that they were in receipt of a phone callfrom Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), popularly known as the Pakistani Taliban, claiming responsibility forthe attack. He was quoted as saying that the attack was "in retaliation for the continued drone strikes by the US in collaboration withPakistan on our people". According to the BBC, Baitullah said the attacks would continue "until the Pakistan Government stops supportingthe Americans". He also reportedly warned of future retaliatory attacks on American soil.
Has the authenticity of these claims been established?
Not so far. It would be difficult to establish the authenticity of telephonic claims unless the BBC had recorded the telephone call from Baitullah and the Western intelligence is in a position to make a voice identification.
Is the Taliban---Pakistani or Afghan---- in a position to carry out retaliatory strikes in the US homeland as reportedly threatened by Baitullah?
The two Talibans are essentially Pashtun organisations. Their presence and activities are confined to the Af-Pak region. They are not knownto have any presence in the US. In fact, no Pashtun has so far been involved in any act of terrorism outside the Af-Pak region. All Pakistaniinvolvement in terrorism outside the Af-Pak region was by the Punjabis and the Punjabi-speaking Kashmiris from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir(POK) known as the Mirpuris. However,of the four Pakistani organisations, known as the Punjabi Taliban, two have had a presence in the USin the past. These are the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM). In the 1990s the HUM had trained some Muslims fromthe US in its camps in Pakistan---- Pakistani as well as Afro-American Muslims. The LET and the HUM would be in a position to carry out aterrorist strike in the US on behalf of the TTP or the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar.
Which are the organisations known as the Punjabi Taliban?
The HUM, the LET, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI),the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ). They are called thePunjabi Taliban because they consist largely of Punjabis and Punjabi-speaking Kashmiris from the POK.
Are there any ideological differences between the Pashtun Taliban and the Punjabi Taliban?
Both advocate Islamic rule under the Sharia. Both combat Sufism which they project as the outcome of the corrupting influence of Hinduismon Islam. Both are strongly anti-American and anti-India. The Pashtun Taliban strongly opposes music and TV and girls' higher education.The Punjabi Taliban does not. The Pashtun Taliban is strongly against the Pakistani Army after the Lal Masjid raid of July,2007. Of thePunjabi Taliban, the LET is pro-Army. Others are critical of the Army, but not as critical as the Pashtun Taliban.
What could be the motivation for the attack on the police training school?
Two possible motivations have been cited by some Pakistani analysts---- the US drone strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda hide-outs in Pakistaniterritory as claimed by Baitullah and the rounding-up of a number of suspects after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team atLahore on March 3. Some well-informed Pashtun police officers of the North-West Frontier Province (NEFP) believe that the terrorist strikeon the police training school was carried out by the same group which attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team. The Pakistani Police has notyet been able to identify those involved in the attack on the SL team. However, they have detained a number of suspects, who are under interrogation. These police officers believe that the terrorists wanted to keep the police trainees as hostages in order to demand therelease of those detained in connection with the attack on the SL team. Many of those detained for the attack on the SL team are from theLashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the anti-Shia organisation. If their suspicion is correct, there could be an LEJ involvement in the attack on thepolice school.
Is there a danger of creeping Talibanisation of Pakistan?
One has to make a distinction between "creeping Talibanisation" and "creeping Taliban". "Creeping Talibanisation" means the Talibanideology infecting non-Pashtun ethnic groups in Pakistan. I do not as yet see any danger of it. The large majority of the Punjabis and almostthe entire Mohajirs, Sindhis and Balochs do not support the ideology of the Taliban. "Creeping Taliban" means the Pashtun Talibanextending its presence through sleeper cells and activities to non-Pashtun areas.This danger already confronts Pakistan as seen from thelarge number of terrorist strikes carried out by the Pashtun Taliban in non-Pashtun areas since the Lal Masjid raid.
The Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain keeps repeatedly warning of the danger of the Talibanisation of Karachi. What does it mean?
It does not mean that the Sindhis and the Mohajirs are getting infected by the Taliban ideology. It means that the Pashtun Taliban has been setting up sleeper cells in the Pashtun community of Karachi for disrupting the unloading of supplies at the Karachi port for the US-led NATOtroops in Afghanistan. Karachi has the largest Pashtun community in Pakistan outside the NWFP. It has also a large number of Afghanrefugees.
What is the main danger to India?
The main danger to India is not from creeping Talibanisation in Pakistan. Nor is it from the creeping Pashtun Taliban. It is from the bettertraining and better capabilities now enjoyed by the Punjabi Taliban. We saw evidence of it in Mumbai. More commando-style swarm attacksof the kind seen in Mumbai are to be apprehended in the months to come. ( 1-4-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )