Thursday, May 22, 2008




"Any agreement reached by the ruling coalition with the Pakistani Taliban could prove to be as short-lived as the agreements reached by Musharraf with the very same elements in 2005 in South Waziristan and in 2006 in North Waziristan. While thus focussing on reaching a peace agreement at least with Baituulah and his followers in South Waziristan and with Fazlullah and his followers in the Swat Valley, the coalition has been silent on its attitude towards the terrorist infrastructure of Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in the Pakistani territory. It has been equally silent on the demands being voiced in jihadi circles for lifting the ban on anti-India jihadi organisations and anti-Shia organisations imposed by Musharraf in January 2002 under US pressure and for unfreezing the bank accounts of identified financiers of Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban such as Al Rashid Trust. Both India and the US have reasons to be equally concerned over the demands being made in Pakistan to reduce the pressure on the terrorist organisations and ultimately restore the status quo ante as it was before OP Enduring Freedom started. If the jihadis have their way, India would be the first to feel the impact and the US thereafter. The developing situation requires close monitoring."

------Extract from my article titled "JIHADI WINDS FROM PAKISTAN" of April 27,2008, at
Disturbing signals from Pakistan relating to the various deals being made with different jihadi groups by the coalition Government headed by Mr.Yousef Raza Gilani should be a matter of great concern not only to India and the US, but to the international community as a whole. Among these signals are:

The indefinite adjournment of the hearing in the case relating to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist of the "Wall Street Journal" at Karachi in January-February,2002. In this case, the appeals filed by Omar Sheikh, the principal accused, against the death sentence awarded to him and by the state against the lenient sentences awarded to some other accused were being heard for the last more than five years. Even though the Anti-Terrorism Act of Pakistan lays down that all such appeals should be heard by the court on a day to day basis without any adjournment and disposed of in seven days, the case has been dragging on for over five years with frequent adjournments granted by the court under some pretext or the other. The State had not objected to these adjournments. Previously, the adjournments used to be for short periods at a time.Now, the hearing has been adjourned indefinitely without any objection being raised by the State Prosecutor. Reliable police sources in Sindh say that Omar Sheikh is playing a role, at the request of the Gilani government, in trying to persuade the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), headed by Maulana Masood Azhar, to agree to a ceasefire in the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The JEM and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah, popularly known as FM radio Mullah because of the FM radio station run by him, were operating jointly in the Valley against the Pakistani Army. While the TNSM, which is a constituent of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), headed by Baitullah Mehsud, its Amir, has agreed to a ceasefire and reached a so-called peace agreement with the authorities of the NWFP, the JEM has refused to adhere to this agreement so far. The JEM is a member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) and not of the TTP.The JEM and dissident elements from the TNSM, which are opposed to the peace agreement, blew up two girls schools and a gas pipeline, set fire to a house and attacked a police post at Nengolai near Mingora in the Swat Valley on May 21,2008, killing a policeman. They also attacked the Matta police station. These Police sources say that Omar Sheikh has been taken to the Swat Valley to contact the JEM and the TNSM dissident elements and persuade them to accept the peace agreement.

One of the demands made by Baitullah and Fazlullah as a price for the peace agreement is that all those arrested during the commando raid in the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July last year should be released and the criminal cases filed against them withdrawn. While the Government of Gilani has not withdrawn the cases, it is no longer insisting on the quick disposal of the cases and has not been opposing bail applications moved on behalf of the accused. It is only a question of some weeks before all the accused, including Maulana Abdul Aziz, the principal accused, come out on bail and re-join the Masjid in their original positions. The Government has reportedly accepted the demand of Baitullah that the two madrasas---one for boys and the other for girls--- attached to the Masjid should be allowed to function again without any hindrance.

As part of the peace agreement with the TNSM, the Government has not only agreed to enforce the Sharia in the entire Malakand Division of the NWFP, including the Swat Valley, but also to regularise the FM radio station operated by Maulana Fazlullah by granting formal permission.It has also agreed to grant similar permission to all other FM radio stations being run by Mullahs and madrasas in the tribal belt, which are being used by the Neo Taliban for carrying on a vicious propaganda against the US and other NATO forces and against the Hamid Karzai Government in Kabul. Many of these radio stations have been repeatedly calling for the overthrow or assassination of Karzai.

The Government has quietly withdrawn the orders issued by Musharraf in the past for the registration of all madrasas as a condition for financial assistance to them by the Government.Similarly, all restrictions regarding the admission of foreign students have been withdrawn. The madrasas are once again being given financial assistance irrespective of whether they are registered or not. As part of the peace agreement with Maulana Fazlullah, the NWFP Government has agreed to give financial assistance for the establishment of an Islamic University in Imamdheri, the headquarters of the TNSM, to be run jointly by the Government and the TNSM.

The Government has agreed to return to the TNSM all its buildings and other real estate which had been occupied by the Army during the military operations against the TNSM.

Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan, who was kidnapped by suspected Neo Taliban elements on February 11,2008, was released on May 17,2008. While the Gilani Government has been claiming that he was got released by the security forces during an operation and has denied any deal with the Neo Taliban, spokesmen of the TTP have asserted that in return for the release of the Ambassador, the Gilani Government has released Maulvi Obaidullah, former Defence Minister of the Neo Taliban, who was a close associate of Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Neo Taliban, and 54 other members of the Neo Taliban, who were in different jails in the NWFP and Balochistan. Local police sources say that in return for the release of the Ambassador, the Gilani Government has assured Mulla Omar that no further action would be taken against the Neo Taliban.

Mr.Asif Ali Zardari, the co-Chairperson of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), who used to demand a UN-sponsored investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, has toned down his demand. The police has also reportedly been told to go slow in the investigation into the case in which the principal accused is Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah has been demanding the release of all his men arrested during the commando action in the Lal Masjid and subsequently.The Government has already conceded his demand, though a formal peace agreement is yet to be signed.

The Pakistani media has claimed that as part of the peace deals with Fazlullah and Baitullah, the Government has agreed to withdraw the Army from the Swat Valley and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and restore to the Frontier Corps the responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in the tribal belt, but this has been strongly denied by the Government, which has been saying that there will be a re-location of the Army in the tribal belt, but not a withdrawal.

The restrictions on Dr.A.Q.Khan, the nuclear scientist, have been eased.While he continues to be under ostensible house arrest, he is allowed to visit friends and relatives, accompanied by security personnel.

2. Concerns over these developments were voiced in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on the FATA on May 20,2008. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who appeared before the committee, said:. “We are not the advocates of negotiations with terrorists.We have real reservations about negotiated agreements with extremists. One of the metrics to measure Pakistan’s success in the war on terror would be the reduction in cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan. Another would be if you saw the government operating effectively against some of these militant extremists – like, for example, bringing Baitullah Mehsud, the head of this extremist group in South Waziristan, capturing him and bringing him to justice, which is what should happen to him. Washington has repeatedly cautioned Islamabad about the talks despite a pledge from the Gilani government not to give “free space” to the extremists operating in the tribal areas.The United States is concerned there were elements in the Pakistan government pushing for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.We hope that they proceed cautiously and not accept an outcome that will give extremist elements the ability to use the FATA with impunity to carry out attacks on Pakistan, on Afghanistan or the United States or the rest of the world.There is a lot at stake here and we have made that point repeatedly.”

3. The fact that not all factions of the TTP support the cease-fire being observed by Baitullah and Fazlullah against the Government became evident on May 18,2008,when at least 12 people, including four soldiers,were killed and 23 others injured when a suicide bomber struck a military-run bakery near the Punjab Regiment Centre at Mardan in the NWFP. The TTP unit in Darra Adam Khel has claimed the responsibility for the attack. It has demanded a separate peace agreement with it under which the army would be withdrawn from the area under its jurisdiction. This is the first incident of suicide terrorism since the Gilani Govt. came to office two months ago.

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