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: )

Tuesday, April 21, 2009




Reference is invited to my paper of February 11,2009,titled “Abu Yazid Message: Questions Without Answers” available at and annexed below for easy reference.

2.In another message purported to have been issued by Mustafa Abu-al Yazid, who has been projected since 2007 as in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan in liaison with the Neo Taliban of Mulla Mohammad Omar, India has been warned in the following words:

3. “ We send a short and succinct message to the Indian Government. The Mujahideen will never allow you to invade the Muslims and their lands in Pakistan. If you beguile yourselves into doing this, know well that you will pay a very heavy price, which you will regret much. We will call upon our whole Muslim nation, its Mujahideen and its martyrdom squads against you. We will strike your interests and your economic lifelines wherever they may be until you are demolished and bankrupt as America is being demolished and going bankrupt today. The Islamic nation which produced the audacious and heroic martyrs of Bombay, who struck you in the midst of your homes and humiliated you, is able to produce thousands more like them. You cannot be more powerful or have more ability than the Soviet Union which was destroyed on the rocks of the Afghanistan mountains nor Americans whose nose we rubbed in the dirt of Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.” (21-4-2009)

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


International Terrorism Monitor—Paper No. 494 ( 11-2-2009)

By B. Raman

The authenticity of the message purporting to be from Mustafa Abu-al Yazid, who has been projected since 2007 as in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan in liaison with the Neo Taliban of Mulla Mohammad Omar, is yet to be proved.

2. His warnings of more Mumbai-style attacks should be factored into our security arrangements and that means, strengthening physical security not only for possible Indian targets, but also for possible foreign targets such as those of Israel and the US. A rule of prudence is don’t ignore a threat unless and until it is proved to be false.

3. The message needs careful analysis in co-operation with Al Qaeda experts in the US. The message suspiciously serves the Pakistani agenda of projecting the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai as executed by an international jihadi group based in Europe and inspired by Al Qaeda.

4. There are suspicious elements in the message. Why was it disseminated through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and not initially through Al Jazeera? Why has it not yet appeared in the web sites associated with Al Qaeda? Why there was no reference to the Mumbai attack in the one message of Osama bin Laden and two of his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri disseminated by Al Qaeda since the beginning of this year? Why the message has not been disseminated through As Sahab, the official propaganda organ of Al Qaeda?

5. In August last year, the Pakistan Army claimed to have killed him in an encounter in the Bajaur Agency. It was not confirmed. Al Qaeda, which generally admits the death of its senior operatives in action, has not admitted his death. Western experts have not accepted the Pakistani claim.

6. A message attributed to him will strengthen suspicion that Pakistan is in the habit of making false claims of killing Al Qaeda operatives in order to show that it is sincere in co-operating with the US against Al Qaeda. Why should it strengthen the suspicion by having this message disseminated unless it had compelling reasons to do so?

7. These questions will need careful examination before one can come to a definitive conclusion on the implications of this message. But so many unanswered questions should not make us under-estimate the importance of strengthened security in response to it.

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: )




"The heavily-forested Kupwara is not the sprawling urban Mumbai. Encounters within forests have nothing in common with encounters withterrorists entrenched inside urban buildings and going on a shooting spree in crowded public places in a big city such as Mumbai. But thereare disconcerting similarities between what happened in Mumbai between November 26 and 29, 2008, and between what has happenedduring the last five days in the Kupwara area----- simultaneous, well-orchestrated attacks on multiple targets, whether static or moving armypatrols, a skilful use of hand-held weapons and gadgets such as GPS systems, suicidal and not suicide terrorism, strike, stay and fighttactics instead of the hit and vanish tactics and an ability to keep the encounters with the security forces going for a long time in order tomake an impact on the local population and the international community through dramatic media reports. "
----- Extract from my article dated March 26,2009, titled "From Mumbai To Kupwara In Jammu & Kashmir" available at

While the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh has maintained its usual silence on what has been going on in Northern Jammu & Kashmir(Kupwara, Uri and Baramulla areas), there have been worrisome reports in the media about the infiltration of one more group of 30well-trained terrorists-cum-insurgents from the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) into J &K. This group, which has been described as a"Taliban group" to distinguish it from the earlier infiltrators who belonged to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), is well-trained and has shown acapability to keep our security forces engaged in conventional style battles. If the media reports of the way the new infiltratoras arefighting are to be believed, what we are seeing is reminiscent of the infiltration of a re-trained and better-trained Neo Taliban of MullaMohammad Omar into Afghanistan in 2003. The re-trained Neo Taliban showed a remarkable capability for mixing conventional style standand fight battles and suicide or suicidal terrorism. The US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan are still struggling to grapple with the re-trainedNeo Taliban infiltrators from their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

2. The use of the word Taliban in describing the new batch of infiltrators into Northern J&K can be confusing. The Pakistani media refer tothe anti-India terrorist organisations, which consist largely of Punjabis and Punjabi-speaking Kashmiris (Mirpuris) from Pakistan-OccupiedKashmir (POK), as the Punjabi Taliban and to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which consists largely of Pashtuns, as the PashtunTaliban. The TTP consists largely of the Mehsud and Wazir sub-tribes of the Pashtuns. Next to the Punjabis, who constitute about 75 percent of the Pakistan Army, the Pashtuns constitute the second largest number in the Army---- about 20 per cent. They are recruited fromboth the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)---- with the Mehsuds and the Wazirsconstituting the largest single group of Pashtun tribals recruited into the Army from the FATA.

3. When the Pakistan Army tried to annex J&K after Pakistan bacame independent in 1947, it first sent into J&K Mehsud and Wazir tribalswho projected themselves as local Kashmiris. Initially, the Pakistan Army totally denied any responsibility for their depredations, butultimately it accepted that the tribal infiltrators were from the army. These infiltrators managed to occupy some parts of J&K which wereconstituted into the POK. As a reward for their services, many of these Mehsuds and Wazirs were allowed to settle down in the POK aftertheir retirement from the Army .

4. When Ayub Khan wanted to occupy J&K in 1965, he again sent the Mehsuds and the Wazirs into J&K and tried to project them asindigenous Kashmiris. If Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Indian Prime Minister, had not retaliated by ordering the Indian Army to enter theLahore area thereby creating panic in the Pakistani army, these tribals from the Pakistani Army posing as indigenous Kashmiris would haveprobably occupied Jammu and even Srinagar. After the war was over, Ayub Khan had these Mehsuds and Wazirs from the Pakistan Armyre-settled in POK. During the military confrontation between India and Pakistan after the foiled terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament onDecember 13,2001, Pervez Musharraf used to say that there were 150,000 ex-service-men re-settled in the POK, who would put up a fierceresistance to any forays by the Indian Army into the POK. These ex-servicemen largely consist of Punjabis, Mehsuds and Wazirs.

5. Against this background, the new group of infiltrators into J & K could be either members of the so-called Punjabi Taliban or membersfrom the families of Mehsud and Wazir re-settlers in the POK who are being referred to by the locals as the Taliban, meaning the PashtunTaliban. In the past----in 1947-48 and in 1965---- the infiltration of the tribals was a prelude to a regular invasion by the Pakistan Army. Thistime, the objective of the infiltration seems to be to strengthen the claims of some non-governmental and governmental experts close tothe administration of President Barack Obama, who have been saying that a solution to the so-called Kashmir problem should be thestarting point of any effective fight against terrorism emanating from the Pakistani territory by the Pakistan Army. (8-4-09)

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




On April 1,2009, a pilotless plane (Drone) of the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attacked with a missile the house of Hakimullah Mehsud in the Khadezai area of the Orakzai Agency in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Twelve persons were killed ----- six of them followers of Hakimullah, who is the head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Orakzai Agency, which has no common border with Afghanistan, two women and four other unidentified persons. Hakimullah himself, who was apparently one of the targets, escaped unhurt and warned of a retaliatory strike by the Taliban in Islamabad.

2. The retaliation through a suicide bomber came within three days. Late on the evening of April 4,2009, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the barracks of a company of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is deployed in Islamabad on VIP security duties. At least eight members of the FC were killed by the explosion.The FC consists almost entirely of Pashtuns recruited in the NWFP, the FATA and the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan. The FC has been in the forefront of the operations against the TTP in the Pashtun belt and one of the proposals initiated by the US Government provides for funding for upgrading the anti-terrorism capabilities of the FC.

3. The rapidity with which the TTP planned and carried out its threatened act of retaliation speaks volumes of the number of suicide bombers at its disposal and their fierce motivation. It also speaks disturbingly of their willingness to die when called upon to strike by Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the TTP. The billions of dollars, which the US has already spent in the so-called war on terrorism, have not dented this motivation. It is doubtful whether the additional billions of dollars, which President Barack Obama proposes to spend for giving assistance to Pakistan, will make any dent either. What one saw in Islamabad on April 4 was not an act of desperation. It was an act of defiance

4. Pakistan is in the process of being gobbled by a Frankenstein's Monster of its own creation. To save Pakistan from being gobbled, it requires a leader of tremendous moral courage, who is prepared to admit the Himalayan folly of past Pakistani political and military leaders in creating this monster in the hope of using it to serve the Pakistani agenda against India and in Afghanistan and has the courage to act against it and rid Pakistan of the effects of this folly. Such a leader Pakistan has not produced since its independence in 1947 and it is unlikely to produce one in the near and mid-term future.

5. Can Pakistan be saved despite itself from the jaws of this monster? That is the question that President Barack Obama and his advisers should pose to themselves and seek an answer. The recent statements and comments of Obama himself and of his advisers and the Congressional testimonies of his officials as well as of non-governmental US experts do not give cause for hope that the Obama administration will be able to find a coherent strategy to put an end to terrorism emnanating from the Af-Pak region. Conventional and naive beliefs continue to come in the way of the formulation of such a strategy.

6. Such beliefs are responsible for the disturbing tendency of Obama's advisers----governmental as well as non-governmental--- to rationalise Pakistan's sins of commission and omission rather than confront them head-on and have them eradicated by using the clout which the US still enjoys in Pakistan. These conventional and naive beliefs hold that somehow if Pakistan is assured of peace on the Indo-Pakistan border and the dialogue process between India and Pakistan is resumed, the Pakistani army will concentrate better on its fight against terrorism and that this will be of benefit to the entire international communuity, including India.

7. The fallacy of this argument would be evident from the fact that between January 2004, when Pervez Musharraf and Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, initiated the dialogue process, and November 26-29,2008, when this was discontinued after the terrorist attack in Mumbai by the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Neo Taliban staged its spectacular come-back in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in Pakistan, Pakistani-trained suicide bombers carried out their attacks in London in July,2005, an attempt by another group of suspects of Pakistani origin to blow up a number of US-bound flights was foiled by the British police, a group of Pakistan-trained terrorists carried out simultaneous explosions on suburban trains in Mumbai killing over 180 innocent civilians in July,2006, a cell of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was unearthed by the Spanish Police in Barcelona, there was an Inter-Services Intelligence sponsored explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July,2008, suicide terrorism in Pakistan shot up and the ISI and the Pakistan Army avoided acting against the terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. Plans for the Mumbai terrorist strike from November 26 to 29,2008, were also drawn up by the LET during this period and the training camps for the perpetrators were organised in Pakistani territory. The Joint Counter-Terrorism mechanism which Musharraf and Dr.Manmohan Singh agreed to set up in September 2006 proved to be a cosmetic exercise due to Pakistan's unwillingness to act against the anti-India terrorist infrastructure.

8. The significant lessening of tension on the Indo-Pakistan border during this period facilitated by the cease-fire across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the increase in people-to-people contacts between the two countries did not lead to any change in Pakistan's policy of nursing terrorist groups in its territory and using them against India and Afghanistan. Equally fallacious is the argument touted by the governmental and non-Governmental advisers of Obama that a reduction of Indian presence and activities in Afghanistan would give Pakistan a greater sense of security and encourage it to act more vigorously against terrorism emanating from its territory.

9. Indian presence and activities in Afghanistan ceased after the fall of the Najibullah Government in April,1992. Between April 1992 and September 1996, when different Afghan Mujahideen groups were in power in Kabul and between September 1996 and October 2001, when the ISI-sponsored Taliban was in power in Kabul, there was no Indian activity in Afghanistan. There was no reason for Pakistan to feel insecure during this period. And yet, the ISI kept meddling in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, raised, trained and armed the Taliban in 1994, helped it to capture power in Kabul in September,1996, allowed Osama bin Laden to shift from the Sudan to Afghanistan in July,1996, and maintained close contacts with Al Qaeda in its sanctuaries in the Jalalabad-Kandahar region. Between April 1992 and September 2001 was the time when there was maximum Pakistani interference in Afghanistan, which became a virtual Pakistani colony. That was also the time when all the jihadi terrorist groups of the world gravitated to the Af-Pak region, which became the Mecca of jihadi terrorist groups. To say that Pakistan's reluctance to act against terrorist groups in its territory is due to its feelings of insecurity vis-a-vis India shows a total lack of understanding of Pakistan.

10. Everytime the US makes an attempt to rationalise Pakistan's sins of commission and omission under the pretext of its feelings of insecurity vis-avis India, it strengthens the belief of the Pakistani leadership----political as well as military--- that so far as India is concerned it can do anything and get away with it. Many of the anti-US and anti-West terrorist groups of today such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) started as anti-India terrorists trained and armed by the ISI yesterday.

11. Unless and until the governmental and non-governmental advisers of Obama rid their minds and policy-making of wrong ideas and pre-conceived notions about Pakistan and its military-intelligence establishment, their so-called new strategy is not going to succeed. The US through its Drone strikes may succeed in eliminating individual jihadi terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Baitullah Mehsud, but the terrorist infrstructure set up by them in the tribal belt with the complicity of the ISI and the Pakistani Army will continue to pose threats to peace and security in the world.

12. How to destroy those sanctuaries---- with the co-operation of Pakistan, if forthcoming, or without its co-operation, if necessary? That should be the starting point of any new strategy. It is evident that no adviser of Obama is thinking on these lines. The entire strategy as it has come out is based on the pathetic assumption that somehow Pakistan can be coaxed into acting against the terrorists despite the bitter experience to the contrary since 9/11. Without an effective coercive element, the strategy is unlikely to succeed. (5-4-09)

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

Saturday, April 4, 2009




Thirteen persons at an immigration facilitation centre at Binghamton, about 230 kms from New York, were killed on April 3,2009, when a gunman wielding hand-held weapons entered the premises and opened fire indiscriminately before killing himself.

2.The CNN reported as follows in its website: "A senior law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation identified the suspect as Jiverly Wong, who is believed to be in his early 40s.Authorities executed a search warrant at Wong's home in Johnson City, near Binghamton, and spoke to the suspect's mother, the source said. Earlier in the day, Binghamton police Chief Joseph Zikuski said the gunman entered the American Civic Association building. At 10:31 a.m., authorities received a 911 call from the receptionist, who said she'd been shot in the stomach, Zikuski said. She told police that a man with a handgun also shot and killed another receptionist before proceeding to a nearby classroom, where he gunned down more victims, Zikuski said. Authorities also said a car was used to block the back door of the building. Two semi-automatic handguns -- a .45-caliber and a 9-millimeter -- were found at the center, where immigrants were believed to be taking citizenship and language classes. The shooter, who was carrying a satchel of ammunition, was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot to the head, Zikuski said. The American Civic Association helps immigrants and refugees with a number of issues, including personal counseling, resettlement, citizenship and reunification, and provides interpreters and translators, according to the Web site for United Way of Broome County, which is affiliated with the association. Zikuski said Wong, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was unemployed at the time of the shooting. He told CNN's Susan Candiotti that Wong had recently worked in a vacuum repair shop. Wong attended classes at the American Civic Association and had a connection there. "

3. It was clear from the CNN report that a recently unemployed American of Vietnamese origin, who had visited the centre in the past, had carried out the killings. One of the receptionists, who was shot, had spoken of "a man with a handgun"----thus indicating that only one person was involved.

4. On April 4,2009, a person claiming to be Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was reported to have claimed in a telephonic talk with a correspondent of the Reuters news agency that his men had carried out the attack in retaliation for the Drone strikes by the US on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in Pakistani territory. The Reuters despatch quoted the person who claimed to be Baitullah as saying as follows: "I accept responsibility. They are my men who attacked New York." He claimed that the attack was launched by a Pakistani man and another unidentified man.

5. A number of questions arise from this suspicious phone call. Who initiated the telephonic conversation---- the correspondent or the person who claimed to be Baitullah? If it was the correspondent, how did he know the telephone number of Baitullah? Why did it occur to the correspondent to ask Baitullah whether he had anything to do with the Binghamton incident? If it was Baitullah who initiated the call, does the correspondent recognise his voice?

7. Unless one has answers to all these questions, one has to treat the so-called claim with skepticism. While sections of the Indian media gave more than the deserved importance to the claim, foreign media such as the BBC and the CNN treated it with tremendous caution. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US itself is reported to have discounted the claim.While the BBC reported it in its web site in a low-key manner, the CNN chose not to disseminate the claim without verification.

8. The questions still without an answer are: Was it an impersonator, who posed as Baitullah and took the correspondent for a ride or was it Baitullah himself making a false claim? If it was an impersonator, Baitullah would have by now come out with a denial. He has not. If it was Baitullah himself who made the false claim, why did he do so? Is he facing criticism from his followers for not being able to retaliate against the Americans for their Drone (unmanned planes) attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs?

9. There was an interesting development after the terrorist attack on the Manawan police school in the Lahore area on March 30. Immediately after the attack, a self-styled Taliban operative who identified himself as Omar Farooq was reported to have telephoned a correspondent of the Associated Press to claim that a group called Fedayeen al-Islam had carried out the attack and that he was speaking 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 call from Baitullah Mehsud claiming responsibility for the attack. He was quoted as saying that the attack was "in retaliation for the continued drone strikes by the US in collaboration with Pakistan on our people". According to the BBC, Baitullah said the attacks would continue "until the Pakistan Government stops supporting the Americans". He also reportedly warned of future retaliatory attacks on American soil. According to some journalistic contacts who also received the call from Omar Farooq, he projected his organisation as different from the TTP. Baitullah himself is reported to have pooh-poohed the claim of Omar Farooq.
10. There are good reasons to suspect that Baitullah is under pressure from his followers to do something big against the Americans in retaliation for the Drone strikes. Till now, he has been hitting back against the Pakistani security forces to give vent to his anger against the Americans.(5-4-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



"The war against terrorism has seen intense air strikes in Afghan territory from the beginning. Since Zardari's meeting with Bush in New York in September, it has been seeing an intense wave of air strikes in Pakistani territory. US planes have been flying across Pakistani air space over the tribal belt as if they are flying in US air space without worrying about the proforma criticism from Pakistani leaders and officials and repeatedly attacking suspected Al Qaeda hide-outs. They have killed many, but not the ones that matter. What stands between the US and OBL or Zawahiri is just luck and a little bit of advance intelligence. Both have eluded the US so far. For air strikes, the US has to be lucky only once. OBL and Zawahiri have to be lucky every time. OBL must be constantly moving to deny that one stroke of luck to theUS."

Extract from my article of October 28,2008, titled US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: WAITING FOR OBL at

That one stroke of luck, which stands between Osama bin Laden and his Maker, continues to elude the USA's Central Intelligence Agency(CIA).

2. Since President Barack Obama assumed office on January 20,2009, the CIA has further stepped up its hunt for OBL, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the latest on the hunted list Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). There have already been nine missile strikes by Drones (unmanned planes) on suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in Pakistani territory in the nine weeks since Obama took over as against 10 during 2006 and 2007 together and about 30 last year.

3. The eighth strike was carried out on April 1,2009, on the house of Hakimullah Mehsud in the Khadezai area of the Orakzai Agency in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Twelve persons were killed ----- six of them followers of Hakimullah, who is the head of the TTP in the Orakzai Agency, which has no common border with Afghanistan, two women and four other unidentified persons. Hakimullah himself,who was apparently one of the targets, escaped unhurt and has warned of a retaliatory strike by the Taliban in Islamabad. This is the first time a Drone has attacked a target in the Orakzai Agency. Its previous attacks were confined to South and North Waziristan,Bajaur and Kurram in the FATA and the Bannu area in the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).According to local sources, some foreigners (Uzbecks or Arabs? ) were staying in an adjoining building. They too escaped unhurt.

4. The ninth strike was carried out by the CIA on April 3 on a suspected Al Qaeda hide-out in Miranshah in North Waziristan. Thirteen persons were reportedly killed. Their identities are not known. The CIA has been targeting any hide-out which is suspected by it as being used by the terrorists of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but its main targets are OBL, Zawahiri and Baitullah. It is apparently calculating and hoping that if it keeps identifying the various hide-outs and attacking them one after the other, one of these days it will catch OBL , Zawahiri or Baitullah napping in one of them. It is prepared to face an anti-American backlash from the pro-Taliban tribals.

5. It is intriguing and worrisome that the stepped-up attacks by the Drones have failed so far to kill any of the three high-prized targets and that these attacks have not disrupted the training of more and more suicide bombers and other terrorists, who specialise in commando-style swarm attacks. Al Qaeda and the Taliban face no shortage of volunteers for their operations in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.

6. There will be two benchmarks for assessing the success of these strikes-----either they kill one of the high-prized targets or they disrupt the flow of trained volunteers for new terrorist strikes. This has not happened so far.

7. In the meanwhile, worried over the possibility of a terrorist attack on Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, during his planned visit to Pakistan next week, the US Embassy in Islamabad is trying to organise most of the meetings for him with his Pakistani interlocutors in the house of the US Ambassador in order to reduce too many road movements by him. He is likely to meet only President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff, in their respective offices. Others are reportedly being requested to meet him in the US Ambassador's house. (4-4-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Wednesday, April 1, 2009



(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: )