Thursday, May 28, 2009


International Terrorism Monitor -- Paper No.530

B. Raman

A question from a journalist working for an American newspaper asks: "Why has the Taliban attacked the ISI? Isn't that like biting the hand that feeds?"

2. This question was in pursuance of the commando-style attack at Lahore on May 27, 2009, which targeted the Lahore Police and the local office of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), killing 15 police officers, one Lt. Col. of the ISI and 10 other persons.

3. While analysing the Lahore attack, one has to keep in mind certain ground realities. The first ground reality is that there are Talibans and Talibans and in each Taliban, there are mini-Talibans. As I had mentioned in one of my past articles, there are virtually as many Talibans in the Pashtun belt as there are tribal sirdars (leaders). The second ground reality is the clear distinction in behaviour and operations between the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan headed Mullah Mohammad Omar, based in Quetta, and the various Pakistani Talibans led by tribal sirdars such as Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan, Hakemullah Mehsud, who is responsible for operations in the Khyber, Kurrum and Orakzai areas, Maulana Fazlullah of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), who is a son of the Swat soil, and Sufi Mohammad, his father-in-law, who is actually from Dir and not Swat. Of these various Talibans, only the Neo Taliban of Mullah Mohammad Omar, which was created by the ISI in 1994 when Benazir Bhutoo was the Prime Minister, still owes its loyalty to the ISI and the Pakistan Government. The Neo Taliban is active against the US-led NATO forces in Afghan territory from sanctuaries in Pakistan, but it has never been involved in an act of terrorism in Pakistani territory against Pakistani targets----whether from the Army or the ISI or the Police. All the attacks in Pakistani territory on Pakistani Govt. targets were carried out by different Pakistani Taliban groups or by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JED), which has transferred its headquarters from Bahawalpur to Swat, and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia terrorist organisation.

4. The third ground reality is the distinction between the Pakistani Punjabi Taliban and the Pakistani Pashtun Taliban, All of them advocate the same Wahabised Islamic ideology based on the Sharia, but their ethnic composition differs. The term Punjabi Taliban is used to refer to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Lashkar-Toiba (LET), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the LEJ. Punjabis constitute the majority of their cadres. All of them except the JEM are of the 1980s/ 1990s vintage. The JEM was born in 2000 through a split in the HUM. Of these organisations, the LET, like the Neo Taliban, is the favoured tool of the ISI, which uses the Neo Taliban in Afghanistan and the LET against India. Like the Neo Taliban, the LET too has never attacked a Pakistani target in Pakistani territory. In fact, there has never been a confirmed instance of an attack by the LET on foreign targets in Pakistani territory lest it create problems from the ISI. The JEM and the LEJ never hesitate to attack Pakistani Government targets, either on their own or at the instance of Al Qaeda. The attitude of the HUM and the HUJI is ambivalent.

5. The fourth ground reality is that while the Pakistani Punjabi Taliban and the Neo Taliban have been in existence for over a decade, the Pakistani Pashtun Talibans are a product of the commando raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July, 2007, in which a large number of Pashtun tribal children, many of them girls, were killed. It was after this that tribal sirdars such Fazlullah, Baitullah and Hakeemullah called for a jihad against the Pakistan Army and the ISI in retaliation for the raid. While the TNSM has been in existence since the early 1990s, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) came into existence after the Lal Masjid raid.

6. The various tribal sirdars, who are supporting the TTP, repeatedly make the following points: Firstly, they did not want to fight against the Pakistan Army. It was the Army which forced them to take to arms against it by raiding the Lal Masjid and killing their children. Secondly, their real enemy is the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan and not the Pakistan Army. They are fighting against the Pakistan Army because it prevents them from assisting the Neo Taliban against the US-led NATO forces. Thirdly, they will stop fighting against the Pakistan Army if it makes amends for the alleged massacre of tribal children in the Lal Masjid, removes restrictions on their going into Afghanistan to fight against the US-led NATO troops and stops assisting the US-led NATO troops in their war against the Neo Taliban.

7. The Pakisan Army is facing difficulties in its operations against the various Pakistani Pashtun Taliban groups because they have many Pashtun ex-servicemen assisting them----retired officers as well as other ranks. The attack by the Pakistani Taliban against the ISI at Lahore was not its first attack against the ISI. It had attacked the ISI twice before in Islamabad/ Rawalpindi, inflicting even heavier casualties than it was able to do in Lahore.

8. In this connection, I am annexing two of my previous articles---- one of November 25, 2007, titled "Jihadis Strike At Pak Army & ISI Again" and the other of December 3, 2007, titled "Well-Trained Insurgent Force in Swat."

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


"Jihadis Strike at Pak Army & ISI again" (
By B. Raman
Physical security regulations in the office of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) at Rawalpindi exempt officers of the rank of Brigadier and above coming in their own vehicle from frisking at the outer gate. They undergo a frisking only after they have entered the premises, parked their car in the space allotted to them in the garage and then enter the building in which their office is located. Officers below the rank of Brigadier undergo frisking twice, whether they are in their own vehicle or in a bus ----at the outer gate and again inside before they enter the building. At the outer gate, they have to get out of their vehicle, undergo frisking and then get into their vehicle and drive in.
2. Since all officers travel in civilian clothes in unmarked vehicles, which cannot be identified with the Army or the ISI, there is a special hand signalling system for Brigadiers and above by which the security staff at the outer gate can recognise their rank and let them drive in without undergoing frisking. This hand signalling is changed frequently.
3. On the morning of November 24, 2007, a car reached the outer gate and the man inside showed a hand signal, which was in use till the previous day. It had been changed on November 23 and a new signal was in force from the morning of November 24, 2007. He was not aware of it. The security staff got suspicious and did not allow the car to drive in. They asked the man driving it to get out for questioning and frisking. He blew himself up.
4. As he did so, an unmarked chartered bus carrying over 40 civilian and junior military employees of the ISI reached the outer gate and stopped so that those inside can get out for frisking. The bus bore the brunt of the explosion, which caused the death of about 35 persons---- from among those inside the bus as well as the security staff. The Pakistani authorities have admitted the death of only 18 persons.
5. Around the same time, a man driving a vehicle towards the premises of the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army in another part of Rawalpindi was stopped by the security staff at a physical security barrier. He blew himself up killing two of the security staff. The offices of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in his capacity as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and of Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Vice Chief of Army Staff, are located in the GHQ.
7. These two well-synchronised suicide strikes in Rawalpindi, the sanctum sanctorum of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment, have come about six weeks after a similar attack targeting the ISI and the Army at Rawalpindi at the same time. On September 4, 2007. a suicide attacker blew himself up after boarding a bus carrying ISI employees. A roadside bomb went off near a commercial area in Rawalpindi, while a car carrying an unidentified senior Army officer to the GHQ was passing. Twenty-five persons died in the two attacks. The Army officer escaped unhurt. On October 30, 2007, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint several hundred yards from the GHQ killing seven persons, most of the from the security staff.
8. Since the Pakistan Army's commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007, there have been two targeted attacks near the GHQ in Rawalpindi, two attacks on the ISI also at Rawalpindi, one attack on officers of the Special Services Group (SSG), the US-trained and US-assisted special forces unit to which Musharraf himself used to belong, in their mess at their headquarters in Tarbella and one attack on a bus carrying Air Force officers to the Pakistan Air Force base in Sargodha. There were many attacks targeting police officers too. These were the targeted attacks outside the tribal belt. There have been many more suicide attacks targeting security and intelligence personnel inside the tribal belt.
9. The two attacks near the GHQ were not based on any inside information. The suicide bomber took his chance hoping that he would not be frisked at the security barrier. When the security staff insisted on frisking him, he blew himself up. The two attacks directed at the ISI and the PAF were based on inside information. In the case of the explosion at the outer gate of the ISI complex on November 24, 2007, the suicide bomber was aware of the hand signalling code for Brigadiers and above. However, he was not aware that the signal code had been changed the previous day. Since these codes are communicated personally to Brigadiers and above, their existence is supposed to be known only to Brigadiers and above and the physical security staff. The suicide bomber's inside accomplice was either an ISI officer of the rank of Brigadier or above or a member of the physical security staff. According to sources, the suicide attack in the SSG mess was carried out by a Pashtun officer of the SSG while taking dinner in the mess with his colleagues. The SSG had carried out the raid into the Lal Masjid.
10. The twin bombings of November 24, 2007, came three days after the Attorney-General of Musharraf's Government had told the rubber-stamp Supreme Court bench hearing a petition agains the imposition of the Emergency that the security situation had improved after the imposition of the Emergency on November 3, 2007, and that suicide attacks in non-tribal areas had stopped. This was one of the arguments used by the court to dismiss the petition against the Emergency.
11. There are two alarming aspects of the security situation in Pakistan. The first is the upsurge in acts of suicide terrorism directed against security and intelligence personnel and their establishments. These give clear evidence of the penetration of jihadi elements inside the Armed Forces, the intelligence agencies and the Police. The second is the inability or unwillingness of the Police to vigorously investigate these incidents, including the attempt to kill Mrs. Benazir Bhutto in Karachi on October 18, 2007. Nobody knows definitively till today who are responsible for these suicide attacks---- tribal followers of Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan or those of Maulana Fazlullah of the Swat Valley or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the anti-Shia sectarian organisation, or Al Qaeda and its Uzbek associates or the angry students of the two madrasas run by the Lal Masjid?
12. The Rawalpindi cantonment where the headquarters of the Army and other sensitive units of the Pakistan Army and the ISI are located, and the adjoining Islamabad, the capital, where the headquarters of the federal Government and the National Assembly are located, had seen terrorist strikes even in the past. Amongst them, one could mention the 1989 explosion in the Rawalpindi office of Dr. Farooq Haider, the then President of one of the factions of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which was attributed to a rival faction led by Amanullah Khan; the explosion outside the Egyptian Embassy at Islamabad in the 1990s, which was attributed to some Egyptian opponents of President Hosni Mubarak; the grenade attack inside an Islamabad church frequented by the diplomatic community in March 2002 in which the wife of a US diplomat and their daughter were killed; the unsolved assassination of Maulana Azam Tariq, the Amir of the Sipah-eSahaba, Pakistan, the political wing of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, at Islamabad in 2003, the terrorist attack on a a group of workers of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto in Islamabad earlier this year, the alleged firing of a rocket on Musharraf's plane from the terrace of a house in Islamabad again earlier this year and the alleged firing of rockets by unidentified elements from a park in Islamabad last year.
13. If one leaves aside the JKLF factional politics, the only terrorist organisations which had operated in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi area in the past (before July 2007) were the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), which was blamed for the church grenade attack; the Sipah Mohammad, the Shia terrorist organisation, which was suspected in the murder of Azam Tariq; and Al Qaeda. Many Pakistani and Kashmiri jihadi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) etc have their offices in Rawalpindi, but do not indulge in terrorist activities there.
14. There was no evidence to show that the Egyptians responsible for the explosion outside the Egyptian Embassy were then the followers of Osama bin Laden. The first indication of some local support for Al Qaeda in Rawalpindi came in March, 2003, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM), supposedly the man who co-ordinated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, was arrested from the house of a women's wing leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) in Rawalpindi by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
15. KSM was living in Karachi till September, 2002, when he fled from there to Quetta in Balochistan following the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh, another Al Qaeda operative there. From Quetta, he shifted to Rawalpindi in the beginning of 2003, fearing betrayal by the Shias of Quetta. After his arrest, no thorough enquiries would appear to have been made either by the ISI or the Police to determine why he took shelter in Rawalpindi, a highly guarded military cantonment. Did he and/or Al Qaeda have any other accomplices in Rawalpindi, in addition to the JEI leader and the members of her family, who included one junior Army officer belonging to a signals battalion, who was also detained for interrogation? Did Al Qaeda or the Pakistani organisations allied to it in the International Islamic Front (IIF) have a sleeper cell or cells in the cantonment? If they had, the sleeper cells could have functioned undetected only with the complicity of at least some in the Armed Forces.
16. After the arrest and the handing-over of KSM to the US, anti-Musharraf and pro-jihadi pamphlets typed on the official letter-head used in the army offices in the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi started circulating in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The ISI and the Police were unable to determine who was circulating these pamphlets and no arrests were made in this connection. Instead, a leader of the Nawaz Sharif-led faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, who drew the attention of the National Assembly and the public to these pamphlets, was ordered to be arrested by Musharraf on a charge of treason.
17. Then followed the two serious assassination attempts on Musharraf as he was commuting between Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The first on December 14, 2003, was made immediately after he had returned by air from Karachi. The second on December 25, 2003, was made when he was doing one of his daily commutings between his residence in Rawalpindi and his office in Islamabad, a distance of about 12 miles.
18. After the April, 2003, arrest in Karachi of Waleed bin Attash of Al Qaeda, one of the suspects in the case relating to the Al Qaeda attack on the US naval ship USS Cole at Aden in October, 2000, many of the Al Qaeda members living in Karachi were reported to have shifted to the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Balochistan , the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Rawalpindi.
19. Their shifting to Rawalpindi and taking shelter there would not have been possible without the complicity of not only the Pakistani jihadi groups, but also supporters in the Armed Forces and the police. The Pakistani security agencies have not been able to identify and dismantle Al Qaeda and IIF cells in the Rawalpindi cantonment. The fact that the perpetrators of the two attacks of December, 2003, on Musharraf, whether they belonged to Al Qaeda or to any of the Pakistani components of the IIF, chose to act on both the occasions from Rawalpindi instead of Karachi where Musharraf was before the first attack on December 14 showed their confidence in being able to operate undetected from Rawalpindi rather than from Karachi. Pakistani investigators claimed to have established that the two unsuccessful attacks on Musharraf were jointly carried out by Al Qaeda and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), with the complicity of some junior officers of the Army and the Air Force, who were identified and arrested.
20. Pakistani Police sources also say that apart from Al Qaeda and its associates, the Hizbut Tehrir (HUT) has also many followers and sympathisers in the lower and middle levels of the Armed Forces, but it has not so far indulged in any act of terrorism in Pakistani territory. Its terrorism has been confined to the Central Asian Republics.
21. It is intriguing that after the March, 2002, attack on some Americans inside an Islamabad church, there has been no terrorist strike or attempted strike targeting US nationals or interests in the Islamabad area. Attacks targeting Americans have been confined to the Karachi area. No explanation for this has been forthcoming.

"Well-Trained Insurgent Force in Swat" (

By B. Raman
Despite optimistic claims put out by the Pakistan Army every day with inflated body counts of hostiles killed or captured, it is apparent its ground operations against the forces of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) continue to face difficulties. The TNSM volunteers, many of whom lost their daughters during the Army's commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007, have proved themselves to be not just a small group of desperate suicide terrorists, but a small, well-trained, well-motivated, well-organised insurgent army capable of fighting small-scale conventional battles on the ground.
2. The guerilla tactics----reminiscent of those of the Neo Taliban in Afghanistan--- adopted by them to harass the Army and para-military forces continue to disrupt movement of reinforcements and supplies in the area of operations. The insurgents have been able to stand and fight an army far superior in training and in the arms and ammunition in its possession. Despite their lack of anti-air capability, they have not been frightened by the frequent use of helicopter gunships by the army against the positions controlled by the insurgents. Well-informed police sources in the NWFP say that many of the volunteers of the TNSM are well-trained Pashtun ex-servicemen.
3. Embarrassed by the long time taken (three weeks) by the Army to prevail over the volunteers of the TNSM, military spokesmen are now putting out stories that even though the Army had been deployed in the Swat Valley, the ground operations are still being conducted by the para-military forces---namely the Frontier Corps and the Frontier Constabulary.
4. The Army's efforts to persuade Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the founder of the TNSM, who has been under arrest since 2002, to appeal to Maulana Fazlullah, his son-in-law, and his force to give up fighting have not succeeded. Sufi Mohammad has not said no, but he has reportedly been demanding that he should be released so that he could go back to his people and talk to them. The Army does not want to accept this demand lest he take over the leadership of the insurgent force and continue fighting against the Army.
5. Both Maulana Fazlullah, to whom informal approaches were made through pro-Government tribal intermediaries, and Maulana Sufi Mohammad, presently in a hospital in Dera Ismail Khan for a medical check-up, have reportedly been saying that they were fighting against the American forces in Afghanistan, but not against the Pakistan Army and alleging that it was the Pakistan Army that forced them to fight against it by killing a large number of tribal girls in the Lal Masjid.
6. Fazlullah and Sufi Mohammad have also reportedly told the Army that they would be prepared to call off the fighting if President Musharraf apologises for the commando action in the Lal Masjid, proclaims the Shariat law in the entire Malakand Division and allows the TNSM volunteers to go back into Afghanistan and re-join the Neo Taliban in its operations against the Americans. They have been denying any links with Al Qaeda.
7. Contrary to the claims of the Army that it has silenced the FM radio station operated by Fazlullah, he continues to boadcast to his followers from unidentified locations. The Army, which has brought in more reinforcements to the Valley, has realised that it may not be able to defeat the insurgents quickly. Its present strategy is to push them into the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and keep them confined there so that normalcy can be restored in the Swat Valley before the forthcoming elections. According to these police sources, the insurgents have till now been refusing to accept an Army offer of safe passage into the FATA in return for their vacating the areas controlled by them.




The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakisan (TTP), headed by Baitullah Mehsud, is reported to have claimed responsibility for the commando-style terrorist attack involving the use of hand-held weapons and a car bomb in Lahore on May 27,2009, in which 15 police officers, an officer of the Lahore office of the Inter-Services Intelligence ( Lt-Col Mohammad Amir) and 10 others were killed. The terrorists were reported to have used a mix of RDX and TNT in the car bomb. This illustrates once again the growing menace of the proliferation of small arms and ammunition and powerful, military-grade explosives all over Pakistan which enables the terrorists to procure them easily for use anywhere in the country. No attempt has been made to stop this proliferation.

2. According to Amir Mir of the "News" (May 28), the terrorist attack was suspected to have been carried out by the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia organisation . According to Amir, Qari Mohammad Zafar is currently the chief operational commander of the LEJ. However, the statement of the TTP claiming responsibility for the attack does not refer to the LEJ.

3.According to a report disseminated by the British Broadcasting Corporation on May 28,2009, a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud, who identified himself as Hakimullah Mehsud, told the BBC by telephone that the attack was in response to the army's operation in the Swat valley. He warned as follows: "We love the people of Pakistan, and because of this love we politely ask the citizens of Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Multan to please evacuate their cities because we have marked out government targets there against whom we will carry out attacks as have never happened before."

4.While Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been the targets of frequent attacks by the TTP, Multan has now been threatened with a major attack. It is located in the Seraiki belt of southern Punjab. The Seraikis constitute about 60 per cent of its population. The rest consist of Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Balochs and Mohajirs. It has a large number of Sufi shrines and is known as the city of Sufis. It is a popular pilgrimage centre for Sufis, who have been the targets of the Taliban which looks upon Sufism as unislamic. The majority of the population of Multan are Barelvis known for their tolerant traditions and their opposition to the Wahabised Deobandis. It is also the home town of Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quereshi. The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) headed by Maulana Masood Azhar, which operates jointly with the TTP, has an active presence in the Seraiki belt. Bahawalpur, in the Seraiki belt, is the home town of Azhar.

5.The II Corps of the Pakistan Army based at Multan is actively involved in the anti-Taliban operations. Its 14th Infantry Division was made responsible in 2007 for the operations against the followers of Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan. Multan is also an important base for the Air Force and the Army Aviation Corps. The helicopter gunships used against the Taliban in the Swat Valley are co-ordinated and serviced by the base in Multan.

6. The TTP's threat to attack Multan in retaliation for the military operation in the Swat Valley indicates the precise intelligence which the TTP has of the deployments of the Pakistani armed forces and the identities of different units involved in the anti-Taliban operations and the location of their rear bases, which could be attacked.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


International Terrorism Monitor--Paper No.. 528


At least 23 persons---many of them Lahore police officers --- are reported to have been killed and over 200 injured in a swarm attack by unidentified terrorists in a busy area on the Mall Road of Lahore. A number of important government buildings housing the offices of the Lahore Police, the Lahore office of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Lahore High Court are located around the area where a car suspected to be carrying explosives exploded when it was sought to be stopped by the police. There have been reports of exchange of fire between the security personnel posted in the area and an unidentified number of terrorists before the car exploded. There are no reports of any continuing exchange of fire after the explosion.

2. A building in which the emergency control room of the police, with a staff of 50, was located bore the brunt of the explosion and was totally destroyed. Other buildings in the area too suffered damages. No details are available regarding the damages, if any, sustained by the building housing the ISI office and whether there were any casualties. Sections of the Pakistani media have reported that Prof.Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the political arm of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who is under house arrest, was to appear in the court today in connection with the hearing on a petition in which he has challenged his house arrest.

3. A swarm attack is a commando-style attack involving multiple targets and/ or multile modus operandi----that is a mix of the use of hand-held weapons and explosives. Since the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 26 to 29,2008, which was itself a major swarm attack, there have been six more---- three in Kabul, Kandahar and Khost in Afghanistan and three in Lahore including the latest one. The two earlier swarm attacks in Lahore were directed at a Sri Lankan cricket team (March 3,2009) and a police training a school (March 30,2009). There were no multiple targets in the earlier two attacks in Lahore

4.The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Baitullah Mehsud had claimed responsibility for the attack on the police training school. Pakistani authorities had suspected that the TTP was also responsible for the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. They seem to suspect the hand of the TTP in the latest attack also.

5. Different cities of Pakistan---including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Sargoda--- have seen a never-ending succession of suicide and non-suicide attacks involving the use of car bombers and suicide bombers since the commando raid in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007. During 2007 and 2008, the attacks were uni-targeted and mainly involved the use of explosives. They were not commando style attacks. They were often carried out by a single individual or by two persons. Commando-style attacks involving a group of persons is a phenomenon seen in India since 2001. One saw it in the attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in December,2001. then in the attack on the security guards outside the US Consulate in Kolkata in January 2002, in the attack on a temple in Ahmedabad in September,2002, and in the attack on a training centre of the Centre Reserve Police Force at Rampur in Uttar Pradesh on January 1,2008. The originalty of the Mumbai attack of November 2008 was that the attackers came by sea whereas those involved in the earlier attacks came by land.

6. Similar commando-style attacks had not been seen in Pakistan before 2009. The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) were the prime suspects in the commando style attacks in Indian territory mentioned above. The Pakistani and Afghan authorities seem to suspect the hand of the Taliban in the attacks in their territory.

7. The increasing resort to commando-style attacks by different groups in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan gives rise to the following questions: Are they merely instances of copy-cat terrorism or is there a common training centre for different organisations? If so, who runs this centre? Is there a common command and control co-ordinating these attacks?

8. It would be useful for the investigating agencies of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to exchange notes on their respective investigations and to pick each other's brains. One should not fight shy of agreeing to a common brain-storming on the investigations.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


International Terrorism Monitor -- Paper No.527

B. Raman

Nothing illustrates more starkingly the helplessness and confusion that prevails in the corridors of the Obama Administration over its Af-Pak policy than a report carried by the "Los Angeles Times" on May 25, 2009, regarding a recent visit which Richard C. Holbrooke, the Administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is reported to have made to China and Saudi Arabia in pursuance of his mandate.

2. To quote a news agency message based on the report carried by the "LA Times": "The Obama Administration has appealed to China to provide training and even military equipment to help Pakistan counter a growing militant threat, US officials said. .....Richard C Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, has visited China and Saudi Arabia, another key ally, in recent weeks as part of the effort, says Paul Richter of LAT. The American appeal to China underscores the country’s importance in security issues. The United States considers China to be the most influential country for dealing with militaristic North Korea. China also plays a crucial role in the international effort to pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions......A senior US official, while acknowledging China’s hesitation to become more deeply involved, said, “You can see that they’re thinking about it.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the subject. US officials believe China is skilled at counterinsurgency, a holdover of the knowledge gained during the country’s lengthy civil war that ended with a Communist victory in 1949. And with China’s strong military ties with Pakistan, US officials hope Beijing could help craft a more sophisticated strategy than Pakistan’s current heavy-handed approach."

3. I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read that the Obama Administration believed that "China is skilled in counter-insurgency", that it acquired its skills during its "war of liberation" against the KMT troops and that it can teach Pakistan "a more sophisticated strategy than Pakistan's current heavy-handed approach."

4. What do the Chinese regard as terrorism or insurgency? Which are the terrorist/insurgent organisations in their perception? Anyone, who has been following Chinese methods of internal security management would know that in the Chinese assessment there are two "terrorist/insurgent" organisations posing a threat to China's internal security----- the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), which they project as no different from Al Qaeda in its modus operandi and the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan (IMET) of the Uighurs. Since the pro-Dalai Lama uprising in the Tibetan-inhabited areas of China in March, 2008, the Chinese have been repeatedly and consistently condemning the TYC as a terrorist organisation. They have arrested a large number of Tibetan monks and youth and mass trials have been going on. If Obama and his advisers want to have details of what the Chinese have been doing in Tibet since March, 2008, under the pretext of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, all they have to do is to read the transcripts of the broadcasts of Radio Free Asia funded by the US State Department and to read the various statements issued by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his followers. Does the Obama Administration consider this as skilful and sophisticated counter-insurgency techniques?

5. What the Chinese have been doing against the Uighurs in the Xinjiang Province? Indiscriminate arrests, trials and executions. To get details, Obama and his advisers should read the periodic reports of the Human Rights Watch, which is a reputed non-Governmental organisation of the US, and the annual reports of the US State Department on human rights in China. The Chinese counter-insurgency strategy against the Uighurs is based on the principle "catch and kill". That was why the George Bush Administration refused to hand over to China the Uighur jihadis arrested in Afghanistan. The entire community of the human rights organisations of the West was against their being handed over to China since they apprehended that the Chinese would execute them. That was why Albania was persuaded to give sanctuary to these Uighurs.

6. There are two components to the Chinese counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism strategy in Xinjiang---- "catch and kill" and impose restrictions on the practice of Islam. Under this policy of restrictions, construction of new mosques is not allowed, many old mosques have been forced to close down under the pretext that they were constructed illegally and the people are forced to observe their holy fast inside their houses and not to congregate in public places. This is China's "skilful and sophisticated" counter-insurgency.

7. IF Pakistan follows even some of these methods, the day will not be far off when Pakistan will become a State ruled by a combine of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. As it is, there is considerable anti-US and anti-Army anger in Pakistan. Instead of finding ways of containing and reducing this anger, the Obama Administration is coming out with shocking ideas such as "Counter-insurgency in Chinese colours", which could make an already difficult situation even more difficult to handle.

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

Friday, May 22, 2009


International Terrorism Monitor -- Paper No. 526

B. Raman

The operations of the Pakistani security forces against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliate the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) have been marked by a lack of intelligence, physical security in the non-tribal areas, an over-all strategy, direction and prioritisation of different stages of the operations.

2. The disconcertingly inadequate intelligence is evident from the fact that neither the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of the Army nor the Intelligence Bureau (IB) of the Ministry of the Interior seem to have the vaguest idea of the command and control of either the TTP or the TNSM. One knows more about the command and control of Al Qaeda than about those of the TTP and the TNSM. One knows a lot about their leaders---- Baitullah Mehsud of the TTP and Sufi Mohammad and Maulana Fazlullah of the TNSM--- but beyond that one knows very little. How are they organised, where are they trained, who are their individual commanders, where and how are they deployed----the answers to these questions are inadequate. So much is known about their ideology, but so little about their operational capabilities and potential.

3. A basic requirement of a good counter-insurgency operation is your ability to protect your back as you are engaged in your battle against the enemy. Your ability to protect your back depends on good physical security behind you. Good physical security depends on the police and the IB of Pakistan. The fact that the TTP and the TNSM have been able to indulge repeatedly in terrorist strikes in non-tribal areas----even in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Sargoda---- even as the security forces are confronting them in the tribal areas speaks poorly of the state of physical security in Pakistan. This is the result of long years of neglect of the police and the IB. The need for their revamping and modernisation has not received the attention of either Pakistan or the US.

4. No counter-insurgency operation can be effective unless it is sustained and driven by a determination to succeed in the over-all national interest. The counter-insurgency operations of the Pakistani security forces in the Pashtun tribal belt have neither been sustained nor marked by a determination to succeed. One has been seeing this in the operations undertaken by them in 2003 in South and North Waziristan, in the Swat Valley since 2007 and subsequently in the Bajaur Agency, the two Dirs and Buner districts of the Malakand Division of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

5. The operations have been in fits and starts depending on the extent of the pressure to act exercised on the Pakistani leadership by the US. When the pressure is high, the action is high. When the pressure declines, the action declines. The repeated statements by President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), on Pakistan's determination to defeat the TTP and the TNSM have not been reflected in appropriate operational action on the ground. These statements have been made to reassure the US leaders ----President Obama as well those in the Congress--- of the determination of the Pakistani security forces to act. They have not come out of a genuine conviction in the Pakistani political and military leadership that Pakistan's future would be in danger if the Security forces do not neutralise the Taliban.

6. Openly, to reassure the US, Pakistani leaders charactetrise the Taliban as a threat, but, in reality, they look upon it more as a worrisome nuisance than as a serious threat to the state of Pakistan. Since Pakistan became independent in 1947, the Pakistan Army never had effective control over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Malakand Division, which had always remained the spawning ground of religious extremism. After 9/11, even the little control that was there before 9/11 has further weakened and the religious extremism emanating from this area has further increased. Large sections of the Pakistani civil society have been concerned over this development, but not the political class and the military-intelligence establishment. The Army's objective is to reduce this nuisance to its pre-9/11 level and to contain it.

7. It thinks it will neither be possible nor advisable to totally eradicate the influence of the Taliban. It is not possible because it would not have the required local support for its operations in the tribal belt. It is not advisable because, in the Army's view, the tribals such as the Mehsuds and the Wazirs have acted as force multipliers against India during the past conflicts with India and will be prepared to do so again in any future conflict. It is also not advisable because of the strategic potential of the Taliban to serve Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan.

8. The lack of a determination to succeed is evident from the lack of an over-all strategy, direction and prioritisation of different phases of the operations. The areas affected by the activities of the Taliban fall into three categories. The first category consists of North and South Waziristan, which are under the virtual de facto control of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their allies since 2003. The increasing number of Predator strikes by the US in this area have kept the terrorists on the run without weakening their operational presence and capability. Only sustained and effective ground operations either by the US or by Pakistan or by both can achieve this result. Pakistan is opposed to any US role in the ground operations. At the same time, it is either unwilling or unable or both to undertake such ground operations on its own.

9. The second category consists of Bajaur, Swat and other areas of the Malakand Division. The Taliban has a certain measure of de facto control in these areas. There is no role for the US in these areas. Counter-Taliban operations in these areas have to be the responsibility of the Pakistani security forces. Through their open statements, Pakistani political and military leaders seek to give the impression of admitting their responsibility for action, but this admission has not been translated into effective action. Instead of first identifying the weakest points in the control of the Taliban, targeting them, removing the Taliban from there and then expanding the operations to areas where the Taliban control is stronger, the security forces have been hitting around blindly here and there without an over-all plan. There are too many fronts and too little progress.

10. The third category consists of the other districts of the NWFP where the Taliban's presence is more ideological than operational. No plan has been drawn up for preventing these areas from coming under the operational control of the Taliban.

11. The Obama Administration's policy of showering Pakistan with money and arms and ammunition even in the absence of proof of sincerity and conviction and even in the absence of progress on the ground is once again creating a worrisome impression in the Pakistani leaders that to continue to benefit from US support and largesse all they have to do is to create an illusion of motion without actual movement. That is what they are doing.

12. That is what Pervez Musharraf did when he was the President. The two Waziristans came under the effective control of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their associates and the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, operating from sanctuaries in Balochistan, staged its spectacular come-back in Afghanistan when he was the President and was the beneficiary of billions of dollars given by the Bush Administration. What promises he made to the Bush Administration to reform and modernise the madrasas and prevent their misuse for jihad! How much money he took from the US for madrasa reforms! What happened to those reforms?

13. That is exactly what Zardari, Gilani and Kayani are doing now. Creating an illusion of motion without actual movement, while extracting billions of dollars from the US. The Pakistani leadership---political and military--- has developed into a fine art the extraction of money from the US by exploiting the presence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their territory.

14. If the Taliban ultimately succeeds in further strengthening and expanding its control in Pakistan, the US will have to share a major portion of the responsibility for failing to make Pakistan act effectively instead of merely seeming to do so.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


B. Raman
(From my book titled "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" published in June last by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi (

The termination of the 2002 cease-fire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and of the role of the foreign cease-fire monitors and facilitators underlines the determination of the Government of Sri Lanka not to let anything stand in the way of its military operations against the LTTE reaching their logical conclusion.

In its objective, such a logical conclusion would be the disruption, if not the destruction, beyond recovery of the command and control of the LTTE and the re-enforcement of the writ of the Government over the areas in the Northern Province, which are still under the control of the LTTE. Nobody can quarrel with this objective.

This objective is sought to be achieved through a two-pronged action---- intensified air strikes against the LTTE's command and control in the Wanni region and graduated ground operations, which are initially focussed more on a decimation of the LTTE's rank and file than on recovery of territory. If and when the rank and file is weakened substantially, the focus would turn to the recovery of territory presently under the LTTE's control.

The more the command and control is disrupted by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), the easier will be the ground operations. The longer the command and control remains intact, the slower will be the progress of the ground operations. Unlike Al Qaeda, which is a decentralised organisation with its operatives capable of autonomous operations for a long time even in the absence of a centralised command and control, the LTTE is a very rigid and centralised organisation. Its operatives do not seem to have the same capability as the operatives of Al Qaeda for autonmous action. The disruption of the command and control could have a debilitating effect on the organisation.

The LTTE has a very narrow pyramid at the top. Its command and control is concentrated in the hands of essentially three persons---Prabakaran, its leader, Pottu Amman, the chief of its Intelligence wing, and Soosai, the chief of the Sea Tigers. If the air strikes can eliminate these three persons, that could mark the beginning of the end of the LTTE as it is constituted today and the ground operations could achieve their objective without large-scale civilian casualties.

The law of diminishing options and assets has set in for the LTTE. The law is already operating inexorably. It has very little option for offensive ground action of the guerilla type not amounting to terrorism. It has been reduced to fighting one defensive action after another against a harassing army in order to retain control of the territory and retard the advance of the Army towards Wanni. A guerilla force without offensive options slowly bleeds to death. It still has the option of the card of terrorism in areas outside the Tamil belt. It has already been using this card, killing innocent civilians without minding about the impact of its acts of terrorism on the international community. It has already lost considerable international support and understanding for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. The more it resorts to terrorism against soft targets, the more will be the loss of international support and the ultimate casualty will be that of the Tamil cause.

It has still two options left for it to use---- a successful ground strike to destroy the fighter planes of the SLAF and a successful attack on an economic target of considerable strategic significance for the Government. To use these options, it needs assets----human and material. Its human assets are still well-motivated and capable of turning the tide in its favour. But, its material assets are diminishing due to the disruption of its supply channels from abroad and its inability to mount successful offensive operations against the Army, which could replenish its stocks of arms, ammunition and explosives. Human assets alone, however top grade, cannot produce miracles without adequate material assets.

Internationally, the LTTE finds itself more and more isolated. What goodwill it had in the international community till 1991! A series of political blunders by Prabakaran like the brutal assassinations of Rajiv Gandhi, Premadasa and Laxman Kadirgamar, the unsuccessful attempt to kill Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge, when she was the President, and its frequent resort to terrorism against Sri Lankan Tamil leaders disliked by Prabakaran and other innocent civilians have severely damaged this goodwill. Prabakaran has shown again and again a tendency to lift huge boulders and drop them on his own feet. He started his career as the well-heard voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. He has squandered away this goodwill.

There is no need to feel concerned over the self-created predicament of the LTTE and its ultimate fate. But one has to feel concerned over the fate of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. Rajapaksa and his advisers have been saying soothing words about the importance of India for Sri Lanka, their receptivity to India's security concerns, their readiness to right the wrongs done to the Sri Lankan Tamils in the past etc.

But, let there be no doubt about it. If they succeed militarily, the dictated peace, which they will seek to impose on the Tamils, will be the peace of medieval conquerors over the conquered. They will seek to take Sri Lanka back to 1982 and the years before.

India has done well to assist the Sri Lankan Navy in its operations against the LTTE's Navy. It will also be justified in assisting the SLAF in destroying the so-called air force of the LTTE. The LTTE's naval and air capabilities pose a threat to the security of not only Sri Lanka, but also of the region as a whole. But this assistance should have been as a quid pro quo to simultaneous steps by the Rajapaksa Government to address the aspirations and grievances of the Sri Lankan Tamils, with firm commitments on the kind of peace, which would be acceptable to India and the world. India's action in not insisting on a visible and palpable quid pro quo in favour of the Tamil cause can prove to be a strategic blunder.

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

Monday, May 18, 2009




Can the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) stage a come-back like the Baloch freedom movement did in Balochistan and the Taliban did in Afghanistan?

Unlikely. The late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto could destroy only the cadres of the Baloch freedom movement through his Army and Air Force. He could not destroy the leadership which managed to take sanctuary in Afghanistan and re-built the organization before starting a new phase of their freedom struggle. After re-organising their set-up, the old leadership handed over the leadership of the new organization to a new set of leaders, who are now leading what has come to be known as the Balochs’ third war of independence. The Americans could not destroy either the leadership or the cadre of the Taliban headed by its Amir Mulla Mohammad Omar. The Taliban avoided a frontal confrontation with the US-led forces. The leaders, including the Amir, took sanctuary in Pakistan and the cadres dispersed to their respective villages. After re-organising their set-up, the Neo Taliban as the re-organised Taliban has come to be known has resumed its operations in Afghan territory for the last three years. The Neo Taliban has benefited from the sanctuaries and assistance provided by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In the case of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan Armed forces have not only neutralized a large number of its cadres, but they have also decimated the entire ground-based leadership. The LTTE benefited in the 1980s from the sanctuaries in India and from political and moral support provided by the Indian State. Its assassination of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991 has ensured that it will not get these benefits again. With its entire leadership gone and denied these benefits of sanctuaries and support from the Indian State, it will be very difficult to revive the LTTE as an insurgent-cum-terrorist organization.

Can the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora play a role in the revival of the LTTE?

The diaspora’s role in the past was limited to fund collection, arms procurement, shipping, lobbying, political consultancy and agitprop activities. After 9/11, fund collection and arms procurement had become increasingly difficult. This became almost impossible after the European Union (EU) countries declared the LTTE a terrorist organization and the US arrested a number of Sri Lankan Tamils and prosecuted them on a charge of attempted arms procurement for the LTTE. As a result, the diaspora may not be able to play the kind of role which it used to play in the past. But if another leader is to emerge and start a new freedom struggle as the Balochs have started, all this expertise in the diaspora will be available to him. Some highly qualified Tamils in the diaspora with access to important moulders of public opinion, non-Governmental organizations and legislators played an important role as political advisers to Prabakaran and as lobbyists for the Tamil Eelam cause. They will still be available to anyone who starts a new freedom movement. But the diaspora can play the same role as it was doing under Prabakaran only if there is the hard-core of an insurgent organization active on the ground in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. It will take time for such a hard core to emerge. No other Army in the world has destroyed the leadership of an insurgent organisation as completely as the Sri Lankan Army has done except the Russian Army in Chechnya.

Will the end of the LTTE be the end of terrorism in Sri Lanka and against Sri Lankans?

Not necessarily. Individual, self-motivated terrorism could continue in some form or the other. Some of the most serious incidents of violence in the case of Khalistani terrorism took place after the successful attack by the Indian Army in the Golden Temple in June 1984 under Operation Blue Star. Examples: the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, by her own Sikh security guards, the assassination of Gen.V.S.Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) at the time of Operation Blue Star at Pune where he was living in retirement, the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India killing all the passengers, the unsuccessful attempt to blow up another Air India plane at Tokyo, the unsuccessful attempt to kill Jule Ribeiro, who was the DG of Police of Punjab, at Bucharest where he was posted as the Ambassador and the kidnapping of Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted at Delhi. The successful commando raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July,2007, has been followed by a wave of suicide attacks against the Pakistani Armed Forces, Police and the assassination of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto. Sometimes, it takes years for such anger to subside. In Punjab, it took 11 years. In Pakistan, after two years, it has not subsided.

What will be the attitude of the international community---particularly the West--- to the successful operation by the SL Armed Forces?

No country in the world can criticize the successful action against the LTTE, a terrorist organization, and its leadership. At the same time, there has been considerable disquiet in the West over the reports of large-scale civilian casualties due to the use of air strikes and heavy artillery by the SL Army. The West considerably assisted the SL Army by banning the LTTE and dismantling its arms procurement and fund collection network. It has been greatly upset that the Sri Lankan Government showed total indifference to the concerns and entreaties of the West on the human rights situation and carried on a vilification campaign against Western NGOs and media. The Sri Lankan Government had imposed a total iron curtain in the Tamil areas similar to the iron curtain imposed by Russia in Chechnya. There are already demands in the West for an enquiry into the civilian casualties in order to determine accountability. It remains to be seen whether this demand picks up momentum or dies down now that the war is over.

What will be the next step of the diaspora?

It will concentrate its immediate efforts on getting an enquiry launched into the civilan casualties. After the Second World War, international support for the Jewish people and Israel increased tremendously when the extent of the atrocities suffered by the Jewish population at the hands of the Nazis came to be known. The Tamils in the diaspora are hoping that a similar revelation by an enquiry of the sufferings of the civilian Tamils during the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations could lead to a groundswell of support for the Tamil cause. (19-5-09)

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



According to reports from the Sri Lankan Army, it has completed the liberation of all the territory under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and decimated its entire leadership including its chief V Prabakaran, his intelligence chief Pottu Amman, Soosai, the chief of the Sea Tigers, and others. No leader based in the Northern Province appears to have succeeded in escaping.

2.It is likely that at least some of its trained cadres remain to be accounted for. It is going to be difficult for the Sri Lankan Army to trace all of them and arrest them. This will be a long-drawn-out exercise. The surviving cadres would not remain in groups. They would have dispersed individually and merged with the civilian population since it would be difficult for them to escape abroad.

3.Will the surviving cadres have the capability to indulge in sporadic acts of terrorism in other parts of Sri Lanka ? A significant aspect of the confrontation between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE for over eight weeks now was the total absence of any diversionary attack by the LTTE in other parts of Sri Lanka. The last successful diversionary attack was on a Muslim procession in Matara in the southern province on March 10. One would have expected that facing severe pressure from the army, the LTTE would have tried to organise more diversionary attacks outside the Tamil areas.

4.The fact that it was not able to do so indicated that it had no human and material resources left to organise diversionary attacks. The loss of its capabilities in the Tamil and non-Tamil areas was immense. Despite this, the SL army cannot afford to be complacent that there could be no more major acts of terrorism by the LTTE.

5.The danger in the coming months will be from angry individual Tamil elements indulging in acts of reprisal terrorism directed against Sri Lankan leaders, officers of the security forces and even civilians. Organised, centrally-commanded and politically-motivated terrorism can give way to sporadic individual acts of reprisal terrorism against Sri Lankan targets -- Sinhalese as well as Tamils -- in Sri Lanka itself as well as abroad.

6.Indian intelligence and security forces should also take precautions against possible acts of reprisal terrorism against Indian targets in Indian territory by sympathisers of the LTTE.

7.The fact that the Sri Lankan Tamil issue failed to make much of an impact during the just-concluded elections to the Lok Sabha should not give rise to a complacent feeling that there cannot be any major act of violence in Indian territory. There are elements in Tamil Nadu who could get emotional over the death of Prabakaran and self-motivate themselves to give vent to their anger through terrorism. There is a need for a heightened alert for at least some months.

8.The end of the LTTE is not the end of the humanitarian problem. It will be the beginning of a new phase of it. The state of the Sri Lankan economy may not enable the Sri Lankan government to deal with it adequately. Till now, mainly India and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been allowed by the Sri Lankan government to undertake humanitarian relief work.

9.It is necessary for India to expand the magnitude of its humanitarian relief work immediately in co-ordination with the Sri Lankan authorities. The immediate priorities would be food, water, medicines and other kinds of medicare. Post-conflict rehabilitation of the Tamil civilians displaced would essentially be the responsibility of Colombo, but India should monitor the situation closely to see that this is not neglected or affected by any spirit of vengeance.

10.Tamil anger in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora abroad would pose new threats to security in the months to come. Addressing and mitigating this anger should be given top priority. One should remember what happened in India due to the Sikh anger after Operation Blue Star in June 1984 and what has been happening in Pakistan due to the Pashtun anger after the commando raid on the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July, 2007. Organised terrorism gave way to individual self-motivated terrorism.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


B. Raman

(According to a despatch dated May 13, 2009, from Aziz Hanifa, the special correspondent of in Washington DC, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for the Af-Pak region, said: "Concurrent with the insurgency is an information war. We are losing that war. The Taliban has unrestricted and unchallenged access to the radio, which is the main means of communication in an area where literacy is around 10 percent for men and less than five percent for women. Radio is broadcast from the backs of pick-up trucks and motorcycles. These are low-wattage FM radio stations. We have no counter-programming efforts that existed when we took office. We don't have jamming, we don't try to override, we don't do counter-programming." In this connection, I am reproducing below an article titled "Use of Soft Power in Counter-Terrorism" written by me on November 17, 2007. This is available at and also in my book titled "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" published by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi ( in June, 2008---B.Raman)

My Article Of November 17, 2007

Anger is a common root cause of all terrorism---ideological, ethnic, separatist, sectarian or religious. Terrorist organisations exploit the anger to motivate the members of the community from which they have arisen to support them in their acts of terrorism. Such support can be in the form of volunteers for committing acts of terrorism, contribution of funds, logistic support etc. Extreme anger in individuals can motivate them to resort to terrorism as individuals without their belonging to any organisation. Anger containment and ultimate reduction has, therefore, to be an important component of counter-terrorism.

2. Terrorists use the soft power of the media----old and new--- to keep the anger sustained and make it increase in order to maintain a high level of motivation. The role of soft power in counter-terrorism is to neutralise the motivation through anger containment and reduction. Use of disinformation is counter-productive in counter-terrorism. For effective use of soft power in counter-terrorism, the causes of anger have to be identified and those, which are capable of being removed, have to be removed. Counter-terrorism itself often adds to the prevailing anger through disproportionate use of force, serious violation of human rights etc. These are tactical causes of anger and can be easily removed through corrections in the counter-terrorism techniques.

3. It is more difficult---often impossible--- to remove strategic causes of anger. As examples of such strategic causes, one could mention Al Qaeda's anger over historic wrongs allegedly committed to the Muslims. The objective of the soft power has to be to explain to the community supporting terrorism the untenability of such causes and wean the community away from terrorism---whether by organisations or by individuals. A mix of removal of tactical causes of anger through appropriate correctives in counter-terrorism operations and explanation of the untenability of the strategic causes is required if the use of soft power is to be effective.

4. An attribute of soft power---whether in a conventional war with State adversaries or in an unconventional conflict with non-State actors--- is the ability to convey a message to a targeted audience in a convincing manner through an appropriate instrument of dissemination suited to the targeted audience.

5. All media----the print media,radio, TV, audio and video cassettes, films and the Internet--- are weapons of soft power. The handheld gun and the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are weapons of hard power. Just as weapons of hard power keep improving with the advent of new technologies, so too the weapons of soft power. The advent of the Direct-to-Home (DTH) TV and the Internet totally revolutionised the way soft power is wielded by making it possible to take a message to the targeted people in their living rooms over the heads of their rulers and censors.

6. All States use soft power---not only against State adversaries, but also against sections of their own people who take to insurgency or terrorism. Similarly, non-State actors----particularly the jihadi terrorist organisations--- too use soft power in their campaign against their state adversaries.

7. One has been seeing since 9/11 that jihadi terrorist organisations----particularly Al Qaeda and its associates--- have become more adept in their use of soft power against their State adversaries than their State adversaries in their use against the terrorists. This is one of the factors, which has contributed to the continued resilience of Al Qaeda and its associates and their ability to draw volunteers and support from the communities from which they have arisen.

8. The inability of the US-led coalition to use soft power effectively against the jihadi terrorists comes in the way of the campaign against terrorism making headway. The Western powers have had a long history of the effective use of soft power against adversaries. One would be aware of the role played by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during the Second World War against the Nazis and the Fascists. The broadcasts of the BBC helped in two ways. They kept up the morale of the British people and rallied them to supporting the cause of the war. They weakened the credibility of the Nazis and the Fascists in the eyes of their own people.

9. Similarly, one would be aware of the role played by the use of soft power by the US during the Cold War against the USSR and other Communist States in undermining their credibility and bringing about their collapse. Among the instruments of soft power used by the US for this purpose were the Voice of America, funded by the State Department, and the Munich-based Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, allegedly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the publication and dissemination of books written by political dissidents from the Communist countries explaining why they ran away from their country. The Clinton Administration set up a Radio Free Asia to promote the cause of democracy in Asia.

10. One of the reasons the US was able to use its soft power effectively during the Cold War was the availability of a large reservoir of political dissidents from the Communist countries, who co-operated in the running of the radio stations and imparted credibility to their broadcasts.
11 Al Qaeda and its associates have shown some sophistication in their use of soft power against the US and its allies. The effectiveness of soft power depends on the contents of the message sought to be disseminated and the instruments chosen for their dissemination. The selection of the instruments depends on the audience to which the message is directed. Any research with regard to the instrument and the contents of the message to be used has to start with a research on the intended audience.

12. Any strategy for the use of soft power against Al Qaeda and its associates has to provide for two totally different kinds of audience. The first audience is the people in the spawning areas of jihadi terrorism. These are the tribal areas on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They are semi-literate, if not illiterate. They are highly Talibanised. They look upon visuals as evils and anti-Islam. They destroy TV sets, CDs, Video cassettes and computers. Hence, the use of the print media, the TV and the Internet in their case may not work. The only instrument of dissemination with which they feel comfortable is the radio. Moreover, they are so poor that radio is the only instrument which they can afford.

13. One finds the jihadi terrorist organisations extensively using FM radio broadcasts since 2002 to reach their messages to the tribal people. FM radio broadcasts are used for preaching, mobilisation, enlistment of volunteers, collection of funds, motivation and aggravating their anger against the US. It is reported that there are nearly 30 illegal FM radio stations operating from the mosques and madrasas in the tribal areas making anti-Musharraf and anti-US broadcasts.

14. The arguments used by these broadcasts are of a tactical nature such as calls for reprisals against the Pakistan army's raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July, 2007, against Musharraf for co-operating with the US and against the US for allegedly bombing mosques and madrasas and using the Air Force against the civilian population. Their arguments have no strategic content such as their vision of the Ummah of tomorrow.

15. The broadcasts of these radio stations have been effective till now because the US-led coalition has not thought of an effective counter. Jamming them cannot be the counter. Moreover, one can jam some broadcasts for some time, but not all broadcasts for all time. Hence, a more intelligent counter would have been for the US-led coalition to have its own broadcasting capability manned by Muslims speaking the language and dialects of the area, well-versed in Islam and in the ethnic and cultural mores of the area, who can gradually wean the population away from the terrorists. Such a broadcast strategy is nowhere to be seen or felt. It is time for the soft power experts of the US to think in terms of a Radio Free Islam or just Radio Islam and Radio Harmony, if they have not already done so, in order to make an impact on the tribals.

16. The second audience is the diaspora of Muslims across the Western world. The defining characteristics of this audience totally differ from those of the tribal audience in the spawning grounds of jihadi terrorism. They are educated, radicalised, but not Talibanised, and they are capable of tactical as well as strategic thinking. Issues relating to maintaining the pristine purity of Islam do not agitate them to the same extent as issues relating to Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror as waged by the US.

17. While the second audience feels comfortable with all instruments of dissemination, it avoids the Western print media which it looks upon as controlled by Jewish money and interests. It will not be possible for it to own and operate radio and TV stations from the Western countries. It, therefore, relies almost exclusively on the Internet for its jihadi mission. Al Qaeda and its associates too use the Internet for rallying radical elements of the diaspora to their cause.

18. Internet activism is the most important component of Al Qaeda's use of soft power to win adherents to its cause from the diaspora. The Internet provides a variety of ways of reaching and influencing the targeted audience----the conventional E-mail and web sites, the chat rooms, the blogs etc. Many papers have come out on the use of the Internet by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorist organisations and angry Muslim individuals for operational purposes, meaning, commission of acts of terrorism. There is an equally urgent need for a study of the use of the Internet by the terrorists as an instrument of soft power to mould opinion in the Islamic world in their favour and against their state adversaries.

19. They use the Internet with some effectiveness for keeping the anger in the Islamic world sustained, if not enhanced, and for motivating Muslims to join the global jihad in their own way and according to their own lights. They do not ask them to join any particular organisation. They merely ask them to rise against the enemy and martyr themselves for what they project as the cause of the Muslims. Many do by joining different organisations and some in their individual capacity without joining any organisation.

20. The focus of counter-terrorism experts till now has been on countering the operational use of the Internet by the terrorists for acts of terrorism. Not adequate thought has been given to countering the use of the Internet as an instrument of soft power. How States can use the Internet to demotivate the terrorists or potential terrorists? What role the Internet can play in making the civil society think about the damage being caused by the terrorists? Just as the terrorists seek to cause and enhance anger, counter-terrorism agencies should cause and enhance disgust against the terrorists, by making effective use of truth about the real nature of terrorism instead of indulging in disinformation and spins. One can use disinformation and spins against adversary States but not against non-State actors, which often consist of one's own people.

21. Right from the days of the Vietnam War, one has been talking of the silent majority, which is not able or willing to assert itself. There is an equally strong silent majority in all civil societies, which feels disturbed by the phenomenon of jihadi terrorism----which does not spare even fellow-Muslims. This silent majority is not prepared to activate itself through conventional means such as holding processions, writing articles in the print media, addressing audiences etc It is afraid of being targeted by the terrorists and killed.

22. The Internet provides an excellent means of empowering this inarticulate majority and encouraging it to come out against religious radicalism and the resort to terror, without fearing the consequences of their Internet activism. How to promote Internet activism by enlightened sections of the Muslim civil societies and communities against radicalism and terrorism is a subject, which needs attention from policy-makers and civil society leaders.

23. Mr. Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, told the House of Commons on November 14,2007, that " Britain will spend 400 million pounds abroad on fighting radicalisation. the first time, Britain would sponsor events in Pakistan to counter extremist propaganda." He did not elaborate how this money will be spent and what events will be sponsored. A better way would be to make effective use of the available instruments of soft power in more imaginative ways. The extent of the funding is only one aspect of action. Bringing to bear an imaginative approach to the problem is an equally important aspect---if not more important. Six years after 9/11, one does not find much evidence of such thinking and such an imaginative approach despite a profusion in funding.

24. In the years after the Second World War, Mr. Northcote Parkinson told the British policy-makers who assessed the effectiveness of their actions in terms of the money spent:" When funds are limitless, the only economy made is in thinking." We can update this and say in the context of today's so-called war on terrorism: "When funds are limitless, a battlefield casualty is your imagination."

25. What one needs is not just more funds, but more imagination and innovation.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2009


International Terrorism Monitor: Paper No. 523

B. Raman

Mas Selamat Kastari, said to be a leader of the Singapore branch of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), who escaped from a high security detention centre of Singapore on February 27, 2008, and had remained undetected since then, is reported to have been traced by the Malaysian police after he had remained in hiding for nearly 14 months and re-arrested. According to media reports quoting the authorities of Singapore and Malaysia, he was found and re-arrested on April 1, 2009, in Johor Bahru in Malaysia.

2. In a statement issued on May 8, 2009, Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry said: "Mas Selamat has been arrested by the Malaysian Special Branch (MSB) in a joint operation between the MSB and the Internal Security Department (ISD)." Wong Kan Seng, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister, who is also in charge of Home Affairs, told the media that the news of the arrest was not announced earlier in the interest of operational secrecy.

3. The Malaysian authorities apparently took the precaution of not announcing his re-arrest in order not to alert other members of the JI, who are still in hiding and for whom they are searching. Moreover, a premature announcement of the arrest might have enabled the JI to destroy evidence relating to the movements and activities of Mas Selamat Kastari since his escape from detention.

4. According to Wong as quoted in the local media, Mas Selamat had swam across the Straits of Johor using an improvised flotation device to escape from the north shore of Singapore after he escaped from the detention centre last year. According to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, information about the re-arrest of Mas Selamat on April 1 was first conveyed by the Malaysian authorities to Wong and then he himself was informed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on April 11,2009, when the two met at Pattaya in Thailand prior to the abandoned ASEAN summit. The summit was abandoned due to disturbances caused by the supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Prime Minister Lee said that the Singapore authorities had honoured a Malaysian request to keep the information a secret, but the decision to announce it was made after the "Straits Times" had come to know of the re-arrest and started making enquiries about it on May 7.

5. The Malaysian authorities have not announced how and where they managed to trace him and the circumstances under which he was re-arrested. All that is certain till now is that he is still under the custody of the Malaysian Police who are still interrogating him. It is evident from the available details that his re-arrest was made possible by human intelligence derived from the interrogation of some other suspected JI members arrested recently and not from technical intelligence. He was apparently observing communications security. It is reasonable to presume that the Singapore authorities would also be involved in the interrogation. The involvement could be either by deputing a Singapore officer to personally participate in the interrogation or by sending a list of questions of interest to the Singapore authorities for being used by the Malaysian team interrogating him.

6. However close counter-terrorism co-operation between two countries may be, they do not immediately allow officers of another country to join in the interrogation. They prefer to get a questionnaire from the interested State and elicit answers to those questions. When the Americans arrested Hambali of the JI in Ayuthya in Thailand in August 2003, they did not allow the Indonesian police to join in the interrogation for a long time. Similarly, in the interrogation of arrested Al Qaeda suspects having knowledge of the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft to Kandahar in December, 1999, the Americans avoided associating an Indian officer with the interrogation.

7. Such interrogation of a freshly-arrested or re-arrested terrorist suspect is generally done in three phases. The immediate first phase is devoted to finding out whether the arrested person had any knowledge of impending and imminent terrorist strikes and the identities of those involved in the planning for the strikes so that they could be arrested and the planned terrorist strike thwarted. The fact that there have been no subsequent arrests of a significant nature shows that Mas Selamat was apparently not aware of any impending and imminent strike.

8. The second phase will be devoted to re-tracing his movements and activities since the moment he escaped from the Singapore detention centre. This would help in establishing the identities of those who had helped him in escaping and crossing over and in protecting him after he crossed over. Terrorist organisations usually have two types of sleeper cells---- the operational cells which plan and carry out a terrorist strike and logistics cells which provide the back-up in the form of safe sanctuaries, collection of funds and materials required for the operation etc. The escape of Mas Selamat, his crossing over to Johore Baru and his remaining untraced for 14 months show clearly the presence of a trans-ASEAN network of JI logistics cells, which have not been unearthed by the local authorities so far. Was he remaining in Johore Baru all the time or was he travelling in the region? That should be a question of crucial interest.

9. The third phase will be devoted to establishing in detail how he escaped and remained undetected in order to identify security deficiencies in Singapore and Malaysia, which he exploited to escape and remain underground for 14 months. Two security deficiencies are obvious. The first deficiency arises from the fact that despite the security alert ordered by the Singapore Police he managed to swim across to Johore Baru. How did he get hold of his floatation device? Did he swim across immediately after his escape or did he remain in hiding with a sympathiser in Singapore for some days and cross over after the Police had reduced their alert? This is an important question. Answers to this would show whether there are still untraced logistics cells of the JI in Singapore.

10. The second deficiency arises from the fact that after crossing over he remained undetected by the Malaysian Police for 14 months. Malaysian media reports have alleged that he was arrested in a small Chinese majority town called Skudai in the Johore Baru area. How his arrival and presence there did not raise any suspicion for 14 months? In India, we have the system of village chowkidars (guards) started by the British Police before 1947. An important task of the chowkidar is to alert the police about the arrival of any suspicious person not belonging to the village. Does Malaysia have such a system since it was also under the British? If so, why this system failed?

11. The location and re-arrest of Mas Selamat speaks well of the efficiency and professionalism of the Internal Security Department of Singapore and of the Special Branch of the Malaysian Police. It also speaks disconcertingly of deficiencies in their security procedures of which the JI is aware and which Mas Selamat was able to exploit.

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

Friday, May 8, 2009


International Terrorism Monitor-- Paper No. 522

B. Raman

(I had prepared this paper for presentation at a conference being organised by the Heritage Foundation of Washington DC on May 14, 2009, to which I had been invited. I have had to cancel my participation due to unforeseen circumstances)

Shortly after the commando action ordered by the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in the beginning of July, 2007, I had received a message from one of my readers asking: "Pakistan on the boil or on the brink?" Both, I replied and wrote an article on the wave of Pashtun anger, which had started sweeping across the Pashtun belt after the commando raid. The article dated July 20, 2007, and titled "Pakistan: Iraq In The Making?" is available at Relevant extracts are annexed.

2. I wrote in that article: "Pakistan is on the brink of a destabilising situation. It brings Iraq to one's mind, but it is not yet Iraq. It can turn into an Iraq-like situation at least in the Pashtun belt if Musharraf and his American backers do not conduct themselves with restraint and wisdom."

3. The post-Lal Masjid raid Pashtun anger, which caused death and destruction right across Pakistan, gave birth to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and triggered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto at Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, had recently shown some signs of subsiding following some conciliatory steps taken by the Government of Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani such as facilitating the release on bail of those arrested during the raid and allotment of land outside the mosque for re-starting the two madrasas attached to the mosque before the raid. These madrasas had catered to the requirements of the children of many poor Pashtun families from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Malakand Division of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), including Swat, which is presently under the effective control of Maulana Fazlullah of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM).

4. If the US were wise, it would have taken the initiative in funding the establishment of well-equipped schools with facilities for boarding and lodging located outside the tribal belt for the children of internally displaced Pashtun families from the FATA and the Malakand Division, who have been forced to leave their villages due to the fighting between the TNSM and the TTP on the one side and the security forces on the other.

5. But wisdom has not been a defining characteristic of the US policy in Pakistan. Billions of US dollars have been earmarked for the security forces and for other projects with a long gestation period meant for the benefit of the civilians. But hardly any money has been earmarked for providing humanitarian relief to the internally-displaced persons from the tribal belt and for looking after their children. A new crop of suicide and non-suicide terrorists has started coming out of these internally-displaced Pashtuns and providing a surge to the forces of the TNSM and the TTP.

6. The Pashtun anger is the root cause of the mushrooming Taliban organisations right across the Pashtun belt. There are Talibans and Talibans. There are as many Talibans as there are tribal chiefs. Instead of trying to understand the Pashtun anger and to mitigate it, President Barack Obama, his advisers and aides have been fueling it further through their insensitive and thoughtless statements and comments, which tend to project the Pashtuns as a whole as accomplices of Al Qaeda, paint an apocalyptic characterisation of the developments in the Pashtun belt and unnecessarily over-stress the role of the security forces in dealing with the violence resulting from the Pashtun anger.

7. Unless and until the Pashtun anger is understood, addressed and mitigated, the spread of the Taliban virus cannot be arrested and reversed. The most important role in this regard has to be that of the progressive Pashtun politicians of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. There are many progressive Pashtun leaders. Let us not forget that the leftist movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan had its strongest roots in the Pashtun belt. Neither the Obama Administration nor its predecessor administration of George Bush has had time for the Pashtun leaders of the Pashtun soil.

8. The entire focus of the US administration and the US think tanks has been on the Islamabad-based leaders---political and military---- many of whom enjoy very little credibility in the eyes of the Pakistani people in general and the Pashtuns in particular. Whatever little credibility they might have enjoyed, has been weakened, if not destroyed, by the unthinking statements and comments coming out of Obama and his advisers. The limited credibility, which President Asif Ali Zardari enjoyed, has been irreparably damaged by Obama's negative remarks on Pakistan's civilian leadership during his interactions with the media on his completing 100 days in office. The subsequent damage control exercise by Richard Holbrooke, his special envoy for the Af-Pak region, who praised Pakistan's civilian leadersdhip, could not repair the damage.

9. Of Pakistan's mainstream leaders, Nawaz Sharif enjoyed a high level of credibility among the Punjabis and the Pashtuns. This was because of his independent line on the way American influence, according to him, has distorted Pakistan's handling of the situation in the tribal belt. His call for a re-think on the way Pakistan has been uncritically supporting the US operations added to his popularity. He projected himself as a man who can stand up to US pressure. Pakistan needs more such leaders who are seen by its people as not amenable to US pressure and as capable of taking an independent line suited to Pakistan's national interests.

10. Comments, reports and articles in the US media projecting Nawaz Sharif as a leader with whom the US can do business and as a possible alternative to Zardari, have damaged his credibility as a man capable of independent thinking and new ideas as to how to deal with the cancer of terrorism. Both Zardari and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan have created a negative image of themselves in the eyes of their respective people by the manner in which they responded to the American summons to go to Washington DC to discuss their counter-terrorism policy and co-operation.

11. The statements and comments of Obama and his advisers praising the Pakistan Army in general and Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), in particular have created suspicions of a new American game to reinforce the role of the Army even at the cost of further weakening the democratic forces in Pakistan. The repeated comments of Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, highlighting his personal equation with Kayani and praising Kayani's positive response to American concerns on the ground situation have had the unintended effect of making him seen by a growing number of people not only in the Pakistani civil society, but also even in the armed forces as America's man in the GHQ.

12. Political and military leaders who are seen by the people of Pakistan as carrying out the American dictates cannot succeed in winning the support of their people for their policies. The plethora of statements and comments on Pakistan's internal situation coming from the Obama Administration without any concerns about their impact on the minds of the Pakistani people are going to add to the difficulties of any Government in Islamabad in adopting a counter-terrorism and counter-Taliban strategy, which would be seen as motivated by the interests of Pakistan and not of the US.

13. Obama and his advisers have been conducting themselves as if they are still in the midst of their election campaign and not as the new rulers of the US already in office, who have to be careful about their public comments. The internal security situation in Pakistan arising from the activities of the Pakistani Taliban is alarming, but this cannot detract from the fact that how the Taliban is handled in the Pashtun belt is an internal affair of Pakistan. Others such as the US can give it discreet advice and whatever help it needs in dealing with the situation, but they should not give the impression that they are back-seat driving Pakistan's internal security management.

14. Dealing with the difficult situation in Pakistan at this critical time in its history requires a lot of intelligence, sensitivity and discretion. These qualities have been in short supply in the Obama Administration.(7-5-2009)

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


(Extracts from my article of July 20,2007, titled "Pakistan: Iraq In The Making?”)

Pakistan on the boil or on the brink? So asks a message received by me from one of my readers abroad.
It is on the boil because of the mounting anger of different Pashtun tribals in the NWFP and the FATA whose daughters bore the brunt of the attack of the commandoes, many of the young girls perishing in the process.

The Lal Masjid is located in Islamabad, the posh capital of Pakistan. It catered to the spiritual requirements of the elite of the capital and the educational requirements of the poorest of the poor tribal children from the Pashtun belt and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK)---many of them sons and daughters of serving and retired soldiers.

The Masjid, where Zia-ul-Haq used to pray, ran two madrasas for the children of poor tribals. The madrasa for boys was located outside the campus. It was seized without any difficulty and casualties by the commandoes.

The madrasa for girls was located inside the campus. There are no authentic figures of how many were studying there and how many were living in its dormitory. The figures mentioned by wild rumours vary between a few hundred and a few thousand.

The journalists, who were taken to the campus by the Army after the raid, have been unanimous in one observation. Most of the damages and fatalities had taken place in and around the girls' madrasa and its dormitory. There was very little damage to the masjid itself.

This was because jihadi terrorists, including Al Qaeda types acting under the instructions of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's No.2, had taken the girls as hostages and were using them as a shield to prevent the advance of the Commandoes----so says the Army.

There are hardly any takers for this version. The widely-accepted version is that the girls must have put up a ferocious fight and were ruthlessly mowed down by the commandoes.

Pakistani military officers, trying to justify the raid, compare President Pervez Musharraf's decision to send the commandoes in to Indira Gandhi's decision to send the Army into the Sikhs' Golden Temple in Amritsar in June, 1984, in Operation Bluestar.

But there is one major difference, which they do not highlight. The Golden Temple had been occupied by extremists led by Bhindranwale. There was no school for young girls inside. Nor was there a dormitory for young girls inside. Had there been hundreds of young girl students living and studying inside the Golden Temple complex, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, would have never sent the Army inside. Or, for that matter, no other Indian leader would have done so.

Musharraf knew about the girls' madrasa and dormitory inside---where hundreds of young girls from poor tribal families were living and studying. He knew there was a real risk of many of them being killed if the commandoes raided the place. And yet, he sent the commandoes in.

This was not the act of a strong man, as projected by some analysts. This was the act of an insensitive and unwise man.

The resulting carnage has outraged the Pashtuns.

There are dozens of Pashtuns----many of them grieving fathers and brothers of girls killed by the commandoes--- on the move in the Pashtun belt and outside wearing suicide belts, waiting to see a patrol or convoy of the security forces so that they could blow themselves up in its vicinity.

They are not from Al Qaeda.

They are not from the Neo Taliban.

They are not from any other jihadi terrorist organisations.

They are poor Jundullahs, soldiers of Allah, wanting to take revenge for the deaths of the young girls.

Everybody, who, in their mind, was associated with the operation is their target----Musharraf himself, the other members of the security forces, the People's Party Parliamentarians of Benazir Bhutto and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain, which supported the raid.

So too, the Americans and the Chinese.

It will take time for the anger to subside, for the tempers to cool down.

This is the time to understand the Pashtun anger and maintain a silence till the anger subsides.

This is not the time to rub salt on their wounds and further provoke them by talking of an American raid against Al Qaeda camps in the Pashtun belt or by praising Musharraf's action and promising him more assistance to take on the jihadis in the Pashtun belt.

All this can wait till the anger subsides.

Any unwise US attempt to take advantage of the present situation to step up its operations in the Pashtun belt with Musharraf's co-operation could lead to an Iraq-like situation in the Pashtun belt.

Pakistan is on the brink of a destabilising situation. It brings Iraq to one's mind, but it is not yet Iraq. It can turn into an Iraq-like situation at least in the Pashtun belt if Musharraf and his American backers do not conduct themselves with restraint and wisdom.