Saturday, Jun 03, 2023

Kaluchak And After

Kaluchak And After

Persisting weaknesses in our internal security infrastructure and the lack of a counter-proxy war policy through covert actions continue to be our weak points in dealing with Pakistan's proxy war. More Coverage:


Thirty-two persons, many of them innocent civilians, including 11 children, were killed in a savage suicide attack by a group of three terrorists at Kaluchak near Jammu on May 14,2002. A hitherto unknown terrorist organisation calling itself Al Mansooreen and the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen have claimed responsibility.

The local Police have managed to identify the three terrorists as Pakistani Punjabis. One of them hailed from Faislabad and the other two from Gujranwala. Faislabad is the place where 20 Al Qaeda terrorists, including Abu Zubaida, stated to be No.3 in the Al Qaeda, were captured by the Pakistani authorities, prodded by the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), on March 28, 2002, and handed over to the FBI for interrogation.

They had been given sanctuary in Faislabad by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), a Pakistani Punjabi organisation based at Muridke, near Lahore, , which along with the Jaish-e- Mohammad (JEM), another Pakistani Punjabi oprganisation based in Karachi's Binori madrasa, has been responsible for 33 suicide attacks in Jammu& Kashmir (J&K) and New Delhi since the middle of 1999, when the Pakistani jihadi organisations, which are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US and Israel, started emulating the Al Qaeda's suicide tactics.

Writing on the presence of the Al Qaeda near the Indian border in Pakistani Punjab as indicated by thecapture of Abu Zubaida and 19 other Al Qaeda members, this writer had stated on April 8, 2002:

"The reported shifting of the Al Qaeda dregs by the ISI and the LET to Punjab and the POK has serious security implications for India since these trained terrorists may be infiltrated into J & K after the snow melts in order to maintain the level of violence and disrupt the forthcoming elections in the State."

As pointed out by this writer in an earlier article of January 31, 2002, the Afghan war of the 1980s against the Soviet troops gave birth to what came to be known as a crop of Afghan returnees -- mainly Arabs, Pakistanis and others, who had fought in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, they spread to other countries in the Islamic as well as the non-Islamic world and created havoc through acts of terrorism.

The present US-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan has given birth to a new crop of Afghan returnees -- consisting largely of trained Pakistanis belonging to terrorist organisations such as the HUM, the HUJI, the LET, the JEM, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the Al Fuqra etc, who managed to survive the US air strikes and have returned to Pakistan.

The old wave of international terrorism, which culminated in the terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001, in the US came largely from this first crop of Afghan returnees. "A new wave of international terrorism, of which the attack on the Indian Parliament (December 13, 2001), the attack on the security personnel outside the American Centre in Kolkata (January 22, 2002) and the kidnapping of the WSJ journalist (January 23, 2002) are the beginning, would largely come from this second and new crop of Afghan returnees. The international coalition against terrorism has to closely monitor and neutralise the activities of the new crop".

There is a connecting thread running through the attack on the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly on October 1, 2001, the attack on the Indian Parliament at New Delhi on December 13, 2001, the killing of the security personnel guarding the American Centre at Kolkata (Calcutta) on January 22, 2002, the kidnapping on January 23, 2002, of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist working for the "Wall Street Journal" and his subsequent brutal murder, the grenade attack on the worshippers in a church in Islamabad on March 17, 2002, in which five persons, two of them Americans, were killed, the suicide explosion in Karachi on May 8,2002, in which 11 French nationals working on a submarine project, who were possibly mistaken for Americans, were killed and the Kaluchak incident of May 14,2002. All of them seem to have involved the dregs of the current war in Afghanistan.

These dregs belong to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and the Al Fuqra. They initially moved into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, but have since reportedly spread across to other areas such as Sindh, Pakistani Punjab and the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), including the Northern Areas (NA--Gilgit and Baltistan).

The farce of a ban imposed on January 15,2002, by President Pervez Musharraf on the LET, the JEM, the SSP and the TNSM is still in force on paper, but most of those arrested under it have since been released and many of the trained terrorist cadres of these organisations have been moved to POK, including NA, to which Musharraf has not extended the ban. Moreover, the ban does not apply to the HUM, HUJI and the Al Fuqra.

A new organisation calling itself the Lashkar-e-Omar (LEO), consisting of these dregs, has come to notice since November,2001. The origin of the name of LEO ( the Army of Omar) is not clear. Some reports say it is named after Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, and consists of the dregs of the Taliban, the Al Qaeda, and the Pakistani jehadi organisations allied with bin Laden in the International Islamic Front, who managed to survive the US air strikes and crossed over into Pakistan. According to other reports, it is named after Omar Sheikh and consists of hand-picked cadres of the HUJI, the JEM and the LET.

It came to notice for the first time in November, 2001, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on a group of Pakistani Christians praying in a church in Bhawalpur in Punjab, where Maulana Masood Azhar of the JEM lives. Subsequently, it was suspected in connection with the grenade attack on a group of Pakistani and foreign Christians praying in a church in Islamabad on March 17, 2002,killing five persons, including the wife and daughter of an official of the US Embassy in Islamabad. He escaped with injuries. This attack was seen by many as targeted at him.

Omar Sheikh, presently undergoing trial in Hyderabad, Sindh, for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl and Amjad Hussain Faruqui of the HUJI, an absconding accused in the case, were both closely linked with the LEO, whose cadres were trained in training camps in Taliban-controlled territory. Before his surrender to a retired officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) at Lahore on February 5,2002, Omar Sheikh used to head the Lahore office of the Al Qaeda and visit Kandahar to meet bin Laden.

The News(February 18,2002), a prestigious daily of Pakistan, reported that during his interrogation Omar Sheikh admitted his involvement not only in the kidnapping of Pearl, but also in the above-mentioned attacks in Srinagar, New Delhi and Kolkata, but Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment denied this report and had the Editor of the newspaper sacked for publishing it.

The anger of these dregs, as seen from their propaganda, has been mainly directed against the USA, Israel and India. They are angry against the USA for the casualties inflicted on them in Afghanistan. Their anger against India is due to J & K as well as the Indian assistance to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. While the rest of the world abandoned the Northern Alliance after the capture of Kabul by the Taliban in September,1996, only India, Russia and some of the Central Asian Republics (CARS) continued to stand by it and assisted it in whatever way they could. Another reason for their anger against India is its growing co-operation with the USA in various fields, particularly the military field.

The reasons for their anger against Israel are self-evident. These dregs feel that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Hamas and the Hizbollah are quite capable of resisting Israel through their own efforts and, therefore, see no need for any action by them aainst Israeli nationals and interests. Moreover, the PLO, the HAMAS and the Hizbollah themselves do not want to have anything to do with bin Laden or these dregs.

Thus, they have been focussing their operations mainly against US and Indian nationals and interests. Their attack on the French was a surprise and the only way of explaining it is that they probably mistook the French for Americans.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been following a two-pronged policy with regard to these dregs. He has been taking advantage of their redoubled anger against India for keeping Indian security forces and civilian personnel bleeding in J&K and other parts of India. He has protected them against attacks by the US and British troops, either by not sharing pin-point intelligence about their location with the allied forces or by avoiding co-operation in joint operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He has been acting against them in Pakistani territory, only when forced by the US to do so as it happened in Faislabad.

At the same time, he has been embarrassed by their operations against US nationals and interests in Pakistani territory and by their attack on the French. His inability to persuade them to concentrate their operations only against India and not to attack Americans and other non-Indian targets could be partly attributed to the encouragement received by them in their anti-American actions from serving officers of the military-intelligence establishment such as Gen. Mohammad Aziz, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and retired officers such as Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, Lt. Gen.Javed Nasir and Lt. Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, all former Directors-General of the ISI. According to some reports from Islamabad, even Gen. Mohammad Yusuf, the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, aggrieved by Musharraf's retaining the post of Chief of the Army Staff, is now siding with Aziz. It is said that out of about 30 Lt.Generals in the Pakistan Army, at least three (the third one remains unidentified) have been critical of Musharraf's pro-US line.

Some sections of the senior and middle level officers of the ISI (difficult to quantify their strength) also share this anti-Americanism and have avoided any action to stop the anti-US activities of these dregs in Pakistani territory. Thus, India and the USA have a common interest in neutralising these dregs through joint covert actions.

In this connection, the following observations of this writer after the December 13,2001, attack on the Indian Parliament remain as valid today as they were at the time they were made:

"If air strikes and cross-border raids on training camps and safe havens could effectively end terrorism, Israel should be free of foreign-sponsored terrorism today. The fact that even after 30 years of a macho counter-terrorism policy, Israeli blood continues to flow should show the ineffectiveness of its strategy" [ -- from the writer's article dated December 27,2001, titled Raising The Costs For Pakistan]

"For far too long, India has reacted too passively to Pakistan's use of terrorism as a low-cost covert weapon against us. We should have gone into a counter proxy war mode months, if not years, ago. Having failed to do so, in the moment of post-December 13 anger, we should not abruptly move from one extreme of passivity to the other extreme of unthinking activism in the name of graduated response.

"The situation we face today is due to the long neglect of the need for a carefully-worked out counter proxy war doctrine to be implemented consistently, intelligently and with determination. Now is the time for formulating such a doctrine and implementing it---more covertly than overtly. A counter proxy war doctrine would provide space for both overt, correct State-to-State relations and simultaneously, covert undermining of the wielder of terrorism.

"After the December 13 incident, which is a challenge to the Indian State, a graduated response to increase the pressure on Pakistan is necessary, but in working out the basket of overt diplomatic and economic options, we should avoid getting into a bind of exhausting all non-military options too soon and unthinkingly and finding ourselves facing a cruel choice of either the military option or a loss of face if we don't militarily act " [--From the writer's article dated December 28,2002, Pressurise Pragmatically.

"India is right in intensifying pressure on Pakistan and the international community to put an end to Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism in Indian territory. Its campaign is already yielding some results in the form of the US designation of the LET and the JEM as foreign terrorist organisations, arrests of their leaders by Pakistan, freezing of their accounts etc.

"These actions, however gratifying, are not going to end terrorism. The JEM, the LET and the HUM have already enough Pakistani cadres and weapons in India to be able to operate autonomously at least for a couple of years more unless our internal security is strengthened.

"Terrorists largely depend on clandestine money, mainly heroin money, for keeping their operations sustained. Even if the US-led allies manage to end once for all the production and smuggling of fresh heroin from Afghanistan, there is enough heroin in Pakistan from previous years' production to keep terrorist activities sustained at least for two years.

"The very important aspect of identifying the many weak points in our internal security apparatus and removing them in order to smoke out the terrorists already in our midst is not receiving the attention it urgently requires.

"Putting a stop to Pakistani sponsorship is important. Equally so is setting matters right in our internal security apparatus. Unless and until we do this effectively, more December 13s are likely' [-- from the writer's article dated January 4,2002,titled The Terrorists In Our Midst]

Persisting weaknesses in our internal security infrastructure as evidenced by the ease with which the terrorists have been repeatedly breaching the physical security arrangements by following the same modus operandi of masquerading as officers of the security forces and the lack of a counter-proxy war policy through covert actions continue to be our weak points in dealing with Pakistan's proxy war.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai)