Friday, Jul 01, 2022

Out Through The Side Door

A careful reading of the latest report shows that there is nothing much to gloat about it for India. None of the Kashmiri groups have been designated as FTOs and the USA has provided Pakistan with a loophole.

The report on the Patterns of Global Terrorism during 2002, submitted by the Counter-Terrorism Division  of the US State Department to the Congress, was released to the media on April 30, 2003, at a press conference addressed by Gen. Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, and Mr.Cofer Black. Co-ordinator for Counter-Terrorism in the State Department.

The report follows the usual pattern with separate chapters devoted to an over-view of the terrorist situation in different regions of the world, activities of States declared by the US as State-sponsors of international terrorism, activities of terrorist organisations designated by the US as Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) and other organisations not so designated, a summary of action taken by the US against terrorist funding under the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1373 and a statistical review.  A new addition this year is a chapter on the nexus of the Saddam Hussein regime with terrorism, one of the grounds cited by the US for its military action to occupy Iraq.  The chapter is actually a reproduction of the allegations in this regard levelled by Powell during his intervention in the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003.

What should be of interest to India  are the indications given in the report of how the US views the various terrorist organisations operating against India from Pakistani territory and the Pakistani support to these organisations.

Between 1989 and 1993, Pakistan was relying essentially on indigenous Kashmiri terrorist organisations for achieving its objectives in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).  As they were unable to make headway in their operations against the Indian security forces, it started infiltrating into the State Pakistani jihadi organisations, which had fought in Afghanistan.  Since 1999, these organisations have assumed the leadership of the anti-Government of India movement and their trained cadres have been operating under the guise of Kashmiris. Certain indigenous Kashmiri organisations such as the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) have also been active, but not on the same scale as the Pakistani organisations.

The Pakistani organisations are the  Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). These organisations have, of late, been operating under different names, but I will continue to refer to them by their original names.  All the four of them along with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Sunni extremist organisation, are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF).  The activities of the LEJ are confined to Pakistani territory.

Till 1997, the annual reports of the Counter-Terrorism Division used to give an over-view of the terrorist situation in different regions, describe the activities of the State-sponsors of international terrorism and give brief backgrounds of terrorist organisations, which were of concern to the US.  They did not follow the practice of designating any of these organisations as FTOs.

Following the New York World Trade Centre explosion of February,1993, in which Pakistani, Egyptian and other foreign nationals were involved, the US Congress passed a law to strengthen the powers of the law-enforcement agencies in their counter-terrorism operations.  This law called the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996  required the Secretary of State to designate organisations, which pose a threat to US nationals and interests, as FTO.  Till now, 36 organisations have been designated as FTOs.

This designation has three legal consequences: First, any US citizen or resident, who helps an FTO, commits a crime.  Second, the leaders and cadres of these organisations are not entitled to visas to visit the US.  Third, US financial institutions must freeze any accounts held in their banks by an FTO and report the matter to the Treasury Department.

Any State, which helps an FTO, risks being declared by the US as a State-sponsor of international terrorism, but this does not automatically follow.  Political considerations come into play as one has seen repeatedly in the case of Pakistan, which has been spared the rod by the USA despite its agencies helping FTOs such as the HUM, the LET and the JEM.

In October,1997, the US declared the HUM as an FTO under its then name of Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA).  The LET, the JEM and the LEJ  were so declared last year.  The HUJI has not yet been so designated for reasons not clear.  In the report for 2001, the HUJI was placed in the list of other terrorist organisations, which did not warrant being designated as FTOs under the 1996 law. It continues to be in the same list in the latest report too.

The latest report describes three of the indigenous Kashmiri groups -- namely, the Al Badr, the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM) -- the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the political wing of the LEJ, and  the Hizbe Islami of Gulbuddin Heckmatyar  as terrorist organisations, without, however, designating them as FTOs.  None of these organisations figured in this list last year.

The Al Badr is the oldest of the jihadi terrorist organisations of South Asia. It came into being before 1971 in the then East Pakistan as the militant wing of the JEI.  It recruited its cadres mainly from Pakistani Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), who were trained by Pakistan's military intelligence establishment and used against the Bengali nationalists. In 1971, before the liberation of Bangladesh, it was responsible for the massacre of a large number of Bengali intellectuals. When the Indian Army entered the then East Pakistan in December,1971, the leaders and cadres of Al Badr escaped to the then West Pakistan.

They remained quiet till 1980, when the Zia-ul-Haq regime re-activated them and used them against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, with money and arms and ammunition provided by the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  After the collapse of the Najibullah Government in Kabul in April,1992, the Inter-Services Intelligence diverted the Al Badr cadres to J&K.  The HM is the militant wing of the JEI headed by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, which is an important constituent of the six-party fundamentalist coalition called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) which came to power in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan after the elections of October last.

While the report does not explain why these organisations have been included in this second list this year, it should not be difficult to guess the reasons. First, their close association with the pro-Taliban, pro-bin Laden and anti-US MMA. They have been participating actively in the various demonstrations organised by the MMA and other fundamentalist organisations against the US-UK occupation of Iraq and against the presence of the US armed forces and intelligence officers in Pakistani territory.  Second, their links with Gulbuddin's Hizbe-Islami, which has joined hands with the Taliban and Al Qaeda for mounting joint operations against the US and other Western troops in Afghanistan.

It would be illusory for New Delhi to think that this action has been taken by the US to show greater sensitivity to India's concerns over its failure to pressure Pakistan to stop the use of cross-border terrorism against India. By including these organisations in the second list, but without designating them as FTOs, the USA has, knowingly or unwittingly, provided Pakistan with a loophole.  It could continue to assist them without falling foul of US law and there is no obligation on Pakistan to freeze the bank accounts of any of these Kashmiri organisations operating from its territory.

The US Treasury Department maintains another list of individuals and organisations, which are suspected to be indulging in or assisting terrorist activities so that their assets in the US can be frozen under the President's Executive Order No.13224 issued after the 9/11 terrorist strikes.

While this list includes the names of many terrorist organisations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya in Russia, Xinjiang in China  and other countries and even the names of some Sikh terrorist organisations such as the Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), it does not include the names of any of the indigenous Kashmiri organisations operating from Pakistani territory. 

This is indicative of the USA's kid glove approach towards these organisations unless they pose a threat to US nationals and interests.  HUJI figures in a third list called  the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) issued under the USA Patriot Act, but none of the Kashmiri organisations. Under this Act, the members of TEL organisations can be denied entry into the US and any foreign resident of the US helping these organisations can be deported.

The observations of Powell and his Counter-Terrorism Co-Ordinator and the questions posed to them by the journalists covered in detail the support of Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Cuba and North Korea to terrorist activities directed against the USA and Israel and North Korea's supply of missiles to State-sponsors of terrorism, but there was no reference to Pakistan's support to terrorism directed against India and to its assistance to North Korea for the acquisition of a military nuclear capability.

The references in the report to Pakistan's role in helping the USA in the war against terrorism are even more positive this year than last year and the understanding of India's concerns is even more muted than last year.

The report says of Pakistan:

"In 2002, Pakistan remained a vital partner in the global Coalition against terrorism, playing a key role in the diplomatic, law-enforcement, and military fight to eliminate al-Qaida. Pakistan granted logistic support and overflight rights to support Operation Enduring Freedom, consulted extensively with the United States and the United Nations on ways to combat terrorist financing, and drafted anti-money-laundering legislation.

In January, the Government of Pakistan arrested and transferred to US custody nearly 500 suspected al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists, detained hundreds of extremists, and banned five extremist organizations: Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehrik-i-Jafria Pakistan (TJP), and Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i Mohammadi (TNSM). The United States has designated LT and JEM as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and also has designated them pursuant to Executive Order 13224.

US-Pakistan joint counter-terrorism efforts have been extensive. They include cooperative efforts in border security, criminal investigations, as well as several long-term training projects. In 2002, the United States and Pakistan established the Working Group on Counter-terrorism and Law-Enforcement Cooperation. The meetings provide a forum for discussing ongoing US-Pakistani efforts, as well as a means for improving capabilities and cooperation. Islamabad has facilitated the transfer of over 400 captured alleged terrorists to US custody, and Pakistan remained ranked third in the world (behind the United States and Switzerland) in seizing terrorist assets."

The only seemingly negative reference to Pakistan in the report is the following sentence:

"Extremist violence in Kashmir, meanwhile, fueled by infiltration from Pakistan across the Line of Control, threatened to become a flashpoint for a wider India-Pakistan conflict during most of the year.

Last year's report did not refer to J&K as disputed territory. The latest report does. It says: "Like the United States, India faces a significant terrorist threat. Its primary source is the activity of militants opposed to continued Indian rule over the disputed province of Kashmir." While the report refers in passing to the continuing cross-border infiltration, it is muted on the role of the Pakistan Government in sponsoring this.

A careful reading of the report shows that there is nothing much to gloat about it for India. 

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and convenor, Advisory Committee, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai.