A brave nation celebrates the Lahore literary Festival

February 27, 2015

A suicide bomber struck in the Pakistani city of Lahore, just two days before its annual literary festival was due to start.

The night before, the provincial government tried to stop the three-day festival from going ahead, insisting it was not safe.

Then, on the day itself, the darkest of storm clouds invaded, stealthily smothering the light. A warm winter’s morning was eerily transformed into an ominous night.

And, through a procession of threats, there was that word: Lahore.

“A Literary Festival in Lahore? Blimey!!!” someone said to me on Twitter.

“Is it safe for me to come to Lahore?” an anxious friend emailed from Cairo. “My family is worried after news of the suicide bombing.”

Standing ovation

Some, but not all, ambassadors cancelled. Armed guards were posted inside the gates and the Pakistani army and police vowed to protect a precious space.

Lahore Literary FestivalTalks and lectures attracted capacity audiences
Participants at Lahore Literary FestivalHistorian Romila Thapar, second from right, gave the keynote address to open the festival

When the city’s array of historic clock towers struck 11:00 on 20 February, the third Lahore Literary Festival started with an intellectual bang: a keynote address by the remarkable 83-year-old Romila Thapar.

The eminent Indian historian, who travelled from the neighbouring country still often cast as Pakistan’s oldest and most intractable of rivals, spoke of history as “a dialogue between the present and the assumed past”.

She was given a standing ovation.

Stellar landscape

But, if anything, this festival was a statement about the future – the fate of an anxious city in a nation troubled by rising violence and intolerance, including very real threats to its artists and activists.

If the festival’s schedule was a blueprint, it is a future which treasures a past that includes jewels like Noor Jehan – known as the Empress of Song – as well as literature of many centuries gone by, in many local languages.

Pakistanis at the Lahore Literary FestivalThere was a carnival-like atmosphere at the festival
Lahore Literary Festival stallThe three-day event kicked off on Friday 20 February
Sign at Lahore Literary FestivalLahore is known as “the city of gardens” even if parts are now threatened by urban expansion

It is a future which includes a stellar landscape of contemporary writers, from Kamila Shamsie and Saba Imtiaz of Karachi to Mohsin Hamid and Moni Mohsin of Lahore.

And it is a future based on rare hope that age-old conflicts can be resolved in years to come.

Awareness of danger

This was not just an occasion for poetry and prose, but politics too.

When a packed session was asked if they believed there was a new moment and opportunity in a long-poisoned relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, hands shot up across the rows to convey a resounding “yes”.

A discussion on India and Pakistan was entitled, Anticipating Peace. And China was cast as a mediator, not a meddler, in efforts to secure peace with the Afghan Taliban.

Audience at the LLFThe reaction from audiences gave an insight into the feelings of Pakistan’s more privileged population
Crowds at the Lahore Literary FestivalHeld under tight security, the festival was a bubble of art, literature and ideas

The resonance in the halls was in itself a barometer of a people’s mood, or at least that privileged part of Pakistan that wants to will a beleaguered nation to a different place.

A sense of patriotism, a desire for progress and an awareness of danger were all palpable.

One of the festival organisers, writer and journalist Ahmed Rashid, received a loud round of applause when he spoke of the need for debate among “we, as modern Muslims”.

There was argument over whether it was possible or even preferable to talk to the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban, disagreement over whether powerful neighbours like China and India were friend or foe, and what limits should exist on freedom on expression. At least one participant, on his Twitter feed, praised the killers of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris in January.

Open and engaged

“Why are we discussing Islamic State (IS) in a literary festival?” exclaimed, only half in jest, the Lebanese comic novelist Rabih Alemeddine during a panel on the Middle East. It drew a ripple of laughter but many more knowing looks. This is a country which already contends with all too many extremist groups, and where IS is also known to be recruiting.

This was a celebration of a Pakistan open and engaged with the many ideas of many worlds.

Participant at Lahore Literary FestivalThe festival attracted people of all ages and all walks of life

American feminist Eve Ensler, famous for her Vagina Monologues, discussed her memoir, In the Body of the World, while another session was entitled Fifty Shades of Feminism.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen spoke about The Girl from Human Street, his new book about a family journey which is also a history of the Jewish people.

For three days, people of all ages, from all walks of life, packed into the Alhamra Arts Centre in a city still known as “the city of gardens” even if some of those green spaces are now threatened by urban expansion and unchecked development.

In a heavily-fortified bubble, balloons bobbed above the lawns, samosas sizzled in metal cauldrons and musical strains of popular Ghazals wafted across the site.

Galleries exhibited artworks dealing with themes that ranged from the persecution of minorities to art itself.

And in this contemplation of a city and its causes, others found kindred souls.

“It reminds me Cairo,” exclaimed Egyptian writer Yasmine El Rashidi, who spoke of “echoes of Cairo” in Lahore’s “mysticism and beauty”.

“It’s like Beirut in ways,” remarked Lebanon’s Rabih Alameddine who invoked a description of his own city, calling it “the Elizabeth Taylor of cities… Insane, beautiful, falling apart, ageing and forever drama-laden”.

He may also have meant a battle to keep both beauty and spirit intact.

That, in a few words, was Lahore in its festival days.

For Pakistan

The comedy of blood

February 24, 2015

This is the serious part of tonight’s event, except that Lee often deals with very serious topics. So what I mean is: this is the unfunny part of tonight’s event, except that I’m going to talk about the United States government. One of my favorite things that Mark Twain didn’t really say but definitely should have said was “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” He left out the possibility of imbeciles who are putting us on.

On Thursday Comcast internet was not working at my house, just as Comcast’s hired Congress members were introducing a bill to create a closed internet with fast lanes for the corporate crap we didn’t need the internet for. And a good internet media outlet called TheRealNews.com wanted to do a video interview with me, which I didn’t want to do in Java Java because I try not to be quite that rude. So I sat out on the Downtown Mall and did the interview. It was about 12 degrees out, and I think you can see me shaking. And what did they want to talk about? War? Peace? The climate?

They wanted to talk about Jeb Bush. Clearly he is an imbecile who is putting us on. He’d been talking on foreign policy, and of course he agreed with Obama on most everything but claimed not to. On NSA spying, for example, he disagreed basically with the fact that there has been public criticism of Obama’s abuses. How he would eliminate criticism he didn’t say. He didn’t bring up Ukraine or Afghanistan or drone wars, because what would he disagree with? He did bring up the Korean War in order to claim it was a success and not the stupid pointless draw that everyone called it for decades, but of course the innovator in popularizing that ridiculous claim was … President Obama.

Mostly Jeb focused on Iran, pushing the false claim that Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map and is threatening nuclear attack. Obama pushes all the same lines but then nonsensically and uniquely in this case arrives at the antiwar view that diplomacy is preferable to bombing. Jeb approves of Netanyahu stepping in on March 3rd to give Congress its war orders on the one war Obama doesn’t want. I recommend going to SkipTheSpeech.organd urging Congress Members to skip it, as many have committed to doing — even with Sheldon Adelson promising to pay for the unelection of each of them.

More broadly, Jeb pushed the idea that the Middle East is a disaster because it hasn’t been bombed enough, and that the U.S. is disliked because it hasn’t attacked enough countries. There are two problems with this. One, it’s a disgusting and ridiculous lie that has been getting people killed for many years. A Gallup poll early last year of 65 countries found the U.S. to be considered far and away the biggest threat to peace in the world. The nations in the worst shape are the ones the U.S. has bombed. U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers has actually argued that we should stop paying attention to what bombing Libya did to Libya in order to be sufficiently willing to bomb Iraq and Syria. ISIS actually produced a 60-minute movie begging the United States to go to war against it because recruitment would soar. The U.S. obliged. Recruitment soared. This is how disliked the United States has made itself: organizations are willing to be bombed if it will show them to be the leading opponents of the United States — a country that, by the way, puts over a trillion dollars a year into war when tens of billions could address world hunger, clean water, and other basic needs. For a fraction of war spending, the U.S. could address climate chaos, agriculture, education, etc., and become the most loved government on earth. But would that feel as good as screaming threats at ISIS?

ISIS, after all, kills people, cuts their throats like Saudi Arabia but on a smaller scale so it’s more evil, and burns people to death, like U.S. drone strikes, but on a smaller scale so it must be stopped by using the larger scale killing to stop it.

It’s amazing how Americans manage to think about violence. Why, we ask ourselves, don’t cops need guns in London? Well, because the criminals don’t have guns, but over here they do. So we have to fight guns with guns, and just to be safe spread some more guns around. But why, we ask ourselves, is the Middle East so violent? Well, that’s easy: it’s the result of millennia-old ethnic and religious hatreds that lie dormant for millennia and then burst into the open when we mistakenly provide freedom they’re not ready for in the form of incendiary bombs and depleted uranium. And of course they have guns over there, it’s part of their religion. Really? Because the U.S. State Department says that 79% of the weapons shipped to the Middle East are from the United States. That doesn’t count the U.S. weapons, the weapons the CIA gives the moderate neck slitters, or the weapons the Iraqi Army abandons. In other words, the same geniuses who are selling drones to the world now have long been arming the global hotspots where they periodically seek to create peace by escalating war. I have a new theory: they are imbeciles who are putting themselves on.

The second problem with Jeb’s prescription of more militarism is that President Obama has just proposed the biggest military budget ever and asked Congress for a free pass to launch new wars — as he’s doing anyway and says he’ll do regardless — and the American people are convinced that it’s their duty to form opinions about Jeb and his brother and his father and Hillary Clinton and various other imbeciles or putter-oners or both. We’re supposed to think that caring about such jack asses makes us good citizens. This is a disastrous distraction. It is actually our duty to engage in policy-driven activism, including activism aimed at fixing a broken election system, and to stop imagining that we’re going to vote our way out of apocalypse by cheerleading the candidate for militarized corporate capitalism over the other candidate for militarized corporate capitalism.

Oh, but it’s so much more fun to mock Jeb, isn’t it? If we criticize Obama we have something in common with icky racists. Seriously? Which is more childish, the racism or the moronic notion that one must obey authority without question or become a racist? You don’t have to “Approve” or “Disapprove” of Obama in some simplistic overall sense. There is no requirement in life or politics to be as stupid as a pollster’s questions. You can encourage Obama’s diplomacy on Iran and resist his warmaking in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promote the good, resist the bad. And avoid the desire to make it personal.

Jeb did try to find one other place to disagree with Obama, namely Cuba. As it happens, I just got back from Cuba last week and have a different perspective. The Republican line parroted by Jeb is that Obama did something for Cuba with nothing in return. Well, Obama is considering taking Cuba off the absurd terrorist list, since Cuba doesn’t fund terrorism. But Cuba hasn’t put the United States on a terrorist list to take it off of. There has been talk of ending the economic blockade, but Cuba has no blockade against the U.S. to lift. What is it Jeb wants of Cuba? Well, he wants it to stop supporting the popularly elected government of Venezuela and allow its overthrow. See, to get to Obama’s right you have to go to overthrowing governments — and then you’ll discover that Obama pretty much agrees with you.

The U.S. is actually proposing to allow importing from Cuba limited items produced by private enterprise. This is an effort to privatize Cuba, to radically change or overthrow its government. By “opening” to Cuba, Obama has given himself new tools. The mission is unchanged. A few of us met with the staff of the soon-to-be U.S. embassy down there, and asked about the $20 million the U.S. spends propagandizing Cubans each year. I asked how they’d feel if Cuba funded activists in the United States. One of them told me there was no need, because the United States has freedom of speech and Cuba doesn’t. OK, I said, but the United States has troops in 175 countries and more wars than it can keep track of, and Cuba doesn’t. What if Cuba funded a movement against militarism in the United States? The U.S. diplomats said they’d have no problem with that at all. But of course the U.S. government would — in fact working with Cuba on anything would constitute aiding “terrorists.”

I suppose it’s not very funny but it should be that if Cuba ever actually attacked the United States we would hear about it 24/7, but the United States and its terrorists living openly in Florida have for over 50 years blown up buildings and planes in Cuba, murdered in Cuba, and introduced human and animal diseases to Cuba, and the Cubans have museums full of the gear they’ve seized from the hapless CIA, but the Cuban people are delighted to meet Americans and don’t blame us one bit for our government just as they’d no doubt like not to be blamed for their own.

Their government and many observers have a theory about why the U.S. government hates Cuba so much: it doesn’t want us to see that even a poor country can provide universal healthcare, education, and a guaranteed income.

I’m thrilled with the victory of Jeff Fogel and others in the ruling this week that found a ban on panhandling unconstitutional here. But what if a nation with the resources of the U.S. were to start dreaming bigger? What if we were to do away with the need for panhandling? What if everyone had a full stomach, a good education, no debt, and some free time to pay attention to things?

I sat in a trial a few weeks ago in Alexandria of Jeffrey Sterling who had gone to Congress with the news that the CIA was giving plans for a nuclear bomb to Iran — plans in which they’d introduced some obvious mistakes on the theory that the dumb Iranians would never notice and build their bomb wrong. Their Russian operative who took the plans to the Iranians was also not supposed to notice the flaws, but he did, immediately. The display of recklessness, stupidity, and imbecility putting itself on in this courtroom was beyond belief, and nobody was there, and the young all white jury found Sterling guilty.

One of the pieces of evidence in the trial discussed the next country the CIA was, in 2000, working on giving flawed nuclear bomb plans to after Iran. They blanked out the name of the country but showed how many letters had been blanked out. They also left it clear that the country’s name began with a vowel. Only Iraq fit. These clowns were planning to give nuclear bomb plans to Iraq just before publicly making the case for invading Iraq before it nuked us.

But what else were they supposed to do? You can’t do nothing, right? We must either love ISIS and do nothing or drop more bombs and create even more enemies. It’s a tough counterproductive path to Armageddon but somebody’s got to follow it. And somebody else has got to invent a bunch of lies to make it more palatable. When General Sherman raged through the South burning stuff he told himself that from here on out the South would know war so well that it would never want another one. And 150 years later, I dare you to just hint at taking down the statues of Southern war losers in Charlottesville. The South is the leading supporter of U.S. wars. Without the politics of the South, the U.S. might find its way clear all the way to respecting the rights of some other country. During World War II, the main newspaper in Atlanta, where Sherman had begun his march, editorialized in favor of burning every house in Japan. So, when Jeb-Obama-Hillary-McCain tell you that bombing Iraq will turn Iraqis against war, you can believe them or your own lying eyes. Have the past decades made Iraq more peaceful? Might ending slavery the way most nations did — that is to say, without a war — have produced something less than 150 years of resentment and displaced blowback?


Pakistan’s desire for Afghan stability

February 24, 2015

The civil war in Afghanistan, which began with the overthrow of King Zahir Shah over four decades ago, is at last showing signs of reconciliation. February 19, 2015 may stand out as the day peace doves took wings. Earlier today, Reuters quoted unnamed “Pakistani army and diplomatic officials” confirming to that the Afghan Taliban have “signaled through the Pakistani military that they are willing to open peace talks, which could begin later in the day”.

Quite obviously, the visit on Tuesday by the Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif to Kabul was to give the green signal to the Afghan leadership. This time around, Gen. Sharif met not only President Ashraf Ghani but Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah as well, which underscored that a defining moment in the accommodation of the Taliban in Afghan mainstream politics is approaching. Indeed, Voice of America quoted Abdullah standing alongside Gen Sharif and expressing satisfaction over the process of normalization of Afghan-Pakistan relations, stressing that “concrete steps” have been taken by both sides.

From the Pakistani viewpoint, evidently, it is crucial to have constructively engaged with Abdullah (whom Islamabad has been cultivating tenaciously, his past Northern Alliance background notwithstanding). The fact that Gen. Sharif regards Abdullah as a key interlocutor would suggest not only that a high degree of mutual trust has developed but also that the political alignments within Afghanistan itself have shifted phenomenally and an emergent national consensus within Afghanistan cutting across ethnic and regional divides regarding the imperative of reconciliation with the Taliban has appeared.

The dramatic developments signify that Pakistan is finally getting the Taliban leadership out of the attic to sit across the table with the Afghan government’s negotiators. In an extraordinary statement from Rawalpindi today, the Pakistani GHQ daringly put its imprimatur on the breakthrough in the Afghan peace process and has underlined that the process will be “absolutely transparent, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led”, echoing closely the earlier remark by President Ghani that he “will not conduct any negotiation in secret from my people and they will be informed of any development.”

Clearly, the US is actively promoting the process. Indeed, the US-Pakistani high-level exchanges have become noticeably dense in the past few weeks – CENTCOM chief General Lloyd Austin paying return visit to Rawalpindi in mid-August within six weeks of Gen Sharif’s path-breaking visit to Tampa; visit by Gen John Campbell, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, to Rawalpindi in early February (his second visit in two months); President Barack Obama’s phone call to Prime Minister Nawz Sharif ten days later; and a 4-member delegation Congressional delegation led by the chairman of the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee on Defense Rodney Frelinghyusen calling on Gen Sharif at Rawalpindi on Wednesday for a briefing on the latter’s visit to Kabul the previous day.

What emerges is that Pakistan is holding all the strings on the Afghan peace process and its full cooperation becomes the single most crucial factor for the success of any peace talks. It is Pakistan that is bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table as well as coordinating with the Afghan government the modalities and the dynamics of the peace talks. And it is also Pakistan through whose good offices the US (and China) would become a facilitator and it is, again, Pakistan which will ultimately have a say regarding the venue of the actual peace talks. To borrow the famous words from the English poet William Wordsworth, Pakistan has become the ‘nurse’, the ‘guide’ and the ‘guardian’ of the Afghan peace process.

All in all, the paradigm shift in Pakistan’s approach to terrorism is leading developments to their logical conclusion. On the other hand, all this would also become an impressive spectacle of Pakistani diplomacy at work. Needless to say, the Pakistani objective will be to develop synergy between the peace talks and a parallel track – or, more appropriately, two tracks – involving its strategic partnership with China and the US. The Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Pakistn shortly. Obama has also expressed the desire to meet with Prime Minister Sharif.

To be sure, an unprecedented degree of coordination and harmony exists today between the elected civilian leadership (and the political class in general) in Pakistan and the military leadership. Prime Minister Sharif called attention to it today and in the ultimate analysis it becomes a tribute to his own leadership.


Failure to address the internal issues

February 24, 2015

The ruling elite is blind to the writing on the wall

Despite being in a constant state of denial the IS (the Islamic State or Da’ish) is here. In cahoots with the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), Pakistan is emerging as their new killing field.

Shi’a minority is being slaughtered like sitting ducks. Jindullah, a splinter group of the TTP, has brazenly accepted responsibility for the most recent attacks in Shikarpur, Peshawar and Islamabad.

The Shi’a organisation Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen is seeking written assurances from the government and its LEAs (law enforcing agencies) for their protection. But, the state in no position to reassure them has proved to be completely impotent in confronting the existential challenge.

The Shi’a are a formidable Muslim minority of the country, by some estimates numbering as much as 35 million. Other minorities like the Ahmedis have also been fair game for years. And owing to years of apathy, society as a whole has somewhat become desensitised to their plight.

The Shi’a, however, are not only formidable but also enjoy regional support. Hence systematically targeting them has grave ramifications in an already complex matrix of our national discourse.

Da’ish and its local proxies, by bringing their onslaught against the Shi’a community from Iraq to Pakistan, have virtually declared war on the state. In cahoots with the TTP it intends to wreak death and destruction on the Pakistani society.

Various spokesmen, military and civilian, unabashedly boast that the operation against terrorists holed up in North Waziristan is bearing fruit. They had also somewhat prematurely claimed that settled areas have been virtually cleared.

But ground realities tell a different story. The recent terrorist attack at the police lines in Lahore, claimed by al Ahrar, another TTP group, amply demonstrates that militants belonging to different hues and colours are on the rampage with a vengeance.

The Shi’a, however, are not only formidable but also enjoy regional support. Hence systematically targeting them has grave ramifications in an already complex matrix of our national discourse

With state institutions and LEAs now being on high alert, the terrorists have found the Shi’a and their worship places an easy targets. The prime minister and COAS are ostensibly on the same page about how to deal with the menace. But as the verse says: Marz barhta gyajoon joon dawa ki (Despite the medicine being administered regularly, the malaise became graver and graver).

Marathon meetings and photo ops, fiery speeches, and tweets expressing the resolve to root out terrorism will not suffice to reassure the citizenry. Since the Peshawar tragedy, despite resolve to the contrary, the security situation instead of improving is fast deteriorating.

The so-called apex committees, instead of engendering action on the ground, have only contributed to the confusion worst confounded. The other day a number of high profile meetings were held in Karachi presided by the prime minister, with the COAS and DG ISI in tow. The PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari and the Sindh chief minister also attended these high level parlays.

General Raheel Sharif hit the nail on the head by declaring that the apex committees headed by the corps commander should overview politically motivated police recruitments and postings in Sindh. Of course the police force, being recruited and posted by their political masters, is part of the malaise.

But politicians are no longer part of the solution, instead they are part of the problem. With the ruling PPP and MQM again reaching an understanding to share power, de-politicisation of the police and disarming militant wings of political parties operating in the province will be an uphill task.

While addressing a Summit to counter violent extremism recently organised by the White House, US President Barack Obama, while acknowledging Pakistan’s terror woes, underscored that Muslims around the world including Pakistan have stood up for the protection of minorities in their countries.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, presented a five-point strategy at the summit, claiming that such a plan could form bedrock of a global action plan in dealing with the menace. Strengthening local communities and winning the trust of mainstream peace-loving majority were part of his five-point agenda.

Someone should have asked the interior minister what has his government done back home to even start implementing such a plan? Nisar Ali Khan, who as interior minister is mandated with conceiving and implementing counterterrorism efforts, has been woefully long on words and short on actions. Being an erstwhile proponent of talks with the TTP, to the extent of sounding like their apologist, he is hardly the person to apply his heart and mind to the complex task.

Since the Peshawar tragedy it has become an element of political correctness to talk about changing the narrative. There have been half-hearted attempts by the Punjab chief minister to initiate a debate by forming various committees to evolve a new narrative. The Punjab information secretary, Momin Ali Agha, conferred with a select group of media persons on the matter a few weeks ago at a five star hotel in Lahore over a sumptuous lunch. Period.

Minister of planning, Ahsan Iqbal, is also embarked on a similar exercise. His focus is on reforming the media. What his expertise in the field is, apart from giving elusive targets of Pakistan reaching its nirvana, no one knows.

But neither any change from the top nor a societal reformation is visible. Despite terrorists on the rampage and Shi’a minority being targeted with impunity, hardly any outrage has been expressed by the so-called civil society or for that matter society as a whole.

I was shocked the other day to see a photograph of a signboard on a mosque forbidding entry of Shi’a on its premises

After the Charles Hebdo massacre in Paris the French came out in thousands to protest against what they considered an outrage. But nothing shocks us anymore.

Neither does the ubiquitous clergy go out on a limb to unequivocally condemn terrorism. How many ‘khateebs’ in Friday sermons even dare to mention the TTP, leave alone condemn them?

The malaise is only partly fear of the terrorist backlash. More so, it is an ideological commitment or rather lack of it. I was shocked the other day to see a photograph of a signboard on a mosque forbidding entry of Shi’a on its premises.

As a result, the government, our security apparatus and the society, by and large, have become ‘be-hiss’ (insensitive). As for changing the narrative, apart from a minuscule minority no one in the echelons of power has the political will to tinker with it.

According to the state mantra, Pakistan is a victim of terrorism with the Indian intelligence agencies fanning it and not a problem festered by decades of flawed policies. Of course we claim (and now tweet as well) that there are no good or bad terrorists for us and we are pursuing them without any distinction or discrimination. But are we really walking the talk?

Under the twenty-point National Action Plan hate speech is deemed to be a crime. But those heading so-called proscribed outfits unabashedly spew intolerance and hatred from the media as well as the pulpit.

To talk about imbibing secular and pluralistic values in consonance with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s teachings has perennially remained a no-go area. The so-called protectors of a mythical Pakistani ideology pounce on such ‘wayward elements’ with full force.

Our ruling elite refusing to read the writing on the wall is the real tragedy of Pakistan. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

For Pakistan

ISIS in South Asia

February 24, 2015

Recent weeks have brought a bevy of news headlines attesting to the rising profile of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in South Asia.

The group’s literature has circulated in Pakistan, and its flags have been spotted in Kashmir. Several Pakistani militant commanders expressed their allegiance to ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Alleged ISIS recruiters were arrested inPakistani and Indian cities. Officials in Afghanistan declared that ISIS is “active” in the country’s south. Most significantly, last month ISIS’s spokesman officiallyannounced the group’s expansion into what he identified as “Khorasan” — a region encompassing present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Despite all this, some observers, including those writing for the South Asia Channel, argue that ISIS will not make major inroads in South Asia anytime soon. They may be right. ISIS has broken with al Qaeda and considers it a rival, it adheres fiercely to Salafism, and it rejects the legitimacy of other sects of Sunni Islam — including Deobandism. By contrast, most South Asian militant groups are Deobandi and closely allied with al Qaeda. For these reasons, South Asian military groups won’t exactly welcome ISIS to their neighborhood with open arms.

Still, let’s not get complacent. There are three distinct scenarios under which ISIS could position itself to become a potent force in South Asia.

  1. South Asian splinter groups gravitate to ISIS.

Jihadist outfits in South Asia, and particularly the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, are notoriously fractured. Several renegade factions, no longer tethered to al Qaeda, have announced their allegiance to ISIS. That’s no surprise. As I have written previously, Taliban splinter groups are remarkably similar to ISIS in their particularly barbaric acts and the technological savvy with which they publicize them on social media.

As analyst Arif Rafiq has pointed out, a variety of disaffected jihadists could conceivably enter the ISIS fold. These include “disgruntled commanders” of the Haqqani network and members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (a Salafist organization with links to Pakistani intelligence) frustrated that the group is not attacking India. Another potential set of candidates are Afghan Taliban hardliners that could abandon their organization should it pursue reconciliation with the Afghan government.

Admittedly, many South Asian militants’ pledges of allegiance to or support for ISIS are merely rhetorical and have sometimes been mistaken for formal expressions of allegiance. There is little reason to believe anything will come of them. However, ISIS has formally integrated renegade South Asian militant leaders into its ranks. They include Hafiz Saeed Khan and Abdul Rauf Khadim, appointed by ISIS as the top leaders of the Khorasan faction. Khan is a former Pakistani Taliban commander, while Khadim — who was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan earlier this month — is a former Afghan Taliban leader and Guantánamo detainee. Additionally, Mufti Hassan Swati, a Peshawar-based leader of the Khorasan faction, has been affiliated with Ahrar-ul-Hind — a Pakistani Taliban splinter group established last year.

  1. South Asian militant groups forge opportunistic partnerships with ISIS.

Despite their very serious differences with the group, South Asia’s major militant organizations could forge marriages of convenience with ISIS. Within South Asia’s murky militant milieu, alliances and rivalries are anything but permanent. The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are ideological allies and operational partners, but they often disagree with each other’s tactics (the former has accused the latter of being too barbaric) and have even fought against each other. The Haqqani network has ties to Pakistani intelligence, but some years back, the group, then led by a young commander named Baitullah Mehsud — later the anti-state Pakistani Taliban’s first supreme leader — took up arms against the Pakistani military. Additionally, rival factions of the Pakistani Taliban have fought each other, only to later seek reconciliation.

South Asian militants have a lengthy track record of shifting allegiances. In recent years, Ilyas Kashmiri, Asmatullah Muawiya, and Mast Gul — all one-time strategic assets of the Pakistani state — have renounced their ties to their patrons, and shifted their support to the anti-state al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban.

Stripped down to basic ideologies and tactics, there is little that separates South Asian militant groups from ISIS. There are already indications that Pakistani jihadist groups have been incorporated into ISIS’s operational and strategic plans. Security analysts contend that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, arguably Pakistan’s most powerful sectarian extremist group, is fighting for ISIS in Iraq. Recall as well that ISIS has invoked the name of Aafia Siddiqui in its proposed prisoner exchanges. Siddiqui, a Pakistani women imprisoned in Texas on terrorism charges, is a cause célèbre in Pakistan — but outside of that country relatively few people, including militants, say much about her. This suggests the presence of Pakistanis within ISIS’s ranks, or at least an effort to recruit them.

Even the most significant barrier to cooperation between South Asian militant groups and ISIS — the former’s close ties to al Qaeda and the latter’s estrangement from it — may be surmountable. Recall the militants who terrorized Paris last month. While the two men that attacked the Charlie Hebdo office claimed allegiance to al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, the man who assaulted the kosher grocery store — and who appears to have coordinated his actions with the Charlie Hebdo attackers — was linked to ISIS. Apparently ISIS’s split from al Qaeda does not preclude collaboration.

  1. ISIS goes global.

ISIS’s operations have largely been restricted to Syria and Iraq. It has given little indication, despite bluster and threats to the contrary, that it intends to expand its operations beyond the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). However, ISIS could discard this parochial strategy in favor of one that pursues affiliates around the world. In South Asia, this could bring more strategic direction — not to mention arms, money, and manpower — to ISIS’s Khorasan unit in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There are several reasons to fear that ISIS might go global. First, it is already expanding its reach across MENA. In recent months it has staged attacks inLebanon and Libya, and formally announced its presence in five different areas of MENA. Second, one of the group’s chief objectives — governing the large areas it controls in Syria and Iraq — has become increasingly difficult. Reports are emerging of breakdowns in basic services in areas it controls, and the group is starting to suffer battlefield defeats near its strongholds, such as the Syrian town of Kobani. These travails, should they intensify, may convince the group that terrorizing territory worldwide makes as much sense as taking it over locally. In effect, a frustrated ISIS may conclude that blowing things up in Rawalpindi is just as appealing as nation-building in Raqqa.

To be sure, even if all three of the scenarios outlined above materialize — and that is a big if — ISIS would still struggle to strike it rich in South Asia. It would face daunting region-specific challenges, including a less sectarian environment than the one it has expertly exploited in Syria and Iraq, as well as security forces that, unlike those in Iraq, would be willing to fight the group from the start.

However, even if ISIS fails to comfortably set up shop in South Asia, its mere attempt to assert itself could bring much bloodshed. Jihadists pledging support to ISIS could battle with those rejecting it. ISIS may try to one-up al Qaeda’s new South Asia affiliate, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, which claimed responsibility for an assault on Pakistani naval assets last year, by ordering attacks in the region. ISIS’s efforts to gain a foothold in South Asia could provoke a bloody regional turf war.

In effect, ISIS could destabilize South Asia even if its bid to achieve preeminence there falls short.


China not happy with Modi’s visit to Arunachal visit

February 24, 2015

As is custom, a wrap-up of some pieces worth reading on security and defense from across the web:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on Friday, assuring the state’s residents that the central government would direct more resources toward its development over the next five years. Arunachal Pradesh is disputed, almost in its entirety, by China, which claims it as part of South Tibet. The Chinese government condemned Modi’s visit to the state, noting that it  “runs counter” to a settlement of the India-China border dispute. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying added, “We urge the Indian side to take China’s solemn concerns seriously.” Arunachal Pradesh, in part owing to its sensitivity as a disputed territory, has traditionally been a low development priority for the Indian government. After coming to power last year, Modi’s government, particularly under the guidance of Home Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju, an Arunachal native, has made the state’s development a priority.

Graeme Wood’s piece on ISIS, Islam, and strategy over at The Atlantic made a major splash on social media earlier this week. The piece certainly warrants a thorough read if you missed it — it helps fill an important gap in our current liberal discourse on ISIS, addressing the extent to which the group is actually Islamic. Wood’s piece is especially pertinent following the White House’s recently concluded Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (see President Barack Obama’s closing remarks here).

The Asia Foundation released the results of its first nationwide survey of public opinion in Myanmar. Their research offers a valuable insight into what the general public in Myanmar thinks about the country’s ongoing political reforms. In general, the public are optimistic about the country’s political future but care primarily about positive economic outcomes. The study, however, reveals considerable nuances on other issues, including democracy and gender issues.

Over at War on the Rocks, Dennis J. Blasko outlines 10 reasons why China “will have trouble fighting a modern war.” This piece is a must-read for anyone interested in getting a run-down of the outstanding weaknesses in the People’s Liberation Army. It touches on everything from chain of command shortcomings to institutional issues. As Diplomat authors, including Greg Austin and Franz-Stefan Gady, have highlighted, taking the Chinese military as a threat without considering its weaknesses is unwise. Any prudent analysis of China’s military evolution must take into account the large blind spots and capability gaps that continue to plague the PLA.

Bill Gertz over at the Washington Free Beacon reports on a North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test. North Korea’s been testing its missiles quite a bit over the past year. I covered in detail the capabilities of North Korea’s Kh-35 variant anti-ship missile recently for Asia Defense.

The United States finally delivered $1.97 million in damages to the Philippines for damage done by the USS Guardian to a protected Filipino reef. The Guardian, a minesweeper, damaged the Tubbataha Reef just over two years ago after running aground.

IHS Jane’s 360 reports that Indonesia and Croatia are exploring a defense technology partnership. Indonesia would potentially be the recipient of submarine and satellite technologies from Croatia.

Finally, I speak with Asia Defense writer Greg Austin on our geopolitics podcast this week. Greg and I discuss China’s naval capabilities (including the role of aircraft carriers), cyber issues, and Australian national security.


The genocide of Sikhs

February 23, 2015

Sardar Inderbeer Singh of the Internationally Disputed Areas of Jammu and Kashmir (IDA:JK) wrote on his Timeline of Facebook: “Saka nankana Saheb de shaheedaan nu yaad kardey hoiee saari [fb] sangat ikk vaar zarur likho ji < dhan gursikh shaheed>” wrote that the Sikhs must write about the Genocide of Nankana Sahib carried out by a Sadh Narainoo. Indeed, Sardar Inderbeer Singh’s suggestion is worth considering and remembering that the Nankana Sahib’s genocide carried out by a Sadh Narainoo had been a heinous crime committed against the “Humanity of Mankind.” This genocide of Sikhs took the lives of more than 125 innocent Guru-de-Sikhs, including infants, children, youth, male and female folks, elderlies, etc.

It is far more important to remember, too, the Genocide of Sikhs, commonly known as the “Jaito-da-Sakka;” the place which is about 20-mile from the Bhatinda Junction, PUNJAB alias the “robbed” PUNJAB of 15th August, 1947. Why is it important for the Sikhs to remember the “Genocide of Sikhs alias Jaito-da-Sakka?

It is important to remember the Nankana Sahib Genocide of Sikhs, along with the Genocide of Sikhs in the era of 15th August, 1947, in which the toll of the Sikhsor their lives lost had been 3.2 to 3.4 million or 32-lac to 34-lac. That is one million is equal to 10-lac for those who do not know what does a ‘lac’ word mean? Besides, there had been genocide of Sikhs in Amritsar in 1978 or the “Nirankari Kaand;” along with an ‘undeclared’ war waged on the Sikh Nation alias the PUNJAB of 15th August, 1947. This ‘undeclared’ war had been carried out by the Brahmins-Hindus-Turbaned Brahmins-Baniya of the alleged Indian demo[n]cracy in the name of a brutal military “Operation Bluestar” of June, 1984. It was done to exterminate the Sikhs and citizens of PUNJAB of 15th August, 1947. Also, one of the prime reasons was to destroy the Darbar Sahib Complex, Amritsar, which includes the Supreme Institution of Sikh Polity, The Akal Takht Sahib and the soul of the Sikhs. Cabinet Minister Rajnath Sinh, a colleague of a criminal, murderer and the organizer of “Genocide of Muslims of Gujarat, 2002-2003 (while Chief Minister of Gujarat named Narendra Damodar Modi), presently the Chief, Council of Ministers, the New Delhi administration (NDA), has confirmed that the “Operation Bluestar” of June, 1984 was indeed the “Genocide of Sikhs’. Further, genocide of Sikhs was carried out by the NDA administration in October-November, 1984 by the alleged Indian demo[n]cracy. It is also necessary to remember that the present Chief Minister Hanera Sinh Badal, his colleagues of Akali Dal, and a non-Akali Amarinder of Patiala had the prior knowledge that an “Undeclared” war on the PUNJAB of 15th August, 1947 was going to be waged.

The Sikhs have to remember that in the “Genocide of Jaito”, the forefathers (father Raghuraj Singh and grandfather Ranjit Singh) of Hanera/Prakash Sinh Badal sided with the British rulers. They both had been instrumental to kill the Sikhs in jathas going to “Jaito” to participate in themorcha/demonstration. The members of the jathas/teams were not given any water and food (Langar) while passing through the village Badal. Hanera Sinh Badal’s father, grandfather and their bootlickers/Chaplianchutt poisoned the well-waters and the langar (food). So, following the consumption of the poisoned water and food, the Sikhs died by poisoning; thus they had been prevented to reach”Jaito” town, on Bhatinda-Ferozepore segment of the Northern Railways (Open Letter To Jathedars from Shromani Khalsa Panchayat. <khalsasawroop@yahoo.com>, pp 18. Charanjit Singh Khalsa 98146-61984).

It should be noted that anti-Guru Khalsa Panth activities of Hanera Sinh Badal, his clan and colleagues have been continuing since the Jaito-Morcha. Members of Guru Khalsa Panth should excommunicate entire Badal (Hanera Sinh Badal’s near and dears) from the Guru Khalsa Panth.

Problem here is who is to issue the excommunication orders/Hukamnama(e) to Hanera Sinh Badal and joe-boys and joe-girls, when the jathedars wandering in The Darbar Sahib Complex, Amritsar, are his “sycophants”? Well, nothing is impossible and static in this world. The day is not that far when anti-Guru Khalsa Panth forces have to be accountable and to be punished by the Guru Khalsa Panth.


Some facts about Maoist movement in India

February 23, 2015

In the night of February 12, 2014, some 15 armed cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) hacked a tribal, identified as Samuel Badra (50), to death in the tribal-dominated Pattamunda village under Pallahara Police Station limits of Angul District. Maoists left some posters at the incident site claiming he was punished for being a ‘police informer’.

On February 3, 2014, Maoists shot dead a contractor, Laxmi Narayan Patnaik (23), in broad daylight at the weekly market in Trilochanpur under Lanjigarh Police Station limits in Kalahandi District. Again, posters left behind claimed that Patnaik was a ‘police informer’. The Maoists had killed the victim’s brother Ajit Patnaik on July 27, 2011, in the same area.

Since the beginning of 2015 the Maoists have killed five civilians in Odisha.

On January 8, 2015, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik complimented the Odisha Police for achieving ‘zero casualties’ among the Police and Security Forces (SFs) in 2014 in dealing with Left Wing Extremist (LWE) violence, while killing at least six Maoists in the year during exchanges of gunfire between the Police and extremists. The Chief Minister also noted that, in 2014, Maoist activities had been brought ‘under control’ across most of the State, with the exception of nine Districts: Malkangiri, Koraput, Nuapada, Raygada, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Balangir and Baragarh. “These Districts should be in our focus. All possible steps should be taken to counter the Leftwing extremist activities in these areas,” Naveen Patnaik declared, adding that there had been progressive improvement in the overall Naxal (LWE) scenario in the State with respect to frequency of violence, organisational activities, recruitment and mass mobilisation by the extremists.

According to partial data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Odisha recorded 41 fatalities in LWE-related incidents in 2014, including 31 civilians, one belonging to SFs and nine LWEs, in comparison to 54 fatalities in 2013, including 22 civilians, seven SF personnel and 25 LWEs.

Fatalities in Left-Wing Extremist Violence in Odisha: 2010-2015*


Security Force personnel
LW Extremists












Source: SATP, *Data till February 15, 2015

While the Chief Minister drew satisfaction in the claim that the State Police suffered no casualty, media reports indicated that one Special Police Officer (SPO), identified as N. Munda, was killed by the Maoists at Bandhugaon near Rourkela in Sundargarh District on August 15, 2014. This does not, however, detract from the fact that the SFs deserve credit for sharply reducing fatalities among personnel from 19 in 2012, to seven in 2013, to just one in 2014. Significantly, the fatalities suffered by Maoists in Odisha also reduced to nine in 2014, from 25 in the previous year (2013), even as civilian fatalities increased from 22 to 31, indicating that both sides were trying to avoid direct armed engagement.

The increase in civilian fatalities in 2014 over the preceding two years is clearly a cause for worry. This trend suggests that, even while the Maoists are exercising extreme caution to avoid confrontation with the SFs, their efforts at political consolidation and the quiet elimination of opposition on the ground continue.

In terms of geographical spread in 2014, fatalities were recorded in just five Districts – Koraput (14, including 10 civilians and four Maoists); Malkangiri (21, including 19 civilians and two Maoists); Nuapada (one Maoist), Rayagada (one civilian) and Sundargarh (four, including one civilian, one SF trooper and two extremists). In 2013, fatalities had been recorded in seven Districts – Malkangiri (35, including 18 civilians, one SF trooper, 16 Maoists); Koraput (seven, including two civilians, four SF personnel and one Maoist); Nuapada (four, including two civilians and two SF personnel); Rayagada (four LWEs); Balangir (two LWEs); Bargarh (one LWE); Gajapati (one LWE). However, in terms of civilian and SF personnel fatalities caused by Maoists, Malkangiri and Koraput continued to dominate the scene. Balangir, Bargarh and Gajapati, which recorded fatalities in 2013, were free from such killings in 2014; while Sundargarh was added to the 2014 list.

There was just one major incident (resulting in three or more fatalities) in 2014. On April 27, 2014, Maoists killed three villagers within the Mathili Police Station limits in Malkangiri District. 2013 had seen three major incidents. Nevertheless, the 2014 total of civilians killed by Maoists was significantly higher, as the rebels killed civilians at fairly regular intervals in 24 incidents, suggesting relatively poor levels of general security.

In 2014, LWEs engaged in exchange of fire with SFs in 25 incidents in 13 Districts: Koraput four; Malkangiri three; Ganjam three, of which two were with the breakaway Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP); Sundargarh three, all of which were with the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI); Sambalpur two; Kandhamal, two; Balangir, two; Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Boudh, Angul, Deogarh, and Kalahandi, one each. In 2013, LWEs engaged in exchanges of fire with SFs in 21 incidents in 10 Districts: Malkangiri six; Balangir, three; Rayagada, three; Bargarh and Sundargarh, two each; Koraput, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Sonepur and Nuapada, one each. Exchange of fire incidents were thus reported in three more Districts in 2014, over 2013; moreover, seven of these Districts (Boudh, Angul, Deogarh, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur, Sambalpur and Ganjam) had not recorded any such incidents in the previous year.

Among other activities, Maoists were involved in six explosions (five in Malkangiri and one in Nuapada), six incidents of arson (Nuapada and Rayagada, two each; Bargarh and Koraput, one each) and gave calls for bandhs (general shutdown strikes) on two occasions in 2014. In 2013, Maoists had been involved in four incidents of explosion (three in Malkangiri and one in Koraput); seven incidents of arson (Malkangiri, two; Koraput, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Sundargarh and Rayagada, one each); and gave calls for bandhs on nine occasions.

A Maoist camp was discovered at Golluru in Koraput District along the border with Vizianagaram District of Andhra Pradesh in November 2014. Located being in a valley where little previous activity had been noticed, neither the Vizianagaram nor the Koraput Police had envisaged the possibility of a Maoist camp at Golluru.

An analysis of over ground and underground activities indicates that two Districts – Malkangiri and Koraput – remain highly affected; Nuapada and Sundargarh Districts are now moderately affected; while Gajapati, Ganjam, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Kandhamal, Balangir, Nabarangpur, Boudh, Angul, Deogarh, Kalahandi, Keonjhar and Rayagada remain marginally affected. In 2013, three Districts (Koraput, Malkangiri and Nuapada) were highly affected, five were moderately affected and seven were marginally affected.

2014 was marked by several significant achievements in the fight against LWEs. One was the arrest of Sabyasachi Panda on July 17, 2014. Panda had broken away and been expelled from CPI-Maoist in August 2012, and had created his own outfit, the OMP immediately thereafter. He made efforts to consolidate the anti-Maoist LWE space in the State with the subsequent formation of the Communist Party of India – Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (CPI-MLM) in May 2014, but his marginal group was quickly decimated.

Another crucial arrest was that of Tella Anil Kumar alias Chandu (40), who carried a reward of INR 4 million [INR two million announced by the Odisha Government and INR two million by the Andhra Pradesh Government], in Koraput District on February 1, 2014. He was part of the nine-member ‘core committee’ of the Andhra Odisha Border State Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the CPI-Maoist, headed by Central Committee (CC) member Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna alias (RK). Chandu was next in importance only to RK in the AOBSZC and was heading the Maoist ‘intelligence wing’ in the Malkangiri, Koraput-Srikakulam and East Visakha ‘divisions’. He was operating in Koraput, Malkangiri, Visakhapatnam rural and Vizainagaram Districts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Other significant arrests in Odisha during 2014 included: ‘assistant commander’ Sumitra Kunwar [reward money: INR 400,000]; Singa Kattami alias Mahesh, who was in charge of protection of Maoist leader Udaya, the ‘divisional secretary’ of the Malkangiri division [reward money: INR 100,000]; Tulasi Mangingi [reward money: INR 100,000]; Palu Wadeka [reward money: INR 100,000]; ‘area commander’ Mino Hikoka alias Bikas; and ‘commander’ Katru Tadingi. According to SATP data a total of 49 LWE-related arrests were made in 2014.

In a major breakthrough, Nachika Linga, president of the Narayanpatna-based Maoist front organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), surrendered on October 28, 2014. His surrender was preceded by that of over 2,400 CMAS cadres in 2013, leaving the organisation virtually dysfunctional. Other significant surrenders in 2014 included Deva Padiami alias Sandhya (30), who surrendered on March 8 and carried a cash reward of INR 500,000 on her head. She surrendered after the arrest of her husband Tella Anil Kumar alias Chandu. Padiami was a ‘divisional committee member’ heading the Boipariguda area committee and Gupteswar local squad. She was instrumental in setting up base at Ramagiri, Gupteswar and Boipariguda in Koraput and in areas, bordering Malkangiri. Other significant surrenders included Bhima alias Rushi Sodhi [reward money: INR 400,000]; Jambo Mandingi alias Walsi [reward money: INR 200,000], and Sandhaya alias Shivabati, Jakrius Munda, Harun Munda and Jeetan Bari, each carrying a reward of INR 100,000. Another four Maoists, including ‘area committee’ member Krishna Praska, along with Kosai Wateka alias Nirmala, Raju Hikoka alias Kiran and Durjan Mandingi carrying rewards of INR 100,000 each also surrendered in the State. According to SATP data, a total of at least 94 Maoists surrendered in Odisha in 2014.

To deal with the LWE challenge more effectively, the Odisha Police have proposed the establishment of an additional two Special Armed Police (SAP) battalions in the State. At present there are 13 OSAPs and eight India Reserve Battalions (IRBs) in Odisha. Further, 17 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) battalions – eight of the Border Security Force (BSF); eight of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF); and one of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) – are currently deployed in Odisha. On February 2, 2015, Chief Minister Patnaik demanded another two CAPF battalions from the Centre, to check the possible influx of Maoists from Chhattisgarh, as pressure on them was likely to increase due to anticipated increases in Force concentration in Chhattisgarh. However, on February 4, 2015, Arun Kumar Ray, Additional Director General (ADG) of the Odisha Police in charge of OSAP, stated that the deployment of CAPFs for anti-Maoist operations and law and order maintenance was a major financial burden on the State Government. The Centre had demanded INR 13 billion from the Odisha Government towards cost of deployment of CAPFs. Odisha has a Police-population ratio of 124 per 100,000, as of December 31, 2013, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, significantly below the national average of 141.

Bridging the ‘development gap’ has long been a critical component of the State’s anti-Moist strategy, but Odisha’s performance on this parameter has largely been found wanting. Koraput District spent only 13 per cent of the INR 300 million sanctioned to it under “Additional Central Assistance (ACA) for LWE Affected Districts” [previously the Integrated Action Plan (IAP)] for 2014-15, till December 31, 2014. During the ongoing financial year, the Administration took up 555 projects, of which only 51 projects worth INR 38.8 million were completed. Further, on November 21, 2014, the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, while answering a question in the Odisha State Assembly, disclosed that there were as many as 1,647 posts of doctor, that is, 34.02 per cent of the sanctioned strength, were vacant in Odisha. This is unsurprising, considering earlier observations about civil administration in the State.

Meanwhile, BSF and CRPF have sought improvement of 18 ‘critical roads’ in LWE-affected pockets in Odisha. Of the 18 road projects, the BSF wants the Odisha Government to take up seven in Koraput District alone. Similarly, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur Districts have three and two such road projects, respectively. The CRPF has also suggested development of six road projects in Nuapada, Kalahandi, Keonjhar and Sundargarh Districts.

Reflecting a measure of callousness in the attitude of the state towards the victims of LWE violence, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its 2014 reports on Odisha, observed that scrutiny of 41 cases of ex-gratia payment to civilians killed by LWEs in the Koraput and Rayagada Districts revealed that, in 28 (68 per cent) cases, payment of ex gratia to families was made with delays ranging between 10 months and 28 months.

With the arrest of Sabyasachi Panda and the surrender of Nachika Linga, the Maoists in Odisha have lost the services of their most violent face and their most prominent front organisation in the State. This provides a unique window of opportunity to the State to step up its efforts. However, the rising number and regularity of civilian killings makes it clear that the LWEs continue to retain considerable strength, and are making systematic efforts for their organisational revival.


In the name of humanity

February 23, 2015

More than 1,000 people formed a “ring of peace” Saturday outside Oslo’s main synagogue at the initiative of a group of young Muslims.

The event in the Norwegian capital follows a series of attacks against Jews in Europe, including the terror attacks in Paris in January and in neighboring Denmark last week.

One of the eight independent organisers of Saturday’s event in Oslo, Hajrah Arshad said the gathering shows “that Islam is about love and unity.”

“We want to demonstrate that Jews and Muslims do not hate each other,” co-organiser Zeeshan Abdullah told the crowd, standing in a half-circle before the white synagogue. “We do not want individuals to define what Islam is for the rest of us.”

“There are many more peace-mongers than warmongers,” he added.

Norway’s Chief Rabbi Michael Melchior sang the traditional Jewish end of Sabbath song outside the synagogue before the large crowd holding hands.

Co-organiser Hassan Raja said it was the first time he heard the song.

Ervin Kohn, head of Oslo’s Jewish community, called the gathering in sub-zero temperatures “unique.”

Several European countries have seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents recently, starting when the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza intensified last year.

In Paris, three Muslim gunmen killed 17 people at a kosher grocery, the offices of weekly Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere in early January. Last week a single assailant in Copenhagen killed a Jewish security guard outside a synagogue and a Danish filmmaker attending a free speech event.

Area 14/8

Kashmiri separatists urged to remain steadfast

February 23, 2015

Chairperson of Dukhtaran-e-Millat Syeda Asiya Andrabi on Saturday urged the separatist leaders to show steadfastness and resolve Kashmir issue according to aspirations of Kashmiris.

“An impression is being created that the ongoing Kashmir movement for which lakhs of people offered unflinching sacrifices has died down. The movement has been transferred to younger generation and it is high time for the pro-freedom leaders to show steadfastness and take the movement to its logical conclusion in accordance with aspirations of Kashmiris,” Asiya said addressing a function to release a book ‘Pakistan Naguzeer Tha’ (Pakistan was inevitable).

The voluminous book has been authored by late Syed Hassan Riyaz and abridged by incarcerated separatist leader and chairman of Muslim Deeni Mahaz, Dr Qasim Faktoo who has been serving life imprisonment for past over 22 years.

The book was released in presence of Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Muhammad Yasin Malik, president of High Court Bar Association Advocate Mian Qayoom, Jamaat-e-Islami spokesman Advocate Zahid Ali, Zamrooda Habib Chairperson Muslim Khawateen Markaz besides representatives of various separatist parties. “All pro-India leaders including Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Dr Farooq Abdullah should bear in mind that Kashmir movement is still alive and will never die as it has been nourished with sacrifices of Kashmiris,” she said.

Hailing Pakistan for extending diplomatic and moral support to Kashmir movement, Asiya said “Kashmir will one day become part of Pakistan,Inshallah.”

“The book is originally based on various chapters and dwelts on all aspects responsible for creation of Pakistan in 1947. On the request of my incarcerated husband, I got it from Pakistan. For people of Kashmir, he compiled it in one volume,” she said.

“My husband has spent over 22 years in jail and did not even waste a minute. He has dedicated his life for the freedom of Kashmir from forcible control of India. His unflinching sacrifice symbolizes resilience and resolve of Kashmiris to achieve their goal,” she said.

On the occasion, Tehreek e Hurriyat general secretary Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai who presided over the function said formation of Pakistan in 1947 was imperative for Muslims. “The condition of Muslims in India was such that formation of Pakistan was inevitable. Jinnah realized the idea of Pakistan as conceptualized by Alama Iqbal. After 68 years, we can see miserable plight of Muslims in India,” he said.

Sehrai said despite challenges Pakistan has been extending diplomatic and moral support to Kashmir movement.

“India has been using all means to break the resolve of Kashmir and even change Muslim majority status of the state to suppress ongoing freedom movement. Since 1947, some Kashmiris have been helping India to suppress aspirations of Kashmiris. Sheikh Abdullah (NC founder and also known as Mir Abdullah of Kashmir synonymous as traitor) strengthened ties with India by inking accord with Indira Gandhi.

“Time is ripe for Kashmiris and separatists to shun any differences and work together for the just cause,” Sehrai said. Published in Greater Kashmir on February 22, 2015.

For Pakistan


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers