State Sponsored Terrorism

Indo-Pak Relations - Part 2

Continued from "Partition and Wars"

There is an old saying you can’t choose your neighbours. Indian Ex-prime minister Atal Bihari Bajpai once said you can change friends but not neighbours, in the context of a need for the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of India with its neighbours, particularly Pakistan and China. The secular and democratic India shares this destiny with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, ironically, after the latter was carved out from one geographic entity the British India at the time of independence in August, 1947 in pursuance of the Muslim League and Jinnah’s theory that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations and cannot co-exist together.

Many events following the independence indeed proved hollowness and futility of the two nation theory. Ironically, the decades of discrimination and persecution of Hindus and other minorities in Islamic Pakistan led to the drastic reduction of their population through migration and conversion while in secular and democratic India today Muslim population has grown to almost as much as of Pakistan. The latest case in point was the events of 1971 leading to the worst ever genocide of Bengalis in the then East Pakistan culminating into the Indo-Pakistan War and leading to the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation. Consequently, the recent decades of these nations have been marred with ever growing terrorism and nuclear rivalry, a major threat for survival of the future generations.

Root Cause and History of Terrorism

It is no more a secret as the fact has been now internationally acknowledged and accepted that Pakistan indeed has a significant role in sponsoring the insurgency and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. The chief reason for Pakistan nurturing hatred and enmity vice India since independence has been the merger of the state in the latter against the former’s aspirations. While Jinnah was first to cite Kashmir as the “jugular vein of Pakistan”, subsequent heads of state and army chiefs in Pakistan are known to have ignited and kept the flame alive despite the state’s lawful integration with India.

While the wars of 1947-48 and 1965 between two neighbours with Kashmir as central theme largely remained inconclusive despite India’s dominance and upper hand towards the end of each war, the war of 1972 resulted in a convincing defeat of Pakistan leading to it’s dismemberment and emergence of Bangladesh, unconditional surrender of over 93,000 Pakistani troops including some paramilitary and civilian personnel and loss of a huge territory in Sindh, Punjab and Kashmir regions in the West Pakistan. Besides, this time India didn’t fall prey to the international pressures and insisted settlement of issues only through bilateral negotiation that led to Shimla Agreement in July 1972, under which India graciously granted unconditional release of all POWs, return of the captured territory in Sindh and Punjab provinces, and a host of other concessions to ease tension and normalize future relations with Pakistan .

Obviously, Pakistan could never reconcile with this ignominious defeat and dismemberment by India whom it considers arch-rival in the Sub-Continent, in spite of the fact this outcome was her own creation and an obvious nemesis of wrong doings with own populace. Under Shimla Agreement, India made every effort to assuage acrimony of the past but, it’s obvious, it never worked. The war of 1971 also convincingly established that Pakistan was no match for India in any conventional face-off. Perhaps all these developments only strengthened Pakistan’s resolve to take revenge by fomenting continuous trouble in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere applying all overt and covert means, including terrorism and nuclear weapons.

The history of Pakistan supported insurgency and terrorism in India and Afghanistan can be traced back from the year 1979, when US led Western Forces were trying to counter and expel USSR (now Russia) from Afghanistan. The United States then perceived Pakistan as a potential ally which could provide base and other necessary logistics for their operational ease in return of aid with money and weapons. This was also the time when US and allies were encouraging and actively assisting Mujahedeen groups in Afghanistan with money, weapons and training to fight Soviet backed Afghan government forces. Rest is the part of history now as to how funds and weapons received from the western sources were actually diverted to recruit, train and arm misguided Kashmiri youth and mercenaries from the other Islamic countries in 1980s and beyond to propagate insurgency and terrorism in the Indian state. Over the years, Pakistan ISI and Army actively supported and coordinated insurgency and terrorism in India and Afghanistan under the garb of freedom struggle which has escalated beyond the control of their mentors. Terror machinery created and nurtured over a period of time is now threatening Pakistan’s own existence like a Frankstien’s monster as much as its neighbours - India and Afghanistan.

Consequently, Pakistan too has been a victim and sufferer of terrorism with countless deaths of civilians and security personnel. But Pakistan’s main problem is its widespread, yet mistaken, belief in the establishment and public that the outfits like the Afghan Taliban, Hizbul Mujahedeen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are not terrorists but freedom fighters or good people fighting for a righteous cause in the name of God. So they rather nurture and support Taliban and Haqqani network in Afghanistan and the ones involved in Jammu and Kashmir calling them ‘good militants (or terrorists)’ and Tahrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan as ‘bad militants’.

Terrorist Network and Subversive Activities

The very creation of Pakistan was the outcome of religious bigotry, intolerance and bloodshed with the state of Jammu and Kashmir remaining in the centre stage of conflict between two nations ever since the independence. The ISI and Pakistan army, in their war of attrition against India, through overt and covert means started recruiting a large number of unemployed and misguided Kashmiri youth on either side of the LOC besides drafting Islamic militants of Pashtun, Arabic and Central Asian regions to export terror in Jammu and Kashmir during 1980s and continues thereafter. Consequently, during the last three decades, there have been countless terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India by these terrorist outfits. Terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, operating from the Pakistani soil, has gained notoriety at international level for their inhuman approach and indiscriminate killings of uniformed and civilian personnel alike in Kashmir and elsewhere in India and banned by the United Nations.

Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of 26th November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, and score of other dreaded criminals and terrorists like Maulana Azhar Masood, Sayed Salahuddin and Ibrahim Dawood wanted in India for various terror crimes are freely living and moving in Pakistan. Even Al Qaida Chief Osama Bin Laden safely stayed on Pakistani soil for almost six years before the US intelligence and security forces tracked and killed him. Hafiz Saeed, and now his son too, publicly address hate speeches and call for the jehad against India from the Pakistani soil from the POK and main land. Dawood Ibrahim, popularly known as D-Company, who allegedly coordinated Mumbai Serial Blasts in 1993, is stated to have created his empire in Karachi and Dubai while comfortably operating from Pakistan under the state patronage.

Among numerous terror attacks, two terrorist incidents virtually pushed India almost on the brink of another war with Pakistan. First such incident had occurred on 13th December, 2001 when five terrorists infiltrated the Indian Parliament House in a car with forged Home Ministry and Parliament levels, while both the houses of the Parliament were on and several ministers, members of parliament and senior government officials were present inside the building. In the ensuing battle that followed, this attack left about a dozen people dead and several injured. Subsequent investigations established that the attack was the result of a conspiracy by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed with links in Pakistan. The other incident was a heinous terror attack carried out in Mumbai in the form of shootings and bombings from 26th to 29th November, 2008 by Pakistani terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba. This attack left about 166 people dead, including some foreign nationals, and over 300 wounded. The only terrorist who was caught alive namely Ajmal Kasab, during interrogation confessed terrorists’ link with the master minds in the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan in alleged complicity with Pakistan’s ISI.

Pakistan Sponsored Terrorist Outfits

Several terrorist organizations, extremist and separatist groups are operating and engaged in terror, sabotage and subversive activities in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere. Among more than 30 known major and minor terrorist outfits, the more dangerous, powerful and active outfits in recent years have been Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Slowly but decisively, for more powerful and influential exotic ISIS is also gaining ground in Kashmir and some other parts of the country.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT):
It was founded by Hafiz Saeed in 1990 with Abdullah Azzam as co-founder, who was once upon a time teacher and mentor of Osama Bin Laden. LeT is perhaps the largest, most active and deadliest terrorist outfit in South Asia, mainly operating against India from the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Pakistan mainland. LeT has been accused as major force behind 2001 Parliament attack, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and several other heinous incidents. It has been banned as a terrorist organization by India, USA, UK and European Union. Hafiz Saeed has been now active under the banner of Jamat-ud-Dawa, another camouflaged organization and only recently the Pakistan government has put some restrictions on his activities under intense international pressure.

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM):
After December, 1999 release from an Indian prison in exchange of passengers of the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 held hostage at Kandhar, Maulana Masood Azhar founded Jaish-e-Mohammed. Main objective of the outfit is to separate Kashmir from India, one of the most active and notorious terror outfits which has carried out numerous terror attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, including 2001 Indian Parliament attack. Interestingly, despite a formal ban on JeM by United Nations, US and some European countries, India’s efforts in UN to get its head Masood Azhar listed as a banned terrorist have been repeatedly scuttled by China.

It is a Kashmiri separatist terrorist outfit which was founded by Ahsan Dar in 1985. Currently, it is headed by Sayed Salahudeen, stated supreme commander of the group, who is located in Pakistan. Its terror activities are mainly focused in Jammu and Kashmir and the outfit is banned by India and the European Union. The outfit is stated to be operating under active patronage of ISI and Pakistan army.

Besides, there are several other terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Tahreek-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Jabbar etc. which are believed to constantly assisted and pampered by the ISI and Pakistan army to carry out terror strikes in Kashmir and elsewhere in the name of jihad. Apart from the terrorist groups, certain extremist and secessionist groups such as Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mutahida Jehad Council (MJC) and Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) too are active either with a mission to see Jammu and Kashmir as an independent state or its merger with Pakistan.

Separatist Movement in Kashmir

Pakistan media and government machinery indulges in an aggressive propaganda and disinformation, nationally and internationally, branding insurgents and terrorists active in Jammu and Kashmir as freedom fighters. The ground reality is that Pakistan military and ISI are actively engaged in promoting insurgency and terrorism in the Indian Territory across the border, particularly from the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir by engaging Muslim youth from Kashmir and elsewhere with training, ammunition, financial and doctrinal support. It is also true that many poor, unemployed and religious Kashmiri Muslim youth fall easy prey and are misled to join the coercive and subversive activities giving it the colour of sacred religious duty and freedom struggle. They are even brainwashed to the extent that if they are martyred doing the sacred religious duty, they will find the doors of heaven open for them with dozens of Hurs (fairies, precisely 72) ready to serve them. Unfortunately, these are stark realities that need no alibi.

While insurgents / terrorists / separatists get massive funding and other support covertly from the military and ISI, the separatist outfits get overt political and moral support for their movement from the Government of Pakistan. During the past 25 years or so, thousands of innocent civilians including women and children along with the security personnel and terrorists have been killed and valuable property destroyed in Jammu and Kashmir. August, 2014 was the last attempt for the active engagement at government level when foreign secretary level talks resumed after a hiatus of almost two years was cancelled by India, after Pakistan, despite a clear warning, chose to hold consultation with the separatist leaders of Kashmir valley just before the scheduled meeting.


Major Sponsored Terror Incidents

Amongst numerous incidents of during the past three decades, a few major terror incidents are summarized below:

  1. Serial bomb blasts took place in Mumbai on the 12th March, 1993 killing more than 350 and injuring about 1,200 people. Dawood Ibrahim, the notorious don, is believed to be behind these attacks in following the demolition of a disputed mosque structure in northern India (Ayodhya) in December 1992.

  2. On 1st October, 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in Srinagar was hit by a car bomb and three suicide bombers killing 38 people. According to subsequent reports, Pakistan backed terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed was behind this attack.

  3. The Indian Parliament in New Delhi was attacked by five terrorists leading to the death of about a dozen people including cops and staffers on 13th December, 2001. The incident that forced the two countries on the brink of war was the result of joint operation of the dreaded terrorist outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

  4. In a terrorist attack at the Akshardham Temple at Gandhinagar, Gujarat on 24th September, 2002, 31 people were dead.

  5. In a bombing incident on a commuter train in Mumbai on 13th March, 2003, 11 people were dead, while another incident of bombings in Mumbai on 25th August, 2003 led to the death of 54 people and 244 injured. The Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind this attack and three suspects including a woman were convicted and sentenced to death in 2009.

  6. Serial bomb explosions in a busy market only days before the festival of Diwali in Delhi on 29th October, 2005 killed at least 62 people injuring another 210 people including women and children. The terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba was accused for this attack.

  7. On 11th July, 2006, an incident of train bombing in Mumbai Suburban Railway took a death toll of 209 people and over 700 were injured. The bombs set off in pressure cookers on trains exploded in short span of less than 15 minutes causing havoc on commuters. Earlier in the same year in March, over 28 deaths were reported from bombings in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. A lesser known terrorist group Lashkar-e-Kahar, possibly linked with Lashkar-e-Taiba, claimed responsibility for these attacks.

  8. A heinous terror attack on Mumbai in the form of shootings and bombings from 26th to 29th November 2008 by Pakistani terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba left 166 people dead and over 300 wounded.

  9. On 7th September, 2011, a bomb blast outside the High Court in Delhi led to the killing of 17 people and injury of 76 and reportedly Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami was responsible for this attack.

  10. Simultaneous explosions at the court premises in Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi cities of Uttar Pradesh on 24th November, 2007 led to the death of 21 people.

  11. On 13th May, 2008, bombing incidents in Jaipur, Rajasthan killed 63 people. During the same year, bombings in Ahmedabad resulted in 29 casualties and blasts in Delhi on 13th September killed 21 people. A terrorist group calling itself ‘Indian Mujahedeen’ claimed responsibility for this attack.

The present NDA government is working with the policy of zero tolerance towards the infiltration and terrorist activities. Consequently, more numbers of terrorists have been identified and killed in the recent months. In fact, the Indian security forces have gone to the extent of punitive surgical strikes in the enemy territory with a view to destroying the terror network. This has, however, so far not shown any significant sign of slowing down of the terror activities or the Pakistani resolve to foment trouble in Kashmir as is apparent through increase in frequency of attacks on armed forces personnel and escalation of tension and skirmishes across the LOC.

Two recent instances could be cited for illustration. On 2 January 2016, a heavily armed group of 4-6 infiltrators attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station under the Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force. This led to the death of seven security personnel and five terrorists in the ensuing search operation and gun battle. Though initially a Kashmir based terrorist group United Jihad Council (UJC) had taken responsibility but investigation by the Indian intelligence agencies revealed the role of Jaish-e-Mohammed with a deeper conspiracy hatched near Lahore with Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar as mastermind ‘handlers’ behind the attack. In another incident, 3-5 motor cycle borne terrorists opened indiscriminate firing on pilgrims in a bus on the Amarnath Yatra route on 10th July 2017 killing 8 people mostly women and seriously injuring 18 other pilgrims.

As per South Asia Terrorism Portal, from 1988 to 2017 (July) there has been 44,328 deaths in Jammu and Kashmir alone on account of terrorism. Of this casualty figure, 14,776 were civilians, 6,314 security forces personnel and 23,238 terrorists. The case in point is that the country has paid a very heavy price in terms of loss of life, property and exchequer for maintaining the integrity and safety of the nation.

Acknowledgement and Allegations of Complicity

Although Pakistan has been most vocal to deny its involvement in the terrorist activities in Kashmir, arguing that it only provides political and moral support to the 'secessionist' groups, the US State Department, Indian authorities and many independent organizations and observers are on record and have published incriminating evidence on many occasions in the past linking Pakistan with the state sponsored terrorism.

Besides, Pakistani President Asif Zardari publicly conceded at a conference in Islamabad in 2009 that Pakistan had indeed created and used terrorist groups as a tool in the past to serve its geo-strategic agenda. He is also on record to admit in July, 2010 that militants had been deliberately created and nurtured by the past governments as a policy to achieve some short term tactical objectives. Tribal regions of Pakistan along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have often been termed to be the ‘haven for terrorists’. In October 2010, the former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf too conceded that the Pakistan government trained terrorists against India and pushed thsem into Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview to a German Magazine, he said, “(Militant groups) were indeed formed. The government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.” Recently, again in October, 2014, Musharraf boasted again of using such capabilities of Pakistan to destabilize India in a television interview.

Besides, several independent journalists, authors, political analysts and neutral observers too have commented on Pakistan’s terror links from time to time. A renowned Welsh Author Gordon Thomas had stated in the past that while Pakistan has cooperated US in capturing Al Qaeda members, it is still sponsoring terrorist groups in the disputed state of Kashmir by funding, training and arming them in their war of attrition against India. Dr Daniel L. Byman, a professor at Georgetown University, considered Pakistan as the most active sponsor of terrorism. In an article on terrorism published in The Australian, he wrote, “…Following the terror massacre in Mumbai, Pakistan may now be the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism, beyond even Iran, yet it has never been listed by the US State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.” A renowned journalist Stephen Suleyman Schwartz from Washington, D.C. based Centre for Islamic Pluralism, observed that several terrorist and criminal groups are backed by senior officers in the Pakistani army, the ISI and other armed bodies of the state.

In a video released by Adnan Rashid, self-styled commander of one faction of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan some time back, he disclosed at length modus oprandi of Pakistan ISI and army recruiting, training and misleading Muslim youth from Kashmir and elsewhere in the name of Jihad over the years to use them for terror activities against India in Kashmir.

The author doesn’t want to repeat the respective stand and allegations of the governments in India and Pakistan but one thing is for sure that terrorists cannot be branded as freedom fighters as is being done by certain quarters in Pakistan. The history of freedom struggle in various parts of world is a witness that nowhere ever a freedom fighter has killed innocent civilians, women and children to achieve their objective and goals.

Obviously, it’s not the lack of evidence that is preventing India’s neighbour from acting against the anti-India terrorists on its territory but actually these are her compulsions to carry on the legacy of its geo-political and military strategy which flourishes on anti-India propaganda. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that causing harm to the Indian interests is encoded into its DNA and state agencies are religiously preserving this genetic purity. A few rationalists in Pakistan occasionally debate the dubious ways of the state agencies like the ISI and military but perhaps they have a minority view and the latter have the support of mass population. In fact, the role and authority of military in Pakistan is unquestionable and history is witness that any civilian government cannot survive for long without its patronage and support.

State as Actor in Terrorist Activities

Should Pakistan not realize these facts and pursue the path of reconciliation for the mutual peace and prosperity? The obvious answer should be ‘yes’ but the history of Pakistan has been turbulent since beginning largely dictated by the religious bigotry and anti-India sentiments. There have been frequent military take overs with long dictatorial regimes under Army Generals. In fact, the military regimes have been politically more stable and long-lasting compared to relatively weak and short-lived civilian regimes in Pakistan. The fact is that any civil regime has not survived for long without the military support. Then there is Bhutto clan dominant in politics who for the obvious reasons since partition are known for anti-India crusade. In Pakistan, it has been the compulsion of every civil regime to essentially take the military and ISI along. Hence it is also obvious that any long term settlement for the mutual peace and prosperity would not be possible without the consent and active support of the Pakistan military and ISI.

Will ever sanity prevail?

For any reference from the Indian side about the laxity in handling such elements on their soil, Pakistan invariably poses itself as the victim of terrorism citing heavy casualties suffered in terror incidents to make a case for its innocence. Also as a counter, it charges India for maligning its image before international community besides making allegation of India’s role in troubled Baluchistan. On one hand it blames India for derailment of peace process by discontinuing bilateral talks, on the other hand if such initiatives are taken by India to ease tension and normalize relations, Pakistan resort to belligerent actions like negotiating separatist leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, beheading Indian soldiers or resorting to breach on LOC through intermittent unprovoked firing. Currently, there is a stalemate in Indo-Pak relations and any peace and cooperation appear a remote possibility.

After the present NDA government came in power in May 2014, the Indian government took initiatives at foreign secretary, national security advisor and foreign minister levels to ease tension and open dialogue with a view to improving bilateral relations. At apex level too, the Indian prime minister took personal initiative to make an ex-tempore visit to his counterpart in Pakistan on a goodwill mission. But every time, the initiative was jeopardized either by some terrorist incident in tandem or by creating a diplomatic impasse such as consultation with separatists preceding a formal dialogue. It is a well known fact that in Pakistan, it is the army which calls shot and political leadership cannot prevail without their support.

Current Scenario

After years of dilemma and bickering, the US has finally retained Pakistan in the terror list of its annual ‘Country Report on Terrorism’ in July 2017 highlighting nations which provide "safe havens" to terrorists. The US Department of State has now openly acknowledged that the terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) continue to operate, train, organise and fundraise inside Pakistan and the state has not done enough to destroy terrorist networks or curtail their activities. This is a significant development as it means that henceforth Pakistan will face certain sanctions including restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales, certain controls over exports of dual use items and some other miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

In another move, the US administration has blocked $350 million in coalition support fund to Pakistan after the US Defence Secretary refused to certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against dreaded Haqqani terror network, which is responsible for a number of high-profile attacks on US and Western interests including the deadly 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul. Considering the importance and credibility of the US action in international arena, some other states particularly western US allies may also take similar action in the near future. This is, however, yet to be seen whether Pakistan will learn lessons and curtail terrorism on its soil thereby avoiding the international isolation or it will continue to flex muscles with the nuclear deterrence already under arm and the continued active patronage of China and some Islamic countries.

Continued to "Nuclear Rivalry of Neighbours"


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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