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Not the time to make more overtures to Pakistan

By B Raman
November 08, 2005 15:12 IST
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The three synchronised Delhi blasts of October 29, 2005, have proved -- if further proof was needed -- that the motivation and the morale of the pan-Islamic jihadi terrorists belonging to the International Islamic Front formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998 continue to remain undamaged, despite the successes scored by our security agencies in neutralising many of their sleeper cells.

The assessment by some analysts that the recent severe earthquake in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and in some areas of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province would have severely crippled the capability of the terrorists has not been vindicated.

This assessment did not take into account the fact that a large number of Pakistani and other terrorists, who had been infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India since 1993 and who have not so far been killed or captured by our security forces, still remain available for action. Their number is estimated at around 2,000.

Even in the unlikely event of the infiltration of fresh terrorists from Pakistan dwindling considerably, this number would enable Pakistan and the leaderships of the jihadi organisations to keep the jihadi terrorists alive and active for some years to come.

There is evidence that at least since 2003, their number is being augmented by a flow of volunteers from the Indian Muslim community, a phenomenon which should be of growing concern to our political leadership and security agencies. Even before 2003, there were instances of isolated elements from the Indian Muslim community joining organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which is now coordinating IIF operations due to the weakening of Al Qaeda's command and control. This trend has picked up momentum.

In the past, Lashkar was considered a largely Pakistani organisation led by Pakistanis -- mainly Punjabis and Pashtuns. It continues to be largely led by Pakistanis with close links to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Its membership also continues to be largely Pakistani, but its Indian component has been steadily increasing. Many Lashkar members/sympathisers arrested by our police in recent months in connection with the investigation of various plots hatched by Lashkar for terrorist strikes in places such as Dehra Dun, Bangalore, Kanpur etc were Indian nationals.

The Lashkar activist, who was arrested by the Iranian authorities while he was trying to proceed to Iraq and handed over to the Indian authorities, was reportedly an Indian national. The heads of Lashkar's set-up in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were also believed to be Indian nationals.

Of the four Pakistani members of the IIF -- Lashkar, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami -- only the Lashkar has over the years managed to establish secret cells as far down south as Hyderabad and possibly even in Bangalore and Chennai.

The so-called Muslim Defence Force discovered by the Tamil Nadu police some years ago was believed to be of Lashkar inspiration. The Lashkar would not have succeeded in establishing such secret cells unless it enjoyed the sympathy and support of at least small sections of the Muslim community.

The Arab members of Al Qaeda have not been able to operate in or from Indian territory because of a lack of support or sympathy from the Indian Muslim community.

Lashkar's success in organising terrorist strikes in different parts of the country from time to time and recruiting elements of Indian Muslim youth for providing logistic and other support would not have been possible without the ISI's continuing financial and other backing. The Lashkar is the ISI's blue-eyed jihadi terrorist organisation.

The Pakistani authorities, under international pressure, might have ostensibly banned the Lashkar twice, but they had taken no action against its leadership and activists.

The Lashkar, the Harkat and the Jaish have been declared Foreign Terrorist Organisations by the US State Department -- the Harkat since 1997 and the other two since 2001. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1373, their accounts have been ordered to be frozen. But none of them is short of funds. The funds come from the ISI, the narcotics trade and large-scale commercial activities in different parts of Pakistan in sectors such as real estate, retail trade etc.

The recent earthquake in PoK and the NWFP has been a windfall for them. The Pakistan army, unable to deal with the disaster, has let the jihadi terrorist organisations, whose members are better motivated than those of the Pakistan army, to spread into the remotest villages of the affected areas to provide relief.

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General Pervez Musharraf, while reissuing the order banning these organisations from collecting funds, has closed his eyes to their fund collection. Not only the Lashkar, the Harkat, the Jaish and the Harkat-ul-Jihad, but also Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been collecting funds all over the country with impunity.Harkat-ul-Jihad.

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Much of the funds flowing from Wahabi charity organisations in Saudi Arabia are being channeled to jihadi terrorist organisations and the banned Al Rashid Trust. The appeal issued by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No 2 in Al Qaeda, for contributions is being used in the fund collection drive.

The large-scale fund collection by Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations has been reducing to naught the action taken by the international community since 9/11 to stop the flow of funds to the terrorists. Narcotics money has already been flowing into the coffers of jihadi terrorist organisations for some time now due to ineffective narcotics control by President Hamid Karzai's government in Afghanistan.

The so-called quake relief funds being mobilised by the jihadi organisations -- without being stopped by the Pakistan army -- would go partly, if not largely, for strengthening their capability.

The international community has chosen to remain silent over the disturbing developments in Pakistan. India cannot escape its share of responsibility for this because of its policy of muted reaction to the continuing misdeeds of the military-controlled regime in Pakistan lest any open condemnation come in the way of the so-called peace process -- which is not leading to peace, but only to more bloodshed.

The government must mobilise the international community to pressurise Pakistan to eradicate the activities of not only Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but also the Lashkar and other jihadi terrorist organisations from its territory.

This is not the time to make more and more overtures to Pakistan. This is the time to make it clear to Islamabad that India's patience is coming to an end.

The previous government was unwise to mobilise the Indian Army after the December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament by the Lashkar and the Jaish. One cannot deal with this Pakistan-sponsored evil through overt military action. The time has come to revive the covert action division of Indian intelligence, which was reportedly ordered to be wound up by then prime minister I K Gujral in 1997 and give it the task of hunting for the leaders of Lashkar and other jihadi organisations and the terrorists who have been given shelter in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

We should not let ourselves be fooled by the condemnation of the blasts by Musharraf and the jihadi leaderships and their denial of any responsibility for them. This is the tactics, which they have always followed -- kill and then deny responsibility for the killing.

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B Raman