Home > News > Columnists > Arindam Banerji
The threat in the North East
April 27, 2004
Part I: Beware of Musharraf
Part II: Why are the jihadis targeting children?
Fund-raising by ordinary Pakistanis for terror/mayhem in India
One of the facts that has been reported by multiple sources is that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, better known as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba raised Rs 780 million from donations from ordinary people, during last month's Eid celebrations -- far more, than previous years, according to The Friday Times.
This comes as somewhat of a shock, since the Lashkar, in its brochures, periodicals and posters, is not particularly shy about announcing its intentions or even depicting trophy pictures of dead Indians. While the Jaish-e-Mohammad has openly declared that 'jihad means killing,' the Lashkar has made its motto 'Killing Hindus is the way forward.' So ordinary Pakistanis openly and knowingly raised millions of rupees in a few weeks to support terror in India. Sort of clashes with the outward appearances of mehman-nawazi -- does it not?
Now, let me suggest a simple thought experiment -- To get an idea about what it takes to raise this kind of money in donations -- think about how hard would it be to raise Rs 780 million in donations in a few weeks time in India. Exactly, how much public support would you need to raise that kind of money? While you do think this one through -- remember, a. Pakistan has a seventh of the population of India, b. Pakistan's per capita income is about 20% less than India's, hence, less spending money c. Lashkar is only one of the terrorist groups raising money during Eid and d. raising money for this purpose is explicitly banned, hence illegal in Pakistan.
Perhaps it is most illuminating to start with the report of one particular fund-raising meeting, held for the Lashkar in early March. Mohammed Shehzad, a respected Pakistani journalist, reports:
'The popular perception that only unemployed youth, poor men or school dropouts are attracted by the jihadi outfits proved wrong last week when a section of the country's elite responded overwhelmingly to the jihad call of the country's top militant donating their real estate property, cash, and sons. Hafiz Mohammad Said, the firebrand chief of the defunct Lashkar-e-Tayiba addressed a select gathering in Islamabad at the Ahle-Hadis mosque in the I-8 sector-the secluded enclave of country's top civil bureaucracy, last Sunday.'
It would seem the country's elite will do anything to satisfy their lust for terror and mayhem including giving up large sums of money, land and in some cases, their own promising careers.
'To motivate the audience, Said repeatedly quoted the largesse of the First Muslim Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique. "Would you follow Siddique?' Said posed a question spurring the audience's zeal. The audience was charged emotionally. "I donate my two young sons for jihad in Kashmir and 500,000 cash," announced one among the audience. The 'donor' was a merchant. A woman who was not among the audience but listening to Said's sermon [audible for miles through powerful loudspeakers] sent her jewelry worth 300,000 through her son for the mujahideen's widows. The woman, Dr Rookaya Khan, was a physician.'
'Three brothers -- Asghar, Anwar and Akbar, 19, 22, and 24 respectively -- enrolled themselves for jihad training. Asghar had done his A-level from Beaconhouse [probably the most expensive chain of school.] Anwar was an intern with a five-star hotel. Akbar was marketing executive with a multinational.'
It seems, sacrificing their own children to kill Indians is not too difficult a step, as we see:
'A woman entered the assembly and gave her 2-year baby boy to Hafiz Said. "I am donating him for jihad!" publicised the woman. "We appreciate your donation. But he is too young. Keep him with you as our trust. When he would be a grown up boy, we will train him for jihad and he will earn a good name for you," responded Said. The woman was a landlord. "I am the mother of four sons. What happens if I donate one son for jihad, he embraces martyrdom and earns heaven for all of us!" said she rationalising her decision.'
Shehzad goes on to say, that almost everyone present there donated generously for jihadi terror, with a total collection of about 1.2 lakhs. Of course, collecting money in the name of jihad had been banned by the Musharraf regime since March 2001.
When asked about this open fund raising by a proscribed terrorist group, Pakistani Interior Minister Hayat does his deny-deny-deny-at-any-cost act. 'Hafiz Said was soliciting donations for the social welfare cause under the banner of Jamat-ud-Dawa [the new name of Lashkar-e-Tayiba]. 'Since Jamat-ud-Dawa is not an outlawed outfit and undertakes humanitarian work, therefore, the government cannot proceed against it,' he says.
But, these are not isolated incidents -- in fact, the same Pakistani businessmen who are salivating at the thought of and begging to be able to do business with India, literally fall over themselves to give money to the terrorists. The Daily Times of Lahore, reported on one such fund-raising incident in late November:
'LAHORE: Tehrik Khuddamul Islam Ameer Maulana Masood Azhar on Friday was given millions of rupees by businessmen from Lahore's posh and industrial areas for Kashmiri mujahideen. Maulana Azhar said he would personally deliver the donations to the mujahideen. "He took four sacks full of rupees with him," a TKI source told Daily Times. He met with businessmen after the Friday prayers and asked them to give zakat to mujahideen. He also visited the industrial areas of Lahore on Sheikhupura Road and addressed people at an iftar dinner at a factory.'
Every time Pakistani terrorists execute a 5-year-old Zahida, blow up a 15-year-old Arifa or beat a 9-year-old Nazia to death --we have to remember that the funds for salaries, logistics, arms and potential insurance for these terrorists comes from somewhere. Sure, some of this does come from the Pakistani army and US largesse, but a lot of it comes from ordinary Pakistanis who knowingly write checks to kill Indian children.
The over-whelming mehman-nawazi that Pakistani people have shown to the Indian guests is much appreciated, but they simply must get beyond outwards demonstrations of civility, if they really want peace.
► Peace Dividend #5 -- Ordinary Pakistani citizens in large numbers have been raising previously unheard of sums of money for jihadi terror in India, knowing full well the end-goals of the money -- these fund-raisers have government blessings, the Pakistani people's enthusiasm and involve people from all walks of life
Balkanization efforts increase in the North East
Pakistan has been active in creating terrorism in the North East, since the mid-fifties, starting then with Mizoram. We have been aware since at least 1999, of Pakistani efforts to create a new Islamic country in the North East. But, most of these efforts were primarily tactical support for buying arms and terrorist training. In the last six months, there has been a visible and dangerous up-tick in the Pakistan's attempts to organise terrorism and demographic change in the North East.
Since late fall last year, terrorists caught by India have been confessing to an ongoing demographic warfare, targeted primarily at Assam and also the larger North East. The first actual report from Indian security officials that caught my eye came out in the fall of last year:
'Pakistani military commanders and the ISI have been indulging in a covert operation to separate Jammu and Kashmir in the North, create a Muslim majority state in the North East and carve out another state on the same lines in the South, the BSF officer said. The BSF officer said by engineering mass scale infiltration of Bangladeshis into Assam in the North East, the ISI appears to have managed a foothold in that region. …The interrogations, he said, also revealed that the Southern Peninsula has been the target of the ISI for fomenting trouble in this part of India. Cadres of the Students Islamic Movement of India were in fact being trained clandestinely by ISI operatives with the aim of launching subversive strikes in the country. "They have been indoctrinated to such an extent that now they are talking about balkanizing India by carrying out large scale terrorist strikes," he said.' -- Sify, August 28, 2003
Not surprising -- worrisome, but not surprising. But, this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Then, the Daily Pioneer on December 4, announced a meeting held under the auspices of the Islamic Chattra Shibir to 'organise militancy in Assam, West Bengal and other parts of the country.' ICS, which would be termed as a terrorist organisation in most civilised countries, is the student arm of JEI, a component of the current Bangla government. The participants of the meeting included 'representatives of the Hijbul Mujahideen, the JKLF, SIMI, the MULTA, the Azad Kashmir Front, Lashkar-e-Taya and Al Nasseran from Pakistan.' SIMI is well known and MULTA is a terrorist group consisting of illegal Bangladeshi settlers in India, who want a new sovereign entity for themselves on Indian territory. What was surprising though was the inclusion of a whole host of Pakistani terrorist groups, which have little or nothing to do with the North East. The question arises -- why?
This visibly increasing focus of the ISI on the North East continued in January. On January 18, The Hindustan Times reported about a meeting to be held in Mir Sarai, Chittagong:
'According to intercepts available with Indian intelligence agencies, the ISI has organized a meeting of top terrorist organizations in Bangladesh. The meeting may be held in the next few days. Representatives of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, Bangladesh's Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, ULFA, the People's Liberation Army, the All Tripura Tiger Force and some outfits from the Philippines are likely to attend the meeting. A few Al Qaeda operatives may also attend. There are unconfirmed reports that Pakistan-based United Jihad Council chief and Hizb-ul Mujahideen head Syed Salahuddin will attend the meeting. "Perhaps his name is being dropped to draw good attendance," an official said. Intelligence sources believe that the meeting has been convened to discuss the ways to ''activate'' the eastern and northeastern borders of India.'
Thus, the ISI is developing an operational model for bringing together all terrorist groups in the North East with leadership being provided by Pakistani-based terrorist groups. The ISI funnels arms, helps setup co-operation meetings, provides local media support for anti-India causes (Protham Alo and Itafaq) and in general plays the role of a command and control centre.
Beyond these organisational steps, Pakistan has been refining its tactical presence within Indian territory, by setting up deals with fishermen in Jambudwip and other parts of the Sunderbans. The inaccessibility of these regions makes them ideal bases for terrorist operations. The fishermen in the locality were asked to ferry ISI 'consignments' to fixed locations in India through the Sunderbans and to ensure the entry of some of their trusted men from across the border into Indian territory. In return, the fishermen were promised lucrative rewards and fishing rights in Bangladeshi waters.' This deal making was going on in March.
In March, Asia Times carried a long report on ISI activities in the North East, giving further details, such as: 'The ISI has plans to appoint Pakistan nationals, trained as maulvis (religious instructors) in madrassas (religious schools) and mosques in Bangladesh, particularly the ones that are situated on the India-Bangladesh border. They will also be used for a variety of anti-India activities.'
So, in the last few months, the ISI has significantly increased its secessionist and terrorist activities in the North East. While we do understand the long term goals, the question of 'why now' got answered last week. The short term goal apparently is to cause extreme violence in the North East during the Lok Sabha election.
The Economic Times reported 'About 2,000 new recruits had been taken to rebel camps in the two countries (Bangladesh and Myanmar) for training and were waiting to sneak back into the country before the elections, according to wireless intercepts. The guerrillas plan to kidnap and kill politicians and political activists, bomb election rallies and target government troops to scare people and keep them away from voting, inspector general of police Khagen Sharma said.'
Thus, thanks to Pakistani efforts, India will probably have the bloodiest Lok Sabha elections in recent memory.
The increased Balkanization efforts in the North East do not break the criteria of 'terror from Pakistani soil against India,' but peaceful intentions they surely are not.
► Peace Dividend #6 -- Pakistan in recent months of peace has moved from tactical and logistics support for terrorists in the North East towards full-fledged command and control for short term under-cutting of elections and long-term balkanization.
Back to opinions
For us Indians -- while it is perfectly okay for Vajpayee to lower temperatures just ahead of the polls, let us not delude ourselves by ignoring the ground realities.
For Pakistanis, this allure for terrorism and anti-Indianism may not be as easy to give up, as some may think. Whines of 'Give us Kashmir' are probably going to be fruitless and in any case, not going to solve the main problems, since:
- Pakistan has little economic incentive to give up terror. Pakistan gets about $3 billion a year, only because it remains the crucible for international terroris. Without Pakistani terrorism, the donors would disappear, along with their free money; without this money Pakistan plunges into recession.
- Societal mindset supports terror: Most polls indicate that 45% to 60% of Pakistani adults support jihadi terror, Osama bin Laden, open hatred for other religions. This is also backed up by the huge support for fund raising efforts for jihadi terror -- taking active steps against terrorists, as seen recently in Waziristan, is ultimately politically unacceptable in Pakistan.
- Pakistan is not intent on resolving Kashmir -- but, in causing the disintegration of India, in the North East, Kashmir and other parts from India. Terrorism against India since 1956 has been directed at this purpose; a simple test is the relative economic progresses in PoK and J&K
India is a status quo power -- we are not attacking Pakistan and we are unlikely to give up Kashmir just because Pakistanis are blowing themselves up, carrying out pin-prick attacks or trying to bring down bridges in NYC. It is up to Pakistanis to decide what they want to do.
Backing up their peaceful intent, if such should exist, should be easy enough for the Pakistanis. We will know when the killings in Kashmir stop -- easy enough for us to measure; when Pakistanis en masse stop raising funds to kill people in other countries -- it'll show; when efforts at balkanisation and destabilisation of elections stop -- we'll know through the dropping death tolls. Till these happen, peace efforts will just be a bunch of Indians getting over-excited about the well-known Pakistani mehman-nawazi. Nothing fundamentally will change, till something measurable, something irreversible, changes on the ground.