Wednesday, October 28, 2009




"While the Pakistan Army has prepared itself well for the counter-insurgency style operations in South Waziristan, its ability to prevent attacks behind its back in the NWFP and Punjab is doubtful. Despite the spurt in suicide and commando-style terrorism in the NWFP and Punjab and even in supposedly well-guarded cantonments since the Lal Masjid raid in July,2007, the Pakistani counter-terrorism machinery has not re-fashioned and re-tooled itself to meet this threat. ....There is a danger of the NWFP and Punjab becoming the failed provinces of Pakistan if the Army's offensive does not succeed." ---- Extract from my article of October 17,2009, titled THE PAK ARMY OFFENSIVE IN SOUTH WAZIRISTAN available at

Over 90 innocent civilians----many of them women and children---- were killed in a timed or remotely-controlled car bomb explosion in a busy market area of Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, on October 28,2009. Reports from Peshawar indicate that the car packed with explosives had been left unattended by two men wearing police uniform near a Shia mosque about three hours before the explosion. The unattended car did not attract the suspicion of the policemen on duty in the market area.

2. This has been the second deadliest terrorist strike in Pakistan-----the first being the suicide explosion in Karachi at the time of Benazir Bhutto's return from exile on October 17,2007, in which nearly 180 persons were killed.This has been the deadliest terrorist strike in the history of Peshawar and the third strike this month. The previous two took place on October 9 in which over 50 persons were killed in a suicide explosion in a market place and on October 16 involving 16 fatalities.

3. The local police had claimed to have identified and arrested the ringleaders of the previous incidents. Despite this, the attack of October 28 took place. This calls into question the credibility of the police claim.

4. There has so far been no claim of responsibility for the latest explosion. On the contrary, Pakistani electronic media have quoted alleged sources in Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as denying responsibility and condemning the explosion as the work of anti-Muslim elements.

5.The denials need not necessarily be true. The public outrage over the wanton killings of women and children would have made it unwise for the perpetrators to admit responsibility.

6. The fact that the explosion coincided with the visit of Mrs.Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, to Pakistan, gave the explosion a political colour as meant to express the protest of the perpetrators against the continuing US drone strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the tribal belt and against Pakistan's continuing co-operation with the US in counter-terrorism. The current military operations by the Pakistani Army against the Mehsud component of the TTP in South Waziristan is viewed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements as undertaken at the behest of the US.

7. The NWFP is the traditional homeland of the Pashtuns and the cradle of the Pashtun culture. Over the years, it has had pockets of secular thinking and traditions nurtured initially by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, and maintained subsequently by his successors in the Awami National Party (ANP), which has been in power in the province as part of a coalition since the elections of last year. It has also been supporting the ruling coalition in Islamabad and has managed to maintain good relations with President Asif Ali Zardari.

8. In recent months,there have been reports that the US, which in the past kept away from the ANP due to a perception that it was a leftist, pro-communist party, has started interacting with its leaders and inviting some of them to visit the US. The fact that the Pashtun followers of the ANP have remained steadfast in their loyalty to the ANP and its secular ideology and have kept away from the Afghan as well as Pakistani Taliban has been a sore point with the TTP leadership.

9. Despite this, will the TTP target the Pashtun followers of the ANP and indulge in an orgy of killings of Pashtun civilians in Peshawar and other places? The TTP attacks in the Malakand Division, including the Swat Valley, largely targeted the security forces, but in Peshawar the perpetrators have been targeting Pashtun civilians as well as the security forces. There is also an anti-Shia angle to these attacks because the Shia Pashtuns support the ANP, which is seen by them as a protector of the Shias.

10. Sources in the ANP seem to believe that the repeated attacks on civilians in Peshawar are being carried out by elements in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, both allied to Al Qaeda. This serves the purpose of discrediting the ANP-led Government in the NWFP and at the same time sparing the TTP of unpopularity for slaughtering innocent Pashtun civilians.

11. What should be of special concern to the US and other members of the international community in the light of the deteriorating situation in the NWFP is the danger of the growing anarchy in the province enabling Al Qaeda to lay hand on Pakistan's nuclear waste stored in the province for being used in a dirty bomb. (29-10-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Hi All

The biopsy report was received today. It has confirmed high-grade malignancy in the urinary bladder--prostrate region.The doctors say they are not yet certain who is the enemy. They have prescribed one more test today. Results will come on Nov.3. Thereafter, the urologists, who have been treating me till now, will consult cancer specialists and decide on the course of the treatment, which may have to be aggressive. Regards. B.Raman. 28-10-09



Since 9/11, one talks of old and new terrorism and modern and post-modern terrorism. The reference is to the modus operandi (MO) and tactics used by the terrorists and their ability to use modern scientific and technological innovations for planning and committing acts of terrorism. Their use of modern innovations increases the lethality of their acts of terrorism, but, at the same time, increases their vulnerability to neutralisation by the security agencies. One saw in Mumbai in November, 2008, how the terrorists' use of modern means of communications facilitated not only their acts of terrorism, but also the investigation by the police.

2.After 9/11, the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar, has emerged as a modern insurgent force capable of planning and launching conventional-style attacks as well as sophisticated, complex, multi-target and multi-MO attacks involving the use of modern means of communications and weaponry. This should account for its successes against the NATO forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA) in certain areas and its vulnerability to neutralisation by the NATO forces in other areas due to the interception of its communications.

3. As compared to the Neo Taliban,the Maoist insurgents of the tribal belt in Central India are an old-style insurgent force still using tactics and MO such as ambushes, attacks with landmines and conventional weapons etc of the kind used by the communist insurgents of Malaya in the 1940s and of Myanmar and Thailand in subsequent years. Their strong points are not their weaponry, but the support from large sections of the tribal community in whose midst and on whose behalf they operate, their superior knowledge of the terrain and their non-dependence on modern means of communications.

4.The support of the community and their non-dependence on modern means of communications should explain the difficulties faced by the intelligence agencies in collecting human and technical intelligence about them. Their superior knowledge of the terrain gives them an advantage over the security forces. Clandestine, undetected movement through the terrain comes easily to them, but not to the security forces heavily dependent on modern means of transport for their movement.

5. The objective of any counter-insurgency strategy against the Maoists should be not to defeat them, but to deny them successes through better tactics and better MO by the security forces. This would be possible only with the support of the tribal community. Winning over the tribals through better governance, better development and better redressal of their grievances against the State has to be the core component of this strategy. Disproportionate use of force against the Maoists and the tribals supporting them would drive more tribals into the arms of the insurgent leaders.

6. Better tactics and better MO by the security forces would mean better capability for the detection and neutralisation of landmines, better skills in ambushing insurgent groups on the move and a capability for rapid intervention. The facts that there have been more instances of successful ambushes by the insurgents of the security forces than of the insurgents by the security forces, that deaths of members of the security forces due to landmines continue to be high and that a group of insurgents managed to stop the Rajdhani Express from Bhubaneshwar to New Delhi for over five hours on October 27,2009, without any counter-action by the rapid intervention forces speak of major deficiencies in our counter-insurgency capability.

7. The incident of October 27 underlines the need for a specially-trained and equipped special intervention force capable of operating rapidly and stealthily in the rural areas. The National Security Guards (NSGs), who were used to counter the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, are specially trained and equipped to intervene in terrorism-related situations in the urban areas. A similar force for rapid intervention against the Maoists in the rural areas is necessary.

8. Since the Maoist insurgency has spread over a wide geographic area coming under the jurisdiction of the police forces of a number of states, the command and control of the counter-insurgency operations becomes more difficult than in the case of terrorism. Should there be a centralised operational command and control or should the command and control remain the responsibility of the police forces of the affected States, with the role of the Government of India confined to co-ordination, guidance, capacity-building in the affected States and facilitation of the counter-insurgency operations? How to ensure better co-ordination among affected States and joint action where necessary? Should there be a joint action command? If so, how shoud it be constituted? These are questions which need attention.

9.Andhra Pradesh has had success stories in dealing with Naxalite/Maoist insurgency----through better intelligence, better terrain awareness, better physical security, better tactics and targetted attacks on key leaders. Its example should be of value to other states.

10. Non-state actors---whether terrorists or insurgents----cannot be defeated like one defeats a State adversary except in exceptional cases such as the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Sri Lankan security forces. The LTTE, under Prabakaran, conducted itself like a State and paid a heavy price for it. Non-state actors can be made only to wither away through a sustained campaign of attrition with the support of the community. The campaign will be long and has to be sustained. One should not expect quick results.

11. Hard rhetoric and war cries have no place in counter-insurgency. A State, which is perceived by the community as caring for the people, has greater chances of prevailing over the insurgents than a State, which is seen as indifferent to the problems of the people. (28-10-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )