Friday, December 26, 2008

Pakistan redeploys 20.000 troops to Indian border

Left: Indian Border Security Force soldiers keep vigil at the western sector of India-Pakistan international border at Ranjitpura village, Rajasthan state, India, 25 Dec 2008. (Photo: AP)

Witnesses say hundreds of troops are moving eastward from Pakistan's northwestern border with Afghanistan, where soldiers have been fighting al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Pakistani officials said that the troops deploying to the Indian border were being diverted away from tribal areas near Afghanistan. The move is likely to frustrate the United States which has been pushing Pakistan to step up its fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants near the Afghan border. The Pakistani army and air force have both, been put on high alert.

Two intelligence officials said the army's 14th Division was being redeployed to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border. They said some 20,000 troops were on the move. Earlier, a security official said that all troop leave had been canceled.

In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government has sought to sustain a regime of diplomatic pressure over Pakistan by tapping the United Nations and influential powers in the West and continue to reiterate to Pakistan that “all options will be kept open.” India was able to secure a UN Security Council adjustment to resolution 1822, (June 2008) which called for adding four Pakistani citizens (Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Haji Muhammad Ashraf, Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq and Zaki Ur-Rehman Lakvi) and three organizaitons (Al Akhtar Trust International, Al-Rasheed Trust and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba) on its list of those censured for terrorist activity.

The Indian Foreign Ministry has also advised a travel warning of Pakistan to its citizens, which was linked to the reported arrests of three Indian citizens by Pakistani security officials in connection with bombings in Lahore and Multan -- news that has been greeted with skepticism by the Indian press.
"Indian citizens are therefore advised that it would be unsafe for them to travel [to] or be in Pakistan," said a spokesman for the foreign ministry in New Delhi.
The tensions with India were further stoked by Pakistan's former President and Army Chief of Staff, Pervez Musharraf. Speaking at a wedding reception, he said: "As long as the army is here, India dare not even look at Pakistan with a dirty eye. We have the capability to defend ourselves."

Left: More than 170 people died in the three days of attacks in Mumbai between November 26 and November 29, 2008. (Photo: AFP)

On December 10, 2008, the UN Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee approved the addition of four alleged high-level members of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba -- a group which Pakistan outlawed in 2002 under US pressure, a year after Washington and London listed it a terrorist group. It is since believed to have emerged under another name, Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

In April 2006, the U.S. Department of State listed Jamaat-ud-Dawa as terrorist organizations for being an "alias" of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba -- to its Consolidated List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 1 of UN Security Council resolution 1822 (2008) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. An update of those consolidated on the List is accessible on the Committee’s website at the following url.

Even though, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has been banned by Pakistan, the group also plays humanitarian and political roles within the country, That branch of the group, called Jamat-ud-Dawa, is involved with helping to run schools and hospitals. As a result, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jamat-ud-Dawa enjoy popular support among the Pakistani public, who see them as social groups.

However, a spokesman for a Jamat-ud Dawa denied any linkages to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and said that the organization condemned the Mumbai attack.
"We condemn the killings of civilians. We condemn such killings in a terrorist activity, and at the same time we condemn it happening in the shape of state terrorism, as we see in Srinagar, Kashmir," Abdullah Muntazir said.
Left: Indian authorities say up to 43,000 people have died recently in violence against Muslims in Indian held Kashmir, but human rights groups and non-governmental organizations put the death toll at twice that estimation.

Mr Muntazir was referring to reports of Indian army atrocities and right wing Hindu extremism against Muslims in Indian administered Kashmir, known as Jammu and Kashmir, which has been central to the 61-year edifice of enmity between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan is also sovereign over a portion of Kasmir. The majority of the population on all sides of the international line in Kashmir are Muslims. China was granted a piece of the province by Pakistan. The areas of Raskam, and Shaksgam valley of Baltistan region were ceded to the People's Republic of China in 1963 with the proviso that the settlement was subject to the final solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

During partition of British India, all the provinces which were Muslim majority were supposed to have gone to Pakistan. Subsequent UN Security Council resolutions call for a referendum among the people to decide the fate of Kashmir however, the pre-conditions for the plebiscite have never been met nor has a vote been administered.

During the course of its engagement with the Kashmir Conflict, spanning 23 years (1948-1971), the United Nations Security Council passed 23 resolutions, which were aimed at mediation and resolution of the conflict. Following the 3rd Pakistan-India war of 1971 the UN involvement completely ended with the signing of the Simla Agreement in 1972, an Indo-Pak peace agreement, which laid emphasis on adopting a bilateral framework to solve the Kashmir imbroglio and kept the UN out of the picture afterwards. India and Pakistan also fought wars during 1947-8 and in 1965.

Since the UN resolutions were enacted under Article 35, Chapter VI, of the UN charter, which meant both parties had to consent to any proposals and enactments under Chapter VII that are compulsory, India chose to reject the major breakthroughs in the impasse. Instead the Hindu state claimed that Kashmir was an integral part of its nation and refused to remove its military presence in the area or comply with many of the resolutions.

The ostensibly, charged Indian rhetoric has been interpreted by Pakistan as a signal that India may launch a pre-emptive strike veiled as a retaliatory incursion against certain sectors who have been deemed suspects in Pakistani Kashmir and elsewhere inside Pakistani territory. Over the course of past month the Pakistan military has been preparing to defend the integrity and security of the nation. The Pakistani Air Force has flown fighter aircrafts in exercises in a show of their preparedness to both, India and internal constituents.

India on its part has marshaled high level security meetings involving Manmohan Sing, the prime minister and the defense minister meeting with the three armed services chiefs, the Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor is reported to have visited Siachen and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir on the international line with Pakistan -- Line of Control (LoC).

Left: On May 28, 1998, Pakistan announced that it had conducted five (simultaneous) nuclear weapons tests, in response to the same number of nuclear tests by India. Although, India set off its first nuclear device in 1974. India has never signed the Non Proliferation Treaty and only went public with its nuclear armaments program earlier in May of 1999, by setting off the five underground nuclear explosions.

On Dec 22, 2008, senior Indian government officials assessed that overblown Pakistani fears and propaganda as well as, media speculation have led to assumptions by Pakistan's defense apparatus that India was about to launch a surprise military strike. Nevertheless, these armed maneuvers, parliamentary initiatives and attenuated bellicose rhetoric on both sides are indicative of a marked and dangerous escalation of the military ante.

The anticipation of the Barack Obama administration inauguration on January 20, 2009, may herald a change toward an ameliorative agenda in the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, the reality of the dependence of the US military on Pakistani contribution toward the safety of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan as well as the security of supply lines may temper any major policy change, that would compromise the long-standing relationship.

Left: The US drone air strikes are extremely controversial and undermine the authority of the Pakistani state. The US has also approved special forces raids inside Pakistan territory, Both types of assaults will undoubtedly, be increased as the scheduled 30,000 US troop increase takes hold in Afghanistan and ultimately kill more Pakistani civilians -- as "collateral damage."

For some time now, patience with Islamabad has been waning in western capitals including Washington. American and NATO troop casualties in Afghanistan continue to rise, leading the U.S. to complain that recently launched Pakistani offensives in some of the semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border were not enough. Islamabad has conversely complained that US air strikes and raids inside its territory compromise efforts on the war against extremism.
North West Frontier Province governor, Owais Ghani, said that he would be "deeply concerned" about any increase in unilateral US airstrikes in tribal areas.

"This has a great backlash in the public sentiment, public opinion," he said. "It seriously undermines the much needed backing of the population. Therefore it is very, very undesirable, and if it continues I think the pressure is already building up. If that goes beyond a certain point and people react, no government, political or military, will be able to continue. So I think that it's very important they understand the implications."
Left: Pakistani protesters burn an Indian flag during a rally in Karachi, Pakistan on Friday, December 26, 2008.

The current row between the nuclear neighbors threatens to revive the intense periods of hostility, which propelled them into three wars since the partition and their independence from British colonial India in 1947. The British dominion in the subcontinent would over time become liberated as the independent nations of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Syed Saleem shahzad, of Asia Times wrote at the wake of the Mumbai attacks on December 2, 2008, "there is now the possibility that Pakistan will undergo another about-turn and rethink its support of the 'war in terror.' It could now back off from its restive tribal areas, leaving the Taliban a free hand to consolidate their Afghan insurgency."

Rohan Gunaratna, an analyst at global terrorism opined on December 3, 2008, the terrible attack has major implications for global security and for the new Obama Administration. If India threatens Pakistan, Islamabad will withdraw its 100,000 troops on Pakistan’s troubled border with Afghanistan, where al-Qaida and other resistance groups are based. Such a troop redeployment will dramatically increase the threat to Afghanistan [Read: Nato and US occupying forces] and to global security. The "insurgents" will benefit from such a relocation of the Pakistani army from tribal Pakistan to the Indian border. One could question if the "militants" had conceived this attack with such intentions to ease the pressure on al-Qaida, Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and its associated groups.

Ahmed Rhashid writing as a guest columnist for BBCNEWS wrote on December 10, 2008 -- but had made similar remarks as early as November 27, 2008, on NPR -- pointed out the group that attacked Mumbai may well include some Pakistanis, but it is more likely to be an international insurgent force put together by Wahhabi Salafists, including al-Qaida and the Pakistani as well as Afghani Taliban, who are besieged by the Pakistan army on one side and a rain of missiles being launched by US forces in Afghanistan against their hideouts on the other.

The militants, Taliban and al-Qaida are possibly looking for some relief and a diversion.

What better way to do so than by provoking the two old enemies - India and Pakistan - with a spectacular attack that diverts attention away from the tribal areas?

Such a move would force Pakistani troops back to the Indian border while simultaneously pre-occupying US and NATO countries in hectic diplomacy to prevent the region exploding.

Left: The Mumbai attacks -- which lasted three days claimed more than just 170 lives, while injuring over three hundred, but also derailed a burgeoning "detente" between Pakistan and India -- took place just three days after Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari proposed a "no first nuclear strike" policy with India. It is however daunting in this renewed atmosphere of animosity that both countries have developed long-range missiles capable of striking the other's cities and killing millions.

A diversion such as this would preserve extremist sanctuaries along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and would provide militants with a much needed respite - especially considering that in the next few months President-elect Barak Obama is due to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan, backed by more Nato troops.

If Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is indeed responsible for the attacks -- as Indian authorities claim and Pakistan denies while continuing its demands for proof. India has yet to provide such evidence nor has it shared its intelligence on the Mumbai attacks with Interpol even after repeated request from the international intelligence agency -- it will be the second time that the group has single-handedly put the two countries on a war footing. In 2002 each of the nuclear powers mobilized nearly one million men for approximately a year after Lashkar-e-Tayyiba attacked the Indian parliament.

It is abundantly clear, now as then, that fretful perceptions among Pakistan's national security elite and the majority of its citizenry that the country is surrounded by enemies with various geopolitical motivations who are determined to dismember and balkanize it, especially as missile strikes and cross-border raids into areas long claimed by Afghanistan intensify such discernment.

Left: Namira Salim, the first Pakistani to reach the South Pole, hoists the Pakistani flag at the geographic South Pole. (2008) From aspiring to reach the outer limits of space, inspiring to teach the inner reaches of the human heart and resisting to breach the ends of tyranny on the earth in lieu of liberty, Pakistanis remain in the front lines.

Until that sense of siege is gone, it will be difficult to have a fully fledged partnership neither on the Indian front nor, with elements in the west seeking to export specific political and economic models to South Asia. Pakistan cannot allow itself to become yet, another Muslim state victim, which must be divided, diversified and dwindled as a product of calculated aims of various hegemonic actors, contenders and pretenders.

Over the centuries, many powers have attempted to subdue such pious people of the subcontinent as time has passed so have their tragic sojourn into the lands of these noble yet humble people come to pass.

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