Thursday, August 20, 2009

Escalation of LoC infiltration worries New Delhi

NEW DELHI: Last week, speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed to the existence of “credible information of ongoing plans of terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out fresh attacks.”
His warning, classified data exclusively obtained by The Hindu shows, came in the context of a marked escalation of infiltration across the Line of Control: the first reversal of a steady reduction seen since 2005.
From a historic low of 126 last year, figures compiled by the Jammu and Kashmir police show, an estimated 236 jihadists crossed the Line of Control from January to July this year. By way of contrast, the estimated infiltration stood at 1,504 in 2002, when Pakistan scaled back support for jihadist groups in the face of Indian war threats and mounting international pressure.
So far, the surge is yet to bring about an increase in violence. The Jammu and Kashmir police records show 58 civilians were killed from January to July, down from 147 in 2008 and 170 in 2007.
The losses of security force personnel have also continued to decline: 39 police and military personnel were killed between January and June, down from 85 last year and 122 in 2007. The number of attacks targeting Indian forces has also fallen, from 217 in 2007 to 129 in 2008, to just 51 till June-end this year.
Jammu and Kashmir has seen a steady dip in violence since 2001, when 1,098 civilians were killed and 1,258 injured. Six hundred and thirteen security force personnel and 2,020 terrorists also died. The State has seen no fidayeen attack since 2007, when there were two strikes, down from a high of 28 in 2001. Nor were there any car bombings over the past two years, as against 13 in 2005.
But the reversal in infiltration trends has fuelled fears that Jammu and Kashmir could see a renewed wave of violence.
Mobilisation Pakistan’s apparent failure to shut down training camps run by anti-India jihadist groups underlies these fears. On Tuesday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters that “even today, dozens of terrorist camps are functioning actively in Pakistan soil.”
Both the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Indian intelligence officials say, have continued to operate facilities, despite recent promises.
Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, wanted for his role in the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar, is building a sprawling new seminary outside his home town of Bahawalpur. In addition, recruits continue to be trained at a facility near Fort Abbas, near the India-Pakistan border in Punjab.
Lashkar commander Muzammil Bhat, who is believed to have trained the fidayeen team that attacked Mumbai in November 2008, is now believed to have taken operational control of the organisation. His predecessor, military chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is in jail, awaiting trial for his alleged role in the carnage.
Last year, the western media reported that Muzammil Bhat — also known by the aliases ‘Yusuf’ and ‘Mohammad Muzammil’ — had been arrested in a military raid on the Lashkar’s main training base in the Shawai Nullah, near Muzaffarabad. However, Pakistan did confirm the claims.
Indian intelligence sources said Mr. Bhat was sighted at a new Lashkar training facility that has come up some 30 km from Muzaffarabad in the Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
Earlier this year, the newspaper Roznamcha Jasarat reported that a rally held in Muzaffarabad attracted “thousands of people, including the representatives and leaders of Pakistan’s banned organisations Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkat-ul- Mujahideen, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, in addition to the leaders of the Muttahida Jihad Council.”
Later Pakistani authorities promised to shut down the Lashkar-linked Falah-i-Insanyiat, a charitable trust, after reports emerged in May that it was working among refugees from Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. No action, however, was taken. In many south Punjab towns and villages, government sources said, the Falah-i-Insaniyat label has been used to keep open Lashkar offices.
Most worrying, from India’s point of view, is Pakistan’s failure to legally proscribe the Lashkar’s parent organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and prosecute its chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.
Last month, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told Parliament that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa was among 25 organisations proscribed in Pakistan. It later emerged, though, that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa had merely been removed from a list of charities and not banned.

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