India’s top security expert said that five South Asian countries hit by the menace of terrorism should form a common brain trust to jointly deal with the threat. Security expert B. Raman, Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies said this in Chennai while referring to the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
Asked about the speculation that the terrorist group Harkat-u-Mujahideen (HUM), which maintained close links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could be responsible for the :Lahore attack, Raman said in an interview, “If it turns out that the HUM had a hand in it, either it might have carried it out at its own instance to express its continuing solidarity with the LTTE or at the instance of the LTTE, which has not been able to carry out any successful terrorist strike in Sri Lanka recently.”
The expert also warned that as the LTTE is finally defeated and its terrorist infrastructure in Sri Lanka neutralised, it could try to keep the movement alive through acts of terrorism in foreign countries.
“Jihadi terrorism emanating from the sanctuaries in Pakistani territory has assumed a pan-sub-continental dimension equally threatening all the countries of the sub-continent– Afghanistan, Pakistan, , India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” he said. “It is time these countries constitute a common counter-terrorism brains trust to deal with this threat jointly. Otherwise, they will continue bleeding separately.”
Raman pointed out that HUM is the closest ally of the LTTE in Pakistan. “LTTE has had a long history of relationship relating to arms supply and drug smuggling with HUM”.
He also said that Pro-LTTE members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora and the terrorist organisations of the world with which it has had fraternal ties such as the Hizbollah and the HUM would come in handy especially at a time the movement is routed in Sri Lanka.
Raman said that it was illogical for the BBC to rule out the possibility of either the direct or indirect involvement of the LTTE on the ground that there are Tamils like Muthtiah Muralitharan in the Sri Lankan team. “The LTTE had killed a number of prominent Tamils of Sri Lanka, who had distinguished themselves in various fields. It has been using thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields to protect itself from final defeat. Why should it have qualms over the killing of Sri Lankan Tamil cricketers?” he asked. “The LTTE is now a desperate organisation. It can do desperate things.”
Raman said that the HUM came to the notice of the Indian intelligence for the first time in 1993 when it supplied a consignment of arms and ammunition to the LTTE, which was loaded into an LTTE ship at Karachi with the complicity of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
It came to notice in Kashmir in 1995 when it kidnapped some Western tourists under the name Al Faran. It was after this that the US designated it as a foreign terrorist organisation in October,1997, under its then name of the Harkat-ul-Ansar.
Attack On Sri Lankan Cricket Team And Pakistan
It would, perhaps, be useful to recount a brief description of the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan. Sri Lankans were heading to the Gaddafi Stadium for the third day’s play in the second Test when they were ambushed in a gun, grenade and rocket attack.
“This morning around 0845 local time there was an unfortunate incident where the Sri Lankan team’s bus was targeted by the terrorists. They even fired a rocket which narrowly missed the bus,” the Pakistan Cricket Control Board statement said. “It was the presence of mind of the bus driver that despite the attack he drove the bus fast to the Gaddafi Stadium. At least seven players and one team official received bullet injuries.” The test match was organized after India refused to play in the aftermath of Mumbai massacre. – Sir Lankan Cricket Control Board came under heavy fire for allowing the team to go to Pakistan after India and Australia refused to go. An opposition lawmaker reportedly said “Sri Lanka rushed in where others fear to tread”.
New Zealand has reportedly cancelled its tour program to Pakistan. International Cricket Control Board (ICC) officials have cast doubt over Pakistan continuing as co-host of the 2011 World Cup along with Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. ICC President David Morgan vowed international cricket would continue but said security surrounding top-class cricket globally would change forever. Vaughan said it was too early to talk about moving the 2011 World Cup from the four South Asian countries as all have security problems. International Tennis Federation (ITF) postponed tennis tournament in Pakistan scheduled this month in Karachi because of security concerns in the wake of the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team. Luca Santilli, the ITF manager of junior tennis, said that the attack that killed six police officers and injured seven Sri Lankan players in Lahore was not the only factor in postponing the March 16-21 tournament but it was more the general atmosphere of insecurity in the country.
It is evident that Pakistan is increasingly being isolated because the democratically elected government is perceived to be unable to control the physical security of the people. The country is already suffering over concerns of food and energy security. The Western world, particularly the US, is far from happy over the efforts Pakistan is putting in its fight against al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The agreement reached with Maulana Fazlullah over the imposition of Islamic Sharia law in Swat and adjoining areas has greatly upset the West. But in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Pakistan President Asif Zardari rejected the criticism saying that it was part of a process to wean away the moderates from the insurgents. He added that “terrorist attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore shows once more the evil we are confronting”.
Western critics, however, fear that the Swat agreement could encourage other extremist elements in their belief that extremism pays off at the end as it has been said that if Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons like that of Kim Jong- il perhaps the US would not have invaded Iraq. The reaction from the Islamic world represented by the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) is yet to come into public domain. The reason could be that 50 plus countries with different political, cultural and linguistic background, bound only by a common faith, may have different views though on the issue of terrorism the Muslims are no less determined than others that this scourge has to be stamped out .
The question that agitates minds of some is whether despite the peace and justice being firmly embedded in Islam as a religion, its twisted interpretation by few and broad absence of democracy in most of the countries of OIC could ultimately bring the West face to face with Muslim world uncertain of its commitment to the basics of Islam due to factional strife stemming from different interpretation of Islam but convinced of the unjust treatment of fellow Muslims, both Diasporic and on the Palestinian issue. Pakistan’s inability to control Islamic terrorism is partly due to its political complexities most recently caused by a judgment of the Supreme Court barring the Sharif brothers from holding any government office because of their conviction in corruption charge. Muslim League (N) followers are agitating on the streets of Pakistan protesting the judgment and thus further deepening the political crisis in the country. The fragility of democracy in Pakistan at a time when President Obama is sending 17000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan may remind us of Parvez Hoodbhoy’s question: can Pakistan work?
South Asia expert Stephen Cohen, however, contests the thesis that Pakistan is doomed to be a Taliban state. He admits that “while most Pakistani Muslims are devout, they are not radical…Indeed the most important conflict in Pakistan is not a civilizational clash between Muslims and non-Muslims but one between different concepts of Islam, especially how the Pakistani state should implement the Islamic identity”. As for the Pakistani army, Cohen thinks, “it does not want to provoke a war with Delhi or allow the Islamist extremists to acquire significant power in Pakistan”
. In sum, all countries of South Asia must cooperate in every possible way, if necessary by compressing elements that a country concerned may consider to be part of its national interest, to control and annihilate terrorism in this region and in the world. Example abound of inter-state conflicts being set aside for the peace and welfare of the people as the challenges of the twenty first century would be about food, water and environment than military preeminence.
Global meltdown could prove to be a pigmy if the Goliath of terrorism is not done away with.
(Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Ambassador and Secretary of Bangladesh)