Indian Efforts to secure US support
In addition to stepping up counter-terrorism operations by the Security Forces on the ground, the Government of India has also been trying, since 1991, to draw the attention of the international community to the proxy war being waged by Pakistan against India in J&K and elsewhere and to persuade Washington to declare Pakistan as a State-sponsor of international terrorism as provided for under the US laws. The Indian efforts were focussed on the US because the US was the only country in the world to have a legal provision for such a declaration.
In 1991, the Government of India gave to the US a detailed dossier on Pakistani-sponsorship of terrorism in Indian Territory and sought the declaration of Pakistan as a State-sponsor of international terrorism. The Bush Sr Administration rejected the dossier under the pretext that much of the evidence was based on interrogation reports which were, in the eyes of the US law, suspect due to the possible use of torture by the Indian police.
However, after an attack in 1992 on a group of Israeli tourists in Srinagar by the Kashmiri extremists on the ISI’s instructions, George Bush, then in the midst of his campaign for reelection, came under pressure from the Jewish lobbies to act against Pakistan. He ordered a reexamination of the dossier by the State Department, which now felt there were, after all, strong grounds for action against Pakistan.
“¦the Government of India has also been trying, since 1991, to draw the attention of the international community to the proxy war being waged by Pakistan against India”¦
Before the re-examination was completed, Bush had lost his election and he, therefore, left the dossier to his successor, Bill Clinton, for decision. After assuming office in January 1993, Clinton placed Pakistan and Sudan on the so-called watch list of suspected State-sponsors of international terrorism for six months without actually declaring them to be so.
There were four important developments in 1993:
First, since 1991, the ISI had been repeatedly pressing the Sikh extremist leaders to attack important economic targets outside Punjab and New Delhi, but they were unable to do so. Taking advantage of the strong anti-government feelings amongst some sections of the Muslim community in Mumbai after the communal incidents of December 1992, the ISI asked Dawood Ibrahim, a notorious narcotics smuggler then living in Dubai and now in Karachi, to recruit disgruntled members of the Muslim community of Mumbai and bring them to Pakistan via Dubai for training. He did so and they were trained in the use of explosives and asked to cause explosions directed against economic targets such as the Stock Exchange, the Air India office, etc. Explosives and other arms and ammunition were sent to them clandestinely by boat from Karachi.
Taking advantage of the strong anti-government feelings amongst some sections of the Muslim community”¦ the ISI asked Dawood Ibrahim to recruit disgruntled members of the Muslim community of Mumbai and bring them to Pakistan via Dubai for training.
After these explosions in March 1993, Austrian counter-terrorism experts certified that the hand-grenades given to the terrorists by the ISI had been manufactured in a Pakistan ordnance factory with the help of machine tools and technology supplied by an Austrian company. US counter-terrorism experts certified that an unused chemical timer recovered by the Mumbai Police was part of a consignment supplied by the US Army to Pakistan in the 1980s. After the explosions, the terrorists fled to Karachi via Kathmandu. The Government of India pressed the Clinton Administration once again to declare Pakistan as a State-sponsor of international terrorism. At Washington’s request, the US Consulate in Karachi started making enquiries about the presence of these terrorists in Karachi. The ISI, thereupon, took all of them to Bangkok and kept them in a hotel there till the enquiries of the US Consulate had ceased and then brought them back to Karachi.
Second, on receipt of information that after the collapse of the Najibullah Government in Kabul, different Afghan Mujahideen groups were trying to sell their surplus stocks of Stinger missiles to whoever could afford to buy them, the CIA sent a special team to Peshawar to persuade the Mujahideen to sell the Stingers back to the US. It sought the cooperation of Lt Gen (retd) Javed Nasir, the DG ISI, and his officers in this matter, but they were reportedly unhelpful. Moreover, at the instance of Osama bin Laden, the HUM sent a group headed by Maulana Masood Azhar to Kenya and Somalia, firstly, to persuade the Pakistani members of the UN peace-keeping force not to fight against the Somali insurgent groups and, secondly, to help the Somali insurgents in their fight against the UN troops, particularly the Americans. This HUM contingent was responsible for some of the attacks on the Americans, which subsequently led to the withdrawal of the US troops from Somalia.
Third, since 1992, there were reports that at the instance of Lt Gen Nasir, the T J had started sending out its cadres to Chechnya, Dagestan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian Republics and southern Philippines ostensibly on proselytising missions, but really to recruit volunteers for being trained and armed so that they could start a jehad against the governments of those countries. The Filipino authorities noted with alarm a steep increase in the visits of TJ “preachers” and their contacts with the leaders of the Abu Sayaaf and other Muslim extremist groups. The CIA too was alarmed by these reports.
Nawaz Sharif was shocked when told about this by the US Embassy in Islamabad because the ISI, which had kept him informed of its operations in Indian Territory, had kept him in the dark on its assistance to the L TTE.
Fourth, in May 1993, the CIA was in receipt of reports that the arms and ammunition found on board the L TTE ship, in which Kittu was travelling and which was intercepted by the Indian Navy, had been given to the L TTE by Pakistani narcotics barons in return for the L TTE allowing the use of its ships registered in Greece by these barons for smuggling heroin to Western countries and that the weapons were loaded on to the ship at Karachi with the assistance of the ISI and the Pakistan Navy. The ISl’s action totally defied logic since Islamabad had cordial relations with Colombo and the LTTE was massacring the Muslims of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. Nawaz Sharif was shocked when told about this by the US Embassy in Islamabad because the ISI, which had kept him informed of its operations in Indian Territory, had kept him in the dark on its assistance to the L TTE.
Following these developments, the Clinton Administration demanded that Sharif should remove from the ISI Lt Gen Nasir and other officers involved in promoting terrorism and in encouraging the Afghan Mujahideen not to sell back their Stingers to the US. Islamabad succumbed to the pressure and removed them. Lt Gen Nasir promptly took over as the head of the TJ and continued to assist the Islamic extremist groups abroad in that capacity.
It looked as if the US, despite the removal of these officers, might still declare Pakistan a State-sponsor of international terrorism: Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 21, 1993, James Woolsey, the then CIA Director, said: “Pakistan has supported Muslim militants and Sikh separatists waging terror campaigns against the Indian Government in the States of Kashmir and Punjab. Sudan is the host of a growing number of terrorist groups such as the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah, the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organisation and the radical Muslim Hamas movement. Sudan and Pakistan, while not yet on the State Department’s list of State-sponsors (of terrorism), are on the brink. Last January, the US warned each of these countries that it could soon be listed.” Details of his testimony were carried by the Chicago Tribune of April 22, 1993.
Benazir Bhutto, sent urgent private messages to the White House through her American friends that on her return to power she would stop the ISI activities in support of terrorism.
But, by then, Sharifs troubles with the then President, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and the then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Abdul Waheed Kakkar, had started and it was evident that his days as the Prime Minister were numbered. Benazir Bhutto, the then Leader of the Opposition, sent urgent private messages to the White House through her American friends that she hoped to win the elections and that on her return to power she would stop the ISI activities in support of terrorism.
In response to her messages, the White House over-ruled the recommendation of the Counter-Terrorism Division of the State Department to declare Pakistan a State-sponsor of international terrorism and removed Pakistan even from the watch list of suspected State-sponsors of international terrorism on July 14, 1993, on the grounds that the Pakistan Government had taken some corrective steps with which the US was satisfied. Sudan was, however, declared a State-sponsor of international terrorism.
McCurry evaded questions to spell out the US concerns, which Pakistan had addressed satisfactorily, as claimed by the State Department. However, a joint analysis by R Jeffrey Smith and Thomas W Lippman carried by the Washington Post of July 15, 1993, stated as follows:
US officials said, Pakistani intelligence and army operatives had funnelled money and arms and provided training to Muslim and Sikh militants who opposed Indias rule of Kashmir and Punjab”¦
“Pakistan’s alleged links to terrorism had initially aroused US concerns last year. The Clinton Administration began a special intelligence community study of the matter this spring after receiving what officials said were credible reports of Islamabad’s involvement in terrorism.
“In particular, officials said, Pakistani intelligence and army operatives had funnelled money and arms and provided training to Muslim and Sikh militants who opposed India’s rule of Kashmir and Punjab in 1991 and 1992. US officials also accused the (Pakistan) government of permitting Islamic fundamentalists, who had been involved in the Afghanistan conflict, to engage in terrorist activities in other nations from sanctuary in Pakistan.
“He (McCurry) declined to state exactly what steps Pakistan had taken, but other US officials said the Pakistan Government appears to have ended some of its ties to suspected terrorists and had fired a senior Pakistani intelligence official linked to terrorists in Kashmir.
“At the same time, US officials said, not all of the evidence pointed toward exoneration. Washington has received conflicting reports, for example, about Pakistani involvement in a series of bombings that destroyed buildings in Bombay last March and US officials have been unable to reach a conclusion about who was responsible.
The role of Pakistan in aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir is well documented, so much so that the administration almost placed the Pakistani regime on the 1993 list of State-sponsors of terrorism.
“US officials are also not convinced that army and intelligence employees are complying with what one official called a new attitude by the Pakistani leadership towards curtailing support for terrorism. ‘They are just beginning to reorganise the intelligence agency.’ the officials said.
“McCurry said the US is still awaiting a fuller account of Pakistan’s response to American concerns.
“Pakistan has denied supporting terrorists, but admitted taking steps to respond to US concerns. ‘We flushed out all those groups, who were said to have taken part in international terrorism,’ said Malik Zahoor, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy here (in Washington). ‘Those people were initially helping us in Afghanistan which was our cause and the cause of the US,’ he said. But when ‘they tried to pursue their targets internationally, we rounded up those who we could lay our hands on and sent them to their respective countries.’
The Washington Post continued: “Zahoor also confirmed that the US had “shown to us certain concerns” about General Javed Nasir, the Director-General of Pakistan’s Intelligence Directorate, and said that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had subsequently decided to sack Nasir.”
Much later, on October 18, 1995, the Nation of Pakistan quoted another report of the Washington Post as stating that Pakistani officials investigating a plot by a group of army officers led by Maj Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbasi to stage a coup against Benazir had “found evidence that the religiously-motivated officers (involved in the plot) had strong personal connections” with Lt Gen Nasir. Amongst the reasons for his removal in 1993 cited by the Washington Post as quoted by the Nation was “because he was providing covert military support to Muslim rebels in about a dozen countries” and after his removal he had been travelling worldwide (as a T J leader) preaching militant Islam.
The trained cadres of the HUM and the Lashkar, along with regular Pakistani troops, helped the Taliban in the capture of Herat and subsequently, in 1996, of Jalalabad and Kabul.
Benazir, who returned to power end 1993, did cooperate with Washington in acting against narcotics barons and terrorists in whom the US was interested, but went back on her assurance to the White House to stop the ISl’s support to terrorism in India and other countries. All that she did was:
- First, asked the ISI to interact with the terrorist groups indirectly through cut-outs such as the JEI, the HUM, the Markaz, the Lashkar, etc, instead of directly as in the past.
- Second, persuaded the HUM, the Markaz, the Lashkar and the HJzbul Mujahideen to shift their training camps to Afghan territory under the ISl’s control.
- Third, entrusted Maj Gen (retd) Nasirullah Babar, her Interior Minister, who had headed the Afghan Division of the ISI when her father was the, Prime Minister, with the responsibility for overseeing the IS I activities so that unauthorised rogue actions like the ISI helping the L TTE did not occur again.
Extremist elements from Kashmir and other parts of India continued going to the training camps in Afghan territory and the infiltration of Pakistani and other mercenaries into Kashmir was intensified. In an intervention in the US House of Representatives on June 22, 1994, Bill McCollum, a member, drew attention to Benazir going back on her words. He said: “I rise today to bring to the attention of the House a very important matter. The role of Pakistan in aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir is well documented, so much so that the administration almost placed the Pakistani regime on the 1993 list of State-sponsors of terrorism. However, the administration did not take such action because it was assured by Pakistan that Islamabad was taking credible steps to dissociate itself from the militants in Kashmir.”
He continued: “Recent reports, however, suggest that Pakistan never stopped its aid to the terrorists in Kashmir. A report in the Washington Post, dated May 16, 1994, titled ‘Pakistan Aiding Rebels in Kashmir: Muslims Reportedly Armed And Trained’ by John Word Anderson, datelined Muzaffarabad, gives a first hand account of such assistance by Pakistan to terrorists in Kashmir.
“The State Department has also confirmed this fact in its annual report titled ‘Patterns of Global Terrorism’. I quote: “There were credible reports in 1993 of official Pakistani support to Kashmiri militants.”
‘This fact is further confirmed from a study conducted by the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare titled ‘The Kashmir Connection’, which I would like to place in the record, immediately following these remarks which details the extent of Pakistani involvement in aiding the terrorists in Kashmir.
“This House should take cognisance of this serious issue, particularly as some of those indicted in the bombing of the World Trade Center (at New York in February 1993) had also received training in Pakistan,” he concluded.
“The State Department has also confirmed this fact in its annual report titled “˜Patterns of Global Terrorism. I quote: “There were credible reports in 1993 of official Pakistani support to Kashmiri militants.”
There were certain special reasons as to why Benazir went back on her words with the acquiescence of the Clinton Administration.
First, of the two principal non-Shia Islamic political parties of Pakistan, the JEI was strongly opposed to her and questioned the right of a woman to rule an Islamic country whereas the Jamaat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) (with a strong Wahabi influence) led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman supported her. The Maulana is the godfather of the HUM, the Markaz and the Lashkar and was strongly opposed to any restrictions on their activities.
Second, the Benazir Government as well as the Clinton Administration used the Maulana in end-1994 to create the Taliban from the students of the Wahabi madrasas under the control of the JUI and help it win control of the Afghan territory through which the road to Turkmenistan via Herat passes, in order to pave the way for the construction of oil and gas pipelines by the UNOCAL, a powerful US company, from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. The trained cadres of the HUM and the Lashkar, along with regular Pakistani troops, helped the Taliban in the capture of Herat and subsequently, in 1996, of Jalalabad and Kabul.
The UNOCAL had reportedly contributed heavily to the campaign funds of Bush as well as Clinton of 1992 and amongst the large number of consultants used by it in connection with the project were Senator Hank Brown, who moved the amendment named after him in 1995 to dilute the Pressler Amendment sanctions against Pakistan, and’ Dr Kissinger. Speaking at a reception hosted by the UNOCAL at New York on October 21, 1995, to mark the successful completion of the negotiations with Turkmenistan, Dr Kissinger, in an oblique reference to Benazir’s help in having the area cleared by the Taliban to facilitate the pipelines, praised Benazir, who was represented at the function by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, her Oil Minister, for “her imaginative and courageous decision” to go ahead with the project in spite of the disturbed conditions in Afghanistan. He described her action as one of “great historical significance.”
In October 1997, the State Department declared the HUM (then known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar) as a foreign terrorist organisation under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 1996, following evidence of its involvement in the kidnapping of some Western tourists, including two Americans, under the name Al Faran in J&K in 1995 and in the murder of two American nationals in Karachi.
“¦Nawaz Sharif approved a plan submitted by General Musharraf for shifting the HUM, the Lashkar and the Al Badr terrorists from their camps in Afghanistan to the Northern Areas and use them to help the Pakistan Army in the capture of the ridges in the Kargil area.
Thereafter, it started exercising pressure on Islamabad to act against it. This was intensified in 1998 after the HUM signed bin Laden’s fatwa against the US and Israel. This matter was again taken up by Washington after the hijacking of the IA plane to Kandahar by five Pakistani terrorists of the HUM. Neither Sharif nor General Pervez Musharraf paid heed to the US requests.
The post-1998 period saw the return of Lt Gen Nasir to favour, without any protest from Washington. He was appointed by Nawaz Sharif as his intelligence adviser. Not only that, he made Lt Gen Nasir the head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, which is responsible for the control of the gurudwaras in Pakistan, in an attempt to revive Sikh militancy in the Punjab. (Author’s comment: Recent reports indicated that Musharraf has removed him from the PSG PC, but this is yet to be confirmed.)
In February 1999, when pressure from the US for acting against bin Laden and the terrorist groups operating from Afghan territory increased, Nawaz Sharif approved a plan submitted by General Musharraf for shifting the HUM, the Lashkar and the Al Badr terrorists from their camps in Afghanistan to the Northern Areas and use them to help the Pakistan Army in the capture of the ridges in the Kargil area.
At the height of the Kargil fighting, the Indian authorities intercepted a telephone conversation between Lt Gen Mohammed Aziz, then the CGS, in Rawalpindi and General Musharraf, who was then in Beijing on a visit. By then, the US and other Western countries had started pressing Sharif to order the withdrawal of the intruders from Indian territory. Sharif was apparently worried about the control of the Pakistan Army over the terrorists brought from Afghanistan. Lt Gen Aziz could be heard in the tape telling General Musharraf that he assured Sharif that “the scruff of their neck is in our hands”, meaning the terrorists would do whatever the Pakistan Army asked them to do.
There have been seven hijackings of IA aircraft by Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups since 1971.
Ten weeks after General Musharraf seized power on October 12, 1999, the HUM hijacked the IA aircraft to Kandahar. This was the first hijacking by a Pakistan-sponsored terrorist group since 1984. There have been seven hijackings of IA aircraft by Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups since 1971: All seven were carried out when the Army was in power-five under Zia and one each under Yahya Khan and Musharraf.
In response to US concerns over acts of terrorism from Pakistani territory, General Musharraf made a number of statements on this subject after seizing power. From a careful study of these statements, it would be evident that while he is willing to cooperate with the US in acting against terrorism directed against US and other foreign interests, he considers acts of terrorism against Indian targets as acts of jehad and hence is not prepared to stop them in view of the sacred duty of the Muslims to wage jehad against what they look upon as their oppressors. However, he says that he is opposed to hijacking even as part of jehad and claims that he would act against the hijackers, if found in Pakistani territory. However, he has given no indication of a sincere search for them.
During his visit to South Asia in March 2000, Bill Clinton was very careful in his use of expressions. In India, he condemned the acts of violence against civilians in Kashmir, but was silent on violence against the security forces.
In Pakistan, he referred to the explosions caused by bin Laden’s Al Qaida and the International Islamic Front for Jehad Against the US and Israel in Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam in 1998 and to the activities of the HUM, which had kidnapped in 1995 some foreign tourists, two of them US nationals, in Kashmir under the name of Al Faran, and allegedly killed two other Americans in Karachi in 1995 as terrorism, but to the attacks on Indian civilians in Kashmir as acts of violence.
A similar care in the use of expressions had been exercised by the State Department in its report for 1999 submitted to the Congress and by Michael Sheehan, State Department’s then Special Coordinator on Counter-terrorism, while releasing the report to the press on April 30, 2000.
General Pervez Musharrafs regime publicly said that Pakistan provided diplomatic, political and moral support for “˜freedom fighters in Kashmir ““ including the terrorist group HUM ““ but denied providing the militants training or material”
However, there was an advance in the US position slightly in India’s favour and to the detriment of Pakistan in that, the US described all attacks on civilians, not only by the HUM, but also by other Kashmiri groups operating from Pakistan, as terrorism. The report said:
“Credible reports continued to indicate official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups that engage in terrorism, such as the HUM… Kashmiri extremist groups continued to operate in Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting new cadre. The groups were responsible for numerous terrorist acts in 1999 against civilian targets in India-held Kashmir and elsewhere in India.”
However, the report was silent on violence against the security forces and, when asked about this, Sheehan said: “in a war, if military forces are attacking each other, it is not terrorism. But if an armed terrorist organisation attacks civilian targets, that is terrorism.”
While referring to the shifting of the locus of terrorism from the Middle East to South Asia during 1999, the report for 1999 used the expression “the locus of terrorism directed against the US.”
The report for 1999 described in detail in the following words the demarche made by the US to Pakistan regarding Afghanistan-based terrorists, including bin Laden jilnd his mercenaries, threatening the US: “The US repeatedly has asked Islamabad to end support to elements that conduct terrorist training in Afghanistan, to interdict travel of militants to and from camps in Afghanistan, to prevent militant groups from acquiring weapons and to block financial and logistic support to camps in Afghanistan. In addition, the US has urged Islamabad to close certain madrasas or religious schools, that actually serve as conduits for terrorism.”
Credible reports continued to indicate official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups that engage in terrorism, such as the HUM”¦ Kashmiri extremist groups continued to operate in Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting new cadre.
But significantly, it was silent on any demarche made by it with Islamabad regarding action against Pakistan-based terrorists operating against India. It merely said: “Pakistani officials from both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifs Government and, after his removal by the military, General Pervez Musharrafs regime publicly stated that Pakistan provided diplomatic, political and moral support for ‘freedom fighters’ in Kashmir – including the terrorist group HUM – but denied providing the militants training or material”
Since the Sarin gas attack in Tokyo and the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, counter-terrorism experts had been concerned over the possibility of what has come to be known as the new or catastrophic terrorism, which is defined as any act, whatever be the weapon used, that causes or is likely to cause fatal human casualties of more than 1,000 and/or serious damage of a medium or long-term nature to the national, regional or global economy and vital infrastructures.
During these discussions of the 1990s, five States of the world had been cited by many experts as worrisome, from which acts of catastrophic terrorism were most likely to emanate, either because they were harbouring or, soft in dealing with terrorist groups, which would have no qualms in resorting to catastrophic terrorism or because they were consciously using such groups as a weapon to achieve their strategic objectives.
These countries were Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Greece. Greece was cited not because of any complicity with the terrorists, but because of its weak counter-terrorism apparatus.