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Tamil Nadu politics: Will factions end the crisis in AIADMK and focus on governance?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] G [/yt_dropcap]overnance in Tamil Nadu is standstill and in reverse gear with two factions fighting an almost street fight, making the life of common people miserable.

As a mere stunt, the Palanisamy government makes announcements of allocation of money for projects but nothing is happing on the ground. Possibly the middlemen from the ruling party/government side collects the commission amounts first because the government they fear would fall any time.

Meanwhile, the opposition DMK is gearing up for a possible government formation and Sasikala-Palanisamy duo would prefer DMK to OPS. They say they have removed Sasikala and Dinakaran but they refuse to step down to show that they don’t want to enjoy the privileges that come with ministerial posts.

MGR floated ADMK which was later made AIADMK, giving it a national framework so that the central government’s threat of doing away with regional parties became irrelevant. Sasikala has easily divided the ruing AIADMK probably beyond repair work as her followers in the government still worship her as little goddess, maybe leaving Jayalalithaa to OPS.

People of Tamil Nadu are apparently confused now over their decision to vote the AIADMK under Jayalithaa to power a few months ago. Sasikala along with her supporters in the party exploited the post-Jaya death situation to their advantage and took infamous action illegally removing O Panneerselvam from CM post and sacking him from the post of party Treasurer.  

Founder MGR and Amma created this party as a party for the people and cadres, this is a democratic party for people and cadres. AIADMK should not be controlled by one family. Jayalalithaa’s death must be probed. But Sasikala and family now control both the party and hard earned government.

Former CM Panneerselvam says that AIADMK must be saved from dynastic politics; he says the party should not be in the hands of a family. The family which betrayed Jayalalithaa will have to go, says OPS, “I am an ardent follower of Amma, want to tread the path shown by her”.

Throwing indications of growing dissent against ruling AIADMK chief VK Sasikala and her nephew Dinakaran, who has been named in a bribery case relating to a tussle over party’s frozen symbol ‘two leaves’, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Jayalalithaa loyalist O Panneerselvam hinted that he is open for merger under certain conditions to protect party from negative side effects.

In signs of thaw on AIADMK merger move, the factions led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and the one by O Panneerselvam, last week announced formation of their respective committees to hold discussions. Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithilingam will head the panel set up by the Palaniswami group while the Panneerselvam camp tonight named senior leader and former minister K P Munusamy as the head of a seven-member committee.

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam earlier broke his silence and claimed that Sasikala has betrayed late AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa. While also claiming that there is no place for Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakakaran in the AIADMK, OPS said that he will continue to fight to protect the legacy of ‘Amma’.  

The federal government, controlled by Hindutva BJP, watches the political fiasco in Tamil nadu with keen interest with a view to increasing its chances of winning least a seat next time. Jayalalithaa has undone BJP and many other parties in the state with zero presence in the state assembly. In fact she has made many political parties in the state irrelevant. But now without her, all these parties hope to make a comeback by using the split in the ruling AIADMK. Speculation is indeed thrilling.

Conspiracy

The mysterious death of popular CM Jayalalithaa and post-Jaya occurrences like Sasikala’s rise to control the party and government, etc, give rise suspicion about a conspiracy in the state.

Former CM Panneerselvam protested and acted swiftly to raise his opposition to V.K. Sasikala & family efforts to capture the party and government his voice became profound as more and more people joined him. The by-poll in RK Nagar constituency added more impetus to him, making him the most important leader in AIADMK.

Apparently, Sasikala, Dinakaran and those who oppose OPS are also indirectly opposed to Jayalithaa for not making Sasikala the acting CM or General Secretary by creating a post Deputy GS to accommodate both suitably. Many ministers and MLAs on the Sasikala band were angry with Jayalithaa for her choice of OPS as the acting CM when she went to jail on disproportionate assets that repeatedly insulted their claims to be extra loyal to her.

Who authorised the ministers to convene a meeting in the absence of AIADMK Deputy General Secretary TTV Dinakaran but decided nothing, making it clear that they cannot go against him. When the ministers met at the party HQ, Sasikala or Dinakaran did not object to that.

In fact, in a real course, “GS” Sasikala would have expelled Palanisamy and friends from the party and government. And a new government would have been appointed by Sasikala. That is because entire scrip is a drama written by Sasikala in jail.  

That means the ruling faction does exactly what the jailed leader from Bangalore says.

Double minds

While the AIADMK led by former CM Pannerselvam seems to be genuinely serious about the unity of factions within AIADMK and strengthen the party and government so that MGR-Jaya rule continues, the ruling faction unofficially led by CM Palanisamy continues to worship jailed corrupt Sasikala as their demigod and to ensure support of the OPS faction of MLAs so that the incumbent government would continue its full term easily.

It appears, though the government and its MLAs seek the OPS support for sustaining the government   they don’t want to make OPS the CM again. In fact, many of these MLAs and ministers used Sasikala and Dinakaran to oust O Panneerselvam from CM post and remove him s from the post of Treasurer of the party- the post MGR held when he was in DMK and later was sacked from it and removed from the then ruling DMK by CM Karunanidhi.

This explains the cause of their rejection of OPS as the CM once again, when Sasikala calls all the shots from the jail.

Pannerselvam faction has made it amply clear that AIADMK should not have Sasikala, Dinakaran or any of their relatives in the party or government and they demand a fair probe on the death of Jayalithaa at Apollo hospital. Both demand, obviously, are unacceptable to the Sasikala faction.  

Though Palanisamy faction said they have removed Sasikala and Dinakaran form AIDMK, the OPS faction is not convinced about the “removal” because on what authority they have removed h the top leaders who gave them power to rule? They consider this as a drama by Sasikala and Dinakaran to fool the OPS faction. In trustingly, Sasikala and Dinakaran did not raise any question on the issue thereby reveling indirectly the fake “encounter”.

Both factions of OPS and EPS have formed panels to decide the modalities of the “merger”. AIADMK leaders’ met onboard INS Chennai still underway, many including D Jayakumar, P Thangamani and CV Shanmugam attending it.

Party symbol

After the death of Jayalithaa, the AIADMK party is getting weakened with factions taking the party to opposite paths and as days pass by the party may not be able to sustain itself as a cohesive party without the presence of Jayalalithaa.

AIADMK has lost its party symbol “Two-leaves” and Sasikala is responsible for the loss of the party symbol ‘two-leaves’ as she let the party split. The Election Commission of India has frozen the AIADMK`s two leaves symbol with two factions — one led by party ‘General Secretary’ Sasikala and the other by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam — claiming it as their own.

Dhinakaran, the nephew of jailed AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, is facing a revolt by an influential section of the party led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami and a host of ministers, who had on Tuesday declared the ouster of the once powerful aunt-nephew duo, and extended a hand of friendship to the Panneerselvam camp.

Sasikala faction is trying all tricks, including offering bribes, to obtain the party symbol from the election commission. But with factions existing, the party symbol would remain frozen.

It has been learnt that Dinakaran had allegedly struck a deal for Rs 50 crore for helping the AIADMK faction keep the ‘two leaves’ symbol. Also, Dinakaran tried to bribe voters Dinakaran gave 4000 per voter in the recent by-election at RK Nagar and IT raids were conducted unearthing evidences.

Conditional merger plan

The developments leading to a merger move came a day after the talks appeared to have hit a roadblock with the Panneerselvam camp seeking formal expulsion of V K Sasikala and Dhinakaran from the party. It had also sought a CBI probe into the circumstances leading to former chief minister Jayalalithaa’s death on 5 December last year.

The talks for a merger gained ground after an FIR was registered against Dinakaran for bribing the Election Commission officials for staking claim of the `Two Leaves` party symbol. Following this, Sukesh Chandrasekhar, Dinakaran`s alleged middleman was arrested by police for striking a deal of Rs. 50 crore to help the AIADMK faction keep the `two leaves` poll symbol.

Earlier, the ministers and senior leaders met at the party headquarters here under Palaniswami. Following the Cabinet’s revolt against him early this week, Dhinakaran had said he was “stepping aside” in the interest of the party.

The Palanaismami camp constituted its committee led by Vaithilingam (which is likely to include some ministers) to hold talks with the Panneerselvam faction. Responding to the development, Munusamy this evening announced that his faction would also constitute a committee soon to hold the merger talks.

A release from Panneerselvam camp said that former ministers C Ponnaiyan, R Viswanathan and K Pandiarajan, Rajya Sabha MP V Maithreyan, former MP T H Manoj Pandian and former MLA J C D Prabhakar are their members.

KC Palanisamy, OPS camp leader said that in order to have a genuine unity of AIADMK, Sasikala and her family have to be kept away, directly or indirectly they shouldn’t have any role within party. “We have not deviated from our stand and we stick to our basics. Any change in our stand shall be injustice to people of TN and AIADMK cadre”: Elevation of GS is not as per the bylaws of the party. Sasikala’s elevation and in turn her subsequent actions is null and void. We have been insisting that the family against whom we have waged a war had indulged in activities bringing disrepute to the entire TN. They have submitted a petition to EC to follow the bylaws and give them the party symbol and justice.

Trust deficit

While the ruling faction sought no conditions for the merger talks as they claim there are no factions but only differences of opinion between, hiding the serious ideological split in the party as the party’s image is affected by Sasikala-Dinakaran directly controlling the party and government.

OPS camp is not fully convinced of Sasikala followers to agree for any genuine unity and there is trust deficit. Hardening its stance for talks, the OPS camp had demanded that 30 members of the Sasikala family be formally expelled from the party. They also demanded withdrawal of affidavits submitted to the Election Commission by the Palaniswami faction, declaring Sasikala and Dhinakaran as party General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary, respectively.

Munusamy said the first demand was getting the resignation of Sasikala and Dhinakaran and later their formal expulsion along with 30 other members of their family. Munusamy had said he suspected “foul play” over the Palanisamy camp’s decision of April 18 to remove Sasikala and Dhinakaran.

OPS faction does not quite trust the “oust” theory as apparently Sasikala and Dinakaran still control the party and government. In keeping with AIADMK party practice, a party notification should be issued on Dhinakaran and Sasikala family’s expulsion. He had said that the OPS camp would regard it as a full victory only if cadres were asked not to have any truck with the duo. Vaithilingam had retorted that there was “no drama” over the decision to ask Sasikala and Dhinakaran to keep away from the party and the government.”There is no drama. We compelled him (Dhinakaran) to step aside and he did it happily,” Vaithilingam said.

Fighting for CM post?

Media reports say both factions now fight for the CM post and they have no principles besides money and power. Now OPS camp wants VK Sasikala and her close relative Dinakaran to resign ahead of proposed AIADMK merger, wants Panneerselvam reinstated as Chief Minister and CBI probe instituted to bring out the truth about Jayalithaa’s death. Munusamy had in reply to a query from reporters said the OPS faction had not demanded the posts of either Chief Minister or party general secretary.

It is clear that the ruling faction to stay in power by using the other factions and is interested in the merger only to get back the party symbol, Two-leaves. “We need to protect the party symbol, so all must come together. This is not a question of the CM post; only of Amma’s legacy” said Thambidurai.-Tamil Nadu people still support Amma’s legacy. -There is no split in the party, only differences in opinion. We are sorting out all issues, says M Thambidurai quoted as saying by News18.

Meanwhile, former School Education Minister K Pandiarajan of OPS faction confirmed that the Palaniswami group had contacted them for talks. Earlier, the AIADMK (Amma) leader and Local Administration Minister S P Velumani quoted Palaniswami: “As far as we are concerned, we want to redeem the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol and remain united,” he told reporters. Velumani said the common feeling in the faction was that there should be unity in the “party founded by MGR (M G Ramachandran) and taken forward by Amma (Jayalalithaa)”.

Amid talks of merger between the O Panneerselvam and E Palaniswami factions of Tamil Nadu’s ruling party – AIADMK – the support for VK Sasikala is apparently thinning and she is under tremendous pressure to resign from her post along with her nephew TTV Dinakaran who faces corruption charges.

In modification of his previous demands that did not mean anything to Sasikala, the OPS faction led by Panneerselvam has reportedly set a condition for merger – VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran should resign from their posts. Reports also claim that a lot of leaders from the Sasikala camp too have lost faith in her leadership and ready for a merger in order to strengthen the party.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami last week formed a seven-member committee for holding merger talks with the rival O. Panneerselvam faction. The committee is headed by lawmaker R Vaithiyalingam and includes ministers C. Sreenivasan, KA Sengottaiyan and D Jayakumar among others.

This came a day after the Panneerselvam-group threatened to quit the merger if their demands that Sasikala and Dinakaran resign from the party and a CBI inquiry into the death of late chief minister Jayalalithaa, are not met. “We demand that an affidavit be submitted by the other camp stating that Sasikala and Dinakaran no longer hold party position to the Election Commission. If this is done, we will consider it as first victory to our faction,” former state minister and AIADMK member K P Munusamy said.

The OPS camp further alleged that Palanisamy is devising new ways to prevent the merger from taking place.”Current Chief Minister Palaniswami, who was appointed at the mercy of Sasikala, is not acting as the AIADMK Chief Minister rather he is acting as the Chief Minister of Sasikala and her family,” he said.

In response, the Palaniswami-led group asked the other faction to take back its complaint regarding party symbol.”Their camp went to EC first on the symbol issue, let them take back their complaint first,” AIADMK MP R. Vaithilingam said. Regarding the second demand for a probe on Jayalalithaa`s death, Vaithilingam said the demand for the same is under the court`s consideration, adding the government will follow the order.

EPS camp has reportedly welcomed the merger talks. Some top ministers of the Edappadi Palaniswami camp had an impromptu meeting. D Jayakumar, Finance Minister in the Palaniswami government said after the meeting that the group had discussed the party’s election symbol issue and Panneerselvam’s suggestion at merger.

Sidelined AIADMK (Amma) deputy general secretary Dhinakaran on Saturday appeared before the Delhi Police on his reported attempt to bribe Election Commission officials for retrieving the ‘two leaves’ symbol for his faction.

In a sudden move, some top leaders from AIADMK and TN govt ministers held an emergency meeting, hinting at the merger of two factions of AIADMK – O Panneerselvam and VK Sasikala camps. Some of them are opposed to merger as they lose their ministerial berths.

There are intense speculations of VK Sasikala resigning from her post as the party chief of AIADMK. This was later denied by Tamil Nadu finance minister, D Jayakumar. Whether or not Sasikala is ready to relinquish the post, she has not said anything in this regard.

Jayalalithaa loyalist O Panneerselvam hinted that he is open for merger under certain conditions to protect party from negative side effects. .

Delhi police grills Dina

Meanwhile, Delhi Police had arrested Dinakaran’s alleged middleman Sukesh Chandrashekhar with Rs 1.5 crore cash on Monday. The police also seized a BMW and a Mercedes car from him. Dinakaran and Sukesh had allegedly struck a deal of Rs 50 crore to help the AIADMK Sasikala faction keep the ‘two leaves’ symbol. The Delhi Police has booked Dinakaran for allegedly attempting to bribe Election Commission officials through Chandrasekar to get a favourable verdict in the party`s two leaves symbol case. Police have said that the duo struck a Rs 50 crore deal to try and bribe officials from the Election Commission

Dhinakaran, the nephew of jailed party chief Sasikala, is accused of attempting to bribe EC officials to get back the AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol for his faction. The crime branch of Delhi Police grilled deputy general secretary of AIADMK (Amma) TTV Dhinakaran for nearly seven hours in New Delhi in the case pertaining to the alleged attempt to bribe EC officials. He was asked to appear before them again tomorrow for further questioning. As part of investigation, the officers also go through the call records of the politician. Dinakaran appeared before Delhi Police`s interstate crime Branch office in Chanakyapuri in the capital`s diplomatic enclave following its April 19 summons with Saturday deadline. “Dinakaran reached at the Crime Branch office and was questioned over nine hours,” said a Crime Branch official.

High drama was witnessed last week when a Dinakaran follower attempted self-immolation when police arrived at his Besant Nagar residence in Chennai to serve him summons. The Delhi Police had issued a lookout notice against the leader in the wake of inputs that Dhinakaran was an NRI and could try to flee the country. The Crime Branch had on April 16 arrested an alleged middleman, Sukesh Chandrashekhar, in New Delhi in connection with the case. He claimed that he had told Dhinakaran that he will get a favourable verdict from the Election Commission of India in the party symbol case.

Dinakaran appeared before the investigators in Delhi in the afternoon after arriving from Chennai and was questioned till late night. Investigators said that Dinakaran`s personnel assistant was also interrogated over the issue and was asked if he knows the alleged middleman Sukesh Chandrasekar who was arrested from a five-star hotel on April 16. They further said that Dinakaran was questioned alone and also confronted with Chandrasekar to clarify their versions over the issue.

The Delhi police brought Dinakaran to Chennai for further investigation and the probe is on.

Sasikala in jail, Dhinakaran towards jail

VK Sasikala who has embarrassed the AIADMK people and betrayed the founding leader MGR and his supporter Jayalithaa, is being increasingly isolated as E Palaniswami camp wants her to resign along with nephew Dinakaran who faces corruption charges, claim sources.

Having seen all her pet dreams of becoming CM of Tamil Nadu crumbling as a mere day dream Sasikala is at present serving a four year jail term in Bengaluru in a multi-crore disproportionate assets case.

Dhinakaran, the nephew of jailed AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, is facing a revolt by an influential section of the party led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami and a host of ministers, who had on a hand of friendship to the Panneerselvam camp.

Observation: Danger bell!

While Tamil Nadu and the AIADMK people seem to have overcome the grief they endured following the sudden death of CM Jayalalithaa under mysterious circumstances, the factional infighting as well as the cause of the death of Jayalithaa continues to haunt them. They are unbearably pained that Sasikala has caused the traumatic conditions in the party and state by her dramatic removal of former CM O. Pannerselvam, the closet ally of AIAMDK supremo in order to secure the party leadership and CM post. .

As the picture is getting clear to the Sasikala faction that OPS faction is not frantically looking for opportunity to help the Sasikala and her ministry in jail, Palanisamy government appointed a committee to talk with OPS faction on merger.

If the ruling AIADMK Chinnamma faction is not keen for genuine unity by discarding Chinnamma, then, the OPS faction must end merger talks and all preparations for unity. Sasikala needs the OPS MLAs to help the limping government give the government credibility, durability and legitimacy.

Sasikala is indirectly forcing the OPS faction to support any no trust motion against Palanisamy government so that government formed with MLAs who own the assembly polls by Jayalalithaa’s pro-poor policies and her immense power of vote appeal. EPS and government and supporting MLAs are being used by Sasikala as tools to discredit the government and party by belittling those leaders like OPS who were closer to Jaya than most of the Sasikala supporters.

As DMK and BJP are trying to fish in the troubled Tamil waters, Palanisamy and friends should be prudent in the most difficult stage of crisis in AIADMK this time and as the ruling party leader EPS needs to bring both factions together without caring for CM or GS post at this point of crucial time.  

It is said that in order to make some noise both hands should come together and clap. Quality of clap determines the level of noise the hands make.  

AIADMK still has 50 percent vote bank, while the DMK has only 30 percent.   Compromises are always possible. Dinakaran is out as he has been taken into jail in New Delhi.

DMK says merger of ‘power-monger’ OPS, Sasikala factions, even if it happens, will not last because of Sasikala factor. MK Stalin of the DMK has lashed out at the AIADMK, says ‘the state has become a battleground’. There were no talks about the Dinakaran and Sasikala issue. There are no talks on the issue of Dinakaran and Sasikala, nor did OPS faction raise any question on the same.

Currently the ruling Palanisamy government, being targeted by the opposition party DMK with a sizeable number of MLAs and hope to get the support of OPS group to defeat and remove the Sasikala-Palanisamy team,   is in danger of losing power.

AIADMK workers should take over the HQ and remove all Sasikala supporters from there. That would pave way for smooth functioning of the party.

The Palanisamy team does not enjoy the respect and trust of people because they are supporters of Sasikala-Dinakaran and are viewed as betrayers. Paneerselvam can be able project the government as the real government of Jayalalithaa.

By making Panneerselvam he CM and GS, Palanisamy would save the government and party of MGR-Jayalalithaa. If a unity government takes office quickly the government and party could be saved, though whether they would win the next poll remains a question for which leaders should find a viable answer.

Corruption in state functioning has been on the rise since the intraparty conflict following the surprise death of CM Jayalalithaa. When corruption went unchecked during the Jayalalithaa reign, the condition is out of control now as none seems to be responsible for ill-effects of rampant corruption. Nothing gets done in Tamil state without offering bribes. People don’t get water in villages as drinking water has become a rare commodity in the state. Private companies sell drinking water making huge profits.

And yet, a few ‘Chinnamma’ MLAs and ministers say that Palanisamy whom Sasikala chose to be the CM would remain CM for the entire term even if this is going the last AIADMK government of the state.

Time is running out for Palanisamy government and AIADMK

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Changing complexion of “militancy” in the occupied Kashmir

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

Two teachers, Supinder Kaur and Deepak Chand, were shot dead in Srinagar on October7, 2021.The Resistance front owned the killing. The name implies that this organisation like the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front does not have religious moorings. The front explained that “they were killed because they harassed and warned the parents with dire consequences if the students did not attend the school function on August 15 (India’s Independence Day).

In a tweet, the Inspector general of Kashmir police disclosed that 28 civilians had been killed din the valley during 2021”. Five persons belonged to local Hindu and Sikh communities. . Two persons were non-Hindu labourers (pic.twitter.com/j5R2MVWrT3).

Each killing follows massive crackdowns, cordons and searches, and rounding up of innocent people as suspects mostly members of Jammat-e-Islami now banned, and Hurriyat members.

Who the Resistance Front is?

Very little is known about the Front. The Resistance Front publicly emerged in the aftermath of August 5, 2019, when the Central government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy under Article 370 and split the state into two Union Territories.  The Article 15-A also was abrogated. This article guaranteed special protections to Kashmiri people defined as “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Front came into limelight when it owned a grenade attack in October 2019. Eight civilians on Srinagar’s busy Hari Singh High Street were injured in the attack. The Front is shy of social posts. But, it did announce its debut on the chat platform, Telegram.

India attributes the April intense gunfight between with security forces in the Keran sector (Kupwara district) to this Front.  It left five personnel of the army’s elite Special Forces dead.

Another encounter has continued for five days until October 19 in Mendhar sector.  India admits having lost several soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer, in the fight The Indian forces dared not enter into the forest. They were content to use heavy guns from the outside. The Indian forces’ initial impression was that the front uses only pistols and improvised explosives. That has been proved wrong.

 To disguise their ignorance about the Front, the forces say, ‘These acts are committed by newly recruited terrorists or those who are about to join terrorist ranks’.  

IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar says, ‘A total of 28 civilians have been killed by terrorists in 2021. Out of 28, five persons belong to local Hindu and Sikh communities and two persons are non-local Hindu labourers.’

India shaken

The non local Kashmiri migrants have no faith in police protection. They are returning to their home towns. The remaining persons are being shifted to army camps.

India’s home minister has planned a visit to Srinagar to familiarize himself with the situation. Indian prime minister Modi is being blamed at home and abroad for emergence of the Resistance Front. The critics point out that Kashmiriat had been the crucible of several civilizations. But India’s reign of terror compelled the native Kashmiri to become xenophobic.  

Modi ventilated his ire at rights criticism in his speech before the National Human rights Commission.

He stressed that welfare measures like providing electric connection, alleviating poverty were more important than human rights.

The NHRC is a statutory body that was constituted on October 12, 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act. It takes cognisance of human rights violations, conducts enquiries and recommends compensation to victims from public authorities besides other remedial and legal measures against the erring public servants. However its present chairman is believed to be BJP stooge.

Kashmir, a Guantanamo Bay

Even Mehbooba Mufti, a former BJP ally, has been compelled to call Kashmir a Guantanamo Bay prison. She called for lifting ban on Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Jama’at-e-Islami, withdrawal of `sedition’ or `terrorism’ cases against Kashmiri leaders or ordinary folk. Her voice proved to be a voice in the wilderness.  What else could Mehbooba call Kashmir _ `Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred save one, to India, which is also not without peril. Kashmiris are distrusted and treated poorly in many parts of India, whether as students or as traders’ (A.G. Noorani, Kashmir, a prison, Dawn January 12, 2019). Trade across the Line of Control has been stopped and `terrorism’ charges slapped on some traders. Even the tyrannical Dogras and their British overlords facilitated Kashmir trade with Central Asian and other states. Kashmiri markets used to be flooded with foreign traders and their merchandise _books, shawls, gold tillas, Russian textiles, Kokandi silk, Bukharan rumals (handkerchiefs) and coral.  Trade from British India would flow through Kulu via the Chang Chenmo route to Yarkand, bypassing the maharaja’s customs officials in Leh. In 1870, Maharaja Ranbir Singh signed a special treaty in Sialkot with Viceroy Lord Mayo to accept this route as a ‘free highway’, later known as Treaty Route.  Central Asians intending to perform hajj used to travel through this route to Karachi or Bombay sea-ports to board ships.  To facilitate pilgrims, highway provided rest houses, and supply depots jointly supervised by British and Kashmir officials. Now, even the Kashmir Highway stands closed to civilian traffic during military-convoy movement.. A minor, violating road closure, was brutally crushed by an Indian army vehicle.”

Mehbooba revealed her government was dismissed for expressing ennui at central-government atrocities, not returning dead bodies of `encounter’ victims and burning them, not allowing funeral prayers, demanding talks with Pakistan, registering an FIR against an army officer, resisting change in Kashmir’s special status, and so on (Indian Express dated April 18. 2019). A cursory look at Kashmir press is horrifying _ Sedition cases were slapped on three Aligarh- university Kashmiri students for trying to hold prayers for Hizb militant Wani, Kashmiri students and traders at Wagah border are forced to chant anti-Pakistan slogans and post them to face book. Kashmir students and traders were attacked or looted throughout India. About 700 students, including girls, fled to Valley. Even holders of PM Modi’s merit-based competitive scholarships had to rush back to Valley for safety. Kashmiri journalists in Indian states were roughed up, mercilessly beaten, and told to go back Meghalaya governor officially directed to boycott everything Kashmiri. Some Kashmiris petitioned Supreme Court to intervene. In its order, the Supreme Court directed 10 states and various institutions to take remedial steps, but in vain.

Fake encounters

People have lost trust In India’s claims of success in “encounters”, mostly fake. In July last year, security forces in Kashmir claimed to have killed three “unidentified hardcore terrorists” in a gunfight in Amshipora village of Kashmir’s Shopian district. They had last made phone calls to their families on July 17, 2020, a day before the purported gunfight had taken place.

An army inquiry and a police probe into the encounter established that the three suspected militants killed in Amshipora were shot dead in a fake encounter.

Indian army stages such encounters to earn reward of Rs. 20 lac per encounter. A year has gone by but the captain accused of masterminding and executing the fake Amshipora encounter is still unpunished.  He abducted three labourers from their homes and shot them dead as “terrorists”. Those killed in Shopian in July 2020 were Mohammed Ibrar of Tarkasi village, Imtiyaz Ahmad of Dharsakri village, and Ibrar Ahmad.

Concluding remark

It is obvious that it is not all hunky dory in Kashmir as India claims. The changed dimension of “militancy” is an incurable headache for the Modi’s government.

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A Peep into Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Tricky Relations with Afghan Taliban

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To understand the interesting relationship between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as Pakistani Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban, one must look into the history to know how the linkages were developed between the two entities and why the Afghan Taliban are not responding in equal measures to take the decisive action against the TTP.

The TTP has waxed and waned over the years. Under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud (1972-2009), 13 militant outfits, some estimations guess 50, assembled in December 2007 to exact the revenge of the Lal Mosque operation. The Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan is the largest group in the TTP. There were many precursors group of the TTP, such as Sufi Muhammad (1933-2019) who established the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi and led thousands of militants against the occupational forces in Afghanistan. Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Mullah Nazir also joined the Baitullah-led TTP faction in 2008, both having links with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has launched several operations against them, namely Operation Rahe-e-Rast (2009), Rah-e-Najat (2009), Zarb-e-Azab (2014) and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (2017). In the past, Pakistan claimed a complete victory against the TTP.

The TTP orchestrated a campaign of suicide bombings against Pakistan from 2006 to 2009. On 16 December 2014, TTP gunmen stormed the Army Public School in the northern city of Peshawar and killed more than 150 people, while 132 of them were children. After the capture of Kabul by the Afghan Taliban, the TTP is active again and claiming it carried out 32 attacks in August 2021 against Pakistan. Islamabad and Beijing held the TTP responsible for the July 14 suicide attack that killed nine Chinese engineers working on a hydroelectric project in Kohistan district. Pakistan accuses the Indian secret agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) of funding and supporting the TTP. Reports confirm that the TTP has sanctuaries in Kunar and Nanghar provinces of Afghanistan.

It is very difficult to measure the relationship between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban. Michael Kugelman, Asian deputy director at Washington Wilson Centre says, “The two groups have been separated from the same ideological cloth.” For the Afghan Taliban, the TTP has boosted their membership. For the TTP, the Afghan Taliban enhanced their resources and legitimacy. The factor of having links with the TTP reduces the Afghan Taliban’s chances to rely on Pakistan.

The TTP is eager to show its relations with the Afghan Taliban. TTP’s media showed the pictures of Hakim Mullah Mehsud and Maulvi Nazir with Mullah Sangeen Zardan, a key commander of the Haqqani network. Like the Afghan Taliban, the TTP has established its links with Al Qaeda; however, its main branch still adheres to the Afghan Taliban.

The TTP members were trained and educated at the same religious seminaries that produced the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan’s long ties with the Taliban might have generated hopes that the Islamist group would help rein in the TTP’s cross-border violent activities from their Afghan hideouts. But they say those expectations could be shattered, citing the ideological affinity between the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban.

The Afghan Taliban also released 800 TTP militants, including its deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Muhammad. According to a recent report prepared for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban have carried on “relations mainly as before”. The TTP supported the Afghan Taliban militarily against the Afghan government forces in the recent takeover. TTP’s new rhetoric is consistent with the Afghan Taliban’s position of not recognizing the Durand Line as a legal border and opposing its fencing by Pakistan because it has divided the Pashtun tribes.

Amir Rana, Director at Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), says, “The Afghan Taliban triumph has emboldened Islamic militants, including those in the TTP and boosted their morale. The wooing back of the disgruntled group and release of prisoners have increased TTP’s capability and military strength, hindering Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate terrorism within its borders.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, Spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban, said in an interview, “The relationship between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban will continue to be dictated by religious-ideological convergence, ethnic-fraternal linkages and close camaraderie.” But he denied there was any collaboration between them. The Afghan Taliban and the TTP known to share the ideal of governing by ‘sharia’ or Islamic law. However, the Afghan Taliban have not spoken openly against the TTP.

Michael Kugelman commented, “For Pakistan, getting the Taliban to curb the TTP amounts to a daunting task. The TTP has long been allied with the Afghan Taliban, and it has partnered operationally with them. The Taliban are not known for denying space to its militant allies, and I do not see the TTP being an exception to the rule.”

The TTP has rejected Islamabad’s amnesty overtures. In an exclusive interview with Japan’s oldest newspaper Mainchi Shimbun, TTP leader Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud welcomed the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan after 20 years of absence. “We are hopeful for a strong relationship between two of us. The TTP views the Doha Accord 2020 as a major win for all the Jihadists and their ideology.”

The TTP also differs from the Afghan Taliban in its goals and attitude toward the Pakistan government. In 2009, the Afghan Taliban denied having ties with the TTP attack on civilians. Some Afghan Taliban have sympathies with the TTP. But it is clear that the Afghan Taliban do not want to develop their official ties with the TTP, and nor do they want to be involved in the tussle between the TTP and Pakistan government. Its permissive treatment of the TTP could be a matter of internal politics. Cracking down on foreign fighters might create rifts in the rank and file of the Afghan Taliban who view these fighters as brothers in arms.

Columnist Kamran Yousuf writes in Express Tribune, “Pakistan has handed over to the Taliban ‘a list of most wanted’ terrorists affiliated with the banned TTP. Islamabad seeks a decisive action against them. Hibatullah Akhundzada, supreme commander of the Afghan Taliban, has established a three-member commission to investigate the Pakistan claims. Afghan Taliban leaders Mullah Umar and Sirajuddin Haqqani had repeatedly attempted to convince the TTP to focus on the Afghan Jihad. But these efforts had always been fruitless because waging of the Jihad against Pakistan forms the basis for TTP’s separate identity.

Noor Wali Mehsud said, “We will free our land region from the occupation of Pakistan forces and will never surrender to their atrocious rule. We want to live on our land according to the Islamic law and tribal traditions. We are the Muslims and the Pashtuns. The independence of Pakhtunkhwa and Pashtun tribal areas is national and religious duty of all Pashtuns.” (DAWN, 23 March)

Another possible and perhaps more likely outcome is that the Afghan Taliban avoid interference in the TTP-Pakistan conflict, preferring to stay neutral and maintain their historical ties with the TTP as well as Pakistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid noted, “The issue of the TTP is one that Pakistan will have to deal with, not Afghanistan. It is up to Pakistan, and Pakistani ulema and religious figures, not the Taliban, to decide on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of their war and to formulate a strategy in response.” (Geo TV, Aug 28)

Noor Wali Mehsud said, in a recent interview with CNN, that his group will continue its war against Pakistan security forces and its goal is to take control and free the border region. Mehsud also admitted that his group has a good relation with the Afghan Taliban, hoping to benefit from their victories across the border.

Despite an ideological convergence, there appears many differences between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban condemned the killing of children in APS Peshawar. Condemning the attack, Zabihullah Mujahid said, “The killing of innocent people, children and women are against the basic teachings of Islam and this criterion should be considered by every Islamic party and government.”

The Afghan Taliban emerged in 1990, while the TTP in 2007. The TTP has a separate chain of command. Although the two groups’ aims overlap, they do not match. The TTP, unlike the Afghan Taliban, has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US. The two has different sponsors. The TTP is closer to the global jihadist agenda of targeting the far enemy. The Time Square bombing in 2010 and killing of Chinese nationals are the examples in this regard.

Both work with Al Qaeda. In the case of the TTP, this relation is stronger. Al Qaeda has played an instrumental role in the foundation, rise and expansion of the TTP. Although both are the Pashtuns, but the Taliban belong to Afghan tribes and the TTP is from the Mehsud tribe. The Afghan Taliban are more unified than the TTP.

Asfandyar Mir, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University for International Security and Cooperation, said, “Both Jalal and Siraj Haqqani mediated ‘jirgas’ to resolve the organizational issues and factionalism in the TTP.”

The TTP has also tried to diversify its recruitment and banned groups like the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) as well as Balochistan insurgency. The TTP makes it clear that ‘it does not entirely agree with the ideology of those movements but has sympathies with those being targeted by Pakistan establishment’. (Faran Jeffery)

The Diplomat reported that the Haqqani-sponsored talks between Pakistan and TTP had failed in 2020. The Taliban have generally been hesitant to push the TTP too hard. Rahimullah Yousufzai, a security analyst, said, “The Afghan Taliban, or for that matter, the Haqqani’s, could have done more to restraint the TTP from attacking Pakistan but that has not happened.” Asfandyar Mir said, “The Afghan Taliban have never meaningfully condemned or restrained the TTP from carrying out violence in Pakistan.” (TRT)

After the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan, the evolving security situation of the region requires that Pakistan should play a more proactive role in manipulating this delicate balance between TTP and the Afghan Taliban. Otherwise, the chances of peace for the region are not sure.

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South Asia

The Taliban-Afghanistan Dilemmas

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The Blitzkrieg winning back of Afghanistan by the Taliban with the concomitant US pullout established Taliban 2.0 in Kabul. But this has created a number of dilemmas for the stakeholding states. The latter include Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, viz. Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China in the northeast and Pakistan to the east. Russia is also affected since it considers former Central Asian Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its backyard and since Moscow has its own share of extremist-secessionist problems in Chechnya. It is also worried about Islamic fundamentalism spreading to its Muslim population concentrated around its major cities and the Caucasus.

The dilemmas are as follows:

I. If the US-led withholding of economic aid and international recognition continues in essence, then conditions– as it is they are bad enough in Afghanistan—will further deteriorate. This will lead to greater hunger, unemployment and all-round economic deprivation of the masses. Such dystopia will generate more refugees in droves as well as terrorists who will spill out to seek greener pastures beyond the country’s borders.

Such condition will in turn mean a life-threatening headache for not only Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours like Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan but also for more distant lands. The liberal democracies of Europe. Germany, France, Italy, the UK and others have already had their share of refugees—and terrorists—when waves from an unsettled Syria hit them way back in 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel even decided to act magnanimously and opened Germany’s doors to a million fleeing the civil war in Syria. Such acceptance of refugees from Asia and Africa in Europe, however, boosted right-wing parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other movements throughout that continent. As a result the easy cross-border movements within the European Union came to be partly restricted in order to keep unwanted refugees out. Calls went out for hardening the external borders of the EU against more refugee invasion. The EU also made arrangements with Turkey to absorb and manage the refugee onrush in exchange for fat amounts of the Euro.

The prospects of a second such wave of refugees desperate not only to escape the clutches of the medieval Taliban but to find a promising future and remarkably better living conditions in the advanced lands of Europe are giving nightmares to the governments of the latter countries.

There seems to be a growing consensus among many in the international community that not only purely humanitarian but also larger economic aid to the Taliban-run Afghanistan should be extended—and without delay, if only to keep a lid on refugees—and terrorists—spilling across the borders. Islamabad apparently scored a remarkable ‘victory’ over New Delhi when its protégé Taliban replaced the pro-Indian Ghani government. Nevertheless, it is worried about the spillover into its territory across the Durand Line to its west. Pakistan, hence, leads this school of thought most vociferously[i]. It fenced its border with Afghanistan to a significant extent in anticipation of more refugees pouring in.  It has been joined in the chorus by Russia, the EU, China, and others. China, for instance, has emphasized the need for releasing funds to Afghanistan at its talks with the G-20 on 23 September.[ii] However, no such stipulation is seen in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) declaration released at the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 17 September, though the document mentions explicitly the need for an “inclusive” government that includes the left-out minorities. India’s presence at the meet may have prevented the inclusion of a funds-release clause.

II. But even if the US unfreezes the $9.25 billion Afghan assets under its control, and allows the IMF and the World Bank to make available other funds and assets to the funds-starved Taliban’s Kabul, a major problem will still linger. This is the question of ‘inclusive’ government, which the Taliban had promised among other things in its February 2020 agreement with the USA at Doha. The composition of the current Taliban government shows the mighty influence of the hardliners within the Taliban, elements like the Haqqani network and the secretive hardcore Kandahar Shura—as opposed to the seemingly more moderate Pakistan-based Quetta Shura. The Prime Minister of Taliban 2.0, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, is on a UN-designated blacklist; its Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is on the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list with a multi-million dollars reward hanging over his head.  

Although the Taliban did not officially take a formal position, a member of the new government in Kabul has also defied calls from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and from other quarters for forming a more ‘inclusive’ government. That would mean more Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and women holding important positions in the government, a phenomenon markedly absent in the current governmental setup dominated by male Pashtuns. The Taliban member shot back that the current government was as much ‘inclusive’ as it was possible to make and that the Taliban did not care for others to dictate to it what kind of government would suit Afghanistan.

If Taliban 2.0 remains essentially as it is today, with the minorities ignored, this would still create unrest and insurgency in the country. A civil war in the not too distant a future cannot be ruled out. This is the reason that even Pakistan, which certainly would not like to see its protégé Taliban’s power diluted, keeps harping on the ‘inclusive’ clause along with Russia and others.

A civil war will not be confined within the boundaries of Afghanistan but will attract intervention by neighbouring states and other more distant stakeholders like the USA.  Tajikistan will continue to back the Tajiks living astride its southern border with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan will do the same with the Afghan Uzbeks. Shia Iran will  stand up for the Shia Hazaras while the Western world will, in general, wish to see ‘human rights’ and especially ‘women’s rights’ given full leeway. The Chinese seemed to have cut a deal. They would extend economic aid to Kabul in exchange for assurances that no terrorism or separatism would go out of Afghan territory.

But Taliban 2.0, despite its smooth assurances at Doha and elsewhere, shows no signs of stretching significantly from its understanding of the Sharia law, which it said it wished to uphold as a framework within which all these rights would be respected. There are reports that the US is in talks with Russia seeking a base on Russian territory or again in Tajikistan for its future ‘over-the-horizon’ operations in Afghanistan, starting with monitoring purposes.

In sum, while option I, outlined above, promises an immediate disaster for South Asia and even beyond, option II holds out  only marginally better prospects. It still has the Damocles’ sword of the probability of a civil war hanging over the head. The ideal solution would be to widen the Taliban 2.0 government to include the deprived minorities with an eye on keeping an effective lid on social instability. But the prospects for such a solution seem far-fetched, given the apparent domination of the hardliners in Taliban 2.0 and the long-standing animosity between the northern non-Pashtun Afghans and the Pashtun Taliban.. Also, the attacks by other extremist groups like the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), al Qaeda, and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and so on will unlikely cease, even if option II is fully implemented. These extra-Taliban extremist groups will only encourage the radical elements within the Taliban to opt for more aggressive actions, both within and outside Afghanistan’s borders.

The future in and around Afghanistan looks grim indeed.


[i] Incidentally, the Pashtuns living on both sides of the British-drawn Durand Line of 1893  do not recognise it, and that includes the Taliban)

[ii] Reid Standish report, gandhara.org of rfe/rl.org, 27 September 2021, accessed 14 October 2021, 09.07 Indian Standard Time (IST)… All times henceforth are in IST.

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