Pakistan Floats Yet Another Militant Outfit
8 September 2000
The Times of India
Dwarika Prasad Sharma
Jammu: The Pakistani penchant for sponsoring new militant outfits so that any particular outfit does not get ''too big to be kept under the thumb'' was evident yet again when it recently floated the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Army (JKLA) and helped infiltrate the first of its trained members into Poonch and Rajouri districts, to begin with. The security agencies believe that the JKLA was formed after the Hizb, the major militant group in the state, declared a ceasefire on July 24 (which it, however, withdrew on August 8). The group was floated when there were also reports that the Pakistani Army, which is now directly controlling the ISI operations and consequently, of the militants, decided to give the blue-eyed treatment to Masood Azhar''s Jaish-e-Mohammed ''to cut Hizb to size''. Last year, the ISI had gone about reviving the JKLF in Poonch and Rajouri districts in the belief that its ''local appeal'' would draw local youth to militancy. The move was to promote the Pakistani strategy to ''actively involve'' the two districts in militancy or at least attempt to project them as so by enacting violent incidents. Though there were early reports of several youth missing from their villages, thought to have been motivated by JKLF members, the gambit did not seem to have made much progress as the Pakistanis increased the infiltration of foreign mercenaries, who now number 50 per cent of the militants operating in the two districts. The new outfit, JKLA, considering the speed with which it was floated, has apparently been cobbled together with ''floating'' mercenaries and elements from other militant groups. The Army drew its first blood on the JKLA on September 5, when it eliminated the outfit''s ''commander'' for Surankot and Mendhar tehsils of Poonch district. The card on him and the inscription on his rifle identified him as Sajjad Pakistani, from Pakistan''s Gujranwala district. It is not clear yet if JKLA members have infiltrated into other parts of the state as well, but the elimination of the ''commander'' indicates that they have started their operations in the two districts. A security analyst said the floating of ever-new outfits did not only make for dispersal of centres of power, by which the Pakistanis presumably could maintain their stranglehold over the militants, but also served to create a ''criss-cross pattern'' of militancy calculated to confuse the security forces, especially the police which attempted to keep tabs from local inputs. For example, he said, the creation of Jaish-e-Mohammed, which apart from its own cadre draws on ''volunteers'' from other outfits, was posing an ''identification problem'' with regard to numbers and area of operation. ''The introduction of the JKLA is a bid for further confusion,'' he said and added: ''By expanding the number of outfits, the Pakistanis also want to show that the insurgency is spreading.''