The next time you see an irresistible festive offer on white goods at a mall, it could well be new products launched by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). Or the flurry of building activity in your neighbourhood could be real estate development by the famed terrorist organisation. Only weeks ago, National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan, told a disbelieving Munich Conference that he had strong suspicion that the stock markets could be manipulated with terrorist organisations pumping in their ill-gotten wealth, even while playing bull and bear to increase return on investment.
Now the US State Department brings out a spine-chilling report to substantiate these claims. Commodities and real estate sectors are the prime targets for investments, according to the Country Terrorism Reports 2006. JeM has invested in other legal businesses also, like consumer goods manufacturing, the report adds. The strategy was made in anticipation of asset seizures by the Pakistan government, when JeM withdrew funds from bank accounts and invested them in legal businesses. JeM is funded by Al Qaeda. The terrorist group is also involved in restaurant and shipping business. In the growing economy it is easier to make money and to divert it to jihadi activities.
Speaking about terrorism worldwide the report says the number of people killed in terror attacks has increased by over 40 per cent while attacks have increased by 28 per cent. This could only mean that death rate in each attack has gone up. Not surprisningly, 65 per cent of all deaths in terror attacks has been in Iraq. But it is revelation to suggest that 35 per cent of deaths occur outside Iraq when most of us always thought only Iraq is riddled with the daily death-dance of terrorism. Iran, according to the report, is the world'sbiggest sponsor of terrorism supporting extremist groups throughout West Asia and more particularly in Iraq.
The report does not say about Iran'sinvolvement in terror in South Asia but that is anybody'sguess. Terrorism based on religion knows no boundaries. Like recently, China trashed Pakistan'sclaim over closing terrorist camps, when it accused it of the same crime against humanity as India does quite often.
Another of our neighbours Afghanistan, where jihadi terrorism breeds uninterrupted by modern civilisation, also witnessed a large jump in attacks, according to the report. The worrying aspect is that, the report makes it amply clear that terrorist organisations like al Qaeda are adapting to the counter-terrorism mechanisms. Must that include proactive involvement to enter the equity markets to beat the financial embargo laid by the war-against-terror syndicate?
But beyond that primer on terrorism it is the report'soverview of South and Central Asia which is essential reading for Indians. The report states matter-of-factly, ?terrorists staged numerous attacks in India, including a series of commuter train bomb attacks in Mumbai which killed over 200 people and injured more than 700. Despite challenges associated with its law enforcement and judicial systems, India achieved major successes this year, including numerous arrests and confiscation of explosives and firearms?. There was no mention, however, of the excruciatingly long time taken by the courts to dispense with final orders in the first serial bomb blasts case in Mumbai in which Sanjay Dutt is involved. But the no-holds-barred report tells almost that. Read this: ?India'scounter-terrorism efforts were hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems. The Indian court system was slow, laborious, and prone to corruption; terrorism trials can take years to complete. An independent Indian think-tank determined that the thousands of civilians killed by terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir from 1988 to 2002 received justice in only 13 convictions through December 2002; most of the convictions were for illegal border crossing or possession of weapons or explosives. Many of India'slocal police forces were poorly staffed, trained, and equipped to combat terrorism effectively?.
On our other neighbour Bangladesh, the import of its statement should not be lost on anyone. Bangladesh, it said, continued to arrest extremists but the deteriorating political situation in that country may increase the opportunity for refuge or transit. That statement could well be applied to places in India as well. In Nepal and Sri Lanka terrorism carried out by the Maoists and LTTE posed serious challenge to the governments in power.
The most prominent terrorist groups were violent extremist groups in Jammu and Kashmir; Maoists operating in the Naxalite belt in eastern, southern and central India and ethno-linguistic nationalists in the north-eastern states, according to the US State Department report.
But the most instructive part of the report is about how minorityism has shown its link to terrorism. The report says, India alleged, based on numerous arrests and several attacks, that the UN designated Foreign Terrorist Organisations (Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba) began a campaign in the Indian heartland to gain support from India'sminority Muslim population for terrorist attacks. The Indian government, it added for good measure blamed the two prominent terrorist organisations based in Pakistan for several attacks in major Indian cities. Does that mean that the terrorist organisations in Pakistan are getting support from Muslims by raking up minorityism, is again, anybody'sguess.
Recounting the major terror attacks in India the report says, on July 11 terrorists set off seven blasts on packed commuter trains in Mumbai killing at least 200 people and injuring more than 700. On March 7 terrorists set off three blasts in the holy city of Varanasi killing 21 and injuring 62 people. Without mincing words the report says, on September 9 terrorists set off a series of blasts outside a Mosque in the western city of Malegaon that killed 38 people and wounded more than 50. Police found that Malegaon attack was perpetrated by Islamic extremists hoping to invite further anger between Hindu and Muslim communities.
Dwelling further on the terror attacks in India the report says, on October 27, Karnataka state police in Mysore arrested two suspected terrorists who allegedly belonged to the terrorist group Al-Badr. ?Police believed the suspects were inserted as an advance team to establish a base in southern India from which they would facilitate terrorist attacks on economic and government targets, especially in nearby Bangalore, a high-tech hub?. This only confirms worst fears over the ambitions of terrorist organisations. They can subvert the system to enter legitimate business as well as threaten existing ones. Will Bangalore become another Bollywood?
On the othe hand, the July 11 terrorist attack in Srinagar that killed eight tourists and injured 43 in Srinagar was ?designed to inhibit growth in the tourism industry and to hamper increasing Kashmiri enthusiasm for normalisation of ties between India and Pakistan?.
On Naxal terrorism, which has subsumed large swathes of eastern, central and southern India, the report says that naxalites grew in sophistication and lethality. Naxalites launched several high-level attacks, raising the insurgency'sprofile, and expanded the rural territory under their control.
All the same, the report even gives credence to several police investigations in all terrorism-related cases. ?Despite these challenges, India scored major successes this year, including numerous arrests and the seizure of explosives and firearms during operations against Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups?. But don'tbe surprised if tomorrow jihadi terrorist organisations float a pension fund of their own in the stock markets. That is, if they haven'talready.