What lesson can Pakistan learn from the way Sri Lanka has dealt with the terrorism of LTTE

General Beg’s mess

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has stated that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, during a recent meeting in Libya, told him that “elements in Sri Lanka could be linked to incidents of terrorism in Pakistan, including the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore”. Both countries were now looking into “reports that terrorists in Pakistan had received finances from Sri Lanka,” Mr Gilani said on Sunday.

It should be remembered that Sri Lanka, subject to terrorism over decades, had always adopted a posture of “understanding” towards terror-stricken Pakistan. Despite the fact that world cricket was reluctant to visit Pakistan, Sri Lanka had sent its national team on a tour to Pakistan. The gesture was more in line with the thinking that terrorism should not disrupt normal links between countries. This was how Sri Lanka wanted the world to treat Pakistan.

The world knew the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organisation but full information about its international activities was known only to think tank experts and the Sri Lankan government. Because at one level it was also an India-Sri Lanka issue, much of the global terrorist spread of the LTTE was obfuscated. However, it was by and large accepted by all that Al Qaeda had benefited from the “technology levels” available in LTTE’s capacity to inflict damage.

For instance, a report posted on the US Council on Foreign Relations website asserts that “the secular, nationalist LTTE has no operational connection with al-Qaeda, its radical Islamist affiliates, or other terrorist groups”. It does however accept that Al Qaeda copied the Tigers’ innovation of the “jacket” apparatus worn by individual suicide bombers. LTTE did do some training in Palestine and inspire copycat terrorism in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia.

But Sri Lankan scholars have gone deeper into the LTTE activities than non-Sri Lankans. For instance, Shanaka Jayasekara, Terrorism Researcher, Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (PICT), Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, has zeroed in on the “contact” that no one talks about in Pakistan. He writes:

“Brian Joyce in an article in the Jane’s Intelligence in November 2002 on Terrorist Financing in South Asia states that the LTTE shipping fleet provided logistics support to Harkat-al Mujahideen, a Pakistani militant group with Al Qaeda affiliations, to transport a consignment of weapons to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines. The LTTE used a merchant vessel registered by a front company in Lattakia, Syria, until 2002”.

Pakistan’s own intelligence may not have been very successful in finding the connection — our old spooks now singing on TV are more interested in fighting Mossad and RAW — but there has been a constant buzz in Pakistan about the Taliban and its patron Al Qaeda taking whatever money comes their way to inflict damage on Pakistan. Foreign countries and their intelligence agencies have been often named to explain the holding power of the Taliban.

Foreign terrorists too have been reported as a part of the baggage unloaded by Al Qaeda on its minions in South Waziristan. Even warlord Fazlullah in Swat was allowing “foreigners” to fight the Pakistan Army and behead innocent local people. It is therefore not beyond the Taliban — whose side-business is nothing but extortion and killing for profit — to do “the job” for the LTTE in Lahore for money.

The attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team was carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi of the Taliban Tehreek Punjab, the most allied of Al Qaeda allies in the country. An officer of the Punjab police had however blamed India once again for the act of terrorism, assigning to New Delhi the motive that could very well be the motive of elements in Tamil Nadu that support the LTTE, and probably of the ruling political party of Tamil Nadu presently in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition at the centre.

Perhaps the most meaningful lesson for Pakistan to draw comes from the way Sri Lanka has dealt with the terrorism of LTTE. It tackled the long-term Indian involvement inside Sri Lanka on behalf of the nationalists of Tamil Nadu by “normalising” its relations with New Delhi, signing a free-trade treaty with it, and then confronting an increasingly isolated LTTE and putting an end to it. (Daily Times)