Kashmir And The Pro-Bin Laden Terrorist Infrastructure In Pakistan
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COMMENTS PRINT
(This note was prepared by me before the recent explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi in connection with a visit to the USA in the first fortnight of June, 2002, for participating in discussions with a cross-section of experts on terrorism. This may kindly be read in continuation of my notes recorded after an earlier visit to the US for the same purpose in February, 2002, which are available here by following the link to the right)

Pakistan waged unsuccessfully its first proxy war against India in the North-Eastern frontier areas between 1956 and 1971 from the then East Pakistan. Since1981, the military-intelligence establishment of the Government of Pakistan has been waging a second proxy war against India in the hope of thereby achieving its strategic objective of annexing the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). This second proxy war, which involves the use of State-sponsored terrorism to keep the Indian Security Forces and the civilian population bleeding without provoking a conventional war, was first started in the Indian State of Punjab in 1981 and extended to J&K in 1989.

2. The activities of Pakistan's State-sponsored terrorists in Indian Punjab have been brought under control by the Government of India since 1995, but the terrorist violence in J&K has not yet been brought under control due to the involvement of a large number of Pakistani Punjabis and other foreign mercenaries trained, armed and infiltrated by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the surviving remnants of bin Laden's Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

3. Between 1989 and 1993, Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment relied largely on indigenous Kashmiri organisations for promoting terrorist violence in the Indian territory. Following their perceived failure to make headway on the ground, it started infiltrating into J&K since 1993 trained and armed cadres of a number of Pakistani organisations, mainly of Pakistani Punjabis, in order to intensify the proxy war. The more prominent of these Pakistani organisations are:

  • The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), which was designated by the USA as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in October,1997 under its then name of Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA).
  • The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which was designated by the USA as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in December, 2001.
  • The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which was also designated by the USA as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in December 2001.
  • The Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al-Islami (HUJI), which has not yet been so designated.
  • The Al Badr, which too has not yet been so designated.

4. Of these, the oldest is the Al Badr, which was got floated by the ISI through the intermediary of Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) in the then East Pakistan before 1971 in order to use it to massacre a large number of Bengali Muslim intellectuals, which shocked the civilised world in 1971. After the birth of Bangladesh, the Al Badr was shifted by the ISI to Pakistan and was amongst the organisations used by the ISI against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

5. The HUM, the LET and the HUJI came into being in the 1980s and played an active role against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The JEM was formed in the beginning of 2000 through an ostensible split in the HUM.

6. These Pakistani organisations, whose cadres were infiltrated in increasing numbers into J&K after 1993, have virtually taken over the leadership of the terrorist movement and given it a pan-Islamic direction. Their objective has nothing to do with the interests and welfare of the Kashmiris. They project J&K as the gateway to India and describe their final objective as the "liberation" of the Muslims of India and the creation of two more 'Muslim homelands" in South Asia.

7. The following characteristics of these organisations have not received from the rest of the world the attention they deserve:

  • They describe Western-style liberal democracies as anti-Islam since they advocate that sovereignty lies in the people. According to these organisations, sovereignty lies in God and the clerics, as the interpreters of Islam, should have the decisive role in law-making and implementation. They look upon the successful functioning of the Indian democracy as a corrupting influence on Pakistan's civil society and elite.

  • They say that they do not recognise national frontiers and that they recognise only the frontiers of the Ummah and assert the right of the Muslims to go and wage a jihad (holy war) in any country where, in their perception, Muslims are suppressed, even if it be in a Muslim country.

  • They describe Pakistan's atomic bomb as the Ummah's and advocate that Pakistan's bomb and nuclear technology should be available to any Muslim country which needs them to protect itself.

  • They support bin Laden's argument that the Muslims have the right and even a religious obligation to acquire and even use Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), if necessary, to protect their religion.

  • Their office-bearers and cadres are largely Pakistani Punjabis. Their training and logistics infrastructure was based in Afghanistan and Pakistan before October 7, 2001, and is now totally based in Pakistani territory after they were driven out of Afghanistan by the international coalition led by the USA. Many of the training camps in Taliban-controlled territory destroyed by the USA's cruise missile strikes in August,1998, belonged to the HUM and the HUJI

  • All of them look upon the US, India and Israel as the principal enemies of Islam and are members (except the Al Badr, which is not) of bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jehad (Crusade) against the USA and Israel, which was formed in 1998. The HUM was the first to join it in 1998 and the others followed later. Their cadres, believed to have been trained by bin Laden's 055 Brigade in Afghan territory, played an active role in assisting the Al Qaeda and the Taliban initially in their fight against the Northern Alliance before October 7, 2001, and then in their fight against the international coalition led by the USA thereafter.

 

8. These organisations imported into J&K bin Laden's brand of suicide terrorism, which was unknown in J&K before the middle of 1999 and have been responsible for most of the acts of terrorism since 1999. The only important Kashmiri organisation, which is still carrying on a campaign of terrorism, is the Hizbul Mujahideen, the militant wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of J&K, which is an appendage of the JEI of Pakistan. Thus, what we have been witnessing in J&K since 1999 is no longer just Kashmiri militancy as it is often described, but Pakistani Punjabi terrorism in the name and under the guise of Kashmiris and drawing its inspiration from its post-1998 association with bin Laden.

9. According to the Pakistani media, about 6,000 trained terrorists of these organisations, the largest component of them belonging to the HUM and the HUJI, were killed in the operations of the US-led international coalition in Afghanistan. The surviving remnants, estimated to be 40,000 plus, have entered Pakistan from Afghanistan along with the surviving remnants of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

10. They initially took sanctuary in the tribal areas of Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal areas (FATA) of Pakistan, but have since spread over to other parts of Pakistan away from the Pakistan-Afghan border, including Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan).

11. This became evident during the capture of Abu Zubaida, stated to be the No.3 in the Al Qaeda, and 19 other members of the Al Qaeda by the Pakistani security forces, when they were reportedly pressurised to act by the US counter-terrorism officials on the basis of precise intelligence, from hide-outs in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab. It was reported that they had been given shelter there by the LET.

12. This also became evident during the interrogation of one Fazal Karim, a terrorist of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) by the Karachi Police in connection with the investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the young American journalist, while he was doing an investigative story on the Pakistani links of Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber. The "News" (May 23, 2002), the prestigious daily of Pakistan, reported as follows on the interrogation:

13. "Pakistani security officials believe that because of increased monitoring activities by the military services in the tribal areas, scores of the foreigners, earlier hiding there, have now moved with the help of their trusted Pakistani religious supporters to the populous urban centres, such as Karachi. "There are scores of Arabs and their Pakistani loyalists who are desperate to blow themselves up to settle score with the Americans and other westerners," an official quoted Fazal Karim as saying. "These Arabs residing in various neighbourhoods in the outskirts of Karachi are on do-or-die missions," he added. Fazal told his investigators, "Our Arab friends hosted us in Afghanistan when we were on the run, now it's our turn to pay them back."

14. The paper added: "Giving more specific information about the new terrorist threat in Karachi, Fazal is believed to have disclosed that the Airport hotel near Karachi airport, where the western military personnel of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) were staying, had been selected by his group for a possible suicidal strike.

15. "Informed diplomats in Islamabad termed "a watershed" and "very dangerous" the evidence that previously friendly groups have merged operationally. Al-Qaeda signatures, not seen previously in Pakistan, were starkly visible in the recent attacks apparently carried out principally by the Pakistanis: detailed planning, western targets and, in the two attacks, suicide bombers, " the paper concluded. The two attacks with the Al Qaeda's signature referred to by the daily were the grenade attack on Christian worshippers in an Islamabad church on March 17, 2002, in which five persons, including the wife and daughter of an American diplomat, were killed, and the car bomb explosion in Karachi on May 8, 2002, in which 11 French nationals were killed.

16. Since December, 2001, sections of the Pakistani media have been reporting about the movement of the Al Qaeda survivors towards Pakistani Punjab as well as the POK with the complicity of the ISI-supported Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). This movement has continued, despite the ostensible ban on the LET imposed by Gen. Pervez Musharraf on January 15, 2002, under US pressure.

17. The role played by the LET's headquarters at Muridke, near Lahore, in facilitating the movement of Al Qaeda cadres to and from Afghanistan was highlighted by the prestigious "Friday Times" of Lahore in its issue for the week from December 14 to 20, 2001. It wrote: "Muridke, a city within a city, was built with Arab (My comment: bin Laden's) money.....Its (the LET's) contact with the Wahabi camps in Kunnar in Afghanistan has never been disowned although Muridke carefully mutes its obvious connections with the Arab warriors in Afghanistan. Its connections with Osama bin Laden have also been carefully hidden although news appearing in the national press have linked the two....Lashkar's office in Muridke used to receive a large number of Arabs on a daily basis and was a transit camp for those leaving for Afghanistan and Central Asia."

18. With the complicity of the ISI, the LET started moving the Al Qaeda survivors to private homes in different towns in Punjab as well as to its camps in the POK. The "Friday Times" reported in its issue for February 1 to 7, 2002: "Sources say that when Dawatul Irshad (Markaz Dawa Al Irshad since re-named as Jamaat al-Dawa), parent organisation of the now banned Lashkar Tayyaba (Lashkar-e-Toiba), shifted its activities to Azad Kashmir (POK), it took with it many non-Pakistanis suspected of links to Al Qaeda. All these organisations were loosely affiliated and their activists moved across organisations and cells with a great degree of ease, an intelligence source said."

19. The "Friday Times" added: " Just before the Musharraf Government took action against the organisation, there were quite a few foreigners residing at Dawa's headquarters in Muridke. Most of these people had infiltrated into Pakistan in the initial stages of the war, says an insider. Some of these people shifted along with other Lashkar cadres to Azad Kashmir (POK) after Hafiz Mohammed Saeed resigned under pressure from the Government. After his resignation, he also constituted another jehadi group called Jamaat al-Dawa while the supreme council nominated Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, another senior member of the Dawatul Irshad, as its new Amir. Insiders say some of these foreigners are also said to be linked to Hezbul Tehreer and work under the supervision of Abdul Qadeem Zaloom, a Saudi-based person with links to the Al Qaeda," it concluded.

20. In its report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000" released on April 30, 2001, the Counter-Terrorism Division of the US State Department had warned as follows: "Taliban-controlled Afghanistan remains a primary hub for terrorists and a home or transit point for the loosely-organised network of "Afghan alumni", a web of informally linked individuals and groups that were trained and fought in the Afghan war. Afghan alumni have been involved in most major terrorist plots or attacks against the United States in the past 15 years and now engage in international militant and terrorist acts throughout the world. The leaders of some of the most dangerous terrorist groups to emerge in the past decade have headquarters or major offices in Afghanistan and their associates threaten stability in many real and potential trouble spots around the globe----from the Philippines to the Balkans, Central Asia to the Persian Gulf, Western China to Somalia and Western Europe to South Asia. That is why the Taliban's continued support for these groups is now recognised by the international community as a growing threat to all countries."

21. These Afghan alumni of the 1980s vintage were responsible not only for most acts of terrorism against the USA, but also for most acts of terrorism against India during the last nine years in J&K and other parts of India. The surviving members of these Afghan alumni of the 1980s vintage have now been joined by the surviving members of the Afghan alumni of the post-October 7, 2001, vintage. They have made Pakistan, including the POK and the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), the new primary hub for terrorists and a home or transit point for terrorists operating against India, the USA, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, the Central Asian Republics, Russia and West Europe. These new alumni are being guided in their operations by serving and retired officers of the ISI. Among the retired officers playing an active role in keeping up their trans-national terrorism alive are former heads of the ISI such as Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, Lt. Gen. Naseem Rana, presently Pakistani High Commissioner to Malaysia, and Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed. Lt. Gen. Nasir and Lt. Gen. Rana were active members of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) even when they were in service. Unless and until the international community led by the USA recognises that Pakistan's continued support for or complicity with these groups constitutes a serious threat to all these countries and acts against it as determinedly as it acted against the Afghanistan-based alumni, the world will not be free of this evil.

22. The Government and the people of India have reasons to be grateful to the Government and the people of the USA for their solidarity with India in its fight against Pakistan's State-sponsored terrorism after the barbarous attack on the Indian Parliament at New Delhi on December 13, 2001, by elements of these Afghan alumni, which fortunately failed due to the brave fight put up by the Indian Police and other security personnel guarding the Parliament, many of whose members, including a lady officer, died while thwarting the attack.

23. They are also grateful to President Bush and his colleagues for mounting pressure on Pakistan's military regime to stop supporting cross-border terrorism against India. Stopping support to cross-border terrorism has two aspects: firstly, destroying the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory, including the POK and the Northern Areas, and, secondly, stopping cross-border infiltration of trained and armed terrorists into India.

24. As a result of the US pressure after the attack on the Indian Parliament, President Pervez Musharraf announced a series of measures to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. These included the following:

  • Freezing the bank accounts of organisations based in Pakistani territory, which were named by the UN and the US as terrorist or suspected terrorist organisations.

  • Arrests of about 2000 cadres and the leaders of the LET, the JEM, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which is a Sunni extremist organisation, the Tehrik Jaffria Pakistan (TJP), which is a Shia extremist organisation, and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi ( TNSM), a terrorist organisation based in the FATA.

  • A ban on the above-mentioned organisations.

25. The misgivings of India about the sincerity of his intentions were subsequently proved correct by the following developments:

  • As pointed out by the Pakistani media itself, the freezing of bank accounts and the seizure of terrorist funds proved to be a farce. The terrorist organisations were told in advance of the impending action, thereby enabling them to withdraw the amounts from their accounts or to transfer them to other accounts in different names. The two accounts of the HUM had a total of Rs.4,742 (US $ 70 ), the JEM had Rs.900 (US $ 12), the Al Rashid Trust, which handled the accounts of the Taliban and the LET, had Rs.2.7 (US $ 40,000) million in Pakistani currency and US $ 30. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, of the Al Jihad, Egypt, who operated the accounts of the Al Qaeda, had just US $ 252. Pakistani Rs.68 are equivalent to one US dollar. The "News" of Islamabad reported as follows on January 1, 2002: " Experts said the policy to freeze the accounts in "pieces" gave ample time to most of these account-holders to withdraw their money."

  • Most of the cadres arrested performed duties such as running the offices of the organisations in small towns, collecting funds in streets, distributing pamphlets, pasting propaganda posters on walls etc. Most of them were released after three months on the ground that there was no evidence of their involvement in terrorism. The ISI and the Police raided only the offices of these organisations in small towns, but not their headquarters. No raids or arrests were made in the POK and the Northern Areas. There were no arrests anywhere of trained terrorists.

  • The ban on the above-mentioned five organisations was not made applicable to the POK and the Northern Areas and the trained terrorists were shifted there. No ban has been imposed on the HUM and the HUJI, which have close links with the Army, anywhere in Pakistan.

  • The compliance report sent by the military regime to the Monitoring Committee of the UN Security Council (UNSC) as required under UNSC Resolution No.1373 has been a farce. This Resolution called upon all member-States not to give active or passive support in their territory to terrorist organisations acting against other States or nationals from their territory and to stop their actvities. The questionnaire issued by the Monitoring Committee required each member-country to give specific examples of the action taken in matters such as closing down sanctuaries. The Pakistani regime has avoided giving any such specific examples because it has not taken any of the specific actions laid down in the Resolution.

  • It has not complied with the request of the Government of India for the extradition of 20 terrorists, 14 of them Indian nationals, who have been given sanctuary in Pakistan.

26. Like all member-States of the UN, Pakistan too has the following obligations with regard to terrorism:

  • Comply with the provisions of international conventions regarding mutual legal assistance in matters relating to aircraft hijackings. Since 1971, there have been seven hijackings of Indian Airlines aircraft by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. All of them were carried out when the military was in power. Pakistan has not carried out its legal obligations.

  • Comply with the red-cornered notices issued by the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to locate and arrest terrorists and transnational criminals wanted by India, who were in its territory. It has not complied with them on the ground that they were not in its territory. It has not complied with the requests of the Govt. of India and the notices of the INTERPOL to arrest and extradite to India Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia leader, and others involved in the Mumbai (Bombai) blasts of March, 1993, which killed nearly 300 innocent civilians. During his visit to India in July, 2001, Musharraf denied they were in Pakistani territory, but "Newsline", a prestigious monthly of Pakistan, reported in September, 2001, that they were living in Karachi under the protection of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. When Mr. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Pakistan's former High Commissioner to India, was asked about it in a TV interview, he replied: "Newspaper reports are no evidence."
  • Comply with the UNSC Resolution 1373. Its compliance has been evasive

27. After the recent massacre of the family members, including children, of Indian army personnel by Pakistani terrorists near Jammu on May 14, 2002, the US Government has mounted further pressure on the Musharraf regime to stop cross-border infiltration. During the visit of Mr. Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State, to Islamabad on June 6, 2002, Musharraf is reported to have stated that he has already given instructions to stop this permanently.

28. Keeping in mind his past record of insincerity, the people of India have valid reasons to be skeptical about this new commitment by him. Mr. Najam Sethi, the distinguished Pakistani Editor, wrote in the "Friday Times" ( May 18 to 24, 2001) as follows: " The Musharraf model seeks to covertly ally with the jihadi groups while overtly keeping the mainstream religious parties out of the power loop. This is to enhance and sustain its covert external agenda, while internally maintaining an overtly moderate anti-fundamentalist stance for the comfort of the international community whose economic support is critical to Pakistan's financial viability."

29. Mr. Sethi's observations remain as valid today as they were when they were made a year ago. There is no evidence so far to indicate that Musharraf is a changed man, who has genuinely realised the criminality, the barbarity and the futility of the use of terrorism as a weapon to achieve Pakistan's strategic objective against India.

30. Religious fundamentalism is not unique to Pakistan. It has swept through other Muslim countries too. What is unique to Pakistan is the advocacy by its jehadi groups of the right and the obligation of Muslims to acquire and use, if necessary, WMD. One does not come across this advocacy in the statements and writings of Islamic fundamentalist organisations of other countries. There is a disturbing similarity in irrationality in the arguments relating to the use of WMD employed by Musharraf and bin Laden.

31. The only difference is that whereas bin Laden and other Afghan alumni say that they would be prepared to acquire and use WMD against the USA if left with no other means of protecting Islam, Musharraf says he would be prepared to use his Chinese-given nuclear weapons against India, if left with no other alternative to protect Pakistan.

32. It would be unwise and dangerous for the US and other members of the international community not to take notice of this irrational hub of WMD-threatening terrorism in Pakistani territory and act as determinedly against it as it acted against the hub in Afghanistan and dismantle not only the terrorist infrastructure, but also Pakistan's WMD capability in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the new and more irrational Afghan alumni of the post-October 7, 2001, vintage.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai)

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COMMENTS PRINT
Opinion
"After me, the fundamentalist deluge in Pakistan."  That is the fear the Pakistani dictator has played on. Time for a reality check.
B. Raman

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"After me, the fundamentalist deluge in Pakistan."  That is the fear the Pakistani dictator has played on. Time for a reality check.
B. Raman
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