The Mysterious Case Of Arif Qasmani
In a press note issued on July 1, 2009, the US Department of Treasury gave the personal particulars of four
persons-- a Pashtun born in Afghanistan, two Punjabis and a fourth person of
unclear ethnicity originating from Karachi--associated with the Lashkare-Toiba (LET),who were designated by the Department under Executive Order 13224
"as providing direct support to Al Qaeda and the LET and as facilitating terrorist attacks, including the July 2006 train bombing in
The four persons so designated by the Treasury Department are:
(a) Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari born in the Konar Province of Afghanisan and living in Peshawar.
(b) Arif Qasmani, a Pakistani national from Karachi.
(c) Mohammed Yahya Mujahid, a Pakistani national from Lahore.
(d) Nasir Javaid, a Pakistani national from Gujranwala, Punjab, living in Manshera, NWFP.
The Treasury Department's notification does not specifically refer to Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari (Ameen al-Peshawari) as an associate or an office-bearer of the LET. However, it says of him as follows:
"He was providing assistance, including funding and recruits, to the al Qaida network. He has also provided funding and other resources to the Taliban, including explosive vests and other resources and actively facilitated the activities of anti-Coalition militants operating in Afghanistan by raising money in support of terrorist activities. In addition, he had begun a campaign to support militants in Pakistan. As of 2007, Ameen al-Peshawari was responsible for recruiting fighters and suicide bombers and for the acquisition of funds and equipment for militants in Afghanistan. Ameen al-Peshawari has also provided monetary compensation to families of fighters killed in Afghanistan and has been involved in anti-Coalition militia recruiting activities."
All the activities of Abu Mohammed al-Peshawari referred to in the notification relate to Afghanistan. No activities of his in relation to India have been cited.
However, Arif Qasmani of Karachi has been specifically named by the notification as involved in the Mumbai suburban train blasts of July, 2006, and in the Samjhauta Express blast of February, 2007. It says of him as follows:
"Arif Qasmani is the chief coordinator for Lashkar-e Tayyiba's (LET) dealings with outside organizations and has provided significant support for LET terrorist operations. Qasmani has worked with LET to facilitate terrorist attacks, including the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007
Samjhauta Express bombing in Panipat, India. Qasmani conducted fundraising activities on behalf of LET in 2005 and utilized money that he received
from Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian crime figure and terrorist supporter, to facilitate the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India. Since 2001, Arif Qasmani has also provided financial and other support and services to al Qaida, including facilitating the movement of al Qaida leaders and personnel in and out of Afghanistan, the return of foreign fighters to their respective countries, and the provision of supplies and weapons. In return for Qasmani's support, al Qaida provided Qasmani with operatives to support the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjota Express bombing in Panipat, India. In 2005, Qasmani provided Taliban leaders with a safe haven and a means to smuggle personnel, equipment, and weapons into Afghanistan."
From the notification, three significant points about Qasmani emerge: First, he received money from Dawood Ibrahim for the July 2006 bombings in Mumbai; second, he provided financial and logistics support to Al Qaeda and its leaders; and third, he provided safehaven to the leaders of the Afghan Taliban.
According to the notification, "Mohammed Yahya Mujahid is the head of the LET media department and has served as an LET media spokesman since at least mid-2001. In that capacity, Mujahid has issued statements to the press on behalf of LET on numerous occasions, including after the December 2001 LET attacks on the Indian Parliament, and following the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. Mujahid's statements on behalf of LET have been reported by international news sources such as BBC News, the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and Asia Times Online. As of late 2007, Mujahid was influential among the LET central leadership."
The notification says that "Nasir Javaid is an LET official involved in LET operations and has served as an LET commander in Pakistan. From 2001 to at least 2008, Nasir Javaid was also involved in LET military training. In mid-2001, Javaid assumed command of an LET training center in Pakistan."
The notification does not specify whether the evidence against the four designated individuals cited in it was collected by the US intelligence or whether some of it came from India too. Some inputs from India are likely.
Earlier on June 29,2009,the Department of Public Information of the UN Security Council had announced as follows: " The Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee approved the addition of three entries to its Consolidated List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 1822 (2008) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations."
The three names added by the UN Committee to its list are those of Abu Mohammad Ameen al-Peshawari, Arif Qasmani and Mohammad Yahya Mujahid. The name of Nasir Javaid does not figure in the list issued by the UN Committee possibly because there is no evidence of his involvement with Al Qada and/or the Afghan Taliban. The evidence against the three persons cited in the notification of the UN Committee is the same as subsequently cited by the US Treasury Department.
The UN Committee notification has one additional detail which is not there in the Treasury Department notification -- namely, all the three persons were in custody as of June,2009. While it does not mention where they were in custody, it must be in Pakistan. It also does not say when they were arrested.
However, in a report on the Mumbai terrorist attack of November,2008, carried by "Asia Times Online" on December 2,2008,Syed Saleem Shahzad, its Special Correspondent in Pakistan, had indicated that Arif Qasmani, whom he described as a millionaire businessman of Karachi, was already in detention in Pakistan because of the ISI's anger over the double role allegedly played by him-- namely, assisting the ISI in its operations in India through the LET and at the same time assisting the Pakistani Taliban in its operations against the Pakistan Army.
Shahzad reported as follows:
"The most important asset of the ISI, the Laskhar-e-Taiba (LET), was split after 9/11. Several of its top-ranking commanders and office bearers joined hands with al-Qaeda militants. A millionaire Karachi-based businessman, Arif Qasmani, who was a major donor for ISI-sponsored LET operations in India, was arrested for playing a double game - he was accused of working with the ISI while also sending money to Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area for the purchase of arms and ammunition for al-Qaeda militants."
Shahzad did not mention when Qasmani was arrested, but from the wording of his article it appeared that he must have been arrested before the 26/11 Mumbai strike. Earlier, the "Dawn" of Karachi had reported on December 29,2005, as follows:
"The Sindh High Court asked the federal interior secretary on Wednesday to file, within 10 days, a rejoinder to a petition alleging that a man was being detained by a federal law enforcement agency unlawfully. Petitioner Javeria Arif submitted through Advocate Nihal Hashmi that her husband, Arif Qasmani, was picked up by law enforcement personnel from his KDA Scheme residence on Nov 29 for his suspected links with Al Qaeda and Taliban. No case was registered against him, nor was he produced before a magistrate for remand. The police were informed but was of no help to her. An additional advocate-general informed a division bench, comprising Justices Mushir Alam and Athar Saeed, that the provincial government had nothing to do with the matter but he required more time to make a formal statement on behalf of the police. Adjourning further hearing to Jan 19, the bench expressed its concern that, judging by the number of petitions being filed in this behalf, the
incidence of ‘disappearance’ of people was on the increase. It observed that the government agencies were legally obliged to protect the life and liberty of citizens and they should act in accordance with the law."
On December 1, 2005, Shahzad reported to the Italian news agency AKI ( Adnkronos International) as follows:
"Arif Qasmani is a veteran jihadi, having fought against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and been associated with the armed struggle in Indian-held Kashmir. He was picked up by Pakistani security forces last October but released a few days later. Now Qasmani is once again missing. According to his family, he was in Karachi and departed for Lahore two days ago but since he left home his whereabouts are unknown." Around the same time, he reported to
"AsiaTimes Online" as follows: "Arif Qasmani was a part of a high-level November 14 meeting in Islamabad held to initiate a process for peace between the Afghan resistance and coalition forces led by the US."
The same day, Amir Mir, the well-known Pakistani journalist, who writes for sections of the Pakistani media and some of whose articles are also carried by sections of the Indian media, reported as follows: "One of the four Pakistanis who reportedly held a clandestine meeting with the visiting American Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs Karen Hughes and other senior US State Department officials at Serena Hotel in Islamabad on November 14, 2005, to broker a deal between the Taliban and the United States is believed to have been kidnapped by the Pakistani intelligence agencies."
He added: "Previously linked with the now defunct Lashkar-e-Toiba, a militant outfit active in the Indian-administered Kashmir, Arif Qasmani is considered close to Javed Ibrahim Paracha, a former member of the National Assembly from Kohat district of the NWFP. Paracha, who is also the chairman of the World Prisoners' Relief Forum, claimed on November 17, 2005, that he was requested by the Americans during their Islamabad meeting to serve as a bridge between Washington, the Taliban and their Arab comrades for the purpose of 'reconciliation'. According to Paracha, Arif Qasmani has been picked up by the Pakistani intelligence agencies without any justification. "Qasmani went missing on Tuesday after he had left Karachi for Lahore by plane which was supposed to take off at 8 in the morning. His wife has informed me that Qasmani has not yet reached Lahore where he was supposed to hold a business meeting. I understand that he has been arrested by the sensitive agencies. He was earlier detained in August 2005. His family members now fear for his life", Paracha said.
He further reported: "Paracha, who is also Chairman International Rabita Jehad Council, said those who met the Americans on November 14 and discussed the possibility of negotiating with the Afghan resistance leaders included (besides him) Arif Qasmani, Khalid Khawaja and Shah Abdul Aziz of MMA from Karak district in NWFP. "There is every possibility that Qasmani has been detained for nvestigations in connection with the November 14 meeting", Paracha added. Khalid Khawaja, a former officer with the (ISI) Inter Services Intelligence said, "I have just met Arif Qasmani's wife in Karachi. She is much disturbed. She is shocked and believes that Qasmani has been kidnapped by the agencies who had previously detained him in August this year".Khawaja said the family of the kidnapped businessman is seriously considering approaching the court of law for his recovery. "I appeal to the government to inform his family members about his exact whereabouts. The government should ensure that Qasmani is recovered as early as possible", he added."
Thus, during his career, Arif Qasmani had helped the LET, the ISI, the TTP and the US State Department. He had helped the LET in its operations in India. He had helped the ISI by acting as its cut-out with the LET in order to maintain the deniability of the ISI's use of the LET against India. He had helped the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) in its operations against the Pakistan Army and the ISI and he had helped the US State Department by acting as an intermediary between it and the so-called good Taliban. He was also acting as the cut-out of Dawood Ibrahim for funding terrorist attacks in India and of Al Qaeda for using Pakistani jihadi cells in India for its operations. He was also associated with Khalid Khawaja, a retired officer of the Pakistan Air Force who had served in the ISI. Khawaja's name first cropped up during the investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the journalist of the Wall Street Journal, at Karachi in January-February, 2002. Information regarding his alleged role in the Pearl's case had alleged that it was he who had told the kidnappers that Pearl was Jewish.
It is surprising that a man with such a controversial background should be moving in and out of informal custody in Pakistan since August 2005 and at the same time assisting the LET, Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their terrorist strikes, including the Mumbai attack of July,2006, and the blast of February,2007, in the Samjhauta Express without ever being prosecuted under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act.
The State Department had known about him at least since 2005, if not earlier. Has the US Government now decided belatedly to act against him because he failed to deliver on the question of a peace deal with the so-called good Taliban?
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
Identifying Information as given in the US treasury notification of July
FAZEEL-A-TUL SHAYKH ABU MOHAMMED AMEEN AL-PESHAWARI
Abu Mohammad Aminullah Peshawari
Shaykh Aminullah al-Peshawari
Abu Mohammad Amin Bishawri
Abu Mohammad Shaykh Aminullah al Bishauri
Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen al-Peshawari
Konar Province, Afghanistan
Ganj District, Peshawar, Pakistan
Muhammad Arif Qasmani
Muhammad 'Arif Qasmani
Mohammad Arif Qasmani
House Number 136, KDA Scheme No. 1,
Tipu Sultan Road, Karachi, Pakistan
MOHAMMED YAHYA MUJAHID
Mohammad Yahya Aziz
March 12, 1961
Lahore, Punjab Province, Pakistan
National ID Card No.: Pakistan, 35404-1577309-9
Haji Nasir Javed
Qari Naser Javed
Gujranwala, Punjab province, Pakistan
Mansehra district, Northwest Frontier
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