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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pakistan Army and its Involement in and Support for Terrorism - Part I

Iman, Taqwah, Jihad fi Sabilillah”. So says, proudly, the motto of the Pakistani Army. Faith, Fear of Allah, Jihad in the way of Allah was how the Islamist General Zia-ul-Haq changed the motto from Jinnah’s “Ittehad, Yaqeen aur Tanzeem (Unity, Faith and Discipline)”. The Pakistani Army has lived up to the new motto ever since it was coined.

No doubt that the Pakistani politicians and even the ‘usurper’ Generals have used the ‘religion’ card whenever it came to defending their power or defending their country against the infidel Hindu India. Field Marshal Ayub Khan who once ensured that one of the greatest Islamist jihadi thinkers of the previous century, Abu Ala Al Mawdudi was sentenced to death for inciting the Lahore riots against the Ahmedis and who later dropped the honorific adjective ‘Islamic’ from the reference to the Pakistani Republic, had to resort to compromises with the very same Islamist forces he opposed in order to defeat Ms. Fatima Jinnah. It was at the behest of a whisky-swilling and philandering Gen. Yahya Khan that the Pakistani Army encouraged the fundamentalist Islamist party of Jama’at-e-Islami to popularize the slogan, “Pakistan ka matlab kya Hai ? La Ilaha il Allah”. Ultimately, the mard-e-momin, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq made the Objectives Resolution, which disenfranchised the minorities of Pakistan, a Preamble to the Constitution of Pakistan.

Thus, Pakistan Army’s overt contribution to the strengthening of fundamentalism and extremism may be well known. For a long time, India has also been aware of the covert involvement of the Pakistani Army, and of course all sections of the Pakistani Government, in terrorism directed against India. They have been successfully portrayed as pro-Kashmiri freedom fighters by Pakistan, a line of argument accepted by the benefactors of Pakistan because it suits them geopolitically and geostrategically. Once the US and KSA decided to allow the ISID and the Pakistani Army to tactically control the Afghan jihad, and the CIA decided to upgrade the ISID significantly, the situation spun out of control. As it usually happens, such violent terrorists do not always remain committed to their benefactors and they do turn against them if and when the situation so demands. In the process, skeletons begin to tumble out of the cupboard.

Let us look at the emerging connections between terrorism and the Pakistani Army.

The most dramatic event in recent times was the 26/11 carnage at Mumbai. Two main actors of this carnage have spilled the beans. One was Ajmal Amir Kasab, held by Indian police and recently awarded death sentence and the other is a double-agent of US and Pakistani Army, Daood Gilani alias David Coleman Headley. Ajmal Amir Kasab spoke of how a certain ‘Major General saheb’ used to visit their training camps in the company of the LeT emir Prof. Hafeez Saeed and how he personally conducted the tests to select the group that eventually went on the 26/11 mission. For his part, Headley has implicated several Pakistani Army officers, both serving and retired. The serving officers whom he said were ‘handlers of the 26/11 terrorists’ were identified under their possible nom-de-guerre as ‘Major Iqbal’ and ‘Major Samir (Sameer) Ali’. He also identified Major Saeed and Colonel Shah as being involved in the planning of 26/11. Headley has also spoken of a certain Special Services Group (SSG) officer Maj. Haroon Ashique as being a collaborator with Lashkar-e-Tayba’s (LeT) operational commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Obviously, these serving officers could not have been involved in terrorism without the express knowledge of the Pakistani Army’s top brass. When the Government of India (GoI) handed over a dossier to Pakistan at the recent Foreign Secretary level meeting at Delhi and indicted Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali, the Pakistani government could only dismiss it as a ‘piece of literature’. Headley’s accomplice in the mass murder was Tahawwur Rana, who was himself a Pakistani Army Captain, who claims to have deserted it. Strangely, both Headley and Rana attended the same military school, the Hasan Abdal Cadet College.

We also know that apart from possibly being agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA of the US, Headley was also involved with LeT and Al Qaeda, especially the Brigade 313 component of the latter. ‘Brigade 313’ is a particularly extremist organization led by another ex-SSG commando, the one-eyed Ilyas Kashmiri. His tentacles into the Pakistani Army are legendary. He lost one of his eyes in an Afghanistan operation when he was part of the Pakistani Army. After the Afghan jihad, the Pakistani Army asked him to direct his attention to the jihad in Kashmir and he joined the Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami (HuJI). He was captured by the Indian Army but escaped within two years. He ran a terrorist training camp in Kotli, his home town, which was frequently visited by the then Rawalpindi Corps Commander of the 10th Corps Gen Mehmood Ahmed. The Rawalpindi-based 10th Corps has responsibility for Kashmir operations and for pushing infiltrators across the LoC. Ilyas Kashmiri has also been described as chief of al-Qaeda’s shadow army—Lashkar-e-Zil, a loose alliance of al-Qaeda-and Taliban-linked anti-US militia which has distinguished itself by conducting unusual guerrilla operations, like the one that targeted the CIA’s Forward Operating Base in Khost on December 31, 2009, killing seven CIA officials. He has reportedly conducted several major military actions in India, including the 1994 Al-Hadid operation in New Delhi, to get some of his jihadi comrades released. He is even reported to have beheaded an Indian Army officer in c. 2000 for which Gen. Pervez Musharraf gave him a cash reward. The dividing line between the Pakistani Army and the Islamist jihadi terrorists thus disappears in most cases.

This does not mean that Ilyas Kashmiri had not hesitated to bite the hands that fed him once. In spite of receiving a cash reward from Gen. Musharraf, he tried to assassinate him later on. The Islamist cause is obviously more important than individuals, friendship and regimental loyalty. He was to prove this point once again in November, 2008 when he eliminated Maj. Gen. (retd.) Feisal Alvi, the ex Commander of his own SSG because he had conducted operations against the Taliban earlier. He used Major Haroon Ashique for this purpose. Later, in December 2009, he mounted an audacious attack on the General Head Quarters (GHQ) itself at Rawalpindi with the possible intention of capturing or killing Gen. Kayani, the Chief of the Pakistani Army. He made use of another ex-Army officer Col. Usman for that purpose.

(To be Continued . . . )

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