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Why Amjad Farooqi had to die
By B Raman

CHENNAI - Pakistani security agencies on Sunday killed Amjad Hussain Farooqi, alias Mansur Hasnain alias Imtiaz Siddiqui alias Hyder alias Doctor, who, according to them, was the mastermind behind the two aborted attempts to kill President General Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi last December. According to them, he was killed during an encounter with the paramilitary forces who had surrounded a rented house in Nawabshah in Sindh province, where he along with some others had been living for the past two months.

On August 20, the Pakistani authorities had announced cash rewards amounting to Rs20 million each (US$330,000) to anyone giving information leading to the capture of Farooqi, a Pakistani national, and Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a Libyan national, said to belong to al-Qaeda. Farooqi was accused of acting at the instance of the Libyan in his attempts to kill Musharraf.

Talking to the media at The Hague on Monday, Musharraf was reported to have stated as follows: "We eliminated one of the very major sources of terrorist attacks. He was not only involved in attacks on me, but also in attacks elsewhere in the country. So a very big terrorist has been eliminated."

All accounts from Nawabshah indicate that if the Pakistani authorities had wanted they could have caught him alive and questioned him about the role of Pakistani civilian and military officials in various terrorist incidents of the past three years, including the kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, the attempts to kill Musharraf himself and Shaukat Aziz, the prime minister, and the attacks directed against US and French targets in Pakistan. But they did not want him alive.

In a report under the heading "Real conspirators in Musharraf case may never be exposed", Kamran Khan, a Pakistani investigative journalist, stated as follows in The News of September 28: "Senior lawyers say that the killing of Amjad Farooqi, the main accused in the President Musharraf and Daniel Pearl cases, may also influence the final outcome of the two most important cases. A nationwide military investigation launched after two assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf last year had unveiled that some civilian and low-level military individuals were the field operatives, while Amjad Farooqi played an anchor in the abortive bids on General Musharraf's life. Because of the most sensitive nature of the probe the principal investigative work was carried out under the supervision of the Commander Corps 10, who received inputs from all federal and provincial law enforcement agencies in the most extensive investigation of a crime case in Pakistan."

"It was very important to catch Amjad Farooqi alive," said a senior law-enforcement official. "Farooqi was the key link between the foot soldiers and those who ordered the murder."

"Amjad Farooqi is now dead with the most important secret and we still don't know for sure the real identity of the Pakistani or al-Qaeda or any other foreign elements who had launched Farooqi into action to remove General Musharraf from the scene," said a second senior law-enforcement official.

Some circumstantial evidence collected during the investigation of the Musharraf case cited some connection between Abu Feraj, an al-Qaeda operative of Libyan origin, and Farooqi, hence the suspicion that al-Qaeda could be behind the murder attempts through Farooqi. The military investigators had found solid evidence to connect Farooqi with the suicide bombers involved in the December 25 attacks on Musharraf. Farooqi's connections were also established with the group of low-level Pakistani Air Force  (PAF) technicians who had planted bombs under Lai Bridge for the December 11 bid on the president's life. The military investigators were also baffled how come the Air Intelligence, the intelligence wing of the PAF, detected no signs that about two dozen PAF men posted at the Chaklala air base had been attending meetings with religious extremists and in the first week of December were making active preparations at the heart of the PAF base to bomb the presidential motorcade.

Pakistani officials, worried that Farooqi's killing would prevent them from getting the full knowledge about Farooqi's connections and his actions, said that if captured alive Farooqi could have provided crucial information on the plot to kidnap and murder the Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl in early 2002. Pakistani officials believed that, as in the murder attempts against the president, Farooqi was an anchor in the Pearl case. "The gruesome murder of Pearl and its video filming for the world was the work of a Amjad Farooqi-Khalid Shiekh Mohammed combine," said a senior intelligence official who did not want to be identified, referring to the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

The truth will now never be known. Somebody in the Pakistani military-intelligence-police establishment did not want the truth to be known. Why? Who was Farooqi? What were his links with the army, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and others in Pakistan? To which organization did he belong? Read on.

The Taliban, cotton and Afghanistan
In April 1992, a coalition of Afghan mujahideen groups, taking advantage of the revolt of Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek commander, against Najibullah, then president of Afghanistan, managed to invade and capture Kabul. Najibullah, who was overthrown from power, was taken by the United Nations into its protective custody and kept in its office in Kabul. The efforts of the UN to persuade the mujahideen to allow Najibullah to go to India, where his family was living, failed.

The mujahideen's success in capturing power was made possible with the assistance of a large number of jihadis from Pakistan's madrassas (seminaries), who had been trained and armed by the ISI and sent into Afghanistan to help the mujahideen. The Pakistani contingents which participated in the invasion of Kabul belonged to the anti-Shi'ite Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the Harkatul Ansar (HUA), as the Harkat ul-Mujahideen (HUM) was then known, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). Farooqi, then a late teenager, entered Kabul as a member of the contingent of the SSP.

In 1994, there was a serious failure of the Pakistani cotton crop, which threatened to bring its textile industry to a standstill. Asif Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister, flew to Turkmenistan and entered into a contract for the purchase of a large quantity of cotton. The Turkmen authorities wanted to send the cotton to Iran and from there ship it to Karachi.

Zardari did not agree. Instead, he asked them to send the cotton by road via Afghanistan. He had the contract for the road transport of the cotton awarded to a Pakistani crony of his based in Hong Kong. But the first two cotton convoys from Turkmenistan were looted by mujahideen groups operating in the Herat area of Afghanistan.

Zardari thereupon sent retired Major-General Nasirullah Babbar, Benazir Bhutto's interior minister, and Pervez Musharraf (then just in the army) to Afghanistan to provide protection to the cotton convoys. They asked Mullah Omar, who subsequently became the amir of the Taliban, to collect a large number of students (Talibs) from the madrassas of Pakistan and constitute them into a force for the protection of the cotton convoys. Thus, in one sense, the Taliban was born as a force.

Babbar and Musharraf, who had heard of the exploits of Farooqi in Kabul in 1992, asked him to help Mullah Omar in organizing this convoy protection force. He did so. Babbar himself traveled with the first convoy after this arrangement came into force and Farooqi and his boys escorted it.

A few months later, Mullah Omar deputed Farooqi to raid Herat and capture it with the help of his boys. He did so without difficulty, in September 1995, to the pleasant surprise of many, including the ISI. Thus, from a cotton-convoy protection force, the Taliban became the rulers of Kandahar and Herat and other areas. Assisted by Farooqi and his associates, they started gradually extending their administrative control to other areas.

In the beginning of 1995, Farooqi had left the SSP and joined the HUA. The HUA sent him, along with some others, into India's Jammu & Kashmir, where they, under the name al-Faran, kidnapped a group of Western tourists. One of the tourists was beheaded and another managed to escape. The fate of the remaining is not known to this day. They are believed to have been beheaded and buried, but this has not been confirmed.

In October 1995, General Abdul Waheed Kakkar, then chief of the army staff (COAS) under Benazir Bhutto, discovered a plot by a group of army officers headed by Major-General Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi to have him and Benazir assassinated, capture power and proclaim the formation of an Islamic caliphate in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Abbasi and his associates in the army were arrested. They were found to have been plotting in tandem with a group in the HUA led by Qari Saifullah Akhtar. Abbasi, his associates and Akhtar were arrested during the investigation. While Abbasi and his associates were court-martialed and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, Akhtar was released without any action being taken against him.

Before 1990, there were two main jihadi organizations, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI). The HUM was headed by Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil and the HUJI by Qari Saifullah Akhtar. Around 1990, the two merged to form the HUA, with Khalil as the amir and Akhtar as his deputy. Farooqi used to work closely with Akhtar.

In the late 1980s, Abbasi as a brigadier was posted in the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi as the head of the ISI station in India. The government of India had him expelled. On his return to Pakistan, he was posted to the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan). In the beginning of the 1990s, without the clearance of the late General Asif Nawaz Janjua, the then COAS under prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Abbasi organized a raid on an Indian army post in the Siachen area and was beaten back by the Indian army with heavy casualties. Janjua had him transferred out and censured. Since then, he had been nursing an anger against the Pakistani army's senior leadership and hobnobbing with Akhtar. A few months after capturing power on October 12, 1999, Musharraf had Abbasi released from jail. He formed an anti-US organization called Hizbollah, which acted in tandem with the HUJI.

In September 1996, the Taliban captured Jalalabad and Kabul. A large number of jihadi students from the Pakistani madrassas joined the Taliban unit which invaded and captured Kabul. Farooqi joined the unit at the head of a contingent of the HUA. After helping capture Kabul, Farooqi and his boys raided the UN office, where Najibullah was living, lynched him and hanged him from a lamp-post.

When the Taliban, with the help of the madrassa students from Pakistan, captured Jalalabad, Osama bin Laden was living there. He had been permitted by the Burhanuddin Rabbani government, which was in power in Kabul until September 1996, to enter Afghanistan and take up residence in Jalalabad. It had taken the clearance of the Benazir Bhutto government to do so. After capturing Jalalabad, the Taliban had bin Laden moved to Kandahar by Farooqi and his men.

In October 1997, after establishing the involvement of the HUA in the 1995 kidnapping, the US State Department designated it as a foreign terrorist organization under a 1996 US law. The HUA thereupon dissolved itself and the pre-1990 HUM and HUJI resumed their original existence under their previous names. Akhtar took over as amir of the HUJI and made Farooqi his deputy.

In February 1998, bin Laden announced the formation of his International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People. Among those who joined it at its inception were the HUM and a Bangladeshi branch of the HUJI, identified as HUJI (B). The Pakistani branch of the HUJI, the LET and the SSP joined it in 1999. Farooqi used to represent Akhtar at the meetings of the shoora (consultative council) of the IIF.

In December 1999, a group of Pakistani hijackers, said to belong to the HUM, hijacked an aircraft of Indian Airlines, which had taken off from Kathmandu, and forced the pilot to fly it to Kandahar. They demanded, inter alia, the release of Omar Sheikh, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, and Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani Punjabi belonging to the HUM. The government of India conceded their demands in order to terminate the hijacking.

Among the hijackers was a Pakistani Punjabi by the name of Mansur Hasnain. Sections of the Pakistani media have since reported that this hijacker was none other than Farooqi. After their release from detention by Indian authorities, Maulana Azhar and Omar Sheikh went to Pakistan. The return of Azhar led to a split in the HUM. Azhar and his followers formed a new organization called the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which joined bin Laden's IIF. The formation of the JEM was blessed by the late Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, of the Binori madrassa, Karachi, who used to be looked on as the mentor of bin Laden, Mullah Omar and the Pakistani jihadi leaders.

Omar Sheikh took up residence in Lahore and was put in charge of an office run by al-Qaeda in that city. Among other tasks, he was made responsible by bin Laden for procuring medicine and other humanitarian relief for the jihadis of the IIF. Azhar and Omar Sheikh, who were working for the ISI before their arrest in India, resumed their contacts with the ISI. Omar Sheikh used to visit Kandahar periodically to meet bin Laden. During one of those visits, he claimed to have come to know of al-Qaeda's plans for the September 11 terrorist strikes in the US and passed on the information to Lieutenant-General Ehsanul Haq, the present director general of the ISI, who was then posted as the Corps Commander in Peshawar.

When the United States launched its military operations in Afghanistan in October 2001, the Pakistani components of the IIF called on their members to proceed to Afghanistan to join in the jihad against the US. More than 30,000 Pakistani volunteers were estimated to have gone into Afghanistan. The largest number of them belonged to the HUJI and were led by Farooqi. The US air strikes inflicted heavy casualties on them and the survivors, including Farooqi, fled back into Pakistan. Farooqi took up residence in the Binori madrassa of Karachi, where he was sheltered by the late Mufti Shamzai. From his sanctuary in the madrassa, he established contact with Omar Sheikh, who was living in Lahore, and Khalid Shiekh Mohammed (KSM), who was living in Karachi along with Ramzi Binalshibh.

On January 12, 2002, under pressure from the US in the wake of the attempted terrorist strike on the Indian parliament at New Delhi in December 2001, Musharraf announced a ban on the LET, the JEM and the SSP and had their leaders arrested or placed under house arrest. The whole thing was a farce, as was seen subsequently. Intriguingly, he did not ban the HUM and the HUJI, which had many supporters in the army, and did not take any action against Akhtar or Farooqi.

Death of Daniel Pearl
In January 2002, Daniel Pearl, the correspondent of the United States' Wall Street Journal in Mumbai (Bombay) in India, along with his wife Marianne, went to Karachi to inquire into the Pakistani links of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. They reportedly stayed at Karachi in the house of an American freelance journalist of subcontinental origin, who had worked for some time as a freelancer for the Journal, where she had come to know Pearl and Marianne. She had gone to Karachi in connection with a book she was writing on the subcontinent.

Before going to Karachi, Pearl had contacted many people in Pakistan and the US to get introductions to knowledgeable people in Karachi and elsewhere who might know about the local contacts of Reid. It was alleged that among those whose help he sought were James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Mansoor Ijaz, an American lobbyist of Pakistani origin who often used to write articles for the US media jointly with Woolsey.

Pearl was particularly keen to meet Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, leader of the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra (JUF), a terrorist organization based in the US and the Caribbean with a large following among Afro-Americans. Two of Gilani's four wives are stated to be Afro-Americans. Pearl wanted to talk to him about Richard Reid, since he had reportedly heard that Reid was a member of the JUF and had been trained in a HUM camp in Pakistan in the 1990s.

Even before coming to Karachi, Pearl was reportedly in e-mail contact with one Khalid Khwaja, a retired officer of the Pakistani Air Force who had served in the ISI in the late 1980s, and one Mohammad Bashir, who later turned out to be none other than Omar Sheikh. It was alleged that Mansoor Ijaz had given Pearl an introduction to Khwaja. It is not known how he came to know of Bashir. According to the Karachi police, Pearl was keen to meet Gilani and Omar Sheikh. Bashir promised to help him.

On January 23, 2002, Pearl went by a taxi driven by one Nasir to the Metropole Hotel of Karachi. He asked the taxi to stop near the hotel and got out. He then went to a car parked nearby in which four persons were waiting. One of them got out, introduced himself and invited Pearl to get in. He willingly did so. The car then departed. Subsequently, after the arrest of Omar Sheikh, Nasir identified him as the man who got out of the parked car and invited Pearl to get in. The driver testified during the trial of Omar Sheikh that from the willing manner in which Pearl got in it was apparent that he did not suspect a trap.

Subsequently, e-mail messages announcing the kidnapping of Pearl with his photographs started arriving in newspaper offices in Karachi. The Pakistani authorities launched a drive for the recovery of Pearl. There was no success. They started searching for Omar Sheikh after finding out that it was he who, under an assumed name, had laid the trap for Pearl. They took into custody Omar Sheikh's wife and young child in order to force him to surrender.On February 5 he surrendered to retired Brigadier Ejaz Shah, the home secretary of Punjab, who had previously worked in the ISI and was the handling officer of Omar Sheikh. The ISI kept him in its custody until February 12, and then handed him over to the Karachi police for interrogation. The public announcement about his arrest claimed he was arrested on February 12 and did not refer to the fact that he had been in the ISI's custody since February 5.

Omar Sheikh told the police that the kidnappers operated in three groups. Omar himself and Muhammad Hashim Qadir, alias Arif, a resident of Bhawalpur, won the confidence of Pearl and made him come to the hotel for a meeting. They kidnapped him and handed him over to Farooqi for keeping him in custody. Omar Sheikh, with the help of Adil Mohammad Sheikh, a member of the staff of the Special Branch of the Sindh police, and his cousins Suleman Saquib and Fahad Nasim, arranged for photographs of Pearl to be taken in custody, for them to be scanned and sent by email to the media and others with their demands. According to the police, Saquib and Nasim belonged to the JEM, thereby indicating the possibility that the kidnapping might have been jointly planned and carried out by the HUJI, the HUM and the JEM.

A few days later, messages arrived announcing the killing of Pearl, along with pictures showing his throat being slit. However, his body was not recovered. On May 16, the Karachi police claimed to have recovered the remains of an unidentified dead body cut into 10 pieces, which were found buried in a nursery (Gulzare Hijri) on a plot of land in the outlying Gulshan-e-Maymar area of Karachi. They further claimed that the remains were recovered after a tip-off that the remains were Pearl's. The local media also reported that there was an improvised shed on the plot where Pearl was suspected to have been held in captivity before his murder and that the plot belonged to the al-Rashid Trust of Karachi. DNA tests and other forensic examination determined that the remains were of Pearl.

The al-Rashid Trust, whose accounts were ordered to be frozen under UN Security Council Resolution No1373 because of its suspected links with al-Qaeda, is also closely linked with the JEM. Before Musharraf's ban on the JEM, the offices of the two used to be located in the same buildings in different cities of Pakistan.The two also had common cadres to undertake fund-raising activities for both the organizations.

Initially, it was not clear who gave the information to the Karachi police about the burial of the remains - a source as claimed by the police or by some new suspects who had been picked up by the police, but whose arrest had not been shown in police records, lest the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wanted to interrogate them or sought their extradition to the United States.

The answer came in a report carried by Pakistan's prestigious daily The News (May 23, 2002) revealing that the information about the remains was given to the Karachi police by one Fazal Karim - a resident of Rahim Yar Khan and a father of five - who was in police custody, but had not been shown as arrested. According to the paper, Fazal Karim had identified Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's Naeem Bukhari as the ringleader of the group that also included "three Yemeni-Balochs" (father Yemeni and mother Baloch) who took part in Pearl's kidnapping, his murder and disposal of his body parts. Naeem Bukhari was wanted by police in Punjab and Karachi in more than a dozen cases of anti-Shi'ite killings. Fazal Karim reportedly confirmed Omar Sheikh's role in planning Pearl's kidnapping.

According to Karachi police sources, Farooqi was also taken into custody on the basis of the tip-off from Fazal Karim, but the ISI ordered them to release him. Fazal Karim reportedly named one of the Yemeni-Balochs involved in the beheading of Pearl as KSM, but the military regime did not admit this. On the basis of his information, the police also rounded up some others involved in the kidnapping and murder.

Intriguingly, on May 14, two days before the recovery of the remains of the body of Pearl by the Karachi police, the Punjab police claimed that Riaz Basra, a long absconding leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the militant wing of the SSP in which Farooqi had started his career as a terrorist, and three of his associates, were killed in an encounter in a Punjab village when they had gone there to kill a Shi'ite leader. Sections of the Pakistani media expressed doubts over the police version and alleged that Riaz Basra had been in the informal custody of the ISI since Pearl's kidnapping in January 2002, without it taking any action against him and that the police, for reasons not clear, had shown him as having been killed in an encounter.

During the trial of Omar Sheikh and his associates, the defense lawyers drew the attention of the anti-terrorism court to media reports about the arrest of Fazal Karim and others and urged that the court should order a reinvestigation of the case to determine their responsibility for the offence. The prosecution described the media reports as baseless and opposed any reinvestigation. The court rejected the defense plea.

The court sentenced Omar Sheikh to death and others to various terms of imprisonment. The appeal against the death sentence filed by Omar Sheikh has not been disposed of by the court so far under some pretext or the other. In the meantime, KSM was arrested in Rawalpindi by Pakistani authorities in March 2003 and handed over to the FBI, which had him flown out of the country. In an article written in Salon, an online journal, in October 2003, the freelance journalist in whose Karachi house Pearl and his wife had stayed said that Marianne had been informed by the US intelligence that KSM had admitted having personally killed Pearl. The defense lawyers of Omar Sheikh again raised the question of a reinvestigation, but their plea was again opposed by the prosecution and rejected by the court.

In December 2003, two unsuccessful attempts were made to kill Musharraf in Rawalpindi with explosives. In the second incident, suicide bombers were involved. There were strong indications of the involvement of insiders from the Pakistani army and police in both incidents. Until June Musharraf blamed the JEM for the attempts, just as he had initially blamed it in 2002 for the kidnapping and murder of Pearl. Subsequent investigation brought out that it was the HUJI and not the JEM which was involved. Of all the pro-bin Laden jihadi organizations of Pakistan, the HUJI has the largest following in the army. The investigation into Pearl's kidnapping and murder had also brought out indicators of a possible HUJI penetration into the air force.

By the end of January, investigators had started gathering evidence of the involvement of junior officials of the army and the air force belonging to the HUJI and the Hizbut Tahreer in the two assassination attempts, which, according to them, were orchestrated by Farooqi at the instance of the Libyan. However, Musharraf did not openly admit this.

On June 10, the corps commander of Karachi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Karachi. With the help of a mobile phone, which the terrorists had left behind at the scene, the Karachi police established that the attempt was jointly organized by the HUJI and a new organization called Jundullah (Army of Allah), which had been trained by the Uzbeks and Chechens in the South Waziristan area of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. The police managed to identify and round up the Jundullah members involved in the incident.

During their interrogation, they reportedly admitted their involvement and said they were acting under the leadership of Farooqi. The police had kept the arrest and interrogation of the Jundullah members a secret lest Farooqi be alerted before they got him. But Sheikh Rashid, the information minister, prematurely announced it to the media, thereby alerting Farooqi before the police could arrest him. He managed to escape from his Karachi hideout and fled to Nawabshah.

For the first time, Musharraf admitted in an interview to a private TV channel in June the involvement of junior officers of the army and the air force in the plot against him and the role of Farooqi and the Libyan in the plot.

The police launched a manhunt for Farooqi and the Libyan. Before they could get Farooqi alive, someone in the military-intelligence establishment would seem to have ensured that he would not fall alive into the hands of the police. Who is that somebody?

Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the amir of the HUJI, was picked up by Dubai authorities on August 6 and handed over to Pakistani authorities, who had him flown to Pakistan the next day. The results of his interrogation are not known so far.

After the suicide bomb attack in Karachi on May 8, 2002, which killed 11 French experts working on a submarine project, Khaled Ahmed, the well-known Pakistani analyst, wrote an article titled "The biggest militia we know nothing about" in the prestigious Friday Times of Lahore. In this article he gave details of the HUJI. Extracts from the article are given in the annex.

One of the most mysterious aspects of the activities of the jihadi organizations in Pakistan is why Musharraf has always been reluctant to take or even afraid of taking action against the HUJI. He has avoided banning it, even after evidence of its penetration into the army and the air force and its involvement in the plots against him.

Annex: HUJI
Extracts from the article "The biggest militia we know nothing about" published in the Friday Times of Lahore by Khaled Ahmed:
ARY Digital TV's host Dr Masood, while discussing the May 8 killing of 11 French nationals in Karachi, named one Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami as one of the suspected terrorists involved in the bombing. When the Americans bombed the Taliban and Mullah Omar fled from his stronghold in Kandahar, a Pakistani personality also fled with him. This was Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, Pakistan's biggest jihadi militia headquartered in Kandahar. No one knew the name of the outfit and its leader. A large number of its fighters made their way into Central Asia and Chechnya to escape capture at the hands of the Americans, the rest stole back into Pakistan to establish themselves in Waziristan and Buner. Their military training camp (maskar) in Kotli in Azad Kashmir swelled with new fighters and now the outfit is scouting some areas in the NWFP (North-West Frontier Province) to create a supplementary maskar for jihad in Kashmir. Its "handlers" (in the Inter-Services Intelligence) have clubbed it together with Harkatul Mujahideen to create Jamiatul Mujahideen in order to cut down the large number of outfits gathered together in Azad Kashmir. It was active in held Kashmir under the name of Harkatul Jahad Brigade 111.

The leader of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, Qari Saifullah Akhtar, was an adviser to Mullah Omar in the Taliban government. His fighters were called "Punjabi" Taliban and were offered employment, something that other outfits could not get out of Mullah Omar. The outfit had membership among the Taliban too. Three Taliban ministers and 22 judges belonged to the Harkat. In difficult times, the Harkat fighters stood together with Mullah Omar. Approximately 300 of them were killed fighting the Northern Alliance, after which Mullah Omar was pleased to give Harkat permission to build six more maskars in Kandahar, Kabul and Khost, where the Taliban army and police also received military training. From its base in Afghanistan, Harkat launched its campaigns inside Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya. But the distance of Qari Saifullah Akhtar from the organization's Pakistani base did not lead to any rifts. In fact, Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami emerged from the defeat of the Taliban largely intact. In Pakistan, Qari Akhtar has asked the "returnees" to lie low for the time being, while his Pakistani fighters already engaged are busy in jihad as before.

The Harkat is the only militia which boasts international linkages. It calls itself "the second line of defense of all Muslim states" and is active in Arakan in Burma [Myanmar], and Bangladesh, with well organized seminaries in Karachi, Chechnya, Sinkiang, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The latest trend is to recall Pakistani fighters stationed abroad and encourage the local fighters to take over the operations. Its fundraising is largely from Pakistan, but an additional source is its activity of selling weapons to other militias. Its acceptance among the Taliban was owed to its early allegiance to a leader of the Afghan war, Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi and his Harkat Inqilab Islami whose fighters became a part of the Taliban forces in large numbers. Nabi Muhammadi was ignored by the ISI in 1980 in favor of [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar and his Hezb-i-Islami. His outfit suffered in influence inside Afghanistan because he was not supplied with weapons in the same quantity as some of the other seven militias.

According to the journal al-Irshad of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, published from Islamabad, a Deobandi group led by Maulana Irshad Ahmad was established in 1979. Looking for the right Afghan outfit in exile to join in Peshawar, Maulana Irshad Ahmad adjudged Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi as the true Deobandi and decided to join him in 1980. Harkat Inqilab Islami was set up by Maulana Nasrullah Mansoor Shaheed and was taken over by Nabi Muhammadi after his martyrdom. Eclipsed in Pakistan, Maulana Irshad Ahmad fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets until he was killed in battle in Shirana in 1985. His place was taken by Qari Saifullah Akhtar, which was not liked by some of the Harkat leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, who then set up his own Harkatul Mujahideen.

The sub-militia [of the HUJI] fighting in Kashmir is semi-autonomous and is led by chief commander Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri. Its training camp is 20 kilometers from Kotli in Azad Kashmir, with a capacity for training 800 warriors, and is run by one Haji Khan. Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami went into Kashmir in 1991 but was at first opposed by the Wahhabi elements there because of its refusal to criticize the grand Deobandi congregation of Tableeghi Jamaat and its quietist posture. But as days passed, its warriors were recognized as "Afghanis". It finally had more martyrs in the jihad of Kashmir than any other militia. Its resolve and organization were recognized when foreigners were seen fighting side-by-side with its Punjabi warriors.

To date, 650 Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami mujahideen have been killed in battle against the Indian army: 190 belonging to both sides of Kashmir, nearly 200 belonging to Punjab, 49 to Sindh, 29 to Balochistan, 70 to Afghanistan, five to Turkey, and 49 collectively to Uzbekistan, Bangladesh and the Arab world.

The leader of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami in Uzbekistan is Sheikh Muhammad Tahir al-Farooq. So far 27 of its fighters have been killed in battle against the Uzbek President Islam Karimov, as explained in the Islamabad-based journal al-Irshad. Starting in 1990, the war against Uzbekistan was bloody and was supported by the Taliban, until in 2001, the commander had to ask the Pakistanis in Uzbekistan to return to base.

In Chechnya, the war against the Russians was carried on under the leadership of commander Hidayatullah. Pakistan's embassy in Moscow once denied that there were any Pakistanis involved in the Chechen war, but the journal Al-Irshad (March 2000) declared from Islamabad that the militia was deeply involved in the training of guerrillas in Chechnya, for which purpose commander Hidayatullah was stationed in the region. It estimated that "dozens" of Pakistani fighters had been martyred fighting against Russian infidels.

When the Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami men were seen first in Tajikistan, they were mistaken by some observers as being fighters from Sipah Sahaba, but in fact they were under the command of commander Khalid Irshad Tiwana, helping Juma Namangani and Tahir Yuldashev resist the Uzbek ruling class in the Ferghana Valley. The anti-Uzbek warlords were being sheltered by Mullah Omar in Afghanistan.

Maulana Abdul Quddus heads the Burmese warriors located in Karachi and fighting mostly in Bangladesh on the Arakanese border. Korangi is the base of the Arakanese Muslims who fled Burma to fight the jihad from Pakistan. A large number of Burmese are located inside Korangi and the area is sometimes called mini-Arakan. Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami has opened 30 seminaries for them inside Korangi, there being 18 more in the rest of Karachi. Maulana Abdul Quddus, a Burmese Muslim, while talking to weekly Zindagi (25-31 January 1998), revealed that he had run away from Burma via India and took religious training in the Harkat seminaries in Karachi and on its invitation went to Afghanistan, took military training there and fought the jihad from 1982 to 1988. In Korangi, the biggest seminary is Madrassa Khalid bin Walid where 500 Burmese are under training. They were trained in Afghanistan and later made to fight against the Northern Alliance and against the Indian army in Kashmir. The Burmese prefer to stay in Pakistan, and very few have returned to Burma or to Bangladesh. There are reports of their participation in the religious underworld in Karachi.

Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami has branch offices in 40 districts and tehsils in Pakistan, including Sargodha, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Khanpur, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mianwali, Bannu, Kohat, Waziristan, Dera Ismail Khan, Swabi and Peshawar. It also has an office in Islamabad. Funds are collected from these grassroots offices as well as from sources abroad. The militia has accounts in two branches of Allied Bank in Islamabad, which have not been frozen because the organization is not under a ban. The authorities have begun the process of reorganization of jihad by changing names and asking the various outfits to merge. Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami has been asked to merge with Harkatul Mujahideen of Fazlur Rehman Khalil who had close links with Osama bin Laden. The new name given to this merger is Jamiatul Mujahideen. Jamaat Islami's Hizbul Mujahideen has been made to absorb all the refugee Kashmiri organizations. Jaish and Lashkar-e-Tayba have been clubbed together as al-Jahad. All the Barelvi organizations, so far located only in Azad Kashmir, have been put together as al-Barq. Al-Badr and Hizbe Islami have been renamed as al-Umar Mujahideen.
B Raman is additional secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, government of India, and currently director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and distinguished fellow and convenor, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter. E-mail:

Sep 30, 2004

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(Sep 29, '04)

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(Sep 28, '04) 


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