The UN Security Council (UNSC) Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee announced on 29 June the addition of three more names to its list of persons subject to assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo - Arif Qasmani, Mohammad Yahya Mujahid and Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari. All three are supposed to be in detention in Pakistan, but no official confirmation has been found. The decision of the Committee came two days before the US Treasury made a similar move while also mentioning a fourth individual, Nasir Javaid. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the decision of the Committee is binding on all members.
Q: Why did the UN add these three individuals to its list?
A: All three individuals – Qasmani, Mujahid and Al-Peshawari are suspected of having been associated with al Qaeda and/or the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and involved in terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Q: What is the background of the individuals affected by the Committee’s decision?
A: Mohammad Yahya Mujahid, a Pakistani, is considered to have been the head of the LeT media wing for the past eight years. A major public figure of the banned organization, Mujahid made statements to the press starting right after 9/11 up to the Mumbai attacks of 2008, on behalf of the LeT and its front, the Jamaat-u-Daawa charity. He referred to the Indian demand of turning in Hafiz Saeed to the Indian authorities as “propaganda” and denied the LeT having anything to do with the bombings. The statement made by the UN indicates Mujahid is in detention as of June 2009, but Mujahid’s comments about the Pakistani government filling the appeal against the court ordering Saeed’s release could still be found in the leading Pakistani English newspaper Dawn, as of 6 July.
Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari, is the only one not being accused of having links with the LeT but with the al Qaeda only. Born in Afghanistan, his profile depicts him as the leader of the Ganj Madrassah in Peshawar and a man living in the shadows. Peshawari is mainly assumed to have provided funds, recruits and weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan. He also seems to have been a very active suicide-bomber recruiter, providing both the explosives to the militants and the funds to the bombers’ families, similar to what the Hamas or the Hezbollah have been doing for many years.
Last but not the least; Arif Qasmani is accused of being the chief coordinator of the former LeT. Qasmani has allegedly provided Al Qaeda with financial and material support as early as 2001, and helping some of its militants cross the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In return for Qasmani’s support the statement says, al Qaeda provided Qasmani with operatives to support the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing in Panipat, India. The crucial information given by the UN report is that Qasmani enjoyed connections with the well-known criminal boss Dawood Ibrahim. Ibrahim was among the list of 20 people accused by New Delhi of planning the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, along with Hafez Saeed. However, the UN made no statement about Qasmani being implicated in those attacks.
Q: Why does Arif Qasmani’s case matter?
A: When it comes to Pakistani-based militants, the portrait would only be partial if the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is not mentioned. According to a report published in Asia Times Online by Syed Saleem Shahzad, Qasmani had been previously arrested for having played a double-agent game that is widely common amongst ISI-jihadist collaborators. While the Pakistani intelligence service backed Qasmani’s LeT activities in Jammu and Kaskmir (J&K), it could not cover its smuggling of weapons into South Waziristan any longer. Qasmani was reported missing a few days after he took part in a secret meeting with US officials to talk about a truce between the coalition forces and the Afghan resistance on 14 November 2005. Details of him since then are unavailable but he was probably sacked and detained by the ISI. The question then arises: how could a well-known terrorist figure, detained by one of the most powerful agencies the Pakistani state ever created, be detained by the authorities and at the same time be responsible for the 2006 and 2007 train bombings in Mumbai and Panipat?
Q: Where do we go from here?
A: Qasmani – and more generally the LeT - is the perfect illustration of Pakistan’s discomfort and embarrassment regarding its strategy in J&K. This new development brought about by the UN is only a new episode in the never-ending story of the backlashes Pakistan’s disastrous national security strategy is facing. Though Saeed’s case is seeing new developments each day, this example gives only too accurate a view of what India and the rest of the international community should expect for the foreseeable future regarding Pakistan’s attitude towards terrorism.