The True Face of Jehadis; Inside Pakistan's Network of Terror
Kalim Bahadur ·       

Amir Mir's volume The True Face of Jehadis is a very comprehensive and a definitive handbook on the rise and growth of the militant Jehadi groups in Pakistan. Amir Mir traces the origins of the militant groups to Gen Ziaul Haq regime's campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the late seventies. Khalid Ahmed in his foreward also refers to Pakistan's intervention in Afghanistan and its consequences on Pakistani society and certain sections of the armed forces. Pakistan's interference in Afghanistan was managed totally by the Pakistan military's intelligence agency the ISI. . The Zia regime which had no legitimacy whatsoever depended upon Islam and Islamisation as the sole plank for its legitimacy which got a boost after the Soviet armies intervened in Afghanistan. As a consequence Islamic political parties and sectarian groups acquired more power. Hard line fundamentalist Islam became the ideology of the Pakistan state. Though the first Kashmir war in 1947 had been called Jehad, now Jehad had become the major plank of not only of the Islamic parties which was also promoted by the United States intelligence agencies which were mobilizing militant Islamic volunteers from all over the Muslim world to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. The Pakistani agency the ISI was also strengthened and it acquired power over many civilian institutions. . One may not be able to agree with Amir Mir that the ISI which was abetting the militancy in Afghanistan, its goal was changed to that of combating it after 9/11. The resurgence of Taliban during the recent period and the promotion of the insurgency in Kashmir during the last one decade show that the ISI is still playing an important role in the foreign policy of Pakistan.

Amir Mir rightly asserts that though there was a Pakistani decision to align with West after 9/11 and to cut ties with the Islamic militants in Afghanistan and in Kashmir the infra structure of terrorism built during the last two decades has not been dismantled. This has happened mainly because of the continued domination of the ISI and also because of the use of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy which has not been abandoned by the Pakistani establishment. Amir Mir has also analysed the involvement of the state agencies in several attempts to assassinate General. Musharraf. These conspiracies have linkage with the network of the Jehadi sympathisers well entrenched even in the army units which are stationed in Rawalpindi. The obvious conclusion is that there is a strong section of pro Jehadi officers who are pitted against liberal officers. It is well known that General Ziaul Haq had promoted those officers who were pro-Fundamentalists. The military colleges during the Zia regime gave preference to young men who were associated with the youth wings of the fundamentalist parties like the Jama'at-i-Islami who by now have reached the higher echelons of the armed forces. The pro Jehadi policy of the military received a setback, according to Amir Mir by the ghastly murder of the American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. It was clear that there was some linkage between the Pakistan intelligence set up and the Al Qaida. This was confirmed by the involvement of the Sheikh Ahmed Omar Saeed who was a double agent of the ISI and the Al Qaida. Shaikh Ahmed Omar belonged to Jaishe Mohammad led by Azhar Masood of the Indian Airlines hijacking fame. Later Sheikh Ahmed Saeed preferred to take shelter with a former ISI operative who later handed him over to the police. Sheikh Ahmed Omar Saeed has been awarded death sentence for the murder of Daniel Pearl but the sentence has not been carried out for obvious reasons.

Amir Mir has given very interesting profiles of the Jaishe Muhammad and its leader Maulana Masood Azhar and ups and downs in his relationship with Pakistan's intelligence establishment. Maulana Masood Azhar was also one of the three terrorist leaders who were released as a result of the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane in December 1999. In fact the entire hijacking drama succeeded because of the coordinating efforts of the ISI. The author has also given a detailed description of the Lashkare Toiba. The LeT had played no important role during the war in Afghanistan but was more focused on Kashmir. In the India Pakistan declaration of January 2004 Pakistan had assured that it would not allow its territory for launching terrorist attacks on India however, on the other hand Hafiz Mohammad Saeed the leader of the LeT had been assured by the Pakistani establishment that there would be no restriction on the activities of the LeT (the Jama'at al Dawa). The LeT boasts of being the largest Jehadi out fit in the subcontinent. There has never been any restriction on collection of funds, training of volunteers and recruitment of Jehadis by the group. What a great irony to hear the feigned hurt and claims of innocence by the Pakistan establishment after LeT being accused by India for the recent 7/11 attack on the trains in Mumbai. It was not the first operation by the LeT. It had already carried out the attack on the Red Fort in December 2000 and other places in the rest of India.

Amir Mir has also investigated Al Qaida's base in Pakistan. He says that Karachi has become an important base of the group. It is even surmised that Osama Bin Laden may be hiding in Pakistan's biggest and richest megapolis while the American are looking for him in Pakistan's North western borderlands. Amir has given pen portraits of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, While Pakistan claims to have uprooted the Taliban, the followers of the group have already got control of large areas in Waziristan which has been turned into a base for all kinds of foreign terrorists who are launching raids into Afghanistan at frequent intervals, notwithstanding the vociferous protests by Hamid Karzai.

Amir Mir has concluded his very interesting and well researched volume with an analysis of General Pervez Musharraf. According to him Musharraf has given the impression of being a liberal or what he calls a believer in 'enlightened moderation'. From being a supporter of the Taliban regime (Pakistan was one of the three countries which had recognized the Taliban ruled Afghanistan) who had unabashedly used terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy in Kashmir; he took a U-turn in the after math of 9/11. However, there is no evidence that he has taken strong steps to dismantle the terrorist infra structure. Almost all the terrorist outfits including Lashkare Toiba, Jaishe Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen and others, sectarian groups like Sipah Sahaba etc are allowed complete freedom to carry on their activities through out Pakistan with out any let or hindrance from the authorities. A Pakistani scholar has recently pointed out that Pakistan remains the centre of ideological extremism and the home of growing Muslim culture of grievances and anger against western domination or real or perceived injustices against Muslims. He goes on to say that it is time for Pakistan's rulers to recognize the deep roots of the jihadist ideology and network within Pakistan.

Amir Mir's study is a text book on Pakistan's involvement with Jehadi labyrinth from which it is not easy for that country to get out. The book should be read by every one who wants to origins and growth of Jehadi movement.