Jamaat-e-Islami-linked islamist terrorist groups in Pakistan and their role in the evolution of islamist terrorism in the sub-continent
Dr Farhan Zahid
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the Islamist political party founded by Abul ala Maududi in 1941, first ventured into violent Islamist politics with the launch of its student wing Islami Jamiat-e-Talba (IJT) at college and university campuses across Pakistan. In 1950s and 1960s, the prima facia purpose of IJT was to wrest control of campuses and for that very reason it fought with nationalist and Marxist/Maoist groups.1 JI’s student wing continued unsuccessfully to clash with other groups until General Zia’s military regime came into power in 1977 and provided state support to IJT while banning all other political parties’ student wings, allowing IJT to finally taking over most of urban area universities and colleges. The IJT’s use of violence as means of wresting control paved the way for other student groups to take up arms in a tit-for-tat situation. The IJT reign over most of campuses ended with General Zia’s 11-year long regime in 1988. 2
JI’s marriage of convenience with Pakistani Martial law regimes began even earlier. Major General Sher Ali Khan, Minister of Information during General Yahya Khan’s military regime (1969-71), envisaged a plan of taking Islamist parties as electoral protégés against socialist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Bengali nationalist Awami League during 1970’s elections. According to Haris Khalique, an Islamabad based political commentator and columnist, the inclusion of Islamism into the concept of ‘ideology of Pakistan’ was introduced by General Sher Ali Khan. The concept was in cognizance with JI’s Islamist program that had not been paid any heed earlier. 3 General Sher’s plan did not work well as JI managed to get 4 out of 300 National Assembly seats. 4 Indeed, what Sher Ali planned cast lasting affects on latter the course of history and his ideas of involving Islamist forces into military’s fold in Afghan War (1979-1988) and Islamist Insurgency in Indian Kashmir (1988-2002). JI and its associated groups were key players in Sher Ali’s plan. 5
Pakistani military historian Shuja Nawaz, while describing the events prior to 1971’s Civil War said :« Sher Ali was named minister for information and national affairs, a key post which he used to influence the turn of political events by directing the officially controlled media and other arms of the government to support the Islamic parties. (In fact, Sher Ali coined and popularized the term ‘Islam-pasand-pro-Islam’). » 6
He further says,« The Islamic parties, particularly the Jamaa-i-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, saw their opportunity to grab more attention and power. As mentioned above, they received assistance from Sher Ali Khan Patuadi who found an ally in General Ghulam Umar, the newly promoted executive head of the NSC. » (Abbreviation added: National Security Council) 7
Hassan Abbas, renowned scholar of security studies also highlights the beginning of a new relationship between Islamists and military junta of Pakistan before the dismemberment of the country in 1971. He says : « The religious parties were also on the outlook for a new opening to pursue their agenda of ‘Islamizing’ the state. Maududi met Yahya (Chief Martial Law Administrator) early on and declared him a ‘champion of Islam’ expecting that this would sufficiently work on Yahya and the new constitution that he would envisage would be Islamic. 8«
General Sher’s plan of providing assistance to Islamist JI in order to help win JI maximum number of seats in 1970 elections miserably failed. But the same plan was amended in the backdrop of military operation (Operation Searchlight) launched against the Bengali nationalists in Eastern Wing (now called Republic of Bangladesh). 9 JI’s volunteers were assembled into armed militias named as Al-Badar and Al-Shams to fight against Bengali insurgents. The war was termed ‘jihad’ against ‘apostate Bengali nationalists’ and JI’s Islamist militias not only took lead in fighting but also in propaganda activities and ‘preaching the ‘ignorant Bengalis’. According to Hassan Abbas, « In this unholy drama, Jamaat-i-Islami formed an alliance with the army in East Pakistan and played an active part in military action against what they believed to be ‘enemies of Islam.’ This party along with other right wing parties had initially launched a propaganda campaign to convince the Bengalis that their loyalties lay first with Islam and Pakistan and not with their ethnic roots, but to no avail. » 10
Next phase of involvement of JI into violent jihadism began with Afghan War (1979-88). JI repeated its role of siding with military dictators and carved out huge financial and administrative benefits out of it. JI was able to have its rank and file trained at camps established for training Afghan mujahedeen with US and allies aegis in Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. Jamaat touched its zenith during Afghan War period and was at the helm of affairs. Its primary role was to indoctrinate Afghan refugees in Islamist ideology and make them available for receiving training at camps and then to move on to fight Soviets troops stationed in Afghanistan.
At domestic front, JI was active in pursuing its agenda of Islamizing Pakistan by means of General Zia’s process of Islamization and at foreign front penetrating its Islamist-Salafist ideological thoughts inside Afghanistan and moreover receiving financial benefits from Saudi and Middle Eastern donors. Graham E Fuller described Jamaat and other Islamist parties’ role during Zia period as: « The Islamist Jama’at-i-Islami-i-Pakistan (JIP) party of Pakistan is the intellectual progenitor of much of Islamist thinking among Afghan mujahidin today. The JIP will undoubtedly remain in close contact with Afghan Islamists and will support their cause from Pakistan. Such support was particularly strong under General Zia, when Zia-JIP relations ran high. » 11
According to Sumita Kumar, « The Jamaat had been privy to the government’s Afghan policy since 1977, when, following Nur Mohammad Taraki’s coup in Afghanistan, General Zia and General Fazl-i-Haq had met with Maududi, Mian Tufail and Qazi Hussain Ahmad to explore a role for the Jamaat in Pakistan’s Afghan policy. The party had played a major role in marshalling public opinion in favor of an Islamic crusade against the Soviet Union. Soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Zia brought the Jamaat into his Afghan policy, using its religious stature to legitimize his depiction of the war as a jehad. The Jamaat benefited from huge flow of funds from Saudi Arabia and money and arms from the US. The Afghan War was advantageous for the Jamaat in that it promoted close ties between the Jamaat and the Pakistan Army and security and opened the inner sanctum of the government to the party. » 12
Even during Afghan War, General Zia along with JI’s Pakistan and JI leadership in Indian Kashmir pondered over launching Afghan-style guerrilla war in Indian Kashmir, but the plan was initiated after the end of Afghan War in 1989. Arif Jamal, an expert on Indian Kashmir Insurgency, describes the beginning of insurgency as: « Jamat-i-Islami of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was founded in 1974, in hopes of slowing in rise of secular ideas in the region. Along with partners in Pakistan’s Jamat-i-Islami, they also hoped to eventually liberate Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir… General Zia-ul Haq called a meeting with Jamat-i-Islami’s Maulana Abdul Bari in Rawalpindi in early 1980s.
According to Bari, the general stated his intentions plainly: he had decided to contribute to the American-sponsored war in Afghanistan in order to prepare the ground for a larger conflict in Kashmir, and he wanted to involve the Jamat-i-Islami of Azad Jammu and Kashmir… The cost of Pakistani military aid and support for the war in Afghanistan-to be reimbursed by the CIA and the Saudis-could be greatly inflated, and General Zia promised to give a large portion of the profit to Bari’s Jamat-i-Islami. » 13
Militant jihadi organizations associated with Jamaat remained active in Islamist Insurgency in Indian Kashmir during its early years (late 1980s and early 1990s). The Kashmir problem between India and Pakistan has a long history. Although the insurgency was initially nationalist in its character during 1960s and 1970s and was peaceful to some extend but taken over by JI’s associated Islamist groups in late 1980s.
After learning from previous Afghan War experience of supporting like-minded Islamist leader Gulbaden Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami group, the JI leadership decided to launch its own Islamist jihadist groups. Jamaat started with Hizb ul Mujaheeden (HM) under the leadership of Syed Salahuddin an old JI veteran from Indian Kashmir. HM remained on the scene after eclipsing nationalist groups such as Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).
In later years, JI in collusion with JI’s Indian and Pakistani Kashmir chapters launched two more jihadist groups namely Al-Badar Mujahedeen led by Bakht Zaman and Jamiat-ul Mujaheedenled by Abdullah 14. The insurgency touched its zenith with the incident of gang raping Kashmiri women at Kunan Poshpora village. During search operation at night at least 53 village women were raped by Indian soldiers in 1991. Thousands of Indian Kashmiri Muslims flocked to join Islamist militias in the aftermath of this incident 15.
In next few years, Jamaat’s Kashmiri Islamist terrorist groups were dominating the Indian Kashmir insurgency alongside other Islamists. Commander Syed Salahuddin of Hizb-ul Mujahedeen was not only leading his group but also made leader of Mutahida Jihad Council(United Jihad Council) an umbrella groups of all jihadist organizations active in Indian Kashmir insurgency. 16
With the emergence of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) at Kashmir insurgency scene during mid-1990s, JI’s and its associate Islamist terrorist groups’ role started to decline. By 2000, the Indian Kashmir had more terrorist incidents perpetrated by LeT and JeM. As a result of its descending role, Hizbul Mujahedeen‘s Commanders Abdul Majeed Dar and Syed Salahuddin unilaterally declared ceasefire in 2000. 17
With 13 December 2001 attack on Indian Parliament in New Delhi, LeT and JeM were competing for dominating the scene of Islamist Insurgency in Indian Kashmir, but the same event also saw the last days of Islamist insurgency in Indian Kashmir. Indian government’s move to amass troops on Pakistan-Indian border almost took these countries on the brink of nuclear war and pushed Pakistani military regime to distance itself from such Islamist terrorist groups. The insurgency died out following the event.
As General Musharraf’s military government took a U-turn amid US pressure in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks in 2001, JI and other Islamist movements in Pakistani also parted ways with General Musharraf’s government and strategically joined hands together to oppose his U-turn. Six major Islamist parties formed an electoral alliance called Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (Movement of United Council) during 2002 elections and secured dominance across Pashtun dominated and pro-Taliban areas of Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtun-khawa province and became part of coalition government of Baluchistan province. The MMA won largest number of seats in KPK assembly with JI as the second most important coalition partner after its Islamist partner Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI). The formation of Islamist MMA government in KPK province heralded a new era of radicalization in Pakistan and most importantly at Pakistani Pashtun belt. The Islamist government of MMA in Afghan bodering provinces of KPK and Baluchistan paved the way for the revival of Islamist extremism in Pakistan and Afghan Taliban received pivotal support from the freehand provided by the provincial government.
Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TSNM) the violent Islamist organization that led the Islamist revolt in Swat district of Malakand Division (KP-Province) was indeed an offshoot of JI. 18 TNSM leader Sufi Mohammad was a veteran JI leader who previously led an unsuccessful Islamist rebellion in 1994 19 and then amid US invasion of Afghanistan led thousands of TNSM followers to Afghanistan in 2001. The party was banned in the aftermath of this ‘march’ to Afghanistan to fight alongside Afghan Taliban but later reemerged in 2005 when MMA government turned a blind eye to its recurrence. 20 The violent revolt in Swat finally surfaced with full momentum in 2007 and drove away civil and government agencies out of Malakand Division. It was only after a military operation (Operation Rah-e-Haq and later Rah-e-Rast) that TNSM’s armed rank and file were deposed and driven out of Swat. 21 Sufi Mohammad was arrested and his military commander and son-in-law Mullah Fazal ullah 22=4555] (current Emir of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) fled to Afghanistan where he joined ranks with Afghan Taliban. Islamist insurgency in Swat was indeed and eye opener for Pakistani authorities and a living proof of collusion between Islamist parties and Islamist violent non-state actors operating in Pakistan.
- Interviews with former student wing leaders of National Student Federation, a Marxist-inspired student body in Pakistan. The NSF clashed with IJT, the JI’s student wing, for the control of universities campuses. IJT managed to take advantage of General Zia’s martial law regime which had allowed IJT to take over the campuses during 1980s. ↩
- International Crisis Group, « Islamic Parties in Pakistan », Asia N 216, December 2011, p.28 for IJT ↩
- Haris Khalique, « Articles 62 and 63 », News International, April 27, 2012, available at : http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-105234-Articles-62-and-63 ↩
- « General Elections 1970-Notification », Official website of Election Commission of Pakistan, available at: http://www.ecp.gov.pk/GE/1970/NAWestPakistan.aspx ↩
- Sumita Kumar, « The Role of Islamic Parties in Pakistani Politics », Strategic Analysis, May 2001 (Vol. XXV No 2), p.2, http://sga.myweb.uga.edu/islamic_parties_in_pak.htm, retrieved on 4/5/12 ↩
- Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords: Pakistan Army and its Wars Within, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2008, p. 250 ↩
- Ibid, p.257 ↩
- Hassan Abbas, Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America’s War on Terror, Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2007, p.57 ↩
- Shaikh Aziz, « A leaf from history: After Operation Searchlight », Dawn, March 4, 2012, available at: http://dawn.com/2012/03/04/a-leaf-from-history-after-operation-searchlight/ ↩
- Op Cit, Abbas, p.63 ↩
- Graham E Fuller, « Islamic Fundamentalism in Afghanistan: Its Character and Prospects », National Defense Research Institute, Rand, 1991, p. 12 ↩
- Op Cit, Kumar, p.5 ↩
- Arif Jamal, Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir, Melville House, New York, 2009, p.109-110 ↩
- Graham e Fuller, « Islamic Fundamentalism in Afghanistan: Its Character and Prospects’, National Defense Research Institute, Rand, 1991, p.49 ↩
- Op Cit, Sumita Kumar, p.6 ↩
- « United Jihad Council/Muttahida Jihad Council (MJC) », Federation of American Scientists (FAS), available at: http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/mjc.htm ↩
- « Profile: Hizb-ul-Mujahideen », South Asia Terrorism Portal SATP), available at: http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/jandk/terrorist_outfits/hizbul_mujahideen.htm ↩
- « Profile: Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shriat-e-Mohammadi », South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), available at: http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/terroristoutfits/TNSM.htm ↩
- Ibid, SATP ↩
- « List of banned organizations in Pakistan », Express Tribune, October 24, 2012, available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/456294/list-of-banned-organisations-in-pakistan/?print=true ↩
- Reza Jan and Charlie Szorm, « The War in Waziristan: Week 1of Analysis of Operation Rah-e-Nijat », Critical Threats, August 2009, available at: http://www.criticalthreats.org/sites/default/files/pdf_upload/analysis/Operation_Rah-e-Nijat_-_Week_1_PDF.pdf ↩
- Afzal Khan, « Revolt in Pakistan’s NWFP: A Profile of Maulana Fazlullah of Swat », Terrorism Focus Volume: 4 Issue: 38, Jamestown Foundation, November 20, 2007, available at: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news ↩