Monday, April 6, 2009

" BANNING THE BANNED" (20-11-2003)


Between October 12,1999, when he took over as Pakistan's military dictator after the overthrow of Nawaz Sharif, the duly-elected Prime Minister, and August 14, 2001, the only action taken by Gen.Pervez Musharraf under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act was to get Sharif arrested, prosecuted and convicted by a special court on a charge of hijacking the plane in which Musharraf was returning from Colombo to Karachi.

2. Sharif had allegedly instructed the Karachi airport control tower to divert the plane to another airport and not to let it land. This was held by Musharraf to be an act of hijacking and the court upheld his contention. In the history of hijacking, there have been instances of persons, not on board an aircraft, being convicted of forming part of a conspiracy to hijack a plane, but this was the first instance in which someone, over 1,500 kms away on ground, was charged with hijacking an aircraft.

3. During the trial, Sharif wanted to testify orally on how Musharraf had deceived him on the Kargil conflict. On the advice of the army, the court refused him permission. Thereafter, Sharif dictated a statement on the subject to his lawyer for release to the media. That night, the lawyer was murdered by unknown persons and all his papers, including the statement dictated by Sharif, were stolen. Till today, this case has remained as mysterious as the case relating to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist.

4. On August 14, 2001, Musharraf banned the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), a Sunni extremist organisation, and Sipah Mohammad (SM), a Shia extremist organisation, under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The two had been killing the followers of each other in dozens. The LEJ, which is a member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), had at various times received financial and other assistance from the intelligence agencies of the USA, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as a reward or motivating money for targeting Iranian officials and interests in addition to the Shias of Pakistan. The SM was in receipt of funds from the Iranian intelligence for countering the LEJ.

5. The LEJ remained active despite this ban and has been involved in a number of terrorist strikes against Westerners, Pakistani Christians and Shias throughout last and this year, including in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl.

6. Indian investigators established that the attack on the Indian Parliament House in December,2001,was jointly mounted by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), two Pakistani organisations, which are also members of the IIF. Initially, the US ordered the freezing of their bank accounts and, subsequently, designated them as Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) under a 1996 US law.

7. Under US pressure, Musharraf too banned them under the Anti-Terrorism Act on January 15, 2002. He made the ban order applicable only to Pakistani Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and not to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

8. Their offices were sealed, many of their members including Prof. Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, the Amir of the LET, and Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM,were arrested or placed under house arrest and their bank accounts were claimed to have been frozen. After some weeks, Pakistani courts ordered their release on the ground that there was no evidence of their involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory. Their involvement in acts of terrorism in India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Chechnya and other places was viewed by the courts as participation in "freedom struggles" and not as terrorism.

9. On January 15, 2002, he also banned the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the political wing of the LEJ, and the Tehrik Jaffria Pakistan (TJP), the political front of the SM. To circumvent the ban, all these organisations changed their names and started operating under new names-- the LET as the Jamaat-ul-Dawa (JUD), the JEM as the Khuddam-e-Islam (KEI),the SSP as the Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan (MEIP) and the TJP as the Islami Tehrik-e-Pakistan (ITEP).

10. The arrested leaders and cadres of the SSP and the TJP were not ordered to be released by the courts as they were involved in specific acts of terrorism in Pakistan. After the release of the leaders and cadres of the LET and JEM, the police restored to them their sealed offices. They replaced the old name boards with new ones and started operating under their changed names. They recruited jihadis, held training camps in different parts of Pakistan, ran madrasas for jihadis from foreign countries, collected funds, acquired properties, and their leaders travelled all over Pakistan and addressed public meetings and participated in anti-India, anti-US and anti-Israel processions. They continued infiltrating trained jihadis into Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and other parts of India for indulging in acts of terrorism.

11. During their interactions with the leaders and officials of the US, the Government of India drew their attention to this farce enacted by Musharraf, but to no effect.

12. Before the general elections of October, 2002, Musharraf, in order to bring about the defeat of the pro-Sharif faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), ordered the withdrawal of all cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act registered against some leaders of the Islamic fundamentalist parties to enable them to contest the elections. Another calculation of his was that if the fundamentalists did well in the sensitive NWFP and Balochistan, bordering Afghasnistan, that would send a warning signal to the US that if it exercised too much pressure on him to act against the jihadi terrorists operating against India, there would be a danger of the fundamentalists coming to power in Islamabad too.

13. Amongst those who benefited from the withdrawal of the cases were the arrested leaders of the SSP and TJP. Maulana Azam Tariq,the head of the SSP, who had faced prosecution in more than six cases of terrorism, found all the cases against him withdrawn and got elected to the National Assembly. He has since been assassinated in October. After the release of its members, the TJP joined the six-party pro-Taliban and pro-bin Laden fundamentalist coalition, called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) which was swept to power in the NWFP. The MMA became a member of the ruling coalition in Balochistan.

14. After their victories, the fundamentalist parties, who had promised in their election manifesto, that they would assist the jihad in India, Southern Philippines and Myanmar, helped the Taliban and Al Qaeda to re-group, re-train and re-arm in the territories under their administration and stepped up assistance to the jihadi terrorists operating in India.

15. From February last, reliable reports started coming in from Pakistan that jihadi terrorists belonging to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the LET, the JEM and other groups had started sending their trained cadres to Saudi Arabia under the garb of Haj pilgrims with instructions to infiltrate into Iraq and take up position there for waging a jihad against the US and UK troops if and when they occupied Iraq. After the invasion of Iraq by the US-UK troops, the LET started collecting funds all over Pakistan for supporting the jihad in Iraq and the families of the jihadis who martyred themselves there.

16. At the beginning of this year, the Pakistani authorities, at the instance of the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), detained a Pakistani doctor, who had lived for some years in the USA, and some of his family members on suspicion of their assisting Al Qaeda. They were prosecuted under the Anti-Terrorism Act on a charge of providing medical assistance to members of Al Qaeda.

17. The court threw out the case against them on the ground that the Government had not banned Al Qaeda as a terrorist organisation under the Anti-Terrorism Act and, hence, giving medical assistance to its members was not an offence. For nearly 18 months after Al Qaeda's terrorist strikes in the USA, Washington's "stalwart ally" had not banned the organisation in Pakistan. An embarrassed Government admitted that it had overlooked it and promised that a ban order would be issued. Was it a slip-up or a deliberate omission to help those from Al Qaeda, whose presence and activities in Pakistan had not come to the notice of the USA?

18. After the arrest at Karachi in April of Walid bin Attash,one of the suspects in the case relating to the attack on the US naval ship, USS Cole, at Aden in October, 2000, there were reports that due to the incapacity of bin Laden to co-ordinate the working of the different components of the IIF, the LET has taken over the responsibility in this connection. In June last, the US authorities detected a secret cell of the LET in the US homeland. Its members were arrested and prosecuted and some of them have already been convicted. Despite this, Musharraf still did not effectively enforce the ban on it.

19. In August, the Thai authorities, with US assistance, arrested Hambali, said to be the operational chief of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) which had masterminded the Bali bombing of October last year, and handed him over to the FBI for interrogation. It is said that during his interrogation he mentioned that his brother Gungun and some other Indonesian and Malaysian members of the JI were studying in two madrasas of Karachi.

20. One of these madrasas was being run by the LET and when the police went there to make some of the arrests of the students from Indonesia and Malaysia, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the Amir of the LET, was taking classes for the foreign jihadis. The police did not arrest him despite the ban on him and his activities.

21. During the same period, the US Treasury Department established that the JEM, despite the ban on its activities, had started an ostensible charity organisation called Al Akhtar Trust, which was funding not only Al Qaeda, but also the jihad in Iraq. By an order issued on October 14, 2003, it froze any accounts it may have in the US and requested the UN to issue similar instructions to all member-countries.

22. The Treasury Department order said in a fact sheet: " AL AKHTAR TRUST was providing a wide range of support to Al-Qaida and Pakistani based sectarian and jihadi groups, specifically Lashkar-e- Tayyiba, Lashkar-I-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. (All three of these organizations have been designated by the U.S.) These efforts included providing financial and logistical support as well as arranging travel for Islamic extremists. According to information available to the U.S. Government from March 2003, an associate of AL AKHTAR TRUST was attempting to raise funds in order to finance "obligatory jihad" in Iraq (i.e., because fatwas had been issued, Muslims were obligated to support jihad in Iraq)."

23. Testifying before a joint hearing of two sub-committees of the House International Relations Committee at Washington DC on October 29, 2003, Mrs. Christina Rocca, US Assistant Secretary of State in charge of South Asia, praised Pakistan's co-operation with the USA in the war against terrorism and then added: "We continue to monitor actions taken to curb such extremist groups as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and others. These groups pose a serious threat to Pakistan, the region and the United States. We continue to work with the Government of Pakistan on this challenge. We look to Pakistan to do everything in its power to prevent extremist groups operating from its soil from crossing the Line of Control. The Government of Pakistan has taken many steps to curb infiltration (into India), but we are asking it to redouble its efforts."

24. She faced searching questions from many of the members over the ineffectiveness of the enforcement of the ban on these organisations. They drew her attention to reports that these organisations had been functioning under changed names without the Musharraf Government acting against them.

25. Thereafter, on November 13,2003, while addressing a meeting at Karachi, Mrs. Nancy Powell, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, said: "These groups posed a serious threat to Pakistan, to the United States and to the region. We are particularly concerned that these banned organizations are re-establishing themselves with new names. We will continue to work with Pakistan to monitor how well action to curb extremist groups was working."

26. Significantly, her phraseology closely resembled that used by Mrs. Rocca at the joint hearing. Apparently, after the hearing, the concerns expressed by the House members had been communicated to the US Ambassador by the State Department so that she could take it up with the Musharraf Government. She not only did so, but also gave public expression to the US concerns over these organisations continuing to function under new names. She as well as Mrs. Rocca projected them as posing a threat to the US.

27. Her open expression of the US concerns led to an emergency meeting of the concerned Ministers, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and the provincial Governors presided over by Musharraf on November 15, 2003, following which the Government banned the activities of the JEM, the SSP and the TJP under their new names too and ordered the sealing of their offices and freezing of their accounts. It also ordered the arrest of Allama Sajjid Naqvi, the head of the ITEP (old TJP), in connection with the murder of Maulana Azam Tariq. Surprisingly, the Government did not ban the activities of the LET under its new name. It only placed it on a so-called watch list in order to monitor its activities under its new name of JUD.

28. The offices of the JEM, the SSP and the TJP under their new names in Punjab, Sindh, the NWFP and Balochistan have been sealed, but their leaders and members have not been arrested. No action has been taken against their offices in POK and the Northern Areas, thereby indicating that, as in the case of the previous ban, the present ban too does not apply to these areas where they would be free to act as they pleased. Government spokesmen have also indicated that the Al Akhtar Trust and its predecessor Al Rashid Trust would also be banned shortly and their accounts would be frozen, thereby giving them sufficient time to withdraw their balances from their accounts as happened last year.

29. Of all the pan-Islamic jihadi organisations of Pakistan, the LET,the JEM, the HUM and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al Islami (HUJI) have been the most active in India, the southern Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Apart from setting up a secret cell in the US, the LET is also suspected to have set up a cell in Australia, which has recently banned its activities.

30. The LET has been spearheading the mobilisation of jihadis for fighting against the US in Iraq. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the leader of the JUD as the LET now calls itself, has been saying that the US is now at the mercy of the jihadis with one leg caught in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq and has been calling upon the Muslims of the world to take advantage of this to defeat the USA. Examples of the kind of speeches he has been delivering all over Pakistasn are given below:

* " We will not accept friendship with India. The holy war in the occupied Kashmir is continuing and suicide attacks will also continue. The holy war will lead to the disintegration of India and people promoting dialogue with India will also be doomed." (Lahore, November 12)

* "Jihad is the only way to counter the nefarious designs of anti-Muslim forces. The Mujahideen are carrying out guerrilla activities to take revenge of killing of Muslims by the anti-Muslim forces. The alliance of anti-Muslim powers has badly failed to suppress Jihad." (Gujranwala).

* "Al Qaeda or Islamic militants were not responsible for the suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed at least 11 people. It is a Jewish and American conspiracy against the Mujahideen and Al Qaeda. America wants to extend its stay in Saudi Arabia as its contract to hold Saudi airbases has expired. The Mujahideen in Afghanistan and Kashmir are fighting for the survival of Pakistan. If jihad in Kashmir is stopped, India could attack Pakistan, and if the Mujahideen lay down their weapons in Afghanistan, America could attack Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria. The United States could not attack Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran because the mujahideen in Afghanistan and Iraq are confronting American troops. America is looking to withdraw its troops from these places, but it has no way out. The day is not far when America will be crushed like the USSR by the mujahideen.” (Lahore, November 12)

* "True Muslims are still busy doing jihad in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Iraq and would not let infidels succeed in their goals. The alliance of the United States, India and Israel would face defeat and these countries would leave occupied lands. The governments that had rallied behind the US are hypocrites and would face the wrath of Allah. The Muslims of Sinkyang (Xinjiang) could be pacified through dialogue and there is no need to use force against them. The Taliban’s decision to provide sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden was correct. A new Muslim order would emerge in Central Asia." (Press conference at Islamabad last week)

31. The prestigious "Daily Times" of Lahore reported as follows on November 19, 2003: "The Jamaatul Dawa (JD) is ignoring a government ban and continuing to collect donations for jihad. The federal government recently banned three organisations for violating the prohibition to collect money for jihad. But the JD, which was put on a watch list, continues its fund collection. In Lahore, the JD has several camps in Chauburji, Samanabad, Allama Iqbal Town, Shadman and Baghbanpura. Ramazan is a good time for jihadi groups and seminaries to get donations as a large number of Muslims pay their Zakat (annual charity) and Fitrana (poor dues related to the Eid feast). Many jihadi leaders have visited Lahore this month to boost donation campaigns. The chief of the now banned Tehrik-e-Khuddamul Islam, Maulana Masood Azhar, Jamiatul Furqan chief Maulana Abdullah Shah Mazhar, Al-Rasheed Trust’s Qari Mansoor, too, have visited mosques, seminaries and industrial areas to collect funds, but the JD seems to be the only group to have set up camps. The camps sell JD publications, posters, stickers and other material. “Help the Mujahideen with your money. They are defending your ideological and national frontiers with their blood,” says one poster on display at the camps."

32. The "Dawn" of Karachi of November 18, 2003, quoted the Director-General of the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema (retired), as stating as follows: " Law-enforcement agencies have sealed about 137 offices and seminaries (madrasas) of the recently-banned extremist outfits throughout the country. No leader or activists of these outfits have so far been detained. We are concentrating on sealing the establishments of the banned groups instead of arresting their leaders."

33. The "Daily Times" reported on November 17, 2003, as follows:" Four more militant groups including two Muslim charities are likely to be banned soon, Daily Times learnt on Sunday. The groups facing a ban are Jamaatul Furqan (JF), a breakaway faction of the Tehrik-e-Kuddamul Islam (the new name of the JEM), Jamaitul Ansar (JA), the new name of Harkatul Mujahideen, Al Rasheed Trust and Al Akhtar Trust. Sources said these groups are working openly in Pakistan. The JF came into existence on September 25 and is led by Commander Abdul Jabbar, Maulana Abdullah Shah Mazhar and Commander Umer Farooq. The JF’s Chief Commander Jabbar is facing charges for an attack on churches and Christian missionaries in Pakistan. The JF has been actively engaged in raising funds during the last two months and in establishing new offices in Pakistan. The JA was not banned by the government but it was the first Pakistani jihadi outfit which the US declared a terrorist organisation in October 2001 and the Government of Pakistan froze its assets in November 2001. Sources said despite pressure from the US the Pakistan government refused to ban Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Badr Mujahideen and Jamaitul Mujahideen."

34. What Musharraf has done under US pressure is to re-ban organisations which have been indulging in acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory, but spared the LET which has been mainly active in India, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other countries. He has consistently evaded any action against the HUM and the HUJI. The HUM has been figuring in the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations since October, 1997, and has been involved in acts of terrorism in India, the southern Philippines and Chechnya. So is the HUJI. The HUM was also involved in the terrorist strikes of last year against Western nationals in Pakistani territory and in the 1995 kidnapping of some Western tourists in Kashmir under the name Al Faran. Despite this, he has never banned it. It is surprising that the US Government has taken no notice of this and held him accountable for their acts of terrorism. The continuing insincerity of his actions needs to be brought to the notice of the Monitoring Committee of the UN Security Council, which monitors the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 and the international community.

Notes: "Banning the banned" was the title of a commentary carried by the "News", the largest circulated English daily of Pakistan, on the new ban. Different Pakistani newspapers spell the organisations in different ways. I have retained their spelling.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: )

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