Closing Jihad factories

Last Friday proved to be one of Malakand’s bloodiest in recent months. Going by media reports, Dir received twenty-one coffins that day.
The coffins had arrived Upper and Lower Dir from Afghanistan’s eastern Province of Khost near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border when US forces carried out a drone strike on a terrorist training center where a large number of Pakistanis were getting suicide bombing training, according to the Khost governor, who claims the number of Pakistani death toll as more than 50.

The coffins were, as per the locals, wrapped in the flags of Al-Badr terrorist organization, some of which carried just the remains of dead bodies. The news went into complete silence after initial news reports in the local media followed by limited coverage by the print media (mostly English language). Electronic media preferred to observe self-censorship (since no state institution admits having imposed any kind of censorship on media), and the usually aggressive talk shows’ hosts made themselves conspicuous by missing in action.

Tracing the roots of this Al-Badr outfit, most of the self-censorship makes good sense. There was a group with this name back in 1971, active in Bangladesh. The group was our establishment’s proxy established using the network and street organization of Jamaat-e-Islami to work against Mukti Bahini, the indigenous Bengali outfit that acted as Indian proxy at that time. East Pakistan became a battlefield of these proxies using very genuine sentiment and feeling of alienation among the Bengali people. Al-Badr and its sister organization Al-Shams alongside the Mukti Bahini committed rather serious war crimes during that year, which followed dismemberment of Pakistan on December 16, 1971.

As per Chapter 2, point number 28 of the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report:

“…therefore, that unless the Bangladesh authorities can produce some convincing evidence, it is not possible to record a finding that any intellectuals or professionals were indeed arrested and killed by the Pakistan Army during December 1971.”
But at the end of the same page one finds the name of the ghost that killed Bengali intellectuals and notables, which the world thought were killed by Pakistan Army deployed at Dhaka. Here it goes:

“…it is now known that on Sunday December 12, as the Indian columns were closing on Dacca….a group of senior Pak army officers and their civilian counterparts met in the city’s Presidential residence. They put together the names of 250 peoples to be arrested and killed, including the cream of Dacca’s professional circles not already liquidated during the civil war. Their arrests were made on Monday and Tuesday by marked bands of extreme right-wing Muslims belonging to an organization called the Al-Badar Razakar…Only hours before the official surrender was signed (on 16th), the victims were taken in groups to the outskirts of the city…where they were summarily executed…” [emphasis added]

Whereas these twenty-one coffins of Pakistanis in Malakand could not get enough attention of glamorous TV journalists, something quickly became topic of heated debate on TV wherein panelists (mostly from Jamaat-e-Islami, its sympathizers and those too eager to be known as ‘patriots’. It was this weekend’s hanging of two Jamaat-e-Islami leaders who were alleged war criminals of Al-Badr. The argument was in favour of the hanged because they were ‘pro-Pakistan’. None would deny, however, that violation of the right to fair trial is protest-worthy wherever it is. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Balochistan, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran or in Bangladesh.

Coming back to Al-Badr, the group then stopped figuring in the media except for the war crimes of 1971. Suddenly in 1985, it came to the fore once again in the Afghan Jihad matrix. Once more, in association with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). During the heat of the Jihad in mid 1980s, it got submerged in Gulbadeen Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami (HeI). As per some scholars who have worked on Kashmiri Jihadi organisations, Al-Badr worked under the banner of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in Indian Held Kashmir initially. During the Afghan Jihad years, the group got its members – ‘mujahideen’ was the American and Pakistani terminology in those days that has now been transformed into ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’ – trained in Afghanistan till the group was listed as terrorist outfit by the USA in 1989.

But the training camps continued under the Taliban regime on Afghan land and Pakhtun land in Pakistan (mainly Mansehra etc). It was in 1998 that the group re-organized and restructured itself under the command of Bakht Zameen, who had close ties with not only Lashkar-e-Tayyeba but also Osama Ben Laden and other Al-Qaida affiliated groups. Bakht Zameen reiterated independence of Kashmir and subsequent merger with Pakistan, as Al-Badr’s main objective. Interestingly, Bakht alongside majority of his group’s members was not Kashmiri by origin. However, the founder leader of the Al-Badr of Afghan Jihad days, Arfeen aka Jannisar aka Lukmaan, was Kashmiri by ethnicity and hailed from Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

In 2002, the group embraced the objective of ‘freeing Afghanistan’ of the NATO/US forces’ occupation and announced Jihad upon USA, Israel and everyone who supported them. Interestingly, Al-Badr, like Afghan Taliban, had never attacked Pakistani targets. In the Kargil War of 1999, Al-Badr had claimed to participate in the operation and having destroyed many Indian targets.

If one thing was quite established about it linkages over the last decade, it was the retention of its coordination with Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). In many instances, Al-Badr appeared to have been the bridge between terrorist organisations (like Al-Qaida, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba) and Pakistan’s ‘acceptable’ political and ‘social welfare’ groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamaat-ud-Dawa etc. TTP’s current chief Mulla Fazlullah was once Jamaat member but later formed his own Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi.

Many Al-Qaida operatives were arrested from the homes of Jamaat leaders. These included Al-Qaida’s number three in the chain of command, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who was arrested in 2004 from the house of a women’s wing leader of the JI in Rawalpindi. Another Al-Qaida leader Abu Zubaida was arrested the same year from Faisalabad who was given shelter by JuD and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT).

More recently, in September 2013, one Al-Qaeda member who had come to Lahore after rigorous training for ‘fiadayeen’ (suicide mission) attack, was arrested from Room number 237 of Punjab University’s Hostel Number 1, which was allotted to one Ahmed Sajjad, then Nazim of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (students union affiliated with Jamaat-e-Islami).

The former Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami was often heard issuing statements against Pakistan Army jawaans fighting Taliban, and often refused to condemn the suicide attacks.

Cutting a long story short, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders whose homes and hostel rooms were used by the terrorists killing Pakistani people and soldiers, the LeT/JuD members who were caught being involved with Al-Badr and Al-Qaida terrorists and all their sympathizers including Lal Masjid’s Mulla Aziz, are all roaming free saying whatever they feel like be it against the state or in violation of the writ of the state. No one is even allowed to demand action against these outfits and individuals.

Those twenty-one in Lower and Upper Dir lost their lives at the hands of these free-roaming proselytizing groups who are still sending our youth to terror training camps in the name of Jihad. Closing these Jihad factories seems to be a far cry as yet.

The writer is an Islamabad based freelance columnist. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter