February 2000 News

Bin Laden''s Shadow Looms Over J&K, His Myth Fires the Jihad

22 February 2000
Indian Express
Chidanand Rajghatta

Washington DC: Ever since the Fall of 1988 when the ISI organized ''special tourist'' visas to any Islamist aspiring to fight in the jihad, Afghan terrorists began to be smuggled into India to organize the local terrorist forces. And so by the late 1980s, the ISI program had initiated a full-fledged subversion in the (Kashmir) Valley. Also, with the war in Afghanistan slowing down, the vast network of training camps for Afghan Mujaheddin all over Pakistan was being transformed into a centre for Islamist terrorism throughout South Asia as well as a melting pot for the Sunni Jihad, writes Yossef Bodansky in his compelling account of the Bin Laden-ISI nexus. In his new book, ÍiBin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on AmericaÍr, Bodansky, who is the director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism, says that US strike on terrorist camps in Afghanistan provided formal justification for a pan-Islamic terrorist alliance and escalation of violence. For example, he quotes Emir Bakht Zamin, the supreme commander of the Al-Badr Mujaheddin, an ISI-sponsored Kashmiri group based in Muzzafarabad, as saying he will fight in any part of the world where Muslims are oppressed. Al Badr Mujaheddin, and thus the ISI, openly support terrorists in Algeria and Egypt, and their main camp in Pakistan harbours an international brigade, reveals Bodansky. Bodansky argues that Islamabad has no reason to refrain from capitalising on these sentiments to escalate its war by proxy against India behind the cover of bin Laden and his Islamist Jehad. Taliban leaders too have called recently called for a launching a holy war for the victory of Islam in India and Central Asia. ''Bin Laden is a natural ally in this regional jihad. Moreover, bin Laden''s near mythical notoreity has created expectations among the Islamists in Kashmir. ''Bin laden is coming_he will purge the Indian army from Kashmir,'' is an opinion frequently heard among Islamists of Kashmir,'' says Bodansky. Writing about the changing nature of terrorism in Kashmir, Bodansky says that since September 1998, the anticipated escalation in the Pakistan- sponsored Islamist terrorism in Kashmir has been associated with bin Laden. The ISI has recently adapted existing organisation frameworks to reinforce the ''new character'' of the war in Kashmir. Very important is the emergence of the Taliban-i-Kashmir organisation_ostensibly an Afghanistan-based Kashmiri Islamist terrorist organisation whose existence warrants the growing numbers of Afghan, Pakistani, and Arab ''Afghan'' terrorists in the ranks of the ostensibly Kashmiri national liberation forces. These foreigners are largely Islamists fighting for a sacred cause, not the mercenaries ISI recruited in the mid-1990s, says Bodansky. Dissecting the rationale for Pakistan''s adoption of terrorism as a state policy, Bodansky say the overt involvemet in the Islamist war against India of an ''arch terrorist'' like bin Laden provides a deniability cover for the ISI that goes far beyond the war by proxy in Kashmir. ''For Pakistan, sheltering and sponsoring other Islamist strikes against US and Israeli targets all over the world is not a heavy price to pay for exploiting the Islamists'' zeal and commitment to further Pakistan''s own strategic objectives. The arrangements between Osama bin Laden and the ISI, in which the World Islamic Front will carry out spectacular terrorist operations in India, in return for ISI sponsorship, become all the more appealing to Islamabad. ''This evolving relationship is not unique to Islamabad but a precursor of things to come as the confrontation between the US-led west and the hub of Islam continues to escalate. International terrorism will become the strategic weapons of choice of more and more states that find themselves besieged by western nations and a grassroots counterclash they cannot endure,'' warns Bodansky.


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