April 2003 News

PoK Under Shadow Of The Mujahid Gun

1 April 2003
The Pioneer
Mohammed Amir Rana

New Delhi: The Pioneer has obtained the translated version of a landmark manuscript titled Jihad-e-Kashmir and Afghanistan, written by well known Pakistani writer Mohammed Amir Rana, published recently by Masha'l Books, Lahore. Originally written in Urdu, this investigative volume examines the nexus between the Pakistan Government, the ISI and jihadi groups operating for years in Jammu and Kashmir. We are serialising excerpts from the book to highlight the extent of these linkages. For the sake of authenticity terms such as Azad Kashmir and (Indian) Occupied Kashmir have been retained as in the original. To have a first hand knowledge and observation of jihadi organisations and jihadi culture I decided to go first to Azad Kashmir that had become the base camp of all jihadi organisations. After the speech of General Musharraf on January 12, 2002, it was being said that the mujahideen were gathering there. But I had no idea of the difficulties that I had to face later... First we had to meet a doctor after reaching Muzaffarabad who was entrusted with the responsibility of arranging for our stay and organising meetings with the jihadi leaders. We were supposed to inform him from Lahore about our arrival, but could not manage to do so, and landed up in his clinic unannounced, gave him the letter and introduced ourselves. He was alarmed and told us about the difficulties in the way. But seeing our determination he became silent. Then, in an effort to discourage us, he said, 'Very few mujahideen have remained in this area. Most of them have been sent to the borders.' Meanwhile some patients arrived and the doctor asked one of his friends to take us to the nearby hotel for tea. This gentleman was a Professor of Education in Allama Iqbal University and had come home to spend the vacation. He introduced us proudly to a number of shopkeepers in the market in the following way, 'They are journalists from Lahore. My friends.' We met about 15 persons and each of them welcomed restrictions on the jihadi organisations. We felt that people of this area were happier than the Pakistanis at the steps taken by the government...When we returned to the clinic, it was closed. This was the first shock. We had the telephone numbers of several important mujahideen leaders. We phoned Abdul Aziz, leader of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, and sought an interview with him. We were asked to phone again in the morning. Farooq Quraishi of Al-Barq agreed to meet us at 12, the secretary of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Syed Salahuddin, fixed our meeting with him at 1. The office of Major Tariq of Tahreek-e-Jihad asked us to contact them early next morning... As we got up next morning, we phoned Major Tariq's office and was told that he had gone out of town last night. Then we called at the office of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. We were told the same thing about Abdul Aziz Alwi. But we had a greater surprise waiting for us when we contacted the office of Syed Salahuddin. We were told that he had just left for 'Bagh'. After five minutes we called up the office of Hizbul Mujahideen giving another name and were told that he was in a meeting and would be free after half an hour. When we called them after half an hour in our own names, we were given the earlier reply. The operator-secretary was finally fed up with our persistence and said, 'Why are you after my life? Pir Sahib (Syed Salahuddin is known by this name) is not allowed to meet anyone.' That evening there was a party at Sangam Hotel organised by Jamat-e-Islami to honour the leaders from the north and their supporters. There we heard a wide spectrum of views expressed by leaders. Some of the views were quite unusual and could not have been expressed in Pakistan at any stage. Here we met Pakistan Human Rights Commission's representative from Muzaffarabad, Farooq Niazi. He promised to provide us with records of human rights violation on the part of jihadi organisations. After a gruelling day when we reached the rest house we found that we had been expelled from there... After this we proceeded towards Rawla Kot. The moment we reached the station two youths thrust themselves on us and badgered us to know our identity. We got suspicious of them but accompanied them to the nearby hotel. There they probed us further and wanted to know why we had come to Azad Kashmir. Which agency had sent us-RAW or ISI? After several hours of interrogation they were reassured about us, said that the situation in Azad Kashmir was not conducive to the kind of research for which we had come, and advised us to leave. We said that at least we should be allowed to spend the night at Hajera, to which 'permission' was granted promptly. In Hajera, our host was Khwaja Kashan, the president of National Students Federation (student wing of JKLF). We came to know that the mujahideen were brought there in trucks and they were seen to proceed towards the border. Here we also met Kamaluddin Azad, the patron of Harkat al-Jihad al-Islami. We got the opportunity to see his madarsa about which the Indian TV channel Zee News had said a couple of weeks ago that it was a large terrorist centre...Several interesting incidents took place in Hajera. When we went out with Khwaja Kashan, someone was following us. Khwaja Kashan said that he was an IB inspector. He turned his head and said loudly, 'They are my guests.' But the fellow continued to follow us though he slackened his pace... Later, when I travelled through big towns of Azad Kashmir, particularly border towns, I found that these secret agents had become part of everyday life there. People knew who was working for which agency. The agents themselves did not feel constrained to conceal their identity... January, 2002, was a peaceful month in Azad Kashmir, particularly for the people of Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Awla Kot who breathed a sigh of relief. The mujahideen who made an open display of firearms in markets and on highways and created an atmosphere of terror by firing in the air, suddenly disappeared. Jabbar, a shopkeeper in the central market of Muzaffarabad, said, 'Muzaffarabad has become calm and quiet. This calm is like that of the jungle where a hunter fires a gunshot that stirs the atmosphere for a while and then everything becomes quiet.' At least six jihadi organisations used to extort monthly contribution from Jabbar forcefully. 'So, you are happy with General Musharraf's decision?' Jabbar replied, 'We will be really happy when the government will be able to confine the jihadi organisations to their camps only. Now we live in fear lest they will reappear again.'... The complaint that the jihadi organisations extorted money forcefully from people was common in several areas of Azad Kashmir. A news agency reporter, Faisal, told me there that 'the real problem was that the government of Azad Kashmir never came down heavily on the mujahideen for their unlawful activities. Though these mischiefs are normally done by new recruits, their activities have seriously harmed the cause of jihad and independence movement. The jihadi organisations had even started to interfere with the functioning of the administration.'... How do such youths come to be there in jihadi organisations? And why don't the jihadi organisations take action against them? When I asked these questions to the mujahideen... their replies and their attitudes indicated that many mujahideen are victims of the delusion of 'heroism'. Abdul Hameed Bandey of Rawla Kot had told me that Indian films engender the aspiration of heroism in them and the jihadi organisation provide an opportunity to actualise it. I had already met 'Commander Shahrukh Khan'.


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