May 2003 News

US Blacklists Hizbul Mujahideen

1 May 2003
The Times of India

Washington DC: Ahead of a visit to South Asia by US Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage next week, the Bush administration has addressed some fundamental Indian concerns on terrorism, primarily by identifying the mainline Kashmiri insurgent group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation. Unlike other Pakistan-backed terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Hizb is considered an indigenous Kashmiri outfit and its inclusion in a list detailed in the 2002 Patterns of Global Terrorism Report released on Wednesday signals a sharp up-tick in Washington's intolerance to violence, even by popular local groups claiming greater legitimacy. Three other groups promoting terrorism against India -Al Badr, Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, and Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (Bangladesh) - have also been named in the report. The first two are Pakistan-based and the naming of the last named group endorses Indian charges of terrorism emanating from Bangladesh. The notification in the annexure to the terrorism report does not constitute an immediate listing as a terrorist group (which would attract punitive action), but it is considered a prelude to it as the administration begins to initiate internal legal steps to make such a declaration. In other words, the groups are first 'identified' and then 'listed'. The notifications came on a day when Pakistan busted an al-Qaeda ring in Karachi and netted a major suspect in the USS Cole bombing, earning fulsome praise from the Bush administration, and Deputy Secretary Armitage described as 'truly frightening' the situation between India and Pakistan. But the 2002 terrorism report left no doubt about the root cause of the fright, and the fact that India was a victim of Pakistan-inspired terrorism. 'Extremist violence in Kashmir, fuelled by infiltration from Pakistan across the Line of Control, threatened to become a flashpoint for a wider India- Pakistan conflict during most of the year', it said, in the most clear-cut enunciation of the situation in the sub continent in recent times. 'Like the United States, India faces a significant terrorist threat', the report said in its overview of the situation in South Asia. The US charge of infiltration comes despite serial denials from Islamabad and its plea for an international monitoring group on the LoC. But as the 2002 terrorism report indicates, Pakistan first needs to act against the plethora of terrorist groups operating from its soil, a concern that led the US ambassador to describe the country as a 'platform for terrorism'. In fact, the 2002 report suggests that backers of terrorist groups have become main-stream in Pakistan. The report identified Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as the 'largest Kashmiri groupůmade up primarily of ethnic Kashmiris' which was founded in 1989 and 'officially supports the liberation of Kashmir and its accession to Pakistan, although some cadres are pro- independence'. Evidently prepared before the recent assassination of the more moderate commander Abdul Majid Dar who advocated dialogue with New Delhi, the report said currently, there are visible splits between Pakistan-based commanders and several commanders ion the Indian side of Kashmir. Significant, it also described the Hizb as a militant wing of 'Pakistan's largest Islamic political party, the Jamait-i-Islami', which now has a major role in Pakistani politics and is being openly courted by General Musharraf. Despite this linkage, the report pulled some punches. While it clearly identified that the Harkat-ul-Jihadi in Bangladesh got funding primarily from madrassas in Bangladesh and also 'has ties to militants in Pakistan that may provide another funding source', the funding for the Pakistani groups was left unidentified.


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