Recalling 11 years of jihad in Kashmir, a Lashkar-e-Tayyeba bulletin in 2001 spoke of a young man named Abu Waleed Zaki-ur-Rehman, who had fought the Soviet invasion with the mujahideen for three years, between 1987 and 1990.
Once the Soviets left Afghanistan, young Abu Waleed and Pakistani clerics like Hafiz Mohammad Saeed laid the foundation of Markaz-e-Taiba (Urdu for ‘Centre of the Pure’) in the Kunar province of Afghanistan on February 22, 1990.
At the same time, Kashmiri militants decided to take a leaf out of the Afghans’ book and lit the torch of jihad in that state.
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The bulletin further claims that mujahideen began pouring into Markaz-e-Taiba to train for Jihad-e-Kashmir. Later another training centre, Baitul Mujahideen (House of Mujahideen), was established in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, to organise mujahideen and to facilitate jihad in J&K.
“Either at the end of 1990 or at the start of 1991, the first group of mujahideen reached Baitul Mujahideen in Muzaffarabad,” the bulletin stated.
That was the beginning of jihad in India, linked intrinsically with Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Over the past 23 years, mujahideen have not only entrenched themselves in Kashmir but have penetrated the Indian hinterland as well.
Young Abu Waleed is now better known as Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, operations chief of the LeT, the terror outfit responsible for the 26/11 terror siege in Mumbai five years ago.
Lakhvi is currently in Pakistan’s high-security Adiala prison, facing trial for his involvement in those attacks.
But Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, one of the Indian handlers, told Indian investigators that his arrest was a sham; he is guarded by Lashkar men in jail and his operatives can still meet him there. He has also allegedly been provided with a satellite phone in jail, so that he can talk to his men in the field.
With the bulk of US forces set to leave Afghanistan by 2014, the Indian security establishment is waiting with bated breath to see whether history will repeat itself.
“The situation is uncertain. We will have to see how many troops the US leaves behind. Another major factor will be drones. If the US continues its drone strikes after the withdrawal, the Taliban will most likely not be able to capture and hold fresh territory. And Pakistan would also not risk getting overtly involved in any Taliban offensive as the US retribution for such involvement would be swift. As long as Pakistan is not comfortable in Afghanistan, it will not be able to escalate terror operations in India,” says Ajay Sahni, a security expert and executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management.
Alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Yasin Bhatkal, arrested on August 29 by Indian counter-terror officials, during his interrogation allegedly gave significant insight into Pakistan’s current terror strategy in India.
“Yasin said that, at the moment, Pakistani spy agency ISI is not in favour of a large-scale operation like 26/11 that will spark more international pressure, but wants the IM to continue exploding Improvised Explosive Devices to keep the terror pot simmering,” said a counter-terrorism official.
But Yasin has also revealed that the IM is seeking a tie-up with al-Qaeda, since it is fed up with the dictates of the ISI.
“At the time of Yasin’s arrest, the modalities of such a tie-up were being finalised,” said the counter terror official. “Yasin claims that a senior aide of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri said IM operatives must start targeting Buddhist sites in India to avenge the atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Myanmar.”
The recent Nairobi attack shows how the scale of operations goes up once the ideology of al-Qaeda penetrates a group like al Shabab.
India is playing its diplomatic cards very carefully to ensure that Afghanistan doesn’t fall into the hands of Pakistan in the post-2014 scenario.