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With al Qaeda in Kashmir, Pakistan’s terror plot is not going as per script

It’s hypocritical of the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba to call out Al-Qaeda and IS cells in Kashmir. It also reflects Pakistan’s designs to distance these groups from US terror lists

editorials Updated: Jul 30, 2017 18:04 IST
Hindustan Times
Hizbul Mujahideen,Syed Salahuddin,Lashkar-e-Taiba
The immediate reason was the declaration, recently confirmed by Al Qaeda, that a former Hizbul fighter, Zakir Musa, has been declared head of Al Qaeda in Kashmir(Waseem Andrabi/HT )

The Hizbul Mujahideen leader, Syed Salahuddin, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, Mehmood Shah, have in the past several days come out publicly against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS), arguing that neither of them have a role in the Kashmir separatist cause. While there is irony in two terrorist leaders calling out two other terrorist groups for excessive violence, their statements seem to reflect concerns of the Pakistani deep state that the Kashmir insurgency is becoming merged with the larger global Islamicist terror problem.

When it came to Kashmir, Salahuddin pointedly said, “Neither there is need nor space for any international organisation.”

The immediate reason was the declaration, recently confirmed by Al Qaeda, that a former Hizbul fighter, Zakir Musa, has been declared head of Al Qaeda in Kashmir. Musa, by most estimates, has barely 10 men under him and Al Qaeda has no ability to support him other then lend him their brand.

There is a deeper hypocrisy in the statements of Hizbul and LeT. Hizbul regularly provides assistance to groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad to fight in Kashmir even though the latter organisation was founded with the direct blessings of the late Osama bin Laden, founder of Al Qaeda. LeT camps in Pakistan are known to have been used by Al Qaeda fighters for training purposes. And the LeT and Al Qaeda fighters have worked side-by-side in attacking government forces in Afghanistan. The LeT has been more than happy to join hands with Al Qaeda when it has suited its needs.

Underneath all this one can detect the designs of the Pakistani military. The Hizbul and LeT are the two terrorist groups with the closest relationship with the clandestine wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). They have served as the Pakistani military’s primary instruments in keeping Kashmir on the boil.

At a time that most indicators are showing a renewal of the United States military commitment to fighting in Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on preemptive military action against ISIS and Al Qaeda, Pakistan’s generals wish to keep a distance between the US’ target list and the militant groups they use to keep India off balance. This is the primary motive behind the statements of Salahuddin and Shah.

What Rawalpindi needs to remember, is that once one decides to ride the tiger of terrorism it is more or less impossible to control its direction. Pakistan-backed terrorist groups may have begun with Kashmir on their mind, but their ideological spawn now target half the world —including Pakistan itself.

First Published: Jul 30, 2017 18:04 IST