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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pepe Escobar: Kashmir: Ground zero of global jihad

Arif Jamal is arguably the leading Pakistani expert on the jihad in Kashmir. He is the author of Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir [1], a groundbreaking, gripping account of the interminable, key conflict between India and Pakistan, based on interviews with hundreds of militants over the years.

PE: Was the operation in Swat Valley [this year] nothing but a big show put up by the army for the benefit of Washington - of course, with the "collateral damage" of displacing 3.4 million people?
AJ: It appears so more and more with the passage of time. In the beginning, it appeared they were serious in eliminating the terrorists there. However, knowingly or unknowingly, they gave enough time to top terrorists like Sufi Mohammad and Maulana Fazlullah and their followers to escape. As a result, the terrorists disappeared from Swat Valley but re-emerged elsewhere.

PE: You see jihad expanding to the borders of Jammu and Kashmir in India, in the east, and Afghanistan in the west. The outcome of all this would mean jihadis moving freely between Kashmir and Afghanistan. Is this plan A for the ISI and the Pakistani army, with no plan B?
AJ: The ISI is very good at adapting to emerging situations. Most of their plans do not work as intended. It is neither plan A, nor plan B. I think it is an unintended result of the privatization of jihad. The Pakistani military had been privatizing jihad in Kashmir from the very beginning, and later in Afghanistan in the 1980s. After 9/11, the ISI further privatized jihad and outsourced it to former ISI officers. Parts of NWFP like the Khyber Agency were outsourced to a former ISI officer, Major Amir (retired), who came into limelight when he tried to destabilize the first Benazir Bhutto government in 1989-90. Under ISI pressure, he was retired but not punished. He again came into the limelight when the Nawaz Sharif government unearthed an ISI plot, known as Midnight Jackals, to destabilize his government. Major Amir is the brother of Maulana Mohammad Tayyab, who heads an extremist Takfiri group, Jamat Ishaat Al Tauheed Wal Sunnah, popularly known as Panjpiris. This group was deeply involved in the rise of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the TNSM. The group seems to be working at joining the two jihads. The two brothers played important roles in the formation of the TTP and the radicalization of the TNSM. TTP leader Maulana Faqir Mohammad is their follower and studied in their madrassa [Islamic seminary] in Swabi [in NWFP]. The conclusion is that even former ISI officers tend to deviate from the given script and spin out of control.

THE ROVING EYE - Kashmir: Ground zero of global jihad By Pepe Escobar


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