In last week of August 2021, prescribed terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) Chief Masood Azhar met Taliban leaders in Kandahar. The agenda of the meeting was to seek Taliban’s complete support for ongoing terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir. The interplay in Afghanistan between Taliban and Pakistan based terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and others is no hidden secret to the security agencies worldwide. Thousands of operatives from JEM and LET fought alongside Taliban in its final push towards Kabul after the US withdrawal. It’s the timing of meeting between the two on Jammu and Kashmir that is crucial to understand the upcoming events which are slowly unfurling within the valley. With Taliban finding a firm footing in Afghanistan, Pakistan focus now is to up its terror ante in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India. As the ISI backed Haqqani network is central to its Taliban control in Afghanistan, ISI has tasked JEM chief Masood Azhar to be the central player to consolidate its terror actions once again in Jammu and Kashmir.
Before the meeting between Taliban and Masood Azhar, there was another important agreement which was reached between JEM chief Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Taiyba (LET) chief Hafiz Sayeed in Pakistan. It was of complete cooperation and close co-ordinated working of the two organisations within Kashmir. Historically, JEM has purged on recruits and resources of LET and both have been competitors to each other as they belong to different Islamic school of thoughts. The syncretic alliance between them is a significant mark of the terror module shaping up for coming years.
The takeover of Kabul by Taliban on August 15, 2021 was widely hailed as a victory of Islam by the people of Kashmir. Social media channels and public discourse/ discussions were buzzing with excitement on Taliban takeover, indicating how gullible Kashmiris by and large have become to global terror machinery and its subsequent propaganda. The Taliban victory also brings to the fore the radicalisation narrative which runs deep in the minds of most people in Kashmir. The idea of achieving Global Khilafat through terrorism as justifiable tool isn’t just limited to Middle East and Afghanistan but has seeped well into South Asia. Kashmir has turned out to be the rife place for such activities. A concerted effort by ISI to bring Kashmir closer to global terror outfits have been a prime Pakistani ISI policy to further its terror activities in Kashmir and rest of India. The ground work for such a module is being carried out for a decade now.
On one hand, extensive use of social media channels to disseminate multiple narratives for the same purpose is carried out by ideologues on ISI payrolls sitting across the globe, on the other hand a much deeper and sinister module is at work. Its objective is to continuously erode Kashmir’s tolerant religious Sufi tradition and culture by preaching and bringing into practise a more puritan and radical Islam. Jamaat-e-Islami and Tabligh-i-Jamaat were used as over ground organisations to bridge the ideological gap. Over the last three decades the valley witnessed a rapid mushrooming of schools, madrassas, mosques and literature operating under the umbrella of these organisations. The political polarisation was used as a prime tool to further the mind. These objectives have by and large been met. So it’s no surprise that when the brutal Taliban took over Kabul, rejoicing happened in Kashmir. The gambit of global terror linkage in Kashmir happened within the last decade and it’s alter was ISI.
Subsequently terror outfits like Ansar-Ghazwa-ul-Hind (AGUH) a subsidiary of (AQIS) Al-Qaeeda in Indian Subcontinent (affiliate of Al-Qaeda) and ISIS-K had already found its foothold in Kashmir. Footprints of AQIS have also been found in other parts of India. West Bengal, UP and Kerela being the prominent states. The operational chief of AQIS, Asim Umar who originally hailed from UP was eventually killed in Afghanistan. They found ideologues, recruits and logistical support within. Kashmir also saw the revival of Pakistan based terror organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al-Badr. While Jaish-e-Mohammad draws most of its cadre from Pakistani born fighters, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al-Badr mainly recruited local youth in its fold.
On one hand Jaish-e-Mohammad cemented an alliance with AQIS through Taliban, on the other its tactical understanding with LET placed it as a central terror organisation strengthening its grip in the valley. It is using AGUH ideologues to spread the Global Khilafat jihad narrative within the valley, its Pakistani infiltrated cadre is training the radicalised men and women in making IED and small arms to carry out subversive terror activities and to recce high value targets in the valley and in other parts of the country. It is using local recruited youth by LET and Al-Badr to carry out soft killings of mainstream people and minorities with the objective of silencing any dissenting social or political mainstream voice which emanates strongly within the valley.
To escape the FATF grey list Pakistan played the age old trick of renaming its terror outfits in the valley. The new terror organisations mushroomed in the valley while the old ones disappeared. While LET started operating as TRF, JEM and Al-Badr donned the names of PAFF and Geelani Force. JEM and AGUH also jointly formed a terror front MGUH (Mahaz-Ghazwa-e-Hind). Recently its terror module was busted after the arrest of its operatives who were planning an attack on RSS headquarters in Nagpur.
With the abrogation of article 370 and subsequent dismantling of the separatist organisation network which worked as ideological and political wing of old terror network in the valley, new strategy was devised by Pakistan to keep the terror machinery fully functional in the valley. It created a new ideological and political wing, which is operating mostly from foreign countries. They are tasked to identify mainstream people and get them eliminated, spread Pakistani designed Jihad narrative through social media in Kashmir and also to operate as a diaspora advocating for merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan abroad under the now redundant 1947 UN resolutions. Most of this diaspora operates from countries like US, UK, Turkey and Islamabad.
Pakistan has chosen Kashmir as the central battleground to carry out its terror activities in India. It is linking the terror groups together in Kashmir and spreading its tentacles in rest of India. Border routes along LOC, Punjab, Nepal and Bangladesh are being used for weapon smuggling, logistic and Narcotics support for terror activities. Indian agencies along the border and within are on high alert to thaw any such terror attacks but the coming times are crucial to effectively fight the renewed terror module as Pakistan looks to destabilise India using religious polarisation as its main tool.
Tail Piece: Thirty two years of terror and violence has adversely impacted the common lives in Jammu and Kashmir immensely. With terrorism destroying lives globally, the onus is on people of Jammu and Kashmir collectively to either shun terrorism and find lasting peace or let Pakistan create another Afghanistan in Kashmir.
(Raja Muneeb is a freelance columnist and political analyst)
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