All eyes may be focused on peace talks with TTP, but Pakistan is a land of many moving parts, and just because attention is being paid to movement in one area does not mean that other parts have stopped moving. I have noted on this blog recently that despite the Prime Minister’s movements towards a sane foreign policy, there is also an undercurrent of movement by jihadi groups that is less openly discussed. Most of this jihadi movement has been centered on Kashmir, but a new report suggests that it may be wider and interconnected.
Most of the reporting on militant activities has been about Laskhar-e-Taiba and Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, leaving out one group in particular that has historically played an important role in Kashmir jihad, Jaish-e-Muhammad which was formed by Masood Azhar with agency support in early 2000s.
Intelligence agencies had quietly dropped their support for Jaish-e-Muhammad after ‘Washington gave out evidence to ISI on Masood Azhar providing logistical support and safe havens to al-Qaeda members in Faisalabad’. Masood Azhar never really went away, though. He has lived openly in Karachi where he oversees several madrassas. Now, he’s showing up in Kashmir again.
Recently, Jaish-e-Mohammad held a rally in Muzzaffarabad where Masood Azhar addressed supporters by phone and making the same talking points as Taliban:
Maulana Azhar criticised Gen Musharraf for “making Pakistan a stooge of the United States and offering its resources for the massacre of innocent people of Afghanistan”.
“Kashmir is part of Pakistan and unless Kashmiri Muslims get their rights, there cannot be any friendship with India,” he declared.
He warned India against a “dreaded revenge” for the execution of Mr Guru.
He called upon Islamabad to “keep itself away from slaughter of Muslims in Afghanistan and lift restrictions on jihad”.
The re-activation of former ISI assets Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohammad comes at the same time as other jihadi groups are also increasing their activity. Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed recently announced that ‘conditions are transforming rapidly’ and predicted that ‘the era of Islamic power is almost upon us‘ and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Munawar Hassan claimed that secular forces have been defeated in Pakistan and the Kashmir jihad is speeding up.
While the government continues to hold onto the fantasy of ‘peace talks’ with Taliban, the jihadis continue to outflank the government on all sides. Taliban negotiators, led by a former Senator, announced today that there will be no peace in Pakistan until the government replaces the Constitution and the Judiciary with Taliban approved sharia while jihadis increase activities in Kashmir and even leave welcome messages for Taliban.
The Prime Minister has two choices: Fight, or Surrender. He might not like the options, but that’s what they are right now. If the government continues to dither while jihadis outflank them, Nawaz could find himself down to only one option. The Taliban is counting on it.