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Musharraf's jehadi plan backfires

Musharraf's jehadi plan backfires

Author: Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: May 21, 2002

A new Pakistani jehadi group, the Jamaat-e-Milli, is believed to have supported the Kaluchak terrorist attack in Jammu. A Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) report says it is one of a new crop of jehadi groups being used by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to strengthen his influence among Islamic militants.

Musharraf's problem is he has had to crack down on terrorism to show results to the US. Old jehadis, who remember how he helped set up the old terrorist groups, have excused him because they believe the US has forced him to show some action on the ground. However, a crop of younger, more militant jehadis believe he has sold out to the US.

To control them, Musharraf has set up new organisations. And to show them he is till true to jehad, he has helped them launch attacks in Kashmir, which is why terrorist activities have intensified there. This, Musharraf reckons, will help contain violence in Pakistan - especially the kind directed at Westerners.

Jehadi pamphlets circulating in villages along the Line of Control and the new training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are also part of Musharraf's campaign to re-establish his jehadi credentials.

But there is evidence that Musharraf's plans are going awry. The more militant jehadis have formed splinter groups that are not ready to accept his authority.

Aftab Ahmed Ansari, the mastermind of the attack on the American Center in Kolkata, reportedly said during interrogation that there had been a jehadi plot to assassinate Musharraf on Qaid-e-Azam Day last December. Funding had been sent to Pakistan via Dubai and the UK. Acting on a tip-off from the UK, police arrested two people and aborted the plot.

RAW's assessment is that there has been a "churning" within Pakistan's jehadi groups after the US banned groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Harkat-ul- Mujahideen, Sipah-a-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Janghvi. The cadres of these organisations are being merged into at least three new organisations - the Jamaat-e-Milli, Lashkar-e-Omar and Al Jehad.

RAW believes Jamaat-e-Milli is the most important of the new jehadi groups and that Musharraf is trying to put his men in charge of the new organisation, which is serving as a new funding body for various jehadi groups.

It is unclear who heads Lashkar-e-Omar. One theory is that it is headed by Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. Another is that the ISI has set it up to attract disaffected militants and has named it after Omar Sheikh because of his high standing among younger jehadis.

India is even less certain about the shadowy Al Jehad, which is suspected to be composed of Al Qaeda members who have fled Afghanistan. Some Al Qaeda members are also believed to have joined the Jamaat-e-Milli.

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