Jundullah activities a threat to Pak-Iran gas pipeline


LAHORE: The growing terrorist activities of the Pakistan-based
anti-Shia militant organization called Jundullah or Soldiers of God,
threatens not only the Pak-Iran diplomatic ties but also the future of
the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, signed on May 22, 2009 by
Pakistani President Asif Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad in Tehran and described by the two leaders as the peace

According to well-placed diplomatic sources in Islamabad, Tehran has
lodged a strong protest with Islamabad over the failure of its law
enforcement agencies to dismantle the Jundullah network in Pakistan
which has claimed responsibility for the May 28, 2009 deadly suicide
attack inside the Ameer al-Momenin mosque in Zahedan that killed 25
people and wounded 125 others. The sources said that having summoned
the Pakistani ambassador to Iran Mohammad Bakhsh Abbasi to their
foreign office in Tehran on May 30, 2009, the Iranian officials
expressed their deep concern over the failure of the Pakistani
authorities to proceed against the Jundullah network in Pakistan
despite having been given specific intelligence information. The
Pakistani ambassador was told that the Zahedan suicide attack could
have been averted had Islamabad acted in time on the Iranian
intelligence information.

The Iranian authorities reportedly told the Pakistani ambassador that
the three terrorists (Haji Noti Zehi, Gholam Rasoul Shahi Zehi and
Zabihollah Naroui), hanged publicly on May 30, 2009 in Zahedan for
their participation in the mosque bombing, had confessed to illegally
bringing explosives from Pakistan into Iran and giving them to the
main person behind the suicide attack. The trio which belonged to
Jundullah and had been arrested before Thursday’s bombing had
confessed having provided the explosives for the mosque attack in
Zahedan, the capital of Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province which has
for several years been the scene of a deadly insurgency by Jundullah,
headed by Abdol Malek Rigi. The Zahedan province lies on a major
narcotics-smuggling route from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Diplomatic circles in Islamabad say Tehran’s concern over the growing
terrorist activities of Pakistan based Jundullah, across the border in
Iran could be gauged from the fact that its ambassador to Pakistan
Mashallah Shakeri had addressed an unusual press conference in
Islamabad on March 20, 2009, accusing Pakistan in so many words of
allowing its soil to be used against Iran and demanding concrete steps
to contain its activities. While claiming that the Jundullah network
was located inside the Balochistan province, Shakeri had asked
Islamabad to curb its anti-Iran activities by taking a decisive action
against its leadership. The Iranian ambassador had given broad hints
at that time that an Iranian diplomat, who had disappeared in Peshawar
in 2008, could also have been kidnapped by Jundullah, an al-Qaeda
linked Sunni Islamic organization opposed to the Shia government in
Tehran. In his reaction the same day, a Pakistani foreign office
spokesman had stated that Islamabad was determined that Pakistani soil
would not be allowed to be used by the Jundullah, in any manner, to
destabilise the Iranian government.

However, the diplomatic circles in Islamabad say the Iranian
authorities warned the Pakistani ambassador to Tehran on May 30, 2009
that Pakistan’s failure to act against the Jundullah network in
Balochistan could also jeopardize the future of the recently signed
Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. They pointed out that the
Pakistani and the Iranian Presidents had only signed the initial
agreement after 14 years of delayed negotiations and the most crucial
gas sales and purchase agreement has not yet been finalised. On the
other hand, the Pakistani authorities in Islamabad do not rule the
possibility of a third player aiding and abetting the anti-Iran
activities of the Jundullah, with a view to damage the Pak-Iran ties
and sabotage the peace pipeline project.

On the other hand, however, while asserting that the Pakistani law
enforcement agencies were making all possible efforts to dismantle the
Jundullah network from Balochistan’s soil, authoritative sources in
the ministry of interior pointed out that the militant organization in
question has actually stepped up its anti-Iran activities following
the June 15, 2008 extradition of Abdul Hamid Rigi, the brother of
Jundullah chief, Abdul Malek Rigi, from Pakistan to Iran. Rigi is now
being tried by an Iranian court on terrorism charges.

The commitment of the Rigi brother to the so-called cause of Jundullah
can be gauged from the fact that one of them – Abdul Ghafoor Rigi –
opted to sacrifice him by executing a suicide car bombing on December
28, 2008, against the headquarters of Iran’s joint police and
anti-narcotics unit in the Saravan city. The bombing was highly
uncharacteristic of Jundullah’s previous operations and was intended
to serve as an example for other militants within the Baloch
nationalist movement to follow, in Iran and beyond.

Asked about the origin of Jundullah, the intelligence sources in
Pakistan say the organisation ostensibly represents the Baloch
nationality inside Iran, disaffected with the Tehran government. While
being interrogated, the sources said, Abdul Hamid Rigi, the brother of
Jundullah chief, had maintained that the group was formed to protect
the rights of the Baloch in Iranian Balochistan-Sistan region. But the
sources conceded the existence a Pakistani Jundullah, one of the
several small though highly organised splinter groups to have emerged
in the wake of 9/11 in different parts of the country.

Initially, patronised by late Taliban commander Nek Mohammad, the
Pakistan chapter of Jundullah draws usually its cadre from anti-Shia
jehadi and sectarian groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which have
turned their wrath on Pakistan after the avenues to vent their ire in
Afghanistan and Jammu & Kashmir were thwarted by the changed
circumstances. Lt Gen Ahsan Saleem Hayat, the former Corps Commander
of Karachi was one of those high profile personalities to have been
targeted by the Pakistan chapter of Jundullah way back on June 10,
2004, killing 11 including seven army personnel when his convoy was
ambushed near the Clifton Bridge.

Highlighting Pakistani efforts to recover the Iranian diplomat
kidnapped from Peshawar, the interior ministry sources said the
Karachi police raided a Karachi locality – Shah Abdul Latif town in
the Landhi area – on January 31, 2008 to retrieve the Iranian diplomat
alive. In the ensuing battle, two policemen and five members of
Jundullah were killed while 35 terrorists belonging to Jundullah,
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan were arrested.
However, the Iranian diplomat could not be recovered. The big catch
was 27-year old Qasim Toori, one of the top Jundullah leaders and an
ex-policeman who was wanted for unsuccessfully trying to kill the
corps commander of Karachi in 2004 in which attack eleven other men
were killed. Qasim Toori had one million rupees on his head.

Jandullah never left Karachi after 2004 and kept looting banks to
finance its operations, targeting the Pakistan American Cultural
Centre building, the Bible Society, and Gulistan-e-Jauhar police
station. The Al-Falah Bank at Quaidabad was looted by them, killing
five people. Interestingly, some of the Pakistani intelligence sources
claim that Jandullah was created by the mastermind of 9/11 terror
attacks, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, arrested in 2003 from Rawalpindi and
handed over to the Americans, after which Jandullah went wild. Soon
after the Karachi attempt on the corps commander, the police were able
to apprehend a group of Jandullah terrorists headed by an Arab, Masoob
Aruchi, who turned out to be a nephew of Khalid Sheikh with a million
dollars on his head. He too was handed over to the United States which
already had his other nephew Ramzi Yusuf serving a long sentence for
attacking the World Trade Centre the first time around.

Jandullah was not without its support system in Karachi as it
proceeded to avenge the arrest and handover of its mastermind after
2003. The support system in Karachi included two doctors. Dr Akmal
Waheed, an orthopaedic surgeon, and his younger brother Dr Arshad
Waheed, a heart specialist, were convicted in 2005 by an
anti-terrorism court which sent them behind bars for 18 years on
charges of “causing disappearance of evidence by harbouring and
providing medical treatment to activists of banned Jandullah group”.
There were protest marches in Karachi and Lahore by pious doctors when
the two doctors were sentenced.

Talking to newsmen, the convicted brothers said they had expected such
a verdict as “it was part of the government policy to appease the
United States”. They said they would definitely file an appeal against
the judgment in the Sindh High Court: “We believe Allah Almighty will
do justice”. The court, however was convinced that the two had
criminal involvement and had observed that the prosecution was able to
prove that Dr Akmal provided treatment to a Jandullah terrorist who
had suffered injuries during an attack on the Rangers, and that Dr
Arshad had stealthily provided treatment to Qasim Toori, who was
injured in the attack on the Karachi corps commander’s convoy. As Dr.
Arshad Waheed was bailed out almost a year later, he subsequently got
killed in a US missile attack in the Wana area of Waziristan on March
16, 2009.

A most significant fact was that a Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al
Zarqawi was treated by the same doctors in 2003 after he was brought
in from the tribal areas in an injured state. Zarqawi had sustained
his injury inside Afghanistan and was helped on behalf of the
Pakistani Taliban Commander Nek Muhammad by a Waziristan personality
who was elected to the National Assembly and is still playing an
active role in politics. Zarqawi was able thereafter to cross into
Iraq through Iran. But if Iran thought he was going to help fight the
Americans it was mistaken. Zarqawi transformed himself into a
sectarian polemicist and killed Shias together with the American


Comments are closed.


Discover more from Middle East Transparent

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading