The present state of the Pakistan-backed Kashmiri militant groups‏

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Lahore- Despite repeated assertions by Islamabad of having taken tangible measures to dismantle the network of extremist militants in Pakistan, the fanatic jehadis keep marching ahead, amidst substantial evidence that all the three Pakistan-based proscribed Kashmiri militant groups waging a so-called holy war in the Indian administered state of Jammu & Kashmir against the Indian security forces have resurfaced and regrouped and carrying out their public activities freely without any government checks.

While banning six top militant and sectarian groups in two phases – on January 5, 2002 and November 14, 2003, General Musharraf had declared that no militant organization or jehadi leader would be allowed to indulge in terrorism to further its cause. However, the fact remains that the three major jehadi groups he had banned for their alleged involvement in cross border terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir – Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) led by Prof Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) led by Maulana Masood Azhar, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) led by Syed Salahuddin – remained functional and kept running their respective terrorist networks as openly as before, though with different names and identities. For those who need a ready reckoning on General Musharraf’s actual performance in the war against terror, one look at his record on handling jehadi kingpins will suffice – not even a single Kashmiri militant leader was either arrested or prosecuted on terrorism charges, despite the fact that they were wanted either by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) or by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

And the situation is not any different even today despite the installation of a democratically elected government and the subsequent ouster of Musharraf from the Presidency. As things stand, the leaders of all the three key Pakistan-backed Kashmiri militant groups are on the loose and pursuing their jehadi agenda publicly. The pattern of treatment being meted out by Pakistani establishment to the Let, JeM and HuM leaders shows that they are being kept on the leash to wage a controlled jehad in Jammu & Kashmir. To tell the truth, the military, the mullahs and the militants share a common belief in Pakistan’s rightful claim over Kashmir.

Ever since the insurgency began in Kashmir, the Pakistani establishment has constantly raised, altered, undermined and even destroyed the jehadi groups, active there. The dependence of these militants on Pakistan for training, logistics, arms and ammunition and most of all sanctuaries, has been exploited to the hilt by the Pakistani establishment. Not only does its invincible Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) decide which jehadi group will play what role in fuelling the insurgency in J&K, but it also keeps launching new militant outfits at regular intervals to ensure none of these ever get so big or potent that they can ever pose a threat to their creators.

Therefore, three major militant organizations – Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen have already been allowed to resume their training activities at their camps set up in various parts of Pakistan. The Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed, the Jaish chief Masood Azhar and the Harkat chief Salahuddin are openly holding rallies of their supports across Pakistan and spitting venom against the “enemies of Islam” – be it the United States, India or Israel – which could not have been possible without the consent of the country’s all powerful military and intelligence establishments.

Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT): Literally meaning “Army of the Pure”, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), founded by Prof Hafiz Mohammad Saeed in 1991 at the Kunar province of Afghanistan, dreaded for its guerrilla attacks in Jammu & Kashmir and known for the infamous suicide attack on the Red Fort in New Delhi, has proved to be one of the most dangerous jehadi groups operating out of Pakistan and fighting the Indian security forces in Kashmir. Despite being declared a terrorist outfit by the US State Department and placed on the terror watch list of the Pakistani government, the Lashkar has been enjoying considerable freedom to raise funds and recruit cadre. Despite a government interdiction, banners can easily be seen in the urban and rural areas of Punjab, urging young boys to enroll themselves with Jamaat-ul-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Toiba for waging jehad against infidels. The banners usually carry the telephone numbers of the area offices so that the young men interested in military training can contact the jehadi group. Similarly, the Lashkar activists can be seen outside mosques in the rural areas distributing pamphlets and periodicals preaching the virtues of jehad in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the kid’s glove approach of the Pakistani establishment towards the Lahore-based Hafiz Saeed can be gauged from the freedom with which he leads Friday prayers at the Lahore mosque where he exhorts his followers to take up the path of jehad against India and the United States with renewed vigour. Not only that he is allowed to move freely, he is free to host parties for political leaders and hold conferences to promote the cause of jehad. For instance, on August 31, 2008, while addressing thousands of youngsters at the Kashmir Conference hosted by him at Rawalpinidi’s Liaquat Bagh, Hafiz Saeed said the time was ripe to take the war onto the Indian soil for liberating Jammu Kashmir. “Washington and New Delhi are already engaged in a proxy war against Pakistan and it is high time Islamabad declare jehad against them to protect the security and integrity of Pakistan.”

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM): The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) or the Army of the Prophet Mohammad, one of the deadliest militant groups operating from Pakistan and waging ‘jehad’ against the Indian security forces in Jammu & Kashmir, has already been reorganized under the command of Mufti Abdul Rauf, the younger brother of Masood Azhar who had proved his abilities by carrying out some successful militant operations inside Jammu Kashmir. Rauf has been allowed to establish a transit camp in Rawalpindi to recruit those coming from southern Punjab and traveling to Kohat, a town in the central North West Frontier Province where a training camp had been established. While Rauf supervises the Jaish training camps as its acting ameer, Masood manages the organizational affairs. Rauf is stationed in the federal capital while Masood is based in the Bahawalpur district of Punjab which also houses the Jaish headquarters.

A June 23, 2008 article in The New