23rd October 1997
Islamabad: Stung by the recent classifications of the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Ansar as a terrorist outfit by the United States, Islamabad, on the eve of the October 19-20 visit of the US under Secretary of State, Mr Thomas Pickering, took the unprecedented action of raiding a HuA office in Rawalpindi.
There is a clear circumstantial link to suggest that the Pakistani Government, which has been aware of the activities of the Harkat for years, acted only to project itself in a "favorable light" before the United States. Prior to this raid, no action of any kind had been taken against the Harkat. In fact, a Foreign Office spokesman had tried to project that HuA operated from Occupied Kashmir.
At a press conference in Rawalpindi yesterday, Fazl-ur-Rehman Khalil, Harkat chief, said the HuA's leadership might be rounded pu prior to the scheduled visit of the US President Bill Clinton, to Pakistan early next year. "The Pakistani government may arrest the leadership of the Harkat-ul-Ansar to please the US," he said at a meet-the-press at the Rawalpindi Press Club.
According to Khalil, the US 'policy' towards Jammu and Kashmir was to divide the area into three parts -- one part going to Pakistan, the second to India and the third part of Kashmir would remain independent. He claimed that the "US allegations are a part of the conspiracy hatched by the Indian Government as Harkat-ul-Ansar is inflicting heavy losses on the Indian forces."
Khalil confirmed that a HuA leader, Mohammed Siddique, had been arrested for involvement in the killings of five Iranian cadets in Rawalpindi last month. The HuA chief denied his man's role in the sectarian killings that have had visible impact on Pakistan-Iran relations. Khalil also claimed that a dozen leaders and activists of the organization had so far been arrested in different parts of Pakistan. He said the organization had 10,000 activists, and efforts were on to recruit some more.
The problem for Islamabad lies in the new US attitude towards the Harkat, whose front, the Al-Faran was responsible for the kidnappings of five foreigners from Jammu & Kashmir. Though both Pakistan and Harkat have tried to pin the blame on India for the kidnapping, the US had said the Al-Faran and the Harkat are one and the same organization.
In fact, the madrassas or religious schools here have been "supplying mujahidids" for the "jihad cause" in Jammu & Kashmir, sending fighters for the Taliban and, in some cases, providing hit-men for sectarian groups within Pakistan itself.
Now the US has taken notice of the Harkat's activities from Pakistan. For the first time since 1989, Pakistan will be under American pressure to take action against the organization. During his press conference here, Mr Pickering confirmed that he had taken up the Harkat issue with Pakistani leaders.
In the months ahead, with the US Secretary of State, Ms. Madeline Albright, and the US President himself scheduled to visit Pakistan, pressure on the Harkat issue can only mount on Pakistan.