April 2002 News

The true jehad is for Kashmir

1 April 2002
The Hindustan Times
Yashwant Raj

Srinagar: IF IT weren't for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, Mohammed Sayed would have been in Kashmir fighting Indian soldiers. Instead, he was sent to Afghanistan to kill Americans. The 21-year-old Jaish-e-Mohammad activist from Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, is now an inmate at a high-security prison here, about 110 tan from Mazar-i-Sharif. The prison holds 800 Pakistani jehadis who came to fight with the Taliban. If you want to prove Pakistan backs cross-border terrorism, all you have to do is visit Sheberghan. Sayed says Kashmir is the "true jehad". Afghanistan is only a training ground. Another prisoner says, "I will go home, rest a while, eat food cooked in ghee, recover physically and bead for Kashmir." But Pakistan's terror machine won't get back all these fighters. Four painful months in jail have scared some of them off jehad. But most of the 30 prisoners interviewed by the Hindustan Times said they were prepared to wage jehad again, preferably in Kashmir. But it takes a jehadi of some mettle to be selected by the ISI, or "the Agency" as it is known among terrorists, for the greater holy war for Kashmir. The terrain is more hostile and the Indian Army seen as a formidable enemy. Only the best products of the terror factory are "launched" (euphemism for infiltrated) into Kashmir. Sayed was not considered good enough. The JeM didn't decide that, the Agency did. The ISI picks and chooses from volunteer in fundamentalist outfits. In Pakistan, the daftars (offices) of jehadi groups are as ubiquitous as pavement tea stalls. Until Pervez Musharraf cracked down on them, JeM, Harkat ul Jihadi-I-Islami (HuJI) and Harkat ul Mujahideen (HuM) could operate daftars, collecting money and recruiting members, wherever they pleased. Abid All, 22, of Sialkot joined HuJI simply by walking into a HuJI daftar down the street. This was just before the US bombings. Ali soon left for Afghanistan with seven others. Muhammad Sarwar of the JeM, on the other hand, was an earlier recruit who always wanted to fight in Kashmir. He was among those who made it to the last stage, but "the launching was cancelled," Sarwar said, "because of bad weather." That was In 1997. He and another activist were turned back. But 10 others were kept at the border and infiltrated when weather improved. Sarwar only can say the launch was somewhere in Poonch. "I was taken there blindfolded." The prisoners say that whenever the Agency is directly involved in transporting them, recruits are blindfolded. Sarwar has been folded before too. The first time was when the Agency took him to Daria-i-Neelam, a dam in Muzaffarabad, for the final stage training swimming lessons. He was then with the Hizbul Mujahideen. Disgusted with the corruption in the Hizb, he switched loyalties to the JeM. This was just after the aborted launch. Afterwards, he trained at a JeM camp run at Masker, PoK. Sarwar's training included mountain climbing, learning to crawl and roll while under fire, dismantling and putting together Kalashnikovs, G-3s and G-2s, .30 and .22 bore rifles. Once the 30-day training period was over, he was sent for the "big training". At this camp, also at Masker, the lessons lasted for three and half months. They were about handling explosives and learning Hindi. According to Maqsood Khan, a jehadi who claimed to have come to Afghanistan with some Pakistani journalists, "All the Pakistan camps are run by the ISI." He says he has been to several in PoK. Maqsood has been to Afghanistan several times. He trained at a camp for foreign recruits in Rishkhor, 15 km south-west of Kabul. The camp was run by HuM and Bin Laden's men. "In Pakistan, on one can start a training camp or a center without the help, or permission of the Agency," he says. The ISI ran the Balakot camp where Sayed was trained, Maqsood says by way of example. "All the classes are taught by agency instructors," he says. "Do you think these tanzeems (terror outfits) have the expertise to run these places and teach such courses on their own?"


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