We Are Coming To Kashmir, Warn Al-Qaida Groups

We Are Coming To Kashmir, Warn Al-Qaida Groups

10 March 2013
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Azhar Qadri

Srinagar: Al-Qaida and its affiliate groups, which include Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab, have recently made multiple direct threats warning that Kashmir is their next mission once curtains are drawn on the Afghan theatre of war. Ustad Ahmad Farooq is the head of Al-Qaida’s preaching in Pakistan, a very important portfolio in Islamist militant circles where religion is the main and, many a times, only motivation. This week, Farooq appeared in yet another video, with his face completely blurred as he read out an obituary for Engineer Ahsan Aziz, a Kashmiri militant from Mirpur district, who was killed in a US drone attack in 2012 in Pakistan’s tribal belt. The obituary takes off some veil over the new relationships that have been formed in the militant circles in the past one decade, when the US-led attack on Afghanistan changed many equations. Aziz, according to Farooq’s obituary, was a high-ranking Al-Qaida leader who had shifted his base to the tribal areas on Pakistan’s western border in 2005. How much this Kashmiri militant might have influenced the Al-Qaida leadership about Kashmir, the cause much closer to his heart and home, can only be guessed from the recent spurt of statements about Kashmir which are coming out directly from the top brass. Aziz has not been the only Kashmir connection with Al-Qaida. Ilyas Kashmiri and Badar Mansoor, two top Al-Qaida field commanders in Pakistan killed in US drone strikes, had both fought the Indian Army in Kashmir before shifting their bases to the tribal areas, according to a separate obituary read out by Farooq. Farman Shinawari, who has reportedly replaced Mansoor after his death in the US drone attack, is also said to have deep Kashmir connections. In the last week of February this year, a senior ideologue of Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab, Maulana Ismatullah Mawiya, wrote a two-page letter warning that Kashmir will be the next battlefield for many of the militants after the US withdrawal of Afghanistan ends, which is scheduled for 2014. Mawiya’s warning is not something in isolation. Since the US withdrawal began from Afghanistan, Al-Qaida and its powerful affiliates, including myriad militant outfits operating out of Pakistan’s tribal areas, have increasingly and publicly announced their interest in Kashmir, which has witnessed considerable pause in militancy for the past one decade. Maulana Ismatullah Mawiya, a senior ideologue of Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab, warned that Kashmir would be the next battlefield for many of the militants after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan ends, scheduled by next year.