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Terror outfits in Pak continue to flourish
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 22
It is business as usual for terrorist groups in Pakistan as they have remained unaffected to a large extent by the so-called anti-terrorist operations.

Instead, these outfits continue to regroup, expand and synergise, according to a latest assessment of the Government of India. Some highlights of it has been shared exclusively with The Tribune.

Terrorist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HuM) and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), though outlawed, have been able to consolidate their cadre, training and financial networks in Pakistan in the past three years.

This poses threat not just to India but also to Pakistan itself as recent attempts to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf has so revealed.

More alarming is the possibility that these groups, already using transnational criminal syndicates for collecting funds and weapons, could, in the near future, forge deeper links with terrorist groups and religious extremists in South East Asia and extend their scope of operations from Karachi to the Straits of Malacca.

There are several common threads that draw some of the above-mentioned groups together. Both the JeM and HuJI, for instance, are organically linked to Harkat-ul Ansar (HuA) and Harkat-ul Mujahdieen (HuM), raised 13 years ago with the objective of fostering militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

The leadership and the cadre of these groups were initially drawn from the madarsas run by clerics deeply associated with the raising of the Taliban and hence have irrefutable association with the Al-Qaida.

These religious schools also spawned rabid Sunni religious extremist groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), creating in the process a hot house of terror where groups with seemingly different ideologies and leadership could quickly alter identities, shift alliances and emerge as new heads of terror.

The post 9/11 arrests of top Al-Qaida operatives like Khalid Mohammad Sheikh from Rawalpindi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh from Karachi exposed a new phenomenon taking shape in the terrorist world.

HuJIís main operational base in Pakistan is Karachi where it operates from 48 seminaries including the Binori madarsa. An illustration of its multi-national character could be deduced from the diversity of its cadre.

For instance, one of HuJIís major recruiting grounds is the Korangi area in Karachi which is populated by Rohingyas, migrant Muslims from the Arakan region of Myanmar. It has affiliations with at least 30 madarsas.

The most prominent is madarsa Khalid bin Walid where more than 500 Myanmarese are trained at any given point of time.

It is the command headquarters of the Rohangyas fighting the junta in Myanmar.

These rebels are led by Maulana Abdul Guddus, a Myanmarese Muslim who fled to India and made his way to Karachi and took his religious training before leaving for Afghan jihad. The collective objective of these rebels is to turn Pakistan into another Taliban country.

In his testimony before the US Senate Committee on Intelligence on February 11, 2003, Defence Intelligence Agency Director Vice-Admiral Lowell Jacoby said: ďAl-Qaida appears to maintain an operational presence in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan has been a key partner in Operation Enduring Freedom and in our global war on terrorism, but despite its best efforts, Al Qaida continues to use Pakistan for transit, haven, and as a staging area for attacks.Ē

Though Khaled Mohammad Sheikh and Ramzi bin al-Shibh were arrested subsequently, the existence and effectiveness of various new formations became glaringly evident during the twin assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf in the last fortnight of December 2003.
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