Praveen Swami

ISI Directorate resumes funding for Hizb ul-Mujahideen

A new state-of-the-art wireless communications station was set up at Kel town

A new basic training facility was also set up at Gujaranwala in the Punjab province

NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s latest posture along the Line of Control seems linked to the lifting of restraints imposed on the Jammu and Kashmir-based jihadist groups by President Pervez Musharraf’s regime — curbs that saw violence decline each year since 2002.

In a March 1 videophone address to a Lashkar rally in Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir’s capital Muzaffarabad, the organisation chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed announced that restrictions placed on the terrorist group’s operations had been lifted.

Soon after, Indian intelligence reported a build-up of Lashkar cadre at infiltration staging posts along the LoC. A new state-of-the-art wireless communications station was set up by the proscribed group at Kel town, just across the LoC from Lolab, while a training centre at Balakote was revived. A new basic training facility was also set up at Gujaranwala in the Punjab province.

Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar was released from house arrest and allowed to parade with armed cadre in Bahawalpur town — a defiant show of strength by one of the world’s best known Islamist terrorists.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate also resumed funding for the Hizb ul-Mujahideen, which was shut off under international pressure in 2006. Last month, jihadist groups jointly paraded in Muzaffarabad under the leadership of Hizb ul-Mujahideen chief Mohammad Yusuf Shah, in their first public show of strength since 2001. Shah, who also chairs the United Jihad Council, announced that he would “continue jihad in Kashmir until the region is liberated from Indian occupation.”

Both aggressive polemic and hostilities along the LoC could escalate as the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections — a make-or-break test for Islamist secessionists — approach.

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