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Jammu arrests cast new light on Jaish-e-Mohammad networks

Prize catch: A policeman displays the photographs of two of the three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, Ghulam Farid and Mohammad Abdullah, arrested in Jammu on Tuesday.

Prize catch: A policeman displays the photographs of two of the three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, Ghulam Farid and Mohammad Abdullah, arrested in Jammu on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: PTI

Praveen Swami

Terror group set up by man set free from Indian jail

SRINAGAR: Back in June, 1999, a portly cleric attempted to burrow under the walls of the Kot Bhalwal maximum security prison in Jammu — but found himself trapped at the narrowest point in the tunnel.

“Spend more time digging,” a prison guard at Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail taunted the cleric, “it will help you lose weight.” “One day very soon,” he replied, “you will escort me out of these gates.”

Jammu and Kashmir police investigators hope three fidayeen arrested in the State on Tuesday will be able to give insight into the feared terrorist group built by Maulana Masood Azhar — who did indeed walk free, as part of the January, 2000, Indian Airlines hostages-for-prisoners swap at Kandhahar, and went on to found the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Complex networks

Despite its proscription in Pakistan, the Jaish continues to raise funds and recruit operatives from its bases in Bahawalpur and Karachi — funnelling them into India through increasingly complex transnational networks.

Ghulam Farid, the leader of the group held on Tuesday, had a long-standing relationship with jihadist groups. In 1999 — then aged just 16 — he joined the Harkat ul-Jihad-e-Islami, and received three months of tactical weapons training at a camp in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Later, in 2001, Farid joined the Pakistan Army, where he served as a siphai — or rank-and-file soldier — in the 10 Azad Kashmir Regiment, with the military identification belt-number 4319184.

In 2007, though, Farid left the under circumstances that are unclear, and joined the Jaish, which had been formed by Maulana Masood Azhar after his release from jail. He told the police that he left the army angered by the former President, Pervez Musharraf’s July, 2007, crackdown on the Islamist-run Lal Masjid in Islambad

While Farid studied in a government-run school until the tenth grade, the other two fidayeen were products of Jaish-affiliated madaris, or seminaries, many of which have served as recruitment bases for the Islamist terror group.

Mohammad Imran, for his part, joined the Jaish in 2005, after completing his education at a Rawlpindi seminary run by Mufti Abdul Rauf, younger brother of Maulana Masood Azhar. Mohammad Abdullah, too, joined the Jaish after finishing his schooling at a seminary at Hasan Abdal in Pakistan’s Punjab province in 2006.

Family background

Unlike Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman, the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist held during last month’s terror attacks on Mumbai, the three Jaish fidayeen captured in Jammu do not belong to Pakistan’s rural underclass.

Farid, a resident of Ruperi village in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s Bhimber tehsil, was born to Razeena and Mohammad Shafi in October, 1983. One of his brothers, Mohammad Abbas, is a Naik is the Pakistan Army’s Azad Kashmir regiment, and is currently stationed at Khariyan. Another brother, Mohammad Shehzad, works as a plumber in Bhimber.

Farid’s eldest sister, Nafisa, is married to an Azad Kashmir regiment soldier, Mohammad Haseeb. Another sister, Rehana, is married to Mohammad Khwar, a resident of Kharian in Pakistan’s Gujrat area, while the youngest sibling, Rizwana, lives at home.

Imran was born to peasant parents, Shamima Akhtar and Abdul Gaffar, in February 1986. His parents live in 8-DNB in the Jazmaan Mandi tehsil of Bahawalpur district, one of dozens of agricultural settlements in the Pakistani province of Punjab — home territory of the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief

Imran’s brothers, 30-year-old Abdul Qayoom and 24-year-old Abdul Rehman, are both zamindars, or land-owning farmers. His sisters, Farhad, Ishrat, and Sadia, are married to shopkeepers in adjoining agricultural colonies — a sign of the family’s relative prosperity — while Nusrat is married to a farmer.

Abdullah, the third member of the Jaish fidayeen unit, was born to shopkeeper villagers Mohammad Zareen and Zardan Bi in Serian village in the Haripur tehsil of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

Abdullah’s oldest brother, Abdul Rehman, works as a driver, while his younger brother, Abdul Khaliq, is a shopkeeper. His only sister, Rubina Bi, is married to Mohammad Parvez, also a resident of Haripur.

Terror campaign

Men like these have carried out dozens of past Jaish strikes in India.

In October, 2001, the Jaish conducted a fidayeen attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, which left over 30 people dead. Later that year, Jaish operatives carried out the December, 2001 attack on Parliament House in New Delhi. And in July, 2005, six Jaish fidayeen staged an attack on the Ram temple erected by Hindu fundamentalist groups over the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

In March, 2004, the former Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate chief, Javed Ashraf Qazi, said Pakistan “must not be afraid of admitting that the Jaish was involved in the deaths of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, bombing the Indian Parliament, [the journalist] Daniel Pearl’s murder and even attempts on President [Pervez] Musharraf’s life.”

However, President Musharraf’s regime chose to neither prosecute Azhar, nor dismantle his Jaish-e-Mohammad group or restrict its fundraising operations — a policy President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has so far persisted with.

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