By Lukose Mathew
With Tariq Bhat/Srinagar
July 17, 2005
The Ayodhya attack could be part of Lashkar supremo
Hafiz Muhammed Saeed’s plan to open more battlefronts in India
The jihad in Kashmir would soon spread to entire India.
The portly Prof. Hafiz Muhammed Saeed’s devotion to his mission of creating three Pakistans out of India is as single-minded as that of a laser-guided missile. Kashmir, for him, is the gateway to India. Its liberation from the ‘Hindus’, he told the media in February 1996 in Lahore, would be followed by the liberation of Muslims in north and south India. Muslims, he said in an interview a year later, should be "aroused to rise in revolt... so that India gets disintegrated".
Lashkar has emerged as the deadliest terror outfit operating out of Pakistan in the last decade. Indian intelligence agencies attribute most of the recent terrorist strikes in India to Lashkar, including the one in Ayodhya on July 5. It has virtually unlimited access to funds, thanks to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and sponsors in Europe and the middle east, and a never-ending supply of troops, thanks to the schools managed by the MDI.
The pattern of Lashkar attacks in India following Saeed’s statement proves that he was indeed serious about his intent. Though the outfit entered Kashmir to wage jihad rather late—in 1993—it soon pushed the other big organisations, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Muhammad, to the fringes. After the Kargil war of 1999, during which Saeed’s boys rubbed shoulders with the Pakistan army fighting the Indians, Lashkar made its name organising fidayeen (suicide) attacks in Kashmir. Even as the civilians and the security forces in the Valley reeled under the new mode of terror, Saeed set his sights outside the state. Delhi was the first target.
Lashkar militants attacked the Red Fort in December 2000 and a year later they mounted a daring assault on Parliament with help from JeM. In fact, JeM and Hizb-ul, after being pushed to the background, have been helping Lashkar militants carry out their strike. The early-bird advantage meant that JeM and Hizb-ul had considerable knowledge of the potential targets, which the Lashkar has been putting to good use.
In 2002, the Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar, belonging to the Swaminarayan sect, was the target. Last year, there were reports that Lashkar was training its guns on important personalities, including cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. In March 2005, the Delhi Police killed three Lashkar militants and captured two others who were apparently planning to target software companies in Bangalore. Then came the Ayodhya attack, the fourth on temples since 1996.
Catch them young: Pakistani children with Lashkar flags
"The way the attack has been carried out suggests the involvement of Lashkar," said K. Sreenivasan, deputy inspector-general of the Border Security Force and an expert on pan-Islamic outfits operating in Pakistan. "They have agents in some parts of the country, though in Kashmir they are presently very much down. Only Lashkar has the expertise and motivation to carry out such an attack." So what makes Saeed order these daring strikes? One, the publicity they garner; two, the fear they generate in the minds of the people and; three, the way they "arouse the Muslims". Saeed, it seems, has taken a leaf out of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s book. He has a habit of making bold statements that cause superpowers to shiver. In fact, bin Laden was said to be the main inspiration for the three professors who founded MDI—Saeed, his colleague Zafar Iqbal and Abdullah Azzam of the International Islamic University, which is allegedly funded by bin Laden.
When the MDI, which belongs to the conservative Ahle-Hadith (aka Salafi or Wahabi) school of Islam, was formed in 1987, bin Laden provided the seed money. Its headquarters was set up on a sprawling 190 acres in Muridke, 45km from Lahore. Besides a huge mosque, the building of which was financed by bin Laden, the heavily guarded campus houses a guest house—which was used by the al Qaeda chief before America started snapping at his heels—a madrasa, a hospital, a market, a fish farm, agricultural tracts and residential area for scholars and the faculty. MDI has five Islamic institutions, more than a hundred schools and five madrasas besides ambulance services, blood banks and clinics across Pakistan. It also has a media wing headed by Saeed’s son-in-law, Khalid Waleed.
A year after the MDI was launched, Azzam got killed in an explosion. In July 2004, Iqbal broke away and launched Khairun Naas after Saeed anointed his brother-in-law, Maulana Abdul Rehman Makki, a former teacher, as his second-in-command and head of foreign affairs. Charges of nepotism are nothing new to Saeed. His son, Talha, looks after the affairs of the Lashkar in Muzaffarabad, while Waleed, despite being accused of having links with car smugglers, continues to be powerful.
Lashkar, MDI’s armed wing, was launched in 1990 in the Afghan province of Kunar with the specific aim of fighting the Najibullah regime in Afghanistan. After the Taliban captured Kabul in 1992, the attention turned to Kashmir. Meanwhile, Lashkar had become a big hit with the ISI and the government, particularly because Saeed and his men had no interest in local politics unlike other outfits. Patronage meant that the MDI as well as Lashkar prospered. The many institutions it ran ensured that it never faced a shortage of cadres.
Lashkar trains recruits in two phases. The basic, Daura Aam, lasts 21 days and recruits are motivated to pursue jihad as a mission. The special phase, Daura Khaas, is of three months and involves training in weapons, ambush and survival. Saeed has combined Islamic education and modern knowledge in his institutions, in a bid to make his wards motivated and innovative.
Saeed was arrested in end-2001, under pressure from the US which listed Lashkar as a terrorist organisation. Lashkar was banned and to survive the crisis it was ‘distanced’ from the MDI, renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the headquarters shifted to Muzaffarabad with Maulana Abdul Wahid Kashmiri as head of operations. Saeed was let off in November 2002, because the government ‘failed’ to find anything against him.
His dream run continues to this day, despite the split in 2004 and resentment over his second marriage to the widow of a slain associate. Saeed, 57, has two children—a son and a daughter—from his first marriage to the daughter of his maternal uncle Hafiz Mohammad Abdullah Bahawalpuri, an Ahle-Hadith scholar.
Saeed had a strictly religious upbringing in Janubi village in Mianwali district, where his landlord father, Kamaluddin, had set up base after Partition, having migrated from Hyderabad. His mother taught her seven children the Quran and Saeed took to the holy book in a big way. After his graduation, he did his masters in Islamic Studies from King Saud University, Riyadh. His first job was as research officer at the Islamic Ideological Council in Pakistan. Even after he launched the MDI, he continued to teach till his retirement a couple of years ago.
Saeed, who has never been to the west despite the fact that his two brothers live in the US, dislikes being photographed and has banned TV in his headquarters. He hates ‘Hindu rulers’, from whose clutches he wants to liberate Junagadh and Hyderabad, apart from Kashmir. And he has a good reason to hate India: 36 members of his extended family were killed during Partition.
That also explains why he has been so vehemently opposed to the peace process and proves that he would go any length to achieve his mission: disintegrate India.
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