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ISI's grand plan to bring Kashmiri militant outfits into mainstream politics
Indicators of Pakistan army-run ISI's grand plan to encourage anti-India Kashmiri terrorist organisations to get legitimacy through electoral process with the aim of easing Western world's pressure on Pakistan and placing the Kashmir issue permanently in Pakistan's politics have started appearing.

After the launching (August 8, 2017) of a mainstream political party Milli Muslim League (MML) by grandmaster of terrorism Hafiz Saeed's internationally banned outfit Jammt-ud-Dawa (JuD), founder of the Kashmiri militant outfit Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM), Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil also decided (August 25, 2017, Rawalpindi) to launch a political party of his own. Khalil disclosed that he had decided to launch a political party after getting the idea from Abdul Rehman Makki, who is an ISI stooge and the second in command of JuD.

Rawalpindi-based Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil revealed to the local press (August 25, 2017) his decision to form a political party by the name of "Islah-e-Watan Party" (IWP) inter alia to promote peace and tranquility in Pakistan. Khalil disclosed that the decision to take his banned organisation HuM into mainstream was taken considering that it was an appropriate time to get back all his "associates and friends" who had been sidelined due to the effective ban on their movement and activities. The IWP, as per Khalil, would also work for spreading awareness amongst masses to fight against corruption, violations of the Pakistani constitution, non-delivery of basic rights to the people at large and helping the suffering humanity in Pakistan.

While asserting that Pakistan had been facing isolation in the international and regional levels due to the inept political leadership, Khalil stated that his party would project Pakistan's case(s) strongly at "all forums". Khalil further disclosed that he was planning to approach all religious parties with a message of unity and his top priority would be to protect and promote the interest of Pakistan. He also criticised today's politics of Pakistan, which according to him, had become a tool in the hands of a few elite. Khalil also condemned US President Trump's warning to Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists and asserted that USA should understand that Pakistan was neither Syria nor Iraq and warned if any action is taken against Pakistan, country's land would be turned into a graveyard for "aggressive forces".

Maulana Fazlur Rehman graduated from Jamia Uloom-ul-Islamia Banuri, Karachi, which served as one of leading recruiting sources to the Taliban during Afghan war. He co-founded Harakat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami (HuJI) in 1980. In 1985, Khalil founded Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) as a splinter group of the anti-Soviet militant Islamic group HuJI, to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the support of Pakistan and the United States.

However, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, HuM shifted its focus on Kashmir for so-called achieving the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir through jehad. Khalil, who resides in Rawalpindi with his family, played a key role in coordinating between the Taliban and Pakistani regime run by Benazir Bhutto in 1993 and had established close relations with the then Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Khalil and his HuM was supported by ISI and according to a CIA report of late 1990s, he used to receive at least $30,000 (and possibly as much as $60,000) per month from the ISI. According to a former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, Khalil led HuM was one of the oldest and closest allies of Al-Qaeda, and very close to the ISI. A veteran of the jihad against Soviet forces during Afghan war, Khalil was also part of Bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF).

In February 2000, Fazlur Rehman Khalil stepped down as HuM chief and was replaced by Maulana Farooq Kashmiri. He, however, actively remained associated with HuM. Khalil's journey to "jehad" was, however, not smooth as in May 2004, he was arrested by the Pakistani authorities for infiltrating Pakistani militants into Afghanistan. He was released after six months due to lack of evidence against him. Then in March 2006, an attempt was made on his life reportedly by Maulana Farooq Kashmiri, the then apparent heir to the HUM, with ISI's support, and at the behest of General Pervez Musharraf.

Muzaffarabad (POK) based HuM runs militant training camps and imparts training in Islamist doctrine and guerrilla warfare. It is primarily active in Kashmir and has been indulging in armed attacks on Indian army and security men, mainly since 1994. HuM's last prominent militant attack was carried out in December 2015 in Handwor and Poonch, in which five Indian army men were killed. HuM had also attacked US citizens and interests several times in Karachi and Lahore.

HuM, in an ISI supported operation against India, had staged the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC814 flying from Kathmandu, Nepal to Delhi on December 24, 1999. After touching down at Amritsar, the aircraft was finally taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan and the hijacking drama ended on 31 December 1999, after Taliban meditated between the five hijackers of HuM and the Indian government. The hijackers demanded release of three militants – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar from Indian jails, to which Indian government agreed.

Meanwhile, after getting banned by the USA on October 8, 1997, HuM changed its name yet again to Jamiat-ul-Ansar (JuA). Later, Pakistan banned the group under its new name in November 2003. However, the group did not stop its unlawful activities and kept on operating under new names such as Al-Faran, Al-Hadith, and Ansar-ul-Ummah.

HuM has been financing its anti-Indian operations in Kashmir through donations from wealthy Pakistanis and grassroots fundraising in Pakistan as well as by soliciting donations by distributing magazine ads and pamphlets. It also receives funds through front organizations and Islamic charities in the Gulf countries and the United Kingdom.

Although in the past HuM did not participate in the political activities in Pakistan, it however, had remained ideologically aligned with radical Islamic party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) and also strongly influenced by another religious political party of Pakistan, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Samiul Haq (JUI-S).

In addition, HuM also came into notice for maintaining links with radical and terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban. HuM's main leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil had a close relationship with Osama bin Laden. In February 1998, Khalil had signed Osama bin Laden's fatwa, declaring war on Americans and Western interests.

Some prominent Al-Qaeda militants, such Badr Mansoor, joined HuM and rose through the ranks as leaders. HuM had also allied with some other Pakistani militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. In addition to it, HuM is also a member of the United Jihad Council (UJC), which coordinates the communications and strategies of various groups within the global jehad movement and through UJC, HuM gets connected and integrated into the jehadi network.

Extent of ISI's support to HuM can be gauged from the fact it operates freely within Pakistani borders and has offices in various places in Pakistan and POK, prominently in Rawalpindi and Muzaffarabad, respectively. In addition to imparting training to militants in POK, Pakistan and Afghanistan, HuM had also reportedly taken part in militant activates outside Pakistan, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Tajikistan.

ISI which is supportive of Kashmiri militant groups like JuD and HuM, is now mainstreaming Kashmiri terror groups not only to dodge American pressure but also to keep the Kashmir issue alive permanently in the country's national politics.

Pakistani military rulers, in the past, had unsuccessfully tried Islamic rightest parties like Jammat-e-Islamic to counter popular national parties like PPP and PML(N), but henceforth with the Kashmiri militant groups' joining national politics, it would give an added advantage to the Pakistan army to maneuver national politics, as so-called liberation of Kashmir is the most preferred political subject of interest to the Pakistani masses.

By forming a political party, Pakistani Kashmiri militant groups would also get legal cover to indulge in unapparent activities more forcefully against India in the name of Kashmir issue. This trend further indicates of Kashmiri militant groups' efforts to increase their anti-Indian support base amongst Pakistani masses. Pakistan army would also get benefited as it would be in a position to increase its influence in national politics through such Kashmiri militant groups' political face.

Thus, Pakistan army's encouraging Kashmiri militant outfits like JuD and HuM, who are proactive in their terrorist activities in Kashmir with the active support of ISI, would lead to Pakistan army's more confrontational attitude towards India through such legitimised Kashmir-centric political parties of Pakistan.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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