Unrest In South Waziristan Tied To Wider Islamic Agenda

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 38

There are fears that tribal insurgency in South Waziristan is connected to wider terrorist activity elsewhere in Pakistan. The June 17 killing of pro-Taliban tribal leader Nek Mohammad, presumably with US technical help, has added more fuel to the fire of extremist Islamic militancy in Pakistan. This militancy opposes Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s cooperation with the US in the global war against terrorism (see EDM of June 22). In an interview with London’s Sunday Telegraph on June 20, Musharraf said he hoped that the fighting in South Waziristan would not escalate to other tribal areas. Musharraf stated, “But it can have a fallout. These people have contacts elsewhere in the country and they can retaliate in the rest of the country in the form of bomb blasts, attacks on important persons and installations, and so we have to guard against that.”

There appears to be a link between the insurgency in South Waziristan and recent militant attacks in Karachi, capital of Sindh province and Pakistan’s largest city. That linkage was apparently established after the arrest of suspects involved in a spectacular attempt to kill Karachi’s Corps Commander Lieutenant General Ahsan Saleem on June 10. The attack on the corps commander’s convoy resulted in the deaths of 11 soldiers and police escorting the general, as well as the resignation of the Sindh chief minister (Dawn, Karachi, June 11 and 12).

Sindh Police Chief Kamal Shah said the suspects belong to a new terror group called Jund Allah or God’s Brigade. Shah revealed that the Jund Allah suspects went to Wana in South Waziristan in October and November 2003. There they received training from al-Qaeda operatives and even fought alongside them against the Pakistani military. However, the suspects were forced to return to Karachi after Pakistani military operations in Wana intensified. Jund Allah’s goals are to attack western targets and Pakistani security forces to avenge what it perceives as Musharraf’s betrayal of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and its campaign to eradicate al-Qaeda-linked militants from tribal areas.

The Jund Allah members, eight of whom are in custody, are believed to belong to the Urdu-speaking muhajir majority in Karachi. Attaur Rehman, the group’s leader who is among those in custody, earned a master’s degree in statistics from Karachi University. Rehman was reported to have told a senior police investigator, “You have sold your pride and honor to please the Americans and we will take revenge from you and your masters.” What is more alarming is that Jund Allah may have contacts with another terrorist group known as Al Alami. That group is part of Brigade 313, which also includes Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Mohammad, Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami and Lashkar-e Jhangvi – – all well-known terrorist groups. Al Alami, an offshoot of the banned Harkat-ul Mujahidin, has claimed responsibility for the abortive attempt on Musharraf’s life in April 2002 and the suicide bombing of the US consulate in Karachi in the same year (Friday Times, Karachi, June 21).

This bigger picture of militancy in Pakistan clearly incorporates a broader goal than the mere protection of al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants by their Pakistani supporters in the tribal borderland or in Pakistani cities. It is apparent that under the mantle of Islamic fundamentalism or extremism — as Musharraf prefers to call it — there is a deeper movement, spurred by widespread anger at Musharraf’s alignment with the US in the global war against terrorism. This US-led war against terrorism is perceived by many Pakistanis – included educated ones –as targeting fellow Muslims, whether they are in Pakistan, in neighboring Afghanistan, or farther afield in Iraq and Israeli-occupied Palestine.

That Pakistan has become a cauldron of this anger is not surprising. Most of the al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants, who escaped the US bombing of the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan’s Nangahar province and the Shahikot Mountains of Paktika province in late 2001 and early 2002, came into the tribal borderland of Pakistan, notably South Waziristan. It is believed that Osama bin-Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri may also be in that region. Therefore, bin-Laden’s jihad money that used to flow in Taliban Afghanistan may now still be flowing in Pakistan to recruit more converts to the al-Qaeda cause. In his last recorded interview with the BBC’s Pashtu service on June 16, Nek Mohammad answered a question concerning his goals. “Our goals are very clear. We want to remove the US-installed puppet governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Once we throw them out, there would be peace and nobody would be able to harm Muslims in this region,” he said.