By Samuel Baid
The mouthpiece of Jaish-e-Mohammad, (JeM) a terrorist organisation, has called the terror ideologue Jalaluddin Haqqani a very “pious person” who was “the mountain of the resistance”. The Taliban announced his death in the first week of September. JeM’s weekly mouthpiece Al Qalam paid Jalaluddin rich tributes in an article making it clear that Jaish and the Jalaluddin Haqqani Network (HN) or the Taliban are on the same path.
The Al Qalam weekly wrote – Jalaluddin was a great jihadi, who had “defeated the two superpowers” – the Soviet Union and the United States. From his safe haven in Pakistan Jalaluddin resisted US invasion of Afghanistan despite pressures against it from the world, it wrote.
Is there anything common between HN or the Taliban and JeM? Or, is there any difference between one Pakistan-based terrorist group and another? Most of them have the same militant Sunni ideology and the same patrons – Pakistan Army, business community, politicians, UIema and even China, which ironically wants to efface Islam in its own country. All these terrorist groups have different goals assigned to them by their patrons – for example, against Afghanistan and India. The Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) and Islamic State or Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have their own goals.
Both the Taliban and the JeM, like other Sunni Islamists, belong to Hanafi School. Most of the Taliban and those who formed the JeM, including its founder Maulana Masood Azhar, were nurtured in Deobandi revivalist madrashas. Some of the Taliban leaders got their indoctrination in Karachi’s Jamia Binori Mosque where the JeM was founded in January 2000 helped by the Deobandi scholars. The JeM was conceived in the sin of terror of hijacking an Indian Airlines plane with 55 passengers on board to Kandahar December 1999 when Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban. The hijackers demanded release of three terrorists in exchange of 55 passengers. Masood Azhar was one the three terrorists. He was then in the Harkat-ul-Ansar, which later called itself Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.
Immediately after founding the JeM, Azhar became extra active in terrorist activities. In December 2000 he organised an attack on Jammu and Kashmir Assembly House in Srinagar and on Parliament House of India in 2001 in New Delhi. That obviously had the encouragement from higher-ups in Pakistan. Since then the JeM has been assigned the mission to stage terror against India purportedly for Kashmir but really to sabotage chances of India–Pakistan talking peace. It is Pakistan Army’s self-survival strategy to keep the country permanently hostile to India. For this purpose it depends on Islamic terrorist outfits like the JeM. On the other hand, the Pakistan-based HN keeps on committing terror in Afghanistan killing hundreds of Afghan children, women and men to keep at bay chances of stability in the country, stability of democratic system of governance in Afghanistan. The present government in Kabul excludes the Taliban because democracy is poison to their advocacy of their own brand of Islamic rule – as we have seen from 1996 to 2001. Pakistan’s real problem is that any system of government in Afghanistan, which does not allow a dominating position to the Taliban, frustrates its Afghan policy. This means the objectives of the Taliban terrorists and Pakistan is about the same in Afghanistan.
The linkage between the Taliban and the JeM are also established by the fact that their strings are pulled by the same hands to make them spread terror on two fronts – against Afghanistan and India. Here there is some difference between the Taliban and JeM. The Taliban are fighting a war which they think is their own but if there is a victory, they will realise it was not their war, after all. They should have learnt this lesson from the US jihad they fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The JeM is a different puppet. It cannot claim that by carrying on terrorist activities against India it has been fighting its own war. It has been causing terror as a mercenary of the Pakistan Army, fired by distorted Islamic and nationalist zeal.
There is a little debate on another common factor between the Taliban and the JeM. It is their support from China. China very subtly follows Pakistan’s diabolical policy of using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. China has vested interests in Afghanistan and the perpetuation of enmity between India and Pakistan. Without the Taliban terror it cannot hope to have influence on Afghanistan and without Islamic terrorists like JeM keeping India-Pak enmity alive it can hope to have influence in South Asia. China depends on Taliban for the protection of its economic and other interests in Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. China is a big source of money for the Taliban who would protect its mining interests in Afghanistan. Taliban’s protection is so foolproof that despite all the terror acts those kill people and destroy property, the Chinese miners and engineers remain safe while the people from other nations engaged in development work for Afghanistan and projects are not safe.
China may consider its good relations with the Taliban as a weapon for trying to coerce Afghanistan to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and support its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) ignoring the US and Indian opposition to the project.
The JeM is also important for China because of its terror activities which prevent normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. It is no secret that the basis of China-Pakistan relationship is their mutual hostility towards India. If India and Pakistan become friends this basis will be demolished and China will lose its lever to exploit the latter as freely as it is doing today by mesmerising it into dreaming of rivers of milk and honey flowing in future Pakistan.
Pakistan has become indispensable for China’s expansionist designs. China has never trusted Pakistan’s civilian leaders who now want re-examination of the CPEC agreement. China trusts Pakistan’s generals who look at the CPEC from the point of security. China has repeatedly blocked the efforts of India and other countries at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s 1267 Sanctions Committee to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist for organising terror attack on India’s Pathankot Airport in 2016. The Chinese have been parroting Pakistani courts excuse for not trying guilty of terror in India saying there is not enough evidence.
In December 2008, China had unsuccessfully tried to save Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), its leader Hafiz Saeed and his associates from being designated global terrorists by the UNSC for 2008 Mumbai massacre. And the same Chinese approach towards another dreaded terror outfit from Pakistan JeM has become evident when the present Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently defended (September 28) its stand. The Chinese Foreign Minister said that there is no “consensus” amongst the members of the UN (read India, US, UK, France on one side and Pakistan and China on the other) or “irrefutable evidence” against JeM. It is indeed a new revelation when the ideological affinity between Taliban and JeM is being overtly supported by a Communist country which wants to obliterate any religious strand on its own soil.