At the end of October, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, during a speech (the thousandth one, more or less) about Kashmir, said that any call for jihad and military action in Kashmir is against Pakistan's interests, and that those talking about military support or jihad in Kashmir are enemies of Pakistan as well as enemies of the Kashmiri people.
It is not clear, however, if the Pakistani prime minister was simply giving voice to his personal thoughts or sending an official message to some of the so-called ‘strategic assets’ of the country, like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Or, as is most likely, Imran simply has no idea as to what’s happening in his country.
In September, in fact, an article in Madina Madina, the JeM mouthpiece, claimed that Muslims had been killed in Kashmir but the Pakistani government had failed to act. And it further added that atrocities were being perpetrated against the Muslims of Assam and Myanmar (interestingly enough, the Uighurs are never cited, not even by JeM) — Muslims were ‘forced’ to convert around the world (where? Only they know), and that apparently JeM had urged their followers to act against the policies of Modi and Trump.
JeM Resumes Training All Over Pakistan, Recruitment in Full Swing
A couple of days before a booklet had been released, printed by Al Kalam publisher: ‘Jihad-e-Kashmir is Jihad in the way of Allah’. According to the publication, the Indian Army has declared ‘war’ on Muslims, and the situation can be solved only through jihad. Hence, all Muslims outside Kashmir should go and fight for the freedom of their brothers. And no effort has been spared to attain this. The JeM activities are in fact in full bloom, despite Imran Khan's words.
According to local sources, JeM has resumed activities in many training camps and is conducting training — both military and doctrinal — all over the country.
Not only has Balakot been reactivated, but also old launching pads which were shut down, like Zura, Athmuqam, Mankote, Bagh and Kotli have been reopened. Also, temporary camps have been built in many places, and the military training is under way since many months. According to people very close to the organisation, cadres have been given training to operate in the snow, and have also been provided underwater training. Mujahideens have been trained also to operate from motorboats.
The recruitment campaign is in full swing by LeT, JeM, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Al Badr.
About hundred Special Service Group (SSG) commandos of the Pakistan Army have been dislocated along the LoC, and apparently, the best trainees have already been selected and infiltrated into J&K: from Gilgit and from Gurez Sector.
JeM Forms ‘Tablighs’ to Recruit, Training Camps Spotted
Sources claim that Ibrahim Azhar (Masood Azhar's elder brother) has been moved to Mansera, and is waiting to infiltrate J&K to join Irfan Janghvi — the launching commander of JeM — who already infiltrated the region and joined Abdul Rashid Ghazi. Ghazi is a former trainer at Balakot camp, and infiltrated the Valley at the end of 2018 to train and indoctrinate local suicide bombers.
Janghvi was one of the key men of the 26 August 2017 attack against the District Police Lines in Pulwama. On the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) front, the activities are in full swing too, with the blessings of the Talibans; JeM has been on a fund-collection and recruitment drive in KPK over the past 4-5 months. Local recruiters of the group have been picking up new recruits from districts like Swabi and Mardan.
The JeM has formed tablighs (preachers) for this purpose, who are travelling within KPK to motivate youth to join the jihad.
These new recruits were initially being trained in Markaz Sanan Bin Salma in Peshawar. Locals say that five JeM commanders based in Jalalabad have been called to the Markaz Sanan Bin Salma to train these cadres, and that Afghan recruits have also noticed training taking place in Markaz Sanan Bin Salma.
Imran Khan Govt Hasn’t Stopped Supporting Jihad Groups
Despite Imran’s words and despite all the talks about acting against terrorist organisations to avoid the FATF blacklisting, nothing has changed, least of all the support of the State to jihadi groups. Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar, who is in theory under house arrest at his residence in Bahawalpur, has been holding meetings in Islamabad and Rawalpindi with ISI officials.
And the JeM markaz at Dera Ghazni Khan, in Punjab province, has told its cadres to be ready to resume, with full force, their activities, once the Pakistani government — forced at the moment to pretend to act — relaxes its ‘restrictions’.
Meanwhile, the JeM continues its fund collection with some precaution: a ban has been imposed on the use of cellphones at some markaz; the money is collected primarily from regular donors, and without issuing a receipt, and the cadres have been instructed not to collect money from strangers. If, as Imran says, those talking about military support or jihad in Kashmir are ‘enemies’ of Pakistan, then Pakistan is full of enemies — and the worst kind of enemies: the enemies within.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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