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Islam,Terrorism and Jihad (11 Aug 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Behind the Bombing in Quetta, a Century of War

By Praveen Swami

August 10, 2016

In the summer of 1927, led by Fazal Wahid, the Haji Sahib of Turangzai, hundreds of lashkars — and, so goes the myth, a legion of djinns loyal to the Faqir of Alingar who could not be slain by bullets or bombs — began to march on Shabqadar Fort, the outpost of the Frontier Constabulary in Mohmand. British colonial actions had undermined the authority of the mullahs on the empire’s north-west frontier, and the clerics wanted vengeance. In Peshawar, the British warned that the Faqir’s column would be bombed from the air, as would any tribe that gave it passage.

Eighty years later, in 2007, a 28-year-old man called Abdul Wali seized the Haji Turangzai’s shrine in the village of Ghaziabad, and laid claim to its legacy. That man, now known by the pseudonym Omar Khalid Khorasani, heads the Jama’at-ul-Ahrar — the organisation responsible for Monday’s savage hospital bombing in Quetta, which claimed 74 lives, besides a string of other massacres.

The bombing was also claimed by the Islamic State, leaving questions over what, if any, the connection between the group and the internationally-proscribed Jama’at-ul-Ahrar might be. The history of Abdul Wali, his organisation, and the century of war that gave birth to both the Jama’at-ul-Ahrar and the IS, however, impart an important lesson: that labels have almost no relevance to the real story.


From an interview he gave to the Tehreek-e-Taliban’s house magazine Ihya-e-Khilfat in October 2014, we know this: jihad was something of a tradition in Abdul Wali’s family. His grandfather fought alongside the armies of the Afghan king Amanullah Khan against the British in the war of May-August 1919 — a conflict that saw under-strength Afghan troops and tribal irregulars pitted against disaffected imperial troops, with air power used to savage effect against civilian targets. Abdul Wali’s father, in turn, served in the anti-Soviet Union jihad, though it is not clear with which group.

Abdul Wali himself ended a brief education at the local school and religious seminary in the village of Khandharo, in Mohmand’s Safi subdivision, before travelling to Karachi to join the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the once-feared jihadist group that operated with ISI patronage against India in Kashmir.

There are even odds he would have known at least one Indian contemporary — Sanaul Haq, the Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh-born head of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS), who served as a religious-studies teacher at the Harkat’s training camps in PoK in the late 1990s.

Abdul Wali himself never served in Kashmir. Instead, he joined the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and ended up fighting with the Afghan Taliban in Kunar province, just across the border from Mohmand. The Pakistani police officer Farhan Zahid has, in a monograph, said Abdul Wali spent time in al-Qaeda training camps before returning home after the fall of the Emirate in the wake of the post-9/11 US action.

In the following years, Abdul Wali edited Mohmand Adbi Guncha, a jihadist magazine published from Mohmand, which became a focal point for local intellectuals drawn to the region’s fledgling jihadist movement. A large cohort of jihadist veterans, who had tasted power in Afghanistan, now saw the opportunity to displace the traditional tribal leadership with their guns. Pakistani intelligence services, hoping for loyal political clients in the region, backed their rise.


In 2004, Nek Muhammad Wazir and Abdullah Mehsud began to set up the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. In 2006, Abdul Wali took an oath of loyalty to Baitullah Mehsud, who formed the Tehreek-e-Taliban the following year. Abdul Wali was soon appointed to lead the Tehreek-e-Taliban in Mohmand, helped by his old allies in al-Qaeda.

In 2014, Abdul Wali fell out with TTP emir Fazal Hayat, also known as Maulana Fazlullah, and formed his own organisation — the Jama’at-ul-Ahrar. The first issue of the group’s propaganda magazine praised al-Qaeda’s 9/11 hijackers, but also carried articles by Abu Rumaysah, the British IS jihadist born Siddhartha Dhar.

The scope of the Jama’at ul-Ahrar’s ambition was laid out in a manifesto released on the 9/11 anniversary in 2014: “In 2001”, it read, “Afghanistan was the only Islamic Emirate in the world but now Jihad has spread to a vast swathe of land”. The Jama’at, it said, would strike until the caliphate was established “in every nook and corner of the world”.

March 2016 saw 72 people, mostly women and children, killed when the Jama’at-ul Ahrar bombed Karachi’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal park on Easter Day; April 2016 the killing of 7 police officers in an attack on a polio vaccination team in Karachi. August 2015 had seen the assassination of Punjab’s Home Minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada. That March, Samiullah Afridi, the lawyer who defended Shakil Afridi, the doctor accused of helping the CIA locate Osama bin Laden, was killed in Peshawar.

In a 2015 issue of the Ihya-e-Khilfat, Abdul Wali was unapologetic: “The Kuffar’s (infidel’s) world order stands upon the foundation of terrorism,” he wrote. “Terrorism, i.e. to spread terror, is actually an essential element of warfare.” It was a lesson that had been learned a hundred years earlier at the shrine where Abdul Wali began his career.


“The kafirs”, wrote the Hada Mullah Najmuddin, patriarch of the frontier’s clerics, in a letter to the Afridi and Orakzai tribes in 1897, “have taken possession of all Muslim countries”, and “it is necessary to fix the time and day of fighting, so that by the grace of God, the work may be accomplished”. The campaign that followed was a disaster, as was a bigger one in 1908: a 5,000-strong Mohmand lashkar was mowed down. Najmuddin’s successor, Fazal Wahid had vowed on a visit to Mecca in 1878 to continue resistance to the British, but learned the risks of military confrontation.

In 1927 then, as the Raj used subsidies to tribal chieftains to undermine the mullahs, Haji Turangzai still avoided war — but for years afterward, he led insurgent attacks against the villages and homes of tribal chieftains loyal to the British. The mullahs’ power in Mohmand, though, had been decisively broken. Their leadership — long-armed mediators in disputes between tribes, and the vanguard of their own tribes’ armies — would give way to élites backed by central authority.

“The events of the last ten days,” wrote Khan Bahadur Kuli Khan, Assistant Political Officer of the Raj in Kurram in a grim missive to the government in 1927, “have convinced me that the authority of the mullahs has developed from a religious to an authoritarian one. They can coerce any Mohmand [as though] a ruler, rather than a mullah”.

Imperial Britain Was Determined To Change That.

Like others of his generation, Abdul Wali used religion to displace the élite the British institutionalised — and replace their in egalitarian order with a clerical tyranny instead. In their struggle, the frontier’s jihadists have fluidly allied with global jihadist patrons, be it al-Qaeda or, now, the Islamic State. Like these transnational millenarian movements, their aims are utopian. However, their ends are also firmly local.

It matters little, thus, whether the Jama’at-ul-Ahrar flies the flag of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State or indeed, what its own name might be: the problem lies not in a few men of evil, but a polity fragmented by a century of war, and a failed project of statehood.

Source: indianexpress.com/article/explained/pakistan-quetta-bomb-blast-jamaat-ul-ahrar-2964550/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,terrorism-and-jihad/praveen-swami/behind-the-bombing-in-quetta,-a-century-of-war/d/108241


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