The sanctions imposed by the US on Hizb and its leader Salahuddin may not stop their activities altogether considering that the Pakistan Army is unlikely to stop its support, the US action will cripple the group’s resurgence and stem the tide of violence in Kashmir…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
The US Department of State’s recent notification designating Hizb-ulMujahideen as a terrorist organisation, although long overdue, will play a major role in containing, and subsequently dismantling, the terrorist structure supported and sustained by Pakistan.
The ban, which comes little less than two months after the group’s leader Syed Salahuddin was declared a global terrorist, will go a long way in stemming the tide of terrorism which has been plaguing Kashmir for decades now. The Indian security forces have had considerable success in the recent time in neutralising the Pak-supported groups active in Kashmir. The US action will boost the Indian efforts to restore peace and stability in the state.
The Hizb was created by the Pakistan Army as part of its long-term objective of inflicting “thousand cuts“ on India for the humiliating defeat in the 1971 war. The army, in collusion with the civilian political leadership, not only created the group but also provided the group with a sizeable piece of property in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan occupied Kashmir and generous funding.
The first lot of recruits was drawn from two `Kashmiri` groups, al Badr and al Faran, set up to foment trouble in the erstwhile East Pakistan to counter the Bengali uprising which finally led to the creation of Bangladesh and the army’s resounding feat in the December of 1971. The leadership and `expertise` came from Harkat-ulMujahideen/Harkat-ulAnsar groups which were set up by the Pakistan Army to lead the “jihad“ in Afghanistan against the Soviet troops.
There was another equally important reason for the creation of the group—to wrest control of Kashmir militancy from `indigenous` groups like the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Although these groups enjoyed the patronage of the Pakistan Army and got both financial and material support, Pakistan remained wary of their objectives. The Pakistan Army was keen on keeping the reins of the militancy firmly with itself and therefore created Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and located it in the territory of occupied Kashmir.
The terrorist group was tasked to foment trouble in Kashmir and to prepare local Kashmiris for insurgency. Scores of young men were lured into the trap by financial and religious inducements and trained in terrorist trainings camps in Muzaffarabad by former soldiers of Pakistan Army. The entire training and the training infrastructure was maintained and run by a special unit within ISI, the intelligence arm of the Pakistan Army.
While India was acutely aware of the terrorist plans of Pakistan, the world remained a mute spectator as violence was unleashed in the Kashmir valley starting from late 80s. Hundreds of innocent civilians, men and women, were killed by terrorists and the peaceful, beautiful landscape turned into a killing field. It was with great fortitude and determination the Indian security forces were able to stem the violence and beat back Pakistan-sponsored groups like the Hizb.
A desperate Pakistan then began diverting its “mujahideen“ from Afghanistan where the “jihad“ was at its closing moments, with the US preparing to go home after declaring “victory“ after the Soviet troops had withdrawn. While Afghanistan was “handed“ over to the Pak-created Taliban, the “mujahideen“ were diverted to Kashmir. This attempt too met with failure as the Indian forces beat back the “foreign“ terrorists who used the Hizb infrastructure to cause death and destruction in the Kashmir valley.
The devastating earthquake of 1995 in Pak occupied Kashmir inflicted heavy damage on the terrorist infrastructure and the Pakistan Army shifted Hizb to safer locations. The Pakistan Army then created another group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) with Masood Azhar, a Harkat-ul-Ansar leader, as its head to renew the terrorist violence in Kashmir. Although JeM had some initial successes, it too could not inflict any serious damage in Kashmir.
But Hizb remained a pet project of the army and Syed Salahuddin was accorded protection and maintenance. Salahuddin was a key asset of Pakistan Army in its proxy war against India. Salahuddin and his group, Hizb, gave a misleading and fake image to terrorist violence in Kashmir. The state-sponsored terrorism was being projected as a `home-grown` secessionism. This label allowed Pakistan to play mischief at the international forums, set up fraudulent NGOs and think tanks to raise funds for terrorist violence.
For years, many such groups flourished in the US, UK, Canada and Europe recruiting young men, indoctrinating them in mosques and madrasas and sending them to Kashmir to carry out terrorist activities. These groups generated substantial amounts of funds for groups like the Hizb, all in the name of “protecting human rights“. Indian investigations have discovered that the group has been successful in generating and forwarding funds worth Rs 80 crores in the past decade. This money was routed through several channels to fund terrorist activities and support the families of the dead terrorists.
The sanctions imposed by the US on Hizb and its leader Salahuddin may not stop their activities altogether considering that the Pakistan Army is unlikely to stop its support, the US action will cripple the group’s resurgence and stem the tide of violence in Kashmir. The action will certainly help the Indian government’s all-round efforts to restore peace and stability to the people of Kashmir.