The Markaz and its Lashkar: The Markaz Oawa al Irshad (MOI) was founded in 1987, at the inspiration of Osama bin Laden, by Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Mohammed Saeed of the University of Engineering and Technology of Lahore and Abdullah Azam (a Palestinian) of the International Islamic University, which had been funded by bin Laden. Abdullah Azam was killed in an explosion at – Peshawar in 1989 and, after his death, Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Mohammed Saeed have been leading the Markaz while continuing to teach at the University.
The headquarters of the Markaz, occupying over 190 acres of land, are located at Muridke, about 45 kms from Lahore in Pakistani Punjab. Its vast campus contains a huge Jamia mosque for the construction of which bin Laden had reportedly contributed Rs 10 million, a garments factory, an iron foundry, a woodworks factory, a swimming pool and three residential colonies for the inmates. A big Islamic University was also coming up.
The Herald, the monthly journal of the prestigious Dawn group of publications of Karachi, reported as follows in January, 1998: “While the Dawa is involved in various areas, including religious education and social welfare, it is mainly through its militant wing that it is well known throughout the country. The LET provides military training to its members and prepares them to wage jehad. Although the Lashkar was initially involved in Afghanistan as well, its activities are now restricted to Indian Kashmir. Today, it is Pakistan’s largest so-called jehadi organisation.”
“¦the Lashkar was initially involved in Afghanistan as well, its activities are now restricted to Indian Kashmir. Today, it is Pakistans largest so-called jehadi organisation.”
It quoted an office-bearer of the Lashkar as stating as follows: “There are many other jehadi groups operating inside Kashmir, but their members are mainly local men (Kashmiris), assisted by fighters from other countries, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Eighty per cent of the Mujahideen in other jehadi groups operating in Kashmir come from that area, but the case with the Lashkar is exactly the opposite. Eighty per cent of its soldiers belong to Pakistan.”
The Herald added: “The Lashkar prefers not to reveal the exact number of men it has currently deployed in Kashmir. The Amir (Hafiz Mohammed Saeed) decides how many Mujahideens should be sent to the (Kashmir) Valley. The decision depends on the number of deaths that have taken place. It also depends on the requirement and capacity of the organisation inside Kashmir to absorb the new fighters. What is known, however, is that the Lashkar recruits and trains many more men than it actually requires to fight in Kashmir at any given time.
“Compared to other similar organisations, the Lashkar has proved to be a resounding success. Since its inception, it has managed to attract thousands of committed young men to its fold. The driving force behind its massive success in recruitment is deceptively simple. It uses its impressive organisational network, which includes schools, social service groups and religious publications, to create a passion for jehad.”
“¦organisations main interest in Pakistan was to pick people and train them to wage jehad in countries where an un Islamic government was in power.
According to the Herald, the Lashkar organises two kinds of military training – a 21-day basic course called “Daura Aam” and a three-month advanced course called “Daura Khas”. The entire advanced course is geared towards guerrilla warfare, with training in the use of arms and ammunition, ambush and survival techniques. Other Pakistani press reports after the arrest of Ramzi Yousef had also revealed that in the past some volunteers were also trained in aircraft-hijacking.
The Markaz and the Lashkar are extremely secretive organisations and take great care to conceal the real identities of their office-bearers except the Amir and their fighters. For this purpose, they emulate the Palestinian organisations in the use of “Kuniat”, which are Arabic pseudonyms adopted from the “Kuniats” of the Companions of the Prophet and later Islamic heroes.