The Jihadi Presence Today
The evidence of a significant jihadi presence in the Pakistan military is widespread. Some recent evidence of Pakistani military officers’ involvement with jihadis has been documented by Tufail Ahmad, director of the Middle East Media Research Institute’s South Asia Studies Project, in the Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 727, “Pakistani Military Officers’ Links with Jihadist Organizations,” issued in August 2011. The following are some highlights from that report.
Hizbut Tahrir has been proactively seeking to recruit Pakistani soldiers in its mission to engineer a Pakistani military-led Islamic revolution in Pakistan.
Two former officers of the Pakistan military’s ISI, Khalid Khwaja and Colonel Imam—who nurtured a generation of the Taliban—were kidnapped and killed by the Taliban in 2010 and 2011, denoting the emergence of an ideologically committed and younger generation of militants who no longer accept instructions from the ISI.
The ISI, which has come under international scrutiny for its longstanding role in creating and nurturing militant groups, does not officially admit any wrongdoing by its agents. However, its role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks became the subject of court investigations in two cases in the U.S.—the Chicago plot led by David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana and a case brought before a New York court by relatives of U.S. citizens killed in the Mumbai attacks.
In a rare instance, the current ISI chief, Lieutenant General Shuja Ahmed Pasha, who was summoned by the New York court, admitted during a conversation with the then CIA director Michael Hayden that at least two “former” Pakistan army officers with links to the ISI were involved in the 26 November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, according to journalist Bob Woodward in his book Obama’s Wars (Simon and Schuster, 2010).
In mid-August 2011, Pakistani media reports revealed that a military court sentenced to death a “former” soldier over the 10 October 2009 terror attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan army in Rawalpindi. The soldier was identified as Mohammad Aqeel, aka Dr. Usman, who served in the medical corps of the Pakistan army. Imran Siddiq, another member of the Pakistan military, was jailed for life, along with others. Dr. Usman was reported to have links with terrorist groups Jaish-e-Muhammad and Harkat-ul-Ansar.
In June 2011, in perhaps the first such case, the Pakistan army confirmed the arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan, one of its brigadiers posted at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Over his alleged ties with Hizbut Tahrir, Ali was arrested on 6 May, just four days after the 2 May 2011 killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Hizbut Tahrir has been proactively seeking to recruit Pakistani soldiers in its mission to engineer a Pakistani military-led Islamic revolution in Pakistan.
After the arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan, the Pakistan army also arrested four military officers. Major General Athar Abbas, spokesman of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department, confirmed their arrests, stating that four army majors were detained for their links with Hizbut Tahrir. The four majors were not believed to be deployed at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Later, a former military official, Brigadier (retd.) Shaukat Qadir, told a journalist that the Pakistan military was undecided on whether to commit Brigadier Ali Khan and the four majors to a military trial or dismiss them from service.
“¦assassination attempts on Pakistan army chief and president General Pervez Musharraf, at least 57 employees of the PAF were arrested by Pakistani authorities on charges of contact with terrorists and involvement in antistate activities
In May 2011, Pakistan detained a former commando of the Pakistan navy and his brother in connection with the 22 May 2011 terror attack on PNS Mehran, the main airbase of the Pakistan navy in Karachi. The former commando was identified as Kamran Ahmed, who had reportedly been sacked from the Pakistan navy 10 years ago.
In August 2011, a Pakistani newspaper reported that three officers of the Pakistan navy were to be tried by a military court in connection with the PNS Mehran terror attack, reportedly for their negligence. The three were identified as PNS Mehran base commander Commodore Raja Tahir and his subordinates.
In May 2011, whistleblower website WikiLeaks revealed a March 2006 cable sent by the U.S. embassy in Islamabad to Washington, which quoted Pakistan’s then deputy chief of Air Staff for Operations Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry as saying that airmen of the Pakistan air force (PAF) were sabotaging Pakistani F-16s deployed in security operations against the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal region.
Generally, F-16 aircraft are used in wars, not in counter-terrorism operations. But the same U.S. embassy cable confirmed that Pakistan does use the F-16s in counter-terrorism operations in the Pakistani tribal region. According to the cable, Air Vice Marshal Chaudhry claimed “to receive reports monthly of acts of petty sabotage, which he interpreted as an effort by Islamists amongst the enlisted ranks to prevent PAF aircraft from being deployed in support of security operations . . .”
Haq told a journalist that during his arrest for five months in 2007, he was “treated like a VIP” by the ISI.
In May 2010, Air Vice Marshal (retd.) Baharul Haq was taken into preventive custody by the intelligence agencies in Pakistan, just days after his son Faisal Shahzad carried out a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square. The inference is not that Baharul Haq had links with terrorist organisations but that his detention in the town of Hasan Abdal, carried out reportedly to prevent him from speaking to the media, reveals the reach of Pakistani militants to the highest levels in the Pakistani military.
Ahsanul Haq, a former major of the Pakistan army, who trained militants for war in Afghanistan and Kashmir, was arrested over alleged links to the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad but was later released. Haq told a journalist that during his arrest for five months in 2007, he was “treated like a VIP” by the ISI. A Pakistani police report on the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team found that Haq “gave logistical support to unspecified Taliban and other fighters.”