Originally Published 2003-06-25 09:27:53 Published on Jun 25, 2003
These are clear indications that Lashkare-toiba, Harkat-ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are poised to regroup and re-emerge in the coming months as part of Al Qaida¿s new plan to extend and consolidate its activities in the Middle East and Asia, especially Saudi Arabia and India.
Lashkar-e-Toiba is New Al Qaida Face
These are clear indications that Lashkare-toiba, Harkat-ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are poised to regroup and re-emerge in the coming months as part of Al Qaida's new plan to extend and consolidate its activities in the Middle East and Asia, especially Saudi Arabia and India.

Different terrorist groups based primarily in Pakistan have been regrouping rapidly in the first three months of 2003 despite consistent pressure exerted by Washington and India. This regrouping is taking place in Punjab, an area that has been a swamp of terrorism in the past too. 

One of the prominent terror groups that have emerged unscathed from the post-9/11 is Lashkar-e-Toiba headed by Hafiz Saeed. President Musharraf had

Lashkar Chief Hafiz Sayeed

Incarcerated Saeed for a few months after Washington leaned on him following the December 13 (2001) attack on the Indian Parliament and the terrorist attack on an army cantonment at Kaluchak a few months later. 

Lashkar is one of the most resourceful terrorist groups in Pakistan. It has a sprawling headquarters in Muridke near Lahore built with contributions and donations from the Middle East, Saudi Arabia being the biggest benefactor. It has one of the most extensive networks that run across Pakistan and India with outposts in Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Bangladesh and south east Asia. 

Recent counter-terrorism operations conducted by the Indian Army in Surankot revealed part of Lashkar's grand plans to extend its terror operations from Kashmir to Kerala, the southern most part of India. 

Since the terror group claims to originate from the
Deobandi school of Islamic thought, based in Deoband in western Uttar Pradesh, India, the terror group has been able to network with several Muslim organizations across India, especially in Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Of all the Pakistan based terrorist groups, Lashkar-e-toiba is the only group with support bases across India. 

A little more than 18 months after the WTC attack, the sanctions imposed by President Musharraf on Lashkar at the behest of Washington have lost their sting. Lashkar chief Saeed is a free man today, absolved of all charges by the Lahore High Court. Since his release in December 2002, Saeed has been busy rebuilding his terror empire. He kept a low profile, kept out of the elections and remained out of the mainstream newspapers by not participating in publicized rallies and marches. Instead, he has chosen to address his supporters and people in smaller towns and cities, away from the media glare, gathering support for his Kashmir cause.

In the past three months, Saeed has been leading the anti-US brigade in the hinterland of Pakistan unlike the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal that has been making its anger felt on a political platform. As of now, Saeed has been concentrating on his traditional strongholds in Punjab and Pak Occupied Kashmir. Of late, Saeed and his deputies have been making a fresh call for a jihad against the US. Last month, Lashkar released a tape of his speech in which he has once again threatened Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani. 

There are clear indications that Saeed has been successful in gathering more than mere support during his renewed campaign to whip up jihadi sentiments in Pakistan. 

According to a report, Lashkar has been able to collect
donations worth Rs 710 million during the Eid early this month. Local newspaper reports suggest that Saeed has been able to cajole, convince and bribe prayer leaders into collecting contributions for jihad. Camps were set up in various towns in Punjab and PoK to collect animal hides. Lashkar's website called for donations in the name of charity-free dispensaries, schools etc., The campaign both inside Pakistan and abroad was intense that one report said Lashkar collected Rs 1.4 billion from Britain alone. Britain has 675,000 Muslims of Pak origin out of a total Muslim population of 1.6 million. 

Irrespective of what President Pervez Musharraf has been claiming, the Lashkar is today busing extending and
expanding its base beyond Muridke, Lahore. New bases are being set up in Sindh. There is report of at least one new training centre coming up in the Hyderabad region of Sindh. The terror group is also establishing new madrasas across Pakistan.

Another terrorist group that is re-emerging under a new nomenclature is Harkat-ul Mujahideen (HM), banned by the US State Department in 1998. Harkat was one of the first terror groups that came into existence during the Afghan Jihad. It was created, aided and armed by the ISI with the help of various religious groups including the Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious political party that today forms the backbone of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. 

Harkat has undergone several changes since 1998 not necessarily because of the US pressure. The end of Afghan Jihad and the beginning of Kashmir Cause saw a string of leadership and ideological conflicts within the organization leading to splits and changes in nomenclature. One of the breakaway factions came to be known as Hizb-ul Mujahideen. Another took the name of Harkat ul-Jahad al-Islami and was led by a little known Qari Saifullah Akhtar, an adviser to Taliban chief Mullah Omar. A third splinter group was Jaish-e-Mohammad led by a Harkat ideologue Maulana Azhar Masood. Jaish usurped most of Harkat assets, both men and material, following the split. 

No less significant is the group, Harkat ul Mujahideen Al Alami (HMA). Surfaced after the fall of Taliban, the HMA has elements from the Taliban, Al Qaida,
Sipah-e-Saheba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi . It is responsible for the Karachi blasts last year (the suicide bombing of a bus carrying French engineers outside Sheraton and a car bomb explosion outside the US Consulate) and at least two assassination attempts on President Musharraf.

Post 9/11, elements from different terror groups have been clubbed under a new group called Jamiat ul-Ansar. This new group has not only started operating in Punjab but also has spread to the frontier areas. In January this year, at least 21 members of the group were caught from Dera Ismail Khan in the North West Frontier Province with a satellite weapon and two AK-47 rifles. A few days later, the court released 19 of them. One report said the release was brought about by Jamaat-e-Islami. Dera Ismail Khan is the traditional base of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the Jamaat chief and one of the top leaders of MMA, known more widely as one of the founding fathers of the Taliban. 

Some of the leaders of JA are: Maulana Abdul Samad Sial (patron), Commander Illias Kashmiri (commander-in-chief) and Dr Badar Niazi. Qari SaifuUllah Akhtar and Maulana Ahmed Umer of HuJI have so far refused to join the new outfit.

Harkat has close links with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a rabidly anti-Shia sectarian organization, a splinter group of Sipah-e-Saheba, the religious extremist group floated by Jamaat-e-Islami to counter the growth of Shias in Sindh. 

President Musharraf banned both Lashkar and Sipah in January 2002. 

But events of 2002 clear show that despite the killing of Lashkar chief
Riaz Basra in a staged encounter and the arrest of Akram Lahori who took over from Basra, Lashkar continued to operate quite openly, providing shelter and logistics support for the regrouping of Al Qaida after the US bombing of Afghanistan. 

Lashkar Jhangvi had to go underground after the US State Department banned the organization early this year. Attempts are now being made to revive the organization by merging the two splinter groups. Lashkar had first split into two with Basra and then Lahori heading the main group while Qari Hai headed the second group. Subsequently another group broke away under one Usman Chacha. Both the groups have held several meetings to work out a compromise. 

There is a possibility that both the groups could merge on paper while continuing to run terror campaigns against the Shias.

On a broader front, there is clear evidence of Lashkar merging with Al Qaida elements in Karachi and Peshawar. One such evidence was the brutal killing of American journalist, Daniel Pearl. His killing revealed the hand of HuJI activist and JeM leader Omar Sheikh, several Lashkar local leaders and Yemeni elements of Al Qaida. One of the Lashkar members caught immediately after Pearl was kidnapped and killed, Fazal Karim, had revealed the amalgamation of various terrorist and sectarian elements to camouflage the regrouping of Al Qaida. 

Several terrorist incidents (Sheraton suicide attack, car bomb outside the US Consulate, attack on the Macedonian consulate, arrest of Ramzi bin al Shibh, Abu Zubeydah and Khaled Mohammed Sheikh) have corroborated his confessional statement. Karim is yet to be charged under any penal provisions and is reportedly missing from the police custody. He has been most likely eliminated.


Mohammad Shehzad. ` Banned LeT Collects Millions in Charity, Hides' SA Tribune.com, Issue No. 35, March 23-29, 2003

Amir Rana, `Lashkar-e-Jhangvi regrouping in Punjab', Daily Times, March 23, 2003
Asad Riaz,`Militants thrive in Pakistan despite Musharraf's vow to crush them' South China Morning Post February 5, 2003

Police holds 21 members of Jamiat ul Ansar group, Dawn, January 29, 2003

References:(al-Dawa,Jasrat (14.11.2002), Khabrain (06-12-02)
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