Originally Published 2004-10-08 10:05:47 Published on Oct 08, 2004
The September 26 death of Amjad Farooqi, Pakistan's most wanted terrorist, reveals the new face of terrorism taking shape in the backwoods of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Killed after a five-hour gun battle with security forces in Sindh, Pakistan, Farooqi had a bounty of Rs 20 million (436,205 USD) on his head.
The New Face of al-Qaeda in Pakistan
wanted terrorist, reveals the new face of terrorism taking shape inthe backwoods of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Killed after a five-hourgun battle with security forces in Sindh, Pakistan, Farooqi had abounty of Rs 20 million (436,205 USD) on his head. At the time, hewas wanted for two abortive attempts on President PervezMusharraf's life in December 2003 and January 2004 and the murderof American journalist Daniel Pearl. 

Authorities had sought Farooqi's arrest in connection with severalother killings, extortion cases and episodes of sectarian violenceas well. Less widely known was his role as a hijacker of IndianAirlines flight IC-814 in December 1999. A member of thetrans-national terrorist organization Harkat-ul Jihad al Aslami(HuJI), Farooqi had links with al-Qaeda. Moreover, Farooqi wasaffiliated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a group of Sunniextremists spawned by the Pakistan Army and intelligence to counterthe growing strength of Shi'as in Sindh in the early 1990s.

Farooqi's involvement in the assassination attempts on PresidentMusharraf reveals the nature of terrorist coalitions that haveemerged in Pakistan since September 11, 2001. After the attempts,the Pakistani army launched an intensive investigation under CorpsCommander, X Corps, which evolved into one of the biggest manhuntsin recent history. Investigators quickly identified Farooqi as oneof the masterminds of the operation, establishing his ties withLibyan al-Qaeda operative Abu Feraj al-Libbi, Omar Sheikh, MaulanaMasood Azhar and LeJ. Investigations also revealed that Farooqi hadfriends within the Pakistan Army, and had knowledge of thepresident's security arrangements. <1>

These revelations confirmed suspicions about the nature ofPakistan's connections with terrorist organizations since the U.S.launched its Afghan offensive in 2001. One of the things that wentunnoticed at the height of U.S. operations was the quiet escape ofal-Qaeda and Taliban elements into Pakistan. While the footsoldiers went into hiding in the mountains of Waziristan, thesenior leadership of these groups sought and found shelter in majorcities like Karachi. 

Karachi continues to be a safe haven for extremist religious groupslike LeJ and terrorist groups like Harkat ul-Mujahideen and HuJI.In fact, HuJI runs 48 seminaries in Karachi. The largest of these,Madrasa Khalid bin Walid, trains more than 500 students at anygiven point of time. It is the command headquarters of KarachiMuslims fighting the military regime in Burma. Their leader isMaulana Abdul Guddus, a Myanmarese Muslim who fled to India andmade his way to Karachi where he received his religious trainingbefore leaving for Afghanistan to join the jihad. A large number ofhis students fought the Northern Alliance during the Afghan wars ofthe 1990s. Some went to Kashmir with other HuJI members to fightIndian security forces, but none returned to Myanmar or Bangladesh,choosing instead to make Karachi their home. Their collectiveobjective is to turn Pakistan into another Taliban-style country.

Karachi is also home to various sectarian and extreme religiousgroups that merged with al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants following theU.S. invasion. Karachi's most notorious sectarian terrorist, AkramLahori, took over LeJ's command after its leader Rias Basra waskilled in an encounter in early 2002. Lahori was involved in theassassination of several people, including the brother of thenPakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider, and at least twomassacres - in Mominpura graveyard in Lahore where 24 persons werekilled and at Imambargah Nafaj at Rawalpindi where 11 persons werekilled. Lahori's case provided significant insight into theevolving alliance between sectarian outfits and al-Qaeda. <2> Oneof his confidants, Naeem Bukhari, was a suspect in the Daniel Pearlmurder with links to Yemeni elements of al-Qaeda who took refuge inKarachi after 9/11. 

According to Fazl Karim, a LeJ activist from Rahim Yar Khan pickedup for questioning three months after the killing of Pearl,al-Qaeda had merged with various sectarian and criminal groups inKarachi to carry out terrorist attacks within Pakistan. Karim heldPearl while two Yemenis slit his throat. The two Yemenis, it waslater discovered, were associates of Ramzi Yousef, the main accusedin the World Trade Center attack of 1993. Karim remained in policecustody for several months and was never charged. His whereaboutsare unknown today.

Farooqi represents just one more link in this new alliance,confirming fears that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups havesuccessfully merged with religious extremists in Pakistan, makingthem difficult to identify and segregate. <3> More intriguing,however, is the glaring absence of any attempt to capture Farooqialive. Had such an attempt been planned, security forces wouldsurely have launched a commando operation sometime during thenight, so as to capture Farooqi and his associates who were livingin a rented house. What happened instead was a pre-plannedshoot-out. A senior police official was quoted in a news report assaying the killing of Farooqi was similar to that of Said Akbar inRawalpindi in 1951. Akbar assassinated Prime Minister Liaqat AliKhana and was killed moments later by an "angry crowd," preventingauthorities from getting to the bottom of Liaqat's killing.

Two theories can be drawn from Farooqi's death. First, his killingcould possibly be part of a cover-up by certain elements withinPakistan's military-intelligence structure involved in theassassination attempts on Musharraf who were afraid Farooqi'scapture might lead investigators to them. Second, Farooqi may havebeen killed as part of a cover-up on the part of the rulingestablishment to put an end to speculations about the veracity ofthe assassination attempts. Quite a few news reports early thisyear had raised the possibility of the assassination attempts beingstage-managed. Therefore, this possibility cannot be entirely ruledout. But it is the first conspiracy theory which PresidentMusharraf and his spokesmen would like the world to believe. In thedays to come, there is sure to be stories in the Pakistannewspapers about Farooqi's involvement with al-Qaeda and variousother sectarian and terrorist groups. Such stories will fit wellwith the present effort of the Musharraf regime to portray thePresident as a lone crusader in the war on terror. 

But the reality is quite different. President Musharraf inherited amilitary-intelligence structure which has been supporting andsheltering terrorists since the Afghan jihad in the 1980s. And,despite the perception in western capitals that Musharraf has beenbattling hard against sectarian and terrorist groups, there isevidence that at best, the General has been vacillating. Take, forinstance, his decision after September 11 2001 to ban variousterrorist groups and arrest their leaders. Two of the mostwell-known terrorist leaders at the time were Maulana Masood Azharof Jaish-e-Mohammad and Professor Hafiz Sayeed of Lashkar-e Taiba.Both were placed under house arrest but only charged under theMaintenance of Public Order, a prohibitory statute which providesfor a three-month preventive detention. Both could easily have beencharged under the terrorist act and tried in special terroristcourts.

The Daniel Pearl murder case provides another critical referencepoint for analyzing terrorist networks operating in Pakistan today.One of the first suspects in the killing was Sheikh Mubarak AliShah Gilani, a radical preacher whom Pearl had wanted to interview.Though Gilani was detained and questioned at length, he was let offwithout any charges. The reason could be Musharraf's relationshipto Gilani. Musharraf had patronized Gilani in 1966, encouraging himto set up the "Climbers Club of Pakistan," a front for training theSpecial Services Group (SSG) commandos in mountain climbing.Members of the unit were used in the 1985-1987 attacks on Indianpositions at Bilafond Pass. They successfully captured twointermediate posts before being pushed back. Several others havealso been detained and interrogated but none have been charged ortried. A common element among all the accused is their associationwith organizations active in helping al-Qaeda and Taliban elementsregroup in Pakistan.

The ouster of the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan gave a newlease on life to various criminal, sectarian and religious groupsin Pakistan that were finding it increasingly difficult to survivedue to international pressure. The September 11 attack had forcedthe Pakistan government to ban several organizations, close downtheir offices and freeze their bank accounts. Many of these groupswould have faced a natural death had al-Qaeda and Taliban elementsnot taken shelter in Pakistan following the U.S. attack on theirAfghan strongholds. These groups provided al-Qaeda and other groupswith the logistics support to regroup in Pakistan, developing inthe process a new coalition of terrorists. Complicating thispicture even further is the ambiguous relationship between thePakistani military-intelligence establishment and these localelements that have now befriended al-Qaeda.

  1. Kamran Khan, Faooqi's Killing Leaves Important Questions Unanswered, The News, September 28,2004
  2. According to a report in The Friday Times (May 7, 2002).
  3. Suspected Mastermind of Attacks on Musharraf: Top Wanted Terrorist Amjad Farooqi Killed, Daily Times, September 27, 2004. 
The author is Senior Fellow, South Asia Programme,and Director, Information Services, Observer Research Foundation,New Delhi.

Courtesy: Terrorism Monitor, Volume 2, Issue 19, October 7, 2004,Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author anddo not necessarily reflect those of Observer ResearchFoundation.
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