Kashmiri aimed for Indo-Pak war | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 08, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 08, 2011

Kashmiri aimed for Indo-Pak war

Ilyas Kashmiri, in the uniform, showing Hamid Mir an anti-aircraft cannon at Kashmiri's large training camp near the mountains of Kotli. Photo: Courtesy Hamid Mir

The Pakistani and the US authorities are reluctantly claiming the death of militant leader Ilyas Kashmiri for the third time in the last three years, but they still lack the knowledge about his network, aims and the capability of his 313 brigade despite the fact that Kashmiri was actually a genie created by the Pakistani establishment. He served the interest of the US in the 80s and of Pakistan's in the 90s, but today both American and Pakistani security establishments want to celebrate Kashmiri's death based on some confirmation. Pakistani security agencies have arrested a number of people, who were once close to Kashmiri, from different areas but the agencies are not ready to admit that the violation of the article 256 of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan by the Pakistani state actually made many people admire Ilyas Kashmiri.
The Pakistani establishment mishandled Ilyas Kashmiri after the 9/11 and this turned him into one of the most dangerous threats for the security of not only Pakistan but the whole South Asia. He trained hundreds of young boys in the last few years in an aim to break out a war between India and Pakistan. He was leading the most lethal militant network with the support of many low-level retired army officers. Kashmiri was not the product of religious schools. He was a man who believed in modern education and used modern war strategies.
I met Kashmiri first in mid-90s when he escaped from an Indian jail and came back to Pakistan. He was very popular in the Kashmiri militant circles and military circles. He became a darling to the military leadership when he attacked an Indian check post in LoC in Naushehra sector on February 27, 2000 and killed seven Indian soldiers. This operation was organised as a response to the Indian Army raid on a village in Nakial area of Pakistani Kashmir. Many civilians were killed in the raid.
Kashmiri killed some senior Indian army officers in Tanda area of Jammu sector in 2003 but within a few months he was arrested by the Pakistani Army in connection with an assassination attempt on General Parvez Musharraf. He was declared innocent during the investigations and was released in February 2004. He was again arrested in 2005 but was released again on the pressure from Kashmiri militant outfits. Torture and humiliation in a Pakistani jail made him say to a senior leader of Hizbul Mujahedeen, “There is no difference between Pakistani and Indian jails; they don't trust us because we are people of Kashmir.”
He moved to North Waziristan after the Lal Masjid operation in Islamabad in 2007 but interestingly some militant groups always suspected him behind the operation because of his past connection with Pakistan Army. He was trusted more by the Punjabi Taliban rather than the Pashtuns but with the passage of time he developed good relations with Hakeemullah Mehsud group. On the other hand, he never had good relations with the militant groups which had an unannounced peace accords with Pakistani authorities in tribal areas and were fighting only against US troops in Afghanistan.
It was reported last Friday that Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a US drone attack at an apple orchard close to Wana area of South Waziristan. This area is under the control of Maulvi Nazir, who is considered a “Pakistan-friendly good Talib”. It is not yet clear why Kashmiri decided to visit an area where another Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud does not feel safe and where Hakeemullah's fighters were attacked by Maulvi Nazir group sometime back. Hakeemullah is now hiding somewhere in North Waziristan. Some sources claimed that perhaps the Pakistani authorities helped the US to track down Kashmiri, but his being in a non-friendly area is still a mystery.
Kashmiri was very careful about his relations with those who have direct or indirect contacts with Pakistani establishment. He focused more on recruiting boys from English medium schools in the last four years. He planned to break out a war between India and Pakistan by organising attacks in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai and was more interested in the independence of Kashmir and wanted to take some advantages out of India-Pakistan war. He discussed his plan with some militant groups associated with Taliban but achieved no consensus because the other groups were keener to fight against the Pakistani state.
According to some reports, Kashmiri managed to infiltrate dozens of his fighters into India in the last few years. Some of them came from India's Gujarat via Dubai or directly from Delhi. These boys came to Afghanistan undercover, as labourers and technicians, but slipped to eastern Afghanistan and entered North Waziristan to be trained with the 313 brigade. Kashmiri recruited a big number of boys not only from Rawalpindi and Islamabad but also from Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Most of them had no previous records of militancy. He abandoned the “seniors”, who were having good relations with the Pakistani state. His mixture of young and fresh Pakistani boys with angry Muslim boys from India made him the biggest threat for peace in South Asia.
Once I interviewed him in his big training camp near the mountains of Kotli where he showed me anti-aircraft artillery. I asked him about the need of heavy weaponry in guerrilla warfare. He said may be one day he would be attacked by the Indian Air Force and need to retaliate with anti-aircraft artillery.
On another occasion, I asked for his opinion on formation of a private army which is a violation of article 256 of Pakistani constitution that says “no private organisation capable of functioning as a military organisation shall be formed and any such organization will be illegal”. Kashmiri replied, “I am fighting for the liberation of Kashmir sitting in Kashmir. It's not Pakistan; it's Kotli.”
Kashmiri developed distance with Pakistani establishment when he was asked to join Jaish-e-Muhammad of Maulana Masood Azhar. I met with Kashmiri in Islamabad many times after he grew differences with Pakistani establishment. He had more than two offices in Islamabad and his frequent visitors were many known religious clerics of the capital. But he disappeared one day.
He decided to take revenge for Pakistan but today the Pakistani establishment is trying to arrest all those who were close to him. The fate of Ilyas Kashmiri is a lesson for many “good Taliban” as well as the Pakistani establishment. The first lesson is, Pakistani establishment used thousands of youngsters in the name of Jihad and liberation of Kashmir but it can change its policy anytime under foreign pressure. They are not reliable. Secondly, Pakistani establishment must realise that creating private armies is a violation of the constitution. They must not create private armies and even if they had, they shouldn't mishandle them. They can become genies like Ilyas Kashmir.

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