Symbolism of Ilyas Kashmiri

His career underlines there is nothing holy about jihad by state and non-state actors.

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published: October 22, 2016 12:15 am
Ilyas Kashmiri, David Headley, Dawood Gilani , Dawood, pakistan india, pakistan terrorism, cross border terrorism, isi, isi pakistan, kashmir, kashmir militants Ilyas Kashmiri. (Source: Wikipedia)

Just as the trouble in Kashmir is getting highlighted internationally, publication of the book The Mind of a Terrorist: David Headley, the Mumbai Massacre and his European Revenge (2016) by Kaare Sorensen fills in the missing background. Dawood Gilani alias David Headley makes confessions of importance in this carefully put together document.

What leaps out of the Sorensen book is Headley’s interest in Kashmir and his affiliation with Hafiz Saeed’s
Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, his association with ISI operatives which the once-ISI chief General Shuja Pasha owned up to, saying the officers were “ex-army”. Further revealed is the anti-army and anti-ISI orientation of these officers who trained him for Mumbai, then sent him off to North Waziristan to another army defector, Ilyas Kashmiri, who was obsessive about Kashmir but also spearheaded al Qaeda’s operations in Europe.

Who was Ilyas Kashmiri? Pakistan’s ace journalist Hamid Mir says in “How an Ex-Army Commando became a Terrorist” in The News (September 20, 2009): “Very few people know that Ilyas Kashmiri — from Kotli area of Azad Kashmir — was a former Special Service Group (SSG) commando of the Pakistan Army. he became a legend after escaping from an Indian jail. he was given the task to attack the Indians from their back. He did it many times. He was running the most lethal militant network with the support of many low-level retired army officers”.

Did religion play a part in either the case of Headley or Kashmiri? Headley did see in a dream that his own grave
was being prepared next to that of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) rewarding his war against India. One eyed Kashmiri took on the halo of an Islamic warrior too but was not beyond defrauding al Qaeda of funds meant for the divine cause.

There is nothing holy about jihad as practised by state and non-state actors today. There is money in jihad for
lower middle-class boys who want to get out of deprivation by killing people; even the suicide-bombers make sure that their families back home get the al Qaeda or Taliban money — collected from bank holdups and kidnappings — before they die dreaming of 72 virgins to deflower in paradise.

Kashmiri, chief of Brigade 313 (Prophet Muhammad PBUH fielded 313 warriors in the Battle of Badr) was killed by a drone in 2010; Headley is in prison in the US singing to American investigators and to Indian courts. And Pakistan has gained only notoriety by unleashing these holy warriors.

Kashmiri’s forays across the LoC killed some senior Indian army officers in the Jammu sector in 2003, but “within a
few months of this attack”, writes Hamid Mir, “he was arrested by the Pakistan army in connection with an assassination attempt” on General Pervez Musharraf. He was never punished, but let off in 2004 “because of the pressure of Kashmiri militant outfits”.

Many army officers began their careers by fighting India but were attracted to the non-state killers fighting their
deniable wars on both sides of Pakistan. Ilyas Kashmiri took them on board for free, like brothers Major Haroon
Ashiq and Captain Khurram Ashiq, both medal-winning trainees recruited into the SSG. After the SSG commandos of Zarrar Company took action in 2007 against the al Qaeda-backed Red Mosque of Islamabad, Kashmiri got commando Khurram to kill all the Zarrar Company commandos by blowing up their mess through a child suicide-bomber. Pakistan took the punishment silently.

Kashmiri deployed Captain Khurram in Helmand against the British troops only to lose him in battle; he deployed his elder brother Haroon against their own commando boss Major-General Faisal Alvi, who was too punishing to the Taliban-al Qaeda combine in North Waziristan. Major Haroon Ashiq, arrested after he killed Alvi on an Islamabad road, was let off by a court in 2011 — witnesses ran away.

Another defecting army officer, Adnan Rashid, was in a Rawalpindi prison but was “removed” to a tribal area jail
before he was rescued by the Taliban and taken to his boss, Kashmiri. Rashid was put at the head of another al

Qaeda-run group called Ansarul Aseer who broke the Dera Ismail Khan jail in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and freed Sunni killers after shooting all the Shia prisoners.

Ahmed is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan.

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