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Pakistan's Jihad in Kashmir



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TIME MAGAZINE


FEBRUARY 5, 2001 VOL. 157 NO. 5

Inside Jihad
The militants fighting Pakistan's covert war with India train in spartan

camps where they are schooled for battle and prepared for martyrdom
By GHULAM HASNAIN Islamabad and Muzaffarabad


Four bearded militants warm themselves at a gas heater in an Islamabad
safe
house. A wireless set suddenly crackles. "Our boys have entered Srinagar

Airport," a grave, distant-sounding voice announces. "Pray for them. It
has
now been 15 minutes." The voice, speaking in Urdu and broadcasting from
deep
within India's part of Kashmir, is detailing the progress of a suicide
mission by Lashkar-i-Taiba, a ruthless, Pakistan-based militant group
waging
war to wrest Kashmir from India. The four men in the safe house, also
members of Lashkar-i-Taiba, immediately go into fervent prayer. They are
not
the only ones to receive the radio transmission. Other militant groups
in
Pakistan can tune into the same frequency. So can the Pakistani
military. A
phone in the house rings, and one of the militants answers. He is asked
what's happening. His reply: "Why don't you find out from your side?"
After
hanging up, he explains the caller was a Pakistani army colonel.


That scene occurred in early January. Five Lashkar operatives disguised
as
police officers attempted to attack the Srinagar airport that day. But
Indian army guards turned them away, and the operation was aborted. Two
weeks ago, however, a second attempt succeeded. Six would-be martyrs,
dressed in police uniforms and driving a stolen government jeep, reached
the
outer defense gate of the airport and indiscriminately tossed grenades
and
opened fire with rifles. Back in the Islamabad safe house, a coded
message
came through at 2:15 p.m. saying the men had reached their target. Abu
Ammar, a 30-year-old Pakistani veteran of the Afghan war-his face is
scarred
from shrapnel and his right hand is mangled-knelt and touched his
forehead
to the floor in prayer. "I have learned that whenever you succeed in
your
mission, just bow down, thank God and hail his greatness," he said.
After a
three-hour gun battle at the airport's perimeter, all six of Abu Ammar's
men
were dead, along with four policemen. (Two civilians were killed and 12
injured.)

Since Kashmir erupted in 1989, India has pointed a blunt and unwavering
finger at Pakistan, accusing its neighbor of fomenting the entire
problem.
It's a large and cynical exaggeration: anti-Indian sentiment runs high
within Kashmir, and in the first half of the 1990s, Kashmiris themselves

provided the steam in the anti-Indian militant movement. They were
disorganized and willing to murder, but passionate and anxious to plead
their nationalist cause with the outside world.

Today, however, India's charge rings a lot truer. Despite a decade of
denials-Islamabad insists it provides only moral and political support,
not
training or tangible aid-Pakistan is fueling militant activity in
Kashmir.
Of the five main militant groups operating in Kashmir, four are based in

Pakistan, where open recruiting and fundraising are commonplace.
Training of
militants is also done on Pakistani soil. The Pakistani military is
deeply
involved, especially in the smuggling of anti-Indian militants across
the
Line of Control.

Militant groups have roots all over Pakistan, from their well-equipped
training centres in Muzaffarabad-the capital of Pakistan's slice of
Kashmir-and the country's North-West Frontier province to the nice,
middle-class houses in Lahore and Islamabad. Those houses may look no
different from their neighbors at first glance, but what about the
strange
antennas on the roofs, the international phone lines and the transient
occupants with unkempt hair, camouflage jackets and hiking boots? And
what
of those unmarked four-wheel-drive vehicles pulling up at dawn with
clockwork precision? Here is an inside look at how Pakistan runs its
covert
war in Kashmir:

Recruiting and Training

There are thousands of young, motivated Pakistani men anxious to join
the
militancy in Kashmir, which they consider a holy war. They come from all

walks of life: not merely from the religious schools known as
madrassahs, or
the far-flung, poverty-mired towns and villages, but also from
Pakistan's
educated and Westernized middle and upper classes. In the jihad they
find
brotherhood, a sense of mission and purpose. And for these highly
religious
volunteers, many of whom are still in their teens, there is nothing more

sacred in life than achieving the status of a martyr. These are the
grunts
in the war. The leaders are Pakistani veterans of the Afghan war.

The largest training camp in Pakistan is run by Lashkar-i-Taiba, a wing
of
an Afghan mujahedin group known as Markaz Al Dawa Wal Irshad. It is set
on a
vast mountain clearing overlooking Muzaffarabad. (Training grounds for
the
other three militant groups are located in the North-West Frontier
province.) Armed men guard the facility round-the-clock. There are only
two
structures, one an armory, the other a kitchen. Trainees live and sleep
in
the open, whether in the sweltering summer or the depth of winter. The
field
is dotted with installations used to teach the fervent young-some no
older
than 14-how to cross a river, climb a mountain or ambush a military
convoy.

The day of a trainee begins at four in the morning. After offering
prayers,
the militants go for exercises. A breakfast of tea and bread is at
eight,
followed by a full day of rigorous drills, which are interrupted only
for
prayers and a simple lunch, usually rice and lentils. Coursework covers
how
to use sidearms, sniper rifles, grenades, rocket launchers and wireless
radio sets, as well as the art of constructing bombs. The teachers are
Lashkar veterans of action in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Sports, music and

television are forbidden. Trainees are only allowed to read pre-screened

newspaper articles.

Training is divided into two stages. The first three-week session gives
religious education and basic knowledge of how to handle firearms. Once
a
volunteer has passed that course, which costs the organization about
$330
per trainee, he is sent to a designated city or town, often near his
birthplace, to work at the group's offices and become more involved with
the
organization.

When a volunteer proves himself capable, motivated and loyal, he is
enrolled
in a special three-month commando boot camp, which costs the group
$1,700
per student. (The money is raised from overseas groups and the Pakistani

public, often via open demonstrations in Pakistani cities of militants
working out, scaling walls and showing other martial tricks. Generous
donors
are invited to visit the not-so-secret camps to see how their money is
spent.) Phase two is designed to push each volunteer to his physical
limit
and cull the weak from the strong. In the final weeks, recruits use live

ammunition, construct actual explosives and perfect ambush techniques.
The
final exam lasts three days. A group of trainees, sometimes as large as
100
individuals, hikes and climbs through high-altitude, wooded terrain for
three days without food or sleep. They are not allowed to slow their
pace
except for a few naps. At the end the hungry and thirsty survivors are
given
a goat, a knife and a matchbox. That's their reward, and they have to
cook
and eat it in warlike conditions.

Going In

Only the fittest from each graduating group are given a chance at
martyrdom
across the border in Kashmir. The local commander makes his choice, and
the
fortunate few are dispatched to safe houses along the Line of Control
known
as "launching pads." (Parents' permission is technically required for
anyone
who opts for jihad. Many boys get it easily, but some who don't, fully
submerged in the dream of martyrdom, pressure their parents into
complying.)
At the launching pad, while waiting for their marching orders, the boys
write wills and what might be their last words to their families.

At this point, the Pakistani army plays a crucial role helping to
arrange
the infiltration of the militants across the Line of Control. Militants
officially deny Pakistani army involvement, but those who fought in
Kashmir
tell Time that the wait at the launching pad is dictated by their
leaders,
who are in touch with the army. "Until an unmarked vehicle turns up at
your
safe house," says a veteran of Al-Badr, the first Pakistan-based
militant
organization to get members across the line, "you don't know when your
number will come."

When it does, this is what happens: "The vehicle, covered from all
sides,
will pick up two, three or four militants according to the plan and dump

them at one of the forward posts of the Pakistani army," the Al-Badr
veteran
says. "People in civvies give us arms, ammunition, food and money
[Indian
currency]. We are asked to check our weapons. After a day or two they
give
us the signal to go ahead." None of the boys is allowed to carry his own

arms to the Line of Control, although sometimes an individual can choose
a
favorite AK-47 and find it waiting for him at the army camp along the
line.

The next step is the most hazardous: from the Pakistani army post, the
group
embarks on a three-to-seven night journey into Indian-controlled
Kashmir,
traveling by night, hiding during the day. The group leader wears
night-vision goggles. The rest follow blindly across the mountains.
There
are numerous obstacles: Indian mines, tracer flares, Indian border
patrols
anxious to shoot at them. "But whenever such a situation arises," says a

Lashkar militant, "the Pakistani guns come to our rescue to provide
cover."

Militants making the return trip go through a reverse route, ending up
at a
Pakistani army base-sometimes with souvenirs. Abu Haibatullah, 32, was
sent
across the Line of Control in the mid '90s with a particular mission: to

bring back an Indian soldier for interrogation. He managed to ambush and

disarm a soldier, but when the Indian tried to snatch Haibatullah's gun,
he
killed him. He then decided to return home with the soldier's head.
"Lots of
people came to see the head," he recalls proudly. "Some were from the
Pakistani army and they praised me for my gallantry."

In the 1990s, the Pakistani militants hired local guides-ethnic
Kashmiris-to
help them get across the mountains and into India. "On a number of
occasions," says Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, 42, the supreme commander of the
Lashkar-i-Taiba militants, "they took the money and tipped off the
Indians.
So we trained our own manpower." In other words, the Pakistani militants

don't always trust the Kashmiris on whose behalf they are waging this
war.
The Pakistani militancy, which had its roots in the Afghan war, is now
an
institution unto itself.

Write to TIME at mail@web.timeasia.com





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