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ISI's changing strategies pushing Kashmiri terrorists for 'jihad' in Afghanistan, says European think-tank

News Agencies | Updated on: 25 April 2020, 11:51 IST

Pakistan is posing multifarious challenges for those seeking to curb its sponsorship of terrorism, says European think-tank while exposing ISI's new strategies of using terrorists for its proxy wars against its neighbours.

The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) which recently exposed Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI's role in a terror attack on a Gurudwara in Kabul on March 25, says that the agency is now pushing Kashmiri terrorists for its proxy war in Afghanistan.

"It had been brought out that the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) had revealed that Abdullah Orakzai alias Aslam Farooqi, a key leader of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), who had been arrested with 4 of his ISKP associates for carrying out the attack, enjoyed "close relations" with Pakistan-based and backed terrorist groups such as the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taibah (LeT), and that he had confessed to having links with 'regional intelligence agencies' a euphemism for the ISI," the report said.

It added, "It has since emerged that one of Farooqi's arrested associates, whom the EFSAS commentary had identified as Ali Mohammad from Islamabad, was actually a Kashmiri terrorist called Aijaz Ahmad Ahangar who at the time of his arrest was also functioning as the chief recruiter of the Islamic State for Jammu & Kashmir (J&K)."

Aijaz Ahmad Ahangar's case is an interesting one, and it sheds some light on the modus operandi of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the region.

Afghan security officials have revealed that Ahangar, after initially identifying himself as Ali Mohammad, only disclosed his true identity under more sustained questioning.

Originally a resident of Nawa Kadal in Srinagar in J&K, the now 55-year-old Ahangar had been arrested on terror charges by Indian security agencies in the 1990s. Upon his release, he found a way into Bangladesh, from where he boarded a flight to Pakistan.

EFSAS research also found that once he reached Pakistan, the ISI initially settled Ahangar in Islamabad. He was then subsequently relocated to the Miranshah area of Waziristan in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan. Ahangar, after a brief fling with Al-Qaeda, eventually joined the ISKP on the directions of his handlers.

The details of Ahangar's life serve to demonstrate yet again the immense advantages that a terror-exporting country has if the indiscriminate nature of its sponsorship of terror encourages it to prop up and finance terrorist groups that target both of its largest neighbours, in this particular case India and Afghanistan.

"The exodus of a large contingent of foreign mercenaries from Afghanistan to J&K after the Soviet departure from Afghanistan in the 1990s was an early example of the Pakistani policy of relocating its surplus, expendable, or exposed terrorist assets from the western terror front to the eastern one and vice versa," the report added.

The think-tank found that the formation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Afghanistan and its subsequent relocation to the east to focus predominantly on terrorist acts against India, especially in J&K, was another such example.

"Ahangar's arrest showed that not only entire terrorist groups, even individual terrorist leaders and cadres were being flung eastward or westward by the Pakistani military establishment, as per its requirements or its convenience. The freedom to ensure mobility and fluidity for its terrorist assets has provided an unmistakable depth to Pakistan's terror calculus, and put serious monitoring challenges before those seeking to thwart Pakistan's dalliance with terror," the report said further.

The Pakistani military establishment's recalcitrance and incorrigibility even at times when it is under serious international scrutiny, was also on display this last week.

Castellum.AI - a New York-based regulatory technology company that automates watch list compliance - observed that even as Pakistan is scheduled to face its next evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June, the country has brashly removed as many as 4000 names from its terrorism watch list, known locally as the 'proscribed persons list', that is maintained by its National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).

The list contained 7800 names in 2018, which has now been reduced to 3800.

As many as 1800 names have been removed since March this year. Prominent among the names that have been excluded from the list is that of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the LeT operations commander who is widely accepted to be the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.


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First published: 25 April 2020, 11:51 IST