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DAGESTAN: FOCUS ON PAKISTAN'S TABLIGHI JAMAAT

Paper80

 

INTRODUCTION.

The majority of the Sunni Muslims of Pakistan follow the Ahle Sunnat of the Brelvis with its traditions strongly influenced by Islam's interaction with Hinduism and Christianity in the sub-continent. They venerate sufism, the mystic orders (pirs), spiritual mentors ("gurus") and saints and have the tradition of visiting the graves of their mentors, saints and relatives on important occasions.

The majority of the Brelvis are descendants of converts from Hinduism and belong to poor rural classes. Since they cannot afford to go on Haj to Saudi Arabia, their tradition allows them instead to visit the graves of their pirs and saints. These flexible and tolerant traditions had spread in the past from the sub-continent to Afghanistan , the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Dagestan and Chechnya and to other countries where Muslims from the sub-continent have migrated..

The Wahabi-Deobandis of Pakistan, who are in a numerical minority, are the descendants of the original migrants from Central Asia, Afghanistan and the Gulf. They look upon themselves as the high-born (the "Ashraf") and look down on the Brelvis as the low-born (the "Alaf"). Power has largely remained in the hands of the Wahabi-Deobandis, but till 1971 there was no organised, state-sponsored attempt to force the Wahabi religious traditions on the Brelvis.

The alienation of the people of pre-1971 East Pakistan was mainly due to the refusal of the Deobandi high-born of West Pakistan to accept the Bengali Muslims, largely the descendants of converts from Hinduism, as their equals.

The war of 1971 and the separation of Bangladesh and the subsequent appearance of signs of alienation amongst the Mohajirs of Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh, who are descendants of converts from Hinduism from northern India, created fears of another split of Pakistan.

This led to the emergence in the 1980s of a number of Muslim extremist organisations wedded to the policy of ridding Islam in Pakistan of what they looked upon as the corrupting influences of Hinduism and making the Muslims of Pakistan strictly adhere to the Deobandi-Wahabi traditions.

This revivalist movement for the enforcement of Wahabism received encouragement from the late Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, himself a devout Deobandi. He preferred Wahabi-Deobandis for recruitment to the Government services and the armed forces, assisted their madrassas (religious schools) and allowed these madrassas to recruit ex-servicemen for imparting military training to their students. The students of these madrassas played an active role in the war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and are the backbone of the Taliban today.

Saudi Arabia, the cradle and citadel of Wahabism, was the main financial backer of the Wahabi-Deobandi organisations of Pakistan. It financed their activities in Pakistan to purify Islam and their participation in the war in Afghanistan. Not only the Saudi intelligence services, but also individual Saudi sheikhs like Osama bin Laden and his father, the owner of a rich construction company, which has the responsibility for the repairs and maintenance of the holy shrines in Saudi Arabia, contributed generously to the funds of these organisations.

Initially a purely Pakistani revivalist movement, with its emphasis more on religious preaching to make the people better Muslims and on proselytisation to convert the non-Muslims to Islam, it became a movement for the export of Wahabism and jehad.

It extended its activities to other countries where, in its perception, there had been similar corruption of Islamic faith and traditions such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia, Southern Philippines, China, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Chechnya, Dagestan, France, the UK, Belgium, the USA, Canada, the Caribbean, South Africa, Eritrea, Mauritania and Australia.

Its initial objective of ridding Islam of the corrupting influences of Hinduism expanded to cover ridding Islam of the corrupting influences of Christianity, Judaism, communism, the secularism of Turkey and the traditions of the Shia faith. Saudi Arabia and its sheikhs as well as rich Muslim businessmen of Egypt and other Arab countries have been liberally funding the overseas activities of these organisations.

The Saudi support for these organisations is motivated partly by religious and partly by strategic calculations. The religious reason is to expand the influence of Wahabism. The strategic calculation is to counter the influence of Turkey and Iran in the newly-emerged/emerging Islamic countries.

The increase in the activities of Deobandi-Wahabi groups and their tremendous political clout in Pakistan despite their being in a numerical minority have recently led to an attempt by the Brelvis to organise themselves in order to stop the advance of Wahabism with the help of Saudi money.

The Brelvis' Ahle Sunnat organised a rally at Islamabad on April 14,1999, to protest against the alleged demolition of the mausoleum of the Holy Prophet Mohammed's mother, Hazrat Amina, in Saudi Arabia. The initiative for the rally was taken by Aalmi Tanzim Sunnat, a relatively little known Brelvi organisation based in Gujrat. It was co-sponsored by the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, the Dawaat Islami, the Sunni Tehreek and the students of Brelvi madrassas .

The "News" (April 25) of Pakistan reported as follows on the rally, which was played down by other Pakistani papers and which has not received the attention it deserves in other countries: " The Brelvis cannot be accused of being agents of other countries because their belief system is rooted in the sub-continent and is different from that of most Islamic countries with religious agenda. However, the disadvantage they are faced with is that they do not have as many madrassas (effectively training grounds for militants) as the Ahle Hadith (Wahabis) or the Deobandis. Neither do they have armed outfits.

"In what was perhaps an unprecedented move in Pakistan, speakers at the public rally accused the Saudi Government of being non-Muslim. They went a step further. The participants vowed to kill Saudi citizens everywhere in the world to avenge the demolition of the mausoleum of Prophet Mohammed's mother, if their demands were not met. At least, one speaker described the Saudis as worse than the Jews.

"Using extremely harsh words against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Rafique Tarar, the speakers urged the Pakistan Government to stand up to the blasphemous acts of the Saudi Government and get the sacred mausoleum and others like it restored.

"The occasion was used to air wrath against the Saudis, who are seen as determined to eliminate the Ahle Sunnat and their (sub-continental) ideology from the Muslim world one way or the other. This aim is shared by the Ahle Hadith who want to put an end to the Ahle Sunnat practices like attending graves and mausoleums.

"The rally demanded that the Saudi Government allow Brelvi leaders such as Shah Ahmad Noorani to at least perform Haj and Umra. Speakers also asked the Saudi Government to lift the ban on the Holy Quran translation by Imam Ahmed Reza Khan Brelvi, a leading Sunni Imam of South Asia, as well as other publications by him.

"The rally indicated that the Ahle Sunnat leaders intended to raise their voice against and combat Saudi-supported militant parties such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba. One of the demands at the rally, in fact, was to ban this outfit (the Lashkar-e-Toiba), which (according to the speakers) has added over 300,000 armed terrorists in Pakistan, leading the country towards civil war.

"It was probably also the first time that the armed forces of Pakistan were publicly accused of supporting militant parties which profess to wage jehad in Kashmir. They denounced the armed forces of Pakistan as a fat sacred cow.

"But the Ahle Sunnat are not in a position to combat what they perceive as Ahle Hadith and Deobandi threats because they lack trained militant cadres, organisational structure and finance. In the extremely complex sectarian cobweb, Shias appear their natural allies with whom they share similarities in religious practices.

"In pooling their resources and manpower, the Brelvis and the Shias might find an answer to these problems. This is exactly what may happen, given the present signs. And the result is likely to be even more bloodshed and terror than we have seen so far," the "News" report concluded.

ORIGIN AND SUB-CONTINENTAL ROLE OF WAHABISM

What is Wahabism? How did it come to the sub-continent from Saudi Arabia? What was its pre-1947 role in the sub-continent? To answer these questions, one could do no better than quote extensively Mr.V.Abdulla, a well-known South Indian Islamic research scholar.

Reviewing a book titled "The Wahabi Movement In India", written by Mr.Qeyamuddin Ahmad and published by the Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 2/6,Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi--110002, he wrote as follows in the "Hindu" of Chennai (October 10,1995):

"The Wahhabi movement---a name they disliked intensely, as they preferred to call themselves Ahli Hadithi or followers of the Prophet's authenticated traditions--- was based on the teachings of Muhammad Abdul Wahhab (1703-92) born in Nejd, now part of Saudi Arabia. The bedrock of their belief was the strict monotheism of pristine Islam coupled with an abjuration of any intercession of any saint, however holy, for God's favours.

"They abhorred the very idea of Muslims visiting the tombs of such saints or investing them with miraculous powers. Although Abdul Wahhab initially enjoyed the local support of the regional Governor who ruled under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Caliph, his reforming zeal soon incurred the wrath of the establishment.

"He had to take refuge with a powerful local tribal chief Mohammad Ibn Saud with whom he struck up an alliance which has left an indelible mark on modern Arab history. The descendants of Mohammad Ibn Saud, who followed the teachings of Abdul Wahhab, eventually established their authority of what is now called Saudi Arabia. The austere and puritanic principles enjoined by Abdul Wahhab are still enforced in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"The Wahhabi link with India came mainly through Sayyid Ahmad (1786-1831), who belonged to a family of saintly renown who were settled down in UP. He was strongly influenced by the teachings of Abdul Wahhab, of the necessity of going back to the pristine purity of Islamic tenets. He went a step further and decided it was necessary to build up an organisation of dedicated followers who should be enjoined to bear arms, if so needed.

"As it came into being during the period of the decline of Mughal authority and the erosion of their Imperial power, the Wahhabi movement became imbued with strong political overtones, resistance to the rising tide of the British influence being the predominant motive.

"Although Bihar and Bengal had been its base of operations, it was not long before Sayyid Ahmad decided to migrate to the independent territories of North-West Frontier from where he could wage war against the British. This fateful journey, called "Hijrat" or migration, began in 1826 and helped to arouse great religious fervour and political enthusiasm.

"As the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh were expanding northwards from the Punjab, it was natural that they looked upon Sayyid and his followers with distrust, sometimes leading to skirmishes between the two.

"This gave the impression that the Wahhabis were anti-Sikh, a notion that was deliberately exaggerated and nurtured by the British to serve their own purpose. There were many pitched battles between the Wahhabis and the British forces, fought in the mountainous Himalayan terrain. Though the British forces suffered many defeats, they were able to take revenge in their clinching triumph in the Battle of Balakote where the Wahhabis fell fighting to the last, including their leader Sayyid Ahmad.

"The cardinal aim of the Wahhabis, apart from their puritanical objectives, was the destruction of British power. They not only attacked the British openly as in the Frontier, but they also tried infiltrating secretly among the rank and file of the army in order to sow the seeds of disloyalty. In the course of time, the British realised what was going on and they decided that Wahhabi influence would be rooted out altogether.

"The two major conspiracies the British had to face were the "Mutiny", so-called, of 1857 and the Wahhabi movement which tried to destroy the very army on which the British relied for support. The Wahhabis had a great deal to do with the unrest in the army, which resulted in the "Mutiny", though it failed because it lacked central directive or motive force and dissipated itself in stray uprisings which spent themselves out."

BACKGROUND OF TABLIGHI JAMAAT

Prominent amongst the Wahabi-Deobandi organisations active in the CARs, Chechnya and Dagestan are the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM--formerly known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar), the Markaz Dawa Al Irshad and its militant wing, the Lashkar-e-Toiba.A detailed paper on the HUM was disseminated on March 20,1999,and on the Markaz and its Lashkar on July 26,1998.

This paper deals with the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), which is the mother of all the Pakistan-based jehadi organisations active not only in the CARs, Chechnya and Dagestan, but also in other parts of the world.

In an investigative report carried by the "News" (February 13,1995), Mr. Kamran Khan, the well-known Pakistani journalist, brought to light for the first time the nexus between the TJ and the HUM and their role in supporting Islamic extremist movements in different countries.

He quoted unidentified office-bearers of the HUM as saying as follows: "Ours is basically a Sunni organisation close to the Deobandi school of thought. Our people are mostly impressed by the TJ. Most of our workers do come from the TJ. We regularly go to its annual meeting at Raiwind. Ours is a truly international network of genuine jehadi Muslims. We believe frontiers can never divide Muslims. They are one nation. They will remain a single entity.

"We try to go wherever our Muslim brothers are terrorised, without any monetary consideration. Our colleagues went and fought against oppressors in Bosnia, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Burma, the Philippines and, of course, India.

"Although Pakistani members are not participating directly in anti-Government armed resistance in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Jordan, many of the fighters in those Arab States had remained our colleagues during the Afghan war and we know one another very well. We are doing whatever we can to help them install Islamic governments in those States."

The report also quoted the office-bearers as claiming that among foreign volunteers trained by them in their training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan were 16 African-American Muslims from various cities of the US and that funds for their activities mostly came from Muslim businessmen of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UK.

The February 1998, issue of the "Newsline", a monthly of Pakistan, quoted workers of the TJ as saying that the TJ had many offices in the US, Russia, the Central Asian Republics, South Africa, Australia and France and that many members of the Chechen Cabinet, including the Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya, were workers of the TJ and participated in its proselytising activities. . One of them, merely identified as Khalil, said: " It is possible that France may become a Muslim state within my lifetime, due to the great momentum of Tablighi activity there. "

According to the "Newsline", the TJ was started in the 1880s to revive and spread Islam. Its annual convention held at Raiwind in Pakistani Punjab in November every year is attended by over one million Muslims from all over the world. This is described by the "Newsline" as the second largest gathering of the Muslims anywhere in the world after the Haj in Saudi Arabia.

Dr.Jassim Taqui, an Islamic scholar, wrote in the "Frontier Post" of Peshawar of January 15,1999, as follows:

*  The TJ has been able to establish contacts and centres throughout the Muslim world. (Comment: By "Muslim world" he does not only mean Islamic countries, but all countries where there is a sizable Muslim community)

*  It has thousands of dedicated and disciplined workers who never question any order from the high-ups. What has helped the TJ to expand (without creating alarm in the security agencies) is its policy of a deliberate black-out of its activities. It does not interact with the media and does not issue any statements or communiques. It believes in human communication through word of mouth. (Comment: It does not bring out any journals or other propaganda organs to explain its policies and objectives. All explanations to its workers and potential recruits are given orally).

*  During its training classes, it claims to have frustrated the efforts of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to penetrate it and succeeded in converting the CIA agents to Islam.

*  The TJ claims that it never accepts money from anybody and that all its workers who volunteer to go on preaching mission have to spend their own money.

*  Even though the TJ claims to be apolitical and disinterested in political or administrative influence, many of its active members have come to occupy important positions. Examples are Lt.Gen. (retd) Javed Nasir, who was the DG of the ISI during Mr.Nawaz Sharif's first tenure as the Prime Minister, and Mr.Mohammad Rafique Tarar, the President of Pakistan, who has been an active worker of the TJ for many years.

*  "Those who are close to the inner circles believe that the Tablighis were the brain who bailed out Nawaz Sharif from the constitutional crisis. Tarar is believed to be the brain behind the Shariat Bill (which could not be passed by the Senate) and the concept of speedy justice through military courts (the military courts were declared unconstitutional by the Pakistan Supreme Court). However, the contacts of the Tablighis had always been with Mr.Mohammad Sharif (father of Mr.Nawaz Sharif) and not with the son. Mr. Nawaz is well aware of the "tariquah" (the path advocated by the TJ). He has been with the Tabligh for a fairly long time. He takes part in their meetings on a regular basis. He donates money to their welfare projects. As usual, the Tablighis never publicise the donors or the projects or the beneficiaries. All are committed to remain silent."

Writing in the "Frontier Post" of January 27, 1999, Dr. Mumtaz Ahmed, another Islamic scholar, said: " Despite its enormous significance as a mass-based religious movement that has influenced Asian, African, Arab and Western Muslims alike, the Tablighi Jamaat has received scant attention in the literature on modern Islam. Maulana Ilyas, the founder of the Tablighi Jamaat, was of the view that the Tablighi movement and politically-oriented Islamic groups, although operating in two different spheres, were complementing each other's work. Hence, there should be no competition and rivalry between them. " (Comment:Maulana Ilyas was not the founder of the TJ as stated in this article. He gave it its present organisational structure in the 1940s).

INVOLVEMENT IN PLOT FOR MILITARY COUP

In September-October,1995, the Pakistani army, acting on a tip-off from the then Maj.Gen.Ali Quli Khan Khattak, who was then the Director-General of Military Intelligence and who was subsequently superseded by Mr.Sharif in October,1998, and forced into retirement, arrested a group of 36 army officers and 20 civilians led by Maj.Gen. Zaheerul Islam Abbasi on a charge of plotting, in association with the TJ and the HUM, to have Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minister, and senior army officers killed and proclaim the formation of an Islamic state.

It was reported that Lt.Gen.Ghulam Mohammad Malik, Commander of the 10 Corps, who was an active member of the TJ, was prematurely retired by Mrs.Bhutto because of strong suspicion that he was the main inspiration behind the plotters. He was replaced by Maj.Gen.Ali Quli Khan Khattak as the 10 Corps Commander with the rank of Lt.Gen. It was also reported that Lt.Gen.Malik, while admitting his membership of the TJ, strongly denied any involvement in the plot.

The "Takbeer" of October 27,1995, reported that Lt.Gen. Ghulam Mohammad Malik, Maj.Gen.Z.A.Abbasi and Brig. Mustansaar Billah, the deputy leader of the plot, were active members of the TJ centre at Taxila headed by Sufi Iqbal.

In its November,1995, issue, "Herald", the monthly journal of the "Dawn" group of Karachi, reported as follows:

*  The religious indoctrination of the group apparently came via Lt.Gen.Malik.Over the years, his views had been a source of inspiration for many officers and other ranks with religious inclinations. He was known to have encouraged religious activities within the units commanded by him.

*  Although no direct link had been established between him and the coup plotters, most of the arrested officers had idolised him because of his Islamic beliefs.

*  Most of the arrested officers were followers of Mufti Iqbal (same as Sufi Iqbal), who was also arrested for his involvement in the plot. Col.Amjad, one of the arrested officers, was related to the Mufti. When Lt.Gen.Malik was the 10 Corps Commander, the Mufti was regularly invited to preach at the functions held in the Corps headquarters. The Mufti was an open advocate of jehad in Pakistan and abroad.

*  Almost all the arrested officers were members of the TJ, based in Raiwind. The mainstream TJ followed a policy of non-intervention in politics. It was for this reason that serving Government servants and military officers were allowed to join it and the TJ was frequently invited to preach in military functions.

*  However, in recent years, a breakaway faction of the TJ, with its headquarters at Taxila, had been advocating active involvement in politics and jehad. Unlike the mainstream group, which believed in "jehad bin nafs" (jehad through conscience) rather than "jehad bis saif " (jehad through the sword), the breakaway group, which was led by Sufi Iqbal, openly advocated a military struggle in the name of Islam. All the arrested officers and Lt.Gen.Malik were members of this Taxila faction of the TJ

*  Another religious leader under investigation was Maulana Akram Awan, who was running a religious centre at Minara, near Chakwal, in Punjab. Col.Hamid, one of the arrested officers, was close to him.

According to the "Nation" (December 25,1995), the investigation into the plot had identified the following religious leaders of Pakistan as closely associated with the plotters: Maulana Qadir Dervi of Dera Ghazi Khan; Maulana Sheikhullah Khan of Jamia Farooqia, Karachi; Maulana Mufto Mohammad Abdus Sattar, Khairul Madrassa, Multan; Mufti Manzoor Ahmad, Madrassa Qasimul Uloom, Multan; Maulana Abdul Hameed, Sheikhul Hadith; Mufti Mohammad Yahya, Nusratul Uloom, Gujranwala; Mufti Mohammad Rafi Usmani, Darul Uloom, Karachi, Maulana Muhammad Musa, Jamia Ashrafia, Maulana Muhammad Yaqub, Jamia Rashidia, Quetta; Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Ludhianvi, Karachi; Maulana Rashid Ahmad Ludhianvi, Karachi; Maulana Qazi Abdul Karim, Karachi; and Maulana Abdul Baqi, Darul Aloom, Quetta.

The statement proclaiming the establishment of an Islamic state, which the plotters were to read out over radio and TV after murdering Mrs.Bhutto and the military chiefs, had been drafted by Maulana Qadir Dervi.

The "Nation" of October 18,1995, had earlier quoted the "Washington Post" as reporting that Pakistani officials investigating the plot had "found evidence that the religiously-motivated officers had strong personal connections " with Lt.Gen. (retd) Javed Nasir , former Director-General of the ISI, who was removed from his post in 1993 under US pressure because of his alleged non-cooperation in the US efforts to re-purchase the unused Stinger missiles from the Afghan mujahideen.

The "Nation" further quoted the "Washington Post" as reporting that another reason for the removal of Lt.Gen. Nasir in 1993 was because " he was providing covert military support to Muslim rebels in about a dozen countries" and that after his removal Lt.Gen. Nasir had been travelling worldwide preaching militant Islam.

ACTIVITIES IN THE US

Amongst the organisations in the USA with which the TJ is closely associated are the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA).The President of the ISNA is Sheikh Abdullah Idris Ali, an American immigrant of Sudanese origin, who is also the Pesh Imam and Khatib of a mosque in New York.

The annual convention of the ISNA held at Columbus, Ohio, from September 11,1995, was addressed, amongst others, by Mr.Hamza Yusuf, an American citizen of Greek origin, who, after embracing Islam, had lived for six years in Mauritania to study Islam and then work as a TJ preacher, Mr. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, the famous pop singer, who embraced Islam after coming into contact with the TJ in Pakistan, Dr.Saghir of Algeria, and Dr.Israr Ahmed, the Amir of the Tanzeem Islami of Pakistan and a worker of the TJ.

Addressing the convention, Dr. Israr Ahmed said: "The process of the revival of Islam in different parts of the world is real. A final show-down between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, which has been captured by the Jews, would soon take place. The Gulf war was just a rehearsal for the coming conflict." He appealed to the Muslims of the world, including those in the USA, to prepare themselves for the coming conflict.

The convention was told that the ISNA had a US $ 100 million budget for spreading Islamic education in the US through the publication of text-books, setting-up of week-end Islamic schools and a weekly cable TV programme called "Onsight" which would be available in all the States of the US.

Amongst the alleged members of the TJ in the Muslim community in the US is Mr.Louis Fara Khan, the Black Muslim leader. The TJ operates in the US and the Caribbean directly through its own preachers deputed from Pakistan and also recruited from the Pakistani immigrant community in the US as well as through front organisations such as the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra founded in the 1980s under the leadership of Sheikh Mubarik Ali Gilani, who generally lives in Pakistan, but travels frequently to the US and the Caribbean.

The annual report on the Patterns of Global Terrorism during 1998 issued by the Counter-Terrorism Division of the US State Department states as follows of the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra: "Seeks to purify Islam through violence. Members have purchased isolated rural compounds in North America to live communally, practise their faith and insulate themselves from Western culture. Fuqra members have attacked a variety of targets that they view as enemies of Islam, including Muslims they regard as heretics and Hindus. Attacks during the 1980s included assassinations and fire bombings across the US. Fuqra members in the US have been convicted of criminal violations, including murder and fraud."

In its preachings to the Pakistani immigrants in the US, the TJ has been stressing the importance of cultivating the African-American Muslims in order to counter the lobbying power of the Hindus and the Jewish people. The HUM, which works in tandem with the TJ, has been training African-American Muslims from the US in its training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Writing in the "Dawn" of January 12,1996, Mr. Ghani Eirabie said: " The Ummah must remember that winning over the black Muslims is not only a religious obligation, but also a selfish necessity. The votes of the black Muslims can give the immigrant Muslims the political clout they need at every stage to protect their vital interests. Likewise, outside Muslim states like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Pakistan need to mobilise their effort, money and missionary skills to expand and consolidate the black Muslim community in the USA, not only for religious reasons, but also as a far-sighted investment in the black Muslims' immense potential as a credible lobby for Muslim causes, such as Palestine, Bosnia or Kashmir--offsetting, at least partially, the venal influence of the powerful India-Israel lobby."

Mr.Eirabie wanted the US Muslim community to prepare itself for the day in the second decade of the next millennium when, according to him, the Muslims would emerge as the second largest religious group in the US after the Christians.

ACTIVITIES IN THE CARS, CHECHNYA AND DAGESTAN

Since Pakistani Government service conduct rules do not prohibit serving Government servants from participating in the activities of the TJ, after his appointment by Mr.Sharif as the DG of the ISI, Lt.Gen.Nasir continued to function simultaneously as Adviser to the TJ and, after his removal from the ISI under US pressure in 1993, he took over as the full-time leader of the TJ. After his rehabilitation by Mr.Sharif last year and appointment as Adviser on Intelligence matters, he continued to function as the head of the TJ. He is recently reported to have been removed from the post of Adviser on Intelligence matters by Mr.Sharif following his public criticism of Mr.Sharif's succumbing to US pressure for the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Kargil.

It was during his tenure as the DG of the ISI that Lt.Gen.Nasir, in his capacity as Adviser to TJ, drew up the plans for the revival of Islam in the CARs, Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia and Xinjiang in China with the help of the TJ workers and funds from Saudi Arabia.

A large number of Pakistani, Saudi and Jordanian workers of the TJ were sent on preaching and proselytising missions to these countries and recruits for clerical posts in these countries were brought to Pakistan for training in Islamic religious practices. Simultaneously, they were also given arms training in the camps of the HUM and the Lashkar in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They were also sent on proselytising missions to other countries with Pakistani TJ workers to expose them to Muslim communities in the rest of the Ummah. After his removal from the ISI in 1993, Lt.Gen.Nasir himself frequently went on preaching missions to these countries.

An idea of the tremendous headway made by the TJ under the guidance of Lt.Gen.Nasir and with Saudi money in promoting Wahabism in these countries could be had from the fact that whereas in 1991, when the USSR collapsed, there was not a single mosque in Chechnya and Dagestan, today every village has a mosque, already completed or under construction. The TJ also organised visits by selected Muslims from Chechnya and Dagestan to Saudi Arabia on Haj/Umra.

It is stated that a majority of the members of the Chechen Cabinet had been trained in Pakistan by the TJ and, during their annual vacation, go on preaching missions for the TJ in Chechnya itself as well as in Dagestan and the CARs.

In the last week of June,1995, the Interfax news agency of Moscow quoted Mr. Arkady Volski, the Russian peace negotiator for Chechnya, as claiming that after the incident of kidnapping of 1,500 hostages in the South Russian town of Budennovsk in early June, Shamyl Basayev, the Chechen commando leader, had escaped to Pakistan where he had been given asylum. In a statement issued at Moscow on June 27,1995, Mr. Tanvir Ahmad Khan, the then Pakistani Ambassador to Russia, described the claim as false and warned that such allegations would damage Russia's relations with Pakistan.

The Russian authorities refuted the statement of the Pakistani Ambassador and alleged that Basayev had been living in Pakistan since 1991 when he had fled there after his involvement in the hijacking of a Russian plane to Turkey and that from Pakistan he had periodically been visiting Chechnya to organise terrorist incidents. In July,1995, Mr.Sergei Stepashin, who was in charge of counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya, and Gen. Nikol Ayev, chief of the Russian Border Security Service, alleged in separate statements that Basayev was amongst a group of Chechen terrorists trained in Pakistani camps.

Another Chechen insurgent leader reportedly trained in the camps of the HUM in Pakistan and Afghanistan is Salman Raduyev, who led a group of Chechen extremists on a raid into the Dagestan town of Kizlyar in January,1996, and took 2,000 Russian hostages. After this incident, President Yeltsin alleged that the raiding party under Raduyev included Pakistani mercenaries.

The Russian press thereafter carried a number of reports emanating from official sources in Moscow that the extremist elements behind the Islamic revolt in Chechnya had been trained in Pakistan. Strongly refuting these reports, the Pakistani Foreign Office said: " These reports do not serve to promote good ties between Pakistan and Russia which we desire. We hope Russia will also reciprocate our wishes. "

In a statement on January 17,1996, the Pakistani Foreign Office strongly denied Russian allegations that Pakistani mercenaries were helping Chechen rebels indulging in acts of terrorism in Dagestan.

In a statement on January 13, 1998, the Russian Foreign Office described as inadmissible a statement of Mr.Zafarul Haq, Pakistan's Minister For Religious Affairs, expressing Pakistan's support for "the noble cause of the Chechen Muslims". He reportedly made this statement while welcoming a delegation of Chechen Government officials in his office in Islamabad.

In November, 1998, a high level delegation of the Government of Chechnya led by Mr.Abdul Wahid Ibrahim in charge of Central Asian and Afghan Affairs in the Chechen Foreign Office, visited Afghanistan for the first time and reached an agreement on the establishment of formal relations between the Taliban-led Government of Kabul and the Government of Chechnya.

During the same month, the Russian authorities expelled from the Bashkortostan region a delegation of six preachers of the TJ for making anti-Moscow statements during their preachings. A statement of the Federal Security Service said that their statements were "aimed at fuelling ethnic and religious hostility and offending the dignity of other religious groups." The preachers were to go to Chechnya and Dagestan in January, 1999, but their visas were cancelled and they were expelled.

After the outbreak of terrorist incidents in Dagestan from August 7,1999, the Russian authorities have been repeatedly alleging that the incidents were organised by a raiding party of about 2,000 Chechens from Chechnya jointly led by Basayev and a former Colonel of the Jordanian Army called Khattab, that the Chechens were assisted by a multi-national group of 200 foreign mercenaries led by a Pakistani called Abu Abdulla Jafar, who is in charge of a training camp in Chechnya, that before the raids the raiders participated in a special prayer service in Chechnya conducted by three Pakistani Wahabi preachers called Sheikh Abdul Azim, Junaid Bagadadi and Abdul Omar and that Abdul Omar also read out to the raiders a fatwa received from a group of Saudi muftis calling upon them to establish an Islamic state in Dagestan.

Following a denial of these allegations by Mr.Mansur Alam, the Pakistani Ambassador, who wrote a letter on the subject to "Izvestia", the paper quoted Gen.Vladimir Rushailo, the Russian Interior Minister, as saying that "mercenaries from a number of foreign countries, above all Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE, have been taking part in the fighting in Dagestan" and that the Russian security services had concrete information about the involvement of the secret services of some Muslim countries in the Dagestan violence.

"Izvestia" also identified Abu Abdulla Jafar as a Pakhtun who had been residing in Chechnya for some years and running a training camp at a place called Serzhenyurt. The paper also alleged that the activities of the mercenaries in Chechnya and Dagestan were being funded by Osama bin Laden.

Since President Rafique Tarar, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his father and Lt.Gen, Nasir have been associated with the TJ which has been instigating and assisting the extremist elements indulging in acts of terrorism in Chechnya, Dagestan and, possibly even Moscow, which has been rocked by explosions suspected to have been organised by Pakistani-backed fundamentalist groups, it is time the international financial institutions took notice of this and suspended all further assistance to Pakistan till it stopped assisting these terrorist groups

B.RAMAN                                                                  (15-9-99)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail:corde@vsnl.com )

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