ISLAMABAD: Maulvi Ahmad Jan Akhund, a key commander of the Haqqani Network who was droned to death by the American CIA on Nov 21 in Hangu, had been arrested and then released by the Pakistani authorities in 2010 along with several other senior members of the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Maulvi Ahmad Jan was a key financier and logistics expert for the Haqqani Network. Listed by the United Nations as an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist in March 2010, he was subjected to the sanctions authorised by the UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1333. Shortly before being tagged as a terrorist, Maulvi Ahmad Jan was arrested by the Pakistani authorities in Feb 2010 along with Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who used to oversee the military affairs of Afghan Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Hassan and Mullah Abdul Raouf. After his arrest, nine of the 18 key members of the Quetta Shura were also detained from different parts of Pakistan, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second-in-command of Mullah Omar. He was detained from Karachi and released recently by the Pakistani authorities after three years.
As far as Maulvi Ahmad Jan is concerned, the FBI had described him in March 2010 [hardly two weeks after his arrest by Pakistani authorities] as one of the most wanted leaders of the Quetta Shura. However, he was set free by the Pakistani authorities on April 10, 2010 under mysterious circumstances, probably because they had realised by then that Jan was more connected with the Haqqani Network instead of the Afghan Taliban. At the time of his death, Ahmad Jan used to represent the Haqqani Network in the 18-member Quetta Shura.
The Nov 21 drone strike was the fourth outside Pakistani tribal areas since the programme began in 2004, and the first since March 2009.
Besides Maulvi Ahmed Jan, it killed Mufti Hamidullah Haqqani, Maulvi Abdullah, Maulvi Kaleemullah, Sheikh Abdul Rehman, and Maulvi Ghazi Marjan. The CIA-operated deadly Reapers fired three missiles at a seminary (Darul Uloom Miftahul Quran) in the Tal area of Hangu because Sirajuddin Haqqani was spotted there just two days ago. The US has disputed that the drone strike was aimed at a madrassah, claiming that the target was a compound associated with the Haqqani Network, which is accused of conducting multiple attacks against American forces in Afghanistan.
The killing of Ahmad Jan came just days after another key Haqqani network leader, Naseeruddin Haqqani, was gunned down in the outskirts of Islamabad on Nov 11. He was the real brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani and was openly living in the federal capital despite being a most wanted terrorist. Just as crippling, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, yet another key commander of the Haqqani Network was killed in a US drone attack in September this year in North Waziristan. There are reports that Sirajuddin Haqqani had been a frequent visitor of the seminary which was hit by the drones on Nov 21, killing Ahmad Jan. In fact, the Haqqanis had arranged a condolence meeting at the targeted seminary for Naseeruddin Haqqani and Ahmad Jan was asked by Sirajuddin Haqqani to represent him there on his behalf. Ahmad Jan had travelled to Hangu three days ago. He was scheduled to leave the seminary after the condolence meeting but decided to extend his stay for a day on the insistence of his followers.
The location of the drone attack, outside of the tribal areas, is an indication that the CIA was hunting for a high value target. Maulvi Ahmad Jan Akhund, 47, was treated as a member of the Haqqani family because of his prolonged association with the ageing Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the jehadi Network. Hailing from Ghazni province of Afghanistan, Ahmad Jan had also served the Taliban government of Mullah Omar as federal minister for water and power, before being appointed the Governor of the Zabul Province in 2000. His name figured on CIA’s list of most wanted Taliban commanders, mainly because he was being accused of masterminding a number of deadly suicide attacks in Afghanistan.
The importance of Maulvi Ahmad Jan, who was considered to be the most vital leader of the Haqqani Network after Sirajuddin Haqqani, can be gauged from the fact that he had mediated with the TTP leadership [on Sirajuddin’s behalf] for the release of Colonel Imam, a retired ISI official who was finally shot dead [on camera] by Hakeemullah in North Waziristan for allegedly spying for the ISI. The killing of another key Haqqani inside the Pakistani territory, this time in a drone attack targeting a religious seminary and that too in an area outside the tribal region, also indicates the increasing mistrust between Pakistani establishment and the North Waziristan-based jehadi network which is still considered by many as the strategic asset of the ISI.
The mystery murder of Naseeruddin Haqqani in Islamabad has already given rise to rumours that the decades long holy alliance between the Pakistani establishment and the Haqqani Network is now cracking up because of its involvement in several acts of terrorism against the Pakistani security forces which it had carried out while working in tandem with TTP. The spokesman of Pakistani Taliban [Shahidullah Shahid] and the spokesman of Haqqani network (Najeebullah] had blamed the murder on the ISI.
Although the Pakistani authorities have blamed Naseeruddin’s murder on TTP, many analysts believe that the Pakistani establishment is rapidly realising in view of the ever-growing nexus between the Haqqani Network and the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban that they are like peas in a pod and could no more be distinguished as separate entities.
Therefore, the establishment may be in the process of revising its previous strategic assessment of the Haqqani Network which has the same mentor just like TTP - Mullah Mohammad Omar.