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February 7, 2014

Mast Gul, a freedom fighter turned terrorist attacks Peshawar

February 7, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani jehadi chickens are coming home to roost.Mast Gul, an ex commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen who fought against the Indian security forces for liberation of Jammu and Kashmir, has turned out to be the mastermind of last Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Peshawar.
The attack has already been claimed by the Peshawar chapter of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is waging a war against the state of Pakistan.
Mast Gul was earlier considered to be an asset of the Pakistani intelligence establishment. He shot to prominence following his dramatic escape from the historic Charar-e-Sharif dargah in Jammu and Kashmir during the May 1995 fighting between Kashmiri militants and the Indian troops. A resident of the Khwaja Town area on Pajaggi Road in Peshawar, Mast Gul appeared at a news conference on February 5, 2014, sitting next to the Peshawar district chief of the TTP, Mufti Hasaan Swati, who claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s suicide attack that left nine people dead at a Peshawar hotel. Hasaan Swati disclosed that he had tasked Mast Gul, whom he described as a TTP commander for Peshawar, to plan the suicide bombing.
Originally belonging to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Haroon Khan, also known by his nom de guerre Mast Gul, had established a strong base in the Shrine town of Charar-e-Sharif in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir in the mid-90s. In a bid to flush them out, the Indian Army had launched an operation, which resulted in a standoff that lasted for two months, till Jammu and Kashmir’s most revered 14th century Charar-e-Sharif shrine was gutted on May 11, 1995 in a mysterious fire. While the Indian Army claimed that the militants had triggered blasts that caused fire, the Kashmiri militants had accused the Indian security forces. Twenty jehadis, two army men and five civilians had died in the operation. However, Mast Gul made good his escape, only to reappear in Pakistan.
Thousands of people and clutter of

Kalashnikov assault rifle fire had greeted Mast Gul as he drove into Muzaffarabad from Chakothi on August 2, 1995, three months after his escape from Charar-e-Sharif after setting it on fire. Accompanied by over 100 jehadi colleagues belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), he vowed to avenge the desecration of the Charar-e-Sharif dargah by the Indian security forces.
Qazi Hussain Ahmed, then ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, accompanied Mast Gul in a drive from Chakothi and described him as a symbol of the Kashmir jehad. Gul then addressed a public meeting at Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi on August 4, 1995, which was also attended by Qazi Hussain Ahmed.
According to the American diplomatic cables leaked by the WikiLeaks and reported by the international press on May 9, 2011, Mast Gul was described as a former Major in the Pakistani Army who had fought against the Indian government in Jammu & Kashmir. This information had been disclosed to the US intelligence agencies by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, Chaman Gul, who had been fighting against the Indian security forces in Jammu & Kashmir.
On July 28 2012, India’s former defence minister Jaswant Singh had stated in New Delhi that Gul was a Pakistani jehadi commander who was escorted to the Line of Control by his masters after he had escaped from the Charar-e-Sharif dargah. Jaswant Singh’s remarks were significant given the fact that even 17 years after the incident, mystery surrounds it, particularly how Mast Gul had managed to escape first from the shrine and then from the Valley to surface in Pakistan.
As he resurfaced in Rawalpindi, he was introduced as a key commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM) and given a hero’s welcome by the Jamaat-e-Islami, which showcased him at its public meetings.
Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM) is considered to be the militant wing of the Jamaat whose ameer Munawar Hasan had to face criticism from the Pakistan Army spokesman for giving certificate of martyrdom to Hakeemullah Mehsud and deriding Pakistani soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war against terrorists. Although the TTP had denied its involvement in the Tuesday’s suicide bombing at Pak Hotel in Koocha Risaldar locality of Peshawar, Hasaan Swati told reporters in the Miranshah area of North Waziristan that the attack had been carried out to avenge an attack on a seminary (Madrassah Taleemul Quran) in Rawalpindi in November 2013. “The attack was carried out to fulfill the wish of the central deputy ameer of TTP Sheikh Khalid Haqqani to avenge the death of innocent madrassah students,” Hasaan Swati said.
A day earlier, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid had claimed that his group had nothing to do with the Peshawar bombing and that it was an attempt to sabotage the peace talks. While Shahidullah has not yet retracted Hasaan Swati’s responsibility claim, the reason for Gul’s joining hands with the Taliban to kill innocent civilians in suicide bombings is unknown. But what is known about him is that the 47-year-old jehadi commander had narrowly survived an ambush near Peshawar on August 31, 2003 and subsequently abandoned his hometown.
Mast Gul sustained facial injuries by the spray of shards of his car’s window.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US and the subsequent U-turn taken by the Pakistani establishment with regard to Kashmir jehad, Mast Gul fell out of favour with his intelligence handlers. He subsequently joined another jehadi group striving for the liberation of Jammu & Kashmir - Al Umar Mujahideen (AuM) - led by Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, an Indian national hailing from Srinagar. Zargar was freed by the Indian government in 2000 along with Maulana Masood Azhar (of Jasih-e-Mohammad) and Sheikh Ahmed Omar Saeed (US journalist Daniel Pearl’s convicted killer) following a plane hijacking.
The stated mission of Al Umar Mujahideen was to reinvigorate armed struggle in J&K. Mast Gul declared in ensuing statements that his goal was to liberate Jammu and Kashmir through armed struggle. “My own resolve is to liberate Kashmir and seek its accession to Pakistan as a prelude to make it a part of Islamic caliphate,” he said in an interview. But little was known about his whereabouts since then, amid conflicting reports that he had joined hands with the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. But it has now transpired that the former freedom fighter has already joined hands with the enemies of the state, like some other assets of intelligence establishment, like Commander Ilyas Kashmiri.

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