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ISLAMABAD: The most recent deaths of two Pakistani al-Qaeda leaders in the US drone attacks in North Waziristan have again brought to light the alleged al-Qaeda links of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, which has refuted such allegations in the past as a pack of lies.
In his November 20 statement, Usama Mahmood, the spokesman for Al-Qaeda Indian Sub-continent (AQIS), announced the “martyrdom” of Dr. Sarbaland alias Abu Khalid with his two young sons and his brother-in-law, Major Adil Abdul Qudoos, a former major in the Pakistan Army, in a November 11, 2014 drone attack on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border.
The 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was arrested on March 1, 2003 from the Rawalpindi residence of Major Adil Abdul Qudoos who was an active member of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan just like his father, Abdul Qudoos Khan, his brother, Ahmed Abdul Qudoos, and his wife, Farzana Qudoos.
Major Adil Qudoos had been nabbed after the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and sentenced to ten-year imprisonment after being court-martialed for his al-Qaeda links. But he was set free after five years [in 2008] after completion of his jail term which was counted from the day of his arrest – March 1, 2003. Soon after his release, Major Adil immigrated with his family to North Waziristan where he was killed.
In his statement announcing the “martyrdom” of al-Qaeda leaders, Usama Mahmood described Dr. Sarbaland alias Abu Khalid as “a senior al-Qaeda leader who was killed as a result of an American drop on the Afghan border, followed by bombing from spy aircraft”.
Sarbaland was an MBBS doctor associated in the past with a Jamaat affiliate - the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA). Lately, however, he was serving as a propagandist of al-Qaeda’s recently launched South Asia chapter led by Commander Asim Umar.
The AQIS spokesman described Sarbaland as both “a skillful surgeon and a strategic ideologue for the group, and he provided
many services to the Pakistani and Afghan jehad.” Sarbaland used to treat wounded al-Qaeda and Taliban militants based in the Waziristan region. According to al-Qaeda spokesman, after the first missile attack that hit his house, Sarbaland tried to flee along with his two sons, but a second missile hit the truck they were traveling in.
While the deaths of two known Jamaat members who have now been described by the AQIS spokesman as key al-Qaeda leaders, has once again underlined the alleged links of the Islamist party with the international terrorist outfit, the JI circles have deemed it fit to disown two individuals who had gone astray due to multiple factors and reasons.
A senior leader of the Jamaat conceded while requesting anonymity that the father of Qudoos brothers – Abdul Qudoos Khan – had been an active member of the party in the past. But he added that the Jamaat had cut off all links with him and his family once their al-Qaeda link had transpired. The fact remains that following the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad from the Westridge area residence of Major Adil Qudoos (of the 45-Signals Regiment) the security agencies unearthed a well-organized al-Qaeda-linked network which was active in the army circles.
Those arrested subsequently for al-Qaeda links included Lt Colonel Khalid Mahmood Abbasi of the Army Signal Centre in Kohat, Lt Colonel Abdul Ghaffar of the Army Aviation Command in Rawalpindi, Major Ataullah Khan from the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch, Major Rohail Sarfraz and Major Attaullah Khan of the II Corps or the Strike Corps stationed in Multan, and Capt Dr Usman Zafar (Mujahid Battalion). It transpired during subsequent investigation by the security agencies that Major Adil’s father, Abdul Qudoos Khan, was an MBBS doctor who was affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and who knew Osama bin Laden while he was living in Sudan in the 1990s.
The arrests were made under the Army Act of 1952 and were linked to the capture of al-Qaeda’s then chief operational commander, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Those arrested were not only interrogated in connection with a conspiracy to stage an intra-Army coup against Musharraf, they were also questioned to ascertain whether they were linked with the February 20, 2003 mid-air crash of the Pakistan Air Force Fokker F-27, which had killed the then PAF chief, Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir and 16 others on board. The plane was on its way from Chaklala airbase in Rawalpindi to Kohat airbase when it mysteriously crashed about 17km east of Kohat.
The military court in Pannu Aqil Cantonment, comprising Major General Ahmad Nawaz and Brigadier Mumtaz Iqbal, sentenced in August 2005 Major Adil Qudoos to 10 years in prison, Colonel Khalid Abbasi to six years and Colonel Abdul Ghaffar to three years.
Major Attaullah, Major Sarfraz and Captain Usman were dismissed from service. It was almost three months after the arrest of Major Adil Qudoos that another Jamaat-e-Islami supporter, Colonel Khalid Abbasi, was arrested for his al-Qaeda links.
Colonel Abbasi was a religious-minded person who used to deliver daily lessons from the Holy Quran to his junior officers, a practice General Ziaul Haq had introduced in the army. He was suspected when an al-Qaeda operative made a telephonic contact with him from Afghanistan and sought his consent for two people to stay with him at his Kohat residence.
The call was intercepted by the agencies which swiftly moved to nab Colonel Abbasi on May 30, 2003. He was released a few years later upon completion of jail term. Quite interestingly, Omar Abdullah, one of the three killers of the ex-minority affairs minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, and a senior prosecutor who had been handling Benazir Bhutto murder case, Chaudhry Zulfiqar, is the real son of Colonel Khalid Mahmood Abbasi.
Omar has already confessed to having killed Bhatti and Zulfiqar along with his three accomplices - Hammad Adil, his brother Adnan Adil and Tanveer Ahmed. Omar revealed during interrogations that while he was injured during the attack on Zulfiqar, another assailant (Harris Khan) was killed by his gunman who had to be buried in the lawn of Adil brothers’ house. The police had then arrested Hammad Adil and Adnan Adil from Bhara Kahu area of Islamabad on August 31, 2013 while the fourth accused, Tanveer Ahmed, is still absconding.
It was in December 2013 that an anti-terrorism court of Rawalpindi had indicted Omar Abdullah, Hammad Adil and Adnan Adil in Shahbaz Bhatti murder case. According to his interrogation report, Omar had joined al-Qaeda-linked militant ranks as a reaction to avenge the alleged humiliation his father had suffered after being arrested and court-martialed. A student of the International Islamic University (IIU) Islamabad, Omar had confessed that while Bhatti was killed for opposing the Blasphemy law, Zulfiqar was killed to save the killers of Benazir Bhutto against whom the prosecutor had gathered credible evidence.
Omar alias Ghulamullah was arrested from a private hospital of Islamabad where he was being treated for paralysis below the waist due to a bullet fired by the bodyguard of Zulfiqar that had hit his spine. He was granted bail on medical grounds on July 18, 2014 after his father pleaded that his son was completely paralysed and had become no more than a breathing corpse.
Omar Abdullah told his interrogators that he was 12 years old when his father, Lt Col Khalid Abbasi was arrested, court-martialed and dismissed from the military service. He had, therefore, developed hatred against the establishment and eventually joined the Taliban. Besides confessing his role in the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti and Chaudhry Zulfiqar, Omar Abdullah also conceded having taken part in a deadly terror attack on the Parade Lane Mosque in Rawalpindi on December 4, 2009, killing some 40 people.
The attack was in retaliation for the Army’s operation in the then Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan. Those who lost their lives in the deadly attack included nine senior Army officers including a major general, a brigadier, two colonels, two majors and several children belonging to the families of khakis including Hashim Masood, the only son of Lt Gen Masood Aslam who was the commander of XI Corps in Peshawar at that time.
To tell the truth, the track record of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan shows that the party, which had been an ally of the successive Pakistani dictators including General Ayub Khan, General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf, has a soft corner for al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership, mainly due to their ideological affinity with them.
The Jamaat’s founder, Maulana Maudoodi, had designed his party to be the vanguard of Islamic revolution that inspired Brotherhood’s chief ideologue, Syed Qutb. And it is a known fact that al-Qaeda by and large draws ideological inspiration from Qutb whose last book, ‘Milestones on the Road (1965)’, argues that the Holy Quran presented a blueprint for the establishment of a true Islamic State.
Therefore, the former Jamaat ameer Prof Munawar Hasan’s November 2013’s statement giving the certificate of martyrdom to a terrorist (Hakeemullah Mehsud) and deriding Pakistani soldiers who are rendering their lives in the war against terrorists was not shocking to those who are aware of the JI’s track record. Subsequently, on December 4, 2013, while accusing Jamaat of having ties with al-Qaeda, the MQM chief Altaf Hussain demanded that the federal government ban the party.
“The Jamaat-e-Islami has strong links with the al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Its activists are being killed in drone attacks. Therefore, the party should be banned,” so said Altaf Hussain while addressing a general workers’ meeting in Karachi.
During Altaf’s speech, the party workers distributed a list of activists associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Jamiat Tuleba, who were either killed in drone attacks. The then JI ameer Munawar Hasan had reacted furiously and rejected the allegations leveled by the MQM chief.
The fact, however, remains that Major Adil Qudoos and Dr. Sarbaland alias Abu Khalid are not the only Jamaat-linked al-Qaeda leaders who have lost their lives in US drone attacks in the Waziristan region. It was on November 29, 2013 that Abdur Rehman, an Islami Jamiat Tuleba leader from Karachi was killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan. Identified as a former student of the Industrial Manufacturing Department of NED University of Engineering & Technology, Abdur Rehman, the elder son of Shujaat Hussain, was a resident of North Karachi, Sector 11/A.
His killing in a drone attack and that too in North Waziristan [that headquartered the Tehrik-e-Taliban and the Haqqani Network] gave credence to the findings of the security agencies that hundreds [if not thousands] of Jamiat and Jamaat-e-Islami activists have joined the al-Qaeda-run training camps in North Waziristan over the past few years.
As per these findings, it was Dr. Arshad Waheed, the president of the Islamic Medical Association (an offshoot of the JI) who had actually begun recruiting IJT activists for training at al-Qaeda run camps in Waziristan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan.
Arshad and his younger brother Dr Akmal Waheed, who were ideologically inspired by the Jamaat-e-Islami, were arrested from Karachi in July 2004 in connection with a bomb attack on the convoy of the then Corps Commander Karachi Lt Gen Ahsan Saleem Hayat which killed ten security personnel. The interrogation of the brothers - cardiac surgeon Dr. Akmal Waheed and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Arshad Waheed - prompted the security agencies to literally charge sheet the Jamaat – the strongest political voice of Islamists in Pakistan - having links with al-Qaeda. Those who interrogated the doctors had in their possession a videotaped confession by the two brothers, admitting that they had recruited a large number of the IJT activists from different educational institutions of Karachi and taken them to the Waziristan region.
However, the doctor brothers were set free by the courts for want of evidence. They instantly traveled to Wana in South Waziristan where Dr Arshad was killed in a drone strike on March 16, 2008, thus confirming their al-Qaeda links. Dr Arshad was the first Pakistani al-Qaeda leader to be featured by the terrorist group’s media wing As-Sahab in a long documentary, in which he was described as a role model for young jehadis by none other than the then chief operational commander of al-Qaeda, Mustafa Abu Yazid.
While Ameerul Azeem, central secretary information of the JI, strongly refutes the presence of any IJT activist in the al-Qaeda-run terror camps in Waziristan, sources in security agencies claim that Qazi Hussain knew about the dangerous development and had even tried to bring the IJT activists back.
They claim that Qazi Hussain had sent Hafiz Waheedullah Khan, the father of the doctor brothers, to Wana, to prevail upon his sons. Waheedullah, an educationist who used to run a vast network of private schools, was a founder of the JI-backed Teachers’ Association of Pakistan. However, the mission failed as Dr Arshad and Dr Akmal had simply refused to listen to their father.
Another Jamaat member and a close aide of the doctor brothers - Engineer Ahsan Aziz - was droned in Shuwedar village of Shawal Valley in North Waziristan on August 18, 2012. His funeral prayers were led by the then ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed and attended by many jehadi leaders including Syed Salahuddin, the chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen.