By Khaled Ahmed
Sep 27 2013
Lahore was considered immune to the kind of terrorism being experienced by Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, headquarters of the three other provinces. But last month, it was in Lahore that al-Qaeda was found operating its communications headquarters, from a large property that no one cared to check. Lahore is more like Islamabad, where al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists could be hiding in the outskirts, which have nearly 1,00,000 illegal squatters (most of them Pakhtun-Afghan), unplanned mosques, and the Arab-funded International Islamic University, where the founder of al-Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam, used to teach, and where al-Qaeda killers take Sharia courses today.
In August, six terrorists, including four women, were arrested in Green Town in Lahore. Intelligence officials told reporters, “Al-Qaeda was operating an illegal gateway exchange, under the name of International Technical Hub, from [a] residence receiving signals from Afghanistan”. Additionally, weapons were found in the compound, which could have been used to keep kidnapped citizens before they were taken to the north for some destination in the tribal areas or Afghanistan.
Then, the Islamabad Police caught Hammad Adil, the Waziristan-trained upper-class mastermind of al-Qaeda. Adil, together with Abdullah Umar, the son of an army colonel who was dismissed for his terrorist affiliation, killed a senior officer of the Federal Investigation Agency who was prosecuting suspects in the famous 2008 Mumbai case, which involved terrorists from Pakistan whose confessions had cut very close to state involvement.
Tipped off in Islamabad, the ISI picked up six members of al-Qaeda’s suicide squad, along with their local handlers, from a Punjab University (PU) hostel in Lahore. Out of nine al-Qaeda members, four had taken special jihadi training in Miranshah in North Waziristan Agency, while the other five, from Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, were experts in electronic media and improvised explosive devices. From their physical appearance, the men looked like foreigners who often visited the Punjab University hostel.
An Arab national, who arrived in Lahore to organise a suicide mission, was provided shelter by the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The university had allotted a room to a statistics department student with IJT links, who had taken the Arab in. The vice chancellor of Punjab University, an Islamist whose book asserts that Jews dominate the world through global banking and that 9/11 had actually been choreographed by the Americans themselves, denies that PU is involved. According to the vice chancellor, he had registered over 70 formal complaints with the police about the hostel being infested with terrorists, but got no response. He said the IJT is so politically strong under the Jamaat-e-Islami banner, that arrested terrorists easily get sprung from jail.
Jamaat-e-Islami rules university campuses across Pakistan in general and Lahore in particular. It rules through the IJT and dominates teaching faculties too. The PU vice chancellor is on the defensive because of cases of sexual harassment registered against him and some other teachers. The latter are also periodically caught obtaining doctorates on the basis of plagiarised theses. As a result, PU degrees are not recognised even in Pakistan. The Jamaat is powerful in Lahore and no one can arrest IJT members and keep them locked away for long. Munawwar Hasan, the current chief of the Jamaat — breathing fire over Jamaat leaders being sentenced to death in Bangladesh — is a stormy petrel taking extreme positions on the country’s policy. He rose as a strong IJT leader in Karachi to replace Qazi Hussain Ahmad, under whom the Jamaat was heavily into proxy jihad with al-Qaeda contacts, as the chief of the Jamaat.
Vice chancellors in Pakistan often get beaten up by IJT thugs till they learn to coexist with it. There are no liberal faculty members who can survive and teach on campuses. Many IJT student leaders rose to political eminence despite murder cases pending against them. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who planned the 9/11 attack, was arrested from the house of a “women’s wing” leader of the Jamaat in Rawalpindi in March 2003. Another al-Qaeda leader, Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in March 2002 from Faisalabad, was given shelter by Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Lahore’s University of Engineering and Technology (UET) is another stronghold of the IJT. Pakistan’s “endgame warrior” Hafiz Saeed graduated from Government College, Sargodha, and later obtained an MA in Arabic and Islamiat from Punjab University. At university, he was a nazim of the IJT. After graduating, he was appointed lecturer at UET in the Islamiat department. It is from here that he was sent for higher studies to Saudi Arabia. He graduated from King Saud University, Riyadh, and while in Saudi Arabia he was close to the famous Saudi scholar, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, who was the first to pronounce the fatwa of jihad in Afghanistan in 1979.
After his sojourn in Saudi Arabia, Saeed returned to Pakistan and was selected as a research scholar at the Council of Islamic Ideology, a selection made by a panel of high court judges. While working at the Council, he retained his lien with the UET. Hafiz Saeed took part in the election campaign of Jamaat-e-Islami in 1970 but was put off by politics. He turned against democracy and was traumatised by the fall of East Pakistan in 1971. The next Indo-Pakistan war, if there is one, may be triggered by him. He now dwarfs the power of the Jamaat with his Jamaat-ud-Dawa, because he has wealth the Jamaat can’t even dream of. If Pakistan is scared of its universities, Jamaat-ud-Dawa will simply annex the country using youthful manpower from its thousands of schools and colleges plus a university.
The Lahore daily, Pakistan Today editorialised in 2012: “The conservative Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami has established itself in many public educational institutions under the guise of a student political wing, resorting to violence in order to get their way. A complete silence, and in some cases backing, of the faculty has also made it easier for IJT to establish itself in PU.”
The only time the Jamaat did not support IJT violence was after the latter beat up Imran Khan when he was visiting the PU campus. The then chief of the Jamaat, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, landed up at Khan’s home to apologise and later led Khan’s father’s funeral prayers. Qazi’s wisdom paid off: Khan’s government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is ruling in tandem with the Jamaat.
In Pakistan, al-Qaeda is vaguely perceived as the presiding genius of terrorism, but the fact is that Taliban of all variety — Punjabi and non-Punjabi — are controlled by Ayman al-Zawahiri and his Arab money. Add the muscle and purse of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa — Hafiz Saeed was so spiritually linked to the founder of al-Qaeda, Palestinian religious leader, Abdullah Azzam, that he located his Dawat wal Irshad outfit next to Azzam’s office in Peshawar — and you have a power that Pakistan cannot reckon with despite its nuclear-equipped army.
The Taliban are not talking peace with anyone, as they prepare for the war in Afghanistan after the foreign forces leave by the end of 2014. And this war against the 3,50,000-strong Afghan National Army will be fought by Punjab, which is why al-Qaeda has arrived in Lahore. Only the non-state actors of Punjab have a comparable number of trained warriors to fight the coming Muslim Armageddon. And al-Qaeda wants to be where its army is being raised.
Khaled Ahmed is a consulting editor with ‘Newsweek Pakistan’ email@example.com