Al-Qaeda affiliate urges unity among Kashmir militants, calls for new jihad council in video released on Saturday
Amid reports of Pakistan building pressure on militant outfits in Kashmir, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Ghazwatul Hind has called for cooperation among various militant outfits operating in the state and a new representative militant council to take consensus decisions regarding military actions against India
The nearly six-minute-long video released on Saturday evening by Ansar Ghazwatul Hind chief, Hameed Lelhari, laid down three principles for the proposed militant 'shura'
Various militant outfits operating in the state had already been under the umbrella banner of the United Jihad Council founded in 1994
Increasingly, militants in Kashmir are articulating their angst against the alleged restrictions placed by the Pakistani State over their activities inside India
Amid reports of Pakistan building pressure on militant outfits in Kashmir, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Ghazwatul Hind has called for cooperation among various militant outfits operating in the state and a new representative militant council to take consensus decisions regarding military actions against India.
The nearly six-minute-long video released on Saturday evening — the maiden statement issued by the outfit's new chief, Hameed Lelhari, appointed after the death of the founding chief Zakir Musa — laid down three principles for the proposed militant "shura".
The first principle articulated by Lelhari is the uniformity of motives in fighting the Indian rule in Kashmir: "The enforcement of Allah's law in Allah's land". The second principle, feeding on the pre-existing angst among militants in Kashmir, is that all military decisions would be taken on the ground in Indian Kashmir "based on the ground realities and strategic interests" while the third principle was the "separation of jihad's interests from organisational and individual interests or agency goals (referring to Pakistani intelligence services)".
If the militant outfits are able to reach a consensus on the three principles as laid down by the Ansar, Lelhari said, two representatives from each outfit would form a council and whose military decisions would be applicable to all outfits. "This practice would breathe new life into the Kashmir jihad," he said, adding that the outfit was open to suggestions from fellow militants and to explain its stand to them.
Lelhari said that his outfit's only intention was to keep the "jihad alive and strong" rising above organisational interests and that "crime which has no justification" at a time "when there are ploys at play to end the jihad". "When the ploy is to prevent attacks on Hindu armies (referring to Indian army and security forces in Kashmir) and weapons are being given only to die, being a mute spectator is a crime," he said.
Various militant outfits operating in the state had already been under the umbrella banner of the United Jihad Council founded in 1994, currently led by the chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Mohammad Yusuf Shah, better known as Syed Salahuddin. The Ansar's call for a new militant council could be seen as an attempt to undermine the UJC that is believed to have the patronage of the Pakistani State.
The HM leadership has, since its formation, remained unwaveringly pro-Pakistan in its stand and has carried out actions to protect its interests over that of the militancy or the Kashmiri people for that matter. Pakistan-backed militants have repeatedly attacked the construction of a barrage on the meeting point of the Jhelum river and the Wular lake in north Kashmir that Jammu and Kashmir state officials argue is well within the limits of the Indus Water Treaty and necessary for flood prevention in Kashmir. Pakistani officials have objected to the project over fears it could be used to deny water to its own people.
In an interview with Arab News in 2012, Salahuddin while acknowledging Pakistan's role in supporting the militancy, something the Pakistani State denies — stating it merely provides "moral and diplomatic" support, confessed that "We are fighting Pakistan's war in Kashmir".
Increasingly, militants in Kashmir are articulating their angst against the alleged restrictions placed by the Pakistani State over their activities inside India. Since the rebellion of Musa against the HM and the formation of the Ansar and the Islamic State-related militant outfits, the discourse is steadily shifting to pan-Islamism and an outright rejection of political nationalism.
The shift has led to several minor and major differences and friction among militants on the ground in Kashmir. In the most recent incident, a militant of the Islamic State was killed by members of the HM and Lashkar-e-Taiba in south Kashmir's Bijbehara following a dispute over weapons. The slain militant had defected from the LeT.
Despite the outfit's differences with the IS, Lelhari termed the Bijbehara incident as "regretful" and implicitly criticised the two Pakistan-backed outfits, stating that militant outfits using "murder and force" to maintain hegemony was the "death of jihad". "This is unacceptable under any circumstances. In such situations it becomes imperative to resolve the issue as per the shariat, and if proven there must either be qisas (retribution) or diaat (blood money paid to the slain's kin)," he said.
Lelhari further said that "the first right to a weapon is that of the mujahid's", implying that no organisation should control resources. "If a (militant) wants to switch organisations, only he has the right over the weapon. To snatch his weapon simply because he joined another organisation is a sign of hypocrisy," he added.
Lelhari also claimed that Pakistan's intelligence services had reached out to the Ansar in the wake of Musa’s death, offering weapons on the condition that the Ansar would not operate without their approval and that no major attack would be carried out. "The reason for sending this message was, perhaps, that Pakistani agency was deluded to think that the Asnar, after Musa's martyrdom, could be suppressed and like other outfits, be enslaved to Pakistani interests," he said, "If our jihad is weak, we are responsible for it."
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