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Old Sunday, June 19, 2011
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Default Inside Al-qaeda and Taliban

Excerpt from Syed Saleem Shahzad’s Book on “Al-Qaeda’

Al Qaeda’s central hero was Captain Khurram Ashiq of the Pakistan Army who was followed by his brother Major Haroon Ashiq to become Al Qaeda’s hand that wielded the sword: Khurram was an assault commander of the elite anti-terrorist Zarrar Coy from Pakistan’s Special Service Group (SSG) in 2001 when he flipped after 9/11. Because of his Salafi background he was shaped into a warrior by LeT. He wrote to Saleem Shahzad about his brother too. ‘Major Haroon Ashiq hung up his boots right after 9/11. On his release from service, he joined LeT. One of my unit officers Major Abdul Rahman also followed suit. I joined the outfit soon after, without caring for the consequences’ (p. 83).
For Captain Khurram faith came before country. While on a UN mission in Sierra Leone he clearly demonstrated it: ‘Khurram built a mosque and a Madrassa in Sierra Leone, despite the opposition of his commander, Brigadier Ahmad Shuja Pasha, later chief of the ISI’ (p. 85). Both brothers had joined the LeT, but had soon ‘realised that the LET was just an extension of Pakistan’s armed forces’ (p. 86).

Haroon read classical Muslim academics like Imam Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn-e-Khaldun and Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab. Among modern-day scholars he studied the works of the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Syed Qutb, as well as the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Syed Abul Ala Maududi’ (p. 86). Haroon then severed his ties with the Kashmiri struggle and move to North Waziristan with his family. Khurram and Rahman then went to the Afghan province of Helmand in 2007 (p. 87) where Khurram was martyred, after which Rehman joined Haroon in Al Qaeda, becoming the lynchpin of the Mumbai attack in 2008.

As an Al Qaeda terrorist, Haroon enjoyed contacts inside the army: ‘Haroon developed a silencer for the AK-47. This became an essential component of Al Qaeda’s special guerrilla operations. He then visited China to procure night vision glasses. The biggest task was to clear them through the customs in Pakistan, Haroon called on his friend Captain Farooq, who was President Musharraf’s security officer. Farooq went to the airport in the president’s official car and received Haroon at the immigration counter. In the presence of Farooq, nobody dared touch Haroon’s luggage, and the night vision glasses arrived in Pakistan without any hassle [Farooq was a member of the Hizbut Tahrir, a fact discovered by the military intelligence as late as nine months after his posting as Musharraf's security officer. After being spotted, he was briefly arrested and then retired from the Pakistan Army]‘ (p. 88).

Al Qaeda targeted NATO supplies through Haroon in 2008: ‘Haroon travelled through North Waziristan to Karachi. When night fell, he stayed in army messes in the countryside. Being an ex-army officer he was allowed that facility. He spoke English and Urdu with an unmistakable military accent’ (p. 92). He took revenge on Major General Ameer Faisal Alavi because the latter had killed a lot of Al Qaeda men – including Abdur Rehman Kennedy – as leader of a Pakistan Army assault on Angor Adda in North Waziristan. Haroon ambushed Alavi in Islamabad ‘jumping out of his car and killing Alavi with his army revolver’ (p. 93). Haroon believed in the Ghazwa-e-Hind (Battle for India) hadith and thought End of the World was near, and the advent of the Mahdi was at hand with the help of the armies of Khurasan (Afghanistan-Pakistan) (p. 200).

Haroon is now in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi after failing to kidnap an Ahmadi, Sarwar Khan. (The police officer in Adiala jail told Saleem Shahzad he had started admiring his prisoner.) In custody he admitted to killing Major General Alavi and kidnapping Hindu filmmaker Satish Anand with the help of one Major Basit from Karachi. After he discovered that Anand had no money to give he released him on orders from Al Qaeda’s Ilyas Kashmiri ‘if he embraced Islam’ which Anand immediately did. Later Al Qaeda decided that to refill its empty coffers it will abduct only non-Muslims, in particular, Ahmadis. (A 2011 kidnapping of an Ahmadi in Rawalpindi happened just a little ahead of the time of writing – KA.)

The Mumbai operation was actually the revival of an old ISI plan. The idea was to deflect the Pakistan Army away from Waziristan and get it to fight India instead. This nearly succeeded: ‘Pakistan’s militant leaders Mullah Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud announced that they would fight alongside Pakistan’s armed forces in an India-Pakistan war, and the director general of ISI, Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, confirmed this understanding in his briefing to national and foreign correspondents, when he called Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud Pakistan’s strategic assets’ (p. 95).
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