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Dirty Games in Afghanistan

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Gunmen storm Sikh religious complex in Kabul on 25 March and killed 25 people
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Al Jazeera English)
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The Afghan government has arrested the Emir (chief) of the Islamic State in Kharasan Province, (ISKP), a Pakistani national, Mawlawi Abdullah alias Aslam Farooqi. He was the mastermind of the dastardly attack on a Gurdwara (Shrine of Sikhs) in Kabul on March 25 in which 25 Sikhs, including one Indian national, were killed.

Most ISKP recruits are Pakistanis though the outfit has also nationals from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Jordan and the Maldives besides some Central Asian nations. Recently, nearly 250 Pakistani ISKP activists have surrendered to Kabul authorities in a clear give away to the dominance of Pakistanis in the terror group. It operates from both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Aslam Farooqi was formerly associated with Pakistan's key terror proxy, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which has many fronts that are operating in the Middle East, India's Kashmir, and Myanmar to deepen and broad base the jihadi footprint, and Wahabi Islam. He is 'singing' before the Afghan authorities, who are joined by Indian sleuths. He is sure to provide information that will be useful to the Afghans in the fight against the ISI handled terror groups. Undeniably, the Aslam revelations will have an impact on the planned exit of US forces from Afghanistan. And an embarrassment to Pakistan, which takes shelter in denials and bravado.

Clearly, the imminent US exit under Islamabad- Rawalpindi brokered peace deal with Taliban, has emboldened Pakistan to encourage its terror prote'ge's to indulge in its old game. The plan is two-fold, like always. One target Indian interests and force it to cuts its presence on the Afghan soil; two destablise the Ghani dispensation. The goal is installation of puppet regime in Kabul. Pakistan will continue to its dirty games through terror groups in Afghanistan as long as the United States treats it with kid gloves.

By attacking the Kabul Gurdwara, the Islamic State has tried to "resurrect" itself on the Afghan soil. Only last November, the Afghan government claimed that the terror group had been defeated. Now the claim stands punctured.

The ISKP says Kabul Gurudwara attack was an act of revenge for the alleged atrocities on Muslims in Indian Kashmir. For Pakistan the only issue that matters even in these Corona pandemic days is Jammu and Kashmir. There is even lesser interest in the lifting its economy from the dumps.

Well, Pakistan is exploiting Covid-19 to get soft loans and to extract concessions from Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It has already secured time till June to comply with corrective action for curbing terror funding and money laundering. With the pandemic in no mood to retreat as of now, Pakistan may seek another extension to pull itself out of the ignominy of being in the grey list. And like in the past, find ways of patronizing and nurturing terror groups.

Already New York-based, Castellum, which automates watch list compliance, has found that during the past 17 months, Pakistan deleted "3,800 names from the Proscribed Persons List, without explanation or notification to the public". One of the beneficiaries is Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi of dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Also known as Zaka ur-Rehman, he had executed the attack on India's financial capital, Mumbai in 2008.

Between March 9 and March 27, Castellum's artificial intelligence (AI) data recorded that Imran Khan Government removed 1,069 names from the Proscribed Persons List. Since March 27, another 800 or so names have been deleted. All these names have appeared on Pakistan's official denotified list, amidst reports that Pakistan has created two new outfits, namely The Resistance Front (TRF) and JK Pir Panjal Peace Forum (JKPPPF) for action in Indian Jammu & Kashmir.

Both groups are designed to give indigenous face to militancy in Kashmir while providing a denial platform for the GHQ based patrons in Rawalpindi. While not much is in public domain about Pir Panjal Peace Forum, TRF has been active both on ground and on social media since last October with a Twitter handle that has been tracked to Islamabad.

TRF has staged two grenade attacks in Srinagar since India ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The 'singing' by six TRF cadres arrested on 23 March, according to media reports, exposed TRF connections with the LeT.

Another give away came from TRF's social media accounts after an encounter between terrorists and Indian forces in Keran sector close to the Line of Control (LoC). Posting five photos, TRF said they were martyred in the encounter. Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists often sneak into India through Keran sector. So much so, TRF can be an extension, ally or new alias of the Lashkar to enable Pakistan to prepare for a surge in violence in the endemic hit Jammu and Kashmir.

Cut to the Kabul attack. An Indian, Mohsin from the southern province of Kerala, was among the Gurudwara attackers, local investigations show. He was amongst the 100 odd radicalised Indian youth who had joined the IS and its offshoots. After serving in Iraq and Syria, Mohsin et al landed in Pakistan orchestrated new jihad in Afghanistan. Expectedly, Pakistan media and religious and political leaders are jubilant to find an Indian hand in the revenge mission against India.

Pakistan is known to frequently change its discourse on its involvement in terrorism denying when the going is bad and accepting when under US pressure. Now it is trying to tell the world that Indians carry out terror attacks on their own targets but put the blame on Pakistan!

Pakistan can draw whatever pervert pleasure it can from Mohsin angle to India's discomfiture but it cannot run away from the reality that ISKP only carries forward the ISI mission on the Afghan soil just like the LeT, TRF and their allies do in Kashmir valley.

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A blogger since July 2008 James Duglous Crickton is a London based consultant working with a consultancy firm focusing on Asia, particularly South Asia and East Asia. Political Research is his functional focus area. While his interests are (more...)
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