ISLAMABAD: Jundallah (the Army of Allah), which has claimed responsibility for the November 2 bloody attack at Wagah border post, is one of the dozen-plus anti-Shia franchises of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), that operate under different names in different parts of the country.
However, the latest act of terrorism at Wagah border is intriguing because of the fact that the target of the suicide bomber was general public which was coming out of the border post premises after watching the flag-lowering ceremony which takes place every day at sunset. Jundallah, which had emerged in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2003, has a long and gory history. Initially, patronised by Taliban commander Nek Mohammad [who was droned to death in 2004 in South Waziristan], the Pakistan chapter of the group is reputed to draw its cadre from the educated and professional classes like doctors and engineers. Jundallah mostly comprises elements of the now banned sectarian and jehadi outfits which have turned their wrath on Pakistani establishment in the wake of Gen Pervez Musharraf’s U-turn on Jehad-e-Kashmir and Jehad-e-Afghanistan by becoming a US ally in the war on terror following the 9/11 attacks.
Barely ten days ago, on October 23, 2014 Jundallah claimed responsibility for the failed assassination attempt on Maulana Fazalur Rehman in Quetta. But that was not the only incident owned up by Jundallah. The group had already claimed responsibility for killing 10 foreign climbers [on June 23, 2013] at a base camp of the Nanga Parbat, the second highest mountain in Pakistan after K-2. Ten foreign mountaineers were among 11 persons killed, when terrorists who were wearing uniforms of Gilgit Baltistan Scouts, attacked Nanga Parbat base camp in Bonar area of Diamer District and shot the climbers and a Pakistani guide at point-blank range. The victims included an American national, three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, two Chinese, a Lithuanian and a Nepalese. The Nanga Parbat attack was claimed by the TTP spokesman, saying it was carried out by an affiliate of the TTP – Jundallah.
Jundallah had once again claimed responsibility for the September 22, 2013 twin suicide bomb attacks targeting the All Saints Church in Peshawar, in which 127 people were killed and over 250 injured. It was the deadliest attack on Christian minority in the history of Pakistan. However, the only act of terrorism for which Jundallah militants had been convicted remains the June 10, 2004 bomb attack on the cavalcade of the then Karachi Corps Commander Karachi Lt Gen Ahsan Saleem Hayat. While the corps commander had a narrow escape in the attack on the old Clifton bridge, 12 people, including eight military personnel, were killed in that ambush. Subsequent investigations revealed the involvement of Jundallah, which at that time was led by Ataur Rehman and patronised by the South Waziristan-based Taliban commander, Nek Mohammad. Barely six days after the botched attack, Nek Mohammad was killed in the first ever US drone strike in Pakistan, on June 17 2004.
According to the information gathered by Pakistani security agencies, Jundallah happens to be one of the dozen-plus subsidiary groups of the TTP which operate under different names in different parts of the country including Tehrik-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Muhammadi, Lashkar-e-Islami, Mehdi Militia, Hezbollah, Kharooj, Tawheed Brigade, Al Mukhtar Group, Punjabi Mujahideen, Asian Tigers, Jundul Hafsa and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami. An intriguing common aspect in the profiles of most of its members is their past association with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Islami Jamiat Tuleba (IJT).
To tell the truth, the Pakistani Jundallah was established in 2003 by a former Islami Jamiat Tuleba leader Sheikh Ataur Rehman alias Umer alias Ibrahim aka Zubair, who holds a Masters’ degree from Karachi University in Statistics. Ataur Rehman was assisted in recruiting youngsters to wage ‘jehad’ by Karachi’s Dr Arshad Waheed, an orthopaedic surgeon, his brother Dr Akmal Waheed, who too was a neurosurgeon and Engineer Ahsan Aziz. These three were not only active members of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan but also had close links with al-Qaeda which were proved later. While Ataur is currently imprisoned at Karachi Central Jail after being convicted by an Anti Terrorism Court, Arshad Waheed was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan in March 2008 and Engineer Ahsan Aziz was droned in North Waziristan in August 2012. While Ahsan’s funeral prayers were led by the then Jamaat-e-Islami chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the then chief operational commander of al-Qaeda Mustafa Abu Yazid gave a eulogy for Dr Arshad in a video message.
Ataur had links not only with Tehrik-e-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leaders but also with al-Qaeda people in Waziristan, especially with Hawza al Jawfi alias Haji Mumtaz, an Egyptian who used to run Jundallah after Ataur’s arrest. Jawfi was also killed in a drone strike in Karikot near Wana in South Waziristan. Most members of the Jundallah are residents of Karachi who had previously been working with different other terrorist outfits, before finally travelling to South Waziristan where Joffi had recruited them for training in terrorism. Ata and his comrades had travelled to Wana, the largest town in South Waziristan, in October 2003, from where they were taken to the Shakai area for training in terrorism by al-Qaeda men. Ata revealed during questioning after his arrest that his brigade was tasked to target Shias, Westerners, foreign missions and officers of the Army, the Rangers and the Karachi police officials.