Rogue elements of the ISI and the Al Qaeda connection

Ilyas Kashmiri’s death

In the latest round, American drones have killed two important men in the hierarchy of Al Qaeda. On August 14, Uzbek commander Nizamuddin Zalalov, and leader of Harkatul Jihad Islami, Ilyas Kashmiri, were successfully targeted somewhere in North Waziristan. The first-named was one of about 5,000 Uzbeks that Al Qaeda has brought into Pakistan.

The second man is the head of an outfit of non-state actors that Pakistan allowed to operate in Indian-administered Kashmir. After he was grilled for organising the attack on General Pervez Musharraf in 2003 and then let off, he went to North Waziristan and linked up with the vast network of warriors built up by Al Qaeda.

Kashmiri’s death revives the story of Major Haroon Ashiq (Retd) who began his jihadi career after getting out of the army and worked for a time with Lashkar-e-Tayba as a weapons expert before linking up with Kashmiri in Waziristan. After his capture, the major has revealed that he kidnapped a film producer, Satish Anand, for ransom on the instructions of Kashmiri, and then killed Major General Faisal Alvi (Retd) in Islamabad on Kashmiri’s orders.

While the abduction of Anand in Karachi was meant to beef up the kitty of Al Qaeda, the murder of Alvi became more controversial. Alvi, a dual-nationality British Pakistani serving in the commando section of the army with distinction, was prematurely retired. He told the British newspaper Sunday Times in December 2008 that he feared that someone from within the military establishment would kill him. Major Ashiq was finally the man to do the job for Rs 150,000 given him by Kashmiri.

In August 2009, the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, stated on TV that “officers of the rank of major” in the intelligence agencies with links with the Taliban and Al Qaeda had been arrested “because they wanted to target army generals” (Daily Times)