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Why Miliband tried to rationalise Mumbai attack

Last updated on: January 22, 2009 10:40 IST

There has been considerable anger and indignation in India British Foreign Secretary David Miliband attempt last week to rationalise the terrorist attack in Mumbai, by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba of Pakistan by linking the attack to the Kashmir issue.

None of the indigenous Kashmiri organisations has linked the Mumbai attack to Kashmir. Yet Miliband sought to provide a legitimacy to the LeT's terrorist attack by linking it to Kashmir, disregarding the fact that the attack, as seen from the brutal murder of nine Jewish persons and 12 nationals of Western countries, which have contributed forces to the NATO contingent in Afghanistan, was part of the global jihadi agenda unrelated to either Kashmir or the grievances of Indian Muslims.

The shocking attempt by Miliband to play down the murders of 138 Indians  and 25 foreign nationals committed by the Pakistani terrorists should not have come as a surprise to those aware of the historic links of the British intelligence with the Mirpuri migrants from Pakistani-occupied Kashmir in the UK  and their important role during elections in certain constituencies which traditionally return Labour candidates to the House of Commons with the support of the Mirpuri vote bank.

In this connection, I am reproducing below extracts from my article in 2007 on home grown jihadis in the UK and US.

"After Pakistan and Afghanistan, the UK has been traditionally for many years the largest sanctuary to foreign terrorists and extremists. Everybody, who is somebody in the world of terrorism, has found a rear base in the UK -- the Khalistanis in the past, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Mirpuris from PoK, the Chechens, the Al Muhajiroun, the Hizbut Tehrir etc. Having allowed such a medley of terrorists and extremists to operate unchecked from their territory for so long, British intelligence just does not have a correct estimate of how many sleeper cells are operating from their country and of which organisations.

"Since persons of Pakistani origin have been playing an increasingly active role in promoting the activities of al Qaeda, it is necessary to analyse the nature of migration from Pakistan to the UK and the US. Muslims from Pakistan constitute the single largest Muslim migrant group from the sub-continent in both the UK and the US -- followed by Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims. There are estimated to be about 700,000 Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK. No estimate is available in respect of the US.

"The largest migrant group from Pakistan in the UK are Punjabi-speaking Muslims --from Pakistani Punjab as well as PoK. The migrants from PoK are called Mirpuris. They are not ethnic Kashmiris, but Punjabi-speaking migrants whose families had settled in the Mirpur area of the PoK for generations. They were essentially small farmers and landless labourers, who lost their livelihood as a result of the construction of the Mangla dam. They, therefore, migrated to West Europe -- the largest number to the UK and a smaller number to France, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Many of them preferred to go to the UK because it already had a large Punjabi-speaking community from Pakistani Punjab. The initial Mirpuri migrants, who hardly spoke English, felt themselves comfortable in a Punjabi-speaking environment.

"As the number of Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK increased, mosques came up to cater to their religious needs. Till 1977, these mosques were headed by clerics from the more tolerant Barelvi Sunni sect. When General Zia-ul-Haq, a devout Deobandi, captured power in Pakistan in 1977, he embarked on a policy of marginalising the influence of Barelvi clerics not only in Pakistan, but also in Europe and increasing the influence of the rabid Deobandis. He inducted Deobandis into the education department as Arab teachers and into the armed forces to cater to the religious needs of the military personnel. He encouraged and helped the Deobandis to take over the mosques in Pakistan and in the UK by replacing the Barelvis. With the induction of an increasing number of Deobandis started the process of the Arabisation/Wahabisation of the Muslims in Pakistan and of the Pakistani Diaspora in the UK.

"The intelligence agencies of the US and the UK went along with Zia's policy of Arabising/Wahabising the Muslims of Pakistan because this contributed to an increase in the flow of jihadis to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Till 1983, the members of the Pakistani Diaspora in the UK were considered a largely law-abiding people. The first signs of the radicalisation of the Diaspora appeared in 1983 when a group of jihadi terrorists kidnapped Ravi Mhatre, an Indian diplomat posted in the Indian Assistant High Commission in Birmingham, and demanded the release of Maqbool Butt, the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, who was then awaiting execution in Tihar jail in Delhi following his conviction on charges of murder. When India rejected their demand, the terrorists killed Mhatre and threw his body into  one of the streets. This kidnapping and murder was allegedly orchestrated by Amanullah Khan, a Gilgiti from Pakistan. He was assisted by some Mirpuris. The British were uncooperative with India in the investigation and declined to hand over those involved in the kidnapping and murder to India for investigation and prosecution. By closing their eyes to the terrorist activities of the Mirpuris from their territory, they encouraged the further radicalisation of the Diaspora.

"Just as the radicalisation of the Muslims of Pakistan suited the US-UK agenda in Afghanistan, the radicalisation of the Diaspora in the UK, particularly the Mirpuris, suited their agenda for balkanising Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Many Pakistanis from the UK went to the training camps of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (now called the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen) and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in Pakistan and got themselves trained with the knowledge and complicity of the British. They then went to Bosnia and Kosovo to wage a jihad against the Serbs with arms and ammunition and explosives allegedly supplied by the Iranian intelligence with the tacit consent of the Bill Clinton administration and paid for by the Saudi intelligence. As the Pakistani prime minister between 1993 and 1996, Benazir Bhutto had visited these jihadis in the UK. After waging their jihad against the Serbs, they moved from the UK to Pakistan to join the HUA and the LeT and participate in the jihad against India.

"The most notable example of the home-grown UK jihadis who turned against them is Omar Sheikh. From Bosnia, he came to India to wage a jihad and was arrested by the Indian security forces. He was released following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar by a group of Harkat-ul-Maujahideen terrorists. After his release, he went to Pakistan and orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl. The second notable example is Rashid Rauf, a Mirpuri, who went to Pakistan from the UK to join the Jaish-e-Mohammad after marrying a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the Jaish amir. He was allegedly involved in the plot detected by the London police in August 2006 to blow up a number of US-bound planes. This plot was hatched by some members of the Pakistani Diaspora in the UK. (Rauf was recently killed in a US Predator strike on an al Qaeda hide-out in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan)

"The Mirpuris were in the forefront of those supporting jihadi terrorism against India in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India since 1993, when the Pakistani jihadi organisations of Afghan vintage were infiltrated into India by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. They collected and sent funds to the jihadi terrorists in India. Many of them underwent training in the camps of the LeT, HuM, JeM and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami in Pakistan. The British intelligence was aware of members of the Diaspora going to Pakistan for training, but closed its eyes to it since it thought that they were going to wage a jihad against the Indians in J&K.

"A careful examination of the details relating to the various jihadi terrorism-related cases in the UK would reveal that MI5 was intercepting the telephone conversations of these Mirpuris and other Punjabi Muslims with their friends and relatives in which they spoke of going to Pakistan for jihadi training. It did not take any action against them because it thought that they were going to wage a jihad only against the Indians and hence did not pose a threat to the British. The MI5 intercepted the telephone conversation of even one of the perpetrators of the London blasts of July 2005, about his going to Pakistan for jihadi training. It did not act on it thinking he intended to wage a jihad against the Indians. Only after the London blasts, did MI5 realise with a rude shock that this Mirpuri was talking not of going to India to wage a jihad against the Indians, but to London to wage a jihad against the British.

"Today, innocent British civilians are paying for the sins of commission and omission of their authorities since jihadi terrorism broke out in Indian territory in 1989. It would be very difficult for the MI5 to have an accurate idea of the number of trained Pakistani jihadis already in their midst. Reliable police sources in Pakistan say that there are at least about 200 trained, potential suicide bombers in the Pakistani Diaspora in the UK waiting for an opportunity to strike. These trained potential suicide bombers also provide a recruitment reservoir for future operations of Al Qaeda in the US homeland.

"The position in the Pakistani Diaspora in the US is somewhat different. The initial wave of migrants to the US from Pakistan consisted largely of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs from Sindh, who originally went to Pakistan from India. The influence of the more tolerant Barelvi sect on them is still very strong. The extremist Deobandi/Wahabi ideology has not yet made the same impact on them as it has on the Punjabi-speaking Pakistani Diaspora in the UK.  Moreover, there has hardly been any migration of the Mirpuris from the PoK into the US. Most of the Kashmiri migration into the US has been of ethnic Kashmiris -- either Hindu Pandits, who were driven out of the Valley by the jihadi terrorists after 1989, or sufi Muslims from the valley. The Muslims from the valley, who had migrated to the US from J&K, are politically active against India, but they have so far kept away from the Deobandis and Wahabis.

"Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the migration of Punjabi-speaking Muslims from Pakistan into the US. There has been growing Deobandi/Wahabi influence on them. It is these elements that al Qaeda has been targeting for recruitment. A saving grace is that the US intelligence has a better awareness than the British of the dangers that could arise from its population of Pakistani origin and has been keeping a tight watch on them. The British are paying a heavy price for their negligence till now."

B Raman