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Why rise of Punjabi Taliban spells trouble for both India, ISI

By Vicky Nanjappa
November 10, 2010 15:51 IST
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A recent report from Pakistan suggested that cracks have surfaced in the Lashkar-e-Tayiba pushing some of its operatives to join the Punjabi Taliban. At first, this was looked at as a strategic move by the LeT and Inter-Services Intelligence to create an impression that all was not well with the primary terrorist organisation in Pakistan.

However, intelligence agencies now say that the expansion of the Punjabi Taliban is a matter of concern since the terror outfit is expected to emerge stronger that before with several LeT operatives joining hands with them.

Indian intelligence agencies tell that the LeT has always had a connection with the Punjabi Taliban. The association between the two militant outfits starts at the training stage where all LeT militants receive training by the Punjabi Taliban.

This terror group first came into existence to battle United States forces in Afghanistan. Over a period of time, they started to fight the Pakistan security forces as well, which following directions from the US had started to crack down on militant outfits. 

A large number of the Punjab Taliban cadres are from the Punjab area of Pakistan, which incidentally houses the country's army bases. Most of these militants have received sophisticated training from the Pakistani army. In fact, a lot of Pakistan army personnel also joined hands with the Punjabi Taliban in the earlier days since they sympathised with the cause the outfit was espousing, said the report.

Trouble for India       

The emergence of the Punjabi Taliban worries India. Although this outfit will focus largely on operations against the US in Afghanistan, India has plenty to worry about.

India will not forget that the Punjabi Taliban was first instituted by the Pakistanis to fight in Kashmir. Although the ISI controls the manner in which the Kashmir battle is fought, the cadres of this outfit have now decided to go on its own and intellegience agencies are pretty sure that they will continue their battle in Kashmir by themselves.

In addition to this, the outfit has many of its support bases along the Indian border and there is every chance of them infiltrating into the country, the report said.

ISI's growing concern

There has been a paradigm shift in the manner in which this outfit has been thinking off late. They have started joining hands with the Taliban and a section of the Al Qaeda, as they feel that they have a common enemy. The ISI has been deliberately going slow when it comes to battling the US, a fact that has not gone down too well with these outfits.

The bigger worry is that India's biggest enemy -- LeT operative David Headley's handler Ilyas Kashmir -- is a part of the Punjabi Taliban. 

Kashmiri's love affair with the ISI has come to an end for a second time and he too has decided to go against them. He has now chosen to stay away from the LeT as well since he feels that supporting this outfit, which is ISI driven, would mean not taking on the US directly.

In the days to come, there will be further splits in the LeT since there is growing dissidence within the outfit. With more and more LeT operatives joining the Punjabi Taliban the tension between the two outfits is likely to escalate. The growing discord means that Lashkar operatives will not have access to training by the Punjabi Taliban and this has the ISI worried. It was the likes of Kashmiri wich helped the Lashkar militants train for the 26/11 attacks.

The Intelligence Bureau says that these are passing problems for the ISI and it would reach some kind of a compromise in the near future. The bigger worry is that if these outfits come together since they will be a much stronger force to reckon with.

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