Book Review by Dr Mohammad Taqi
Author: Arif Jamal
Publisher: AvantGarde Books
Price: US$ 100
During his visit to India, US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to work with India to destroy the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) that he equated with al Qaeda. India had recently protested with Pakistan over yet another delay in the trial of the LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and others who are charged with the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. The latest book by the former New York Times contributor and author Arif Jamal meticulously describes why there should be little expectation of a trial and due punishment.
It notes that the moment international pressure on Pakistan to try the LeT men relented, the Advocate General of Punjab told the Supreme Court (SC): “The Punjab government wanted to withdraw the appeal because the Punjab government did not have enough evidence against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed” of the LeT’s parent outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Saeed was subsequently released from an ostensible house arrest. Jamal notes that LeT operatives have lived large under custody, enjoyed conjugal visit privileges and, while in jail, “Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi even fathered a son who is being raised as an LeT jihadist.” Jamal writes that the jihadists have nicknamed the boy Maulana Adialavi, apparently after the Adiala prison where he was conceived!
Arif Jamal has produced one of the most detailed accounts of the doctrine(s), strategy, tactics and goals of the LeT that he expounds is just the India-oriented head of the jihadist hydra JuD, which aims to launch not a regional but a transnational holy war. The author traces the ideological and organisational origins of the JuD to the November 1979 rebellion and takeover of the Holy Kaaba by the Salafi millenarian group led by Juhayman al-Utaybi and patronised, among others, by the former Saudi chief cleric Abdul Aziz bin Baz.
The Saudis quelled the rebellion with help from France and later executed al-Utaybi and dozens of his cohorts, including the self-professed Mahdi (messiah) Muhammad al-Qahtani. However, the radical Salafist legions, called the Juhayman’s ikhwan (brothers), survived, including a Pakistani cleric named Maulana Badiuddin Rashdi of the Ahle Hadith sect and the Saudi siblings of Indian descent, Ahmed and Mahmood Bahaziq. Jamal chronicles the founding of the original Pakistani Salafi jihadist enterprise Markaz Dawa’-wal-Irshad (MDI) in Lahore in 1987 by Rashdi, the Bahaziq brothers, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Zafar Iqbal, Amir Hamza and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Saeed was a rather low ranking figure in the Pakistani Salafi hierarchy and was appointed merely the mudeer (manager) of the MDI.
He would later elbow out his ailing mentor Allama Rashdi to take over as the emir (head) of the MDI that later on changed its named to the JuD in the aftermath of the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. The JuD has retained Juhayman’s creed minus any overt longing for a messiah.
While the book uses the LeT — the most vicious and well-known brand of the Pakistan-based Salafist franchise — in the title, the author has made every effort to highlight that JuD remains the overarching jihadist umbrella that sees Kashmir as only a jumping board to the rest of India and, in turn, India as a prelude to its transnational holy war. Arif Jamal notes that being born out of the Juhayman’s ikhwan that had cells in several countries gave MDI/JuD a head start in its world jihadist campaign. He writes that the 1990s Bosnian war was truly an MDI/JuD jihadist campaign for which scholars and policy makers gave al Qaeda erroneous and undue credit. Jamal archives that the first battlefield exposure of LeT men like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was in Urgun, Paktika, which is the city where the Jalaluddin Haqqani network had once started its reign of terror. The MDI/JuD were closely allied with Afghan Salafis like Abdur-Rab Rasul Sayyaf and Jamil-ur-Rehman’s groups in Nuristan and Kunar, and used and later took over their training camps (muaskar). Hafiz Saeed did his militant training in one of Sayyaf’s camps near Sadda in the Lower Kurram Agency while JuD’s men were one of the first outsiders waging holy war in Chechnya. Jamal is spot on that, despite collaborating and/or competing with al Qaeda and its allies intermittently, the JuD arrived on the transitional jihadist scene long before it and will outlive it.
Arif Jamal’s gripping account of the ideological and numerical monstrosity that the JuD has become, with roughly half a million men having graduated through its militancy programmes, is anchored firmly in primary source information, personal interviews with the JuD leaders including Hafiz Saeed, and visits to their training facilities. Jamal’s strength is however not just as a chronicler but also as a scholar of the jihadist doctrine and its nuances in which he outshines his peers. He cuts through the mishmash of fundamentalist Islamism to show that similar strains of Wahhabism and Salafism compete and the latter’s scholars like Nasiruddin al-Albani look at the former with certain scorn. Jamal has called the JuD a “wholly owned subsidiary of the ISI” but has successfully resisted the temptation to view it through the ISI lens.
He is of the view that while the ISI, which to him is merely a euphemism for the Pakistan army, preserves and manipulates the JuD marionette for projecting power in both India and Afghanistan, the jihadists consciously underplay both their local and transnational agendas as they do not want a premature fight on their hands. While the ISI has pitched the Salafis against the Deobandi jihadists that it can no longer control, the Salafis intend to convert or subdue all other jihadist shades for doctrinal reasons as well.
The author cites the cardinal JuD treatise, “Jihad in the Present Times” that lists eight reasons to wage holy war, to describe the global ambition of the JuD for which it already has proactive cells in all Muslim countries, the Philippines, Thailand, Europe, the UK and the US.
The book spans 12 chapters and is literally a treasure trove of information on the JuD organisational structure, manpower, training and recruitment methods, operations (including the Mumbai attacks) and indeed the Salafist creed. It is a marvellous database of organisational and individuals’ names that anyone dealing with the JuD will miss at their peril. Including an abbreviation list, glossary of Arabic terms and an expanded index in the next print edition would be highly desirable as would be a searchable electronic edition.
Arif Jamal stops short of making any policy recommendations but it would be extremely imprudent for politicians and counterterrorism experts to ignore this profoundly well-documented and timely warning in the face of the MDI/JuD/LeT’s call for a transnational jihad.
The Daily Times, 7 August 2014