An audio recording explaining why militants attack the state, military and civilians and engage in kidnappings and bank robberies has recently emerged online.
The conversation is described as being between Harkat-e-Islami Uzbekistan’s Mufti Abuzar Hifzullah and an unnamed religious scholar reportedly employed by the Pakistan Army. A website states that the conversation took place via a ‘wireless set’ in Shaktoi, South Waziristan.
Hifzullah could refer to Mufti Abuzar Khanjari, who BBC has reported as being part of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The two discuss issues such as the destruction of mosques, legality of killing women and children and accepting US aid. They argue the definition of who is ‘liable’ to be killed and what foreign fighters are doing in the country.
Inter-Services Public Relations’ director general Major-General Athar Abbas said he was unaware of any such recording. As far as the presence of religious scholars or clerics with military units is concerned, Abbas said,“I don’t know how you would define a cleric, but the military does have chaplains who are part of each unit. They are non-combatants, so they remain part of the base camp. They do give sermons, but these are authorised, vetted and provided by the army. The chaplains are supervised by the commanding officer and do not do anything that is not in line with what he says.”
As far as the likelihood of a chaplain engaging with a militant or any other individual is concerned, Abbas said that the chaplains – like any other soldier – also go out of the camps, on leave, etc and were not “under detention or any such thing” but are free to move around.
The audio cannot be independently verified, since the individuals do not name themselves and there is no time frame available for when the audio was recorded.
The recording begins with the military operation at Lal Masjid in 2007, after which there was a surge in suicide bombings. The military scholar questions the existence of arms in Lal Masjid and asks why militants now attack mosques. Hifzullah justifies this practice by saying that killing ‘munafiq’ (hypocrites) in mosques is legitimate, as is the killing of religious scholars – or anyone else – who does not agree with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s stance.
The conversation – during which neither scholar backs down – is an interesting insight into how militants and the army use religion to justify their work, albeit with very different interpretations.
The ‘scholars’ debate the concept of accepting US aid for military operations. Hifzullah says that it is a sin to take aid from infidels (referring to the US) to kill Muslims, which the military scholar challenges with the assertion that militants took aid from the US to fight in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which Hifzullah accepts. However, his justification is that it is permissible to take aid from non-believers if it does not “harm Islam and Shariat”.
The scholar challenges Hifzullah’s claims, saying that the military works for its lawful salary and does not take money from anyone. He also asks why militants did not attack the state previously, such as in General Ziaul Haq’s reign, when there was no imposition of Shariah in Pakistan. Hifzullah says they were “mistaken” and should have been engaged in jihad since 1947.
Hifzullah says that the practice of robbing banks is ‘legal’ and their ‘right’ because this is ‘maal-e-ghanimat’ (spoils of war). Hifzullah says that they attack banks which have government accounts. “Emptying Pakistani banks is jihad… The money has been made by selling our fighters” [likely referring to people handed over to US custody after the 9/11 attacks]. He also defends the practice of kidnapping people for ransom; but says that they do not kidnap minors.
Hifzullah also declares the military as ‘murtid’ (apostates) for conducting operations in the tribal areas, accepting aid from the US and killing Muslims. The scholar asks how militants know whether someone is a Muslim or not.
“You kill those people,” the military scholar says, “who recite the Kalima repeatedly and say they are Muslims.”
The scholar asks how many Pakistanis have been killed compared to Americans. Hifzullah’s reply is that killing Pakistani officers is the same as killing Americans, as they consider them as one.
The scholar repeatedly brings up attacks on civilians, such as those in Lahore’s Moon Market and the December 2007 attack in Kamra on a Pakistan Aeronautical Complex bus that was transporting air force employees’ children. The scholar repeatedly asks why militants attack women and children, when doing so is forbidden in Islam.
Hifzullah says that these ‘children’ were older and their deaths were a consequence of the militants’ campaign against the armed forces. “It is a military school; children also die when you are killing adults.” He quotes religious accounts to show precedents of killing women and children, which the military scholar challenges.
He also thanks God for the 2005 earthquake which “killed thousands of military personnel” and last year’s flood which destroyed an “army camp and depots in Nowshera which had ammunition meant for the tribal areas” and caused destruction in Swat which “came as soon as the militants left and your ‘peace’ had been established”.
The scholar says the militants have failed because they have not removed Pakistani or US forces from the tribal areas and Afghanistan respectively. He also taunts Hifzullah by saying that Hezbollah was better, since they “kicked Israel out of Lebanon in a month” but militants “could not even free Kashmir”.
While the scholar prays that Hifzullah and his ilk see the error of their ways, Hifzullah remarks that there will be “no peace in the country until we are peaceful”.
A shorter version of this article was published in The Express Tribune on August 20, 2011.