KARACHI: The Afghan Taliban on Tuesday took the unusual step of declaring the Haqaani network as its handmaiden and distancing the network from Pakistani patronage or control.
“America … wants to spread the mentality that one of jihad’s prominent personalities and a member of the Islamic Emirate’s Leadership Council, Al-Hajj Maulawi Jalaluddin Haqqani, is a separate force and is tied to others,” said the Taliban statement issued in the name of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and e-mailed to journalists.
The statement said that Jalaluddin – an Afghan warlord in the 1980s who later founded the dreaded Haqqani network – “receives all guidance for operations from the (supreme) leader of Islamic Emirate (Mullah Muhammad Omar).”
(Read: Who on earth are the Haqqanis?)
In the wake of this month’s 20-hour siege of the US embassy and Nato headquarters in Kabul, Washington has accused Islamabad of supporting the Haqqani network. So much so that Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen called it a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s top spy agency – the ISI.
The Taliban believes the US is trying to destabilise Pakistan. “America wants to spread chaos in Pakistan through various means, weaken its government and make it dependent upon them,” said the militia in the statement.
The Taliban blamed the United States, though not directly, for the ongoing militancy in Pakistan. “America … make(s) them (Pakistani government and citizens) fight each other to show that there (are), what they call, terrorist sanctuaries there,” the statement said.
The militia, which was ousted from power in Afghanistan in 2001 by the US-led coalition, “advised people of Pakistan and its government” to prioritise “Islamic and national interests” and stand firm in the face of “America’s two-faced and implacable politics”. “America will never be happy with them (Pakistan) until they loot all their material and moral assets,” the statement said.
The Taliban also scoffed at US claims of the Taliban maintaining sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal regions. “Our bases are neither in Pakistan nor do we need residence outside of our country,” said the statement. “All the military and civilian activities in the country are our own initiatives and our own actions.”
The group’s spokesperson said that they control large swathes of Afghanistan and have the required expertise to fight a long war.
“We don’t need to have bases in any other country. And we have 30 years of fighting experience. We don’t need a foreign intelligence agency to train us,” Zabiullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune by phone from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. “The Americans have not been able to defeat us. And now they want to cover up their failures.”
“All this talk of the Haqqani network and Quetta Shura controlling our jihad from Pakistan is baseless,” Mujahid added.
(Read: ‘No sanctuaries in Pakistan’ - Haqqani network shifts base to Afghanistan)
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin who heads the group, told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that it no longer needs sanctuaries in Pakistan because it feels “more secure in Afghanistan”.
In Tuesday’s statement, the militia said that, by such propaganda, America wanted to portray “mujahideen” as a defeated and divided force and to denigrate “prominent figures” of the Taliban movement.
But they said the “Islamic Emirate is at its strongest and unified more than it has been at any other stage”. It called upon “America and her allies” to end the “occupation of Afghanistan as quickly as possible and do now what must inevitably be done.”
Although there is little to suggest the United States is considering a cross-border incursion against the Haqqanis, Pakistanis fear action from American ground troops. And political parties, especially the right-wing religious groups are using this hostile sentiment as a rallying slogan.
On Tuesday, Jamaat-e-Islami staged a huge rally in Sadokhel Zernoor Kallay of Landikotal subdivision, in Khyber Agency. It was the first political rally by the JI in tribal areas after the expansion of the Political Parties Act to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Hundreds of participants threatened that they would wage jihad against the United States, if it dared a military adventure in North Waziristan.
Waving party flags and wearing ribbons, hundreds of tribesmen joined the throng armed with Kalashnikovs.
“We announce jihad against America if they attack Pakistan,” Jamaat-e-Islami chief in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Sirajul Haq told the gathering. “The whole nation will wage a jihad against America,” he added.
(With additional reporting by Amirzad Afridi in Khyber Agency)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2011.
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