Munawar Hasan’s resolute defence of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has only brought into the open the JI’s not so secret connections with the militant forces challenging the Pakistani state. The truth is that many of those fighting in the tribal areas or those who have been involved in the attacks on the security installations have had some kind of an association with the JI.
Surely this is not by accident. In fact, the country’s most powerful mainstream Islamic party has been in bed with Al Qaeda, possibly even before the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. The liaison was first exposed when Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was captured from the house of the leader of the JI’s women’s wing in Rawalpindi’s cantonment area as far back as 2003.
This was certainly not an isolated phenomenon. There were other instances where JI members were found to have sheltered foreign fugitives. In a recent incident last month, security forces apprehended an Al Qaeda operative from the room of a member of the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba, the student wing of the JI, in the Punjab University’s student hostel. The investigations revealed that the man was in contact with some key officials of the student group.
These incidents underscore the support network that Al Qaeda enjoys in Pakistan. The linkages have also helped Al Qaeda recruit a new generation of young educated militants from urban areas. Most of them are splinters of mainstream Islamic political parties, including the JI, who have joined the jihadi network, presenting a formidable challenge to the Pakistani state. They have become the planners of many terrorist attacks heralding the new phase of militancy sweeping the country.