Interview with the former chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba.
Professor Mohammad Hafiz Said, former chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (the army of the pure) and self-confessed mastermind behind the suicide attacks in Kashmir, a trend that started in 1999, breaks a long period of silence and gives insights into the current state of affairs and future of his banned organisation.
Said devised suicide bombings in Kashmir as a "socio-religious political tool" against the "Indian occupation". He claims to have orchestrated around 200 suicide attacks between 1999 and 2002 that killed hundreds of Indian Army personnel, expending only a few mujahideen (freedom fighters) lives. Prior to the founding of the Lashkar in 1986, he served at the University of Lahore as Professor of Islamic Studies.
General Pervez Musharraf outlawed the Lashkar on January 13, 2002 in the aftermath of the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. On December 24, 2001, Said stepped down from its leadership, renaming the Markaz al Dawatul Wal Irshad (whose armed wing was the Lashkar-e-Toiba) as the Jamaat ud Dawa and assuming its leadership. He limited the Lashkar's activities to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and handed it over to Maulana Abdul Wahid Kashmiri.
The Lashkar today operates freely in the PoK and is supported by the Jamaat ud Dawa, whose offices situated across the country serve as its centres also. Said was arrested in May 2002 but released by a court on October 31, 2002 on the basis of the argument that he had resigned from the leadership of the Lashkar before it was banned as a terrorist outfit. But he is still very much its de facto boss, controlling its purse strings and its rank and file.
After his release from jail, he has not been as guarded and careful in his pronouncements as the other leaders of the banned militia groups. The Jaish-e-Mohammad's firebrand leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, for instance, has kept his peace at a time when Pakistan cannot afford to provoke the outside world. Said was in Islamabad on April 2 to address the Defence of Muslim Fraternity Conference organised by the Jamaat ud Dawa. It was the first public gathering in three years organised by a militant organisation in Islamabad, where he spoke to Mohammad Shehzad. Excerpts.
Your sentiments are fiery, inflammatory and provocative.
My sentiments are within the limits prescribed by the Holy Koran. Allah has asked the Prophet Mohammad and Muslims to take up swords and other weapons, go to the battlefield and cleanse the world of the infidels' tyranny and emancipate the suppressed from their oppression. Allah has chosen Muslims for this job. So it is the holy duty of Muslims to fight the non-believers' oppression wherever it is taking place. Muslims all over the world are being victimised by infidels. The West is looting them, working to usurp their wealth, property and rights. This is a worrisome situation that could be addressed only through jehad and the murder of the tyrants.What would happen otherwise?
The evil would spread. Muslims would be wiped out. Their places of worship would be demolished, just like the Babri mosque in India. Jehad is indispensable for the protection of places of worship as well as the protection of the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims. There is no greater cause than jehad.
You visited the United States in 1994 and lectured in 20 cities. What was your impression of the U.S. state and society at that time?
At that time the U.S. was not hostile towards Pakistan. Its attitude became anti-Islam after the collapse of the USSR and the fall of Communism. (The events of) 9/11 added fuel to the U.S.' animosity and bias against the Islamic world.What is your vision of the U.S.?
The U.S. is a monster that would like to devour all the weak nations, particularly the Muslim countries, in order to establish its hegemony. It has attacked Iraq. The next target will be Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. After that, it will deal with China and then the other powers. To save the world from its evils, it is necessary to twist the U.S.' neck. This is the only solution for global peace - jehad!Why would the U.S. target Pakistan?
The U.S.' nefarious plan is to take control of all the world's resources forcibly. Its next plan is to create an Israel-esque state in South Asia and control the oil reserves of Central Asia. Pakistan is the biggest hurdle in this scheme because it is a nuclear power and a very close friend of China. It is a nation of jehadists. These factors are creating hurdles to the U.S.' ulterior motives. The White House is devising a strategy to attack Pakistan. Its scientists are burning the midnight oil to improve the U.S.' weapons. `Iraq-II' is on the cards! The sanctions in force against the Kahuta research laboratory and the accusations about transfer of nuclear technology by Pakistan to North Korea indicate that Pakistan is next in line. The rulers often ask: "What is our fault? What have we done that would provoke the U.S. to attack us?" I ask, what was Saddam's fault? What had he done that provoked the U.S. to attack Iraq? (The United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector) Hans Blix confirmed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, although it was Iraq's right to make such weapons for its defence. Despite that, Iraq has been attacked. That shows that the U.S. has no respect for any law, institution or principle. It has no regard for justice. It believes in `might is right'.So what should we do?
We should say adieu to the frustrating slogan, `Pakistan First', and demonstrate our courage. We have to defend every inch of our homeland. We don't trust the rulers. They are the lackeys of the foreign powers. They can't defend Pakistan. We will have to take up that job. The U.S. is insisting on inspecting Pakistan's nuclear installations and weapons. Pakistan should not agree to such demands. If the rulers allowed the U.S. access to such installations, we will resist it.
You often term India, the U.S. and Israel an axis of evil.
We have to fight the triple axis of evil - India, the U.S. and Israel. The India-Israel defence pact is anti-Pakistan and it has been masterminded by the U.S. The U.S. is masterminding a programme according to which India will be used against Pakistan. This is a very dangerous sign. It is time to understand this move and counter it through a jehad against India.
In an interview with the weekly Takbeer in 1997 you said that Kashmir will win its freedom within two years. What went wrong?
The Kashmir cause received a serious setback due to 9/11. Freedom movements around the world, particularly in the Islamic countries, have been declared "acts of terror". The U.S. is trying to suppress all such struggles for freedom. Kashmir would have won its freedom had Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not withdrawn forces from the Kargil front. We were very close to victory but the traitor Sharif sold out the blood of the Mujahideen to the U.S. It will take time. But I assure you that the Kashmir movement will be successful.
How far is it true to say that your bitterness against India is due to the fact that 36 members of your (extended) family lost their lives at the time of Partition?
There is no doubt about the fact that several members of my family were made martyrs by Hindus. But my bitterness is over India's overall policies, tone and tenor against the Muslim. Right from the time of Partition till today, whatever India has done - be it the demolition of the Babri mosque and the massacre of Muslims in its aftermath, or the holocaust in Gujarat against Muslims - proves that the policy of Hindus is the genocide of Muslims so that India could become a Hindu-only state.So, what is the solution?
The solution is not to kneel down before them and beg for a dialogue. Dialogue is not a bad idea. But India has never been sincere in resolving issues through talks. It has been finding opportunities to stab Pakistan in the back. Look at its role in the disintegration of Pakistan in 1971. It sent its troops to East Pakistan and paved the way for the creation of Bangladesh. And what a shameful role it is - playing in Kashmir by defying U.N. resolutions and masterminding the mass murder of Kashmiri Muslims. So, we think that our policy of `Kashmir through jehad' is absolutely right. In fact, India has shown us this path of jehad. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate by killing Hindus, just as it is killing Muslims in Kashmir.
How do you respond to Dr. Israr Ahmad when he says the fight in Kashmir is jehad for freedom (jehad fil hurriya) and not jehad for Allah (jehad fisabeel lillah)?
Jehad for freedom is always jehad for Allah. The Koran is very clear on that. There is only one jehad, and that is jehad for Allah. All other forms of jehad are also for Allah. Jehad is only for Allah...
Do you see any circumstance under which the U.S. could play a positive role in Kashmir?
In the light of the U.S.' anti-Muslim and anti-Islam policies, Uncle Sam cannot be trusted. The one who trusts the U.S. these days would be the biggest fool. The U.S. is fanning the sentiments of Muslims. It is provoking the infidel powers against Islam. It has waged a crusade against Muslims. It is condoning Indian acts of terror and extending Hindus its full support. It has declared the legitimate freedom struggle in Kashmir a reign of terror. We will never accept any U.S. role on the Kashmir issue.
The U.S. and India say there is still "infiltration" across the Line of Control.
It is totally wrong. There is no infiltration across the LoC. Everything is being carried out by Kashmiris inside Kashmir. The freedom struggle is indigenous. This baseless accusation is an excuse to hunt Pakistan down.
You have been granted bail. What is your legal situation, and do you expect that the Pakistan government will ever bring charges against you? Do you face any restrictions on your movements or activities in Pakistan?
Yes, there were restrictions. The government of Pakistan banned our outfit, the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Lashkar's role has been limited to Kashmir. The Lashkar is still active in Kashmir. Our mission - the Janmaat ud Dawa's mission - is to preach Islam in every street of the country. We are creating an awakening of jehad among Muslims.
The motto of the Pakistan Army is jehad for Allah. Do you think it is following that motto?
I would like to say that the survival of the entire Muslim world depends on jehad. There is only one solution to the repression against Muslims: that is jehad. It is time for the Army to act according to its motto. It is time for the government to act according to the ideology of Pakistan, that is, Islam, and Islam preaches jehad. I would urge the Pakistan Army to wage jehad for oppressed Muslims around the world.What role do you see for Pakistan on Iraq?
It is our duty to fight the Iraq war. We have to use our military resources for Iraq at every cost. The military resources of all the Muslim countries are a sacred trust for the Muslim fraternity. These resources are not the personal property of the rulers. I urge the government of Pakistan to spend all its resources for Iraq's defence. I urge the government to send the Pakistan Army to Iraq so that it could bury Bush, his allies and his poodle Tony Blair in the deserts of Iraq. Pakistan should donate its nuclear bomb and all its missiles to Iraq because these weapons have been made with our tax money. Since they are of no use to Pakistan, they could be some use to Iraq. Saddam Hussein can show the courage to use them. Pakistan should at least communicate to Washington a categorical warning that if the U.S. launched a nuclear attack on Iraq, it [Pakistan] will launch a nuclear attack on its master, Israel.
You once asked Indian Muslims to stand up for jehad. To what extent were your words heeded?
I feel that it was given due importance. I see that Indian Muslims are awakening to jehad in the aftermath of Hindu brutalities against Muslims in Kashmir, Gujarat and other parts of India. India is in fact inviting its Muslim population for jehad just as the U.S. has invited Iraqi Muslims to wage jehad.
These days you are giving jehad calls at public rallies. What has been the response?
Yes, I'm doing that. I have received a positive response. My followers are ready to sacrifice their lives for jehad. The Jamaat ud Dawa has organised a jehad training programme... (proceeds to provide the telephone numbers).
Some religious scholars say that suicide attacks are un-Islamic.
They are absolutely in accordance with Islam. In fact, a suicide attack is the best form of jehad.What are your plans?
We have intensified preparations for jehad. We are not afraid of the rulers. We only fear God. We will follow divine orders. We will promote jehad. Allah says, Oh Muslims, increase your power. Allah says, Oh Muslims make atom bombs. Allah is ordering us to prepare all kinds of weapons and build lashkars (armies) so that our enemies in the Pentagon and the White House dare not attack us!