A Tricky Balance

Blog entry posted 05.16.2011 in Pakistan
A Tricky Balance in Pakistan (Photo: TopNews.in)

THE Jamaatud Dawa (JD) is so far the only pro-militant organisation in Pakistan that has offered funeral prayers for Osama Bin Laden. None of the other militant organisations that had close links with the Al Qaeda chief have done so. Pakistan`s religious-political parties have also been very guarded in their initial reaction to Bin Laden`s killing by US forces in an Abbottabad compound.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman — who launched a countrywide anti-US campaign in July 1999 to mount pressure against a possible strike in Afghanistan to target Osama Bin Laden and who the media referred to as Bin Laden`s `second` consequently — refused to comment on Bin Laden`s death. He was in Brussels at the time of Bin Laden`s death, where he was to address the European Parliament as head of the Pakistani parliament`s Kashmir committee.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, head of the banned militant group Harkatul Mujahideen (HM), who had first declared jihad against the US in Pakistan after US cruise missiles targeted his militant training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998, was also silent. HM camps were targeted in 1998 because the US suspected that the Al Qaeda chief was hiding in one of them.
Besides the HM, some other militant groups, including Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami, Jaish-i-Muhammad and Al Badar Mujahideen also had close ties with Bin Laden who had reportedly played a role in settling their internal disputes on more than one occasion. None of these organisations have publicly commented on the killing.

It may be argued that the absence of a public reaction might be due to the fact that these organisations are banned and their leadership is underground. However, most of these organisations retain a public face and continue to operate in the garb of charities. They have organised public events on issues closer to their heart on several occasions and the fact that they are banned has not been a hurdle in those instances. It is entirely conceivable that they do not want to attract attention towards themselves by making their views on Bin Laden`s death public.

The JD, which is on the US list of terrorist organisations on account of links with the Lashkar-i-Taiba, has developed political credentials in recent years and is active in the politics of agitation in Pakistan, mainly on religious issues. It has tried to keep its distance from Al Qaeda since 9/11 and has apparently joined the opposing Saudi camp.

JD publications now sing praises of the Saudi kingdom, which had revoked Bin Laden`s citizenship and has hoped that the Al Qaeda leader`s death would boost efforts to counter terrorism. Amid Iran`s criticism of Riyadh`s role following the recent unrest in Bahrain, the JD came forward to defuse the anti-Saudi campaign by pro-Shia elements in Pakistan and launched rallies and demonstrations across the country in support of Saudi Arabia.

It seems confusing that, on the one hand, a state welcomes the killing of Bin Laden and on the other, a pro-militant group, which brands itself as an ally of the same state declares him a martyr. But then nothing is ever simple in Pakistan.

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[Excerpt: See accompanying link for full text.]

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