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Bahawalpur is Mecca of Pakistani Jihadis !

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion

Submitted by Nicole (India), Aug 14, 2007 at 12:37

If there is a crossroads of terror in Pakistan, it must be the town of Bahawalpur in southern Punjab. Home of at least one known terrorist organisation and several radical madrassas, or religious schools, Bahawalpur has became a focus for investigations in Pakistan following the foiling of an alleged plot to blow up aircraft flying across the Atlantic. Normally the local people might take pride in the actions of the jihadists. Only last month the relatives of one of the London bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, commemorated his death in a nearby village. But tongues have been silenced by the presence of the Pakistani security forces. Hafiz Allah Bukhsh, 75, who is the father of the alleged founder of one of Pakistan's most notorious terrorist groups, Jaish-e-Mohammed (the Army of Mohammed), has been told to shut up and many of the town's jihadis have been arrested or have gone to ground.

On Thursday he was reported as claiming that a British suspect arrested in connection with the aircraft plots, Rashid Rauf, who is related to him by marriage, had been a member of the Army of Mohammed. Yesterday, in the company of a knot of burly mullahs and plain-clothed security agents, he denied that he had made the remarks and confined himself to saying: "I only heard about the connection to my family yesterday. "I have not seen my son's face for four years," said Mr Bukhsh, tears summoned to his cheeks. "There is an injustice in this world. I brought my children up as religious men and religious men can do no wrong." According to Mr Bukhsh, one of his sons, a brother-in-law and two sons-in-law have either been arrested or have gone into hiding since the Army of Mohammed was linked to the alleged aircraft plot.

Mr Bukhsh hails from a lower class and destitute part of Bahawalpur. His son, Maulana Masood Azhar, alleged to be the founder of the Army of Mohammed, is on the run. He was released from Indian imprisonment in 1999 in exchange for 155 Indian Airlines hostages. The shabbiness of his Usman-ul-Ali madrassa, outside which Mr Bukhsh rested on a charpai bed, belied the tales told of riches having been bestowed on the group by the Pakistan security services to carry out jihad against India. Bahawalpur, a rag-tag town set in the Punjab's hinterland, is the hub of a network of relationships between well-known terrorist groups and murkier splinter groups that are thought to share responsibility for carrying out atrocities ranging from the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and high profile attacks in India to hijacking aircraft. In October 2001, eight gunmen entered St Dominic's Church in Bahawalpur and massacred 17 Pakistani Christians.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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