Pakistan releases Taliban mentor

Arrests with a bang, releases with scarcely a whimper

The international jihadi community just got its Christmas present. Fazlur Rehman Khalil, one of the strongest backers of the Taliban, al Qaeda and global jihad has, as expected, just been quietly set on the loose again.

The security agencies have reportedly freed Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khaleel after keeping him in jail for seven months. He was picked up in May earlier when charges were flying thick and fast that he was responsible for sending fighters into Afghanistan after 9/11. His old jihadi militia called Harkatul Mujahideen, was renamed after being placed under a ban, as Jamiatul Ansar. After the attempt on the life of Mr Shaukat Aziz last August, Mr Khaleel’s old ally Qari Saifullah Akhtar was arrested from one of the Gulf states and put in jail. It is interesting to note that once upon a time both were in the same jihadi outfit, the notorious Harkatul Ansar, which was the first to be banned by the United States as a terrorist group.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khaleel is a graduate from the Multan seminary of Deobandi clerics. He was close to Osama bin Laden when it was okay to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. His Harkat contained another leader called Maulana Masood Azhar — of the Banuri seminary in Karachi — who broke with him and established the dreaded Jaish-e-Muhammad that attacked the parliament in New Delhi in 2001. Mr Khaleel was targeted by the Americans, and some people think his “arrest” may be a “protective” measure to retain his usefulness for the jihad. That makes three warlords out in the open, the others being Hafiz Said of the old Lashkar-e-Tayba and Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish. All were, and remain, key players in the Kashmir jihad. [Daily Times]

Musharraf justified his ‘pardon’ of A Q Khan on the ground that it is difficult to prosecute a national hero under pressure from the United States. But what grounds does the General have not to prosecute the jihadi triumvirate under anti-terrorism laws he introduced? For those who need a ready reckoning on Musharraf’s performance in the war on terror, one look at his record on handling jihadi kingpins will suffice; not a single major jihadi kingpin has been arrested and prosecuted, even under Pakistan’s notoriously mangled judicial system.

The news of this release came shortly after the US Congress allowed a $1.3 billion aid package to go through to Pakistan. It remains to be seen if F-16 fighter aircraft can help arrest and prosecute these jihadi leaders.

Related Posts: The lowdown on Musharraf’s (Nov 2003) crackdown; Arresting top jihadis is only the first step (Aug 2004); ISI spawn in custody.

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