Ilyas Kashmiri: end of a terrorist

Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the most notorious Pakistani terrorists, was reportedly killed in a drone strike on Friday night in South Waziristan. Kashmiri’s name was on the list of top five militants handed over to Pakistan by the US authorities recently. He was head of the banned terrorist organisation Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), which has close links with al Qaeda. A statement from HuJI’s 313 Brigade confirmed that in Friday’s drone attack at 11:15pm their commander-in-chief, Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed and vowed to avenge his death from the US. “Our only target is America,” said the statement whereas the attacks carried out under Kashmiri’s notorious command were mainly against Pakistanis, Indians and Afghans. According to slain journalist Saleem Shahzad’s last report, it was Kashmiri’s group that carried out the audacious attack on PNS Mehran last month.

Trained by our intelligence agencies for fighting in the Afghan jihad to carrying out militancy in Indian Kashmir, Ilyas Kashmiri was considered a ‘strategic asset’ for decades by Pakistan’s security establishment until he turned rogue. He was accused of an assassination attempt on former president General Musharraf but was released due to lack of evidence. He was also said to be involved in the attack on GHQ in 2009. Kashmiri resurfaced after a report that he had been killed in a drone strike a couple of years ago. David Coleman Headley, co-accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a star witness in the Rana trial currently underway in Chicago, revealed that Kashmiri had planned to kill the CEO of Lockheed Martin “because he was making drones”. In a strange twist of fate, it was a drone attack that put an end to Kashmiri’s life. Drone attacks, whether one supports them or not, have led to the deaths of hundreds of militants who have proved to be a security hazard for not just Pakistan and the South Asian region but the whole world.

It is widely believed that drone strikes in Pakistan are carried out by the US because of a tacit agreement with our authorities. They started when General Musharraf was in power and according to diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, even chief of army staff General Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani supported these strikes in private while speaking against them in public. Religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and politicians like Imran Khan have taken out protest rallies against drone strikes. Even the Americans are split over these strikes according to a report published in The Wall Street Journal, which said: “Fissures have opened within the Obama administration over the drone programme targeting militants in Pakistan, with the US ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in the Central Intelligence Agency’s [CIA’s] aggressive pace of strikes.” Drone attacks have certainly led to an increase in anti-American sentiment in Pakistan but whether stopping these strikes would decrease or put an end to such sentiment is questionable given the fact that religious parties, politicians and our security establishment keep fanning it. Apart from India and Israel, now the US too has become one of our favourite punching bags. The only way to deal with this issue is to change our security paradigm. Pakistan’s military must give up its double game and dismantle all terror networks operating on our soil even if they are still considered ‘strategic assets’. Sooner rather than later all these assets will come back to bite us. Living in denial of this obvious development is what has gotten Pakistan to the brink of self-annihilation. It is time to take control of the situation. It is time to get rid of many more Ilyas Kashmiris who are roaming freely in Pakistan.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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