Former members of the banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), taught to live and die for the cause of Islam, are increasingly getting attracted towards the ultra-extremist militant outfit, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after JuD went soft on proactive jihad and started engaging in welfare activities in Pakistan, after global pressure mounted on militant outfits following the al Qaeda orchestrated 9/11 attacks in the United States and the Mumbai attacks in India allegedly carried out by JuD-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba.
That was the time when splinter groups emerged in the militant outfit and the activists brainwashed to live only for waging holy wars started looking for new jihadi commands.
“Most of the Pakistani sympathisers of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Daesh formerly belonged to JuD,” an official of the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity. He said that majority of the arrested people were well-educated and belonged to affluent families.
More than a dozen Daesh sympathisers have been arrested in Bahawalpur – the hotbed of jihadi organisations such as JuD and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) in the recent months, while dozens of disgruntled JuD activists were apprehended by the CTD from Sialkot and other cities before they could travel to Syria to be part of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi-led ‘jihad’.
“The suspects taken into custody were formerly linked with JuD, but now they consider Baghdadi their inspiration, leader and Khalifa (caliph). They were all set to leave for Syria to formally join Daesh,” the CTD official said, adding that “some of them were now regretting this decision”.
The development shows that organisations like JuD are losing control over their activists and new attractions may disrupt its organisational discipline. Another factor behind former JuD activists’ tilt towards ISIS is the common Salafi or Wahabi sect – they both belong to the same school of thought and hence tend to become a natural ally.
Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) Director Amir Rana called for immediate rehabilitation of former jihadists of JuD and JeM.
“The government must devise a strategy to rehabilitate these erstwhile jihadists … as jihadi organisations like JuD have moved their focus towards philanthropist activities, their former activists having jihad-oriented mindsets have been trying to find new leadership.”
Rana further says that “they cannot even become normal citizens as their names have been put on the Fourth Schedule and getting off this list was a very complicated and lengthy exercise under the existing laws”. The expert believes that “these jihadists from JuD-type outfits are still loyal to Pakistan unlike the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)”.
Another official, requesting anonymity, said that the people arrested in Bahawalpur and other parts of southern Punjab do not hail from the lower strata of society; most of them are highly-qualified. It may be mentioned that the hardcore terrorists arrested in the near past from Karachi for their links with al Qaeda and ISIS were also highly educated.
“The youngsters arrested from southern Punjab had fallen victim to Daesh’s most sophisticated and ubiquitous propaganda machine,” the official said, adding that they were hearing the voice of ISIS on the Internet i.e. Daesh motto of “don’t hear about us, hear from us”.
“Few arrested persons conceded, during interrogation, that they were motivated by ISIS videos on the web. They believe khilafat (caliphate) is the right path and al-Baghdadi is a just ruler,” the source went on to say.
JuD had officially denounced Daesh two months ago following the arrests of its former cadres from Sialkot two month ago before they could leave for Syria to join ISIS.
“In recent times, the organisation that has harmed Islam the most is Daesh. Terrorist organisations like Daesh have no relation with Islam,” the JuD had said in a press release issued a few weeks ago.
JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid denied that activists of their organisation were aligning with ISIS.
“Some of the arrested suspects tried to save their skin by using our name or the name of our Tableeghi Jamaat as the whole country knows that JuD has never been indulged in terrorism or sectarianism in Pakistan. They want to exploit this good perception of JuD,” he stressed.
Mujahid said that the JuD maintains complete record of its activists and “no one has gone out of our control”.
“We are running a massive awareness campaign against Takfeer and Takfeeri groups … our members are involved in ‘another form of jihad’ nowadays and that is Falah-e-Insaaniat (human welfare). We feel satisfied doing this job and hence there exists no disappointment or frustration in the minds of our activists,” the JuD spokesman concluded.