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'Dangerous Pak regime to co-opt Islamists through appointment of new envoy to US'

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New Delhi | Tuesday, 2021 8:45:06 PM IST
Pakistan's new Ambassador to the US, Masood Khan is a dangerous radical with a long history of working with Islamists in the West and jihadis in the East. His appointment is evidence of an increasingly dangerous Pakistani regime, which is working to co-opt and support Islamists all around the world, including in the US, Sam Westrop wrote in a recent article in National Review.

"Masood's appointment will serve not just to advance Pakistan's influence within American Islamism but also to assist Pakistan's Islamist-driven foreign policy against India. As the former leader of Pakistani Kashmir, he is the obvious choice for a spokesperson to divert attention away from Pakistan's reprehensible role in Afghanistan and toward the question of Kashmir denouncing India and justifying Pakistani-backed jihad," Westrop said.

"Masood Khan is the latest example of a renascent theocratic Pakistan. His tenure in D.C. will empower radicals in both the U.S. and South Asia. He is an open supporter of US-designated terrorists, dressed in the niceties of international diplomacy. Although foreign ambassadors are rarely rejected by Western countries, the Biden administration should at least consider this option for Masood Khan," Westrop wrote.

"Examples of Khan's jihadi links are shamelessly plentiful", it said. In July 2021, while serving as president of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Khan provided a "special message" on the "fifth martyrdom anniversary of Kashmir's most beloved freedom fighter Burhan Wani", he said.

Wani is not the only Hizbul Mujahideen jihadi regarded favourably by Khan.

In June 2017, following the US State Department's decision to designate the terrorist organization, mainstream Pakistani media reported that Khan expressed full support for the Hizbul Mujahideen. Khan further declared that US sanctions against the terrorist group's leader, Syed Salahuddin, were "unjustified". Salahuddin is also the chair of the United Jihad Council, a Kashmiri umbrella group for terrorists backed by the Pakistani regime, Westrop said.

The Hizbul Mujahideen is not the only terrorist organization that Khan is willing to embrace. In 2019, alongside senior officials of the Pakistani government, he took part in the All Parties Kashmir Solidarity Conference in Islamabad. Indian media revealed that Khan shared the stage with Fazlur Rehman Khalil, founder of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), which the tate Department designated as a terrorist organszation in 1997, Westrop said.

In 2014, the US named Khalil as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. In a note, the Treasury Department had said that "Khalil maintained a close relationship with Al Qaeda, including with Osama bin Laden prior to his death. Khalil was a key member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front and a cosignatory of his first fatwa, issued in 1998, calling for attacks against the US".

The Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford notes that Khalil's HuM was freely based in Pakistan and received support from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) since its formation." The group was "repeatedly reported to be in close contact with bin Laden, and engaged in bombings, hijackings, kidnappings, and executions of Indian soldiers, government officials, civilians, and foreign tourists".

Westrop said it doesn't stop there. Khan is also a supporter of the violent South Asian Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami, whose killing squads helped the Pakistani military carry out acts of genocide against Bangladeshis in 1971.

These are far from the only examples. Khan is a supporter of Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted terrorist operative known as "Lady Al-Qaeda".

Khan's extremist sympathies are not just limited to his home region. The new ambassador has also worked with terror-tied Islamists outside of Pakistan. In 2019, journalist Abdullah Bozkurt tweeted photos of Khan "visiting Turkish intelligence linked charity outfit IHH that is accused of sending arms, supplies to the Al Qaeda linked jihadi groups in Syria and Libya", adding that "IHH runs operations in Kashmir area".

Branches of the IHH have been designated as terrorist organisations in Germany, the Netherlands, and Israel, Westrop said.

As the cause of Kashmir gains ground as a rallying cry for Islamists, Khan has become an important figure for many radical organisations and individuals all around the world, Westrop said. Even Islamist operatives across the West have enjoyed close contact with Khan. While Khan served as PoK president, for instance, extremist charities such as Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) repeatedly enjoyed praise from him and his official office, which declared its commitment to "cooperation" with the group, Westrop said.

HHRD is a leading American proxy for Jamaat-e-Islami. In 2017, HHRD openly partnered with designated terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 were murdered. HHRD also funds and partners with Jamaat-e-Islami's welfare arm, Al-Khidmat Foundation, which is closely involved with the Hizbul Mujahideen, and which proudly boasts of funding Palestinian terrorist group Hamas for its "just jihad".

Khan's contact with Western Islamists is likely also driven by the Pakistani regime's agendas. Under Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistani government has worked particularly hard to increase its influence within American Islam.

In 2019 the Prime Minister addressed a conference organised by a leading American Islamist organisation, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), in which he urged American Muslims to "approach your members of Congress (and) Senators" to discuss the ostensible evils of India and raise the question of Kashmir.

In 2018, the Canada Revenue Agency suspended a branch of ISNA after the organization transferred C$136,000 to Kashmir, where it is suspected to have fallen into the hands of Hizbul Mujahideen, Westrop said.

Since Imran Khan's 2019 speech, Pakistani-regime entities and officials of the ruling PTI party have been vigorously campaigning for Islamist causes within the US, in partnership with American proxies of Jamaat-e-Islami. In Houston, PTI officials, one of whom was directly appointed by Imran Khan as his government's representative in the United States, established the International Humanitarian Foundation (IHF), which, in close collaboration with domestic American Islamist organizations and other Pakistani-regime-linked lobbying groups and community groups, organised enormous protests against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and employing lobbyists in D.C, Westrop said.

The IHF partnered with a dozen American Pakistani and Islamist organizations to carry out its work, including the Houston-based Friends of Kashmir, which claims partly to work out of the Pakistani consulate in Houston and frequently collaborates with senior PTI officials. In October 2 of this year, Friends of Kashmir hosted an event with Shehryar Khan Afridi, a senior PTI official and former cabinet minister in Imran Khan's government, Westrop said.

Led by an activist named Ghazala Habib, Friends of Kashmir is also openly aligned with jihadist causes. In 2017, the group organised an event with terrorist operatives Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah, both of whom were arrested by Indian police in 2019 because of ties to designated terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba. Habib herself is reported to have been an appointed representative of both the late jihadi leader Syed Ali Geelani and Asiya Andrabi, founder of the jihadi organisation Dukhtaran-e-Millat. Masood Khan has expressed praise for both, Westrop said.

In fact, Masood Khan appears to have operated on the edges of all these initiatives. He is a close associate of Habib. Khan has often posted photos and comments about his meetings with Habib, including at his personal residence in Pakistan.

In 2020, he was listed as a star speaker of an event organised by Friends of Kashmir, in collaboration with the Pakistani embassy, and which also featured American congress members, suspected Pakistani ISI agents, Islamist operatives, and Pakistani-backed Sikh separatists, Westrop said.

Other examples of his Western Islamist friends include his contacts with American Islamists aligned with the Turkish regime and anti-Hindu Indian-American Islamists-India, as well as US Jamaat-e-Islami TV channels.

(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at Sanjeev.s@ians.in)

--IANS san/ksk/

( 1298 Words)

2021-11-23-14:52:01 (IANS)

 
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