Accueil arrow Foreign analyzes arrow A Profile of Harkat-ul Mujahedeen (Movement of Holy Warriors)


Dr Farhan Zahid






Farhan Zahid
Dr Farhan Zahid (Pakistan), Ph D, is a Counter-Terrorism and Security Analyst





Harkatul Mujahedeen (HuM) is a break-away faction of Harkat ul Jihad Islami (HuJI). The HuM was established by former HuJI leader Fazal-ur-Rehman Khalil in 1989[1], even then Khalil maintained its relations with HuJI, the parent party.  HuM restricted its jihadist activities to Kashmir insurgency up till 1998 and the focus remained anti-India. HuM's global ambitions came to surface in February 1998 when HuM's Amir Khalil signed a declaration of war, the establishment of Islamic Front against Jews and Crusaders, against the US and its allies, coupled with religious edict the Fatwa against Jews and Crusaders alongside Bin Laden in Afghanistan.[2]

Once again, the group came into limelight on August 20 1998, after the US missiles (Operation Infinite Reach) rained over Al-Qaeda's training camps near Khost, Afghanistan, in retaliation to US embassies' bombings in East Africa in 1998.[3] The camps were being run by Bin Laden and the twenty trainees killed during the missile strikes were all HuM activists[4].

A Council on Foreign Relations report on Pakistani terrorist groups classifies HuM as one of the anti-Indian jihadi group active in perpetrating Islamist insurgency in Indian Kashmir. The HuM was involved in Air India flight hijacking incident of December 1999, which resulted in release of Masood Azahar, Mushtaq Zargar and Ahmd Omar Saeed Shaikh, all known for their jihadi credentials. HuM used a cover name Al-Faran for the kidnapping of Norwegian and American tourists and their beheadings in 1995, and hundreds of incidents of violence in Indian Kashmir and, after 2001, in Pakistan. [5]

HuM briefly merged with HuJI in 1993, to establish Harkat ul Ansar for the sake of well-coordinated insurgency and also pooling of manpower and resources, but the alliance did not work well. Masood Azhar played an important role in bringing these jihadi groups together. Later, Masood Azhar formed his own jihadi group Jaish-e-Mohammad in 2000 and carried away with significant share of HuM membership and resources.

Since the beginning HuM has been a full-fledged Islamist violent non-state actor with all traits of Islamist radicalism. Its support-base, sponsorship, recruitment, finances, and areas of operation, qualify it to be one of the most disciplined and organized force. From early 1990 to 1995, the HuM remained the most formidable jihadi group in Kashmir with hundreds of terrorist attacks to its credit. The jihadi group also targeted the leadership and rank and file of nationalist Kashmiri separatist organization like Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, resulting in its complete annihilation. All of its high profile commanders were previously part of HuJI and had an ample experience of asymmetric warfare against the Soviets. Most of the commanders started jihadi careers from HuJI platform, but because of later difference, Fazal-ur-Rehman Khalil, Masood Alvi and Saifullah Shaukat parted ways and established their own group : the HuM.

HuM in a short span of time overshadowed HuJI in conducting jihadi activities in Indian Kashmir insurgency. Even though, both the organizations had same ideology and beliefs, HuM leaders were more efficient in drawing manpower from Deobandi madrassas in Pakistani province of Punjab. Khalil was ethnic Pashtun but his organization was mainly consisted of Punjabis who took active part in Kashmir insurgency.

Since its roots were from Afghan War, HuM was also active in Afghan civil war that started after the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. HuM, in collusion with Hizb-e-Islami (Younas Khalis faction), took part in several battles against forces of Afghan government of President Najibullah. During its Afghan activities HuM supported Hizb-e-Islami commander Jalal uddin Haqqani in battles for Khost and Jalalabad. After the fall of Najibullah government in 1992, a civil war broke out in Afghanistan and mujahedeen commanders fought each other for the control of territories. HuM, being Pakistani by leadership and membership, seized activities in Afghanistan and started to focus on newly opened jihadi front in Kashmir insurgency. It was only after the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan in 1996, that HuM was back there and started training their recruits at Al-Qaeda-run training camps.[6]

Renowned Pakistani journalist Khaled Ahmed describes HuJI, HuM, JeM and other HuA all chips of the same bloc because of their origins from the same Jamia Uloom-ul-Islamia, Banori Town seminary (madrasah), Karachi. The seminary was established in 1954 for the purpose of proselytizing and educate masses and to promote Deobandi sect of Islam[7]. The same seminary was active in mobilizing support for Afghan mujahedeen during Afghan War (1979-89) and later for Kashmir insurgency, and finally its cleric had gone to every extent to support Taliban regime (1996-2001) in Afghanistan[8].

Even though it is located in Karachi, Sindh province in southern Pakistan, the majority of its faculty members and students are from Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province. The seminary is a Pashtun enclave in downtown Karachi as it draws most of its student body from northern Pashtun areas of Pakistan. The seminary was founded by Maulana Yousaf Banuri, an ethnic Pashtun hailing from Buner district of Khyber province. In later years, key figures such as Yousaf Ludhyanvi and Rashid Ahmad played pivotal roles in promoting Deobandism in Pakistan. But it was Maulana Nizam udidn Shamzi, another Pashtun, who indeed made open the pro-Taliban, anti-American, anti-western, and anti-Shia agendas. [9]

More radical dangerous than his predecessors, Shamzai cultivated relations with Bin Laden and other Arabs stationed in Afghanistan. Khaled Ahmed and John C Cooley both write about these relations in their books as "The most well known head of the Banuri complex was Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai (1952-2004) who was counted as the most powerful man in Pakistan during the rule of Mullah Umar in Afghanistan. John C Cooley writes that Osama Bin Laden used Shamzai's Banuri Town seminary as his base in Karachi for some time. Shamzai, together with Samiul Haq of Akora Khatak, was greatly revered by the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Umar. Among his 2000 fatwas, the most well known was the one he gave against America in October 2001, declaring jihad after the Americans decided to attack Afghanistan. He had earlier in 1999 already deemed it within the rights of the Muslims to kill Americans on sight." [10]  

Ideology and Goals

While elaborating HuM, it is obvious to note that there is no significant ideological difference between HuJI and HuM. Both are born out of the same school of thoughts and have strikingly similar manifestos and relationships with other like-minded organizations. HuM believes in the establishment of caliphate in the Indian sub-continent with enforcement of Sharia laws in Pakistan. Initially, the jihadi organization was India-centric but with the advent of foreign troops in Afghanistan and the fall of Taliban, the HuM turned more regional in outlook. The already-developed relations with Al-Qaeda were strengthened, essentially becoming an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist violent non-state actor, to handle AQ-guided terrorist operations in urban centers of Pakistan. The post-911 face of HuM is more anti-American and anti-Western than anti-Indian.               According to Stanford University's project Mapping Militant Organizations,"HuM is a Sunni organization, similar in ideology to Wahabism and the Deoband school of thought.  Its ideology also reflects that of the Markaz Dawa al-Irshad and the Taliban. HuM maintains a strict interpretation of Islamic law that runs counter to parliamentary democracy as a negative influence from the West on Islamic societies. Osama bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda are the key sources of inspiration for HUM's ideology.

HuM aims to establish Islamic rule in the Indian-ruled state of Jammu and Kashmir and liberate it from India. Although the group was formed with the mission of fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s, it quickly shifted focus to jihad against Indian security forces in Kashmir[11]."

Ideologically speaking, the HuM is no different from other Deobandi Jihadi groups in Pakistan. It was mainly because of some minor personal differences over finances between Saifullah Akhter of HuJI and Fazal ur Rehman Khalil that both parted ways otherwise their goals and agendas have nothing indifferent. In the backdrop of US invasion of Afghanistan and Pakistan's, policy makers' U-turn even dissolved all of those differences and all were seen fighting against the state in post-9/11 scene.

In its truest sense, HuM is an extension of HuJI[12]. Both have long standing ties to Al-Qaeda. Another of HuJI leader, Masood Kashmiri, later formed Jamiatul Mujahedeen (JuM) during Kashmir insurgency. JuM was not as successful as HuJI and HuM but was part of Harkatul Ansar, the short-lived tactical alliance among three groups to pool resources and perform efficiently against Indian forces in 1994. HuM draws its support base mostly from Deobandi-Wahabi seminaries of Pakistan. During Taliban-ruled Afghanistan the recruits were sent for training in Al-Qaeda established camps in Khost and Jalalabad. Some other camps were located in Paktia province of Afghanistan under the supervision of Jalal uddin Haqani, a former Taliban minister of tribal regions with strong ties to Al-Qaeda. Around 6 000 volunteers received training at those camps during Taliban period. [13]

HUM was banned in 2002 by General Musharraf led military government of Pakistan, in the aftermath of stiff Indian response to December 2001 attacks at Indian Parliament. In response, HuM's splinter group targeted General Musharraf twice. Investigations went on to uncover five members of HuM involved in it, under an umbrella organization called HuM-Al-Alami. [14]


Figure: HuM-interconnected Islamist groups




The transformation of HuM from an insurgent Islamist violent non-state actor, with bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, started to shift after 2001. It has now transformed into an Al-Qaeda-Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) affiliated group. At present, it has lost its past glory mostly because of change of Pakistan's U-turn amid Global War on Terror (GWOT). HuM along with other Kashmiri and Punjabi groups shifted its apparatus to tribal areas of Pakistan under the protection of Pashtun-dominated Taliban groups. Duplicating HuJI, many HuM activities parted ways and formed several splinter militant groups, most important of those was Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen al-Alami, involved in planning attacks against former president Pervez Musharaff.  

Association with Al-Qaeda Central

HuM is closely allied with Al-Qaeda Central. Not to mention HuM chief Fazal ur Rehman Khalil signing the 1998 Fatwa against the US alongside Osama Bin Laden, from the platform of Islamic Front against Jews and Crusaders.[15] 

More than twenty HuM rank were killed when cruise missiles hit Al-Qaeda-run training camp in Khost in 1998, where they were receiving training. The Tomahawk Cruise missiles were fired by the US Navy in reaction to East African US Embassies' bombings by Al-Qaeda in 1998.[16] HuM and its offshoot HuM al-Alami have been responsible for 13 terrorist attacks since 2001, including assassination attempts against former President Pervez Musharraf. [17]

Material evidence retrieved during Operation Neptune Spear further established close links between Al-Qaeda and HuM. The US Navy Seal Team's raid at Bin Laden hideout in Abbotabad, Pakistan, revealed that Bin Laden was in close contact with HuM leader Fazal ur Rehman Khalil and it has been speculated that the safe house was provided to Bin Laden through his HuM connections.[18]

HuM's leaders had to go underground and to stop their jihadi activities or to join other Jihadi outfits after the Pakistani state reacted strongly to HuM's involvement in the murder of Daniel Pearl's kidnapping and assassination, in collusion with Al-Qaeda, in 2002, in Karachi. A bigger event was HuM's involvement in two attempted assassination of then Pakistani President and Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharaff in 2003, in Rawalpindi. Offices were shut down, bank accounts frozen and members were arrested during the Pakistani government's crackdown on HuM in 2002-2003.

Despite the fact that the HuM is now in limbo, the jihadi organization possesses the experience, skill and expertise in making a determined comeback. The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2014 might allow the HuM's resurgence. The organization is designated as terrorist in Foreign Terrorist Organizations list of US State Department and estimated to have a membership in several hundreds. HuM still holds the necessary apparatus, capacity and will to get involved in activities in which it has been successful.

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