Vengeful new terrorist group emerges in Pakistan
* Authorities believe Ghazi Force has carried out several bombings to avenge Lal Masjid assault
ISLAMABAD: Authorities now believe a dangerous new militant group, out to avenge a deadly army assault on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad three years ago, has carried out several major bombings in the capital previously blamed on the Taliban.
The emergence of the Ghazi Force was part of the outrage among many Pakistani Muslims over the July 2007 attack. The fierce attack inspired a new generation of militants who have turned against a government they felt has betrayed them and, to their dismay, backed the US role in Afghanistan.
The brief but bloody history of the Ghazi Force illustrates the unintended results of Pakistan’s policy of promoting extremists to fight India in Indian-held Kashmir.
The new group is made up of relatives of students who died in the Lal Masjid assault. It is named after their leader, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was also killed. The mosque’s adjacent madrassa had been a sanctuary for militants opposed to Pakistan’s support of the war in Afghanistan.
Islamabad’s IGP Kalim Imam said the Ghazi Force was behind most of the deadliest attacks in the capital during the last three years, targeting the military, the ISI and a hotel frequented by foreigners and the country’s elite.
Many of those attacks had been attributed to the TTP. There is evidence of close ties between the Ghazi Force and the TTP, which the government has vowed to crush. The group is believed to be headquartered in Orakzai Agency, while its leader is believed to be Maulana Niaz Raheem, a former Lal Masjid student.
As opposition grew to Pakistan’s support of the US role in Afghanistan, the mosque became a centre of religious agitation against the government.
A former senior Interior Ministry official said the police wanted to storm the mosque and end the siege at its outset, but former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf refused, even though police knew that members of the banned Jaish-e-Muhammad were bringing in weapons for the students.
Although the assault turned many hardliners against the government, Pakistan remains unwilling to break all ties to the militants, instead following a high-risk strategy of coddling “good militants” while fighting those deemed “bad militants”, analysts say.
ISPR Director General Maj Gen Athar Abbas denies any assistance to militant groups, saying past ties have long since been severed.
Yet Anatol Lieven, a terrorism expert at London’s King College, said it is clear that the ISI continues to protect some militant groups, even if it has broken ties with others. ap