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From Personal Archives: The emerging Threat

November 20, 2010

The first post is a blog entry dated Apr 16, 2008. I had written it when  a fierce fighting between the rival tribes had broken out in Khyber Agency in the outskirts of Peshawar. The second one is an article about Mangal Bagah, the head of the Lashker-i-Islami. It was published here on June 8 2008.

The reason I’m reposting a blog and an article here (for the first time) is that the objectives of Lashkers and rogue elements are baffling and intricate. At the same time they are the challenging subjects for research. While reading keep the time and date in mind. Recently, I haven’t come across any current news about the activities of Mangal Bagh or his group.

In 2008, there were reports of the heavy presence of Mangal Bagh’s men in the Bara/Karkhano Market. They would patrol the area to provide protection to the local businessmen in return for certain tax. I did visit that market a couple of times but the overall ambiance there was unsettling for me. Maybe it was just a feeling. Maybe it was the fact that those businessmen tend to lose their temper quite easily even if you try to engage in the usual bargain with them.

Stone Age

Apr 16, 2008

Two tribes, two opponents are fighting fiercely. I can hear the sounds of continuous explosions. The night is so disturbed. Why do they fight? Why are they so wild? They are part of our country yet so different. They are the sons of the rugged mountains. These mountains of Khyber are our pride too but they need to learn that the people they are against have the same blood. They will fight each other till the last breath so the only way to end the conflict is to negotiate. The famous saying is that people kill for woman, land and money. That is true but people kill each other for religion as well. These two are fighting to establish their own religious writ.

We Pukhtoons are the guardian of Gandhara Civilization. Buddhism was introduced here by Madhantika, the son of Ashoka in 256 BC. Non-violence was/is the main teaching so how come no one learnt non-violence. The Islam was introduced in this region when Qais, who lived in Ghor area of Afghanistan met Holy Prophet (SAW) and embraced Islam. Later on his whole tribe converted. He changed his name to Abdul Rashid. The Pukhtoon tribes are/were a lot like the warring tribes of Arab. Qais must have taught them the teachings of Islam, peace and brotherhood. But it seems they have forgotten everything with a passage of time or maybe the unwritten code of Pukhtoons beat everything. They fight and kill their own fellow Muslims for trivial reasons. They have left the real Islam, the Islam of Prophet (SAW), and the Islam of Qais far, far behind.

The Emerging Threat

June 8 2008

Mangal Bagh, the supreme commander of Lashker-i-Islami has been active in Khyber Agency for several years. His recent clash with a rival group, and his attack on the unarmed villagers in Sheikhan brought him in the limelight once again. In April this year a fierce fighting broke out between Lashker-i-Islami and Kukikhel tribesmen in Khyber Agency. Lashker-i-Islami had served a notice to Kukikhel tribesmen for the closure of illegal businesses such as selling of drugs and liquor. On failure to comply with the orders, Lashker-i-Islami attacked them. According to some sources the attacked only meant to extend his control in the Khyber Agency. Later on, the government’s intervention brought the two sides to talks that culminated in peace agreement.

With his longish hair and bushy beard Mangal Bagh looks like a tailor made militant. He studied for a few years in madrassa. Like most of the militant commanders he too has the history of fighting along with Afghan mujahideen against the Russian forces. Several years later he formed his own organization Lashker-i-Islami or the Army of Islam. He runs an illegal FM radio station and people religiously listen to his speeches. Contrary to the common belief, he is quite popular and the residents of Bara Tehsil lauded his move to eradicate the evil from their area though they don’t exactly agree with his version of extremist religious teachings.

Mangal Bagh operates from Bara Tehsil and he isn’t pro-Taliban. He claims that he refused to join Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan despite their repeated offers as he didn’t want to involve in the anti-state activities. Similarly, he vehemently denies having links with Al-Qaeda or Afghan Taliban. In an interview to the renowned journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, he remarked about the objectives of his organization in these words, “Ours is a reformist organization trying to promote virtue and prevent vice. We have rid Bara of drug-traffickers, gamblers, kidnappers, car-snatchers and other criminals and we want to cleanse Jamrud and all of Peshawar of those selling drugs and liquor and running gambling dens.

True to his word his organization has already started activities in Peshawar by moving against brothels and other illicit businesses. In two separate incidents they abducted an alleged operator of a brothel from Hayatabad Township and a magician. The magician was subsequently released on the intervention of elders, assuring that he would leave the practice.

This is an alarming trend; as long as Mangal Bagh’s activities remain to his fiefdom fine, but any action taken by his men in the settled area tantamount to challenging the government’s writ. According to him, he has about 120,000 armed men under the umbrella of his organization who control almost the entire Khyber agency and are ready to fight tooth and nail if he orders them so. There may be a bit of exaggeration in his statement yet the resistance shown by his men as well as the use of latest, automatic weaponry against Kukikhel tribe in the recent clash was overwhelming and it is an eye opening for the authorities that his force shouldn’t be underestimated.

Mangal Bagh may not be affiliated with local or Afghan Taliban but principally he belongs to the same school of thought. In his view women should be properly wrapped up in burqa with no right to education except for the very basic know how of the religious tenets. Men must grow beard, music is evil and forbidden and yes, they practice Taliban style justice as well. Public execution of a person they find guilty of any crime or vice. If Taliban blew up the statue of Buddha in Bamiyan, Mangal Bagh went a step ahead and demolished two (Muslim) shrines; one of them was 16th century old. And all that’s been happening in the outskirts of Peshawar.

Mangal Bagh has been involved in some of the gruesome acts of violence against the members of his rival party. Recently the armed men of Lashker-i-Islami abducted the leader of Ansarul Islam, Maulana Musthamim from Peshawar and killed him publicly in the Khyber agency. Above all they refused to hand over the body to the slain leader’s relatives. Mangal Bagh’s involvement has also been suspected in the killing of four close relatives of MNA Pir Noorul Haq Qadri. Although Mangal Bagh runs an armed militant outfit, that has been formed to promote virtue but the study of his action shows he is no different then the leader of the underworld gang; breaking his opponents, to establish his own rule in the area by abducting and killing them. What else would you expect from a semi-literate man, who only knows the language of violence?

According to some people, Mangal Bagh has the full backing of government. The family of Maulana Musthamim expressed the same concern; if this is true than another Frankenstein is in the making for sure. Giving authority to such armed organizations for running a parallel administration has always proved detrimental. Mangal Bagh and Co is an emerging threat and the authorities need to take strict notice of his adventures before it’s too late and the government once again finds itself in the soup having no clue how to deal with the band of outlaws.

Originally published on: Chowk

One Comment leave one →
  1. Sanity permalink
    November 20, 2010 6:02 pm

    From description this man seems a local warlord.

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