Pakistani al Qaeda commander threatens government over execution of jihadists
Asmatullah Muawiya (center), from a March 2013 video. Osama bin Laden is to Muawiya's left, and Rasheed Ghazi, the slain leader of the Lal Masjid, is to his right. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
Asmatullah Muawiya, a Pakistani terrorist who serves as one of several al Qaeda "company" commanders as well as the leader of the Taliban in Punjab province, threatened to attack members of the Pakistani Muslim League - Nawaz political party if the government carries out its plan to begin executing jihadists on death row.
Muawiya leveled the threat in a statement released to Pakistani news outlets on Monday after the interior minister said the government would go ahead with the execution of jihadists in Punjab province, Dawn reported. Muawiya said the PML-N, which won the parliamentary election in May, "will have to pay a price" if it carries out the executions. He also reminded the PML-N as well as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf of the vicious campaign of suicide and other attacks that were carried out against the Awami National Party when it sided against the Taliban while governing Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Additionally, Muawiya accused "secret agencies" as well as the United States of provoking the government to carry out the death sentences.
"Some elements in secret agencies are trying to involve the PML-N in this war. But my organization will exercise restraint," he said, according to Dawn.
Pakistan's interior minister brushed off Muawiya's threat and said that three Lashkar-e-Jhangvi fighters would be executed starting on Aug. 20, Dawn reported. More than 8,000 prisoners are said to be on death row.
An al Qaeda commander
Muawiya is known to be a leader of the Punjab province branch of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, but he is also one of several al Qaeda "company" commanders, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal in May 2012. Atiyah Adl al Rahman and Abu Yayha al Libi, two top aides to Osama bin Laden who have since been killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan, mentioned the existence of these companies in a December 2010 letter addressed to Hakeemullah Mehsud, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan [see LWJ report, Bin Laden docs hint at large al Qaeda presence in Pakistan].
The US killed Badr Mansoor, the head of one such company, in a drone strike in early 2012. Mansoor had been directly named as a company commander by Atiyah and al Libi in their December 2010 letter. Al Qaeda swiftly designated Farman Shinwari as Mansoor's successor. Like Mansoor, Shinwari has close ties to Pakistani terror groups, and specifically the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen.
Muawiya is an influential commander who leads "several hundred jihadis" in Pakistan's tribal areas and in Punjab province, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in May 2012. Other companies include Brigade 313 and the Qari Zafr Group. These groups are commonly referred to as the Punjabi Taliban.
When leadership positions traditionally held by Arabs or Africans become vacant due to drone strikes, al Qaeda has often backfilled them with Pakistani jihadist commanders from groups such as the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundallah (the Karachi-based, al Qaeda-linked group), and several other Pakistani terror groups.
Muawiya appeared in a propaganda video that was released in February on the jihadist Jamia Hafsa Urdu Forum. In that video, he praised Ajmal Kasab, a participant in the November 2008 assault on Mumbai, India, and Afzal Guru, a member of the team that attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in December 2001. Al Qaeda is known to have played a role in the training for the attack on Mumbai [see LWJ report, Pakistani al Qaeda 'company' commander praises Mumbai attacker].