In a Reuters article on the Pakistani military’s threat to launch an operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in North Waziristan*, some interesting details emerge on Maulana Umar Qasmi, the leader of Ahrar-ul-Hind:
According to intelligence officers, Qasmi hails from Jhang, a southern Punjab city that is home to the eponymous Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shi’ite sectarian group which supplied foot-soldiers for al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Soon after high school, they said, Qasmi moved to nearby Bahawalpur, close to the Indian border, where he is said to have enrolled in a seminary run by Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish.
And in subsequent years he became dangerously well-networked as he moved between southern Punjab and the tribal lands in the northwest, notably in the Mohmand region, where a Pakistani Taliban faction executed 23 soldiers last month – an incident that raised criticism of Sharif for pursuing peace talks.
Officials also believe Qasmi is close to Jundullah, the group behind a suicide bombing that killed at least 78 Christians at a church in Peshawar last September.
And they reckon he could muster 1,200 fighters drawn from various Punjabi-based groups for deadly operations against Pakistani cities.
Given that the group said at its founding that Ahrar-ul-Hind is based in “the urban areas of Pakistan,” it was extremely likely that its emir would be from one of the multitude of Pakistani military- and government-backed jihadist groups. Umar Qasmi comes from Jaish-e-Mohammed, but could have just as easily been a leader in Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, or Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, or Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, or Hizbul Mujahideen, or ….
* For my skepticism on the claim that the Pakistani military will eliminate jihadist groups in North Waziristan once and for all, see Threat Matrix report, Pakistan to launch another Potemkin offensive in North Waziristan, from 2012, which details similar claims over the years. I’ve heard this promised so many times that I’ll believe it when I see it.