Opinion

Meet the Mullahs: Pakistan’s Neighborhood Islamist Evangelists

Few appreciate the depth and destructive consequences of Pakistan’s decades-long program to “Islamize” every aspect of the society in every remote corner of the country.

Pakistan’s “Islamization” program was initiated by President Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), which involved the proliferation of Islamic schools “madrasas” and the promotion of Islamic law “Sharia,” was specifically designed create unity by suppressing ethnic separatism and make Pakistan the global Sunni leader, an effort that eventually led to the proliferation of Islamic terrorist groups within its borders.

Even in the tiny isolated enclave of Pidarek in Balochistan’s western Kech District, Pakistan acquiesces if not actively supports a network that, quite literally, wields radical Islam like a weapon to suppress Baloch nationalism, to conduct ethnic cleansing and to recruit jihadis for Pakistan’s proxy war against Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Khorasan (LeK), now an acknowledged affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS) led by Turbat-resident Mufti Shahmir Aziz Bizenjo, is, according to on-the-ground sources, a long-established group of religiously-motivated individuals and common criminals, who, for many years, have been working with the Taliban and acting as an extrajudicial militia for the Pakistani military. Painting the walls in Turbat with pro-Islamic State slogans, LeK, a Sunni supremacist group, has conducted Islamic “purification” by targeting ethnic minorities like the Shia Hazaras and on August 28, 2014 brutally killed six Zikris. The LeK has dispatched boys as young as ten years old for jihadi training.

The international community has long regarded Pakistan as a transit point for narcotics trafficking. The role of the Pakistan government in narcotics trade was admitted by none other than the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who claimed members of the Pakistan military and intelligence agency, the ISI, needed more money for covert foreign operations and wanted to raise it through large-scale drug deals.

Mufti Shahmir Aziz Bizenjo, who has his own security detail, is the son of Aziz Bizenjo, whose cousin is National Party President and Senator Hasil Bizenjo, currently Pakistan’s Minister for Ports and Shipping.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Imam Bizenjo aka Imam Bheel, one of the drug world’s most notorious opium traffickers and National Party financier, whose son, Yaqoob Bizenjo, served as a member of the Pakistan National Assembly until 2013, is alleged kingpin of this major transit point for opium originating in Afghanistan reaching Gwadar and other ports on the Makran coast for worldwide distribution.

According the local sources, Mufti Shahmir Aziz Bizenjo receives support from the Pakistani intelligence, military assistance from the Pakistani Army Frontier Corps and financial support from the drug mafia.

Within the same local network are the jihadi educators and Taliban recruiters.

Khatib Mohammad Ilyas, according to local sources, gives sermons during Friday “Jumu’ah” prayers at Turbat’s main mosque and operates a very old and large madrasa in Malik Abad, Tehsil Tump, Kech District. He is a member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F), a Sunni Deobandi political party that promotes the implementation of Sharia, has opposed changes in blasphemy laws and blocked the passage of a bill aimed at preventing domestic violence, because it would “promote Western culture in the Islamic state.” Khatib Mohammad Ilyas, whose son died as a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, is reportedly a main regional recruiter for the Taliban.

Again according to local sources, Mulla Ghulam Ullah is the Imam of a Mosque in Shahi Tump, Turbat. He is the son-in-law of Khatib Mohammad Ilyas and leader of JUI-F in Kech district. Ghulam Ullah, who also has his own security detail, is the chief Islamist indoctrinator of young boys and principal jihadi recruiter for Shahi Tump, Koshkalat and surrounding areas in Kech district. He is leader of the LeK in the Buleda Tehsil area. The Pakistani Army Frontier Corps and such Wahhabi groups are reported to be operating jointly in the Dasht, Buleda and Pidarek regions of Balochistan.

Balochistan is now beginning to resemble Taliban-controlled Afghanistan of the 1990s, a jihadi training hub and a magnet for international terrorism.

Pakistan has successfully used Islamic terrorist groups both to suppress ethnic and nationalist aspirations within its borders and as an instrument of its foreign policy.

Apparently, no amount of reassurance or incentives will divert Pakistan from its present course and permit U.S. and NATO to achieve their objectives in Afghanistan as long as the regional strategic environment remains the same.

An independent, secular Balochistan, free of religious militancy may be the solution.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at [email protected].