2/10/12 The Week | Hizbul Mujahideen: a martyred militia?2/3week.manoramaonline.com/cgi-bin/MMOnline.dll/portal/ep/theWeekContent.do?programId=107375490…
nucleus of like-minded (and similarly endowed) individuals to give the JI and its ideology a militant appendage. Butthese ingredients—a requisite ideology and the means to act upon it—were reserved for leaders. As exemplified byAhsan Dar's own reluctance to join other outfits that were already in place, the average HM militant would have tobe a follower: sufficiently committed to remain involved, but economically ill-equipped to launch his own outfit.The HM volunteer mujahid has long been a rare specimen. While many in the valley continue to support the violentpursuit of azadi, they prefer doing so from the sidelines. Today's HM ‘sipai' is primarily drawn to the organisationby monetary incentives: a salary with occasional extortion benefits. Lacking ideological glue, the group hasfostered a network of fear to hold its house together. Fear ensures that half-hearted recruits remain involved longer than inclination alone would permit. According to Abdul Noorani, a surrendered HM militant, the group does nothave any exit provisions: “It is immensely difficult to leave, even if you've only been with the group for ten days.”Asked if he ever communicated his desire to surrender, Noorani says that was not an option: “If you talk aboutleaving, they will kill you. And if you leave, they will find you at home.” Apart from its retaining potential, theelement of fear also allows HM to extort food, shelter, and donations from otherwise unwilling purveyors.But this formula of internal intimidation presents a trade-off. While it renders surrender more difficult, it also makesthe consequences of surrender more costly for the organisation. If surrender is punishable by death, it is often inthe surrendering militant's interest to disclose all and pray that his former comrades are captured or killed. There isno question that surrendering militants have informed the hunt for numerous HM commanders. In 1991, SupremeCommander Ahsan Dar delivered to JI's leadership his resignation letter. When asked to reconsider, Dar presentedfour preconditions, amongst which two were particularly prescient. The first was that visibly reluctant recruitsshould be allowed to leave before accumulating too much insight into the organisation. The second was that if ever a militant had to visit home, he would have to be accompanied by his entire section. Dar's prescriptive conditionswere rejected then, and neglected since. During the Kashmiri winter and Ramzan, half-hearted militants are oftengranted solo trips home, at great cost to the organisation.Inequity between HM's leadership and its foot soldiers also presents a point of dissatisfaction. The HM ‘sipai' isaware that his commanders absorb the majority of funds flowing into the organisation. While Noorani's monthlysalary increased from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 between 1996 and 1997, his commander Akhtar Ansari was makingmuch more, sometimes Rs. 50,000 a month. A possible way for HM to mute such disparity is through distractiveindoctrination: sufficient radicalisation and ideological resolve might allow a militant to overlook potential irritants.But HM's religious training is amateurish at best. In fact, so depleted is its religious authority that MusarratHussain, a madrasa dropout with barely four years of religious education was in charge of indoctrinating over 300PTMs at HM's Boi Camp in Abbottabad (the camp was shut down in 2008, coinciding with Osama Bin Laden'ssuspected arrival in the area). The point is that for the “insufficiently” radicalised and economically driven militantsgraduating from Pakistan's training facilities, rumours that HM Supreme Commander Syed Salahuddin lives in thewealth, comfort, and safety of Islamabad's sector G-10/2 can only displease.HM's infrastructural presence in Pakistan has suffered since 2001. Camps that flourished in the 1990s are nowshut. HM's infrastructure has been reduced to training camps in Garhi Habibullah (Mansehra District) and Sensa(Kotli District). A disproportionate focus on macro-context tells us that HM's decline is a temporary phenomenon,and that geopolitical shifts will once again unleash the ISI and its Kashmir-specific designs. It is certainly true thatthe majority of previously functional HM camps were based in rented urban and suburban buildings that the ISI canreplace or refurnish as easily as it discarded them.However, the HM's organisational deficiencies suggest that the group's fortunes won't be as cyclical as those of the ISI. Despite the patronage, this quasi-indigenous client might not be built to last.
Nikhil Raymond Puri is a D.Phil candidate at the University of Oxford.
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