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Harkat ul-Ansar

(Now known as Harkat ul-Mujahideen)

Evolution of the Outfit

Evolution of Harkat ul-Ansar


The Harkat ul-Ansar was formed by the merger of two Pakistani groups, Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami and Harkat ul-Mujahedin, and led by Maulana Saadatullah Khan. The merger of these two political groups and its transformation into a militant group came about as part of the Afghan jihad.

With a pan-Islamic ideology, the outfit strove to achieve the secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India through violent means and its eventual merger with Pakistan. About 60 per cent of its estimated 1000 strong cadre were Pakistanis and Afghans.

The Harkat-ul-Ansar was termed a terrorist organization by the US due to its association with the exiled Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden in 1997. To avoid the repercussions of the US ban, the group was recast as the Harkat ul-Mujahideen in 1998.

Based in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan controlled Kashmir, the Harkat ul-Ansar has participated in insurgent and terrorist operations in Kashmir, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Kashmir, the outfit had carried out several operations against Indian troops besides attacks on civilian targets. In the process, several of its top leaders including Masood Azhar (General Secretary and top idologue), Sajjad Afghani (Commander of the Harkat ul-Ansar in Jammu and Kashmir) and Nasarullah Manzoor Langaryal (commander of the erstwhile Harkat-ul Mujahedin) were captured by Indian security forces.

With all these arrests, the outfit gradually lost its influence in the State's militancy. The outfit's controlling body, Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) also ensured that most of the cadre were transferred to the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which gradually enlarged the latter's role in the State's militancy.

Meanwhile, a new organisation termed Al-Faran abducted nine foreigners (in two phases) and attempted to bargain for the release of the jailed Harkat-ul-Ansar leaders. This objective raises suspicions that the Al-Faran is merely a front organisation of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, set up to abduct foreigners and ensure that the hostages' countries of origin would not resort to action against the Harkat-ul-Ansar. The strategy backfired when Indian police arrested two Harkat-ul-Ansar members including Umar Saeed Sheikh, a British student of Pakistani origin, in a successful operation where four hostages were freed.

The US ban made it difficult for the Harkat-ul-Ansar's Pakistani sponsors to continue their support. Fund raising activities in Western countries too were affected. Hence, the Harkat-ul-Ansar was officially closed and a new militant outfit Harkat ul-Mujahideen was formed.

Sajjad Afghani was killed during a jail-break incident in 1999 while he was lodged in the Kot Lakhpat jail. Soon after, in December 1999, an Indian Airlines flight, IC 814 was hijacked and in the tradeoff, Masood Azhar and Umar Saeed Sheikh were released along with Mushtak Ahmed Zargar, commander of the Al Umar, a militant group with a predominantly Kashmiri cadre base. The demand for the release of Zargar appeared to be a ploy to convey the impression that the hijacking was conducted for the sake of Kashmiris rather than foreign militants.

After his release, Masood Azhar is reported to have set up a new militant group, the Jaish-e-Mohammad Mujhaeddin E-Tanzeem and is seeking to unite the various militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir.

With the near total loss of its top leadership, the cadre base and Pakistani sponsorship, the Harkat-ul-Ansar appears to have collapsed and is no longer active in the State's insurgency.





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