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COVID-19 Terrorism

April 26, 2020 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Recent intelligence reports had indicated that Pakistan was aggressively moving COVID-19 infected cases to POK and infiltrating them into J&K. Reports indicated Pakistan was moving large number of COVID-19 patients in locked transport carriers to Mirpur city, other parts of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, exiled chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP) had blasted the Imran Khan government for deliberately infecting POK with COVID-19. This was simultaneous to the annual meet of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) at Markaz Nizamuddin at New Delhi, following which COVID-19 spread by Tablighis pan-India had already amounted to over 28 per cent infected cases in India – some 4,400 plus by April 18.

With news of such infiltration, the Indian Army issued guidelines for handling and disposing bodies of terrorists. The new guidelines were issued in wake of Pakistan’s COVID-19 terrorism plan to spread the infection among the Indian Army soldiers. Troops deployed in the forward post were asked to wear protective gear and maintain no direct contact with the dead bodies of terrorists. The Army has further directed soldiers are to follow a specific standard operating procedure (SOP) while disposing of bodies of terrorists killed in encounters as they could be infected with COVID-19, saying. “The contact must be minimum while burying the bodies. Instructions have been passed on to all field locations in forward areas to take necessary precautions and wear protective gear while handling bodies.” To assist infiltration and harass villagers on the Indian side, Pakistan continues cease fire violations despite the virus at home. In January, February and March 2020, Pakistan violated ceasefire 367, 366 and 411 times respectively.

In first week April, Pakistan had violated the ceasefire 60 times. Pakistan also used COVID-19 infected TJ cadres to Balochistan to spread the virus – 24 of them have been inducted into Kharan District of Kalat Range to infect the Balochi population. Membership of TJ is open to retired Pakistani military officers. At one time General Javed Nassir, former ISI chief held an important position in TJ hierarchy. Farhan Zahid, a Pakistani counter-terrorist specialist in his article ‘Tablighi Jamaat and its links with Terrorism’ published in 2015, wrote, “in many cases it (Tablighi Jamaat) has acted as the nursery for indoctrinating Islamist terrorists…….Tablighi Jamaat’s congregations allows radical elements worldwide to meet and discuss violent activities and provide them with the best opportunity to coordinate …….. many of its followers have dual membership with jihadists groups .” With respect to Pakistan becoming the global terror hub, Farhan says, “Several mainstream Islamist violent non-state actors have taken their roots from Tablighi Jamaat’s indoctrination”. Not only did the Grand Mufti of Mecca criticise TJ, on February 11, 2019, advisor to Minister of Islamic Affairs of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), wrote on the Al Jazeera website that TJ is a more dangerous terrorist organisation than the Muslim Brotherhood, and TJ recruit terrorists for other terrorist organisations, because of which KSA has banned this organisation. Significantly, he also stated that TJ are not loyal to the state in which they live; they are a state within a state. Pakistan too is battling COVID-19 and has requested India for medicines but it is ruled by the army which has the same mindset as TJ. Both consider COVID-19 ‘fait accompli’ as Allah’s punishment – implying numbers destined to die must die but jihad should carry on.

Pakistani military officers say they are from the ‘Army of Allah’, don’t mention Pakistan. So the Pakistani army is synonymous to TJ – a state within a state. Speaking to media on April 17, Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said the world's attention was focused on containing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. India too was doing its bit by sending medical teams to countries like Nepal and the Maldives. But “Pakistan is only exporting terror. This doesn’t augur well." Ironically, Pakistan is fully backed by China. A recent report indicates that Islamic charities linked to terror groups in Pakistan are being funded by the US government. In January 2020, ‘InterAction’ founded in 1984 and presently having 180 members received $5 million from the US. Over the last decade ‘InterAction’ received tens of millions of dollars from the US Agency for International Development and the State Department (USAID). There are other such pseudo charities in Pakistan who are similarly supported by organisations in the US. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) chaired by China is doing little to pressure Pakistan. Financially, Pakistan is in dire straits but China and other allies will not let it sink.

On Kashmir, it is fully supported by China, Turkey, Malaysia and the OIC. Pakistan’s ISI is linked with many terrorist organisations (both regional and international) like the ISKP, ISIS, Al Qaeda and AQIS. In a recent operation in Afghanistan on a terrorist camp to kill the ISKP commander who claimed responsibility for the recent attack on the Kabul Gurdwara, Afghan security forces found five cadres of LeT. This indicates terrorist being trained for operations in India and Afghanistan. US exit from Afghanistan will enable Pakistan increase its proxy war on India. There is therefore no question of Pakistan giving up on exporting terror. The ironical part is that despite all available evidence on Tablighi Jamaat, its aims and terrorist links, this organisation has been having free-run in India. As long as the game of ‘votes first’ is played behind the façade of ‘nation first’, the Indian elephant will remain in slumber.