WASHINGTON – Abdul Maulana Aziz, a follower of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar who led the infamous Red Mosque rebellion in Pakistan, has declared his support for the newly formed Islamic State, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The jihadist army of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, had taken over large swaths of Iraq and declared the establishment of a caliphate, governed by Islamic law, or Shariah, that also includes northeastern Syria.
Aziz’s backing of Baghdadi is seen as ominous by Western intelligence, since he is close to such groups as Sipa-e-Sahaba and the Tehnik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, which seek the overthrow – even by violent means – of the Pakistani government, which possesses nuclear weapons.
Aziz’s support for Baghdadi and ISIS comes as Pakistan, a predominantly Sunni country, faces yet another political crisis that threatens the existence of its democratic secular government. Political opponents of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have demanded his resignation, which he has refused.
His opponents want sweeping constitutional reform to replace parliamentary democracy and confront alleged corruption that has crept into the electoral process.
However, jihadist groups see an opportunity now to assert their influence as Pakistan’s political crisis grows worse.
Aziz was thrown into jail after the 2007 Red Mosque attack but later released. Although there were some 27 charges pending against him at one time, the Pakistani courts dismissed all of them.
The government then asked Aziz to be part of a negotiating team of the Taliban, which are an instrument of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Group, or ISI.
The Pakistani government enlisted Aziz in an effort to have a militant interlocutor to negotiate with the TTP, which seeks the overthrow of the Pakistani government.
However, Aziz pulled out as a negotiator with the government, insisting Shariah must replace Pakistan’s constitutional law. His recent move comes despite what sources say are his strong ties to the ISI.
Aziz has vowed that Islam will “spread all over Pakistan, then all over the world.”
Written by F. MICHAEL MALOOF
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