Established By: Muhammad Ahsan Dar
Also Known As: HM, Party of Holy Warriors, Party of Mujahideen
Country Of Origin: Pakistan
Leaders: Sayeed Salahudeen, Riyaz Naikoo
Key Members: Sayeed Salahudeen, Riyaz Naikoo
Operational Area: Pakistan
Number Of Members: Unknown
Involved In: Armed attacks
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Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (Ḥizb al-Mujāhidīn, meaning “Party of Holy Warriors” or “Party of Mujahideen”), founded by Muhammad Ahsan Dar in September 1989, is a Kashmiri separatist group. It is designated a terrorist organisation by India, the European Union and the United States, active in the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. The current commander of the group is a Sayeed Salahudeen.
Holding a pro-Pakistan Ideology, the group is considered to be the largest indigenous militant group in Kashmir. In 1990 Ahsan Dar had more than 10,000 armed men under his command. Eamon Murphy has alleged in his book The Making of Terrorism in Pakistan: Historical and Social Roots of Extremism that Pakistan‘s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have provided training and funding to Hizb.
However the book has been criticized for not containing accurate information. It has been reported by the Delhi-based Indian non profit organization Institute for Conflict Management that Jamaat-i-Islami founded Hizbul Mujahideen at the request of the ISI to counter the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front(JKLF) who are advocates for the independence of Kashmir.
Though Hizbul had no official support from Jamaat-e-Islami, several of its members and affiliates were among Hizbul’s founders including its chief commander Muhammad Ahsan Dar. The expansion and growth in power pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) worried both the Jamaat and Pakistan. In an attempt to counter it, Jamaat started taking over Hizbul Mujahideen which like it held a pro-Pakistan ideology and lacked sympathy for the Sufi-linked practices in Kashmir. Its takeover was done by placing its members in key positions of the group. By 1990, Dar declared Hizbul as the “sword arm of Jamaat”.
Yusuf Shah aka Sayeed Salahudeen who was a staunch Jamaati, gradually started taking over the leadership of Hizbul. Dar despite the Jamaat takeover had become increasingly independent and was opposed to Jamaat’s plan to impose a “shura”-style council leadership which wanted a more collective and institutionalized leadership structure. He was expelled by Salahudeen loyalists in 1991 and formed his own group along with the loyalists, naming it as “Muslim Mujahideen”. The group however quickly fell apart after his arrest in 1993.
Conflict with JKLF and purge of secessionist figures and groups:
India and Pakistan started becoming more centrally involved in the conflict in early 1990s, thus putting pressure on the militant groups. The pro-independence JKLF started weakening. Indian counterinsurgents removed much of its leadership, wiping out its central control while Pakistan which had already started to abandon its support for it pulled splinter factions away from the main organisation. Most of the more than 2,213 militants killed between 1990 and 1992 belonged to JKLF, with hundreds of its cadres also being captured.
Hizbul was virulently opposed to JKLF, conducting attacks against the group and even helped Indian security forces to target JKLF militants by providing intelligence. The first known clash occurred in April 1991 when Hizbul killed a JKLF commander. Further clashes kept occurring with killing of JKLF militants, which were seen more as “turf wars” rather than conflict over ideological disagreements. The intelligence provided by Hizbul to Indian forces helped in eliminating much of the group’s 300-strong surviving cadre. JKLF tried to regain its dominance but caved in to pressure being exerted on it by Pakistan, Hizbul and Indian forces with Yasin Malik declaring a ceasefire in 1994, with Hizbul already having ascended to dominance by 1993. Hizbul also murdered many of the pro-independence intelligentsia in Kashmir.
By the late 1990s, several voices within the Hizb including its operational commander Abdul Majeed Dar sought a return to more peaceful approaches. In July 2000, Dar, along with four other Hizb commanders, made a surprise unilateral ceasefire declaration from the outskirts of Srinagar. The ceasefire was immediately ratified by the Pakistan-based commander Sayeed Salahudeen, but was criticized strongly in the Pakistan media. It was withdrawn by Salahudeen by September. In 2002 Dar was denounced as an agent of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He was expelled from the Hizb along with four divisional commanders.
The ceasefire move, its immediate endorsement and subsequent withdrawal highlighted deep divisions between the more hawkish operatives in Azad Kashmir and those based in India. Dar and several other ex-Hizb leaders were assassinated between 2001 and 2003. The organization today, under Salahudeen, is viewed as much more hardcore.
Death of Burhan Wani and protests in Kashmir:
On 8 July 2016, prominent Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, was shot dead by Indian security forces. More than 50,000 people joined his funeral procession and there were mass protests in the Kashmir valley.
Under Sabzar Bhat (2016-2017):
Wani was succeeded by Sabzar Bhat, who had previously been a close aide of his. Indian security forces considered Bhat effective at using social media to recruit youth towards militancy. Indian security forces previously located him in Rathsuna, in March 2017, but he was able to evade them after a 15-hour gunfight that left one policeman dead.
Bhat was killed in May 2017, and subsequently buried in Pulwama. His death sparked clashes and a police-imposed curfew, during which a youth was killed in clashes with the Central Reserve Police Force. Internet and phone service across Kashmir was suspended in an attempt to calm the region.
A previously-unknown militant group, Mujahideen Taliban-e-Kashmir, claimed it had provided information on Bhat to security forces. The claim remains unverified, though some analysts suggested it reflected a growing schism between various militant groups in Kashmir, with members of Hizbul Mujahideen concerned that Zakir Musa may have betrayed Bhat.
In 1991, after the merger with the Tahreek-e-Jihad-e-Islami (TJI), the strength of the Hizbul had reached 10,000. In the following years, rivalries developed within the Hizb, culminating in a killing of 21 people in a Pakistan administered Kashmir(AK), village near the border in 1998.