Tablighi Jamaat, the global organisation of Islamic missionaries, which may be the biggest carrier of Covid-19 infection in India, has had a long history of ties with Pakistan-based banned terror outfits like Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.
The original founders of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), the terror group known for the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999, were members of Tablighi Jamaat, as per Pakistani security analysts and Indian investigators.
Formed in 1985 as a splinter group of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), HuM participated in the jihad backed by Pakistan against Soviet forces to overthrow the USSR-allied regime in Afghanistan. As per intelligence estimates, over 6,000 Tablighis were trained in HuM terror camps in Pakistan.
Both HuM and HuJI terror groups operated in Kashmir after the defeat of Soviet Union in Afghanistan, killing hundreds of civilians. The HuM cadre eventually joined the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit founded by Masood Azhar, who had been released by India in exchange of IC814 passengers.
As per WikiLeaks documents, some of the 9/11 al-Qaeda suspects detained by the US in Guantanamo Bay had stayed in the premises of the Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin West, New Delhi, several years ago.
Incidentally, Tablighi Jamaat was also suspected to be involved in the burning of 59 Hindu Kar Sevaks in the 2002 Godhra train torching incident in Gujarat, which led to communal rioting in the state that claimed several lives.
According to an article written by India's intelligence official and security expert late B. Raman, the branches of the Tablighi Jamaat in Pakistan and Bangladesh "gained adverse attention from time to time for association with jihadi terrorist organisations such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are members of the International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by the late Osama bin Laden in 1998."
Quoting Pakistani newspaper reports from the 1990s, Raman pointed out that the trained cadres of jihadi terrorist organisations like HuM obtained visas by posing as preachers of Tablighi Jamaat and went abroad to recruit young Muslims for terror training in Pakistan.
Since millions of Tablighi Jamaat proselytisers travel around the world preaching Islam, much on the lines of the radical Wahhabi-Salafist ideology, the Jamaat developed a large following in Chechnya and Dagestan areas of Russia, Somalia and some other African countries.
Raman in his article wrote that "intelligence agencies of all these countries suspected that terrorist organisations based in Pakistan were using the cover of preaching for creating sleeper cells in Muslim communities of different countries." As a result, Tablighi Jamaat was black-listed and its preachers were denied visas.
However, every year in India, thousands of Tablighi Jamaat members from several countries freely travel through many states and perform their proselytisation activities.