By Sanchita Bhattacharya
On June 25, 2014, a US State Department media note announced amendments to the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity designations of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) to add the following aliases: Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD), Al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, and Tehrik-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awwal. In conjunction with these actions, the Department of the Treasury also designated two LeT senior members as SDGTs – Nazir Ahmad Chaudhry and Muhammad Hussein Gill. Ahmad has been a senior leader of LeT since the early 2000s, and has served as its ‘vice-president’, and a member of its central leadership. Hussein Gill, one of the group’s founders, has been an accountant for the LeT for more than ten years and, more specifically, has served as the outfit’s ‘chief financial officer’ and headed its accounts department for several years.
The media note further stated: “LeT created JuD as a front organization, claiming that the group was an ‘organization for the preaching of Islam, politics, and social work.’”
LeT had first been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US on December 26, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It was, similarly, banned in the UK in 2001. Under growing international pressure, Pakistan also banned the group in 2002, though not before allowing it ample opportunity to empty out its bank accounts and encash or transfer it other assets to various fronts, including JuD. JuD was subsequently put on the FTO listing by the US in 2006. LeT was also sanctioned by the UN in 2006, and banned by the European Union (EU) in 2008. Subseqently, in 2008, the UN also declared JuD an LeT front organization. In 2010, the US exacted an executive order against the Falah-i Insaniat Foundation (FIF), essentially the renamed JuD, and named it a terrorist organization. FIF was always reported to be one of the arms of JuD and operated from a JuD office located at Chauburji Chowk in Lahore, Pakistan.
Hafiz Muhammadd Saeed, the founder of LeT and JuD chief, and Zafar Iqbal, two professors at Lahore University, formed JuD in 1985 as a missionary group dedicated to the tenets of Ahl-e-Hadith Islam. In 1987, mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan formed a group named Markaz Dawat wal Irshad (MDI) under Hafiz Saeed’s leadership. MDI continued jihad (Islamic campaign against non-believers and ‘apostates’) in Afghanistan, where it set up its first training centre, with active support from both the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to fight alongside the Afghan mujahideen. MDI’s founders sought to ensure the group’s survival even after the Afghan jihad came to an end, and dovetailed the objectives of both armed and peaceful jihad, expanding a network of ‘social services’, even as they continued to build up their armed strength. As the Afghan jihad came to an end and the Afghan mujahideen threw themselves at each other’s throats, the MDI was directed by its handlers in the ISI to another front in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). In 1990, MDI formed the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the armed wing dedicated to fight the jihad in J&K.
Overtly, JuD, headquartered in Muridke (Punjab), acts as a socio-religious, cultural, spiritual and educational driving force behind the armed wing represented by the LeT. A 2011 report suggested that JuD has about 50,000 registered members to spread its influence and raise funds. JuD owns a solid and extensive infrastructure inside Pakistan, including more than 300 offices, mosques and madrassas (Islamic seminaries). The group has set up many commercial ventures including more than 400 English-medium schools, colleges, transportation companies, residential projects and media groups, and has acquired farmland on a large scale. Its ‘charity wing’ has one of the biggest fleets of ambulances in the country, seven hospitals and more than 200 health centres. The group has the second largest charity network in Pakistan, after the Maymar Trust [formerly known as Al Rashid Trust (ART). ART was listed by the US State Department for involvement in financing and supporting a international Islamist terrorist groups on September 22, 2001].
JuD funding sources include state sponsorship, charities, and businesses. The Pakistan Muslim League-led Punjab State Government in its budget for fiscal year 2013-14 announced a grant-in-aid of PKR 61.35 million for the administrator of JuD’s training camp at Markaz-e-Taiba in Muridke. The budget also included an allocation of PKR 350 million for a ‘knowledge park’ at Muridke and various other JuD development initiatives across Punjab. Earlier, in 2009–10, the Federal Government provided more than PKR 80.2 million for the administration of JuD facilities. And in 2010–11, two separate grants of PKR 79.8 million were given to six organisations at Markaz-e-Taiba and a special grant-in-aid of PKR 3 million was awarded to JuD’s Al-Dawa School System in seven Districts of Punjab.
Funds are transferred from various sources through banks, use of hawala (illegal money transactions) and by couriers. Funds are utilized for dawa (preaching), khidmat-e-khalq (provision of social services), and jihad, including recruitment, training, and procurement of equipment and weapons. JuD has also used social media to collect funds. In June 2012, for instance, JuD sent messages on Twitter and Facebook, asking Muslims across the world to donate zakat (Islamic tax) and fitra (gift of food or money paid during on Eid-ul-Fitr) and Ramazan (the Holy month of fasting).
JuD’s ‘farmers and labor wing’ is, further, responsible for the collection of ushr (Islamic land tax). The group also collects hides of animals slaughtered during the holy festival of Eid al-Adha and sells them to harvest significant revenues. In November 2010, Yahya Mujahid, ‘spokesperson’ for JuD, conceded that, under FIF’s banner, JuD had set up seven camps for collecting hides of sacrificial animals in Islamabad (Punjab) and ten such camps in the adjacent city of Rawalpindi (Punjab). Funds are also collected by cells operating across the globe. ISI’s Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) network is another source of finance, and unconfirmed reports suggest involvement in heroin smuggling from Afghanistan through Pakistani seaports.
Recent inputs of India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) indicate that JuD and its affiliates had raised more than INR 3.5 billion in funds from various countries, including India. IB suspects that the money collected in the name of humanitarian aid is diverted by JuD to finance terrorist activities.
The LeT-JuD complex has a strong propaganda network, operates several websites, publishes periodicals and books, and distributes tapes of speeches by many of its leaders, prominently including Hafiz Saeed. Most of these are in the Urdu language, though Arabic and English versions also seek to address all sections of society. After the LeT’s website was shut down in 2008, soon after 26/11 attacks, JuD launched a website in mid-2012, releasing a video in which Hafiz Saeed observed, “Media is a two-sided sword. Instead of it having an impact on us, we want to use it in an effective way. Allah willing, [we] want to convey our message of Dawah [Invitation to Islam] and jihad to the people through it….”
The organization’s stated objectives are to destroy India, Israel and the United States, as ‘enemies of Islam’. JuD also seeks to spread the rule of Islam all over the world through violent means and to ‘liberate’ Kashmir from India. Another stated aim of this group is to exact revenge from the enemies of Islam while defending Muslim states and forcing ‘infidels’ in the Muslim world to pay jizia (money paid by non-Muslims in an Islamic State). The group has marked hundreds of potential targets around the world for future attack.
LeT-JuD runs several terror camps across Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir. According to a latest input by India’s Border Security Force (BDF), Hafiz Saeed has set up new terrorist camps in the Islamkot and Mithi areas in Sindh Province of Pakistan, opposite the Tanot and Kishangarh areas of Jaisalmer District in Rajasthan. On June 29, 2014, he was seen in Islamkot, Meerpur Khas, Mithi and Kherpur in this area. The BSF was given directions to be on alert and it believes that Saeed may try to push in terrorists via the Rajasthan border.
LeT-JuD’s terror profile came to global prominence when its chief Saeed and other top leaders were found directly involved in the November 26, 2008, Mumbai terror attacks (also known as 26/11). India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), in its charge sheet dated December 24, 2011, named Saeed as one of the accused, along with Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, David Headley, Tahawwur Rana, Abdul Rehman Hashmi, Sajid Malik, as well as two ISI officers, Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali. Further, LeT operative Syed Zaibuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, arrested in India in June 2012 after his deportation from Saudi Arabia, revealed that Hafiz Saeed was present in the Karachi ‘Control Room’ during the 26/11 attacks, along with Muzammil Butt (LeT ‘operations commander’). The Control Room was set up at a point between Malir Cantonment, Quaidabad, and the Jinnah International Airport, in Karachi. However, following the arrest in Pakistan of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi on December 7, 2008, under sustained US pressure, the ISI destroyed the control room.
Due to international pressure, Saeed was placed under house arrest in December 2008. In June 2009, however, the Lahore High Court released him due to ‘lack of evidence’, ruling that “the detention of Hafiz Saeed was a violation of the Constitution and the law of this country.” Despite the Interpol’s Red Corner Notice against Saeed, along with Lakhvi, issued on August 25, 2009, in response to India’s requests for his extradition, on October 12, 2009, all cases against Saeed were quashed by the Lahore High Court and he was set free. The Court also notified that JuD was not a banned organization in Pakistan, and could work freely in the country. “In the name of terrorism we cannot brutalise the law,” the Court ruled.
Saeed enjoys the open support of the Pakistani establishment and, unsurprisingly, roams freely across the country, addressing public rallies, pouring vitriol against India, US, Israel, and other countries. In latest of series of such rallies, on May 29, 2014, Saeed, delivered a speech as thousands of followers joined him at the Aabpara Chowk, situated just a few hundred yards from the ISI headquarters in Islamabad, and asked his followers to prepare, as the “time has come to perform the final jihad against India to free Kashmir from Indian occupation… Are you ready to help Kashmiri brothers and sisters? Would you join me for this noble cause?” Interestingly, the rally was attended by former ISI Chief, Hamid Gul, Senator Talha Mehmood of the right wing political Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI).
After extraordinary pressure from the US (four US citizens were killed in the Mumbai attacks), Pakistan did start the 26/11 trial at Rawalpindi Court, but the entire proceeding appear to be a fiasco, with interminable judicial delays due to trivial reasons. The case that was registered in Pakistan on February 15, 2009, has already witnessed the transfer of five Judges. Recently, on July 9, 2014, the Court adjourned hearings of the case for the fifth time in just three months, till July 16, after no prosecution lawyer and witnesses turned up. Earlier, in a May 21 application, lawyers led by Chaudhry Azhar had accused JuD activists of threatening them and the witnesses, with the petitioners claiming, “The JuD wants us not to pursue the Mumbai case.” Meanwhile, the incarcerated LeT-JuD leaders, including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who currently serves as ‘supreme commander’ of operations in Kashmir and as a member of LeT’s ‘General Council’, continue to enjoy extraordinary privileges and access, and exercise direct control over cadres and operations. Lakhvi is reportedly treated as a VVIP within the confines of the high-security prison in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi (Punjab), where he is permitted ‘outings’ under a thick security cover facilitated by the jail authorities. According to sources, he makes calls freely to control the outfit’s operations and to motivate his terrorist associates.
The latest US State Department designation appears to be little more than a demonstrative ritual and is unlikely to have even a remote impact on the JuD-LeT’s thriving fortunes in Pakistan. 13 years of US bans have done nothing to diminish the group’s state and popular support, and have, indeed, seen a steady expansion of the LeT’s global footprint. Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy at Brookings Institution, notes that LeT, in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, matured “from a Punjabi-based Pakistani terror group targeting India exclusively, to a member of the global Islamic jihad targeting the enemies of al Qaeda: the Crusader West, Zionist Israel, and Hindu India”. Indeed, the LeT’s reach and presence has steadily been expanding over the past decade with its units now operational in a vast network that stretches from North America to Australia. It has units in Germany, UK, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, Dubai and Bangladesh, and shares fraternal links with jihadists in Philippines, Kosovo, Chechnya, Palestine, Jordan and South East Asia. Media reports indicate that the outfit is part of a conglomeration of terrorist formations fighting the jihad in Syria.
With manifestly unqualified state support in Pakistan, the LeT-JuD appears to have little to fear. Indeed, in one prominent example of this theatre of the absurd, when the US declared a bounty of USD 10 million in April 2012, for “information leading to the arrest and conviction” of Hafiz Saeed, Saeed openly mocked the Americans in mass public rallies and open Press Conferences, declaring, “I am here, I am visible… I will be in Lahore tomorrow. America can contact me whenever it wants to.” And further, “It is regrettable that America has no information about me. Such rewards are usually for those who live in caves and mountains.”
LeT is not surviving in caves and mountains in Pakistan. It is visible and flaunts its existence in Rawalpindi – the Pakistan Army’s Headquarters – in Islamabad – the country’s capital – in its strongholds in Punjab, and, increasingly, across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, to operate into Afghanistan, and in the Sindh Province. It has, since its inception, been an instrumentality of the Pakistani state, and, while some extremist protégés in Pakistan may have gone rogue, LeT remains loyal and obedient, retaining the patronage that has allowed it to grow into one of the largest and most dangerous terrorist formations in the world.
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management