By Sanchita Bhattacharya*
The death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in Kashmir Valley has once again provided a pretext to Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its chief Hafiz Saeed to mobilise the Pakistani masses and amplify their anti-India rhetoric. JuD, under the leadership of Saeed, was the first one to take the lead with its “Azadi Caravan”. Setting out from Lahore on July 19, the caravan was expected to arrive in Islamabad on July 20. The caravan was received warmly in cities on the way, as participants kept joining the rallies. This rally was the first of the three stages of the movement that Saeed had described the process to be as at its start in Lahore. The stated purpose was to “wake up the Parliamentarians” in Islamabad.
The second stage, Saeed announced, would be to march to Chakothi, a small border town on Pakistan’s side of the Line of Control (LoC). “And in the third phase, we will march into occupied Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir) and we will continue marching till Kashmiris get freedom,” he declared.
Many analysts within Pakistan see the free movement of JuD throughout the country as a continuance of state’s policy of supporting and sponsoring jihadists to attain the desired results. Interestingly, though JuD enjoys tacit support of Pakistani establishment, in a recent development, on April 27, 2016 a Pakistani judge directed the Punjab province to present its case on a complaint that was filed against JuD for running unauthorised Sharia courts in the eastern city of Lahore. The documents submitted to the court show that the group is accused of holding parallel Sharia courts where Islamic law experts decide family, civil and criminal law cases without official supervision.
The history of the organisation and its terror proxies go back in mid 1980s. In 1985, Hafiz Saeed and Zafar Iqbal, two professors at Lahore University, created JuD 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) – Center for Preaching and Guidance, under the leadership of Hafiz Saeed. The MDI continued jihad in Afghanistan where it set up its first training centre. MDI enjoyed active support from both the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of US for fighting alongside the Mujahideen. The founders of the MDI wanted the group to carry on even after the Afghan jihad came to an end. The group was conceived to wage both armed and peaceful jihad alternately or at the same time. As the Afghan jihad came to an end, the MDI found another front in Kashmir to continue its armed jihad. In 1990, MDI formed its armed wing, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to fight jihad in Kashmir, while JuD acted as the “public facade” of the terror group.
The US government offered a USD 2 million reward for information leading to the capture of Abdur Rahman Makki, a founder of MDI and also senior leader in JuD establishment notorious for his “overt justifications of fidayeen missions”, and also a USD 10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Hafiz Saeed. In an interview to Al Jazeera in April 2012, Saeed did show his attitude towards the US move: “we are not hiding in caves for rewards to be set on finding us. We are addressing hundreds of thousands of people daily in Pakistan…. Their [US] presence is destabilising the region and causing economic downturn. We are creating a grassroots movement [to tell the US] to leave this region and withdraw its troops…We are mobilising people and it is our right to raise our voice…”.
Overtly, JuD, with headquarter in Muridke, in outskirts of Lahore (Punjab) acts like a socio-religious, cultural, spiritual and educational driving force behind the armed wing represented by the LeT. A 2011 report suggests that JuD has about 50,000 registered members to spread its influence and raise funds. JuD owns a solid and stretched-out infrastructure inside Pakistan which includes more than 300 offices, mosques and madrasas. 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 fleet of ambulances in the country, seven hospitals and more than 200 health centres. Moreover, the group also manages 16 religious institutions, ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks.
The JuD funds include state sponsorship, charities, and businesses. Money is transferred through banks, use of hawala (illegal money transaction) and by couriers. Funds are utilized mainly for dawa (preaching), khidmat-e-Khalq (provision of social services), and jihad (Islamic campaign against non-believers) through recruitment, training, and procurement of equipment and weapons. Sources say that JuD also collects donations from Pakistani committees in Gulf countries and the United Kingdom in addition to Islamic NGOs and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. Reportedly, JuD furthermore used the social sites to collect fund. During June, 2012 JuD sent messages on Twitter and Facebook asking Muslims across the world to donate zakat and fitra (a gift of food or money given after the sighting of new moon) during Ramzan.
Moreover, the “farmers and labor wing” of JuD is responsible for the collection of ushr (an Islamic land tax). Notably, the group collects hides of most of the animals slaughtered during the holy festivals of Eid al-Adha and sells them for a profit. Yahya Mujahid, ‘spokesperson’ for JuD, said during November 2010, under FIF’s banner, JuD set up seven camps for collecting hides of sacrificial animals in Islamabad and ten such camps in the adjacent city of Rawalpindi. Some 31 banned outfits successfully launched hides collection campaign under the guise of welfare organisations during Eid-al-Adha. However, as reported in April 2013 Pakistan’s Interior Ministry banned JuD, from buying and selling animal hides. The leather trade has been an extremely lucrative business for jihadist entities, particularly in Punjab.
Presently, the organisation’s stated objective is to destroy India, Israel and the United States for they are the enemies of Islam. The followers of JuD also seek to spread the rule of Islam all over the world through violent means and liberate Indian administered Kashmir. Another stated aim of this group is to exact revenge from the enemies of Islam while defending Muslim states and forcing the infidels in the Muslim world to pay jazia. The group has marked hundreds of potential targets around the world which have to be struck.
JuD with its network mostly in Punjab and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) has also concentrated its activities in Karachi, with Hafiz Saeed making frequent visits to the city when addressing Friday gatherings and congregations. The organisation is also making inroads into Balochistan.
The LeT’s propaganda network is mostly carried out by the JuD. It operates several websites, publishes periodicals and books, and distributes tapes of Hafiz Saeed. Most of these are in the Urdu, in addition to Arabic and English versions, addressing all sections of society. From monthly publications like Ud-Dawa, Voice of Islam, Irada Khidmat-e-Halla, Al Rabat and Zarb-e-Tayyeba, to weekly ones like Ghazwa, Al Anfal and Jihad Times, these magazines preach the LeT world view.
According to a 2013 report, following the UN Security Council ban, the Pakistani government came under international pressure and shut down the group’s websites and publications. However, the group began using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The 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….”
It is worth mentioning that Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior had also enlisted JuD as a terrorist organization in November 2015 and the government has banned the publications related to the group’s issues. Yet, JuD remains a legitimate group in the country, which practices charity activities and organizes protests across the country. Further showing its presence in the country, over the past five years, JuD has formed alliances with six other religious groups to establish the group known as “Pakistan Defense Council”, which is still active and organises protests against American drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions.
The degree of impunity and political leverage exercised by JuD-LeT and Hafiz Saeed within Pakistan is a sure indication of its inroads into the socio-political arena of the country. The popular and establishment support for the organisation has serious security implications for India, as the Muridke training centre is infamous for breeding anti-India terrorists. Moreover, the ongoing delays in the 26/11 trials in Pakistan against LeT ‘operational commander’ Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is just another eyewash for the international community and one more audacious tactic of JuD-LeT cohort to showcase its dominance and legitimacy in the power-sharing game of Pakistan.
*Dr. Sanchita Bhattacharya is a Post-Doctoral Fellow, UGC and Visiting Scholar, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi. Comments and suggestions can be sent to: [email protected]