Jamaat-ud- Dawa 'charity' plotted Mumbai attacks
December 8, 2008
The 'charity' that plotted the Mumbai attacks
Pakistan has a hard job rooting out militancy. But it cannot let Jamaat-ud-Dawa carry on fooling people about its aimsAnthony Loyd From The Times (London) December 8, 2008
Wriggling under the illumination of media scrutiny after accusations of its involvement in the slaughter in Mumbai, Jamaat-ud- Dawa's response last week was a workmanlike PR counter-move. Journalists were taken on a guided tour of the organisation's headquarters, 30 miles from Lahore, where a civilised lunch of spiced chicken and rice accompanied declarations of innocence, condemnation of the terrorist attack and claims to be nothing more than a charity group involved in relief work.
Terrorists? Not us, guv. But in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, just three weeks before the Mumbai attacks, the advice of PR gurus was noticeably absent when I met a leading official from the group. "We don't like democracy," Atiq ur-Rahman told me, eyes ablaze. "Our struggle is to establish an Islamic caliphate throughout the world. Whichever force tries to resist it shall be shattered."
He bubbled with the internal rage so characteristic of militants, and having given a perfunctory resumé of JuD's relief work among Pakistani civilians displaced by fighting and natural disaster, launched himself into a diatribe against India and the West. The rant concluded with an amazing on-the-spot attempt to recruit my interpreter, citing the abuse of Muslims by infidel forces in Somalia, Chechnya and Kashmir. In the embarrassed silence that followed his departure we were left to flick through a copy of Why We Are Performing Jihad, the jihadist manual that he had handed us to further his case.
Though designated as a terrorist organisation by America in 2006, Jamaat-ud-Dawa remains a legitimate organisation in Pakistan where it has hundreds of offices and numerous "relief camps" throughout the country.
Over and above similar militant organisations in Pakistan that have, more or less, been ostracised by Pakistani authorities in recent years, JuD is of specific importance now in highlighting the limits of Pakistan's commitment to combating regional and international terrorism, with special significance to the UK.
For despite assurances from President Asif Zardari of co-operation with India in tracking down the Mumbai perpetrators, so far Pakistan has been dismissive of claims by Indian and Western security officials that the cell involved was trained, armed and funded by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant organisation inside Pakistan that is the parent of JuD, and with which the terrorists allegedly communicated during the course of the operation.
LeT was formed in Kunar province, Afghanistan, in 1989 by the Islamist Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. After the withdrawal of the Russians from Afghanistan the LeT, funded by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, turned its attention to fighting Indian forces in Kashmir. The LeT's December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament drew the neighbouring countries to the edge of war, after which the organisation was banned. The JuD, formed by Hafiz Saeed in 2002 as a charity organisation, emerged directly from the LeT being forced underground.
Based in Lahore, the JuD has been accused ever since of being little more than the public front for the LeT's Kashmiri militants, in much the same way as Sinn Féin was for the IRA. Thanks to its high-profile relief work, notably in the wake of the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, and a continued desire to preserve strategic assets to counter India's regional jockeying, Pakistani authorities have to date been unwilling to close down JuD offices, despite growing evidence of its involvement in terrorism.
Shehzad Tanweer, one of the 7/7 London Tube bombers, allegedly met al-Qaeda commanders at the JuD madrassa in Lahore in 2004 and Hafiz Saeed was himself briefly detained there in 2006 - where he was questioned by British anti-terrorist squad detectives - and investigated for connections to the British-based terror cell plotting to blow up airliners over the Atlantic. (Rashid Rauf, the former baker boy from Birmingham on the run from authorities for his involvement in this plot, was killed by a US drone in Pakistan just a week before the Mumbai attacks.)
America's headache with Jamaat-ud-Dawa is straightforward enough. Washington accuses it of recruiting and funding for the LeT, who in turn are attempting to reverse the US strategy of improving relations between Pakistan and India so as to focus Pakistan's efforts on the militant sanctuaries along its border with Afghanistan.
Britain's worries are more acute and related directly to the disproportionate number of Kashmiris among the UK's 480,000-strong Pakistani population. Since 2001 British intelligence officers and diplomats have noted with alarm al-Qaeda's success in merging Kashmiri militants with the global jihadi network. British passportholders are particularly attractive recruits and the JuD, its offices and camps so far untouched in Pakistan, is now regarded as a key portal for young British Muslims seeking to join al-Qaeda. "These training camps... pose a real threat to the UK," a diplomat in Islamabad told me in October. "Which is why Britain is asking for them to be closed down. The chief worry is that young British radicals travel to Pakistan, connect into Pakistani Kashmir and may gain some training there. They are then passed on to facilitation camps in Waziristan or Bajaur. Some then reappear in the UK. Others stay on in the tribal areas planning attack operation on the UK."
Pakistan's efforts to face up to the threat of its militancy should not be sneered at. Since 2001 it has lost more than 1,000 soldiers fighting militants along its frontier with Afghanistan and its troops remain heavily engaged in action in Bajaur tribal agency. Recently it has made serious efforts to clean up the ISI and purge it of renegade elements funding militant groups.
But the Mumbai outrage has raised the bar, again, on the requirements for proof of Pakistan's commitment. For it to meet this challenge and concur with Western and Indian demands to act against the JuD, it will require a careful combination of pressure and inducement, as well as an intensification of regional efforts to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
The militants who killed Hindus, Christians and Jews in Mumbai evidently saw their cause as part of a struggle connecting India with Kashmir, America, Afghanistan and Britain. If they are to be successfully countered, the moves against them will have have to be as many-headed, as widespread, and much more sophisticated.