Saturday, Aug 13, 2022

Arrest Is Not Enough

The reported arrest of Lakhvi, if confirmed, speaks of the intense pressure on Pakistan from the US to act against the LET. India, the US and the rest of the international community should ensure that this is not a cosmetic step like similar steps in

Arrest Is Not Enough
Arrest Is Not Enough

Pakistani media and some foreign news agencies, including the Associated Press, reported on December 8, 2008, that helicopter-borne Pakistani security forces raided a camp of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) located at a place called Shawai, on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), on December 7 and detained 12 inmates of the camp, including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, reportedly the operational chief of the LET.

Major-Gen.Athar Abbas, a spokesman of the army, while briefing the media, confirmed that the security forces had carried out " an intelligence-led operation against a banned militant organisation and carried out several arrests" , but he did not identify the organisation as the LET. Nor did he confirm that Lakhvi was among those detained.

According to the Indian investigators, Lakhvi was the mastermind of the terrorist attack in Mumbai from November 26 to 29, 2008. Details of the terrorist strike available so far from the Indian investigators and other sources indicate that Lakhvi planned and orchestrated the execution of the terrorist strike in the same manner that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, now facing trial in Guantanamo Bay, had orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist strikes of Al Qaeda in the US Homeland.

As a matter of policy, the LET never claims responsibility for any acts of terrorism in the Indian territory outside J&K. Even in J&K, it claims responsibility only for attacks on the security forces and not for attacks on civilians. Its statements claiming responsibility are generally issued in the name of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is designated as the supreme commander of the LET. Pakistani sources describe Prof.Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed as the Amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) and Lakhvi as the Amir of the LET.

In an interview to The Nation (April 9,1999) from Muzaffarabad, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was described as the Amir of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, said: 

"We are extending our network in India and carried out attacks on Indian installations successfully in Himachal Pradesh last year. To set up Mujahideen networks across India is our target. We are preparing the Muslims of India against India and when they are ready, it will be the start of the disintegration of India."

Addressing a press conference at Muzaffarabad on March 2,1999, Zafar Iqbal ,the co-founder of the LET, said that the LET had invited Osama bin Laden to join the "freedom struggle" in Kashmir. He said that his organisation would welcome bin Laden if he joined its struggle against the Indian army in Kashmir. He added:

"Osama is our erstwhile colleague and we had fought jointly against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. "

Under US pressure following the terrorist strike on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, Pervez Musharraf, in a telecast to his nation on January 12, 2002, announced his decision to ban the LET and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). In pursuance of Musharraf's telecast announcement, Lt.Gen. (retd) Moinuddin Haider, Pakistan's then Interior Minister, issued a notification on January 15, 2002, formally banning the following five organisations under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, which was got enacted by the then Prime Minister, Mr.Nawaz Sharif, and under which Sharif himself was got prosecuted and jailed by Musharraf after capturing power on October 12, 1999: the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the Tehreek-e-Jafferia Pakistan (TJP) and the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM).The ban order was carried in the Pakistani Gazette the same day. As I had pointed out at that time, the Gazette order banned the activities of the LET only in Sindh, the Pakistani Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. It did not ban its activities in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Northern Areas (NA) and the POK.

When Pakistani journalists questioned the local authorities about it, they were told that since the POK was an autonomous state, only the local government in Muzaffarabad had the power to issue a ban order. They also said that a separate ban order in respect of the FATA and the NA would follow. No ban order was issued by the POK government. Nor was any order issued by the Islamabad government in respect of the FATA and the NA. Thus the legal position was that while the LET could not operate in Sindh, Punjab, the NWFP and Balochistan, it was free to operate in the POK, the NA and the FATA. The Pakistani authorities also made it clear that the LET and the EM were being banned not because of the Indian allegations of their involvement in acts of terrorism in Indian territory, including Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), but because of their suspected terrorist activities in Pakistani territory.

1,957 persons belonging to the five banned organisations were detained and 615 of their offices sealed. Of them, 735 were detained and 336 offices sealed in Punjab; 852 arrested and 180 offices closed in Sindh; 337 detained and 81 offices shut in the NWFP; 15 arrested and an equal number of offices sealed in Balochistan; and 18 persons arrested and 3 offices closed in Islamabad. There was no action against their leadership, members and infrastructure in the FATA, the POK and the NA. The majority of those arrested belonged to the political and administrative cadres of these organisations. There were practically no arrests of their trained terrorists. An estimated 5,000 trained terrorists were reported to have either escaped to the FATA, the POK and the NA or gone underground in other parts of Pakistan. The trained terrorists of the LET escaped to the POK and the NA. Those of the JEM escaped to the FATA.

Among those arrested in Punjab was Prof-Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of of the Markaz Dawa Al Irshad (MDI), as the political wing of the LET was then known.Lakhvi was not arrested. He shifted to the POK and started operating from Shawai. At this camp, he used to train terrorists and send them into J&K and other parts of India for carrying out acts of terrorism. After some weeks, the Pakistani authorities released Sayeed and others arrested in the other provinces of Pakistan on the ground that investigations after their arrests did not find any evidence of their involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory. They rejected Indian allegations of their involvement in acts of terrorism in J&K and other parts of India. As regards their activities in J&K, they described them as part of a freedom struggle. As regards their activities in other parts of India, they asserted that India had not been able to produce any evidence in proof of its charge.

Sayeed re-named the MDI as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), a charity and humanitarian relief organisation, which, according to him, had nothing to do with the LET. The Pakistani media continued to identify the JUD as nothing but the LET under a different name. Thus, two organisations started operating----- the JUD headed by Sayeed in the four Pakistani provinces and the LET headed by Lakhvi in the POK and the NA. In his capacity as the Amir of the JUD, Sayeed started travelling all over Pakistan to collect funds and to set up the new network of the JUD.

Concerned over his activities, in 2004, the US again started pressing Musharraf to ban the JUD too and to enforce effectively the earlier ban on the LET. The renewed US pressure was due to the following reasons:

  • The unearthing of sleeper cells of the LET in the USA and Australia.
  • Its role in the training of a number of Indonesians and Malaysians, including the brother of Hambali of the Jemaah Islamiyah, in one of its madrasas in Karachi.
  • Its suspected role in training some recruits from Singapore in one of its training camps in the POK.
  • Its assumption of the role of the co-ordinator of the International Islamic Front (IIF) formed by bin Laden in 1998.
  • Its active role in collecting funds and recruiting volunteers for joining the jihad against the US troops in Iraq.
  • The virulent anti-US statements in relation to Iraq issued by Prof.Sayeed.
  • Reports circulating in Pakistan that Al Qaeda would in future be using non-Arab suicide volunteers recruited by the LET in view of the difficulties faced by the Arab members of Al Qaeda in travelling to the US and other Western countries.

In the wake of the renewed US pressure came a report in the reliable Daily Times of Lahore (July 18,2004) claiming that following personal differences with Sayeed over his marrying a 28-year-old widow, whose husband was killed in J&K, some members of the LET had broken their links with the JUD and formed a new organisation called the Khirun Naas meaning "the Welfare of the Masses. The Daily Times reported as follows: 

"The Khairun Naas was established with the support of most of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and a majority within the party. The KN’s leadership consists mostly of LET commanders including Lakhvi, JD Lahore head Abu Shoiab, Punjab head Abu Naser Javed, Abdul Qadir and Saifullah Mansoor. Prof Iqbal (Zafar Iqbal), publications chief Ameer Hamza, and JD seminaries head Maulana Abdul Sallam Bhatvi are also supporting them. According to sources, Prof Iqbal is currently in Saudi Arabia seeking the support of Saudi clerics and the party’s structure will be announced when he returns, probably with him at the top. Khairun Naas and Lashkar-e-Toiba are basically the same, but the LET is banned in Pakistan so we adopted the name Khairun Naas," a member of the new party said. The sources said that the KN’s claim to the LET centre at Muridke was strong because of Mr Lakhvi. Mr Lakhvi had close ties with the Arab Mujahideen and his sister was married to an Arab, Abdul Rehman Sherahi. It was Mr Sherahi who purchased the land on which the (Muridke) centre is built and gifted it to the JD. Mr Sherahi was arrested in Renala Khurd two years ago for connections with Al Qaeda. No one can claim the Muridke Markaz except Lakhvi, because it was established by his efforts," an aide of his said." 

(My comment: According to reliable sources, the land at Muridke was actually given free of charge to the MDI by the late Zia-ul-Haq. The money for the construction of the centre was given by bin Laden and Sherahi. The Muridke centre used to have a guest house constructed for use by bin Laden during his visits to Muridke before 1992 )

A similar report was also carried by the Herald, the monthly of the Dawn group of publications. The Herald report identified Iqbal as the head of the KN. He and Sayeed had jointly founded the MDI and the LET. Following this split, Maulana Ibrahim Salafi, a 56-year-old senior leader of the JUD, was shot dead in Lahore by unidentified persons on September 12, 2004. This gave rise to fears of a violent clash between the two groups. It was reported that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden, sent for the representatives of the two groups and made them forget their differences and operate unitedly once again under the leadership of Sayeed.

While the JUD, the LET and the KN projected themselves as different organisations with no links to each other, sections of the Pakistani media and American experts treated all the three as one and the same. On April 27,2006,the US State Department issued Executive Order 13224 designating the JUD as a terrorist organisation and blocking property and interests in property, of the JUD and another linked organzation, Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq, that are in the United States or the under the control of U.S. persons. Earlier, in December 2001, the US had designated the LET as a terrorist organisation, but its attempt to persuade the monitoring committee of the UN Security Council to similarly designate the LET could not succeed till May 2,2005. During this period, Pakistan was a member of the monitoring committee, which monitors the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 against terrorism passed immediately after 9/11. All members of the UN Security Council are members of this monitoring committee, which acts on the basis of consensus. Pakistan has till now resisted US pressure to ban the JUD as a terrorist organisation. It continues to assert that the JUD is a charity-cum-humanitarian relief organisation and has nothing to do with the LET.

A Pakistani government spokesperson said on May 3, 2006: 

"The government has no intention of designating the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its affiliate organisation as terrorist entities as done by the US. However, Pakistan would be legally bound to take action if they were placed on United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee's consolidated list. The US had approached the UNSC for designation of the organisations as terrorist outfits and for putting them on the committee's list. We do not put any of our entities on the terrorist list if the action is taken under the US domestic law."

Chinese support to the Pakistani contention that the JUD is not a terrorist organisation and has no links with the LET has come in the way of the monitoring committee including the JUD in its list of terrorist organisations.

A press release of the U.S. Department of Treasury issued on May 27, 2008, designated Sayeed, Lakhvi and two other office-bearers of the LET as terrorists and highlighted their links with Al Qaeda. A copy of the press release is annexed. On August 14, 2008, Pakistan's Independence Day, the JUD held a conference in Lahore, called the "Defend Pakistan Conference. "The conference opened with the singing by one Hafiz Abdul Wadud Hasan and Hafiz Abdur Rauf of what was described as the Jihadi National Anthem. The conference directed that in future this Anthem will be taught and sung in all training centres and madrasas controlled by the LET. The text of the Anthem is also annexed.

The reported arrest of Lakhvi, if confirmed, speaks of the intense pressure on Pakistan from the US to act against the LET. India, the US and the rest of the international community should ensure that this is not a cosmetic step like similar steps in 2002 and that the LET infrastructure in Pakistan is dismantled and those involved in the Mumbai terrorist strike against Indians, Israelis, Americans and others are brought to justice. 

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies.


Outlook Newsletters


Read More from Outlook

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

In happy times and sad, Habba Khatun’s sensuous songs make both young and old emotional. With the never-ending conflict bringing tragedies to every doorstep, Habba’s lyrics of separation amplify their mourning.

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

In India, only those relationships between a man and a woman are considered to be legitimate when there is a marriage between the two.

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Virat Kohli, 33, had recently stepped down as India's T20I captain and was subsequently removed as the ODI captain.

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

A Mahila Congress leader, who is the face of the ‘Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon’ campaign, however, has accused the party of anti-women bias after she was denied a ticket.