Protesters at “Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal’s” rally in Lahore fly the Jamaat-ud Dawa flag.
A Pakistan terror group behind last year’s terror assault in the Indian city of Mumbai has rebranded itself and held a protest in Lahore.
Banner for the Jamaat-ud Dawa.
The Jamaat-ud Dawa, the front group for the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba, has renamed itself Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal, or the Movement for the Safeguarding of the First Center of Prayer, according to Times Now, an Indian television channel.
The Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal held an anti-Israel protest in the Pakistani city of Lahore, close to Jamaat-ud Dawa’s headquarters in Muridke. “Addressing that rally were some of the top Jamaat and Lashkar leaders,” The Times of India reported. “The Jamaat-ud Dawa is clearly going about with business as usual, just under a different name.”
Two senior members of the Jamaat-ud Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba addressed the crowd as it protested Israel’s incursion into Gaza. During the rally, the crowd waved Jamaat-ud Dawa’s signature black and white flag.
The name change by the Lashkar-e-Taiba is a common tactic used to keep the terror groups in operation, and to help excuse Pakistan’s inaction against these groups.
The US government designated Lashkar-e-Taiba as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in December 2001. The Pakistani government banned the group in January 2002, but this did little to shut down its operations. The group renamed itself the Jamaat-ud Dawa and conducted business as usual. On Dec. 11, 2008, just two weeks after the Mumbai attack, the United Nations designated Jamaat-ud Dawa a terrorist organization, prompting a Pakistani “crackdown” on the organization.
It was previously reported that Jamaat-ud Dawa renamed itself the Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, or the Movement for defending the honor of the Prophet.
Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa have been implicated in the late November terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai. The attack lasted more than 60 hours and resulted in more than 170 innocent victims killed. The city was shut down as Indian security forces battled small teams of terrorists that had first infiltrated Mumbai by sea and then attacked at 10 locations throughout the city, including two major hotels. Elements within Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency and the military are believed to have aided in the attack.
Jamaat’s new name linked to Palestinian cause and global jihad
The renaming of Jamaat-ud-Dawa to Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal appears to be a nod to the Palestinian terror group Hamas and Jamaat’s declared jihad to reclaim the Muslim caliphate.
In Islamic terms, Qibla Awal refers to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the “first place of prayer.” The “liberation” of the Al Aqsa mosque is a central tenet of both Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. In a pamphlet titled “Why Are We Waging Jihad?” Lashkar-e-Taiba explicitly mentions the need for Muslims to reclaim territories that may have been under Islamic rule at one time or another. One of the territories explicitly mentioned in the pamphlet is Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa mosque in particular.
The links between the two terror groups goes back to their founding. Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s mentor, had a central role in the establishment of both Hamas and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Azzam is said to have been instrumental in the founding of Hamas, and co-founded Lashkar-e-Taiba along with Hafiz Saeed.
Prior to the Pakistani government’s ban on the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas’ leaders, via telephone, would address the terror group’s yearly convention.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa/Lashkar-e-Taiba may be using Israel’s operation in Gaza to justify the group’s reorganization, shield it from criticism, and allow it to regroup, as well as to appeal for funds from the public.
Pakistan touts crackdown on Jamaat-ud Dawa
Jamaat-ud Dawa’s reincarnation takes place as Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s chief adviser to the prime minister on interior matters, touted the country’s success in clamping down on the terror group.
Malik claimed that 71 members of the Jamaat-ud Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba have been arrested while another 124 others are under observation. Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s military leader, along with Lashkar and Jamaat leaders Mufti Abdur Rehman, Nazir Ahmed, and Amir Hamza are currently in custody, while Hafiz Saeed, the founder of both Lashkar and Jamaat, is under house arrest.
Interestingly, while Pakistani authorities routinely have denied that the Jamaat was a Lashkar front, Malik noted that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was both a “commander” of the Lashkar and the head of Jamaat’s unit in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. In addition, Malik specified a list of Lashkar/Jamaat publications that will be proscribed in the future. One of these publications is the weekly “Ghazva” or “Holy Raid.” Pakistani journalist Amir Mir reported last week that the Ghazva was still available in news stands all over Pakistan and that the latest issue called the Mumbai atrocities a “historic victory for Muslim warriors.” The weekly also claimed that in 2008, more than 4,500 Pakistani mothers “donated” one son each and 83 mothers two sons each to the Jamaat for waging jihad.
Malik also said several training camps have been closed and the group’s website has been shut down. The English version of Jamaat-ud Dawa’s website, www.jamatdawah.org, is no longer active. Notably however, Malik dodged questions on whether the Jamaat/Lashkar leaders in detention would be charged with offenses, leading to fears that these men might be released quietly once the international scrutiny on Pakistan dies down, as was evidenced in the aftermath of previous terror attacks linked to Pakistani jihadists.
Indeed, some of Pakistan’s actions against the terror groups have been less than encouraging. Saeed’s house arrest has been described as “a forced vacation.” Police idly stand guard at the home as visitors come and go and deliveries are made. Saeed has been seen leaving his home to preach at a mosque in his neighborhood while police stand by.
The Markaz-e-Taiba, the sprawling Jamaat-ud Dawa campus in Muridke that serves as the group’s headquarters, is still in operation. In late December, the Times Online reported the that Muridke complex is “functioning normally with no sign of any police presence.”
The Jamaat-ud Dawa runs more than 500 madrassas and other schools throughout Pakistan, as well as scores of regional and local offices throughout the country. But many of these schools and offices are still open. According to Pakistan’s interior ministry, the government issued orders to the four provincial governments that instructed these schools to remain open and said the provinces may take over the administration.