One week after the United Nations Security Council declared the Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity a front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, the Pakistani government has taken minimal steps to clamp down on the organization.
Pakistan claims it is rounding up senior leaders of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, closing down the group’s offices, and targeting their finances, but the government has halfheartedly pursued the crackdown, according to US officials and reports from the region.
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 for 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 ten locations throughout the city, including two major hotels.
One day before the UNSC declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terror organization, Pakistani security officials raided several training camps and offices in Punjab province and Azad Kashmir. Pakistan claimed to have arrested dozens of Jamaat followers, including Hafiz Saeed, the group’s founder and spiritual leader, and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the military commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Saeed was placed under house arrest. The New York Times described Saeed’s detention 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 stood by. The police commander denied Saeed was gone, but when Saeed was seen returning to his home, the leader said he was merely “following instructions.”
Only one of the 40 most wanted local Jamaat leaders has been detained, according to a government report obtained by Daily Times. The man, a retired colonel named Nazir, will be detained for three months.
Lakhvi is said to have been interrogated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations. But the Lashkar-e-Taiba threatened the state with civil war if Lakhvi is “grilled,” the Asia Times reported.
“So far the province of Punjab [the largest Pakistani province] has been spared from all sorts of violence, but if such action is carried out, Punjab will also burn in violence,” a senior Lashkar-e-Taiba leader told the news outlet.
Closing down offices
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 according to Pakistan’s interior ministry, the government issued orders to the four provincial governments that instructed these schools to remain open.
Pakistan has touted raids against regional and local offices of Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the Northwest Frontier Province, but the group’s main office remains open. The Markaz-e-Taiba, the sprawling Jamaat-ud-Dawa campus in Muridke that serves as the group’s headquarters, is still in operation, the London Times reported. The Muridke complex is “functioning normally with no sign of any police presence,” the newspaper reported last weekend.
“We’ve not had any official communication about closing,” the administrator for the Muridke complex told the London Times. “A lot of parents have been calling, afraid that it will be closed or there could be some violence, but we are telling them to send their children back.”
The Pakistani government claimed it was targeting Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s vast financial empire. Pakistan’s state bank said Jamaat’s accounts have been frozen, but much of the money has been transferred out of the accounts and hidden, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Jamaat has moved upwards of millions of dollars out of known accounts, a Pakistani official told The Wall Street Journal. “The money in Pakistan is hidden now. We won’t find it.”
Jamaat-ud-Dawa may have been tipped off that it was targeted for US sanctions up to a week before the UNSC took action, a senior intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “There are no secrets in Pakistan,” a frustrated official said. “Jamaat started transferring funds as soon as the Pakistani government became aware of the UN’s move to ban [the terror group.] Jamaat clearly has friends in high places.”
At least one bank account managed by Jamaat-ud-Dawa was open as of Dec. 12, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“People who wished could still deposit money at a Lahore branch of Bank Alfalah Ltd., a small lender part-owned by investors in Abu Dhabi,” said the bank’s operations officer, who would give his name only as Mr. Ali. He said neither Jamaat nor the government had asked him to shut the account, which was in the name of Markaz Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
Pakistan reluctantly takes on Jamaat-ud-Dawa
The Pakistani government reluctantly cracked down on Jamaat-ud-Dawa only after significant pressure from the US and Indian governments. Once it became clear the United Nations would declare Jamaat a terror group, the government launched raids on offices and detained several operatives.
While some government leaders talked tough on dealing with Jamaat, Pakistan’s defense minister freely admitted actions are underway because the government was concerned it would be labeled a terrorist state and suffer from UN sanctions. “We are part of the international community and cannot afford confrontation with the whole world,” Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told the Pakistani press.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi refused to say whether Pakistan has banned the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and he has repeatedly stated that anyone involved in the Mumbai attacks would not be turned over to India.
The way in which Pakistan’s announced its crackdown on Jamaat-ud-Dawa showed how reluctant the government is to move against the group, which is supported by powerful elements within Pakistan’s military and intelligence community and has a wide following throughout Pakistan for its ability to deliver services the state cannot or will not perform. The announcement of the government’s action was made “at midnight when most viewers had gone to bed,” The New York Times reported.
Saeed’s detention was “orchestrated by the government in a way to minimize what many here expect to be an angry reaction from the public, and from a broad spectrum of Islamic militant groups sympathetic to Lashkar-e-Taiba.” Saeed was permitted to hold a press conference, “unfettered by the authorities,” where he denounced the UN’s decision to place Jamaat-ud-Dawa on the terror list.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Tahla Saeed, the son of Hafiz Saeed, issued a not-so-veiled threat to the Pakistani government if action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa continues. “If the government continues this type of activity, then one day the army of God will come,” Tahla said while preaching at the mosque near his father’s home in Lahore. Tahla is wanted by India for sponsoring terror attacks in India-held Kashmir.
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