Banners belonging to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charitable front group for the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba, dominate a rally, or “long march,” today in Lahore against the reopening of NATO’s supply lines to Afghanistan that was organized by the anti-American Defense of Pakistan Council. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa was designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department well over a year ago, on Nov. 24, 2010.
The black-and-white striped flag with the crossed swords that is the hallmark of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa was seen flying from vehicle after vehicle as they passed through the eastern city of Lahore. The Defense of Pakistan Council, or Difa-e-Pakistan, which includes several mainstream political groups and radical Islamists and terrorists, organized the march, which is heading towards the capital of Islamabad.
On July 3, Pakistan reopened NATO’s supply routes into Afghanistan, more than seven months after they were shut down following the deaths of 24 Pakistanis in a clash with US soldiers at the border between Afghanistan’s Kunar province and Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal agency. Twenty-four Pakistani troops were killed after they opened fire on US and Afghan troops operating in Kunar [see LWJ report, Pakistani fire, mutual errors led to Mohmand troop deaths: ISAF inquiry].
The Defense of Pakistan Council is chaired by Maulana Sami ul-Haq, the “Father of the Taliban.” Ul-Haq said in a speech that with today’s turnout, “the Pakistani nation has shown its hatred for America,” according to The Associated Press.
Ul-Haq runs the Darul Uloom Haqqani madrassa, or Jamia Haqqani, the second largest in Pakistan. The madrassa is known to send recruits to wage jihad in Afghanistan.
“Darul Uloom Haqqania is where many of the top Taliban leaders, including its fugitive chief, Mullah Omar, attended,” according to the Jamestown Foundation, which interviewed ul-Haq in 2007.
Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is a deputy leader of the Defense of Pakistan Council. Saeed and several of his followers have been designated by the US as a global terrorists. Saeed runs the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and the Falah-i Insaniat Foundation; all three groups have been designated by the US as terrorist entities. In April, Saeed called on Muslims worldwide to wage jihad against the US.
This year, the US Rewards for Justice program offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed. Only al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, at $25 million, has a higher bounty. Saeed is now on par with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the head of the Taliban; Abu Du’a, the emir of al Qaeda in Iraq; and Yasin al Suri, a senior al Qaeda facilitator based in Iran; all have $10 million bounties. Saeed ranks above other terrorist leaders, including al Qaeda strategist and leader Saif al Adel and Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan emir Hakeemullah Mehsud.
Saeed’s terror organization has been directly linked to numerous terror attacks in South Asia, including the November 2008 terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai that resulted in the deaths of 165 people. The US and Indian governments have accused Saeed and other Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives and leaders of plotting, financing, and executing the Mumbai attack. A former adviser to President Obama on Afghanistan and Pakistan recently stated that evidence seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound linked the slain al Qaeda emir to the Mumbai attack and Saeed. [See LWJ report, Osama bin Laden helped plan Mumbai attacks.]
Saeed, who formed the Lashkar-e-Taiba at the behest of Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor and co-founder of al Qaeda, praised bin Laden after US Navy SEALs killed the al Qaeda emir at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
Despite the US designations of Saeed and his terror groups, the Pakistani government has not acted against him or his groups. Saeed is a public figure and popular among millions of Islamists and nationalists in the country. Saeed regularly appears on Pakistani television and is known to dine with top Pakistani Army generals.
Other leaders of the Defense of Pakistan Council include Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, the founder of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and current leader of the Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat; and Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the founder the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen. All of these groups and their leaders are linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The Defense of Pakistan Council launched its march against the reopening of NATO’s supply lines into Afghanistan after Ihsanullah Ihsan, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s spokesman, challenged the anti-American coalition to act.
“Re-opening of NATO supply routes by Pakistan is a test of parties that were shouting slogans of ‘DEFENCE OF PAKISTAN’ and were staging a political drama, how will they face the nation?,” Ihsan said in statement received by The Long War Journal on July 4.
Ihsan vowed that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan “will carry attacks on NATO supplies with a new spirit.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.