The Pakistani government has issued orders to place Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) emir Hafiz Saeed under house arrest and raid the group’s offices. Saeed, who runs a state within the Pakistani state that is akin to Lebanese Hezbollah, has been placed in protective custody in the past, only to be freed.
Pakistani police fanned out across Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s extensive complex in Muridke as well as the group’s offices in Lahore with warrants to place Saeed and five other leaders under house arrest, Dawn reported. The arrest order was confirmed by JuD’s secretary of information and spokesman. Saeed was not present at JuD’s Muridke complex or the Lahore offices, but was reported to be at a nearby mosque.
In addition to issuing orders placing Saeed under house arrest, the government has “started to remove the banners of JuD from the roads of Lahore.”
The US and India have both put pressure on Pakistan to detain Saeed and shut down his terror network for over a decade, but to no avail. After the US and India accused Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa of executing the deadly Nov. 2008 terror raid in Mumbai, Saeed was placed under a loose house arrest in Dec. 2008. It was later reported that Saeed consulted with Osama bin Laden to plan the Mumbai assault. However, Saeed was able to move about Lahore with few, if any, restrictions.
Saeed’s strong ties with Pakistan’s military and intelligence branch, as well as politicians, has made him impervious to attempts to keep him in custody, even under the loose house arrest. By August 2009, the Lahore High Court said the government did not have grounds to detain him.
Three years after Saeed was released, and one day after the US Rewards For Justice program issued a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest and prosecution, a Pakistani counterterrorism official confirmed that Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa were consulting with the government to conduct a purported jihadist de-radicalization program. That same day, Saeed gave a speech where he called on Muslims to wage jihad against America.
Pakistan has an extremely poor record with keeping known jihadist leaders in custody. Known terrorist leaders such as Masood Azhar (Jaish-e-Mohammed), Qari Saifullah Akhtar (Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami), and Malik Ishaq (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) have been detained numerous times, only to be freed.
Background on Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and al Qaeda
Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam encouraged Saeed to form Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the late 1980s, and helped fund the establishment of the terror outfit. LeT, like al Qaeda, calls for the establishment of a global caliphate and receives funding from Saudis and other wealthy individuals throughout the Middle East. LeT has since been renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa and also uses a number of charitable fronts to mask its operations.
LeT is an ally of al Qaeda; the two groups provide support for each other, and their operatives train in each other’s camps. In the past, LeT has established training camps in Kunar province in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the tribal areas, and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas. Many of these facilities are thought to still be in operation to this day.
Fighters from LeT battled alongside al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in the assault on the US combat outpost in Wanat in Nuristan province, Afghanistan in July of 2008. Nine US troops were killed, and 15 US soldiers and four Afghan troops were wounded in the heavy fight that nearly culminated in the outpost being completely overrun. US forces ultimately beat back the attack, but abandoned the outpost days later.
LeT has an extensive network in Southern and Southeast Asia, where it seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate. The group essentially runs a state within a state in Pakistan; they have established an organization that is as effective as Lebanese Hezbollah. Its sprawling Muridke complex, just northwest of Lahore in Punjab province, is a town of its own. Throughout Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, LeT runs numerous hospitals, clinics, schools, mosques, and other services. In support of its activities, LeT is active in fundraising across the Middle East and South Asia, and the group has recruited scores of Westerners to train in its camps.
In 2005, the group succeeded in providing aid to earthquake-ravaged regions in Kashmir while the Pakistani government was slow to act. LeT also provided relief to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons who have fled the fighting between the military and the Taliban in the Malakand Division as well as those impacted by the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2010.
The US government designated LeT 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 Jamaat-ud-Dawa and conducted business as usual. After Mumbai, Jamaat-ud-Dawa used the name Falah-i Insaniat Foundation (FIF), and continued fundraising and other activities. The US designated the FIF as a terrorist group in November 2010.
LeT has mastered the art of using charitable groups to fundraise as well as promote its message and recruit. Since 2010, the US has also identified the following groups as LeT fronts: Al-Muhammadia Students, Al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, and Tehrik-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awwal.
In reality, Saeed and his leaders rebranded the group as a Muslim charity to mask the operations of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa. After Mumbai, Pakistan claimed to shut down Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa offices and camps, and detained followers, but the efforts were largely cosmetic.
Saeed and his followers have strong ties with elements within Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISID. LeT is one of the primary terror groups used by Pakistan’s ISID to direct military and terror operations inside India and Indian-held Kashmir. During the 1999 Kargil War, when Pakistan invaded Indian-held Kashmir, the Lashkar-e-Taiba fought as the vanguard for Pakistani forces in the mountainous region. To this day, LeT military and terror units continue to infiltrate into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the help of Pakistan’s military.