» News » Lashkar-e-Tayiba: A history of terrorism

Lashkar-e-Tayiba: A history of terrorism

By B Raman
December 09, 2008 17:50 IST
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Pakistani media and some foreign news agencies, including the Associated Press, reported on December 8, that helicopter-borne ;Pakistani security forces raided a camp of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba 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 Lashkar's operational chief.

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

As a matter of policy, the Lashkar never claims responsibility for any acts of terrorism in Indian territory outside Jammu and Kashmir. Even in J&K, it claims responsibility only for attacks on security forces and not for attacks on civilians. Its statements claiming responsibility are generally issued in Lakhvi's name, Pakistani sources describe Professor Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed as the amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Lashkar's political wing and Lakhvi as the amir of the Lashkar.

In an interview to The Nation (April 9, 1999) from Muzaffarabad, Lakhvi 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.'

Under US pressure following the terrorist strike on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, then Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf, in a telecast to his nation on January 12, 2002, announced his decision to ban the Lashkar and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. Lieutenant General Moinuddin Haider, then interior minister, issued a notification on January 15, 2002, formally banning the five organisations under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. They were Lashkar, Jaish, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the Tehreek-e-Jafferia Pakistan and the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi. 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 Lashkar only in Sindh, Pakistani Punjab, the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan. It did not ban its activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Northern Areas and PoK.

When Pakistani journalists questioned local authorities about it, they were told that since 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 FATA and the NA. The Pakistani authorities also made it clear that the Lashkar and Jaish were being banned not because of the Indian allegations of their involvement in acts of terrorism in Indian territory, but because of their suspected terrorist activities in Pakistani territory.

The authorities then detained 1,957 persons belonging to the five banned organisations and 615 of their offices were sealed. But there was no action against their leadership, members and infrastructure in the FATA, PoK and the NA. The majority of those arrested were from 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, PoK and the NA or gone underground in other parts of Pakistan. The Lashkar terrorists escaped to PoK and the NA. Those of the Jaish escaped to the FATA.

Among those arrested in Punjab was Professor Sayeed, the amir of the Markaz Dawa Al Irshad, as the Lashkar's political wing was then known. Lakhvi was not arrested. He shifted to PoK and started operating from Shawai. At this camp, he trained 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 they 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, a charity and humanitarian relief organisation, which, according to him, had nothing to do with the Lashkar. The Pakistani media continued to identify the JuD as nothing but the Lashkar under a different name. Thus, two organisations started operating -- the JuD headed by Sayeed in the four Pakistani provinces and the Lashkar headed by Lakhvi in 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 a new network.

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 Lashkar. The renewed US pressure was due to the following reasons:

  • The unearthing of sleeper Lashkar cells in the US and Australia.
  • Its role in the training of a number of Indonesians and Malaysians, including the brother of Hambali of the Jemaah Islamiyah, at one of its madrassas in Karachi.
  • Its suspected role in training some recruits from Singapore at one of its training camps in PoK.
  • Its assumption of the role of the co-ordinator of the International Islamic Front formed by bin Laden in 1998.
  • Its active role in collecting funds and recruiting volunteers for joining the jihad against US troops in Iraq.
  • The virulent anti-US statements in relation to Iraq issued by Professor Sayeed.
  • Reports circulating in Pakistan that Al Qaeda would in future be using non-Arab suicide volunteers recruited by the Lashkar 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 Lashkar members 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 LeT and a majority within the party. The KN's leadership consists mostly of LeT commanders including Lakhvi, JuD Lahore head Abu Shoiab, Punjab head Abu Naser Javed, Abdul Qadir and Saifullah Mansoor. Professor Iqbal (Zafar Iqbal), publications chief Ameer Hamza, and JuD seminaries head Maulana Abdul Sallam Bhatvi are also supporting them. According to sources, Professor 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 LeT are basically the same, but the LeT is banned in Pakistan so we adopted the name Khairun Naas,' a member of the new party was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The sources said that the KN's claim to the Lashkar centre at Muridke was strong because of Lakhvi. Lakhvi had close ties with the Arab mujahideen and his sister was married to an Arab, Abdul Rehman Sherahi. It was Sherahi who purchased the land on which the (Muridke) centre is built and gifted it to the JuD. 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 told the Daily Times.

According to reliable sources, the land at Muridke was actually given free of charge to the MDI by the late dictator 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 magazine owned by 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 Lashkar. Following this split, Maulana Ibrahim Salafi, a 56-year-old 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 Al Qaeda No 2, sent for the representatives of the two groups and sorted out their differences.

While the JuD, the Lashkar 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 an Executive Order 13224 designating JuD as a terrorist organisation and blocking property and interests in property, of the JuD and another linked organsation, Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq, that are in the United States or the under the control of US persons.

Earlier, in December 2001, the US had designated the Lashkar as a terrorist organisation, but its attempt to persuade the monitoring committee of the UN Security Council to similarly designate the Lashkar 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 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 Lashkar.

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 Lashkar has come in the way of the monitoring committee including the JuD in its list of terrorist organisations.

A statement issued by the US Department of Treasury issued on May 27, 2008, designated Sayeed, Lakhvi and two other Lashkar office-bearers as terrorists and highlighted their links with Al Qaeda. On August 14, Pakistan's Independence Day, the JuD held a conference in Lahore, called the "Defend Pakistan Conference. "The conference opened with the singing by 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 madrassas controlled by the Lashkar.

Lakhvi's reported arrest, if confirmed, speaks of the intense pressure on Pakistan from the US to act against the Lashkar. 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 Lashkar infrastructure in Pakistan is dismantled and those involved in the Mumbai terrorist strike against Indians, Israelis, Americans and others are brought to justice.

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B Raman