On Monday, media outlets reported that Pakistan arrested a senior leader of the group widely suspected of being behind the Mumbai attacks. According to the AFP, “Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi — who according to Indian media reports was named by the lone surviving gunman as a key planner of the attacks — was detained with 14 other people during a raid on a camp in the disputed region of Kashmir.” The news agency added, “The 15 men arrested in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir were at a camp run by a charity closely linked to Lashkar-e-Toiba [LeT] — the group at the center of investigations into the Mumbai siege, an intelligence official said. The charity has been identified as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and its camp was located in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. GEO TV cited “Jamaat-ud-Dawa sources,” who said the camp in Kashmir had been established for relief and rehabilitation services for earthquake victims. [Image from BBC News]
CNN, in its coverage, provided further background details about the charity, reporting that Jamaat-ud-Dawa was established after the LeT was banned in 2001, [following its attack on the Indian Parliament]. Reza Sayah, CNN’s correspondent in Islamabad, told the news agency this morning that details about Jamaat-ud-Dawa get “a little murky.” According to Sayah, if you ask the JuD what their organization is about, they simply say they are an Islamist charity and relief group that provided serives after the  earthquake and have established schools in the region, [the group even has an official website]. However, Sayah noted, both U.S. and Indian intelligence officials claim Jamaat-ud-Dawa are “a front group” for the LeT. The AFP noted, “Jamaat-ud-Dawa is run by Hafiz Saeed, who founded Lashkar-e-Toiba in 1989. He reportedly abandoned LeT when it was outlawed in Pakistan after India alleged it was behind a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi.”
During her visit to both countries last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressured Pakistan to take action against militant groups in its territory. In her comments to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday, Rice said, “There’s no doubt” that the deadly attack on Mumbai was planned inside Pakistan. She stated,” Well, I think there’s no doubt that Pakistani territory was used by probably non-state actors…I don’t think that there is compelling evidence of involvement of Pakistani officials. But I do think that Pakistan has a responsibility to act, and it doesn’t matter that they’re non-state actors.” However, reported the AFP, “she and Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied media reports that Islamabad agreed to a 48-hour timetable set by the United States and India to take action against Pakistanis accused of involvement in the attacks,” although Monday’s aforementioned raid may indicate otherwise. [Image from the AP]
Meanwhile, U.S. officials are reportedly reassessing their view on Lashkar-e-Toiba. According to a NY Times piece today, they now believe the group to be more capable and a greater threat than they had previously recognized. According to the Times, the LeT “has quietly gained strength in recent years with the help of Pakistan’s main spy service, assistance that has allowed the group to train and raise money while other militants have been under siege.” The news agency added, “American officials say there is no hard evidence to link the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to the Mumbai attacks. But the ISI has shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection for it, the officials said, and investigators are focusing on one Lashkar leader they believe is a main liaison with the spy service and a mastermind of the attacks,” although no “hard evidence” exists. The Times quoted Bruce Hoffman, a professor and terrorism expert at Georgetown University, who said, “This is a group that years ago evolved from having a local and parochial agenda and bought into Al Qaeda’s vision.” As the rest of the world cracked down on Al Qaeda‘s finance networks, the LeT “still has a flourishing fund-raising organization in South Asia and the Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia.” In fact, reported the NY Times, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity group mentioned earlier, is used by the LeT to raise money, “ostensibly for causes in Pakistan.” The Times noted, “The Mumbai attacks, which included foreigners among its targets, seemed to fit the group’s evolving emphasis and determination to elevate its profile in the global jihadist constellation.” The group, however, still deny any involvement in the Mumbai attacks, [see this CHUP post].
Although Monday’s raid of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa camp may have been an effort on Pakistan’s side to ease rising pressures from the U.S. and India, tensions with the neighboring state still remain high. Over the weekend, media outlets reported that on November 28th, a caller identifying himself as Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, threatened that India “would undertake military action unless Pakistan acted against the attackers.” The Washington Post cited Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s information minister, who later said in a statement that the call came from “a verified official phone number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.” According to the Post, “The call reportedly prompted Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to put the air force on high alert.” However, on Sunday, Mukherjee released a statement saying that he had learned of the call from “third countries” and that the call was a hoax. He asserted, “We immediately clarified to those friends, and we also made it clear to the Pakistan authorities, that I had made no such telephone call,” adding that it is “worrying that a neighboring state might even consider acting on the basis of such a hoax call, try to give it credibility with other states, and confuse the public by releasing the story in part.” According to the Washington Post, the incident underscores the increasing tensions between the two countries, and the ensuing controversy “has led to questions over how the caller managed to bypass the protocol that governs telephone calls among world leaders and top diplomats.”
Another good read: “The Choice for Pakistan’s Military,” by Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria, on why all roads lead through Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistani military.