On Thursday, Pakistan moved to ban the Jamat-ud-Dawa, the Islamic charity organization that has been linked to Lashkar-e-Toiba, the militant group that many believe were responsible for November’s attacks in Mumbai. The ban came a day after the United Nations declared it a front for terrorists, and made it “subject to U.N. sanctions including an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo,” reported the Associated Press. Today, Pakistan’s information minister, Sherry Rehman told reporters, “The government has decided to proscribe Jamat-ud-Dawa,” and Lahore police chief Pervez Rathor said the group’s head, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed [who runs the charity and founded the LeT in 1989] and four other leaders had been placed under house arrest for three months, stating, “We have taken action in response to orders from the federal government.” Pakistan’s Interior Ministry also told the BBC News that Jamaat-ud-Dawa buildings would be shut across the country immediately. So far, reported media outlets, Pakistani police has shut down the charity’s offices in Karachi and Hyderabad. According to Dawn, “Jamaat-ud-Dawa has branches across Pakistan, as well as schools and medical clinics. It was unclear if they were all being sealed.” [Image of Saeed from AFP]
The government’s actions today, reported the Washington Post, comes amid “mounting international pressure,” and followed accusations by India that Pakistan “was not doing enough” to combat the terrorists responsible for the bombings in Mumbai. According to the AFP, although Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee ruled out military action against Pakistan, he described the country as being the “epicenter of the attack” on Mumbai.
Although India and the U.S. have claimed that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa is the front group for the LeT, the Islamic charity has repeatedly denied such allegations, [see previous post about the government raids on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa camp in Kashmir]. Although Hafiz Mohammed Saeed originally founded the Laskhar-e-Toiba, he reportedly left the group in 2001 to become head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. According to the Washington Post, Saeed said he split from the militant organization “after Pakistan banned Lashkar following the terrorist group’s 2001 attack on India’s parliament.” CNN cited Saeed, who said the decision Wednesday by a U.N. committee to identify Lashkar leaders as terrorists “was in haste.” According to the news agency, “He said any evidence linking JuD to the Mumbai attacks should be presented by the Indian authorities.” Saeed told reporters, “It is India’s habit to name Pakistan…Before they took ISI’s name, now they take Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s name.” The Post quoted him asserting, “Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a thorn in the eye of India because Jamaat-ud-Dawa does not support anything which India does to Pakistan or Kashmir.”
Is the JuD a front organization for the LeT or is it, as its leaders insist, merely an Islamic charity? Or can it be both? In recent years, there have been several notable cases initiated against Islamic charities that have been accused of financing terrorist organizations [like the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose leaders were recently convicted of funneling money to Hamas]. Although the JuD has established schools and provided earthquake relief to communities, parts of the organization could also have been sympathetic to and funded the Kashmiri cause. Does that make the organization “a front group,” necessarily, or a more innocent player in the overarching shadowy system of terrorist financing?