The Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) may continue to thrive amid the instability of Pakistani politics. After a few days of febrile reporting that Pakistan had proscribed the JuD (an alias of the Lashkar-e-Taiba) and the Haqqani network, it turns out that both groups have in fact not been banned. The Pakistan foreign office confirmed this and noted that the JuD’s assets remain frozen and the movements of its members restricted in compliance with UN sanctions. These measures have barely affected the group so far as it continues to raise funds, run services and hold massive rallies.
Islamabad’s failure to proactively tackle the JuD points to competing forces at play on this issue. Nawaz Sharif’s government has been under pressure from the United States and India to act against the group and has strained to ensure that some symbolic steps concerning the group are taken — such as ensuring that Mumbai attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi remains in jail. Islamabad is, however, unable to go very much beyond that since the JuD is a significant political actor in Punjab and is also still seen as a strategic asset by the Pakistan army in its proxy war against India.
The next steps on tackling the LeT will be worth watching. The US and European powers are concerned about the JuD/LeT owing to its international networks and anti-Western worldview and will, therefore, continue to press Islamabad on the group’s activities. Equally, Washington is also seeking Pakistan’s help in ‘stabilising’ Afghanistan through a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban. It remains to be seen how the US balances its Afghan objectives with counter-terrorist ambitions concerning groups like the LeT.
There was a debate in India on whether a ban on the JuD would at all be useful, given its felicity for operating under different aliases helped along by an indulgent establishment. The significance of a ban in this case would not merely be about its efficacy, it would be about the necessity of underlining the group’s illegitimacy in Pakistani society. State action that challenges the conflation between a terrorist group and charity organisation would be an enormously helpful act of ideological attrition over time.