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Lashkar: Untamed and untouched

The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which was renamed as the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) in 2002, has seen mixed fortunes since 9/11. General Pervez Musharraf was forced to take action and ban the organisation in February 2002 following international pressure after the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001.

world Updated: Sep 10, 2011 23:52 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which was renamed as the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) in 2002, has seen mixed fortunes since 9/11. General Pervez Musharraf was forced to take action and ban the organisation in February 2002 following international pressure after the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001.

But the ISI continued to support the organisation in one way or another with the result that it was able to organise and execute the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Prior to 9/11, the Lashkar had a cosy relationship with the ISI which gave it financial as well as political support. In most respects, the relationship did not change after the February 2002 ban.

It was after US pressure on Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks that actions was finally taken against the leader of the JuD, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Despite the action, which many saw as a eye wash, Saeed was out of jail because the courts said that there was not enough evidence to convict him. The courts blamed the government and the police for not doing their homework while the government blamed the courts for letting go known terrorists.

While there are many who say that the JuD is under pressure in Pakistan, the on ground situation suggests otherwise. The JuD continue to operate their schools and other activities, most important being relief work during natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, and their leaders operate freely in Pakistan. Members of the JuD arrested in Pakistan in connection with the Mumbai attacks continue to spend time in jail while there is no progress in the case to convict them.

After the killing of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer earlier this year, the JuD helped organise a rally to support the killing and also warn others from trying to talk against the country's controversial blasphemy laws. Hafiz Saeed continues to move freely in the country and JuD leaders openly talk against India and collect public funds for fighting in Kashmir.

However, some observers say that the JuD's activities in Kashmir and its support to militants has been restricted by the Pakistani military, forcing the JuD to look elsewhere to spread its activities. This was evident from the David Headley affair.

As Stephen Tankel, in his recent book Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar e Taiba, writes, “Lashkar remains able to expand its already potent capabilities, penetrating society through social outreach while simultaneously increasing its integration with the militant nexus that now threatens Pakistan.”