Lashkar-e-Toiba Defers Jehad Against US
14 October 2004
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
Jammu: Quite a significant development: Dreaded and highly well-knit Lashkar- e-Toiba (LeT) has, at least for the time being, put off the jehad it had wanted to direct at the United States. Unmistakable signals, in this regard, have emanated from a set of printed material across the border, particularly the LeT's house journal, Majallah al-Dawa. The development has taken place at a time when the vocal jehadi groups in Pakistan have been found respecting what has been termed as the 'unspoken deal' between Washington and Islamabad. The Lashkar-e-Toiba leadership-Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, to be precise-has taken even the outfit's jehadi elements by surprise with the unpublished decision to defer jehad against the United States. Equally significant is yet another development : The LeT leadership has chosen to restrict the distribution of propaganda material against the US 'invasion' on Iraq. The LeT's house journal (Majallah al-Dawa) has been, in the altering or altered scenario, restrained in criticism of the US occupation of Iraq. In one of the issues of the journal, even as the LeT's espriti de corps, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, has reiterated his call to believers to never to make friends with Jews and Christians, there is no express call for jehad against America. Instead, the LeT house journal's position on India is more aggressive than its position on the United States. The journal also carries one article, which claims that Indian Muslims have come to realise that 'without migration and jehad there is no future'. And another article in one of the issues of the journal calls on Pakistani youth, particularly school children, to join the jehad. Nor is it all. The article has advised them on how to identify Indian soldiers to be attacked. Id-ul-Fitr festival, slated for November 15, 2004, has once again, become an important issue for the Lashkar-e-Toiba to be made use of while raising financial contributions from the believers. in 2003, the LeT, in the build-up to the Id festival, was reported to have raised Rs 780 million. The amount, it was proclaimed, would be used for the benefit of 'mujahideen who have sacrificed their lives for Islam' and for the 'widows, the parents and children of martyrs who waged jehad in Kashmir and Afghanistan'. Why is Islamabad slow in dealing with those who violate the Pakistan Government's ban on raising funds for jehad-related activities? Lashkar-e-Toiba operates under the new label of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The change of nomenclature has not resulted in any restrictions on the considerable freedom the outfit continues to have while building its military infrastructure. Islamabad has, of course, already made it public that the Jamaat-ud- Dawa is on the Pakistan terrorism watch-list, but the outfit openly collects funds and recruits cadre. Another question which is hotly discussed on either side of the Indo-Pak frontier : Why is Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) at liberty even after Islamabad's claim that JeM was behind an assassination attempt directed at Gen. Parvez Musharraf recently ? Even as Gen. Musharraf has, on more than one occasion in recent times, let it be known that his Government is willing to close the terror tap, there is growing evidence with regard to the unwillingness of Pakistan's military establishment to seal the pipeline that feeds these terror taps. Third important question being debated these days : Why is Washington tolerant of the Pak military establishment's go-slow tactics at a time when the US is determined to continue its war on global terrorism? There is a growing feeling that the US tolerance is driven by Gen Musharraf's claims that he cannot take on the entire religious Right without provoking a major backlash. This, to say the least, has encouraged Pakistan's military establishment to keep intact the infrastructure of anti-India terrorism. Indian Chief of Army Staff, Gen NC Vij, seemed to be in the possession of specific data when he, just the other day, talked about the presence of training camps in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) for militants. On the other hand, a look on the none-too-old report, prepared by the task force set up by the US House Republican Research Committee, will leave none in doubt about Pakistan being the source of large quantities of weapons in Kashmir. It says that although the flow of weapons and explosives into 'Indian Kashmir' is attributed by Islamabad to their availability in the open market in Peshawar, Derra and some other places, weapons currently used in Jammu and Kashmir are 'increasingly of unique types available only from states, and, in case of Kashmiri Islamists, could not have come from any other source but the ISI'. According to the report, Pakistan provided assistance in the training and arming of Kashmiri terrorists as well as sanctuaries to Kashmiri insurgents across the border. The US report says that while there are well over 30 militant groups in Kashmir, as many as 29 subversive groups have been receiving assistance and shelter in Pakistan. If the report is any guide, the ISI has further increased its direct involvement in the training and supporting of Kashmiri Islamist terrorists, while the Pakistan Army has increased the 'secrecy of the terrorist support operation and has upgraded the basic training provided to the Kashmiris'. Indian Minister of External Affairs, Natwar Singh, cannot be faulted for the observation he made in New Delhi on this October 9 that India-Pakistan normalisation process is linked to delivery on promises made by Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism. That Islamabad is not really interested in crying a halt to this kind of terrorism is borne out by the latest statement from Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan, that while the issue of cross-border terrorism is not relevant, the violation of human rights (in Kashmir) is the 'real issue'. The Government of India has already been informed about the movement of groups of militants closer to the Line of Control (LoC) again. Major camps such as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen's Abdali camp at Las Danna, Bagh, the launching depots in the Chhamb area are active again. Jihadis have been found active at Kerala and other hilltops in the Nakial region of Khuiratta, bordering Jammu. It has been officially pointed out that there is frequent infiltration from Khuiratta into Jammu sector since April this year. Pakistan's new strategy is to launch smaller groups of 10 to 15 persons, with long intervals in between. Bagh and Lipa sectors have become quite important for the ones assigned with the task of pushing infiltrators and militants into Jammu and Kashmir. The groups that crossed the LoC in these sectors were launched from a facility at Gojra in Muzaffarabad.