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Urdunama: Amriki Pabandi

The U.S. Department of Treasury added 8 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on August 30, 2012.  Those added to the list include Sajid Mir (who played an integral role in 26/11), Abdullah Mujahid (LeT commander responsible for Afghanistan operations), Abdullah Muntazir and Talha Saeed (son of Hafiz Saeed).  In April 2012, the U.S. Department of State also issued a $10 million  reward for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed himself.

But Hafiz Saeed, who now apparently harbors political aspirations in Pakistan, has gone to great lengths (as this blog has previously pointed out) in painting himself as the leader of the Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD), a self-proclaimed charitable organization, and having no connection with the LeT. But the fact that the LeT, JuD and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council are all inexorably linked is a known to both India and the U.S.

In response to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s decision, Hafiz Saeed yet again attempted to distance himself from the LeT and claimed that U.S. actions were motivated by the JuD’s opposition to the forthcoming operations in North Waziristan.  Excerpts from Hafiz Saeed’s interview with the far-right newspaper, Ummat follow:

The U.S. has designated many of my colleagues as terrorists affiliated to an organization called Lashkar-e-Taiba.  But the JuD has nothing to do with the LeT.  I previously articulated that the Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the many organizations that operates in India’s Occupied Kashmir, whose members are all residents of Kashmir.  We, on the other hand, are based only in Pakistan.  In attempting to conflate the LeT and JuD, America’s intelligence agencies are fooling not only the rest of the world, but also the people of Pakistan.

At this point in time the JuD is in the process of garnering popular support against the U.S.’s policies on Pakistan, as well as the re-opening of NATO supply lines and the resumption of drone strikes.  The U.S. has been displeased with our activities, and hence the attempt to malign our leadership.

These latest U.S. actions are meaningless, because those who have been designated terrorists have neither any assets or bank accounts in the U.S., nor have they ever traveled to the U.S.   This is just an attempt to malign our organization and fool the American people into believing that their government is trying to combat terrorism.

I have already communicated to the UN our views on being targeted by the U.S., and will write again, in response to the destinations by the U.S.  We are also in the process of organizing a protest, with the aid of other religious and political organizations in Pakistan, against U.S. policies in Pakistan.  The protest will take place on September 11.

We have previously invited the U.S. to visit with us and to verify for themselves the charitable work being carried out by the JuD.  However, we have not received any response.  Regardless of what the U.S. does, we will be urging the Pakistani government to pursue its own national interests and not buckle under U.S. pressure. [روزنامہ امّت]

 

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Urdunama: Dehshat gardi

Much has been written about on the recent episode where India Today and the Times of India published alerts from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) on five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives having infiltrated their way into Mumbai.  That same day, Pakistan’s TV channels and news media revealed, with barely-concealed delight, that these individuals were in fact in Lahore, not India, and that they were ordinary tradesmen, and not Lashkar terrorists.  On the face of it, our intelligence agencies goofed up.  Over at Acorn, my colleague Nitin Pai examines possible explanations in this excellent blogpost.

During a daily customary review of Pakistan’s Urdu media, I came across this article in Roznama Ummat that I found intriguing.  An excerpt from the Ummat’s interview of Mehtab Butt, Atif Butt and Babar Shabbir — three of the five who had allegedly entered Mumbai — follows:

The most concerning aspect of India labeling the three Pakistanis as terrorists is, how India came to be in the possession of their photographs in the first place.  In conversation with Ummat, Mehtab Butt indicated that he was perplexed as to how his photographs came to be in the hands of the Indians.  In response to a question about whether he had uploaded his photo onto Facebook, Twitter or similar social networking websites, Mr. Butt said that he had never operated a computer.  Mr. Butt said that the shirt that he was wearing as displayed in the photo on the Indian channel (sic) India Today was purchased last year.

Atif Butt said that while he had opened a Facebook account for himself, he had stopped using the account after his engagement;  however, he recollects having never uploaded the photo shown on the Indian channels to Facebook.  He remembers though, that the half-sleeved shirt displayed in the photo had been purchased last summer.

All three victims are of the opinion that a powerful camera was used to zoom in and take photos of them at Hafiz Center.  Both Atif and Mehtab were working at their shops at Hafiz Center when a mutual friend of theirs arrived at about 8:00pm on Wednesday with his laptop.  He showed Atif and Mehtab photos of themselves appearing on the India Today website.  At first, they dismissed the photos as a prank, but the grim reality of the situation ultimately dawned on them.

The three then promptly approached local police and advised them of the situation.  According to Mehtab and Atif, they took this step to ensure that they didn’t get apprehended on false charges.  Mehtab Butt informed Ummat that both he and Atif were under considerable stress.  Atif was of the opinion that had he and Mehtab not approached the police, there would be no doubt that the three victims would have been declared terrorists, similar to the “so-called” Mumbai terror attacks.

The three victims told Ummat that not only is India insulting our country, they have now turned their attention towards harming the Pakistani trading community.  Their question to Pakistan’s leaders is, why are we expanding our trade relations with India?  They appeal to the government to get to the bottom of this and respond to India’s imprudent actions. [روزنامہ امّت]

That this was an IO exercise against India is pretty apparent by the narrative.  Two innocent traders and an honest security guard in Lahore being ensnared by the Serpent Next Door triggers the imagination.  But why traders, why not anyone else?  The last paragraph appears to offer some clues.

There is disquiet in parts of Pakistan’s trading community over liberalizing trade with India.  Though many remain skeptical, most are not opposed to it, given the obvious benefits from trade with India.  But the one group that has remained steadfastly opposed to engagement with India on trade and the MFN status has been Difa-e-Pakistan, a rag-tag collection of ex-army officers and jihadi nutjobs supported by Rawalpindi, that boasts within its ranks a who’s who of the military-jihadi complex, including God’s Servant Hafiz Saeed, and the always-humble Hamid Gul.

Hard-line elements in Pakistan certainly have motive, by both impressing upon the Pakistani trading community that thy neighbor is deceitful, and embarrassing India and its intelligence agencies. But the elaborate plot does not appear to be commensurate with the benefits of getting Pakistan to abrogate from bilateral trade commitments with India. The juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.  This may very well be part of the plot, but is there a larger game afoot?

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Urdunama: Khula Khat

Jamaat ud-Dawwa’s (JuD’s) leader Hafiz Saeed recently published an “open letter” to Pakistan’s parliament, protesting its decision to restore on-land NATO supply routes and “conditional re-engagement” with the U.S. The pamphlet bears the letterhead of the JuD, but appears to speak on behalf of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), further confirming the futility in attempts to distinguish between the two, or indeed between the DPC and the MJC brotherhood.  This “open letter” was brought to light by journalist Omar Quraishi (thanks to @Vikram_Sood for the link) .  The pamphlet was pasted outside one of Karachi’s most upscale stores (اردو).

To the Members of Parliament:

As you are aware, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has presented its recommendations on relations with the U.S. and the issue of NATO’s supply lines during the joint parliamentary session on March 20, 2012.  News reports indicate that NATO supply lines are being restored due to U.S. pressure.  It is also allegedly being proposed that taxes on NATO supplies be increased and that 50 per cent of the traffic be transported via rail.

The Difa-e-Pakistan Council has already communicated its thoughts to the Parliament on the above proposals, and would further like to remind the Parliament that:

  1. Parvez Musharraf entered into secret and verbal agreements with the U.S. that ultimately were detrimental to our own security and to the security of our Afghan brothers.  However, if these agreements are now being given formal consent via the Parliament, it sets a very dangerous precedent.
  2. The East India Company had also entered into similar agreements with the Mughal Empire, which resulted in the colonization of India.  If the Parliament accedes to these agreements, Pakistan’s sovereignty will no doubt be compromised.
  3. We must be cognizant of the fact that restoration of on-land access routes to NATO will negatively impact our relations with China.
  4. The bold bipartisan decision to ban NATO supply routes after the Salala incident brought confidence to the people of Pakistan.  However, if these routes were to be reauthorized, it would create confusion and instability in our country.
  5. It is indeed worrying that India is being given on-land access to Afghanistan and West Asia via Pakistan.  In fact, this presents a far greater risk to Pakistan than the restoration of supply routes to NATO. The U.S. and India have recently concluded joint military exercises in Rajasthan.  Granting India route access to Afghanistan via Pakistan and entering into trade agreements with that country present a security threat to Pakistan and risks annoying friendly nations such as China.
  6. We must consider that NATO containers travel through all provinces of Pakistan and have previously been targeted and could be targeted yet again if supply routes are restored.  Thus, the U.S. might use repeated attacks on its trucks as a ruse to invade or establish a military foothold inside Pakistan, claiming a lack of confidence in the Pakistani armed forces’ ability to safeguard their assets.
  7. The U.S. has never honored any of its agreements with Pakistan.  It instead blamed Pakistan for the Salala altercation.  Are we about to endorse these actions, and that too via our own Parliament? Would this happen, Pakistan will be engulfed yet again by the flames of terrorism fanned by the likes of the U.S., NATO and India.

Dear Members of Parliament, we ask that you consider our requests objectively.  We ask that you depart from the tradition of parochial policy-making and think instead of Pakistan’s citizens and its future generations.  If you were to make your decisions against the will of the people of Pakistan, it will hurt the nation and our Afghan brothers.  Please remember that those helping people who burn the Quran and kill our brothers will be accountable for their sins in this life and beyond.  May Allah assist you in doing right by your people.

Your well-wisher,

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed

Ameer, Jamaat ud-Dawwa Pakistan [Source]

The “open letter” is interesting because where India and the U.S. are concerned, the LeT/JuD (unlike other jihadi outfits) has seldom differed with sponsors in Rawalpindi.  However, it would also be nearly impossible for a decision in Pakistan’s parliament to have been concluded on the future of ties with the U.S. and on NATO supply routes without consultation and approval from GHQ.

Effectively, the GHQ is being drawn into making compromises on U.S. demands out of reluctance yet again, as it was at the beginning of U.S. operations in Afghanistan in 2001.  It has since pursued a policy of  supporting U.S.-led operations, while covertly attempting to undermine them.  Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj’s antics, the Haqqani network’s activities inside Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad are but examples of Pakistan’s attempts at subversion.

While Rawalpindi might have agreed ostensibly to restore NATO supply routes, it does so out of necessity and with every intention to keep the pressure on the U.S. and allied forces with 2014 in mind.  To that end, it might employ a series of agents to do its bidding. Historically, groups such as the LeT have been primarily been India-focused.  But this might be changing if Rawalpindi is committed to temporary bonhomie with India. The recent attacks by the Taliban in Kabul and not-so-subtle threats in bullet #6 above might be harbingers of a dangerous summer.

Note: Source and additional detail updated based on the pamphlet on the Difa-e-Pakistan Council website.

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Urdunama: Hafiz Mian

Roznama Ummat carried this uniquely interesting narration by Jamaat ud-Dawwa’s amir, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed on the birth of his organization, its association with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and his thoughts on Kashmir.  Excerpts follow (اردو):

Jamaat ud-Dawwa (JuD) was formed in 1985 by five or six of us friends.  The initial group included the likes of Zafar Iqbal, who was at university with me, and Yahya Mujahid.  Our goal was to write “tableeghi” literature and circulate it to the public.  Later, we founded a magazine called the “ud-Dawwa,” which eventually gained popularity.  When a ban on the magazine was enforced during the Musharraf regime, our circulation was about 150,000 per month.

Very soon, the JuD was being supported by leading scholars in the land, including my uncle Hafiz Abdullah Bahawalpuri.  Other early supporters included Sheikh Badiuddin Rashidi, Hafiz Abdul Mannan Noorpuri, and Hafiz Abdul Islam bin Muhammad.

We have always supported the rights of the Kashmiris to self-determination, and have labeled India an occupying force.  1990-91 saw the birth of organized “armed resistance” against India’s occupation.  Among the organizations fighting India’s occupation was a group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).  This organization and its setup was based exclusively in Kashmir.  There was never any relationship between the JuD and the LeT, nor was any leader of the JuD ever the head of the LeT.  But a section of India’s media has consistently spread propaganda alleging that I am the leader of the LeT.

When Musharraf banned the LeT, it was alleged that the Jamaat ud-Dawwa was created as a cover organization for the LeT. However, the JuD was created decades ago in 1985.  There is no doubt that the JuD, like the LeT, supports the achievement of “azaadi” in Kashmir via jihad; but we are not associated with the LeT. [روزنامہ امّت]

Hafiz Saeed is back in the news, leading a rag-tag outfit of far-right groups and former heads the ISI, under the banner of Difa-e-Pakistan Council (Defense of Pakistan Council).  News reports also suggest that Mr. Saeed is considering joining mainstream politics and transforming the identity of the JuD from being a “charitable organization” to a political party.  Mr. Saeed also recently shared a dais with SM Qureshi, former Pakistani foreign minister and now a member of Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf party, which has a conveniently vague association with the Difa-e-Pakistan Council.

Renouncing the LeT, which many in India, the U.S. and perhaps even in Pakistan, associate with the horrors of 26/11, may be the first of many steps in the transformation of a mass murderer into mainstream politician.  Or perhaps it is meant to disassociate himself from any future acts of terror imposed on the people of India.  Clearly, for all its demagoguery,  the Difa-e-Pakistan Council is yet to demonstrate proof of concept.  None of this augurs very well for India.

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