United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in concert with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday amended the foreign terrorist organisation designation of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba in order to include one of the terror group's front organisation and a charitable arm of it as part of the FTO designation too.
Clinton added Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation as an alias of LeT while the Department of Treasury also designated LeT senior leader and current head of FIF, Hafiz Abdur Rauf, Mian Abdullah, the head of LeT's Traders Department, and Mohmmad Naushad Alam Khan, a key financial facilitator for LeT, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
The State Department said, "These actions will help stem the flow of finances to LeT through FIF and provide the Department of Justice with a critical tool to prosecute those who knowingly provide material support to LeT and its senior leaders."
It said, "FIF is a Pakistan-based organisation that is closely connected to banned terrorist group LeT and its humanitarian front Jamaat-ud-Dawa."
The US State Department pointed out that "LeT has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist acts against Pakistani, Indian and US interests and is responsible for the horrific November 2008 Mumbai attacks."
It noted that "the United Nations and government of Pakistan have already banned JUD, through which LeT seeks to raise money for terrorist activities," and added: "In essence, FIF is JUD with a new name, designed to evade scrutiny and sanctions."
The State Department said, "The various actions taken today against FIF support the U S effort to degrade the capabilities of LeT. We are determined to eliminate LeT's ability to carry out terrorist attacks and to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat its networks."
Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said, "Today's amendment of the LeT designation to include FIF shows that the United States will not tolerate any support to this organisation."
He said, "LeT has attempted to use FIF as a way to evade scrutiny. This designation will help put to an end that attempted evasion."
Last week, Benjamin, in a back and forth with rediff.com during the question and answer session that followed his opening remarks at the Foreign Press Center in Washinton, DC, about the veracity of Pakistan's commitment to eliminate the LeT, admitted that the social services the LeT delivers through its front organisations like JUD make it even more insidious and dangerous.
Benjamin said, "Obviously the LeT is a profoundly dangerous group and it's support that it derives from doing social services is like Hamas, is like Hezbollah, and is of course of great concern."
"And, that is why the work that we are doing with Pakistan, aside from the law enforcement cooperation -- and we have been supportive of Pakistan's efforts to bring the Mumbai perpetrators to justice -- but beyond that is critically important that Pakistan continue to develop its institutions and develop the ability to provides the services to its people so that other organisations with a radical agenda are not in there subverting the state," he said.
Benjamin pointed out that this "is really one of the reasons why programs such as Kerry-Lugar-Berman (US legislation that provides for aid worth $1.5 billion a year for Pakistan) is so important, as well as the important support for Pakistan that other countries around the world are providing. And, of course, in the aftermath of the devastating floods, is all the more important that we be able to ensure that the Pakistani people have the basic resources they need to get on with their lives and that it's not being delivered to them with an extremist message."
Thus, he argued that "over the long-term the key is a strong state that can provide the needs of its people."
But when challenged by rediff.com that this is a futuristic outlook and rationalising the Pakistani argument that it's not easy to eliminate the LeT or JUD overnight but India, which is the prime target of the LeT, which would only like to launch another attack like Mumbai to trigger a conflict between India and Pakistan cannot wait for institutions to be built in Pakistan as a hedge against the LeT, the JUD and other such extremist groups, some which are funded and supported by the ISI, Benjamin was on the defensive.
He said, "I didn't mean to suggest that we are short-changing any of the important intelligence and law enforcement cooperation that we are carrying on with partners around the world."
"We are delighted that many in the region are very concerned about the LeT threat and are cooperating much more effectively," he added.