Pakistan's promise to contain its activities has simply failed to affect the Lashkar e Tayiba as the group's activities have intensified, observes Amir Mir
The Obama administration's decision to place a bounty of $10 million on Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed and $3 million on his brother-in-law Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, while placing them on America's most-wanted terrorist list, has come as a major blow not only for the banned jihadi outfit but also for the Pakistani security establishment, which is often accused of backing the Lashkar-e-Tayiba/JuD combine to take forward its geo-strategic agenda in the region.
The United States has proceeded against Saeed and Makki for their alleged involvement in a number of terror attacks, including the November 2008 fidayeen assault in Mumbai that claimed more than 173 lives, including that of six American nationals. Saeed was designated a global terrorist in December 2008 and Makki in November 2010.
The $10 million reward puts Hafiz Saeed at par with fugitive Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar, who the US holds responsible for the 9/11 terror strike.
India has been asking Pakistan to act against Saeed since the 2008 terrorist attacks, but Islamabad has been demanding substantial proof of his involvement in the strike. The latest US move will not only intensify pressure on Islamabad to act against him but also make it difficult for the Pakistani security establishment to back him any longer.
Saeed has been on the most-wanted list of the Central Bureau of Investigation since the 26/11 attacks, besides being declared India's enemy No. 1. The US action against Hafiz Saeed came almost a year after the Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs informed the Lahore high court in May 2011 that the government will not defend the JuD chief in a civil lawsuit filed in a US federal court over his alleged involvement in the 26/11 terror attacks.
The court was, however, informed by the then deputy attorney general Naseem Kashmiri on May 31, 2011, that the federal government would provide all necessary legal assistance to former Inter Services Intelligence chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha since he was a part of the State machinery.
The court in Brooklyn had issued summons to Hafiz Saeed, Shuja Pasha and two ISI officials -- Major Mohammad Iqbal and Major Samir Ali -- while acting on a lawsuit filed by relatives of American nationals killed in the Mumbai attacks.
While defending the then ISI chief, the Pakistan government had pleaded that Pasha enjoyed sovereign immunity from any prosecution.
The LeT and the JuD were designated as terror groups by the United Nations after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But Pakistan's promise to contain the activities of the organisation has simply failed to affect the LeT at all as the group's activities have intensified since then from the platform of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, which is yet another dummy alliance of religious parties aligned with the country's jihadi non-State actors.
The DPC, an umbrella organisation of nearly 40 banned jihadi outfits and religious groups, seems to have been unleashed by the country's security establishment because of Pakistan's fraught relationship with the US in the aftermath of the killing of 24 army soldiers in an air strike by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in November last year.
The council has been holding public meetings and rallies in major Pakistani cities, with jihadi leaders like Hafiz Saeed announcing that force will be used to spread Islamic ideology in the country by suppressing anti-Islamic, secular and liberal elements.
The drastic US action against Saeed comes amidst repeated demands by senior American government officials to contain the unchecked activities of the JuD chief and his group, which they believed was emerging as a wider jihadi threat, inspired by the Al Qaeda.
The high-ranking US officials had also been demanding that the Pakistani authorities dismantle the vast jihadi infrastructure of the LeT/JuD combine which clearly remains unbroken and which is determined to expand its agenda beyond India, mainly because its leadership sees itself as a saviour of Islam.
Dreaded for its guerrilla operations in Jammu and Kashmir, the LeT has already been accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation [before a US federal court] of involvement in imparting commando training to its recruits at its camps located inside Pakistan.
With an increase in the LeT's networking and activities in the Western world, there is growing alarm in the US and Europe regarding the escalation of the terrorist threat in their own backyard.
In a complaint filed with a Virginia-based federal court on September 1, 2011, the FBI said that the LeT's involvement in terrorist activities is reflected in the communications of Zubair Ahmad, a 19-year-old Pakistani national currently in legal permanent residency in the US, who was arrested on charges of providing material support to the LeT.
According to Zubair's admissions while being interrogated by the FBI, he had received indoctrination and training from the LeT while living in Sialkot, Punjab.
The FBI had started an investigation after it received information that Zubair Ahmed might be connected with the LeT. It subsequently discovered that Zubair provided material support to the LeT by producing and posting propaganda videos for the group while working in tandem with Talha Saeed, son of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.
One such video was created and uploaded on September 25, 2010. To create the video, Zubair was in direct contact with Talha. Images of Hafiz Seed preaching and being arrested by the Pakistani police, and images of Muslims being killed by Pakistani and Middle Eastern troops were included in the propaganda, along with prisoners and their jailers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Pakistani weapons systems, and clips of US armoured vehicles being blown up in roadside bomb attacks in Iraq.
A prayer offered by Saeed that repeatedly invokes jihad and praises the mujahideen is played in the background.
Although a Jamaat-ud-Dawa spokesman has strongly refuted the FBI's charges pertaining to Talha Saeed, the federal agency's complaint alleges that Talha gave Zubair editing instructions and guidance on where he could find images and clips of the items he wanted to include in the video.
'Talha was also careful about not having the LeT mentioned explicitly, or connected with the November 2008 terror assault in Mumbai, for which the Indian authorities have blamed the LeT. Talha asked Zubair to include pictures of Hafiz Saeed when Hafiz was being arrested and placed under house arrest,' said the FBI complaint.
'As the conversation continued, Talha Saeed described the types of photos to be used in the video. Zubair asked if he should post the Mumbai one and added they wanted to show their power. Talha told Zubair not to use anything referencing Mumbai but added that he could make references to Palestine and Kashmir. In October 2010, Talha instructed Zubair to remove all references to LeT before uploading the video. Zubair uploaded the final version of the video to YouTube on October 16, 2010,' the FBI complaint said, adding that he deleted the video from his YouTube account after a team from the federal agency visited his house in August 2011.