Pakistani police extended their crackdown on a charity allegedly linked to the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e Taiba on Friday by closing its offices and arresting dozens of its members. The group is accused of planning the Mumbai terror attacks last month that killed over 170 people. The crackdown has come after the United Nations listed the charity as a terrorist group earlier this week.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed
Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) was apparently founded as a charity and welfare organisation in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore in 2002. It earned a name for itself in Pakistan’s northern region after the devastating 2005 earthquake by carrying out relief work. But now its suspected affiliation with the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e Taiba, the group suspected of masterminding the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks, has put it on the UN’s list of terror organisations.
Pakistani authorities have intensified their crackdown on Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Scores of its activists have been arrested and a number of its offices across the country have been sealed. The head of the organization Hafiz Saeed has also been reportedly put under house arrest at his home in Lahore.
The charity’s spokesman Abdullah Muntazir says the allegations made against them are false. “Neither Jamaat-ud- Dawa nor the Lashkar-e- Taiba is related to the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. These arrests are a result of the emerging closeness between India and the USA,” said Muntazir.
Outrage after crackdown
The crackdown has sparked outrage among some organisations. Pakistan-based United Jehad Council, a militant Kashmiri separatist organisation, has slammed the move as "unwarranted".
Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami party, a key partner of the ruling coalition and also the chairman of Pakistan’s Kashmir committee has criticised Islamabad for acting under “external pressure”.
“Jamaat-ud-Dawa is not a terrorist group. It is a social organisation and is known for its relief work in the wake of the 2005 earthquake. But just because of the arrest of a single person in India, the government has launched this crackdown and that too when India has not provided any evidence so far,” Rehman added.
Fear for repercussions
However Pakistan’s Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has defended the move, saying the country would have faced serious repercussions if it had not acted on the sanctions imposed on the group by the UN Security Council.
"If Pakistan had not taken steps, they could have declared Pakistan a terrorist state. They could have crippled Pakistan's economy," Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said.
Meanwhile in a televised statement early on Friday Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated that India should share evidence from the Mumbai attacks, warning that their investigation couldn’t proceed beyond a certain point without provision of credible information.
India, for its part, has insisted that Pakistan should do more and dismantle militant networks operating from its soil.