Pakistan has just allocated over $4,000,000 for a Center, a "Knowledge Park" and other initiatives for the Islamist parent body of the banned terrorist group that attacked Mumbai, India, in 2008.
The Pakistani provincial government of Punjab included in its budget for fiscal 2013-14 a sum of 61.35 million Pakistani Rupees ($616,000 USD) to fund the largest Center of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) -- the Islamist parent body of the banned terror organization Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), which committed the Mumbai attacks.
In addition to that allocation for the JuD Center, known as Markaz-e-Taiba, the Pakistani government has also allocated Rs 350 million ($3,500,000 USD) for setting up a "Knowledge Park" and other initiatives at the Center.
A spokesman for the Punjab government defended the gift by saying that the government had taken administrative control of the welfare institutions being run by JuD, in compliance with Security Council resolutions of the United Nations. In December 2008, India formally requested the United Nations to designate JuD a terrorist organization, a request with which the UN Security Council complied. In 2012, the U.S. State Department offered a bounty of $10,000,000 on the head of JuD's Emir, or chief, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, relating to the Mumbai massacre. The US authority also offered $2 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed's brother-in-law Abdur Rehman Makki, second in command of LeT. Makki is said to be in close contact with Taliban supreme commander Mullah Omar and Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Ajmal Kassab, accused in the Mumbai attack, is said to have received training at the JuD's center, Markaz-e-Taiba.
However, a recent report in the Pakistani daily The News said that despite the appointment of an administrator, the Markaz-e-Taiba is effectively in the control of JuD, and that Pakistani and foreign journalists cannot go inside the Center without first obtaining permission from the media cell of the JuD. A source, according to the report, said a few months ago that JuD's Emir, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, held a convention at Markaz-e-Taiba, largely attended by JuD activists.
Background of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its Emir, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed
The organization JuD was founded by its Emir (head, commander or general in Arabic), Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, in 1985. In 1987, Saeed founded Markaz-Dawa-wal-Irshad, the organization which, in Afghanistan in 1990, produced Laskar-e-Taiba [LeT], with its headquarters based in Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, where Markaz-e-Taiba is located. There were two co-founders with Saeed. One, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, also a co-founder of the Palestinian Sunni terrorist organization Hamas, was killed by a car bomb blast on November 24, 1989 in Peshawar, Pakistan.
As a terrorist outfit, LeT is banned in India, Pakistan (formally), the UK, the United States, the European Union, Russia and Australia. In 2001, Pakistan detained Saeed in relation to Indian accusations of his involvement in an attack on the lower house of the Indian parliament, Lok Sabha. After the 2006 Mumbai Train bombings, the provincial government of Punjab at that time arrested Saeed. He was released after a Lahore High court order in August, then arrested again by the provincial government, and finally released by the same high court on October 17, 2006.
LeT has repeatedly claimed through its journal and websites that its aim is to destroy and annihilate Hinduism and Judaism. LeT has declared Hindus and Jews to be the enemy of Islam as well as India and Israel to be the enemy of Pakistan. LeT also says it believes that violent Jihad is the duty of all Muslims.
Pakistan's new government and JUD
Punjab province is the stronghold of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the party that formed the federal government after receiving the highest number of seats (166 out of 272) in the national election of May 2013. PML(N) also has repeatedly formed the provincial government of Punjab, the dominant and most influential province of Pakistan, in which more than half the Pakistani people live. Its Chief Minister, Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, is the younger brother of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who previously served two non-consecutive terms as Pakistan's Prime Minister. During the time of the election, PML(N) suffered remarkably fewer attacks by the Teherik-e-Taliban or other terrorist groups, compared to the other large democratic parties; these suffered dozens of blasts, with many casualties, especially during election meetings and rallies.
The regime of the Islamist-minded dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, also saw the rise of the political career of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Always close to the powerful military officers, including director generals of Pakistan's ISI, Sharif joined the Punjab Advisory Board of Zia-ul-Haq. Additionally, since being introduced to its royal family by Osama bin Laden, Sharif still maintains a good relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Former Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) official Khalid Khawaja claimed that he arranged five meetings in the past between Nawaz Sharif and the late Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
General Zia-ul-Haq appointed Hafiz Mohammad Saeed to the Council on Islamic Theologies. In early 1980s he was sent by the University of Engineering and Technology to Saudi Arabia, where he met Saudi Sheikhs who were taking part in Afghan Jihad.
Another outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed, is based in Bahawalpur, also in southern Punjab, where it has a huge seminary. Former members of both organisations are integral parts of the Pakistani Taliban. Another group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the devastating attack on Mumbai in 2008, also has Punjab as its home. "The Punjab government is not only complacent, there is a certain ambivalence in their attitude" towards extremists, says Arif Nizami, a political analyst based in Lahore. "They compete for the religious vote bank."
As Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its leader, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, are well known as anti-Indian, the Indian authorities raised their concerns over the significant allocation. Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "Given the positive signals recent weeks, I would expect that Pakistan would keep the new consideration and address our concerns."
Nawaz Sharif recently expressed his desire to upgrade relations with India. But many think that if Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its relations get privileges from Pakistan's newly elected provincial and federal governments, not only India, but the entire world will be more skeptical about the foreign policy of the "New Pakistan."