Dec 4, 2008

World - Visit us, Lashkar front organisation tells media

Nirupama Subramanian

It says it is only running educational institutions

LeT founder said it would be ‘unfortunate’ if India attacked

ISLAMABAD: Jamaat-ud-dawah, the front organisation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that Indian investigators are linking to the Mumbai attacks, is opening its Muridke headquarters to journalists on Thursday.

With Pakistani media reporting in the last few days that India may be planning a strike at the LeT’s headquarters in Muridke near Lahore, the JuD has come out saying that it is only running educational institutions at the complex.

A spokesman for the organisation, which claims it is purely an Islamic charity involved in good work across Pakistan, said in a text message to international journalists on Wednesday that they would be given a “tour” of the Markaz-e-Taiba (the group’s headquarters) at 11 a.m. on December 4. This is to be followed by a press conference. The message did not specify who would address the press conference. It asked the journalists to bring along “other friends and colleagues” in the media.

On Tuesday, Hafiz Saeed, the LeT founder and the leader of the JuD, told Geo Television in an interview that it would be “unfortunate” if India attacked his headquarters because the complex housed only educational institutions. He denied there were any training facilities for jihadis at the complex, and asked India to focus on the involvement of its own citizens in the attack.

JuD leader Saeed is in the list of 20 people against whom India wants Pakistan to take action. The list also includes the names of Mumbai underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Maulana Masood Azhar.

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, was in Islamabad on Wednesday to push the Pakistan government to cooperate with India in getting to the bottom of the Mumbai attacks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is arriving here on Thursday from India.

Significantly, the topmost U.S. military official flagged the need for the Pakistan government and security forces to go after militant groups not just in the border areas but in all parts of Pakistan.


He packed in meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and IS chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

The government was mum on the meetings, but a U.S. embassy press release said Admiral Mullen thanked them for their willingness to assist Indian officials in a joint investigation of the Mumbai terrorist attacks and “urged them to investigate aggressively any and all possible ties” to Pakistan-based groups.

The release said Admiral Mullen “noting recent success by Pakistan’s military against extremists in the border regions” also encouraged Pakistani leaders to take more – and more concerted – action against militant extremists elsewhere in the country.

Reports in several newspapers on Wednesday suggested that Pakistan is reluctant to act on the list given to it by India. The reports quoted “official sources” as dismissing the lists as “old.” The Dawn quoted an unnamed Interior Ministry official saying that Pakistan had “repeatedly” told India that some of these people were not in this country and that “solid evidence” was required to act against Pakistani nationals included in the list.

Another report in The News quoted unnamed officials saying that the government had already “cleared” the Pakistani nationals on the list but had kept them under “surveillance.”

“The organisations banned by the Musharraf regime in the wake of 9/11 have been under constant surveillance and all those freed have already been cleared by intelligence agencies after thorough investigations,” an official told the newspaper.

In an interview to the same newspaper, JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid dismissed the Indian allegations against the Laskhar-e-Taiba. He said the JuD was already “under watch” by Pakistani authorities.

“Everybody knows that the [Musharraf] regime would not have allowed us to live in freedom had any of our activities been suspected. It is more Indian propaganda to conceal the failure of its intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” Mr. Mujahid said.

When the newspaper asked him about reports of a possible Indian Air Force strike on Muridke, the JuD spokesman said Pakistan’s armed forces were responsible to protect the country’s frontiers against any outside aggression.

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