For the first time in more than 15 years, leaders of the Pakistani jihadist organisation Jama’at-ud-Dawa have made public statements of support for a Lashkar-e-Taiba attack in India, praising the internationally proscribed terrorist group for the 48-hour gun battle in Pampore, which claimed the lives of three soldiers and two central police personnel, and left over a dozen injured. The UN Security Council banned the Jama’at-ud-Dawa after 26/11 saying it is the Lashkar’s front.
In a series of tweets early on Monday morning, Taha Muneeb, the head of the Jama’at’s social media cell and organisational propagandist, said the Indian soldiers had been “sent there in (to) hell by Kashmiri mujahideen Lashkar-e-Taiba”.
Muneeb made a number of additional threats of violence against Indian troops. “Leave Kashmir”, he said in one, “(it is the) only solution if you want to stop the deaths of your young captains”. “No-one can stop India’s destruction by #Sikhs, #Kashmiris and #Jat(s)”, Muneeb went on, “(unless it) leave(s) Kashmir”.
“We fully support Lashkar-e-Taiba”, one tweet read. “Leave Kashmir and save your coward army from Kashmiri mujahideen Lashkar-e-Taiba,” another added. Muneeb did not cite a source for his statement that the Lashkar was involved in the strike — an assertion only made by Indian officials on Monday evening, long after the Jama’at leader said they were responsible.
The unusual declaration of support comes even as the Lashkar is waging a battle against the Islamic State’s Khorasan wing, and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, both of which have drawn numbers of cadre from the organisation. In their online propaganda, the new jihadist groups have alleged the Lashkar is fighting for the interests of Pakistan’s intelligence services, rather than Islam.
Ever since it was proscribed by the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf in 2002, as India threatened war in the wake of an attack of Parliament House, the Jama’at-ud-Dawa-then known as the Markaz Dawa wal’Irshad-has denied it has any links to the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Last year, the Islamic State magazine Dabiq attacked its rivals in Pakistan for being “allies of the nationalist Kashmir factions whose advances and withdrawals are only by the order of the apostate Pakistani army”.
The Jama’at’s backing for the Pampore attack could hit efforts to renew India-Pakistan diplomatic engagement, which has been stalled since the Pathankot strikes. In an interview to Headlines Today, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, had made the case for renewed dialogue, saying Pakistan was acting against the Pathankot perpetrators.
In support of his argument, Aziz mad the revelation that Pakistan had recovered three telephones Indian investigators said were used to communicate the Pathankot attackers from the Jaish-e-Muhammad’s headquarters in Bahawalpur. But he reiterated Pakistan’s long-standing position that there was no evidence to act against the Jama’at.
Even though the United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions on both the Jama’at and Lashkar following the 26/11 attacks, describing it as a front organisation for the Lashkar, Pakistan has rejected calls against the group. The organisation had been allowed to resume work in 2005, following the Kashmir earthquake that year.
Lieutenant-General Abdul Qadir Baloch, Pakistan’s Minister for States and Frontier Region, said the United Nations had not shared evidence of its claims. He underlined the Jama’at’s role in charitable works, which includes running hospitals, educational institutions and ambulance service. However, General Baloch said, the Jama’at remained “under observation” for possible involvement in terrorism.
The Pakistan government’s position appeared to roll back on commitments made in December, 2008, when the country’s envoy to the United Nations promised the Security Council it would proscribe the Jama’at and freeze its assets.
Long resistant to modern media — its leaders once insisted new recruits throw out their television sets — the Jama’at has in recent years seen the online world as a key front for its struggle. Jama’at chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed recently made the case for a vigorous digital media strategy, saying the internet had “permeated people’s lives and is being used for psychological warfare against Pakistan”. The head of the Jama’at cyber team, Abdul Rehman ‘Salaar’, also took the opportunity to lash out at Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s promise to act against perpetrators of terrorism against India.
“Hope Mr Nawaz Sharif will not register the FIR of Pampore attack by Kashmiri Freedom fighters in Toba Tek Singh”, he tweeted. His reference was to the Pakistan government to register a First Information Report against the perpetrators of January’s attack on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. . JH
For his part, Muneeb praised Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, who is believed to have pushed back against the Prime Minister’s efforts at normalisation with India. “You are an open threat to #India as you defeated the proxies of #India here”, the Jama’at leader wrote. He also praised the General as the “greatest mujahideen”, saying he was “leading the army on their motto of Jihad Fi Sabilillah (jihad in the way of god)”.