- India - Lashkar-e-Taiba - Mumbai attacks - Pakistan
"If they want war, we’re ready. If they play good neighbours and want peace, then yes, we will stop," warned the second-in-command of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, successor to the banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba, speaking to FRANCE 24’s correspondents in Pakistan.
India and the United States have accused Lashkar-e-Taiba, a fundamentalist Pakistani group, of perpetrating the recent deadly attacks in Mumbai in which at least 171 people were killed. A spokesman for the group denied the allegations on Thursday Nov. 27, as the events were still unfolding. He insisted the group’s activities were exclusively humanitarian.
FRANCE 24’s correspondents went hunting for Lashkar-e-Taiba in the suburbs of Lahore, in eastern Pakistan, close to the Indian border.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, banned in Pakistan since 2002
Lashkar-e-Taiba, or “Army of the Pious”, was founded in the 1990s in Lahore. Its aim was to combat the “occupation” by India of large parts of the Muslim-majority Kashmir province. Though the group was banned in Pakistan in 2002, it is suspected of having strengthened its ties with local Talibans as well as with al Qaeda, particularly in the country’s north-western tribal regions.
“Do you know Lashkar-e-Taiba?” our correspondents asked a passer-by. "I know Lashkar-e-Taiba, but they're not called that any more. You have to say Jamaat-ud-Dawa, you'll find them at the end of the road over there," was his reply.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa is the new name of the group created in the 1990s, which the CIA and Pakistan classified as a terrorist organisation in 2002.
In this part of Pakistan, the group comes across as a harmless humanitarian organisation – a far cry from the extremists who staged the devastating Mumbai attacks. Yet, intelligence agencies suspect the group is in fact none other than Laskar-e-Taiba’s political wing.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s social base
Jamaat-ud-Dawa's community counts some 3,000 members. They manage a local madrasa for boys and girls and a hospital that provides free medical assistance for the region’s impoverished population.
Though suspicious of foreign journalists, the group is more than happy to talk about its “humanitarian” work. The distribution of aid helps Jamaat-ud-Dawa acquire a degree of support and legitimacy among the local population. It also offers a means to access the poorest and most vulnerable strata of society – precisely those in which the group can hope to recruit a fresh crop of followers.