Pragmatic: Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI

Bloomberg reports that —

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said yesterday the group behind last week’s assault also carried out a 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, which authorities blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba. He didn’t mention the group by name.

It also goes on to talk about the well-known historical relationship between the LeT and the ISI.

An investigation of Lashkar may lead to the Pakistan army’s main intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, because the ISI gave money and direction to the Islamist group as it conducted attacks in India in the 1990s, according to Husain Haqqani, a Boston University professor who is now Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington.

While most people in India perceive LeT as a terrorist group based in Pakistan, it is much more than that. Steve Coll recounts his personal experiences to decipher the reach of the LeT and its charity, Jamat-ed-Dawa, in The New Yorker —

Late in 2005, I travelled for The New Yorker to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to report on the earthquake that devastated the region. To facilitate international aid, the Pakistani government opened the region to journalists, creating a very rare opportunity to travel without escort and to poke around on the border. I was particularly interested in looking up Lashkar, which I had been following for many years. I made several visits to facilities run by its charity, called “Jamat-ud-Dawa,” which is today tolerated openly by the government of Pakistan but banned as a terrorist organization by the United States on the grounds that it is merely an alias for Lashkar.

In Muzuffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, Jamat had brought in a mobile surgical unit staffed by long-bearded doctors from Karachi and Lahore—very impressive young men, fluent in English, who offered a reminder that unlike, say, the Taliban, Lashkar draws some very talented people from urban professions. (With its hospitals, universities, and social-service wings, Lashkar is akin to Hezbollah or Hamas; it is a three-dimensional political and social movement with an armed wing, not merely a terrorist or paramilitary outfit.) As part of its earthquake relief work, Lashkar ferried supplies to remote villages isolated on the far side of the churning Neelum River, one of the two snow-fed canyon rivers that traverse the area. I asked to take a ride with its volunteers, and their media officer (yes, they have media officers) agreed.

We rode in a van to the river’s edge, scrambled down a rocky hillside and boarded one of Lashkar’s rubber pontoon boats, about fifteen feet long, with a large outboard motor—useful for carrying relief supplies, but not coincidentally, also useful for infiltrating militants into Indian-held Kashmir. It has long been an open secret, and a source of some hilarity among foreign correspondents, that under the guise of “humanitarian relief operations,” Lashkar practiced amphibious operations on a lake at its vast headquarters campus, outside Lahore. The events in Mumbai have taken the humor of these “humanitarian” rehearsals away. That day on the Neelum, I chatted with our thick-bearded captain in my very poor Arabic. He spoke Arabic as well—from his religious studies, he said, although he conceded, too, that he had travelled to Saudi Arabia, where it is well understood that Lashkar has raised money. I was also told that around the time of the earthquake they set up fund-raising operations in Britain, to tap the Pakistani diaspora there.

Earlier this year, I met with a Lashkar official in Lahore. We talked about how Jamat was getting along under international pressure. I took no notes and the conversation was intended for my informal guidance, but I came away with a number of impressions. On the one hand, the group’s bank accounts remain unmolested by the Pakistani government, which gives Lashkar quite a lot of running room; on the other, the group resents the accommodations reached between Pakistan’s government and the United States. Clearly, Lashkar knows what it must do to protect the Pakistan government from being exposed in the violent operations that Lashkar runs in Kashmir and elsewhere. For example, some of its younger volunteers wanted to join the fight with the Taliban in Western Pakistan and Afghanistan, my interlocutor said, and so Jamat had evolved an internal H.R. policy by which these young men would turn in their Jamat identity cards and go West “on their own time,” much as think tanks allow policy scholars to take leaves of absence to advise political campaigns.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief, portrays a conspiracy theory which believes that “several things went wrong within the ISI, which resulted in the Mumbai attacks”.

A plan by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that had been in the pipelines for several months – even though official policy was to ditch it – saw what was to be a low-profile attack in Kashmir turn into the massive attacks on Mumbai last week. The original plan was highjacked by the Laskar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistani militant group that generally focussed on the Kashmir struggle, and al-Qaeda, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200 people in Mumbai.

…Under directives from Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kiani, who was then director general (DG) of the ISI, a low-profile plan was prepared to support Kashmiri militancy. That was normal, even in light of the peace process with India. Although Pakistan had closed down its major operations, it still provided some support to the militants so that the Kashmiri movement would not die down completely.

After Kiani was promoted to chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj was placed as DG of the ISI. The external section under him routinely executed the plan of Kiani and trained a few dozen LET militants near Mangla Dam (near the capital Islamabad). They were sent by sea to Gujrat, from where they had to travel to Kashmir to carry out operations.

Meanwhile, a major reshuffle in the ISI two months ago officially shelved this low-key plan as the country’s whole focus had shifted towards Pakistan’s tribal areas. The director of the external wing was also changed, placing the “game” in the hands of a low-level ISI forward section head (a major) and the LET’s commander-in-chief, Zakiur Rahman.

Zakiur was in Karachi for two months to personally oversee the plan. However, the militant networks in India and Bangladesh comprising the Harkat, which were now in al-Qaeda’s hands, tailored some changes. Instead of Kashmir, they planned to attack Mumbai, using their existent local networks, with Westerners and the Jewish community center as targets.

Zakiur and the ISI’s forward section in Karachi, completely disconnected from the top brass, approved the plan under which more than 10 men took Mumbai hostage for nearly three days and successfully established a reign of terror.

Indian authorities will be able to easily establish the role of the LeT and consequently, the ISI and the Pakistani army in perpetuating these terror attacks at Mumbai. The blasts at Indian embassy in Kabul had also shown that the ISI was behind them, as shown by the US intelligence agencies. Many in this country do not tire of portraying Mumbai terror attack as a watershed in India’s history, whereas the real watershed should have been the Kabul blasts. Why didn’t we move against the ISI and Pakistani state then, when we had the proof?

Although he has no control over the Pakistani army and the ISI, mealy-mouthed Zardari has already started backpedalling furiously.

Zardari also suggested no one found to be involved would be turned over to India.

“If we had the proof, we would try them in our courts, we would try them in our land and we would sentence them,” he said.

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5 responses to “Pragmatic: Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI

  1. Zardari’s statement today clearly states what he thinks of political will of present Indian Government.

    Why don’t opposition parties come together and move a no-confidence motion? The faster we get rid of the Sonia run oligarchy, the quicker we can start fixing our system.

  2. Sonia is only CWC and UNITED PAKISTAN AGENCY chairperson.. she should not decide anything on her own for our country where is MANMOHINI.NOWADAYS MORE.. PYARE.. SONIA KE SADI KE ANTHAR KYA… the spinless Priminister, sonia with her kitty party girls and her daughter and son. having self interest to make everybodyin her family a prime minister India is a lame duck now under thier leadership.. voteout this culprits from power no-confidence motion!!! they will try to influence MPs through Money! that is what happened 1 year back

  3. KSV SUBRAMANIAN

    Sorry for going off the topic. The police have found one bomb at CST Parcel office and they have diffused it. They say this is the last among the five bombs planted on 26th.

    The shoot out occurred on 26th. The bomb, as per the police, is lying there till this day. After the shoot out the police, the dog squad or whatever police or any other force should have thoroughly checked the entire CST area and sanitized the entire place and ensured no bombs or explosive devices are there. Then how can this bomb remain there without notice. If it is lying there from 26th onwards then why the police failed to recover the same till date ? There is a great lapse on the side of the police. The dereliction of duty on the part of the authorities concerned should never be condoned. Heads should roll from the authorities for these kinds of laxity on their part. And urgently to send a message to the concerned officials everywhere.

  4. KSV SUBRAMANIAN

    His sacrifice led to prize catch: TNIE reports. Have you heard the name of the Assistant sub-inspection, 48 year old Tukaram omble. Without caring for his life or the consequences, Omble took Ajmal head on. He sprang towards the ultra and gripped the barrel of his AK-47 rifle with both hands.

    With the barrel pointing towards the cop, Ajmal pulled the trigger. The brave policeman took all the bullets on himself. Bullet-holed Omble collapsed, but did not let go of Ajmal. The, he not only provided a perfect cover to his team, but also prevented Ajmal from firing at anyone. The other team members had, by then killed the other terrorist Ismail. The now pounced on Ajmal and captured.

    Ajmal is the only terrorist captured alive due to the SUPREME SACRIFICE OF TUKARAM OMBLE. My salute him. The real Braveheart.

  5. Zardari read the American tea leaves…they will not push him…so goes back to old script….we have seen this movie before…

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