On April 27, Washington announced a decision to place two Pakistan-based Islamic charities operating in the United States on its terrorism watch list. The organizations implicated are the Jamaat ud-Dawa (JUD, the Call Group) and its public services branch Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq (IKK—People’s Services Administration). Both groups are accused of having links to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT, Army of the Pure), one of Pakistan’s largest and most well-organized radical Islamist groups operating in Kashmir with alleged ties to al-Qaeda in South Asia (Daily Times, April 28). The move will authorize U.S. authorities to freeze all the assets held by both organizations in the U.S.
In response to the U.S. action, Pakistani officials declared that they did not have plans to move against the JUD and IKK, claiming that Islamabad was under no obligation to comply with what they described as U.S. domestic law. On the other hand, they mentioned that Pakistan would be obligated to comply with any United Nations decision dealing with the status of the organization (Dawn, May 3).
The JUD was established to circumvent international and Pakistani controls following Washington’s labeling of the LeT as a terrorist organization in 2001 and Islamabad’s subsequent banning of the movement in 2002 after attacks perpetrated by Islamic radicals against the Indian Parliament (http://www.jamatuddawa.org). In another effort to evade Pakistan’s ban on the LeT, the JUD claimed to operate solely in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The JUD is headed by Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed, the founder and former leader of the LeT. The JUD is not banned today, although it is placed on an official watch list along with a host of other groups suspected of radical activities in Pakistan. The JUD, and its affiliated IKK branch devoted to humanitarian, public welfare projects, and other services, have been heavily involved in relief efforts and fundraising inside of Pakistan and internationally, especially following the devastating earthquake that struck the country in October 2005 (http://www.dawakhidmat.org).
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf praised the JUD for its efforts in assisting victims of the earthquake. He also singled out the al-Rasheed Trust—another organization involved with earthquake relief efforts and purported to have radical ties—for their efforts. Many Pakistanis were highly critical of the government-led relief efforts in the disaster zone, which were reportedly mired by mismanagement, inefficiency and ineptitude. In contrast, the actions of groups such as the JUD and IKK were praised. Even Pakistanis critical of organizations such as the JUD and their Islamist counterparts lauded what were often described as their brave and impressive efforts (Dawn, October 28, 2005).
The grassroots popularity of groups such as the JUD and IKK, especially since the earthquake, demonstrates the fine line Musharraf must walk between rooting out alleged centers of finance for Islamic radicalism and the legitimate and necessary humanitarian work ongoing in the disaster zone and elsewhere in the region.
According to a recent report on the JUD’s official website, news of the ban targeting the JUD and IKK in Pakistan inspired the supporters of 20 influential clerics, religious movements and political parties, including the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI, Islamic Scholars Group) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) to gather on May 8 in Lahore to protest the U.S. decision and to demonstrate their solidarity with the targeted groups (http://www.jamatuddawa.org).
The gathering showcased popular criticism of the Pakistani government for its alleged failure to stand up to the United States in defense of the charities through an official joint declaration. Among other things, the U.S. decision was interpreted as a direct attack against Islam and the Pakistani people and as a way of strengthening India. The declaration also mentioned that the banning of the JUD and IKK was part of a strategy to weaken all Pakistani and Islamic charities, which in turn would force desperate and impoverished Pakistanis in the earthquake zone to rely on Western and Christian aid organizations. The report also noted that Pakistanis in the disaster area organized a protest against the U.S. decision to ban the JUD and IKK (http://www.jamatuddawa.org).