Lashkar e Taiba and Dawood: The old menaces

The arrest of the Lashkar e Taiba bomber, Abdul Karim Tunda in the Nepal border by the Delhi police has reopened the unhealed wounds for the Indian security and intelligence. His revelations in the interrogations which subsequently followed has revealed startling facts and figures regarding the operations of the old menaces, the banned terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the most wanted Indian terrorist, Dawood Ibrahim.

The revelations come at a time when the Indo-Pak border tension is at its height with gunfire and provocation for a full fledged war is at the zenith. According to Tunda, the LeT has a total base of about 3 lakh members under its command and most of these members belong to a very young age group of 15-19 years. These ‘mujahideens’ or ‘religious fighters’ mostly belong to the unprivileged and underdeveloped areas of the Pakistani province of Punjab wherefrom the young brigade is recruited in lieu of basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. In addition, they are imparted training to carry out the operations of the LeT which may vary from fund raising activity to carrying out ‘fidayeen’ attacks like suicide bombing.

Abdul Karim Tunda, the man himself is an accomplished bomb specialist and has been part of the organization since the very inception in the 1990s. According to Tunda, the member base of yet another terrorist group which is more prominently operative in India, Jaish-e-Mohammed, is 1.5 lakh people with a substantial recruitment from the PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir). Tunda in his revelations has also dragged the names of Azam Cheema and Abdul Salaam Bhakti who is a prominent member of another banned outfit, Jamat-ud-Dawa, which hitherto has been reverted by Pakistani authorities as a charity foundation. The person who is said to facilitate the infiltration of terrorists across the LoC (Line of Control) is his own father in law, Zakaria and after completion of the operations, these terrorists are then subsequently send across to Bangladesh and then back to Pakistan.

The revelations are however noteworthy because of the two familiar names which appeared in Tunda’s testimony, Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Sayeed. Dawood Ibrahim needs no introduction to the Indian intelligence or the Indian public. It is alleged that in every illegal trade or activity carried out in India, Dawood Ibrahim is a link somewhere in the chain. From the hawala dealings to the match fixing scandals that have plagued the country, Dawood is present everywhere. No wonder, the don has become an infamous celebrity with Bollywood characters being portrayed on him. Tunda has reported the presence of Dawood in Karachi in a lavish mansion which is equally protected under the hawk eyes of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the infamous Pakistani intelligence agency. This is interesting as only a couple of weeks ago, the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Shariff, had stated that Dawood no longer resides within the boundaries of Pakistan. When the newly Pakistani government is stressing on the need for talks, the Tunda revelations contradicting their leader is in no way creates a healthy ambience for talks.

The details of the other person revealed by Tunda is of the most wanted Pakistani terrorist, Hafiz Sayeed, the prime accused in the 26/11 Mumbai terror bombings and the killings at the Taj and Oberoi. Hafiz Sayeed, is the next generation terrorist in the lineage of the LeT founder, Maulana Masood Azhar, who was released from the Indian prisons at the backdrop of the Kandahar Air India hijack.

Tunda further revealed that Hafiz Sayeed was promoted by the ISI under the guidance of Azhar Masood to unite the two factions of the LeT, Harkat-ul-Ansar and Harkat-ul-Jehad to form the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in 1989-90. The revelation that JeM was incorporated for anti-India specific activities and operations by the ISI, present a body blow to the claims of the Pakistani government and the leaders alike who have been denying the role of JeM and the ISI in anti-India activities.

Another important revelation was the existence of the Babbar Khalsa group in Pakistan. It is important to recall the blanket of terror woven by the Babbar Khalsa group demanding the creation of a separate state called Khalistan in Punjab. The idea of Khalistan no longer exists as of today in its active form as it was under Jarnail Singh Bhindarwaale in the mid 1980s and the following years. However, Punjab is highly affected with the menace of drug addiction in the youth and 1 out of 3 youth is reported to have undergone drug addiction. The possibility that the groups trading in drugs in the region have their roots across the border under the aegis of Dawood and the ISI, can no longer be ruled out.

What remains to be seen is whether this prized catch of the LeT veteran, Abdul Karim Tunda, brings some fruit to the Indian intelligence who have been stating the facts and links but there has not been any form of concrete action from the Home as well as the External affairs Ministry to press for the extradition of people like Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Sayeed. On a personal front, what would be interesting will be to know the roles of Dawood and the ISI in the hawala dealings which may further provide a clue as to why the rupee has been falling just before a general election in India. Will the Pandora’s box be opened?