The Army of the Righteous is banned—but it still works everywhere
What is our problem?
Our problem is terrorism.
If you are asked to define a state in martial terms, it can be reduced to: the owner of the monopoly of violence within a determined and accepted set of borders.
Terrorism has deprived the Pakistani state of its monopoly over violence. India does not recognize the set of borders we draw for ourselves. The rest of the world agrees to look the other way and agree on the dotted line across Kashmir where we last stopped fighting.
Pakistan has responded to terrorism in two ways. Internal terrorism is conducted mostly by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and affiliated or off-shoot organizations. This has been met with an iron fist, with laws curtailing individual liberties. Due process rights have been brought about to enable a quick despatch of people we describe as terrorists without what we would otherwise say is a proper trial.
The internal terrorism in Pakistan is widely understood to be a by-product of the American war in Afghanistan. The rest of the world looks upon the thousands of lives we have lost and the billions of dollars in infrastructural damage with sympathy—but little more.
The second approach taken by Pakistan to combat terrorism is largely what stops it from gaining anything more than sympathy from the rest of the world. It is our approach to terrorism that is allegedly planned/primed/paid for in Pakistan, but occurs externally, usually in India.
India, with its superior resources and skill at lobbying governments, has successfully painted Pakistan as a wolf in sheep’s clothing whenever we complain about the TTP ravaging our country, by pointing to how we allegedly facilitate a lot of organizations hell-bent upon ravaging theirs.
One of the most notorious organizations we keep listing as banned is the Lashkar-e Tayyaba, the Army of the Righteous. India and the rest of the world complains that the only time these folk are being righteous are when they are at home, which they further claim to be in Pakistan, around the South of Punjab.
What is the LeT, MML, JuD?
The LeT was formed with the intent of liberating Kashmir and its Muslim majority from India back in 1987. It is accused of being behind several attacks of the fidayeen variety in India and on Indian state targets.
Fidayeen (as opposed to standard Mujahideen) is a strand of Jihad in which the activists aim to defy death for as long as possible while inflicting as much damage as possible. One example is the Indian Parliament attack of 2001.
One of the founders of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, went on to found the Jamaat-ud Dawa, which is the charity wing of the LeT and helps to forward the righteous image of its founders by diluting the second monopoly of the state: the provision of welfare and basic governance.
When it is not doing this, it is also alleged to be involved in the support and financing of fidayeen-style attacks in India, such as the Bombay attacks of 2008, the execution of which is blamed on the LeT.
The JuD steps in to adjudicate feuds, settle disputes, pay for diseased livestock. All in all, they behave the way a good government would in the areas of its influence. These areas of influence expand after every disaster, which is disastrously managed, which is nearly all of them.
So after the two flood years into the PPP federal government, the JuD stepped into the role the government should have played and delivered medical supplies, tents, temporary shelters, basic needs and support.
While the world bans the JuD and recognizes it as a front for terrorism, we treat it with soft measures and half-strokes.
Currently it is banned—but it still works everywhere. Hafiz Saeed was even more recently put under house arrest and his activities banned because we were left red-faced internationally when the world, including our friends, allowed for us to be put on the terror financing watch-list of the FATF recently.
China was one of the countries that allowed this to happen. It’s all good when it is loaning you money at high interest rates so you can buy its construction which is built by Chinese people (CPEC). But the Chinese have zero tolerance for any kind of private militias, specially religious ones.
Another country we count as a friend (which now counts Israel as a friend) is Saudi Arabia, which also supported the move to have us blacklisted. Saudi Arabia currently employs General Thank You as its commander of its very own Army of the Righteous, focused currently on raining righteousness upon the innocent and poor people of Yemen.
Meanwhile, the JuD is now trying to complete the dry-cleaning cycle by registering its own political party: the Milli Muslim League.
Why do we LeT MML be?
Strategic Depth. In the face of the larger beast that is India, we like to attack with ferocity. And before ferocity, we like to send in people we don’t have to own later if they mess up. Or sometimes it’s good to have people who you can say you never owned anyway.
One of the criticisms against harbouring external terrorism groups is that they tend to later become internal terrorism groups, like they did last time with the TTP. People who say this sort of stuff generally end up living abroad.
The writer is a co-host of SAMAA’s Agenda 360 show Friday and Saturday at 8pm