Islamabad-When it comes to the existence of “Jamaat-ud-Dawa”, we see several changes taking place. The group first kicked off as “Markaz-ud Dawa-wal-Irshad” (Center for Preaching and Guidance, or MDI), and formed its military wing known as “Lashkar-e-Taiba”, which is banned in the country and enlisted as a terrorist organization. Then, Leader of the group Hafez Saeed announced the establishment of “Jamaat-ud-Dawa”. After the U.S. Department of State announced the group as a terrorist organization, it transformed itself into the “Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation”.
Since then, Hafez Saeed and “Dawa” have been doing all they can to be acknowledged locally as politic group taking part in politics. Their efforts have yielded results.
In January 2015, “Dawa” organized a massive protest in Lahore in which thousands participated. Such protests were considered an annual activity until the party known back then as “Lashkar-e-Taiba” was suspended in 2002, following attacks on the Indian Parliament’s headquarters. The goal from these protests was clearly to tell the world that Hafez Saeed and “Jamaat-ud-Dawa” enjoy momentous popular support in the Pakistani community.
From the ashes of “Lashkar-e-Taiba” arose “Jamaat-ud-Dawa.” The group was involved in terrorist attacks on Indian cities in 2008, but it had never participated in the attacks against the Pakistani state and its institutions. Yet, incidents over the past five years showed that the group’s chance to play a regional role has diminished, due to the increasing pressures practiced on Pakistan by India and its western allies to suppress the group’s activities. According to a senior military official, these developments urged a change in the group’s behavior, saying that all what Saeed and his group seek now is to become a power in the interior policy.
It is worth mentioning that Hafez Saeed has become more active in the interior politics since the Raymond Davis’s accident, in which a CIA agent killed two people on their motorcycle in Lahore in 2011. The police arrested the committer but released him later under American pressure. At that time, Saeed and his group led a popular campaign to trial and punish the agent. According to Hassan Aaskari, the group is currently adopting local political organizations’ techniques, like drawing graffiti on walls and organizing protests and press conferences to prove its role in the local political scene.
In addition to their involvement in the local policies, Saeed and “Dawa” group lead a popular campaign to support matters related to national security to gain the support of the Pakistani public. They used national issues to hide their real agendas. For example, “Dawa” group is a pure sectarian organization followed by supporters of the extremist
Hadith group. Security analyst Amir Rana said that “Dawa” have supporters in all Pakistani regions, and that the extremist speech it adopted, particularly concerning the fighting in Kashmir, was welcomed by other sects as well.
Over the past five years, “Dawa” group has formed alliances with six other religious groups to establish the group known as “Pakistan Defense Council”, which is still active till this day and organizes protests against American drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions.
The Pakistani government faced intense pressures from Washington and New Delhi to trial Hafez Saeed for his involvement in Bombay’s attacks that killed 200 people, but the government hasn’t mentioned his name yet.
Media outlets recently reported that the “Dawa” group rules an illegitimate Sharia court in the second biggest city in Lahore. Pakistani police launched an investigation to verify the media reports alleging that the Group’s court enforce people to stick to its provisions.
It is worth mentioning that the ministry of interior has also enlisted “Dawa” as a terrorist organization in November and the government has banned the publications related to the group’s issues. Yet, “Dawa” remains a legitimate group in the country, which practices charity activities and organizes protests across the country. The group and Hafez Saeed have denied any involvement in Bombay’s attacks. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said in an interview that no one is allowed to force people to resort to arbitration or impose rules on them, because that is illegal and unconstitutional.
Sharia courts are not the only mean used by the group to spread its control over the society. The headquarters of “Dawa” group is located near Lahore and is composed of a house compound, a religious school, a large hospital, a market, agricultural land, fish farms, and a residential area, in which reside the group’s scholars and members of the education committee. The group also manages 16 religious institutions, 135 high schools, ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks. Sources say that “Dawa” collects donations from Pakistani committees in Gulf countries and the United Kingdom in addition to Islamic NGOs and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen.
Although the group is facing intense pressures from the Pakistani government and from exterior parties, “Dawa” currently leads the political scene and the political speech in the country.
Yet, political analysts see that both Hafez Saeed and “Dawa” group need the support of traditional Islamic parties and the main political parties to stay out of prison amidst the growing international pressures practiced on the Pakistani government. Therefore, crowds from the traditional Islamists have gathered to support Saeed, while political parties keep distance with him.