November 2001 News

Govt jumps gun, Lashkar not yet banned

6 November 2001
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Everyone believes the Lashkar-e-Toiba has been banned. Including the terrorist outfit itself. But that is not the case. And it is not likely to happen immediately either. On the eve of Prime Minister Vajpayee''s meeting with President Bush, the only concession the US made to the demand for banning the Lashkar was to recommend a ban. Or rather designate it a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) and put it on the list of terrorist outfits whose financial assets have been frozen according to a Bush Executive Order. Indian authorities, including Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh and Indian ambassador in the US Lalit Mansingh, reportedly welcomed the ban ''according to US sources, a reaction less on fact and more on what '' India wants should happen''. Even the Lashkar condemned the supposed ban. In Muzzafarabad, PoK, the United Jihad Council called the '' ban'' ''biased'' and asked Pakistan to reject it. Sources in Delhi said there are reasons for the delay in designating Lashkar a terrorist outfit and they lie in Pakistani support for it. The US is moving slowly on freezing Lashkar''s assets while moving to strangulate the Jaish-e-Mohammad''s finances because Jaish''s major support base is the Al Qaeda. The Lashkar is a Pakistani outfit and targetting its assets will involve compromising General Musharraf when he is under attack from jehadis. So the recommendation means the US has made the first moves on Lashkar, and thus tried to placate Indian demands. But by not banning it yet, Washington is trying not to embarrass Musharraf, who is visiting the US at the same time as Vajpayee. On Friday, US Attorney General John Ashcroft sent a list of organisations to the State Department recommending they be put on the list of FTOs and added to the outfits tagged on the Executive Order 13224 signed by Bush on September 23 calling for a freeze on their assets. The recommendation has not been accepted by the State and Treasury departments. There is no precedence of the Attorney General'' s recommendations being rejected, but that does not mean the Lashkar has been banned. A US Embassy spokesperson said, ''As of now, the FTO list has not been changed. We await the decision on Ashcroft''s recommendations.'' Reports in Indian media on the ban were attributed to the Indian mission in the US. Sources said agencies asked the embassy for information on the ban and were told that Ashcroft''s recommendations means that Lashkar will get banned. This, sources said, is being seen as a diplomatic move to bring pressure on the US. By spreading the news that the Lashkar has been banned when it was not India is forcing the US''s hand to act. US sources say Ashcroft''s recommendations will mean the Lashkar will first get on the Executive Order 13224 list and its assets will be frozen worldwide. This procedure was applied to the Jaish. But Lashkar and Jaish are not yet on the State Department''s FTO list. Even if the State Department accepts Ashcroft''s recommendations, this could take a while because the FTO list is produced at the end of a ''legal process'', but to be tagged on to Bush''s Order the procedure requires only the President''s consent. For the US authorities, the Indian mission clearly misinformed the agencies.


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