June 2007 News

Firing, arson in PoK capital; boy dies of gunshot wounds

12 June 2007
The Hindu
Nirupama Subramanian

Islamabad: Angry protesters in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad set fire to properties of the Jamaat-ud-dawa (JuD) on Monday night after a boy was killed in a land dispute between the organisation and local people. The PoK government announced on Tuesday that it would set up a commission to investigate the incident. The JuD is linked to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba through its common founder Hafiz Saeed. It claims it is a charitable organisation. The United States believes that it is a LeT front organisation and has put it on its terror list; Mr. Saeed figures in a list of the 'most wanted' India has given to Pakistan. Although it is on the Pakistan government's 'watch list,' the JuD was one of several banned groups which were allowed to carry out relief work in PoK after the 2005 earthquake. According to Dawn, residents of Panjgran village on the outskirts of the capital gave a piece of land to the JuD immediately after the earthquake to facilitate its relief work. The JuD set up temporary structures on the land including a pre-fab hospital, doctors' accommodation and a warehouse for dry rations. But recently, according to the residents, the organisation began making efforts to obtain a lease for the land, despite opposition from the original owners. The villagers told the JuD that its conduct was unacceptable and both sides held a number of jirgas to settle the dispute. The villagers alleged that on Monday evening, JuD cadres kidnapped two boys from the village and kept them captive in the warehouse. The villagers gathered outside demanding the release of the boys. Suddenly, gunshots were fired on the crowd and three persons were injured. The police arrested a dozen JuD cadres, including the person who allegedly fired into the crowd. A semblance of order was restored thereafter. But when one of the injured succumbed to his gunshot wounds in hospital, enraged villagers, armed with cans of kerosene, returned to the site and set fire to the entire JuD set-up. In a statement, the JuD accused the PoK police and administration of standing by and doing nothing to prevent the incident carried out 'in accordance with a well thought- out plan' by a 'land grab mafia'. Contrary to the villagers' version that the land, on which the JuD set up its substantial infrastructure, belonged to them, the organisation said it had a government lease for it. Claiming that none of its cadres had fired a single shot, and demanding the release of its workers and compensation for its losses, the JuD said it was the responsibility of the PoK government to provide security and protection 'to humanitarian organisations which have been working day and night to provide relief to the survivors' of the earthquake. The JuD said people who were sending donations for earthquake survivors would be forced to rethink their charity after these incidents. Investments Praveen Swami reports from New Delhi: Jihadi organisations made large-scale investments in hospitals, schools and relief centres after the 2005 earthquake, hoping to build mass legitimacy. While the Lashkar operated under the JuD banner, the Jaish-e-Mohammad used the flag of the al-Rehmat Trust. Funds sent for relief work are reported to have been used to fund terrorist operations, notably an abortive plot to blow up transatlantic flights last year. Although the Pakistan Government's Interior Ministry placed the Jamaat-ud- Dawa on a terrorism watch-list in November 2003, the organisation continues to enjoy considerable official patronage. On June 3, PoK Health Minister, Najib Naqi, inaugurated a free eye-care camp organised by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Dr. Naqi described the camp as 'another excellent manifestation of Jamaat-ud-Dawa's tremendous work.' Interestingly, the Muzaffarabad hospital is headed by Amir Aziz Khan - a controversial al-Qaeda linked figure who is alleged to have treated several Taliban leaders for battle injuries in the wake of the post-September 11 United States-led war in Afghanistan. In a subsequent interview to the Associated Press, Dr. Khan admitted that he had met the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9-11 bombings.


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