The Jamaat-ud-Daawa, formerly known as the Markaz-ud-Daawa Wal Irshad (MDI), parent body of the banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), held (Nov. 1-3, 2002) its annual convention at Yarmok Centre, Patoki, district Kasur after a gap of two years. The venue, which was earlier Muridke, was shifted to Patoki, as the government did not want to 'attract the attention of the West'. The organisers were also told that the change in venue was necessitated by apprehensions of an 'Indian attack' during the meet. While according permission, the regime also told the organisers to 'keep it a low key affair' and directed the press 'not to report the event in detail'. The government also disallowed any 'operational sessions' to be held, as in previous years, where discussions took place on 'actions taken in Kashmir or elsewhere'. In 2001, the government with-held permission to the JuD to hold its annual meet on account of the negative fallout that it would have had, in the aftermath of the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001.
The JuD convention was held against the backdrop of the electoral successes of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. In a message directed at the MMA, the speakers pointed out that the MMA had obtained these votes 'not with a mandate to bring secularism and the democracy to Pakistan, but to reaffirm Islamic principles and the country's commitment to Jihad'.
Around one lakh persons attended the convention, in spite of the 'government's efforts in turning away several busloads of participants. Prominent amongst those who attended were Sajid Mir, former Senator and Chief of the Ahle Hadith, JuD's Deputy Chief Hafiz Abdul Salam, Hafiz Abdul Noorpuri, Abdul Rehman Makki, Amir Hamza, editor of the Al-Daawa magazine, Col. Naaz, in-charge of LeT training camps, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of the JuI(F), Fazlur Rehman Khalil, Chief of the Harkatul Mujahideen, 'General' Abdullah from the Harkat, Ghulam Mohammad Safi, General Secretary of the PoK-based APHC and Haji Saifullah. JuD Chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed did not attend as he has been ostensibly placed under house arrest. However, a cassette of his speech was played on the occasion. Unlike in previous years, there were no foreign participants.
Though the meet lacked the overtly militant tone and tenor of the previous years, the speeches made on the occasion reaffirmed the outfit's commitment for the 'continuation of Jihad' in Kashmir and elsewhere. At an exhibition organised during the meet, no arms, IEDs and weapons captured were displayed as in earlier years. However, photographs of 'martyrs' were displayed and a special session held to honour the parents of 'martyred' LeT terrorists. A special session on Kashmir was also held on the second day of the meet where so-called commanders reaffirmed their commitment to 'Jehad and the liberation of Kashmir'.
The common refrain in all the speeches was:- (i) Hafiz Mohammed Saeed had been wrongly detained by the government and should be immediately released, (ii) Musharraf had brought the 'Bush culture' into Pakistan and the US war on terrorism was, in fact, a war on Muslims, who were 'systematically being terrorised in Kashmir, Palestine and Chechnya', (iii) though Bush wanted to cleanse the Muslim society of the 'Jehadi culture', he was not likely to succeed as 'Jehad was an inherent part of Islamic teachings', (iv) the crackdown by Musharraf on Madrassas, at the behest of the US, was condemnable, (v) the government had 'diluted its commitment' to the Kashmiri cause, 'which would have to be rectified', (vi) even if 'Jehad was considered to be a criminal activity', the JuD was committed to it and would not compromise, (vi) 'Jehad would be continued in every corner of the world where Muslims were being harassed; participants were exhorted to volunteer or give their children for 'Jihad', and (vii) the 'Mujahideen' who were engaged in a 'war of liberation' were not criminals or terrorists'.
As compared to the MDI meet in 1999, the convention of 2002 was more muted. In 1999, Hafiz Mohd. Saeed had threatened to eliminate the Indian Prime Minister and attack the Prime Minister's office in Delhi. India was also branded as 'enemy No. 1' and 'fiery' anti-Indian, anti-Jewish and anti-US speeches were made. During the 'closed door' sessions, strategies and future programmes with special emphasis on the 'jehad in Kashmir' were discussed. An entry fee of Rs. 10 was also collected from every participant 'for buying bullets for Indian soldiers in Kashmir'. The '99 meet was also attended by participants from US, Afghanistan, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Algeria, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Kosovo.
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