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Pakistan May Lose Crucial Backing as Saudi Arabia Turns to India

6:15 AM, Oct 25, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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A post in the Wall Street Journal blog covering India suggests relations are souring between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, long the main instrument of Riyadh’s ideological influence over South Asian Muslims. The desert monarchy has extradited several terrorist suspects to India, under a treaty signed between the two countries in 2010. Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari was sent to India in June, A. Rayees was deported by the Saudis to New Delhi in October, and Fasih Muhammad, last week.

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Ansari, Rayees, and Muhammad are all accused of involvement in Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT or Army of the Righteous), an al Qaeda auxiliary and presumed creator of a recent extremist splinter group, the Indian Mujahideen. Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, was named as the “voice over the cellphone from Pakistan” coordinating the 2008 terrorist atrocities in Mumbai. Rayees is charged with involvement in a 2009 seizure of ammonium nitrate, a chemical component for bomb construction, in the Indian west coast state of Kerala. Fasih Muhammad assisted allegedly in planning a terror foray at a cricket competition in Bangalore in 2010, during which 15 people were injured, among them five police. Fasih Muhammad is likewise believed to have served as a liaison between LeT and the Indian Mujahideen.

In the universe of Islamist violence, LeT is particularly dangerous. It was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2001, 2003, and again in 2008. While illegal in Pakistan and the European Union, as well as in India, LeT continues to function through a “charitable network,” Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD or Community of Preaching). JuD was listed in 2008 as a LeT front by the United Nations Security Council committee for sanctions against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

LeT is generally believed to have been created by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, to fight against Indian forces in Kashmir. Islamabad has used LeT and the Afghan Taliban to interfere with its neighbors. But LeT, unlike the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, which are based in rural and remote mountain regions, conspires globally. LeT agents and sympathizers permeate the large South Asian Muslim communities and their overseas contingents in Britain and the United States. The group operated through the so-called “North Virginia ‘paintball jihad’” network, whose members were taken down by U.S. authorities and sentenced to long prison terms in 2003-05.

The Saudi willingness to act against LeT shows a desire to dissociate the world’s leading Muslim country from a major terrorist apparatus and its ideology. Pakistan has alienated its Arab patron by its uncooperative attitude toward Washington in the elimination of Osama Bin Laden, reflecting the Pakistani habit of blaming terrorism in its neighborhood on America. India resents Pakistan’s foot-dragging investigation of the Mumbai assault, with its evidence of complicity from within the ISI.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the “emir” or commander of LeT, although placed repeatedly under house arrest in Pakistan, has also been repeatedly released by Pakistani authorities. Late in 2011, he emerged as a prominent figure in the Difa-e-Pakistan (Defense of Pakistan) council, a bloc of Islamist and other groups, some of them banned, and all dedicated to obstructing the country’s cooperation with the United States in supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan. Saeed has flouted a $10 million reward for his arrest offered by Washington earlier this year, advertising that he can operate with impunity in Pakistan.

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