Over the past two days Pakistani security services have targeted offices and camps run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terror group behind the Mumbai terror siege. At least nine operatives, including Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, a senior Lashkar leader and one of the operational masterminds of the Mumbai attack, have been detained.
Pakistani forces reportedly raided a madrassa, a school, and a training camp in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. According to one report, security forces clashed with Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters for over 90 minutes at the camp. An attack helicopter reportedly fired its guns during the battle.
The raids come as both the United States and India are pressuring Pakistan to act against the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The big question is: are these raids and arrests a serious attempt to reign in and dismantle Lashkar-e-Taiba, or are these actions merely cosmetic acts designed to ease pressure on the Pakistani establishment?
Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who has had his finger on the pulse of Pakistani jihadist movements, believes the moves are merely cosmetic. (Note: Jamaatut Dawa is merely a front group for Lashkar-e-Taiba, it was created after the Lashkar was banned in late 2001.)
Asia Times Online has learned that the public faces of the Jamaatut Dawa, such as its chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, will be spared. But people such as Zakiur Rahman, the commander-in-chief of the LET, are marked men for interrogation by a joint US Federal Bureau of Investigation-ISI team for their alleged role in the Mumbai attack.
A senior member of the LET confirmed to Asia Times Online that there had been a raid on one of the Jamaatut Dawa's offices, and warned that if Zakiur Rahman was grilled, it would be tantamount to civil war in Pakistan.
"So far the province of Punjab [the largest Pakistani province] has been spared from all sorts of violence, but if such action is carried out, Punjab will also burn in violence," he said.
If the past is any indicator, Shahzad is correct. Pakistan's jails are merely a rest stop for many jihadis. Saeed and other senior jihadi leaders have been "detained" numerous times by Pakistani security forces, only to be quietly let go when the heat on Pakistan has died down.
Captured senior Taliban leaders such as Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the Taliban's former minister of defense and a member of the Shura Majlis, have been set free after several months in detention. Mufti Yousuf, an Afghan Taliban operational commander, was one of 55 detainees released by the Pakistani government. And al Qaeda operative Rashid Rauf "escaped" while being transported from a court hearing to prison after guards took off his handcuffs and allowed him to go to a mosque and eat at a McDonald's. We shouldn't be surprised if Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi is walking free in Pakistan in the near future.