| Pervez Musharraf
Washington, Oct. 15: The US has signalled a fresh crackdown on Pakistan-based terror outfits which have been active in Kashmir.
But the new crackdown is the result of alarm in Washington that Pakistan-based organisations are diverting at least some of their resources and muscle power to fight Americans in Iraq and it is not part of any US effort to curb cross-border terrorism in India.
Yesterday, the US treasury department designated the Karachi-based Al Akhtar Trust with offices in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan as a global terrorist organisation.
“Today’s designation strikes at the life blood of terrorists — the money that funds them,” the Bush administration’s treasury secretary John Snow said.
Al Akhtar Trust, according to the treasury department, is linked to the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, two Pakistan-sponsored outfits well known in India for violent operations launched across the border.
When Jaish leader Masood Azhar — who was released from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for hostages from a hijacked Indian Airlines plane — was put under house arrest by Musharraf under US pressure, Jaish members set up two organisations under the guise of humanitarian aid agencies: Al Akhtar Trust and Alkhair Trust.
The treasury department said yesterday the two new organisations were used “to deliver arms and ammunition to their members under the guise of providing humanitarian aid to refugees and other needy groups”.
According to a fact sheet issued by the US government yesterday, Harkat’s information secretary, Maulana Allah Wasaya Qasim, said at a ceremony in Islamabad to celebrate the founding of Al Akhtar Trust that its establishment was “commendable” and that Muslim religious scholars should have entered this field earlier.
It said since March 2002, this trust had taken over all the activities of Al Rashid Trust, which was named by the US for terrorist links on September 23, 2001.
The treasury department said Al Akhtar Trust was providing a “wide range of support” to jihadi groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which have been active in Kashmir. It also said a man named Al Saud Memon was “primarily responsible” for the trust’s “finances and the direction of (its) financial resources and support”.
Memon is at large and is wanted for the murder of Daniel Pearl, the correspondent of the Wall Street Journal who was based in Mumbai.
The Journal has said Memon drove into the compound where Pearl was held and was killed by his captors, who included three Arabic-speaking men and one of Memon’s employees.
Snow was in Islamabad and Kabul last month. In Pakistan, he held talks with president Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and finance minister Shaukat Aziz on America’s obvious dissatisfaction with Pakistan over its inability to pass vital laws against money laundering.
Such legislation is held up in Parliament which is deadlocked over sweeping constitutional powers assumed by Musharraf after the coup which brought him to power four years ago.
The treasury department said that since March 2003, Al Akhtar Trust was attempting to raise funds in order to finance “obligatory jihad” in Iraq. It also said the organisation was secretly treating wounded al Qaida members at its medical centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
These developments have alarmed Washington and triggered the new crackdown even as th treasury department is prudently silent of any of the trust’s links with Kashmiri terrorists.
Snow said “shutting down this organisation will cripple yet another source of support for terrorists and possibly help undermine the financial backing of terrorists staging attacks against American troops and Iraqi civilians in Iraq”.