JuD is attempting to gain socio-political legitimacy in Pakistan

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The Jammat-ud-Dawa is banned in most parts of the world. We expect that Pakistan take stringent measures against this outfit which claims to collect charity but ends up sponsoring the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

Will Pakistan act against the JuD in a manner it is meant to? The answer is- High Unlikely. Instead the long rope that the JuD has been given has given the outfit the audacity to groom itself into a secure socio-political legitimacy both by supporting the government and the military and by conducting humanitarian works intended to improve its reputation in civil society.

JuD gaining more strength in Pak

Animesh Roul executive director (research) of the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, a think tank based in New Delhi that focuses on security issues points that JuD's influence has now extended to even the most remote corner of the country through its exploitation of the media, the expansion of its social services that range from health care to education, and its ability to assist affected populations during natural calamities outside its epicenter of power in the province of Punjab.

Roul has written this eye opening piece titled Jamaat-ud-Dawa-Into the Mainstream in which he points out that over the years, JuD has grown into a socio-religious behemoth with its Islamic education and health service units spread across Punjab and other parts of Pakistan.

The Charity Camouflage

The September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States and the December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament in the same year changed the security dynamics in the region and forced a response from Pakistan.

Under significant U.S. and Indian pressure, the Pakistani government, led at the time by President Pervez Musharraf, on January 12, 2002, ordered a crack-down on militant groups active in the Kashmir region and in Pakistan, including LeT and Jaish-e Muhammad, another terror group active in Jammu and Kashmir.

The order, however, did not affect Pakistan-Administered Kashmir (PAK), the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), or the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In an attempt to ensure continuity, the MDI's senior leaders decided to split the organization into two distinct units as laid out in an internal MDI document from October 2002.

The document describes the planned division in light of the fast-changing security scenario in the region and how JuD was reconstituted. "A general council of Lashkar-i-Tayyiba has been established which will work under the chairmanship of Maulana Abdul Wahid Kashmiri who belongs to Poonch.

The Lashkar will continue its jihadi activities in occupied Kashmir, rather it will further intensify them. On the other hand, to continue the mission of Markaz al-Dawa Wal Irshad in the country [Pakistan], JuD has been established. All the organizational, political, and reformatory work will be accomplished under the Jamaat."

This shift also marked the beginning of JuD's move to the mainstream."

The Mainstreaming of JuD

Over the years, JuD has grown into a socio-religious behemoth with its Islamic education and health service units spread across Punjab and other parts of Pakistan. Free education and free medical treatments comprising five hospitals, 200 dispensaries, ambulance services, and 250 schools fuels growing support for JuD's presence and facilitate its legitimacy substantially within the Pakistan.

Despite international pressure, it appears that at least some elements of the Pakistani government consider actors such as Saeed to be assets. There are clear signals that this is so, to include, for example, his participation in the de-radicalization and rehabilitation of former militants, as mentioned above.

Other evidence is seen in the group's own conclaves and rallies, such as "Revival of Pakistan Ideology" and the Takbeer Conventions that focus attention on its pro-Pakistan agenda. These conventions are usually well attended by political and religious leaders and the general populace.

JuD is also engaged in transforming its self-image. It aggressively uses social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as the Internet, and a variety of Urdu- and English-language publications to showcase its socio-religious works, including health and education programs.

There are also reports about JuD's political ambitions and possible participation in Assembly elections in Punjab province, its traditional stronghold.

The JuD itself, however, claimed that the group or leadership do not believe in power politics, but are engaged in educating people on various political and security issues and in constructive criticism of political actions.

This could be loosely termed as political activism, and may be prelude to large-scale political action in the future, something that would complete the JuD's move from the shadows into the light and cement its legitimacy.

JuD's likely new trajectory

The shift from an entity that supported violence in Kashmir and India in general into a ubiquitous pro-State entity hints at JuD's likely new trajectory of Islamic nationalism, fueled by the legitimacy of its jihadi roots.

With highly motivated, trained, and fanatically committed cadres, JuD could find success in national politics or as a significant lobby. These many developments underscore JuD's apparent move into the mainstream, but also raise concerns about the direction of politics in Pakistan.

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