Pakistani organization accused of links to Mumbai attacks holds open house
Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which the US says is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, invited reporters to tour its compound near Lahore, Pakistan.
With India accusing Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) of last week's deadly attacks on Mumbai, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), an organization that the US and India say is a front for the LeT, invited the press to its facilities in Pakistan Thursday in an effort to show that it is only an Islamic charity.Skip to next paragraph
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The Times (of London), one of the news organizations invited to Markaz-e-Taiba, the JuD's main facility outside Lahore, Pakistan, writes that "Indian accounts [suggest] Markaz-e-Taiba is the dragon's lair," but "the reality... appeared rather more civilised."
A lunch of spiced chicken, rice and bread was laid out across ten round tables in an immaculate rose garden inside the complex, 30 miles from the Pakistani city of Lahore.
Polite young men with long beards handed around bottles of mineral water as a spokesman held forth in impeccable English. The gunmen who normally patrol the 75-acre grounds were nowhere to be seen. "Welcome," said a smiling guard as he frisked a visitor at the gate.
This was the friendly face of the Islamist movement now at the centre of the investigation into the Mumbai attacks — and a tense diplomatic stand-off between India and Pakistan.
India accuses the JuD of being a front for the Pakistan-based LeT, which India believes is responsible for last week's attacks on Mumbai that left 185 dead. But the JuD claims that it is merely an Islamic charity, and condemns the Mumbai attacks. The Times reports that although some Indian hawks have called for an attack on the JuD at Markaz-e-Taiba, "the tour illustrates how difficult that could be."
First, [the JuD] condemns the Mumbai attacks and denies any involvement. "What happened in Mumbai is not jihad," said Mr Muntazir [JuD spokesman]. "I don't see how any Muslim can carry out such a kind of thing."
Secondly, it says that it does nothing illegal: its professed aim is to provide academic and religious education to Pakistani boys and girls neglected by the State.
Its complex includes two schools where 513 boys and 487 girls are taught the national curriculum, according to Rashid Minhas, the school principal.
"It is imperative that Muslims should learn science," he said. The complex also contains a mosque, an Islamic seminary, a hospital, a carpenter's workshop, a guesthouse and several residential blocks.