Lashkar-e-Taiba: assessing the threat

July 9, 2009

Having asked last month whether Pakistan was in a position to take on the Laskhar-e-Taiba, an obvious follow-up question was to try to assess how much of a threat the militant group blamed for last year’s attacks on Mumbai represents to the West and to India.

According to analysts who track the LeT closely, the Pakistan-based militant group is not the new al Qaeda. It is still very much focused on Kashmir and India, while its single-issue agenda along with the humanitarian work carried out by its Jamaat-ud-Dawa charitable wing mean it is more comparable to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas than to al Qaeda.

That said, it has a formidable infrastructure and global network of sympathisers and fund-raisers that could be used by other groups which do want to target the west, and that in itself makes it a threat.  What also comes across in talking to people about the LeT are concerns about the group going rogue, either because it slips out of the control of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, or because splinter groups break away from the leadership of its founder, Hafez Saeed, and become a danger not just to India and the West, but also to Pakistan itself. (As discussed in this earlier post, deepening instability in Pakistan’s heartland Punjab province, where the LeT is based, would dwarf anything seen until now in the tribal areas.)

In the meantime, Praveen Swami, associate editor at The Hindu, has written an analysis of the Indian Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba for the June edition of the CTC Sentinel (pdf document). It is a must-read for its wealth of detail about the LeT’s connections in the Gulf, as well as its description of how the LeT nurtured the Indian Mujahideen within India itself.

“From its origins in Pakistan’s Punjab province, the LeT has grown into a transnational organisation,” he writes. “This development is of concern to authorities across the region for three reasons. First, the evolutionary trajectory of the LeT will make it increasingly resistant to counter-terrorism action in any one country or decapitation attempts targeting its leadership. Second, the LeT’s ability to recruit from a pool of well-educated, affluent sympathisers in multiple countries gives it dramatically enhanced reach and lethality. Third, the LeT could spawn and sustain the growth of quasi-independent jihadist movements outside of Pakistan.”

Do also check out Swami’s rather prescient article in the Hindu which he wrote in 2007warning about the risks of LeT militants reaching India by sea – just as they did in last November’s Mumbai attacks — rather than following the traditional route of crossing the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.  “So far, Pakistan appears to have moved to restrain the Lashkar from acting on its publicly declared desire to execute major terrorist strikes in India — but done little to dismantle its capability to do so,” he wrote in 2007. “As the detente process proceeds, India needs to ensure that Pakistan is urged to take this next, necessary step.”

Finally, for an insight into how the U.S. administration views the Laskhar-e-Taiba, it is interesting to see Tim Roemer, President Barack Obama’s choice for ambassador to India, bracketing the LeT along with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

According to this report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, asked what India could do to improve its relationship with Pakistan, Roemer said: ”There’s more we can do to share information about our common threats in that area, which are al Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, and try to prevent the next attack from taking place, or deflect that next attack.”

Much to talk about when the foreign secretaries and then prime ministers of India and Pakistan meet next weekon the sidelines of a Non-Aligned summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

(Reuters file photos: Mumbai skyline; LeT commander Lakhvi and U.S. ambassador-designate Tim Roemer)


Mr. Singh: “You asked “How many Buddhist monasteries were destroyed or converted to Hindu temples in your glorious country?”

Answer is NONE. Hinduism is not forced on anyone.If you have data present it. Otherwise Please shut.”

Here is a reference: adas_Proves_Tirupati_Temple_As_A_Buddhis t_Shrine.htm

Religions simply do not disappear like that. Conversions happen both by peaceful and violent means. Kings and emperors play a huge role in it. I am giving just one example since this discussion is changing its course. Just because history has been cleaned out, it does not mean that things did not happen. Again all you Indians act as though everything was golden in your country and try to make others like cruel monsters. First dig up and learn your history first. I have been following a lot of things inside India from one end to another and I do not see anything that will show you guys in great light. You are just as ordinary as anyone else.


A nuclear armed 170 million strong Pakistan is a far cry for you guys. Pakistan too is reaching limits, we know it is official American policy to prop up India as a strategic ally in the region. Pakistan too will not run out of options ever.
- Posted by Umair

I understand that you’re a Pakistani because like most of your comrades (my humble observation), you seem to be low on facts & reality and high on worthless octane & meaningless rah rah. If you think that we’re incapable of cleaning up the mess in your terror-infested rogue/failed country, you’re truly delusional & ignorant. If we really want to, we can reduce Pakistan to ashes within no time but the truth is that we don’t wanna get our hands dirty at this time so we’ve hired your army to do it for us. Besides, we don’t need to act militarily. All we have to do is cut off your life-support (aid), impose severe sanctions & trade embargoes & officially declare you a terror-sponsoring ‘rogue nation’ (which is no secret) & then you will see your nation of 170 million radicalized, uneducated, uncivilized, unemployed & impoverished people slit each others throats & choke to death. I really don’t think you guys wanna be in the situation. All you have to show for in your 60 years of existence is: Chinese nukes made from stolen technology & that is all that most of you Pakistanis keep chest thumping about. No progress, no economy, no literacy, no other positive achievement to speak of. Just those stupid nukes, that’s all.
As far as India is concerned, it is our natural ally. A progressive & rapidly developing country with genuine democratic & secular credentials. We don’t need to prop India up because it’s taking it’s rightful place in the world on it’s own merit. If you Pakistanis really wanna do something positive for your country, change your belligerent attitude & befriend India because you guys surely cal learn a lot from your neighbor.
(PS: Pakistanis, please don’t bother responding cuz I don’t have the time to waste by engaging in you ignorant & senseless rhetoric. thanks)

Posted by Daniel Harris | Report as abusive

@Global Watcher and Keith
Fate of Pakistan will be decided By us not you. we are a great nation and we will prove it.
Mr umair is very correct in pointing out the exit strategy. First Great Britain then soviet union and (now U.S.A).!!! i hope my American Brothers understand sooner then latter that Afghanistan is graveyard of super powers..!!!

Posted by OM | Report as abusive

Also read up about the Thuggee cult in India that killed millions of people in the name of Kali. Read works by William Sleeman. So much for a glorious past.


Mohammed Anjum
@How many Buddhist monasteries were destroyed or converted to Hindu temples in your glorious country?”

–Taliban chief Mullah Omar, Pakistan’s friend, intentionally dynamited and destroyed the Buddhist statues in 2001 after the Taliban government declared that they were “idols” ( forbidden under Sharia law).Did Pakistan say a word or kept quiet due to some alliance? After all they are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Since the discussion has gone way off track (from Laskhar e Taiba to Buddhism) I am closing comments on this post.

Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive