'ISI sharing intelligence and providing protection to LeT'

"Despite the government's ban on LeT, Pakistan's ISI continues to consider the organisation an asset. The ISI is believed to share intelligence and provide protection to LeT," Congressman Marvin Weinbaum said at a Congressional hearing last week.

When Pakistan, in 2002, curtailed its assistance to insurgents after a US brokered cease-fire that year in Kashmir, the group, with the knowledge of the ISI, shifted most of its training camps and militant operations to the western border with Afghanistan, he said.

Referring to the frequent public appearance and anti-India rhetoric of LeT chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Weinbaum said he has got virtual impunity.

"Let me say that there has been reciprocation on the part of LeT and that is refrain from involvement in attacks against the Pakistan army and against Pakistan civilians," he said.

"In fact, although it is very definitely part of the terrorist network, which includes the Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network, it is viewed by some of the jihadi groups as being too soft on the state of Pakistan. And other extremist groups are skeptical of its linkages with ISI," Weinbaum said.

"The current leadership in Pakistan may recognise, as it turns out better than any previous government, the dangers that LeT and these groups pose to the state. But the organisation's deep penetration of the country's social fabric makes any attempts to rein it in by the beleaguered Peoples Party impossible without the military's full commitment," the lawmaker said.

"Moreover, party and provincial politics in Pakistan adds a further obstacle. The major opposition, Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League, resists a challenge to the feared LeT that could put at risk the party's ascendant position in the Punjab," he said.

"LeT is determined to use violent means to inflict damage on American and Western interests internationally. Despite its transnational views that envision the emergence of a caliphate across the Islamic world, the organisation champions militant Pakistani nationalism and thrives on its association with domestic charitable activities," he said.

"LeT was principally designed to provide Pakistan's military with a proxy force of recruited fighters to augment the Islamic insurgency in Indian Kashmir. But by the late 1990s, LeT was engaged as well in training Islamic militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, militants coming from countries ranging from Egypt to the Philippines," Weinbaum said.

"The group receives funding from mosque collections, expatriate Pakistanis in the Gulf and Britain, Islamic NGOs and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. It also draws money from drugs and smuggling. There are suspicions that it gets direct financial assistance from Pakistan military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency as well," he alleged.

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