A day after Islamabad said it was seeking a clarification from New Delhi on the agenda for the proposed Foreign Secretary-level talks, the Jamat-ud-Dawah, front organisation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the Mumbai attacks, held a public meeting here vowing to seize Kashmir by force and threatening “rivers of blood” in India.
In Lahore too, the JuD organised a public rally, led by Hafiz Saeed, alleged by India to have masterminded the Mumbai attacks.
The rally went from the JuD headquarters in Chauburji to the University Grounds, where Mr. Saeed led the participants in Friday prayers.
It proceeded to the famous Masjid-e-Shohada on Mall road, where the second tier leadership of the group made anti-India speeches. However, Mr. Saeed did not speak at the public meeting.
The meetings were held alongside other country-wide events to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day, annually observed in Pakistan on February 5. The JuD rally in the capital was held at Aabpara chowk in the heart of the city, a short walk from the barricaded headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence.
The JuD is on the United Nations terror list as a front of the LeT, but Pakistan has not banned the group. This is the first time after the Mumbai attacks that the group has come out openly, dropping last year’s cover of “Falah-i-Insaniyat”.
The government, which took some steps against the JuD and placed Hafiz Saeed under house arrest days after the Mumbai attacks, seems to have given it a long rope now.
Friday’s meetings in Islamabad and Lahore followed the one on Wednesday in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
In the capital, it was not a crowded meeting, the cold and steady drizzle dampening enthusiasm for the event, but the speakers more than made up for this. Banners and posters with the JuD ensignia were found everywhere.
“Whenever our jihad in Kashmir nears success, India becomes ready for talks,” Abdur Rehman Makki, deputy to JuD leader Hafiz Saeed, told his audience, mostly traders from the local market, students from madrasas and JuD activists bussed in from Rawalpindi.
“But what is this dialogue all about? [Former President Pervez]Musharraf tried dialogue for eight years. What did he get? What did Pakistan get? A ban on Lashkar-e-Toiba, while Shiv Sena is allowed to go free,” he said.
India and the U.S. were trying to make the Kashmir cause a part of the “war on terror,” he said, but if India did not pull out its troops from there, “each one of the 17 crore Pakistanis would struggle step-for-step with the Kashmiris in the massacre of Indian soldiers until the last soldier is dead.”
The JuD, he said, “is a reality of Pakistan, and anyone who tries to finish it will not succeed.”
Mr. Makki also railed against the United Nations and the U.S. “Ban us all you like. It is meaningless. It is no more one Hafiz Saeed, every citizen of Pakistan will fight for Kashmir until the last drop of his blood,” he said.
He warned that jihadis were ready to fill the Ravi river with “blood on the water” to avenge what he alleged was India’s denial of river waters to Pakistan.
“Kashmir had become a cold issue. But by denying Pakistan water, India has ensured that every farmer in Punjab is lining up with his tractor and plough, ready to overrun India.”
At one time, jihadis were interested only in the liberation of Kashmir, but the water issue had ensured that “Delhi, Pune and Kanpur” were all fair targets, he said.
A string of other JuD speakers praised jihad, and urged Pakistanis to take to it in “Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.” The Pakistan People’s Party came in for its share of criticism for straying from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s promise of a “100-year war” for Kashmir.
The Pakistan Muslim League (N) spokesman Siddique-ul-Farooq, and Sardar Khalid Ibrahim of the “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” Pakistan People’s Party also spoke at the meeting.