Pakistan 'gave funds' to group on UN terror blacklist

 Hafiz Mohammad Saeed Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed set up Lashkar-e-Taiba

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Pakistan's Punjab province government gave about $1m (£674,000) last year to institutions linked to a charity on a UN terror blacklist, it has emerged.

The charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, denies accusations that it is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

Punjab officials say the funds were humanitarian in nature and were not given directly to the charity.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa and four senior Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders were added to a UN sanctions list in December 2008.

They were accused of having links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The move by the UN Security Council came shortly after attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay), for which Lashkar-e-Taiba was blamed.

It is the first time that the authorities in Pakistan have formally admitted allocating money to institutions linked to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, BBC correspondents say.

The government has long been under international pressure to crack down on militants or groups suspected of supporting them. There was no immediate response from the government in Islamabad.

'Humanitarian'

News that schools and hospitals run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa have received Pakistan state help is unlikely to go down well with the Indian or US governments.

Start Quote

If we had closed down the institutions it would have proved counter-productive”

End Quote Rana Sanaullah Punjab law minister

Funding details came to light when the Punjab provincial government published spending figures for 2009-10.

"At least 80 million rupees [$940,000] have been allocated for the institutions [linked to Jamaat-ud-Dawa] during the current fiscal year," Rana Sanaullah, a senior Punjab minister, told the BBC.

However, he maintained that the institutions - which include two schools and a hospital - were no longer attached to Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

"The government has taken control of the schools and appointed an administrator to run each of them."

He said the UN had been notified as the issue was a humanitarian one.

"There was a boys' school with 400 students, a girls' high school with 350 students and a hospital which addressed the needs of the entire area in question.

"If we had closed down the institutions it would have proved counter-productive. It would have aggravated the sentiments of the people and made them sympathise with [Jamaat-ud-]Dawa."

Charity 'astonished'

When asked why the Punjab government had allotted money in the budget for institutions it managed, a spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Abdur Rehman, said: "The truth is that we are ourselves astonished at this."

Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel patrol along the banks of Dal-Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir on December 2, 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba admits attacks against Indian troops in Kashmir

He said the institutions in question were now being managed by the charity.

"When restrictions were initially imposed upon us, the Punjab government did appoint an administrator but it was neither liked nor accepted by our people.

"By the grace of God, now everything is running exactly the way it was running under the Jamaat's system."

Jamaat-ud-Dawa has frequently denied accusations that some of its schools are used as militant training camps.

Its leader is Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who set up Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of most feared groups fighting against Indian rule in part of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

After it was banned in Pakistan in 2002, the organisation divided itself into Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba, correspondents say.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa now works as an Islamic charity all over Pakistan. It played a major role in relief efforts following the Kashmir earthquake in 2005.

Pakistan arrested Lashkar-e-Taiba's senior leaders after the Mumbai attacks. But most of them, including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, were later freed on appeal.

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