197977 3/20/2009 10:51 09LAHORE54 Consulate Lahore SECRET "O 201051Z MAR 09 FM AMCONSUL LAHORE TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3966 INFO AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY AMEMBASSY KABUL AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI AMEMBASSY LONDON CIA WASHDC JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC SECDEF WASHINGTON DC USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI PRIORITY AMCONSUL LAHORE " "S E C R E T LAHORE 000054
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/18/2034 TAGS: PTER, PGOV, PK SUBJECT: SIPAH-E-SAHABA STEPS UP ACTIVITIES IN FAISALABAD
CLASSIFIED BY: Bryan D. Hunt, Principal Officer, American Consulate Lahore, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (d)
1. (S) Summary: A well-placed Deobandi religious leader told Principal Officer in a meeting on March 18 that extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) was increasing its activities in the central Punjab city of Faisalabad, the province's second largest, in collaboration with elements of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a splinter group from the banned terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). The cleric reported that SSP had recently launched a pamphlet campaign across the city in which it called for people to take steps to enforce Islamic law including: (1) cease business and social activities at the five daily calls to prayer, (2) remove all sources of ""vulgarity"" such as televisions, cd players, and radios from their homes, (3) seek dispute resolution through local imams rather than the courts, (4) take Friday rather than Sunday as the weekly holiday, and (4) strictly enforce purdah for female family members. The pamphlet states that it comes from SSP with support from the TTP and specifically praises ""the enforcement of Sharia in Swat"" and recommends it as a model for Faisalabad. According the religious scholar, a number of girls' educational institutions in Faisalabad have received letters stating that if they fail to observe purdah, they could be attacked by suicide bombers. The cleric surmised that SSP activities would increase in Faisalabad on the return of its leader Maulana Ludhianvi from a Libyan-government sponsored trip to that country. End Summary.
2. (S) Leading Faisalabad-based Deobandi scholar and IVLP alumnus Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX called on the Principal Officer on March 18 to discuss his concerns regarding what he termed as ""growing extremist activity"" in Punjab's second-largest city Faisalabad. XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that in the last month he has observed a dramatic increase in propaganda activities from Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). He believed that this increase coincided with a number of visits to Faisalabad from activists both of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a splinter group from the southern Punjab-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). XXXXXXXXXXXX believed that the activists were involved in recruiting for TTP militant operations in the FATA and NWFP through madrassas in southern Punjab and hoped to replicate that success in Faisalabad. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that SSP leaders had long-standing ties with JeM, as both were Deobandi organizations that had collaborated in the past in anti-Shia and anti-India activities.
3. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX shared with Principal Officer an Urdu-language sticker that he claimed he had confiscated from several of his madrassa students in Faisalabad. The sticker, which he stated was also being printed and distributed as a pamphlet, praised the implementation of Sharia law in Swat and exhorted Muslims to pursue the same sort of Sharia law in Faisalabad. It then recounted five steps that every Faisalabad based Muslim should take to begin the process of implementation in the district. The steps were: : (1) cease business and social activities at the five daily calls to prayer, (2) remove all sources of ""vulgarity"" such as televisions, cd players, and radios from their homes, (3) seek dispute resolution through local imams rather than the courts, (4) take Friday rather than Sunday as the weekly holiday, and (4) strictly enforce purdah for female family members.
4. (S) Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX told Principal Officer that he had initially dismissed the pamphlet campaign, but became increasingly concerned after learning of specific threats received by several girls' schools (NFI) in Faisalabad. He claimed that these schools had received letters sent from SSP, referencing the situation in Swat, and warning that if these schools did not begin having their students observe complete purdah, the schools could be the target of violence, including suicide bombing. Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX did not produce a copy of the threat letter. Principal Officer inquired whether any violence had yet occurred in Faisalabad in connection with the SSP campaign. Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX responded that to his knowledge it had not, but he believed that it could occur in short order if police did not check SSP activities.
5. (S) Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that in addition to its pamphlet campaign, SSP had organized a number of traditional religious conferences in Faisalabad during the Islamic month of Rabwa (currently ongoing). Traditionally such conferences are organized in this month of the Prophet's birth to discuss the model life that the Prophet lead and to exhort Muslims to follow his example. According to Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX, this year during the SSP conferences, the organizers have exhorted attendees to follow the Prophet's example and press for the adoption of complete shariah law in Faisalabad, using Swat as a model. These exhortations specifically call for action against vulgarity and women not observing purdah. In one case, Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that he learned that leaders of the recently banned al-Rashid Trust were coming to address a March 8 SSP conference. He stated that he had informed the District Police Officer, who cancelled the event.
6. (S) Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX shared that he had received reliable information that SSP leader Maulana Ludhianvi was on a fundraising trip to Tripoli sponsored by the Libyan government. XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that Ludhianvi had made contact with Libyan officials in the guise of working against Iran and Shia agents in Pakistan. (Note: SSP was originally founded as a violent anti-Shia organization and has, in the past, received extensive foreign funding from a variety of Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia. End Note). According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Ludhianvi was scheduled to return to Pakistan in ""a few days"" and was bringing with him a ""donation"" from the Libyan government valued at nearly 25 million Pakistani rupees (approximately $312,000) that XXXXXXXXXXXX was certain would be used to increase further SSP activities.
7. (S) Comment: Maulana XXXXXXXXXXXX is a long-standing contact of Consulate Lahore, who visited the United States in XXXXXXXXXXXX as part of our International Visitor Leadership Program. XXXXXXXXXXXX repeatedly credits his trip to the United States and particularly his discussions with Muslim leaders there for changing his previously anti-Western views. XXXXXXXXXXXX has numerous ties within the broader Deobandi community and is well-positioned to obtain information on activities of Deobandi-linked terrorist/extremist groups such as SSP and JeM. He has not/not previously shared such extensive information with post about these groups' activities in Faisalabad. Post believes he has done so on this occasion largely out of concern for his and other moderate Deobandi leaders' safety if these groups expand activities in Faislabad. The significant decline in the Pakistani textile industry and accompanying large-scale lay-offs in Faisalabad --the center of that industry in Punjab -- provides groups like SSP with a ready pool of unemployed recruits, who are susceptible to these groups' rhetoric about an Islamic utopia based on Sharia and prepared to engage in violence to bring it about. End Comment.