Markaz was founded in 1986 or 1987. In the early 1990s, it established the separate Lashkar-e-Tayyiba specifically for its militant activities.
The political organization was founded by two Pakistani university professors, Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Saeed Muhammad. They were supported by Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian activist working, at that time, with Osama bin Laden to develop Arab support for the Afghan "jihad" against the Soviets. (Azzam later died).
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has directed most of its violent activities against Indian ruled Kashmir and Jammu, but it lays claim to a global plan and multiple enemies and grievances. Its regional aim is to reclaim territories it views as Muslim lands, including large segments of India proper. To this end, it reportedly has aimed at radicalizing Muslims in India to gain support for attacks in Kashmir and India.
Above all, the organization is dedicated to armed conflict itself. "Being born as a result of a war (in Afghanistan), fighting for a holy cause has become the very raison d'etre of the Lashkar" (Yoginder Sikand, in The Practice of War: Production, Reproduction and Communication of Armed Violence, Eds. Aparna Rao et al, 2007).
Learn more about: Pakistan's Role in Kashmir
LeT has been involved in numerous clashes with Indian forces on a continuing basis since the 1990s.
- 2001, New Delhi: an attack on the Indian Parliament was attributed to LeT and Jaysh-e Muhammad, another Pakistan based group.
- December 22, 2000: An attack on an army barracks in Delhi left three Indian security personnel dead.
- January,1990: In its first attack in Kashmir, the Lashkar ambushed members of the Indian air force.
Backing & Affliliations:
Most accounts of the organization presume that its primary patronage came from Pakistan's intelligence department, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which in the past directed its activities in India. The group has also shown evidence of acting independently. The group has raised funds in and beyond Pakistan, and maintain ties to other jihadist militant groups in Pakistan
Learn more about: Pakistan's Intelligence Service
Training & Recruitment Tactics:
Most of those who join LeT are lower class, but relatively educated, Pakistanis from the Punjab region. They are frequently from families who migrated from India when it was divided in 1947 (the Punjab region as a whole stretches over the border of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan). Members join for various reasons, including patriotism related to Kashmir and Jammu--which border Punjab, financial incentives, and the promise of a heroic identity.
Recruits are given substantial religious and military training before being sent to Kashmir, if they are sent at all. LeT recruits from the United States, Australia and the UK, as well as from Pakistan. (Information about membership and recruitment is drawn from from Mariam Abou Zahab's chapter, "'I Shall be Waiting for You at the Door of Paradise': the Pakistani Martyers of the Lashkar- Tayyiba (Army of the Pure)" in The Practice of War, 2007)
Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad is organized into two distinct parts, one dedicated to education and the second to military activities. According to Yoginder Sikand, the university and school run by Markaz had graduated about 15,000 students by 2001. Students are given conventional Islamic training, as well as in military arts. Courses include weapons training and guerrilla combat techniques. The schools also serve to socialize students in a universal Islamic identity.
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is one of a couple dozen of religious groups whose growth dates back to the 1980s and Pakistan's role in the Afghan-Soviet war, which was won in large part by Pakistan-backed mujahideen. Pakistan, and its backer--the United States--encouraged fighters to conjoin their military and Islamic identity. According to scholar Saeed Shafqat (in Pakistan:Nationalism Without a Nation), state patronage encouraged religous groups to provide military training through religious schools, and to support militant jihad as a form of patriotism.
Its earlier roots may also be found in the reform movement, Ahl-e-Hadith (People of the Hadith), out of which the Markaz Dawat al Irshad grew. That movement had a history of militancy in its search to reform, or purify, Islam in south Asia. It carried out violence against Sufis and other Muslims, and against British and Hindu populations in the 19th century.
When Americans left Afghanistan, they grew hostile to the groups they had helped to develop. In turn, these groups grew extremely hostile to the United States and to any democratic impulses in their own country. In the meantime, Pakistani intelligence continued to use the group to wage battle in Kashmir. It is likely to have sponsored activities elsewhere in India, as well.