Washington - The US State Department has named a self-proclaimed Pakistani charity as a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’, a status that freezes any assets it has under US jurisdiction.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa calls itself a humanitarian charity but is widely seen as a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistan-based group accused of orchestrating attacks in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa's listing will prohibit US entities or citizens from dealing with the organisation, but will probably have little practical effect on its operations or fund raising.
The United Nations said in 2008 that Jamaat-ud-Dawa was a front for LET and Pakistani authorities vowed to crack down.
"In December 2001, the Department of State designated LET as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Since the original designation occurred, LET has repeatedly changed its name in an effort to avoid sanctions," the State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.
"More specifically, LET created Jama'at-ud-Dawa as a front organization, claiming that the group was an 'organization for the preaching of Islam, politics, and social work'."
The US Treasury Department separately announced that it was designating two LET leaders, Nazir Ahmad Chaudhry and Muhammad Hussein Gill, as "specially designated global terrorists", imposing economic sanctions on them.
The leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa denied having any links to militancy on Thursday and vowed to hold protests. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who is chief of Jamat-ud-Dawa (Organisation for Preaching), insisted his group was a charity and not a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit.
"Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) has no link whatsoever with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a resistance wing in Kashmir," he told a press conference in Lahore. "It is an independent Pakistani organisation taking part in the promotion of education and relief operations. It is only serving the Pakistani people," added Saeed.
"The designation of two JuD members is condemnable and we will hold protest rallies against the decision on Friday. "Americans don't have any independent thought. They have been unleashing a negative propaganda campaign against us at the behest of India," he added. A foreign office spokeswoman said the US sanctions would have no bearing any Pakistani response. Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, rejected the allegations.
"We are a welfare organization working for the people of Pakistan and we have nothing to do with the LET or terrorism," he said.