A migrant has been formally charged in Germany for being a member of a Pakistan based militant organization. The banned group's name has also come up in asylum cases in Europe that involved constructed stories. InfoMigrants takes a deeper look into the issue.
Pakistani migrant Waqas A. was formally charged in Germany at the beginning of March for being a member of the Pakistan based militant organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Germany’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office - Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof (GBA) - informed about this development in a press release on March 20.
The charges were levied against the 24-year-old in a regional court on March 1 in Dusseldorf. The office confirmed to InfoMigrants that though the accused has been formally charged, he has however not been arrested.
According to the press release, Waqas A. hails from Gujranwala, a city with a population of about 2 million in Pakistan’s western Punjab province. The accused joined Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2010 at the insistence of his father. Initially, he only participated in meetings and gatherings of the banned organization, but later he received training to use weapons.
Later in 2014, Waqas A. decided to take part in ‘Jihad’ against India and for this purpose, he was sent to join a secret cell which was being run from Pakistan’s southern, industrial hub city of Karachi. According to the press release, he was involved in criminal activities in Karachi, the details of which are not available.
Because supposedly he suspected that the cell was involved in killings, Waqas A. wanted to quit LeT in early 2015. This is when the trouble started for him. He was locked in an apartment by the other members and mistreated.
Waqas A. escaped from his captors by the end of January 2015 and fled to his hometown, Gujranwala. He thought that his troubles were behind him, but that was not the case. He was threatened via telephone and personally by other members of the outfit.
Fed up of threats and fearing for his life, Waqas A. left Pakistan in 2015. He reached Germany in mid-August 2015. Now, he faces charges for being a member of the banned outfit.
What ‘sells’ best for a positive asylum decision?
Meanwhile, a 47-year-old Pakistani, whose name has not been disclosed, is currently on trial in the Austrian city of Salzburg. He is accused of being a member of the same terrorist organization, namely Lashkar-e-Taiba, from the 1990s till 2014 and also of receiving training for terrorist purposes. The indictment is based on statements made by the man in his asylum procedure.
According to a report published earlier this month on the website of broadcaster Salzburg ORF, court proceedings were adjourned indefinitely against the defendant in the last hearing on March 2, 2018. Surprisingly, the accused admitted during the last session that he had invented the story to facilitate his asylum request.
“All that was a lie,” said the defendant before the jury and pleaded not guilty. He had pretended to be persecuted to get a positive asylum decision. "I wanted a better future for myself and my children," he told the judge. Further investigation revealed that the migrant’s wife was still alive and his brother had not been murdered, but killed in a traffic accident. In his application, he stated that both of them had been killed by members of the LeT.
The accused added that a friend of his in France told him that he was able to get his asylum request approved with the help of a similar, fabricated story involving Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The 47-year-old came to Ukraine in November 2002. In 2003, he went to Austria via Slovakia and applied for asylum there, which was rejected. After that, he lived in Italy and France illegally and applied for asylum again in Salzburg in 2014. In the summer of 2017, the defendant renewed his Lashkar-e-Taiba story during a hearing by the Federal Office for Aliens and Asylum (BFA). A little later, he was taken into custody and since then, is in prison.
‘Fabricating stories is a common practice’
Tanvir Shahzad, a local journalist in Pakistani Punjab’s largest city Lahore, told InfoMigrants that people applying for political asylum in Europe routinely construct such stories, involving banned organizations.
Shahzad said, “it is true that central Punjab has a relatively high concentration of Madrassas – or religious seminaries, in Pakistan.” According to him, this reflects in the fact that the people are of a ‘religious mindset’ but are not necessary militancy oriented. “In the past, members of Al-Qaeda – a terror network, have also been arrested from Gujranwala and nearby areas, but since Pakistan’s army launched its operation in June 2014, militant elements have largely been eliminated,” said Shahzad. According to him, though uneducated, naïve and vulnerable people still join religious outfits, but it is absolutely not true that there are open terrorist training facilities and everyday life is threatened, according to Shahzad.
The journalist told InfoMigrants that due to incidents of young people who have joined, it is a common practice to make up stories in an effort to increase chances for asylum.
What is Lashkar-e-Taiba?
Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the most active militant organizations in South Asia. Security experts allege that it mainly operates from Pakistan; something that Islamabad denies.
The organization was formed in 1987 and is held responsible for the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Its objectives are to establish an Islamic state in South Asia and to liberate Kashmiri Muslims. LeT is labelled as a terrorist organization by the European Union, US, India, UK and many other states. Though it is officially banned in Pakistan as well, it continues to operate under different charities and aid organizations.