Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed – India’s Most Wanted Man Free Again in Pakistan

Via The Jamestown Foundation -

The release of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Amir of Jama'at-ud-Da'wa (JuD), from detention last month in Pakistan has raised eyebrows in the West as well as India. He was released from house arrest on June 2 when the Lahore High Court ruled it did not have enough evidence against him on terrorism charges. However, Pakistan's Deputy Attorney General Shah Khawar says that Pakistan's law enforcement and intelligence agencies have enough evidence to suggest that a freed Hafiz Saeed is a continuing security threat. The Punjab provincial government and the federal government of Pakistan have already filed petitions before the Pakistani Supreme Court seeking a reversal of the decision of Lahore High Court. Nevertheless, the federal government continues to struggle to make an adequate case for his preventive detention and the Punjab provincial government has admitted its evidence is insufficient (The News [Islamabad], July 17; Daily Times [Lahore], July 17).


Hafiz Mohammad Saeed also met with Shaykh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, an influential Palestinian jihad ideologue and mentor of Osama bin Laden. Azzam influenced him to found the Markaz Dawa-wa’l-Irshad (Center for Call and Guidance) in Muridke, Lahore in 1987. The institution preached jihad and the Wahhabi- Salafi form of Islam. Hafiz Saeed founded LeT in the early 1990s, allegedly with support from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's military intelligence agency. LeT then shifted the focus of its jihad from Afghanistan to Indian-administered Kashmir (The Hindu, June 3).

LeT is believed to have been involved in almost all major attacks against India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Hafiz Saeed stepped down from the leadership of LeT soon after India blamed this group for the terrorist attack on its parliament in December 2001. He handed over leadership of the group to Maulana Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, who is based in Srinagar, part of Indian-administered Kashmir. Shortly after this, Pakistan banned LeT after the United States added it to its list of designated terrorist organizations.

However, Saeed was quick to revive his old Markaz Dawa-wa’l-Irshad organization with a slight modification of its name to Jama'at-ul-Da'wa, beginning as a charity and public welfare organization. It is common practice for militant organizations in Pakistan to rename themselves so as to bypass the law and avoid official bans. The old offices of LeT simply changed the names on their signboards with no significant change to the nature of the activities carried out inside. However, after 9/11, due to changes in Pakistan's policies towards India and pressure from the United States, Hafiz Saeed and his organization stepped back from aggressive jihadi activities in Kashmir. Despite this, several offices of LeT continued to recruit militants for jihad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (BBC News, June 2).

India has long asked for the extradition of Hafiz Saeed, whom it suspects of being the mastermind behind all major terrorist attacks inside India. However, Pakistan’s government wants him to be tried inside Pakistan. So far, Pakistan has not brought sufficient evidence to punish him for his involvement in terrorist activities (Daily Times, June 5). Since 2001, he has been detained three times, but in every instance he was freed due to the apparent lack of evidence against him. In July 2006, India asked the Government of Pakistan to ban the JuD and arrest its leaders, including Hafiz Saeed, for their alleged involvement in the July 11 Mumbai train bombings that killed over 200 people. Pakistan rejected the Indian claims and put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest. He was released a month later (Hindustan Times, June 2).

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