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Friday, April 30, 2010

Prof. Hafeez Saeed, LeT, and the Support from the State of Pakistan

26/11 was a defining moment, even for an India that has borne stoically and patiently for long, wave after wave of terror attacks from Pakistan. There have been other such 'defining moments' as well like the Dec. 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. But, this was the first time an urban warfare was unleashed on the financial nerve centre of India. The megapolis of Mumbai, ever subject to serious terrorist attacks from Pakistan for close to two decades now, was to experience one of the worst massacres by terrorists from that country. As many foreign nationals were butchered on religious grounds, the world took notice of LeT (Lashkar-e-Tayba) and its leader Prof. Hafeez (or Hafiz) Saeed. Pakistan was quick to call them innovatively as ‘non-state actors’. The word ‘non-state actors’ was meant to convey two messages; one, the State was not connected with these terrorists and two, Pakistan was not responsible for their actions. Neither was true as we shall see. However, the UN was forced, based on incontrovertible proof, to declare Prof. Hafeez Saeed as a terrorist linked with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

For the first time, Pakistan was compelled to act under the glare of the world, against terrorism directed towards India. Since that time, Pakistan has taken refuge under the term 'non-state actors' to deny its own complicity in terror. If we look at the saga of Prof. Hafeez Saeed, we can dismantle the fraudulent theory of ‘non-state actors’ quite easily. In the case of LeT and Prof. Hafeez Saeed, it is a mind-boggling web of fraud that Pakistan, as a nation state, has played not only against India but also the entire world.

Immediately after the UN ban, Prof. Hafeez Saeed was house-arrested, for a period of one month, along with Col (r) Nazir Ahmed on 11th Dec. 2008. The December, 2008 UN ban also included JuD (Jama’at-ud Dawah) and recognized it simply as nothing but another name by which LeT was known. The LeT had already been placed under the UNSC list in circa 2005. On January, 10, 2009, the government announced that the house arrest of Prof. Hafeez Saeed was extended by another sixty days. Later, the Review Board of the LHC (Lahore High Court) extended the house arrest on March 9, 2009 by another two months. Prof. Hafeez Saeed appealed against this and a full Bench of the LHC was constituted to hear the case. In the meanwhile, a review board of the Lahore High Court on May 5, 2009 extended for a further period of 60 days the detention of Prof. Hafeez Saeed and even ordered his family to be paid a subsistence allowance of Rs. 25000 !

The Government contended, before the full Bench of the LHC, that Prof. Hafeez Saeed was 'kept in confinement in pursuance of the United Nations resolution 1822 of 2008', a contention that was rejected by the LHC (Lahore High Court) later on because there was no such requirement in the UNSC notification. Instead of independently investigating the UN charges and indicting Prof. Hafeez Saeed, the Pakistani government blamed the UN for his arrest. The Punjab government had presented ‘in-camera’ to the judges the 'classified information', but apparently the court was not convinced. Prof. Hafeez Saeed was released by the LHC on 2nd June 2009 on a habeas corpus petition. The court held that there was no material to detain him under 'preventive measure' and the UN resolution did not specifically require an arrest. One of the judges pointedly asked the state prosecutor as to why Pakistan should be so concerned by a UN Resolution when India had not cared to implement several UN Resolutions on Kashmir, a totally irrelevant reference which betrays the Pakistani mindset. Anyway, this was one more instance when the Pakistani State was unable to detain, leave alone prosecute and punish, Prof. Hafeez Saeed. Even before the official judgement could be released and the police-picket outside his house could be withdrawn, he met the press and hailed the judgement as the ‘first success’.

Prof. Hafeez Saeed was not new to this drama of arrest and release for lack of evidence. On August 10, 2006, he was house-arrested for raising funds for 'war victims' (an euphemism for 'jihad') in Palestine and Lebanon as well as for putting Pakistan's relations with its 'neighbours' in danger. In fact, it was due to Indian pressure on Pakistan after the seven simultaneous bomb blasts on the Mumbai commuter trains on July 11, 2006 which killed 207 people and injured over 700 others. The judge of the Lahore High Court struck down these charges and pointedly said that Pakistani judiciary cannot be influenced by 'neighbouring countries'. He was re-arrested within a few hours of his release on August 28, 2006 under 'Maintenance of Public Order' but he was again released on October,18 2006. This time the judge asked the Government with which of the neighboring countries, India or China or Iran or Afghanistan, was the relationship jeopardized. The intention of the judge was obvious because, among the names of the countries mentioned, only India was the ‘mortal enemy’ and how could standing up to such an enemy ‘jeopardize relations’ ? The court released him on the technical ground that when he was detained, the Punjab Police “failed to show Mr. Saeed his detention order or inform him of the grounds.” It is inconceivable that the Punjab police, one of the top most police units in Pakistan which handles dozens of terrorism-related cases at any point of time, failed in such a basic matter of law especially when arresting a top terrorist like Prof. Hafeez Saeed. Either it was a deliberate oversight to allow Prof. Hafeez Saeed an escape route or the police was hand-in-glove with the LeT.

As expected, India reacted very negatively to the June 2, 2009 release of Prof. Hafeez Saeed. India accused the Western nations of being soft on Pakistan for India-related terrorism as the Pakistani Army was beginning to take some action against the Pakistani Taliban in FATA. Predictably, Pakistan reacted by saying that it was “best not to comment on a court decision”. In an editorial on this issue, the Daily Times questioned the sincerity with which the Pakistani State pursued the Hafeez Saeed case by saying "It is moot whether the state even intended to go through with the process without endangering the government . ." The editorial in DAWN was more explicit as it said, "It may have been a full bench of the Lahore High Court that ordered Saeed’s release, but the fact is the court was left with little option given the prosecution’s reliance on weak grounds. . . " implying that a weak case was deliberately presented by the State.

Pakistan was under pressure, as was India, to somehow re-start the stalled peace dialogue. The US Home Secretary, Ms. Hillary Clinton, embarking on a trip to India on the eve of the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting stated that she expected some ‘movement’ from Pakistan on the Mumbai issue. A face saving development was desperately needed by both the countries. So, the federal and the Punjab governments went to the SC (Supreme Court) in appeal against the release of Prof. Hafeez Saeed and Col (r) Nazir Ahmed. The Punjab Government, through its PAG (Punjab Advocate General), contended that it had substantial evidence against them, “but it could not be made part of the case record because it was confidential.” However, the newly restored CJ (Chief Justice) Iftikhar Chaudhry wanted the State to present a more compelling reason than merely the UNSC resolution, thus betraying what was in store. It was no coincidence that simultaneously a judge was also appointed to the Anti Terrorism Court at the Adiala prison, Rawalpindi, after a gap of more than a month, to conduct the trial against the seven arrested suspects and thirteen other ‘proclaimed offenders’. Thus, Pakistan presented an appearance of simultaneous proceedings against Prof. Hafeez Saeed and the other LeT terrorists.

However, a day before the two Prime Ministers were to meet and after the two Foreign Secretaries had already met, and exactly a day after its own PAG assured the SC of confidential information, the Punjab Government withdrew from the proceedings in the court citing ‘lack of evidence’. Later, the Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah of PML-N, dropped a bombshell when he said that ‘confidential information’ was never shared by the federal government with the Punjab Government and so they could not proceed against Prof. Hafeez Saeed. The SC also noted a technical flaw as Prof. Hafeez Saeed was arrested under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance 1961 which was not mentioned in the detention order. Later, the AGP (Attorney General of Pakistan), representing the federal government, which had not dropped out of the case, contended that since the Punjab AG held all the files and since he had resigned from his position, they were unable to continue the case. The SC then adjourned the case indefinitely. Anyway, the Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh met at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, as part of the NAM Summit Conference on the next day. And, Pakistan achieved what it wanted, make India talk and concede grounds.

Later, two FIRs (First Information Reports) were filed on September 16, 2009 by the police under 'Anti terrorism Act 1997' for Prof. Hafeez Saeed’s reported incitement to jihad against the infidels US, Israel and India in two speeches he gave on August 27 and 28, 2009 at Faisalabad. Obviously, these hastily filed cases were once again in view of the upcoming UNSC General Assembly meeting where Pakistan wanted the foreign secretaries of both countries to meet. Significantly, this was the first time that ‘Anti terrorism Law’ was invoked against Prof. Hafeez Saeed as earlier arrests were under the simpler ‘Maintenance of Public Order Act’. The cases were registered under Section 11 F (4) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which clearly states that it applies to organisations that are proscribed under the Act. However, the Lahore High Court quashed them on October 12, 2009 as the court observed "Anti-terror law does not apply to Saeed and in the name of terrorism we cannot brutalize Law". The Punjab Assistant Advocate General admitted that JuD  was not declared as a terrorist organization either by the Federal or by the provincial Punjab Government and that its activities were merely 'restricted' based on the UNSC Resolution of December 2008 as JuD was only on the 'watch list' and not on the 'ban list' of the Government. In his judgement, therefore, the LHC Judge allowed JuD to organize congregations, carry on membership and collect funds without any let or hindrance.

But, the perfidy was that just two months earlier, on August 5, 2009 to be precise, interior minister Rehman Malik had categorically announced in the Pakistani National Assembly that JuD “was ‘banned’ following its designation under Security Council Resolution 1267.” Rehman Malik also announced that similarly Al-Akhtar and Al-Rashid trusts were ‘banned’. Later, it came to light that no ban notification was issued and Pakistan had simply ‘removed JuD’s name from the list of registered charities’ and had informed the UN that all necessary action had been taken. Again, such perfidy is understandable when Rehman Malik himself says that Pakistan could not do much as JuD was only running schools and hospitals. Within days of the UNSC ban, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in Paris that the JuD-run madrasseh and regular schools would not be shut down as “there was no evidence to suggest that the outfit was promoting extremism or violence there.” Reacting to this, the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said, “ . . . these are too intertwined with organizations that have terrorist ties and that have just been designated here. And so we will be pressing all member-states to adhere completely and to the letter of the designations that the United Nations has taken.” Pakistan simply ignored such criticisms.

The Pakistani State itself has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect LeT. The efforts to place LeT on the UNSC declared list of terrorist groups was vetoed thrice by the Peoples' Republic of China. This could not have come about without a request from Pakistan to intervene on its behalf. When the State admitted before the Learned Judge of the LHC that JuD was not declared by Pakistan as a terrorist organization, it exposed the deep perfidy the state has played against the United Nations. This admission went directly against the promise Pakistan made on December 10, 2008, just a day prior to the UN Resolution on JuD, when it said it “will ban Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been recruiting fidayeen killers like the captured terrorist Ajmal if the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) declared JuD a terrorist outfit.” Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistan's permanent representative in the UN said further “After the designation of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) under resolution 1267, the government on receiving communication from the Security Council shall proscribe the JuD and take other consequential actions, as required, including the freezing of assets,”. He gave an undertaking to the same effect to the world body the same day. Prime Minister Gilani assured Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte that Pakistan “would fulfill its international obligations” even as the Interior Minister revealed the wily Pakistani plan. He said that “Jamaat-ud-Dawa would be put under monitoring and its offices sealed if necessary”. That was exactly what happened. Pakistan never banned the organization and never proscribed it as the Additional Attorney general was forced to admit before the LHC.

Earlier too, Hafeez Saeed was handled ‘lightly’ by the State of Pakistan. On Dec. 13, 2001, a few weeks after the 9/11 incidents, the Indian Parliament was attacked in a fidayeen cum suicide attack jointly organized by LeT and JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed). In response to that, India demanded the arrest of Prof. Hafeez Saeed and threatened to launch a war against Pakistan. Under US pressure and to avoid a war, Pakistan detained him on December 21, 2001 again under a simple house-arrest. Three months later, he was released on March 31, 2002. He was arrested again on May 15, and was placed under house arrest on October 31 of the same year, only to be released a short while later. The arrest was made as India launched Operation Parakram. This time sedition charges were slapped on him but the court once again found no evidence.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who preferred to call himself the CEO of Pakistan, proscribed the LeT on Jan 12, 2002 in a televised speech to the nation, but by a sleight of hand allowed an escape route for Prof. Hafeez Saeed by carefully omitting PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Agencies) from the list of territories where it was banned. In fact, a few days before this ban was to be announced, Prof. Hafeez Saeed had already declared that he was stepping down from the Emirship of the LeT and was moving the JuD to PoK. It later came to light that money had also been withdrawn from all LeT-owned bank accounts that were eventually 'frozen'. How did he know about the impending ban and more importantly how did he know that PoK was to be excluded ?

After the UNSC ban was announced in December 2008 and even as Prof. Hafeez Saeed was kept under house-arrest in his mansion in central Lahore area of Chaudburji, named Jamia Al Qudsia, named after the historic victory of the Ummayad Caliph against the Persians in circa 636, he was allowed to give a press conference. In this press conference, he lambasted the UNSC for taking a hasty decision against himself and his ‘charity’ organization of JuD without giving him a chance to present his side of the case. He likened the UNSC decision to an attack on Islam and Pakistan. The New York Times, in its issue dated Dec. 13, 2008 exposed how the house-arrest was a farce and Prof. Hafeez Saeed was almost free, meeting people and visiting the mosque.

JuD’s international jihadi ambitions have come to light on various occasions. The top Al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah, was arrested from an LeT safehouse in Pakistan. JuD offered 'fateha' (prayers) for the terrorist, Abu Musa'b al Zarqawi, when he was killed in Iraq. UN documents, based on which the December 2008 ban of JuD was announced, provided other details about Prof. Hafeez Saeed directly overseeing the infiltration of LeT terrorists into Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He also arranged for sending an LeT operative to Europe for purposes of fund raising. Earlier the LeT had taken part in Bosnia in the 90s. LeT’s Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was the head of the Pakistani unit of ‘El Mujahid’, a unit that gained notoriety amongst the Serbs for its brutality. The US counter-terrorism experts have always expressed concern about LeT’s global footprint

On Jan 4, 2009, a few weeks after the UNSC ban of JuD, the Pakistani Information Minister, Ms. Sherry Rehman said it was the responsibility of the Punjab government to enforce the ban and thus washed the federal Government’s hands off it. It comes as no surprise either because the current Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, in his article, ‘Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups’ written in circa 2005, has the following to say, “The most significant jihadi group of Wahhabi persuasion is Lashkar-e-Taiba (The Army of the Pure) founded in 1989 by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Backed by Saudi money and protected by Pakistani intelligence services, Lashkar-e-Taiba became the military wing of Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad. . . .Pakistani authorities have been reluctant to move against either Lashkar, which continues to operate in Kashmir, or Jamaat-ul-Dawa, which operates freely in Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ul-Dawa scaled down their military operations against India to help Pakistan honor its commitments to the U.S. and India. But Saeed remains free and continues to expand membership of his organization despite divisions in its leadership.

The proof of the close proximity between the Pakistani Army and Prof. Hafeez Saeed was openly and brazenly flaunted when the Rawalpindi Corps Commander of the X Corps, the Corps that is responsible for Kashmir, invited the UNSC-designated terrorist Prof. Hafeez Saeed for an iftaar dinner on September 12, 2009. When the Interpol issued a RCN (Red Corner Notice) against Prof. Hafeez Saeed in August 2009, the reaction of the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, was revealing. He said, “even if a red corner notice had been issued against him, the government was not obliged to immediately arrest him. The country makes its own investigations against the person, and only then decides”. Apparently, Pakistan has never been able to make independent investigations and pin Prof. Hafeez Saeed down.

Prof. Hafeez Saeed enjoys close confidence of the politicians as well. When there was a bereavement in his family in August 2009, top notch politicians like ex-President Rafiq Tarar, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (Chief of PML-Q), Mushahid Hussain (PML-Q Secretary)and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed condoled with him. They did this even after Prof. Hafeez Saeed had been declared a terrorist by UN Security Council and he was being implicated by India in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack as the mastermind and the Interpol had issued a Red Corner Notice.

Ambassador Hussain Haqqani’s description of Prof. Hafeez Saeed as being close to the State was not surprising either because he had been appointed to the CII (Council of Islamic Ideology), a Constitutional body of Pakistan that ensures that the laws framed in the country conform to the Islamic Shariat, by none other than the then President of Pakistan, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq himself. This enabled Prof. Hafeez Saeed to get closer to the Pakistani Army as well. He was later appointed as a Professor of Islamic studies in the University of Engineering and Technology (Lahore). Willie Brigitte, the Frenchman who was trained by LeT and sent for terrorism to Australia, has elaborately described the LeT camp where he underwent training. He has stated that LeT was “filled with soldiers from the Pakistani Army. There was complete complicity between LeT and the Pakistani Army. Furthermore, the weapons were provided by the army. There were American M16s, French FAMS, Kalashnikovs and Makarovs. All the identification numbers had been removed. The links between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani Army are more than close. When the camp was resupplied, all the materiel was dropped off by Pakistani army helicopters.”.

In his very first trip to the US in February 2002, President Musharraf was asked, in a press meet, by the Pakistani journalist, Tahir Mirza of the DAWN, as to why he was not taking any action against the LeT and the JeM, at which an angry Gen. Musharraf shot back, “They are not doing anything in Pakistan. They are doing jihad outside.” In an interview to Newsweek magazine’s Lally Weymouth about a month after the Mumbai 26/11 attack, President Zardari admitted candidly the following when questioned about the links between the LeT and the ISI, “We are talking about an age-old situation. This is something [that happened] in the old days when dictators used to run the country. Maybe before 9/11, that may have been a position. [But] since then, things have changed to a great extent. The problem is that long before you came to office, Lashkar-e-Taiba was used in Kashmir by the Pakistani Army to fight India. That may have been the situation then, but things have changed.”

The kid-glove with which the Pakistani State has handled Prof. Hafeez Saeed is therefore very obvious from the foregoing. His repeated house-arrests, never to be taken to a jail, the farce with which such house-arrests were carried out, release every time within a few months, no serious intention of the Pakistani Government to pursue the case, the kind of questions raised by the Judges, the technical flaws and loopholes allowed by the State which appear to be clearly deliberate attempts to let him escape, the intervention through China to prevent the ban of LeT/JuD thrice, the decision not to ban JuD even after the UNSC resolution and even as Pakistan promised to do so, the obfuscation indulged in by the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan and its ministers, the proximity of Prof. Hafeez Saeed to the Pakistani Army etc. all point to a deep nexus between the State, the LeT and its front-end JuD as well as the Emir, Prof. Hafeez Saeed.

The latest perfidy comes from Thimpu where the Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani has the gall to tell Mr. Manmohan Singh that there are some ‘judicial difficulties’ in prosecuting Prof. Hafeez Saeed. The Pakistani mendacity, duplicity and perfidy about LeT and Prof. Hafeez Saeed thus continue.

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