In December 2008, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions on Pakistan-based terrorist Hafiz Saeed, who, along with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), allegedly masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
A decade has passed.
The most wanted terrorist has been continuing his operations in Pakistan — from one house arrest to another — and has even addressed public rallies ahead of the General Election in Pakistan.
At a time when India and Pakistan have locked horns over Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar enjoying a free run in Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed’s name has resurfaced. The context carries much significance. It also gives us a clear understanding of Pakistan-based terror operations and how the state machinery oils them.
In 2017 — 11 years after he was sanctioned — Hafiz Saeed appealed against the UN decision through the Lahore-based law firm Mirza and Mirza. He was still under house arrest when he filed his appeal. Soon after, he was released as a Pakistani court rejected the government’s (yes, the Pakistan government) plea to extend his house arrest period — the court trashed the government’s claim that Hafiz Saeed is a threat to the public.
Well, did the government actually believe in that? There was mounting international pressure (the US) on Pakistan. It had to pretend something, at least.
What Hafiz Saeed did after being released is not a secret. He never ran out of fig leaves to cover his terror operations. He set up Milli Muslim League to take part in Pakistan’s General Election. MML was refused to be given registration. He switched to the name Allaha-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), which was already registered with the EC.
That his people didn’t win seats — though he claims to be the people’s favourite for his charity works — is another issue. But the effort to camouflage his activities under a political party, which would eventually free him from the UN’s terrorist tag, is still on.
Terrorism and its believers are like chameleons.
The Hafiz Saeed-founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 1990s was behind the 2001 Parliament attack. When LeT got banned in Pakistan, Saeed revived Jamaat-ud-Dawa in 2002. He was arrested after the 2001 Parliament attack, and then again in 2006 after Mumbai train bombings, and in 2008 after 26/11. When JuD got banned, he rebranded JuD as Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir.
So, what's Pakistan doing — apart from allowing Hafiz Saeed to open a journalism school in Lahore?
It is following its old pattern of being on its toes when prodded globally. It's put up a face of 'strong action'. That usually leads in all directions. Yet, goes nowhere.
A number of news reports of the Pakistani government's crackdown on JuD properties and seminaries are being reported. Hafiz Saeed has reportedly been barred from addressing his weekly prayer gatherings. And it has also apparently blocked the visa appeal of the UN team which wanted to interview Hafiz Saeed regarding Saeed's appeal to delist himself from the list of terrorists. Reportedly, it's scared of the skeletons that may come tumbling out of the cupboard if Hafiz Saeed is interviewed.
A few days more.
Everything will be business-as-usual in Pakistan and its terror factories when the international pressure subsides.