By Waqar Gillani
Nearly two weeks after Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) held a press conference in Islamabad, declaring 2017 the year of Kashmir and announced to actively participate in rallies on Kashmir Day falling on February 5, the Interior Ministry has placed the JuD chief and four other leaders of the group under “house arrest”. It has also announced to closely watch the activities of JuD and its sister organisation Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF). He, along with many of his associates, has been put on the country’s Exit Control List.
The Interior Ministry announced action against JuD and FIF as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 resolution that calls for imposing ban on the JuD. The government has also announced to list these groups in the second schedule of Anti Terrorist Act (ATA) 1997 and put the five leaders of the JuD in “preventive detention.” A separate notification put the FIF under observation, under the anti-terror laws for a period of six months.
In the Islamabad press conference, on January 14, held along with the Kashmiri leadership, Hafiz Saeed said the Kashmiris “are offering sacrifices in the oppression of Indian Army. However, we repent when we see the attitude of Pakistani rulers and politicians.”
The story of Pakistan’s action against JuD, allegedly a parent organisation of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), started in November 2008 following a deadly terrorist attack in Mumbai killing nearly 160 people and injuring more than 300. India blamed LeT for executing the attack and held Hafiz Saeed as well as Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi (another JuD leader) as the masterminds behind the attack.
Following the Indian hue and cry, other countries in the world started putting pressure on Pakistan, and the United Nations placed JuD in a list of banned group forcing Pakistan to take action against JuD and its assets in Pakistan. However, the action by the Pakistani government by putting Saeed under house arrest then and apparently taking over JuD assets in its control could not last long. Meanwhile, Pakistan started demanding from India to substantiate its dossiers against Saeed and its group.
Some months later, in 2009, the Lahore High Court set Hafiz Saeed free for lack of proofs against him. This was followed by the Supreme Court giving a clean chit to Hafiz Saeed and its party. Later, in April 2015, Lakhvi, the second alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, was released from Adiala jail following the Lahore High Court’s dismissal of detention orders.
Analyst Zahid Hussain believes “the recent actions of the state are a continuity of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and pending implementation on it by Pakistan.”
“There are also reports that pressure is mounting on the government from the Asia Pacific Group, which is linked to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to ensure that individual countries have enough safeguards in place to prevent their financial system from being used for the purposes of terror financing. The group further collaborates with the UNSC to monitor financial actions against individuals banned under the 1267 Resolution,” he says.
Hussain says repeating the old practice — of actions against such groups under the UNSC list — appears a “half-hearted” action by the state indicating it still does not want to ban them. “Everybody knows the relief work is a face of JuD. Politically, it plays on Kashmir and other issues that falls under extremism like campaigning about blasphemy laws, opposing anti forced-conversion bill in Sindh etc. If they are banned, they should not be allowed to operate and law should be implemented in letter and spirit.”
JuD was planned to be banned in 2016. Earlier, LeT was officially banned in Pakistan in 2002 during General Pervez Musharraf’s regime following which JuD prominently surfaced. Later, following the UNSC sanctions in 2008, the FIF appeared as another active unit of the JuD focusing on relief work amid lot of social appreciation because of its operations in calamities, disasters and catastrophes across Pakistan.
Last week, following in recent action against JuD, a couple of hundred people separately gathered Rawalpindi and Islamabad to peacefully protest the ban on their organisation and ‘detention’ of their leaders. In Islamabad, however, the group staged a joint rally with the Hizbul Mujahideen, another group supporting Kashmiri freedom fighters. They displayed posters and banners portraying Hafiz Saeed as the “messiah” of Indian-held Kashmir demanding immediate release of their leadership.
On the other hand, the government is not clearly commenting on the action against JuD except saying “in obligation of UNSC resolutions” and as a “state policy”.
“There seems no pressure from the new American administration on Pakistan to take such action, as portrayed in the media, but this demand of action against militant and extremist groups was already there,” says Moeed Yusuf, a US-based security analyst. “On the other hand, there is an impression that this is a preemptive action by Pakistan.”
However, this preemptive action of Pakistan, incidentally, comes after the new American President Donald Trump banned people from Muslim countries travelling to the Unites States considering these countries as “terror-prone”.
“The state is indecisive about such groups and is reluctant to ban them despite the fact that it has failed in mainstreaming these groups in the past 15 years,” says Hussain. “And if the state does not do it, the pressure will continue to mount. Action against these groups is a real challenge to the state of Pakistan which is confused how to handle these groups other than cosmetic measures.”
Soon after the ban on JuD and orders of his “preventive detention”, Hafiz Saeed came out of his house in Lahore, officially declared as “sub-jail”, and spoke to the media saying, “We know the orders against us are not from Islamabad but New Delhi via Washington DC to Islamabad”.
Flanked by his personal guards, a few activists and cops carrying guns, he seemed to mock the orders. He said the JuD has attributed 2017 “to the Kashmiri people and their struggle but government banned us”.
Meanwhile, alongside the crackdown on JuD and FIF, there is a simultaneous narrative being built in favour of Hafiz Saeed by analysts who insist that the JuD’s cadre of 50,000 trained men is Pakistan’s best bet against a hegemonic India. It is narrative of this kind that makes one skeptical about the state actions against them.The author is a staff reporter.courtesy The News.