The Arrest of LeT Chief Hafiz Saeed

Md. Sadiq
06 February 2017

Pakistani newspapers reported that Pakistani authorities had placed Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and four others under detention on the night of 30th January 2017. The action was taken under an anti-terrorism act.

The four others include Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid and Kashif Niaz.

Saeed was picked up by a large police contingent from at Lahore's Masjid-e-Qudsia Chauburji. The detention order was issued two days earlier by Punjab province's interior ministry in pursuance of a directive from the federal interior ministry on January 27.

According to JuD official Ahmed Nadeem, a "heavy contingent of police has surrounded the JuD headquarters." Saeed was shifted to his Jauhar Town residence where he will remain under house arrest. The provincial authorities also started to remove JuD banners from Lahore roads.

A few days later, Pakistani authorities imposed an international travel ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and 37 activists of his organisation. Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the others were included in the interior ministry's Exit Control List (ECL).

Pakistan interior minister Nisar Ali Khan said the PML-N government was taking steps to "fulfill our obligations" with regard to JuD. "The organisation (JuD) has been `under observation' since 2010-11. Since it has also been listed by the UN Security Council (Sanctions Committee), we are bound to take some steps. We are taking those steps to fulfil our obligations," the interior minister told reporters.

The United States has a $10 million bounty on Saeed.

In a notification, the interior ministry said it had placed the JuD and its front organisation, the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), on a “watch list” under the Second Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The action was in line with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1267, under which Pakistan is required to freeze the financial assets, cut off access to arms and bar foreign travel by sanctioned individuals.

Director General of Pakistan Army's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Tuesday stated that the decision to put Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed under house arrest "is a policy decision". The DG ISPR said, "This is a policy decision that the state took in [the] national interest. Lots of institutions will have to do their jobs."

In Pakistan, Saeed's arrest evoked mixed reactions with sections of the media supporting the action.

The influential newspaper The Nation commented: “Hafiz Saeed's detention has come as a surprise. Not only because there was little foreshadowing of the move by the government but also because there existed no debates or circumstances which could have prompted such a step. However, the biggest surprise is the manner with which the government handled the issue. Where it had previously relied on relief given to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief by local courts to justify its inaction against him - and to defend Pakistan from the international criticism for letting the JUD run free - now it has sent heavily armed contingents to arrest Hafiz Saeed and his associates from Qudsia Mosque in Lahore, removed the organisation's banner's from the city, and replaced the party flags in its Muridke headquarters with Pakistani flags instead. It is described by the government as a “crackdown” and it feels like one. As such, this action is highly commendable, and more so since the announcement of the crackdown and the orders come from the Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar, who has previously given us cause for concern rather than comfort by meeting with and acting as an apologist for sectarian organisations.”

Jihadi groups have not protested actively but many are disappointed. United Jehad Counicl chief Syed Salahuddin, demanded that Saeed be released. He said: “Kashmiri movement is at a critical phase and Mr. Saeed would support it. Pakistan's action is a sign of weakness, which is painful. It has sent depressing signals. It also depicts the weak role of Pakistan in Kashmir's freedom struggle”.

However, all indications suggest that Saeed's activities will continue under a new name. The media reported that the group had been “re-branded as 'Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir', just days after its chief Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest and a crackdown launched on the organisation's activities.

Saeed had indicated about a week before his arrest that he might launch Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK) to "expedite the freedom of Kashmir". He is reported to have known about the impending crackdown and had worked out a plan.

According to official sources, Saeed's two organisations have started activities under the name new of TAJK and were planning to organise events on February 5, which is observed as 'Kashmir Day' in Pakistan. The group is also planning to hold a big Kashmir conference on Sunday in Lahore after evening prayers. Saeed said his detention would give a 'fresh impetus' to the Kashmiris' struggle against India.

Indian government is sceptical about Saeed's arrest. “We have noted that Hafiz Saeed and four others have been placed under preventive detention. Exercises such as yesterday's orders against Hafiz Saeed and others have been carried out by Pakistan in the past also. Only a credible crackdown will prove Pakistan's sincerity,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. “India has long maintained that UNSC 1267 provisions must be effectively and sincerely enforced by all member states,” Swarup added.

India believes that Pakistan's generals have used terrorist groups originally created for the Kashmir jihad to strike in different parts of India. It believes Saeed was directed to participate in one of the worst terrorist carnages in history, the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

Saeed's arrest has been attributed to US President Donald Trump's election. Earlier, on October, 11, 2016, the Pakistan news daily Dawn wrote, “In a blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation (due to militancy) of Pakistan……”

The big question here is Kashmir is whether Saeed's arrest will have any impact on militancy.

Md. Sadiq

6 February 2017