Hafiz Saeed detention in national interest, says Pakistan Army

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published:February 1, 2017 4:56 am
Hafiz Saeed in Lahore on Monday. AP photo

A DAY after Hafiz Saeed, Mumbai terror attacks mastermind, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief, was placed under “house arrest”, the Pakistan Army, for the first time, supported the civilian government’s action and called the detention a “policy decision taken in the national interest”.

“Jahan tak Hafiz Saeed ke pabandi ka taluk hai, yeh ek policy decision hai jo state ne national interest mein liya (“The detention is a policy decision taken in the national interest by the state),” said Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor, addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi. “The relevant department may give more information in a day or two and the situation will become clearer,” he said.

Read | JuD chief Hafiz Lashkar Saeed put under house arrest

His remarks reflect a perceptible shift in the Pakistan Army’s position. New Delhi has always maintained that the Pakistan Army has kept Saeed “in play” as a “strategic asset”. It is not clear what prompted Islamabad to undertake this crackdown, although Pakistani media reports suggested that the US administration was behind the action.

WATCH VIDEO | Jamaat-ud-Dawah Chief Hafiz Saeed Placed Under House Arrest

According to a PTI report, Saeed, who was allowed to address a press conference before being placed under house arrest at his residence in Jauhar Town, Lahore, said: “My detention order has come from Washington and not Islamabad. If someone thinks that placing me under house arrest will help check the freedom movement in Kashmir, he is living in a fool’s paradise. My arrest will give a fresh impetus to the Kashmiris’ struggle against India.”

The detention order was issued by Punjab Province’s Interior Ministry on Monday, in pursuance to a directive from the Federal Interior Ministry on January 27. His aides — Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Niaz — were placed under house arrest in Chauburji, near the JuD’s Lahore headquarters.

A Pakistan Interior Ministry official told PTI that “the government has detained Saeed and four other JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat leaders for 90 days with effect from January 30, but this detention may further be extended if required. The government may take some further steps against the JuD and its sister organisations in the coming days.”

He also said the names of several JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat activists have been placed on the “exit control list” to stop them from leaving the country.

Hours before the Pakistan Army’s reaction, India on Tuesday sought a “credible crackdown” on Saeed. Observing that such exercises have happened in the past as well, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “Only a credible crackdown on the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and terrorist organisations involved in cross-border terrorism would be proof of Pakistan’s sincerity.”

“We have seen reports on the Pakistan Interior Ministry’s order placing the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation under the watchlist and also the notification under which the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation has been included in the second schedule of their anti-terror legislation under United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1267. We have also noted that Hafiz Saeed and four others have been placed under preventive detention,” said Swarup.

According to Indian officials, “Pakistan has played the game of putting him under arrest whenever there has been international pressure, and then releasing him after the pressure eases off, mostly after court’s orders.”

Officials recalled that Saeed was first arrested in May 2002, after the Kaluchak attack which claimed 31 lives, including families of Indian Army personnel. He was later put under house arrest, but released by November that year.

After the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, he was put under house arrest twice, from early August to October that year, till the Lahore high court ordered his release.

After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and the listing of the JuD as a terror outfit by the UN, Saeed was put under house arrest from December 2008 to June 2009. The Lahore high court deemed his arrest invalid on technical grounds.

Three months later, he was again placed under house arrest in September 2009, but only for a short period. In October 2009, the Lahore high court quashed all cases against him, and said no charges could be filed against Saeed as his organisation was not banned as per the anti-terror law.

In April 2012, the US announced a bounty of $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction. In 2014, the JuD was designated a “foreign terrorist organisation” by the US State department.

While New Delhi has demanded action against Saeed and other perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack, Pakistan has cited its own judicial processes and pleaded helplessness.

In his press conference, Maj Gen Ghafoor said Pakistan wants peace with India and resolution of all issues. “We want the Kashmir issue to be resolved via United Nations resolutions and dialogue, but this desire for peace should not be misconstrued as a weakness,” he said.

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