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Explaining Hafiz Saeed’s recent engagements

Many on Twitter noted that LeT/JuD chief Hafiz Saeed delivered a lecture at an event sponsored by a student group from Lahore’s University of Engineering and Technology (UET).  He also subsequently addressed a public rally in Islamabad and attended a ceremony to hand over ambulances to a district’s emergency services unit, an event at which Islamabad’s Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police was present.

Yet, none of this is news.  Hafiz Saeed is not in hiding — like Osama bin Laden was — nor has he been found guilty of any crime by Pakistan.  Saeed isn’t holed up in a cave.  His Markaz-e-Taiba complex in Muridke is spread across 200 acres, and has been a recipient of generous grants from the Government of Punjab.  When the United States announced a bounty on Hafiz Saeed in 2012, Saeed taunted the U.S. with a challenge: “catch me if you can.”

But this isn’t just bravado.  Hafiz Saeed benefits greatly from his carefully cultivated image as a mujahid, an indispensable asset of the Pakistani security establishment against India, a public figure and philanthropist.  His Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), ostensibly a charitable wing of JuD, has assisted in rescue and rehabilitation efforts during calamities in Pakistan (such as the 2005 earthquake, or after the many regular bouts of flooding).

In many circumstances, the FIF is reported to have arrived even before the state’s emergency services to provide aid to those in need.  Taken as a whole, this puts Saeed in a different category from the run-of-the-mill jihadi who might be used by the state to do its bidding and then disposed if and when no longer needed.

Historically, Hafiz Saeed’s public engagements and outreach have served two primary, if often related, purposes: to rally public opinion in favor of a nationalist cause favored by the army, or to pressure the incumbent civilian government on issues pertaining to Pakistan’s fragile civil-military relations.

These recent engagements come at a time when there is turmoil in the relationship between Nawaz Sharif’s government and the army, led by Gen. Raheel Sharif, on multiple axes: relations with India, domestic counter-terrorism and corruption.  On April 13, 2016, Hafiz Saeed was interviewed in Nawa-i-waqt by the decidedly right-leaning columnist Fazal Hussain Awan, where he spoke at length on one of the areas of contention between the government and army: India.

Excerpts from Mr. Awan’s op-ed and the interview with Hafiz Saeed follow:

India has accused Pakistan of being involved in the 2016 attacks in Pathankot and the 2007 (sic) attacks in Mumbai.  According to India, Jamaat ud-Dawa’s chief Hafiz Saeed and his associates were responsible for the Mumbai attacks, while Jaish-e-Mohammad’s leader Maulana Masood Azhar was accused of carrying out the attacks in Pathankot.  India approached the UN on both occasions and the UN, under the influence of Indian propaganda, proscribed the Jamaat ud-Dawah and Hafiz Saeed.

The Zardari government also arrested Hafiz Saeed and his associates.  Then Interior Minister Rehman Malik moved the case to the Supreme Court, which, after deliberation, found Hafiz Saeed innocent.  India was outraged at the verdict and protested, but there is no higher authority than the Supreme Court to which the case can be referred in Pakistan.

India reacted in a similar manner to the attack in Pathankot.  Having accused Maulana Masood Azhar, India took its case to the UN.  However, because of Pakistan’s active diplomacy at the UN and China’s assistance, India’s attempts to proscribe Masood Azhar were defeated.  On Mumbai, the Pakistan Peoples Party reacted defensively which led to JuD’s leadership coming under India’s diplomatic assault.

Thanks to China’s active intervention, the attempt to proscribe Masood Azhar was vetoed.  However, India continues to demand Pakistani action on Hafiz Saeed despite the fact that the Supreme Court has found him not guilty and has allowed him to continue to lead his life as a free citizen of the country.

I have no personal connection with Hafiz sahib, but was able to meet with him through some acquaintances I have in his media team.  Both Yahya Mujahid [LeT/JuD spokesman] and Muhammad Irshad [JuD media person?] were present at the meeting. During our conversation, Hafiz Saeed talked to us about the most difficult moments of his life.

“I was a student at Punjab University when unrest broke out in East Pakistan,” Saeed sahib told us.  “India entered the conflict, supported the Mukti Bahini, and with the aid of the West, defeated Pakistan in 1971.  Approximately 93,000 Pakistan Army troops were taken prisoners of war by India.  I was unable to sleep or eat for several days.”

“It is then that I came to the realization that until we avenge the defeat and until India is degraded and destroyed, neither Pakistan nor its Islamic values can be saved.  I decided then that India must pay the price for the fall of Dhaka.”

Hafiz Saeed said that terrorists and their sponsors are being apprehended in Pakistan and that the capture of Kulbhushan Yadav has exposed R&AW’s network in Pakistan.  According to Saeed, “India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the ‘mastermind’ of terrorism in Pakistan and yet Pakistan’s leaders are apprehensive about holding him accountable.”

Saeed despairs that Pakistan’s politicians are no longer interested in the Kashmir cause and instead blindly tow the line of the West.  Yet on Kashmir, Saeed reposes his faith in the Pakistan Army.  He says that the Pakistan Army is sincere in its commitment to the Kashmir cause, as are the people of Pakistan. The Kashmir issue can be resolved if Pakistan’s politicians display the same level of commitment.

Speaking on Pakistan’s ideology [Nazaria Pakistan], Hafiz Saeed says “I’m not a great fan of cricket, but when India lost to the West Indies, there was a lot of joy in Pakistan.  In fact, more sweets are distributed in Occupied Kashmir than even in Pakistan on such occasions. The slogan ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’ resonates from Srinagar to Jawaharlal University in Delhi.  This is a testament to Pakistan’s enduring ideology and the Two Nation Theory.” [وائے وقت]

 

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Bailing out Pakistan

International lenders must stop incentivizing Pakistan’s bad behavior.

The IMF and Pakistan are in talks again on another bailout package.  Pakistan is in need of a multi-billion dollar loan to, well, pay off another multi-billion dollar loan obtained from the same lender.  This time around though, the IMF appears to have made it clear to Pakistan that the “soft terms” of the bailout package will be provided only after a satisfactory review of Pakistan’s macroeconomic indicators:

The visiting IMF mission, headed by Jeffery Franks, on Wednesday communicated to Pakistan in plain words that no free lunch would be offered this time.

In talks with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the IMF officials clearly said soft terms for the next bailout package could only be extended after reviewing the country’s economic health and the assurance that plans of the government to stabilise the macro-economic indicators would materialise through a credible mechanism.

“If the IMF is not satisfied, then a bailout package will be offered with strict conditions,” said a senior official who was part of the negotiations with the visiting IMF mission. Pakistan and the IMF here on Wednesday initiated the crucial talks on the ailing economy and discussed the way forward keeping in view the proposed budget of the government. [The News]

To their credit, IMF’s discussions on a bailout package will no longer be only with Islamabad, but with the other four provincial governments as well.  This is especially important given the largely region-centric mandate of the May 2013 elections in Pakistan.

But at the same time, it is perplexing that much of the haggling is over the terms of the loan and not over the granting of the loan itself, which appears to be a foregone conclusion.  Surely, a country that cannot perform the fairly basic function of collecting taxes from its citizens and instead chooses to increase its (reported) defense budget by 10 per cent year-on-year, is incompetent, irresponsible or both.

And the less said about Pakistan’s benevolent financial grants to terrorist groups like the Jamaat ud-Dawa, the better.  Pakistan’s international lenders ought to reward good behavior, but not incentivize the status quo.   If the Soviet Union wasn’t too big to fail, neither is Pakistan.

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Urdunama: Amriki Pabandi

The U.S. Department of Treasury added 8 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on August 30, 2012.  Those added to the list include Sajid Mir (who played an integral role in 26/11), Abdullah Mujahid (LeT commander responsible for Afghanistan operations), Abdullah Muntazir and Talha Saeed (son of Hafiz Saeed).  In April 2012, the U.S. Department of State also issued a $10 million  reward for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed himself.

But Hafiz Saeed, who now apparently harbors political aspirations in Pakistan, has gone to great lengths (as this blog has previously pointed out) in painting himself as the leader of the Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD), a self-proclaimed charitable organization, and having no connection with the LeT. But the fact that the LeT, JuD and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council are all inexorably linked is a known to both India and the U.S.

In response to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s decision, Hafiz Saeed yet again attempted to distance himself from the LeT and claimed that U.S. actions were motivated by the JuD’s opposition to the forthcoming operations in North Waziristan.  Excerpts from Hafiz Saeed’s interview with the far-right newspaper, Ummat follow:

The U.S. has designated many of my colleagues as terrorists affiliated to an organization called Lashkar-e-Taiba.  But the JuD has nothing to do with the LeT.  I previously articulated that the Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the many organizations that operates in India’s Occupied Kashmir, whose members are all residents of Kashmir.  We, on the other hand, are based only in Pakistan.  In attempting to conflate the LeT and JuD, America’s intelligence agencies are fooling not only the rest of the world, but also the people of Pakistan.

At this point in time the JuD is in the process of garnering popular support against the U.S.’s policies on Pakistan, as well as the re-opening of NATO supply lines and the resumption of drone strikes.  The U.S. has been displeased with our activities, and hence the attempt to malign our leadership.

These latest U.S. actions are meaningless, because those who have been designated terrorists have neither any assets or bank accounts in the U.S., nor have they ever traveled to the U.S.   This is just an attempt to malign our organization and fool the American people into believing that their government is trying to combat terrorism.

I have already communicated to the UN our views on being targeted by the U.S., and will write again, in response to the destinations by the U.S.  We are also in the process of organizing a protest, with the aid of other religious and political organizations in Pakistan, against U.S. policies in Pakistan.  The protest will take place on September 11.

We have previously invited the U.S. to visit with us and to verify for themselves the charitable work being carried out by the JuD.  However, we have not received any response.  Regardless of what the U.S. does, we will be urging the Pakistani government to pursue its own national interests and not buckle under U.S. pressure. [روزنامہ امّت]

 

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Urdunama: Khula Khat

Jamaat ud-Dawwa’s (JuD’s) leader Hafiz Saeed recently published an “open letter” to Pakistan’s parliament, protesting its decision to restore on-land NATO supply routes and “conditional re-engagement” with the U.S. The pamphlet bears the letterhead of the JuD, but appears to speak on behalf of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), further confirming the futility in attempts to distinguish between the two, or indeed between the DPC and the MJC brotherhood.  This “open letter” was brought to light by journalist Omar Quraishi (thanks to @Vikram_Sood for the link) .  The pamphlet was pasted outside one of Karachi’s most upscale stores (اردو).

To the Members of Parliament:

As you are aware, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has presented its recommendations on relations with the U.S. and the issue of NATO’s supply lines during the joint parliamentary session on March 20, 2012.  News reports indicate that NATO supply lines are being restored due to U.S. pressure.  It is also allegedly being proposed that taxes on NATO supplies be increased and that 50 per cent of the traffic be transported via rail.

The Difa-e-Pakistan Council has already communicated its thoughts to the Parliament on the above proposals, and would further like to remind the Parliament that:

  1. Parvez Musharraf entered into secret and verbal agreements with the U.S. that ultimately were detrimental to our own security and to the security of our Afghan brothers.  However, if these agreements are now being given formal consent via the Parliament, it sets a very dangerous precedent.
  2. The East India Company had also entered into similar agreements with the Mughal Empire, which resulted in the colonization of India.  If the Parliament accedes to these agreements, Pakistan’s sovereignty will no doubt be compromised.
  3. We must be cognizant of the fact that restoration of on-land access routes to NATO will negatively impact our relations with China.
  4. The bold bipartisan decision to ban NATO supply routes after the Salala incident brought confidence to the people of Pakistan.  However, if these routes were to be reauthorized, it would create confusion and instability in our country.
  5. It is indeed worrying that India is being given on-land access to Afghanistan and West Asia via Pakistan.  In fact, this presents a far greater risk to Pakistan than the restoration of supply routes to NATO. The U.S. and India have recently concluded joint military exercises in Rajasthan.  Granting India route access to Afghanistan via Pakistan and entering into trade agreements with that country present a security threat to Pakistan and risks annoying friendly nations such as China.
  6. We must consider that NATO containers travel through all provinces of Pakistan and have previously been targeted and could be targeted yet again if supply routes are restored.  Thus, the U.S. might use repeated attacks on its trucks as a ruse to invade or establish a military foothold inside Pakistan, claiming a lack of confidence in the Pakistani armed forces’ ability to safeguard their assets.
  7. The U.S. has never honored any of its agreements with Pakistan.  It instead blamed Pakistan for the Salala altercation.  Are we about to endorse these actions, and that too via our own Parliament? Would this happen, Pakistan will be engulfed yet again by the flames of terrorism fanned by the likes of the U.S., NATO and India.

Dear Members of Parliament, we ask that you consider our requests objectively.  We ask that you depart from the tradition of parochial policy-making and think instead of Pakistan’s citizens and its future generations.  If you were to make your decisions against the will of the people of Pakistan, it will hurt the nation and our Afghan brothers.  Please remember that those helping people who burn the Quran and kill our brothers will be accountable for their sins in this life and beyond.  May Allah assist you in doing right by your people.

Your well-wisher,

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed

Ameer, Jamaat ud-Dawwa Pakistan [Source]

The “open letter” is interesting because where India and the U.S. are concerned, the LeT/JuD (unlike other jihadi outfits) has seldom differed with sponsors in Rawalpindi.  However, it would also be nearly impossible for a decision in Pakistan’s parliament to have been concluded on the future of ties with the U.S. and on NATO supply routes without consultation and approval from GHQ.

Effectively, the GHQ is being drawn into making compromises on U.S. demands out of reluctance yet again, as it was at the beginning of U.S. operations in Afghanistan in 2001.  It has since pursued a policy of  supporting U.S.-led operations, while covertly attempting to undermine them.  Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj’s antics, the Haqqani network’s activities inside Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad are but examples of Pakistan’s attempts at subversion.

While Rawalpindi might have agreed ostensibly to restore NATO supply routes, it does so out of necessity and with every intention to keep the pressure on the U.S. and allied forces with 2014 in mind.  To that end, it might employ a series of agents to do its bidding. Historically, groups such as the LeT have been primarily been India-focused.  But this might be changing if Rawalpindi is committed to temporary bonhomie with India. The recent attacks by the Taliban in Kabul and not-so-subtle threats in bullet #6 above might be harbingers of a dangerous summer.

Note: Source and additional detail updated based on the pamphlet on the Difa-e-Pakistan Council website.

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