Views By Aparna Rawal
India made a formal request to Pakistan for the extradition of the 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind, Hafiz Saeed. The request was affirmed by Pakistan, and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stated that the request for extraditing Saeed, along with the required documents, was sent to Islamabad.
“We have conveyed a request along with relevant supporting documents to the government of Pakistan,” said Bagchi. The recent request was made in the context of a money laundering case.
Upon receiving the request, Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch confirmed the conveyed Indian request seeking Saeed’s extradition but also laid an emphasis that there was no pre-existing bilateral extradition treaty between Pakistan and India.
This can be inferred as Pakistan’s lack of interest in handing Saeed over to India. Even though there is no Indo Pakistan extradition treaty, the extradition can be made possible through an arrangement made between the two nations also.
This isn’t the first time such a request for the extradition of Saeed has been made by India to Pakistan. Pakistan has consistently evaded the handover of Saeed.
It is imperative to bear in mind that Pakistan has always maintained a counter-terrorism policy where it will either neutralize the terror threat or coerce the terrorists to support its cause against other anti-state elements or militants.
Viewing through this perspective, it was assumed that Pakistan clearly had greater plans for Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Saeed carries a bounty of 10 million US dollars, he is charged by the US and India for his affiliation with terror activities and hijacking, yet he receives the basic freedom of a Pakistani civilian. His “charity organization,” Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), grew exponentially in a couple of years.
On the basis of the treatment meted out to Saeed by Pakistan, it can be concluded that Pakistan categorizes its security threats into various groups. The groups consist of those who are exclusively a threat to Pakistan only, those who may be a threat to both Pakistan and the US, those who pose a threat to China, and lastly, there are those who are a threat to other nations, such as India.
Hafiz Saeed, for Pakistan, falls into the last category. Saeed has tried to rebrand and revamp his image as a socio-political actor by claiming to have stepped away from violence.
Initially, it was assumed that upon the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, Hafiz Saeed would be made useful by Pakistan to ameliorate the tension between the militants across the border in Afghanistan towards Pakistan.
The perspective at the time was that Saeed was a perfect candidate who was not only anti-Indian but also a staunch Pakistani patriot who would never pull any anarchist activities against Pakistan.
Hafiz, being a Maulana, also presented opportunities to negotiate with other sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). However, in recent years, it appears the Pakistani plans were not very successful, especially with regard to TTP.
Saeed’s ability as Pakistan’s puppet to mobilize people is what makes him marketable to Pakistani security. Saeed has been a crucial player against India in Kashmir, but the notion is that he was redirected towards the internal issues faced due to the militancy, such as the TTP within Pakistan.
Additionally, Saeed also led the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC). The DPC is an organization comprised of many right-wing and religious organizations which have aggregated many radical followers.
The conception of this organization came with the intention to create a bridge for mediation between the Pakistani government and the militants. In such a scenario, Hafiz proved to be a viable broker to act as a middleman at the behest of the Pakistani government.
Hence, it seems highly unlikely that Pakistan would neutralize or take action against Saeed as long as he remains useful to the Pakistani government and also reinforces the efforts towards Gazwa-i-Hind.
Deciphering Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed was born in Sargoda, Pakistan. He received the name Hafiz as he had memorized the Quran at an early age. Like his siblings and his father, he went on to pursue two Masters in Islamic studies and Arabic language.
According to Nida-e-Millat magazine, Saeed took part in Jamaat-e-Islami’s election campaign in 1970, and following the fall of Dhaka in 1971, he decided to step away from the party.
Gen Zia ul Haq assigned Saeed to the Council on Islamic Ideology, and he later taught at the University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan as a teacher of Islamic studies. In the 1980s, he was introduced to two Saudi sheiks who were involved in the Soviet–Afghan War.
Having been heavily influenced by two sheiks, Hafiz participated in support of the mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan. The turning point in his jihadist career came in 1987, when he, along with Abdullah Azzam and Prof. Zafar Iqbal Sardar, established the Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad. This group originated from the Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadis, which was political in nature.
Eventually, through Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad, emerged the infamous terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in 1987. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spared no effort in bolstering the LeT by keeping Jammu and Kashmir as a primary objective for destabilizing India.
Since then, Saeed has been involved in many terror attacks against India, such as the Red Fort attack (22nd December 2000), Rampur attack (1st January 2008), 26/11 Mumbai attack (26-28 Nov.2008) as well as the attack on BSF Convoy at Udhampur in Jammu & Kashmir (5th August 2015).
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is accused in many cases and is investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). There are other reported cases against Saeed which include cases of terror funding as well.
Saeed’s involvement has been seen with an all-woman outfit, the Dukhtaraan-e-Millat (DeM). This outfit is deemed as a soft-terrorist outfit in which it primarily focuses on the utilization of extra-legal means to threaten or impose their jihadist ideologies.
However, since the outfit hasn’t resorted to arms entirely, they have been categorized as a soft terror outfit. The group was formed in 1987 and has regarded the matter of Kashmir as a religious issue and for which it calls Jihad on India.
Like LeT, it also advocated for the accession of the Kashmir valley to Pakistan. Its leader, Ayesha Andrabi, has been blatantly supporting an outfit called the Lashkar-e-Jabbar (LeJ).
It is highly likely that Lashkar-e-Jabbar is a front for the DeM who maintains similar connections with the LeT.
In the past, DeM has made statements against Abdul Ghani Lone, leader of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), calling the LeT to act against the Hurriyat leader. By 2012, reports of LeT raising women terrorists in camps of Divalia and Muzzafarabad against India were brought to light.
A group of 21 women, fidayeen by the name of Dukhtareen-e-Toiba, had become active and was deployed by LeT in the Kashmir Valley. In another camp in Turbeladem in POJK, the LeT was training over 400 terrorists in various under the command of an ISI officer.
Recently, many modules of the LeT have also been arrested in various states in India, including the on-ground workers who may empathize with the jihadist cause. In the case of Hafiz Saeed, the red corner notice was also issued for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case.
He was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967, while LeT has been listed as a terrorist organization under the Act as well. Israel, too, on the anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attack of 2008, designated LeT as a banned terror outfit.
It is understood that the Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is the front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The JuD was responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack.
It remains an open secret; elements like Hafiz Saeed are the creation of Pakistan’s state-sponsored Gazwa-i-Hind plan. While Pakistan claims to fight a select group of militants and insurgents born from its actions, it also protects terrorists like Saeed as its own assets.
Saeed’s arrest in Pakistan comes nothing short of an eye wash to appease and convince the international community of the so-called Pakistani crackdown on terrorism.
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is designated as a terrorist by the United Nations Security Council, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, and Russia, yet India waits for Justice. He is on India’s NIA Most Wanted list.
On 3rd July 2019, 23 cases pertaining to terror financing and money laundering under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, were registered by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan. It was ascertained that JuD was behind terror funding, which was acquired in the form of zakat from various non-profit organizations and trusts such as Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc. It is assumed that CTD has banned these non-profit organizations.
Saeed was arrested in Gujranwala on 17th July 2019 on the charges of terror financing. He was imprisoned on judicial remand by a Gujranwala Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC). In 2019, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the USA asked Pakistan to prosecute Saeed, Masood Azhar, and other UN-designated terrorists.
By 30th November 2019, Pakistan responded by saying it would prosecute Saeed. On 11 December 2019, Saeed was charged by the ATC in the cases of terror financing. In 2020, he was convicted by a Pakistani court for financing terrorism and was fined 110,000 rupees (US $700).
Additionally, the Pakistan Markazi Muslim League (PMML) party, which was started by Saeed, claims to be contesting most of the national and provincial Assembly seats in Pakistan.
It has stated its objective to make Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state. The Pakistan Markazi Muslim League (PMML) President Khalid Masood Sindhu said, “We want to come to power not for corruption but to serve the people and make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. “
Saeed’s son, Talha Saeed, is also a candidate running from Lahore’s NA-127.
With the current developments on the Pakistani political scene, with elements from terror outfits linking and interchanging narratives to present themselves as activists and government servants, the possibility of the Indian request for Saeed’s extradition seems difficult. It can be expected that Pakistan will field its assets while displaying its hypocrisy on the global front.
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- Aparna Rawal is an Indian research analyst specializing in the Af/Pak region and counter-terrorism. VIEWS PERSONAL
- The author can be reached at aparnarawal (at) gmail.com