Tag Archives: Hafiz Saeed

Hafiz Saeed…Democrat?

Hafiz Saeed with Tahirul Ashrafi

On Friday, Hussain Nadim explained for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel why Pakistan won’t give up Hafiz Saeed. In his piece, Mr. Nadim suggests, as many have before him, that Pakistan does not view the Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader as a direct threat but rather sees him a useful proxy in Pakistan’s ongoing struggle with India for control of Kashmir. The author then adds to this banal analysis by suggesting that Hafiz Saeed has “rebranded himself as a political and social actor renouncing violence altogether.” This is a dangerous fantasy.

Almost exactly one year ago, Hafiz Saeed addressed a rally in Lahore to raise money for jihad against the United States. And lest we be mistaken, Saeed’s idea of jihad is not one of a personal and intellectual struggle against evil – he’s talking about guns and bombs.

In a fiery Friday sermon, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed called on the people to wage jihad against America in order to save Pakistan and Islam. “Come to us. We will teach you the meaning of jihad… The time to fight has come.”

The sermon was held at the JuD head office Jamia Markaz al-Qadsia in Lahore, where Saeed had his own security. Some of the security personnel were also seen carrying weapons with silencers. A box was placed at the exit and men asked for people exiting the mosque to give funds for jihad.

In December, Hafiz Saeed met with Kashmiri separatist leaders and assured them that “militancy in Kashmir would escalate after the US-led international troops depart from Afghanistan in 2014.”

This is the same Hafiz Saeed that Hussain Nadim claims has renounced violence.

Hussain Nadim also repeats the myth that Hafiz Saeed’s organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is a “charity organization.” But JuD is a charity organization in the mold of HAMAS and other militant organizations. Yes, they do conduct some relief work, but even that seems to be more part of a PR campaign designed to build sympathies among the people for their less charitable works. And JuD includes in its arsenal an impressive multi-national PR machine.

Tweeting last year, the “charity organization” called on God to destroy the United States.

 

And in Pakistan, away from gullible Western journalists, JuD is very open about their broader mission. The following amateur video shows a JuD procession accompanied by chants of “Only one cure for America – Jihad! Jihad!”

And as for the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), which Hussain Nadim describes as “one of the movements led by Hafiz Saeed that has united and mobilized followers of different radical ideologies, which Pakistani officials hope will create a force to broker peace between the government and militants,” we’ll let Hafiz Saeed speak for himself:

“We have only one objective: to form a civilian force for the defence of Pakistan, which can work alongside Pakistan forces, because Pakistan is facing very severe threats from both sides – India is one side, America and NATO forces are on the other and the agenda of both is Pakistan.”

Pakistani police may believe, as Hussain Nadim claims, that “Saeed has been redirected and is now being used as a tool to ensure the disarmament and evolution of militant groups in Pakistan,” but there is little evidence to suggest this is the case. What is far more evident is that Hafiz Saeed is doing what he’s always done – running a sophisticated paramilitary operation under the cover of a religious charity.

Willfully ignoring reality is unlikely to magically transform Saeed from mujahideen to statesman. And, unfortuantely, whether or not “Pakistan will have to live with the burden of being blamed for supporting militants like Hafiz Saeed” is beside the point. As long as militant leaders like Hafiz Saeed are allowed to act with impunity, Pakistan will continue to suffer the carnage and internal destabilization that they sow.

Sec. Panetta: Pakistan’s Government Not Aware of Osama’s Whereabouts

Sec. Leon Panetta

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says there is no evidence that any Pakistani government official knew about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts prior to his death last May. Speaking to Peter Mansbridge with CBC Television, Sec. Panetta said none of the material collected in the raid on bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad has suggested any official Pakistani support.

MR. MANSBRIDGE: Now you mention how – you took a lot of material out of that compound and you’ve now had almost a year to go through it all. Have you been able to determine, in what you’ve seen, any direct connection with Pakistan for his ability to live and operate within a stone’s throw of Pakistan’s – one of its most important military installations?

SEC. PANETTA: I have not. And you know, there’s been a lot of material. They’ve gone through a lot of material. We haven’t had access to, obviously, all of the analysis that’s been done, but I have not heard any kind of evidence that involved a direct connection to the Pakistanis. Obviously the concern has always been how could a compound like this, how could bin Laden be in an area where there were military establishments, where we could see the military operating and not have them know.

MR. MANSBRIDGE: And how could it? How could it operate there without their knowledge?

SEC. PANETTA: Well, you know, these situations sometimes, you know, the leadership within Pakistan [sic] is obviously not aware of certain things and yet people lower down in the military establishment find it very well, they’ve been aware of it. But bottom line is that we have not had evidence that provides that direct link.

Sec. Panetta is not the first US official to come to this conclusion. Last fall, former CIA station chief in Islamabad, Robert Grenier, told Express News that there is no evidence Pakistani officials had any knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

This does not, however, mean that Osama bin Laden had no support network in Pakistan. This week, the US government announced a $10 million bounty for Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba which is suspected of having ties to al Qaeda. And the US is not the only country that wants Hafiz Saeed. Pakistan’s own government has arrested Hafiz Saeed in the past, only to see their attempts to bring him to justice thwarted by the country’s Supreme Court who ordered the militant leader freed.

Hafiz Saeed at a Difa-e-Pakistan rally

While there is no evidence that Hafiz Saeed and his Lashkar-e-Taibi militant group facilitated bin Laden’s living in Pakistan, the way that militant leaders like Hafiz Saeed play “cat and mouse” games with Pakistani law enforcement suggests that unofficial support networks for militant extremists do exist and are hard to penetrate. If Pakistan’s different militant groups are operating synergistically, it could make connections between militant leaders like Osama bin Laden and Hafiz Saeed difficult to substantiate.

The US and Pakistan have a shared goal in ending the scourge of terrorism and bringing militant leaders to justice. Successfully ending militant violence requires cooperation between both countries. That begins with recognizing who are friends are.

 

Bin Laden Operation Underscores Need to Support Pakistani Democracy

The death of Osama bin Laden during a US special forces operation on Sunday night brought a sense of closure to many people the word over. Though all agree that the struggle against bin Laden’s brand of violent extremism will continue after his death, grassroots movements across the Arab world have demonstrated that it is through peaceful democratic organizing and not terrorist violence that dictators will be unseated and justice spread. The US should support pro-democracy movements across the world, especially in Pakistan where a fragile democratic government is under imminent threat from extremist militants.

Details of the operation that eliminated bin Laden are trickling out slowly, and there seems to be much confusion about Pakistan’s role in tracking and killing the al Qaeda leader. Recent statements from Pakistan’s government say that they had no role in the operation, but this claim strikes many analysts as unlikely.

It is even less likely that, as U.S. counterterrorism czar John Brennan claimed in a press conference today, Pakistani authorities did not know about the military operation that killed bin Laden until it was over. Abbottabad’s Bilal Town neighborhood where bin Laden lived and died was virtually around the corner from the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul — Pakistan’s West Point, where future General Kayanis and General Pashas are learning to be officers. It doesn’t take 40 minutes to start to scramble planes, or get troops to Abbottabad, and there is no getting into the town by land or air without the expressed consent of Pakistan’s security establishment. This may not have been an official joint operation, but it was almost certainly a collective effort.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that much of the contradictory information coming out of Pakistan may be intended to quell public concerns in a country where a sensationalist media has stoked deep suspicions of American operations, and the Raymond Davis fiasco is still fresh in the public memory, a position reiterated by Karen Brulliart and Debbi Wilgoren in today’s Washington Post.

In comments that seemed directed toward the Pakistani public, much of which disapproves of any type of cooperation with the United States, Pakistan “categorically” denied local media reports that it was given notice about the raid and its air bases had been used.

While public opinion in Pakistan may be suspicious of US motives, Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, has been a staunch defender of democracy. Echoing the sentiments of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, President Zardari wrote in the Washington Post today that democracy is the best weapon against terrorism.

My government endorses the words of President Obama and appreciates the credit he gave us Sunday night for the successful operation in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. We also applaud and endorse the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that we must “press forward, bolstering our partnerships, strengthening our networks, investing in a positive vision of peace and progress, and relentlessly pursuing the murderers who target innocent people.” We have not yet won this war, but we now clearly can see the beginning of the end, and the kind of South and Central Asia that lies in our future.

A freely elected democratic government, with the support and mandate of the people, working with democracies all over the world, is determined to build a viable, economic prosperous Pakistan that is a model to the entire Islamic world on what can be accomplished in giving hope to our people and opportunity to our children. We can become everything that al-Qaeda and the Taliban most fear — a vision of a modern Islamic future. Our people, our government, our military, our intelligence agencies are very much united. Some abroad insist that this is not the case, but they are wrong. Pakistanis are united.

Perhaps it is due to the sincerity of President Zardari’s convictions that President Obama spoke of US-Pakistan cooperation as an essential component in the fight against terrorism during his historic address to the nation on Sunday night.

But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

That’s also why suggestions that Congress may cut aid to Pakistan are self-defeating. Indiscriminate and unaccountable aid such as was practiced during the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations can lead to unintended consequences. But so can severing ties, such as occurred under President George H.W. Bush. Cutting assistance to Pakistan would jeopardize existing intelligence and security collaboration when we should be working to strengthen pro-democracy leaders and institutions in Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden was not discovered overnight. It took years of intelligence sharing and coordination between the US and Pakistan, and White House officials made clear that Pakistan’s help was integral to the success of the mission. What has gone too long unsaid, however, is that it took the election of a democratic government to reach the level of cooperation necessary to discover and eliminate the world’s most notorious terrorist. But the struggle to define Pakistan’s future continues. Militant leader Hafiz Saeed has publicly prayed for Osama bin Laden, while the Pakistani Taliban has declared war on the Pakistani state. This is a defining moment for Pakistan that underscores the vital importance of supporting Pakistan’s democratic movement.

Sherry Rehman (PPP) Speaks Out Against Grant to Banned Group

Member of National Assembly Sherry Rehman (PPP)

Jama’atud Dawa purports to be a charity organization in Pakistan, though it is well known to be a front group for the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba. Banned by the Pakistani government, its leader Hafiz Saeed has been in and out of custody over the past few years due to his suspected involvement in terrorist acts including the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Despite the organization’s banned status, however, the government of Punjab recently awarded the group a grand of Rs 82 Million ($959,500). Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Sherry Rehman (PPP) is furious.

According to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper, the ruling-party lawmaker is fed up with ‘mollycoddling’ of terrorists, and wants to put a stop to this sort of passive support for terrorist groups.

“The country can no longer afford this mollycoddling of terrorists, and Punjab is fast becoming a victim of its own ambiguity. There can be no military operation against terrorists in Punjab, but there must and should be a police sweep, with enough evidence to obtain convictions through our courts,” she added.

“Instead of building police capacity to throw such a dragnet around terrorists, who openly hold rallies in the streets of Lahore and Rawalpindi, we see money being doled out of the tax-payers pockets through the annual budgetary exercise. If this is not pampering a banned outfit, what is?” asked Rehman.

Sadly, this is not the first example of the ambiguity towards terrorism by the Punjab government referred to by MNA Rehman. In March of this year, Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif (PML-N) caused widespread outrage in the country when he asked the Taliban to “spare Punjab,” which many saw as requesting a separate peace with terrorists.

The statement, mainly for its parochial overtone, also came as a rude shock to those who otherwise have their reservations about the army’s efforts to eliminate Taliban, Al-Qaeda and foreign militants from the country’s lawless tribal region.

While Punjab Governor Salman Taseer — for obvious reasons — was the first to denounce the chief minister and accuse him of being an ally of the Taliban, many others thought Shahbaz Sharif’s appeal to the Taliban to “spare Punjab” amounted to justifying terrorist attacks in the rest of the country.

Noting that such support for , Sherry Rehman has demanded the Punjab government to take back the grant and focus on removing the practices and institutions that allow terrorist and terror-sympathetic groups to operate in Pakistan.