By Khaled Ahmed
February 11, 2017
It was not long ago when he funded and organised a cleric-dominated Defence of Pakistan Council “long march” of cars from Lahore to Islamabad to protest the government’s getting lazy on Kashmir, fortified by the presence of ex-ISI chief General (retd) Hamid Gul riding in one of the Prados. On January 31, Hafiz Saeed of Jamaat-ud-Dawa was “house-arrested” under Section 11-EEE(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1977, and asked to live in his well-appointed Al Qadisiya headquarters before being shifted to the even more comfortable environs of Johar Town in Lahore.
Did Pakistan get scared of President Donald Trump, who may put Pakistan on the blacklist of countries in the International Cooperative Review Group (ICRG) and impose trade sanctions? No, an army spokesman said, the decision was taken in “national interest”, not under UN Resolution 1267 which lists Hafiz Saeed as a terrorist. Maverick TV host Shahid Masood appeared on the anti-government BOL TV channel to opine that Hafiz Saeed was, in fact, respectfully asked to accept security against planned attacks, coming, according to intercepted messages, from Afghanistan — read Taliban, funded by India — to get rid him. Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Centre wrote in Dawn (February 1) that it was really China that wanted Saeed in the jug, fearing his mindless vituperation against India might jeopardise the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
In the early 2000s, Saeed was asked to temporarily stay at home by the-then ruling General Pervez Musharraf, a request Saeed didn’t like; today, Musharraf is in exile, running away from a treason trial in Pakistan. And Saeed is today the most powerful man running charities and educational facilities all over Pakistan. He has networks in 260 cities across the country; his Falah-e-Insaaniyat Foundation (FIF) — declared terrorist by the US — is the largest NGO in Pakistan.
The Karachi headquarters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa is spread over 2.5 acres of land worth billions of rupees. Guarded by armed men, the complex is located opposite the Safari park at University Road. Saeed employs 245 professors, 523 doctors and 1,942 members of paramedical staff associated with the FIF, to say nothing of the manpower in his colleges and kindergartens, topped by a university in Karachi. The foundation is running 35 different operations across the country. It includes hospitals, dispensaries, disaster management, ambulance services, medical camps, food management, coffin carriers, fire tenders, first-aid rescue, water rescue, water projects, blood banks, a blood donor society, vaccination programmes, laboratories, save vision, distribution of sacrificial meat, distribution of clothes, blankets and bedding, prisoners’ programmes, technical courses and rescue and training workshops.
The team of FIF volunteers was the first to reach the site of the recently crashed PIA aircraft near Abbottabad. It is present in the Tharparkar desert, digging wells for a thirsty Hindu community, and in Balochistan’s terrorist-haunted districts. Jamaat-ud-Dawa has 2,00,000 men ready to obey all commands and one wouldn’t be far wrong in surmising that he could run Pakistan better than the politicians — and win all the wars with India.
Anyone who has visited his headquarters on old Lake Road in Lahore would note the name he’s given to the place: Masjid Qadisiya, insultingly, after Qadisiya where Islam defeated Iran in the early days of the faith. Hafiz Saeed is Ahle Hadith, or Wahhabi in common parlance, educated in Saudi Arabia — some say he has a Saudi wife — and is supposed to have met up with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s founder Abdullah Azzam there. When the two shifted to Peshawar to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Saeed opened his own Dawat wal-Irshad Jihadi office next to their office. (Later, Irshad morphed into Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is now a terrorist outfit still killing people in Afghanistan.)
Confessions by Ajmal Kasab — the boy from near Lahore who was one of the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008 — dubbed Saeed as the mind behind the 26/11 assault that killed over 160 innocent people. The UN declared Lashkar-e-Taiba as a terrorist organisation, but Saeed changed the name and got the Lahore High Court to declare its newly named version — Jamaat-ud-Dawa — as kosher because of “lack of evidence”. Pakistan was, however, forced to prosecute Hafiz Saeed’s most important lieutenant Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi as the mastermind of the Mumbai attack, only to let him walk because of “lack of evidence”.
The latest outrage was the terrorist attack last year in Uri, which, India determined from the GPS found on the killers, had emanated from a camp inside Pakistan and was carried out by Jamaat-ud-Dawa. As Pakistan denied it, Praveen Swami of The Indian Express published the photo of a poster in October 2016 by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, announcing the funeral in absentia of the “martyr” of the Uri attack, at Gujranwala.
It said: “We will pray for Muhammad Anas alias Abu Saraqa who killed 177 Hindu soldiers at Uri and the Janaza will be addressed by killer-of-pagans Hafiz Saeed.” Pakistan can’t dump Hafiz Saeed because he is too big organisationally and funding-wise. His outreach is comparable to Fethullah Gülen who controls the Turkish mind, but Saeed went one better — successfully running stealth courts handing down punishments, 5,500 cases in Lahore alone, and he takes on India while the politicians are quaking in their shoes.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan