ISLAMABAD: There is nothing new in the Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson’s declaration about freezing of the Jamaatud Daawa (JuD) assets and placing travel restrictions on Hafiz Saeed since these measures had been announced by the then PPP government six years ago, way back in December 2008, when the United Nations Security Council had listed the JuD as a global terrorist organisation following the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
However, despite bewildering media reports, the fact remains that no fresh steps have been taken against the JuD, which is still being kept on the watchlist of the Ministry of Interior and has not yet been included in the list of the banned organisations by the Pakistan
government. At her January 22 briefing in Islamabad, the FO spokesperson, Tasneem Aslam, had refused to confirm the proscription of the Jamaatud Daawa and the Haqqani Network, adding that Pakistan, as a responsible member of the United Nations Security Council, was required to act against those included in the UNSC sanctions list. And as such, the Pakistan government immediately complied with the UNSC sanctions against the JuD after it was tagged as a global terrorist organisation because addition of entities and individuals to the sanctions list requires member states to freeze their assets and ban their international travel. Her statement clearly implied that the restrictions she had mentioned were actually placed against the JuD by the Pakistan government six years ago.
Approached for comments, a senior official of the Ministry of Interior said on condition of anonymity that the restrictions mentioned by the FO spokesperson against the JuD had actually been slapped by the PPP government on December 10, 2008 after the UNSC had declared it a terrorist organisation while describing it as the frontal organisation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba as part of the Resolution 1267, which is also known as the al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee. The official reminded that the UNSC al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee also declared Hafiz Saeed a terrorist in the wake of his group’s alleged role in Mumbai attacks. The UNSC Sanctions Committee had also designated as terrorists three other LeT men – Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, chief operational commander of the group, Haji Muhammad Ashraf, the chief of the LeT’s finances and Mahmoud Ahmed Bahaziq, a Saudi national who used to raise money for the LeT. In a subsequent crackdown in the second week of December 2008, Hafiz Saeed and Zaki Lakhvi were arrested.
Following the last week’s media reports about the banning of the JuD and the HN, the US State Department spokesperson had praised [on January 17] the move as an important step towards eliminating terrorist activities in Pakistan. But some latest developments show that no such ban has been slapped, with the US State Department spokesman Jen Psaki saying on January 23 that the United States has no confirmation on Pakistan’s banning the JuD and HN. Psaki said: “The Pakistan government has made clear in both private conversations and public statements that it is in Pakistan’s own interest to take steps against all militant groups in Pakistan and to not differentiate between such groups”.
Federal Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanvir Hussain had already stated on January 18 in Islamabad that there was no reason to ban the Jamaatud Daawa, since it is not a terrorist organization but rather an Islamic charity. “The Pakistan government has no evidence against Hafiz Mohammad Saeed or his group. “Hafiz Saeed has every right to address public rallies. India or the United States should furnish convincing evidence against them if they want Pakistan to take an action. The JuD does not have a military wing and it is only preaching the message of Islam. The Lashkar-e-Taiba is banned in Pakistan and we have not found any linkages between the JuD and LeT,” the minister said while adding that he was supportive of the JuD’s stance on freeing Kashmir from India.
Then on January 20, a senior official of the Ministry of Interior formally said for the first time a Senate Standing Committee [which met under the chairmanship of Senator Talha Mahmood] that the JuD and the HN have not yet been banned by Pakistan. In response to a question asked by Mukhtar Dhamra on the status of the two militant organisations, Mohammad Asghar Chaudhry, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior: “The JuD is on the watchlist of the Ministry of Interior and it has not been banned.” The interior ministry official said that there are 62 banned militant organisations on the list of Ministry of Interior and the Jamaatud Daawa and the Haqqani Network have not yet been added by the government to the list of the banned organisations.
On the other hand, Yahya Mujahid, the JuD spokesman, has made it clear that it would continue its religious preaching and welfare activities across Pakistan despite various statements being given to please India under the American pressure. “There were various matters related to sanctions on the JuD by the United Nations, under proceedings in the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the past. But in their verdicts, the courts had declared that such sanctions didn’t apply to Jamaatud Daawa in Pakistan. Therefore, it was allowed to continue its preaching and welfare activities in Pakistan,” Yahya said. He added that if the government decided to take any fresh action against JuD’s charity’s work, the organisation would move the apex court, which had given it a clean chit in the past.
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court upheld in May 2010 a Lahore High Court order of releasing Hafiz Saeed who had been arrested after the Mumbai attacks. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk had dismissed the appeals filed by the federal and Punjab governments citing their failure to produce incriminating evidence against Hafiz Saeed for his role in the 26/11 attack. Justice Mulk had observed that Saeed was neither a convicted person nor under detention but had been in preventive custody since December 12, 2008. “We can’t allow detention on speculations since our Constitution guarantees certain rights to people like liberty and access to fair trial,” so said Justice Jawwad Khwaja, a member of the bench, while hearing the same case.
In fact, despite the sanctions imposed by Pakistan government in line with the UNSC resolution 1267, the JuD is freely carrying out all its preaching, charity and fundraising activities using the name of the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF); a charity organisation which too was banned by the government. At the same time, over three dozen Punjab police commandoes continue to provide security cover to Hafiz Saeed due to security threats he faces ever since the United States put $10 million head money in April 2012 on information leading to arrest. Instead of adopting a low profile after the head money proclamation, Hafiz Saeed had addressed a press conference in Rawalpindi on April 4, 2012, and dared the US to carry out a military raid against him like the one that killed bin Laden. The JuD Ameer then taunted the Americans: “The Americans seriously lack information. Don’t they know where I go and where I live and what I do?” Then he had simply shrugged off the American action against him, stating: “Catch me if you can”.