ISLAMABAD: The Americans perhaps know about Hafiz Saeed from the Indian perspective but what they don’t know is something they need to know. He is among those religious leaders of Pakistan who consider groups like the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda a danger to the cause of ‘Tableegh’. Thus, to ban him or his group Jammatud Dawa (JuD) may go in favour of the terrorists’ narratives and may not help the war against terrorism.
Islamic scholar, Mufti Naeem was right when he said, “Only the state has a right to issue a Fatwa for Jihad and no group shell be allowed to declare Jihad on its own.” Perhaps that was one of the reasons why Pakistan’s religious parties, like the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), no longer send mujahideen to Afghanistan after 9/11. The policy of the state was pro-Jihad against the Soviet Union, so hundreds and thousands crossed the border. Those were the years when the Mujahideen were the guests of honour of the White House.
An organisation which does not face even a single case under the Anti-Terrorism Act and whose members have never been involved in terrorism, at least within Pakistan, should not be banned. If there is enough evidence of their involvement in terrorism outside Pakistan, the state needs to satisfy the Supreme Court of Pakistan. So you need a strong case if you really want action against Hafiz Saeed or the JuD. What the state needs to define is Jihad and it can take action against those who violate it.
Shaping up the policy and asking all the groups to lay down their arms, should be part of the National Action Plan (NAP). Pakistan always supported the political struggle of the Kashmiri people and should continue to do so because it’s a disputed area. It’s not Pakistan but India which went to the UN. Pakistan can ban the JuD in compliance with UN resolutions but why does India not even want to discuss the UN resolution on Kashmir?
Pakistan this week once again put the JuD on the “watch list,” in compliance with the list of the UN’s proscribed organisations. But in the past the Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed the government’s plea. Chances are if the JuD files a contempt of court appeal in the SC, the government will find itself in an embarrassing position.
There is no case pending against Hafiz Saeed or the JuD in the American courts, but there are at least two cases pending in the American courts, one of which had even caused diplomatic problems for the US government in dealing with the new Indian government. But ignoring these cases, the US President is now on an Indian visit to meet the person who was once not welcomed in the US. The other case related to the Indian extremist group, the RSS, was filed by a Sikh. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents the RSS mindset within the BJP.
But the Americans have accepted the Indian version on Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, and believe that he was behind the 26/11 Mumbai attack. On the one hand, India resists any third country mediation to resolve the Kashmir dispute but on the other, it wants American pressure on Pakistan to stop the alleged infiltration in Indian-held Kashmir.
Therefore, President Obama will face Indian pressure for action against the alleged Pakistan militant groups, particularly the JuD and Hafiz Saeed. Apparently, the Americans looked impressed with the Indian perspective thanks to Pakistan’s poor diplomacy and our failure to present the case in the right perspective.
Americans will be making a mistake if they place Hafiz Saeed in the category of Osama bin Laden, Mulla Omar or Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi. They should not commit the mistake which they had already committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The fact is that terrorism and extremism increased after 9/11. The Americans themselves have admitted these facts but yet they are not looking for means to end terrorism and extremism. Premature decisions and actions have expanded the extremist mindset.
Now, under the American perception which is more India-centric, Hafiz Saeed’s JuD is a terrorist group and it is often mixed up with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT). Now do the Americans know Saeed’s views about Daish, al-Qaeda or even the Taliban? Do the Americans know why Hafiz Saeed is against sectarianism and his men were never involved in the fight against the Nato forces or Americans in Afghanistan?
Who is Hafiz Saeed and what is JuD in a Pakistani perspective?
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, a devoted Muslim and engineer by profession, was the Nazim of the Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT) of the Punjab University old campus in his student days, but did not join the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) because of some ideological differences. Instead, he joined the Engineering University, Lahore as a teacher.
He laid the foundation of JuD in 1986. Initially, it was the Dawatul Irshad. Beside, Tableegh, the purpose of the JuD was to support the Kashmiri Mujahideen groups. Thus, they supported different groups and that included the Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, it’s a misconception that Saeed ever headed the LT or was even a part of its organisational set-up.
JuD always has three clear-cut policy guidelines. (1) It will never vote in the elections as it is against parliamentary democracy. (2) It will never indulge in terrorism in the name of Islam as it damages its cause, and (3) it will support the Jihad-e-Kashmir.
In the last 10 years, the JuD has set up a huge welfare network and it emerged as the most organised welfare group during the 2005 earthquake, in which over 100,000 people had been killed. It also played a significant role during the floods and heavy rains in Balochistan and Sindh.
However, since its formation, the JuD was never found involved in any terrorist activities. On the contrary, it publically condemned 9/11 and even 26/11. So far, its workers have not been found involved in activities like kidnapping for ransom or killing of foreigners in Pakistan. It also considers suicide bombers and the killing of innocent people as against the spirit of Islamic teaching.
“I think those involved in terrorism activities are damaging our cause and they must be stopped,” Saeed once told this scribe adding that the emergence of such outfits had weakened their efforts.
Thus, the recent decision against the JuD has been taken in haste and may not stand in case the group files a contempt of court appeal in the Supreme Court which in the past had declared such a ban illegal.
This scribe is a witness to one such hearing in the Supreme Court when the state filed an appeal against the Lahore High Court decision against Hafiz Saeed and JuD. The state lost the appeal because the state could not provide any document in support of the appeal. The judge asked the then Punjab Advocate General and the former attorney general on which ground the court should accept their appeal. After waiting for a few minutes, the judge repeated his question and then dismissed the appeal.
This scribe once asked former amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the late Qazi Hussain Ahmad, why his party or the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) launched a ‘Jihad’ against the US invasion in Afghanistan, as they were not against the Soviet Union. He said, “Jihad against the Soviet Union was the state policy in the 80s. The same is not the case against the US. Only, the state can give a call for jihad.”
Have the Americans ever found any evidence against the JuD’s involvement in global terrorism? Even prior to 9/11, it was not even against Afghan Taliban.
So what purpose could the UN or US achieve by targeting a group which has never been involved in global terrorism? Those involved in the Mumbai attack must be punished and those involved in the Samjotha express should also be punished.
Pakistan is fighting one of the toughest wars and has already lost 60,000 people. Terrorism in Pakistan and terrorist groups active here are not the result of a self-inflicted injury. The US had a key role in it. It’s time they should “do more” and support Pakistan to eradicate terrorism and extremism. But you need to hit the right target. Hafiz Saeed is not the right person to be hit. He can be more helpful than many others in this fight against terrorism. You just need to understand the person.