News Analysis |
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan allowed the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Saeed, to continue charity work and public welfare with his Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). The federal government had made an appeal against an interim order of the Lahore High Court that was given in April of this year. The order of the LHC allowed the FIF to continue their activities until a final judgment on JuD and FIF was reached.
The appeal by the federal government sought to uphold government sanctions on FIF under which the properties of JuD and FIF had been seized by the government at the time. Now, a two-judge bench at the apex court, comprising Justice Manzoor Ahmad and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood has rejected the plea made by the interior ministry on behalf of the federal government.
This designation was declared ‘worthless propaganda’ by the Jamaat; which identifies itself as a movement of Islam, politics, social work and public welfare.
The assets of FIF were seized following international pressure to curb militancy and terrorism financing. The Financial Action Task Force, in particular, had ratcheted up the pressure. The plenary meeting of the FATF had decided in February to put Pakistan on the greylist by June of this year. Being on the greylist meant there was a possibility of trade restrictions on Pakistan’s economy, in addition to difficulty in obtaining aid from donor agencies and humanitarian groups.
Hafiz Saeed is widely seen to be the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. And the Jamaat-ud-Dawa is considered by many to be a front group for the banned outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clamping down on the JuD and its affiliate, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, was seen by various analysts as an effort by Islamabad to respond to international pressure.
Hafiz Saeed has become infamous of late. He has been in the spotlight a number of times in recent years. In 2014, the US State Department blacklisted the Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a foreign terrorist organization. Being black-listed meant that any assets JuD had in the US would have been frozen by the US government. This designation was declared ‘worthless propaganda’ by the Jamaat; which identifies itself as a movement of Islam, politics, social work and public welfare. The State Department statement said, ‘LeT created Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a front organization.’
Both New Delhi and Washington express strong reservations against the fact that Hafiz Saeed has not charged with terrorism or imprisoned yet. According to a senior state department official, America ‘shares India’s concern’ that Pakistan continues to allow Mumbai attack ‘mastermind’ Hafiz Saeed to roam free, despite the bounty placed by the US government on his head. In 2012, the US government placed a $10 million bounty on Hafiz Saeed.
In 2018, when the FATF took action on Pakistan for not taking appropriate steps to sufficiently curb money laundering and terrorism financing, the assets of Hafiz Saeed’s charity, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation were seized again.
Back then, the leader of JuD said that the US was being influenced by India. By 2011, the relationship between Pakistan and the US was on free fall. After the Salalah check post incident in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by NATO troops by ‘friendly fire’, NATO supply routes to Afghanistan were blocked by Islamabad. The bounty of Hafiz Saeed’s head was placed in a climate of distrust and misunderstanding between the US and Pakistan.
In a 2014 interview with the BBC, Mr. Saeed said that he had nothing to do with the Mumbai attacks, calling evidence against him ‘just propaganda’ by India. The government of Pakistan has maintained that there is no proof that he has been involved in transnational activities. Indeed, the American government admitted to not having evidence that could lead to the trial of Hafiz Saeed.
In a regular briefing, Mark Toner, US State Department Spokesperson, had to clarify its position in 2012. “We all know where he is. Every journalist in Pakistan and in the region knows how to find him. But we’re looking for information that can be usable to convict him in a court of law,” Toner said. After the 2001 attacks on the Indian parliament, Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest. He was detained again in 2006 for activities that were ‘detrimental’ to relations with other countries.
He was put under house arrest again after the Mumbai terror attacks but released six months later. In 2018, when the FATF took action on Pakistan for not taking appropriate steps to sufficiently curb money laundering and terrorism financing, the assets of Hafiz Saeed’s charity, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation were seized again. His political party, the Mili Muslim League, fielded over 200 provincial and national assembly candidates in the recent general elections in Pakistan.
Hafiz Saeed are necessary to help in the radicalization of former Jihadists and Islamists who are more likely to listen to someone with established credentials as a devout Muslim and social activist.
Now, the Supreme Court seems to have upheld the Lahore High Court’s interim order to allow the FIF to carry on with its charity work. The JuD and the FIF have been a thorn in the Pakistani government’s side as far as public relations are concerned. Walid Abu Ali, the envoy of Palestine to Pakistan, was recalled after he was seen in public with Hafiz Saeed towards the end of last year. The Palestinian Authority described the incident as an “unintended mistake”.
When Saeed is released, there is a hue and cry in the international media, especially from our neighbor to the east. When he is detained or under house arrest, what the government ends up doing is jailing a social worker with a vast network of volunteers that help his Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation. His supporters have argued that people like Hafiz Saeed are necessary to help in the radicalization of former Jihadists and Islamists who are more likely to listen to someone with established credentials as a devout Muslim and social activist.
Read more: India fumes over release of Hafiz Saeed
Now that the FIF will be able to carry its works without restraints or sanctions by the Pakistani government, one can expect a gradual increase in international pressure on Pakistan that might reach its peak in a summit of the FATF or some other international body.