The two cases registered against Hafiz Saeed, founder-leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, by the Punjab police in Pakistan relate to speeches he made in Faisalabad on August 26 and 27 in which he glorified jihad as a war to be waged for and on behalf of Allah, and asked people to unite and participate in it wholeheartedly.
Both cases against Mr. Saeed have been made out under Section 11 F (4) of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, according to which “a person commits an offence [under the Act] if he addresses a meeting, or delivers a sermon to a religious gathering, by any means whether verbal, written, electronic, digital or otherwise, and the purpose of his address or sermon, is to encourage support for a proscribed organisation or to further its activities.”
Neither case is linked to the Mumbai attacks. One case has to do with a Koran preaching session at Royalton Hotel in Faisalabad’s Canal Road early on August 27. An estimated 2,500-3,500 of his followers had gathered for the sermon.
According to the FIR, he is said to have told the gathering that the mark of a good Muslim was “roza [fasting during Ramzan], jihad [holy war], namaz [prayers].”
Saeed said he was once asked by a non-believer what jihad was. His reply: “If a qaum [nation] has taken away what is yours, has occupied your land and suppressed your rights, what would you do? The blow struck by jihad does not come from man, it comes from Allah. He who Allah strikes in this manner cannot rise again. This is why the American economy is in the doldrums today.”
The FIR says donations were also collected from those present.
The other case relates to an iftar he attended at People’s Colony at Jaranwala Road on the evening of August 26. It was hosted by one of his followers, Chaudhary Nisar Ahmed.
Saeed is said to have spoken about the necessity of jihad at this gathering too. The United States, he said, had “staged” 9/11 to use as a pretext for invading Afghanistan and sending NATO troops there, but it had met with failure. Now they are active inside Pakistan.
“India also staged the Mumbai attacks and gave us the label of terrorists. India and Israel are together conspiring against Pakistan’s nuclear capability, but they too have failed in their agenda,” the FIR quotes him as saying.
India was now apprehensive of an American exit from Afghanistan, he said, “because [Indians] are involved in terrorist activities in the North-West Frontier Province and in Balochistan.”
Pakistan was paying the price, the FIR quoted Saeed as saying, for the “U-turn” the previous Musharraf regime and the present government had made on the Kashmir issue.
“The time has come to stand united and come forward to take part in jihad,” he said.
The registration of cases against Saeed under the Anti-Terrorism Act for speaking about jihad is an important step by Pakistan.
It appears to be a signal that Pakistan is willing to act against anti-India groups and to link their jihadi activities to terrorism, a change from the earlier stand that these were “freedom fighters” in the Kashmiri cause.
It is significant that the move came just before the planned meetings of the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
With New Delhi insistent that “credible action” against Saeed would determine the meaningfulness of dialogue with Pakistan, and also giving a dossier to Islamabad on his alleged connection to the Mumbai attacks, plus getting Interpol to put out a red-corner notice for him in the case, the question in India is bound to be why the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawah leader was not booked in the Mumbai case.
Pakistan had indicated it was studying the dossier and at other times, that the information in it was not sufficient for it to take action against him.
But more than anything, it would be practically impossible for the Pakistan government, always mindful of accusations at home of bending to India’s will, to be seen acting against Saeed on New Delhi’s demand.