Days ahead of expected talks with India, Pakistan has taken the significant step of booking Hafiz Saeed, founder-leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawah, under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act.
Police in Faisalabad are reported to have registered two separate cases against Mr. Saeed on Wednesday.
Mr. Saeed has not yet been arrested, and has not let the cases cramp his style. On Friday he addressed jumma prayers at the University ground opposite the Jamia Masjid Qudsia, the JuD’s main office in Lahore’s Chauburji area.
Details of the FIRs are not available but one of the cases is said to implicate Mr. Saeed in offences relating to glorifying jihad and the other to raising funds for jihad at an “unlawful congregation” during an August 26-27 visit he made to the textile city located in central Punjab, 130 km from Lahore.
He has been booked at two separate police stations in the city where he attended two different gatherings — an iftar dinner on August 26 hosted by a supporter, Chaudhary Nisar Ahmed, and a gathering of JuD activists at a local hotel the next day.
Apprehending arrest or house arrest, Mr. Saeed has been in touch with his lawyers since the registration of the cases against him.
This is the first time since the banning of the Lashkar-e-Taiba by the Musharraf regime in 2002 that Pakistan has invoked its anti-terrorism law against the militant group’s leader.
Even though it remains unclear how far the government will take these cases against Mr. Saeed, this is the first official acknowledgement that his activities can be linked to terrorism.
Until now, the Maintenance of Public Order ordinance was the only law invoked against him.
Four times since 2002, including after the Mumbai attacks, he was placed under house arrest under this preventive law.
Pakistan’s latest move comes days ahead of two rounds of expected talks with India on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.