By Ayesha Zahid
‘Hafiz Saeed’ element is under intense debate in Pakistan as his party has decided to contest for 2018 general elections. It all isn’t as insensitive as it appears to be. Entry of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), which is considered to be sister organisation of banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyabah (LeT), in mainstream Pakistani politics has its own upshots which Pakistan cannot afford to ignore.
JuD launched a party, just before NA-120 by-poll elections, under the banner of Milli Muslim League (MML). The party wanted to contest by-elections from MML but could not do so as the Election Commission of Pakistan didn’t get the party registered. An independent candidate Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh from MML got 4k+ votes in NA 120 by-elections of Sep 17. It’s a big win for a party that has been denied registration from Election Commission of Pakistan. Plus, getting more votes than one of the biggest political parties i: e Pakistan Peoples Party sets the stage for Hafiz Saeed’s political front in Punjab.
It is mandatory to remember that Yaqoob was placed in 2012 on a US Treasury sanctions list of those designated as leaders of terrorist organisations. Moreover in 2015, Under National Action Plan (NAP), bank accounts of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) were frozen and foreign travel restrictions were imposed on Hafiz Saeed. In January 2017, Saeed was detained under Section 11-EEE(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1977. Its charity was included on an interior ministry watch list but wasn’t banned.
We have two different schools of thoughts regarding JuD. The first one is the anti-JuD stance. As per foreign media Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaatud Dawa and Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool are all one side of the same coin run by Hafiz Saeed. Indian talk show Vardaat in January 2015 pronounced Hafiz Saeed as one of the most brutal terrorists and equaled the ban on its activities in Pakistan as mere ‘drama’. It was reported that Pakistan keeps on fluctuating regarding its stance on Hafiz Saeed. At one point he is being called as the non state actor and on the other he becomes a respectable citizen who roams around freely. Arab media Aljazeera highlights the entry of JuD in Pakistani politics as the entrance of Pakistani ‘terrorist’ charity into politics. Foreign media called it as ‘Next Alqaida’. New York Times while reporting on JuD said that Pakistan has cast a benign eye on groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba which is perceived as an asset because its attacks target Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir. The western media highlights how Hafiz Saeed got clean chit by Pakistan courts in 2010 and was later marked as the terrorist organisation by both, the United Nations and United States
The pro-JuD approach states the humanitarian efforts of Falah-e-Insaniyat foundation, a charity under JuD. Hospitals, schools and colleges; aid in the earthquake of 2005; placement of Swat and Malakand IDPs during security operations; aid during the 2010 floods are few of the services carried out by JuD. In 2012, the United States announced a bounty of $10 million on Hafiz Saeed for his alleged role in the Mumbai attack in which six American citizens were also killed. This head money was discouraged by Pakistani politicians including Imran Khan and Musharraf. As per the media reports, Hafiz saeed has been helping the Hindu minorities in Tharparkur, Pakistan. He spoke in favor of all the minorities and against sectarian riots and forced conversions. In his interview before the day of his house arrest he said that Shariah doesn’t allow us the forced conversions of religions. He published books namely: Fitna Khawarij and Fitna Daesh, Reality of Khawarij (reality of pronouncing Muslim as kafir),Daesh and Shariah. All this literature explicitly opposes the activities of daeesh and other extremist organisations.
Whenever interviewed he depicted moderate approach. He has not only attributed it all a mere Indian propaganda but has also proclaimed that Pakistani governments are just under pressure so as to ban him at different times. Saeed believes that politics is a part of religion and all Muslims must be regarded unless of any sectarian boundaries. He has been associated to Osama bin Ladin as he carried out his funeral. He has negated this accusation and says that he did it just because Osama was a Muslim and was thrown away without proper exequies. He has denied any soft corner for him but at the same time criticizes America for not giving him a chance of fair trial. Another pinching point regarding Saeed is his phone call with Burhan Wani. One can hear them discussing the assistance for ‘the right cause’ for each other; this phone call makes him a hero for Kashmir freedom fighters and a criminal for those who considered Wani a terrorist. Saeed believes that India has been forcing Pakistan against him and his house arrest was one of such instances. Saeed who has been popular in Kashmir has once written to Ban Ki-moon, the then Secretary-General of United Nations but received no proper answer. What all he wanted was a fair trial.
It would be too early to reach to the conclusion regarding him. But both the standpoints must be kept in consideration while providing a political front to his party. It’s high time when government measures the aftereffects of this decision on international standing of the country.