February 21, 2017 7:51:56 pm
In an ongoing crackdown against Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, Pakistan has further intensified its operations against him in a sign that the government is serious about nipping this issue in the bud. In a latest move today, Pakistan cancelled licenses of 44 weapons issued to Saeed and other members of his organisations, citing security reasons. An official of the Punjab Home Department said the step has been taken in line with the government’s action against Saeed and his organisations – the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falaha-e-Insanyat (FIF).
WATCH VIDEO | Pakistan’s Defence Minister Under Fire For Branding Hafiz Saeed As ‘Threat To Society’
While international pressure has mounted on Pakistan to act against the JuD chief and activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), it still remains unclear if the move is aimed at a larger crackdown on his jihadi network. For a while now, India has rallied hard for a ‘credible crackdown’ against the terror mastermind, saying only this will prove Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting terrorism.
But this crackdown has a precedent.
It all began in January when the JuD chief in a public address in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) claimed knowledge regarding attacks carried out against the Indian Army in Kashmir. A BBC report had said the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks was addressing Jamaat-ud Dawa activists at an “orientation session” in Muzaffarabad in PoK where he purpotedly claimed four ‘mujahideen’ attacked an Indian military camp near Jammu. He was referring to the late night attack at a camp for the General Reserve Engineer Force in Akhnoor, which killed three Indian labourers.
Shortly after the militant attack on Indian soil, Saeed was placed under ‘house arrest’ in Lahore for a period of 90 days. It’s not clear if the move was the result of the aggression perpetrated by militants in Akhnoor, Jammu and Kashmir. In a rare move, the Pakistan Army, for the first time, supported the civilian government’s action and called the detention a ‘policy decision taken in national interest’.
In a statement to the Pakistani media in Rawalpindi, Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor had clarified, “Jahan tak Hafiz Saeed ke pabandi ka taluk hai, yeh ek policy decision hai jo state ne national interest mein liya (“The detention is a policy decision taken in the national interest by the state).” Immediately after this arrest, JuD spokesperson Yahya Mujahid had told Reuters that the steps were taken to please India. Saeed, on his part, blamed the bonhomie between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump for the action in a video message issued before his arrest.
According to a PTI report, Saeed, who was allowed to address a press conference before being placed under house arrest at his residence in Jauhar Town, Lahore, had said: “My detention order has come from Washington and not Islamabad. If someone thinks that placing me under house arrest will help check the freedom movement in Kashmir, he is living in a fool’s paradise. My arrest will give a fresh impetus to the Kashmiris’ struggle against India.”
Two days after placing him under house arrest, Pakistan put Saeed’s name on the Exit Control List, widening its scope of actions. The letter, forwarded by the Interior Ministry to all provincial governments, included 38 names, preventing them from leaving the country. All of them were said to be linked with JuD or Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Later in February, the Punjab provincial government listed Saeed under Pakistan’s Anti-terrorism Act (ATA), in a tacit acknowledgement of his links to militancy. Pakistani news agency Dawn reported that the Punjab government has included names of Saeed and one of his close aides, Qazi Kashif, in the fourth schedule of the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA). Three other men were also added to the list — Abdullah Obaid from Faisalabad, and Zafar Iqbal and Abdur Rehman Abid from the Markaz-i-Taiba, Muridke. The five men were identified by the Interior Ministry as “active members of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat (FIF),” the report said.
India got another shot in the arm when Pakistan’s Defence Minister openly acknowledged at an international security conference in Munich, Germany that Saeed posed a ‘serious threat’ to the nation and was thus placed under house arrest in the country’s ‘larger interest’. Khwaja Asif told the audience at the conference, “Saeed can pose a serious threat to the society. He was arrested in the larger interest of the country,” he said, according to a report in the Dawn.
The action against Saeed was taken after Pakistan was hit by at least eight terror attacks this month in which more than 100 people died, the latest being a suicide bombing on a famed Sufi shrine in Sindh province that claimed 88 lives.
Meanwhile, India reacted positively to the latest developments against Saeed saying it was a first logical step in getting the region rid of the twin menaces of terrorism and violent extremism. Ministry of External Affairs in a media statement said, “Hafiz Saeed is an international terrorist, the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and responsible for unleashing a wave of terrorism against Pakistan’s neighbours through LeT/JuD and their affiliates. Effective action mandated internationally against him and his terrorist organisations and colleagues is a logical first step in bringing them to justice, and in ridding our region of the twin menaces of terrorism and violent extremism.”
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