Hafiz Saeed: The man behind global terrorism

Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Court has convicted UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed in two terror-financing cases. The court sentenced Saeed for five-years and three-months while a fine of Rs 150,000 was also imposed on Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief in each case.

Let's take a look at his profile:

Hafiz Saeed - The cleric and his conviction

The US and India have accused a hardline cleric named Hafiz Saeed of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He has been a renowned figure in Pakistan since the 2000s, despite his shady background. 

Saeed has slipped in and out of media's radar owing to crackdowns by the government on his organisation Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) and its charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).

Saeed founded the LeT in the 1990s and JuD in 2002. Though he insists his organisation has worked for Islamic welfare, the United States has maintained that the group is a front for militant activities.

(Photograph:Reuters)

The humble beginnings of Hafiz Saeed

Originally from Sargodha, Saeed reportedly obtained a postgraduate degree from Punjab University in Islamic Studies and Arabic. His father and his uncle were religious scholars, the latter eventually became the leader of LeT.

Saeed was appointed as a lecturer at Lahore’s University of Engineering and Technology after graduating from PU in 1974. Saeed travelled to Saudi Arabia for higher studies during his tenure and graduated from King Saud University.

Saeed reportedly joined Abdur Rasul Sayyaf’s training camp in 1979, who was an Afghan mujahid and met Abdullah Azzam, a founding member of Al Qaeda who had also taught Osama bin Laden.

(Photograph:Zee News Network)

Origins of the Lashkar-i-Taiba

LeT loosely translates to ‘The Army of the Pure’ and was founded in the 1980s to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan. They reinvented themselves for “jihad” in occupied Kashmir. 

The popularity of the LeT allegedly rested on its stance on occupied Kashmir and its charitable work, serving as a shield for JuD.

(Photograph:ANI)

Hunt begins with a $10,000,000 bounty

Denying all links to violence, the JuD enjoyed a high degree of popularity within Pakistan for their charitable work. Saeed repeatedly denied his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people, including six Americans.

Washington announced a $10m bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the JuD leader in 2012, despite claims from the target that the bounty was “ridiculous and misguided.”

The US government launched a crackdown against the JuD in early 2017 and placed Saeed under house arrest. Saeed was released in November of the same year after the Lahore High Court refused to extend the period of his confinement.

(Photograph:Zee News Network)

Terror Financing, FATF and end of Hafiz Saeed

FATF warned Pakistan to deliver on its commitments to curb terror financing and money laundering in February 2019, after which the Pakistan government announced a ban on the JuD and the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, the charity arm of the JuD.

JuD chief was arrested again by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in July 2019 while travelling from Lahore to Gujranwala. 23 first information reports (FIRs) had been registered against Saeed and JuD leaders at police stations in Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Faisalabad and Sargodha.

CTD stated that the JuD was financing terrorism from the funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts. Saeed was nominated in about 29 cases of terror financing, money laundering and illegal land grabbing.

The verdict to be announced on February 8 was delayed after the court said it would decide a fresh application filed by the lawyers of Saeed and his associates, since the latest petition by Saeed had demanded that collective verdicts be issued after trials in all the pending cases are concluded. 

Though a prosecutor opposed the application and debated that the court could announce its verdict in cases wherein arguments had been closed, the decision was deferred and arguments on the application were sought from both sides on February 11.

(Photograph:ANI)