File photo of Hafiz Saeed. Photograph:( Reuters )
In the 1990s, Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), one of the largest and best-funded Islamist militant organisations in South Asia.
The United Nations in 2008 described the 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or Army of the Pure, which the United States and India blame for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
In the 1990s, Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), one of the largest and best-funded Islamist militant organisations in South Asia. He abandoned its leadership after India accused it and another militant group of being behind an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001.
The LeT was nurtured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency to fight Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir and analysts say it is still unofficially tolerated by Pakistan, though it was banned there in 2002.
JuD continued to operate openly in Pakistan with its leaders holding public rallies and interviews until this week when Pakistan banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat (FiF) by issuing a United Nations Security Council (Freezing and Seizure) Order (SRO), 2019.
The ban comes as Pakistan faces international pressure to act against militant groups, amid escalating tension with India, following the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir which killed over 40 CRPF personnel.
Saeed denies being the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks and says he has no links to militant violence. He maintains that the two charities - the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) - are vital for helping the poor and have no militant ties.
Saeed has been placed under house arrest several times over the past decade but he has always been released after a few months and has mostly been living freely in Pakistan, to the anger of both India and the United States.
The United States has repeatedly complained about Pakistan's failure to shut down the charities it deems "terrorist fronts" for LeT.
“In December 2001, the Department of State designated LET as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. Since the original designation occurred, LET has repeatedly changed its name in an effort to avoid sanctions,” US State Department said in a statement in 2014.
“More specifically, LET created Jama’at-ud-Dawa as a front organisation, claiming that the group was an ‘organisation for the preaching of Islam, politics, and social work’,” the statement was reported by news agency Reuters.
In 2012, the United States offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, who founded LET. He claims he has long abandoned its leadership and now heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
Pakistan has long banned the LeT but for many years allowed its charity wings to operate an extensive network including 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services.
Pakistan last year banned the two charities but the order was temporary and it lapsed.
Pakistan has also been placed on an international watchlist for failing to curb terrorist financing.