If you want to see just how serious Pakistan is about fighting terrorism, look no further than the way the country treats Lashkar-e-Taiba emir Hafiz Saeed. Just days after the US put out a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest and prosecution, an unnamed Pakistani counterterrorism official wants you to believe that Saeed is actually a good guy who is helping to de-radicalize Islamist terrorists in Pakistan. Seriously. From Reuters:
“Hafiz Saeed has agreed with the Punjab government program of de-radicalization and rehabilitation of former jihadis and extended full cooperation,” the counter-terrorism official told Reuters.
The counter-terrorism official said that Saeed had not been paid for his de-radicalization activities.
A senior police official in Punjab province, who is closely involved with investigations into militant activity, confirmed that Saeed and his supporters were helping efforts to transform militants into law-abiding citizens.
“Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) were consulted, and they approved the de-radicalization plan. They assured us of their intellectual input and resource materials. They also offered teachers,” he told Reuters, referring to the charity Saeed heads.
The bounty highlighted the divide between the United States’ direct approach to tackling militancy, and strategies employed by Pakistan, a nuclear-armed South Asian nation seen as critical to U.S. efforts to pacifying Afghanistan.
While Pakistan has mounted offensives against militant groups like the homegrown Taliban, it also contends other tactics such as de-radicalization are vital to sustaining battlefield gains.
Yahya Mujahid, the JuD spokesman, said the group had not participated in the de-radicalization program.
Hafiz Khalid Waleed, another senior JuD member, declined to comment on whether the Islamist leader had been directly assisting the government in de-radicalization.
But he said Saeed and his followers were promoting non-violence.
“Hafiz Saeed was one of the first religious leaders to denounce militancy and suicide bombings,” said Waleed. “Our schools and madrassas (religious seminaries) are urging peace.”
The Pakistani official doesn’t tell you when Saeed decided it was time to “de-radicalize” jihadists. Was it after he cooperated with Osama bin Laden to plot and execute the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008? Or was it after he publicly praised Osama bin Laden following the killing of the al Qaeda emir by US Navy SEALs, when Saeed said, “Osama bin Laden has rendered great sacrifices for Islam and Muslims, and these will always be remembered,” as Saeed’s followers chanted “Down with America” and “Down with Obama”? We’re curious.
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