One day after Pakistan freed Hafiz Saeed, the emir of al Qaeda and Taliban-allied terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani government claimed its resolve to fight against terrorists “is unmatched in the world.”
Saeed was freed from house arrest after the Lahore High Court determined that his release would not “bring diplomatic and financial problems to the country,” Dawn reported. The Lashkar-e-Taiba leader was put under house arrest on Jan. 31. The US government has listed Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and issued a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest and capture. Lashkar-e-Taiba – which is now known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa – and several of its charitable fronts have been listed as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The Lahore High Court decided to release Saeed one week after US Congress, in its 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, removed the condition that Pakistan must take action against Lashkar-e-Taiba in order for cash from the Coalition Support Fund to be disbursed to the Pakistani government.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that Pakistan does not support terrorist organizations and takes the lead in fighting them while it rebuffed India’s protests over the release of Saeed.
“Pakistan’s resolve, actions and successes in the fight against terrorism, terrorist violence and terrorists is unmatched in the world,” a statement by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “Pakistan condemns and opposes all forms of terrorism by any individual or group.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs then accused India of conducting “acts of terrorism inside Pakistan and elsewhere.”
Pakistan’s denial that it supports and harbors terrorist groups is laughable. Last August, after President Donald Trump called out Pakistan and said that the US “can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that terrorist groups operate inside its borders.
Inside Pakistan, LeT operates openly and has offices throughout the country. Markaz-e-Taiba, its headquarters in Muridke near Lahore, is a sprawling complex used to indoctrinate future jihadists before they are sent off for military training. The provincial government of Punjab has financed Markaz-e-Taiba in the past.
LeT has mastered the art of using charitable groups to fundraise as well as promote its message and recruit. Since 2010, the US has identified the following groups as LeT fronts: Falah-i Insaniat Foundation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, Tehrik-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awwal, and Al-Muhammadia Students. These LeT fronts continue to operate inside Pakistan without consequence.
Saeed’s terror organization has been directly linked to numerous terror attacks in South Asia, including the Nov. 2008 terror assault in Mumbai that resulted in the deaths of 165 people. The US and Indian governments have accused Saeed and other Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives and leaders of plotting, financing, and executing the Mumbai attack. A former adviser to President Obama on Afghanistan and Pakistan stated in 2012 that evidence seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound linked the slain al Qaeda emir to the Mumbai attack and Saeed. [See LWJ report, Osama bin Laden helped plan Mumbai attacks.]
Saeed, who formed LeT at the behest of Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor and co-founder of al Qaeda, praised bin Laden after US Navy SEALs killed the al Qaeda emir at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
“Osama bin Laden was a great person who awakened the Muslim world … Martyrdoms are not losses, but are a matter of pride for Muslims,” Saeed proclaimed. “Osama bin Laden has rendered great sacrifices for Islam and Muslims, and these will always be remembered,” Saeed continued, as his followers chanted “Down with America” and “Down with Obama.”
The Pakistani government has protected Saeed, despite his complicity in terror attacks, and has refused to act against his terror network. Saeed is favored not only by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, which provides Lashkar-e-Taiba with direct support, but also by a wide swath of Pakistani civil society. According to the US Department of State, the only “significant action against LeT” taken by Pakistan in 2016 was to continue “implementing an ongoing ban against media coverage of their activities.”