Terrorists have families too, and those families must be ‘supported’. Possibly with the help of the State, despite the international pressure and despite the repeated promises to severe all the links with terrorist groups.
So, in August, while claiming to have arrested chiefs and members of different terrorist groups and freezing their financial assets, the Pakistani government appealed to the United Nations, asking the international organisation to allow a monthly 'pension' to Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, because the founder of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa needs to ‘support’ his family.
Why is Mohammed Hafiz Saeed Still Openly Giving Friday Sermons?
The same request — and this did not make headlines — had been made for Yahya Mujahid (Spokesperson JuD), Zafar Iqbal (Head of Education Wing), Haji Ashraf (Finance Wing) and Muhammad Bhutvi (Finance Wing). Pakistan had claimed to have arrested the above four men, and to have arrested Hafiz Mohammad Saeed as well, and that their bank accounts were frozen. Immediately after, the government asked one lakh Pakistani rupees allowance for each of them to ‘support’ their families — and placed them not in jail but in comfortable rooms at Markaz Al Qadsia in Lahore, where they are free to go on with their activities.
And while FATF in Paris was playing with all the fifty shades of grey to keep Pakistan out of the blacklist, the so-called ‘banned’ organisations and the ‘convicted’ terrorists were busy — very busy — freely carrying out their activities as usual.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has been openly giving Friday sermons at Markaz Al Qadsia and meeting JuD high ranks at his residence in Johar Town, Lahore. Where I remember ISI people guarding and protecting his house and his family, and personal guards armed with guns inside the house. Nothing has changed since then, it seems.
To Avoid FATF Scrutiny, Jamaat-ud-Dawa is ‘Selling Tea’
The man placed on all the international terror lists is free as usual to meet his people and go on with his terror activities. He visited Sialkot in the past weeks to attend a JuD meeting, despite being 'arrested'. According to locals, even Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, deputy Amir of LeT/JuD, made a public appearance a few days ago, for the first time after five months, and delivered a speech at Markaz Al Qadsia.
This place — from where I’ve seen huge cars with darkened windows belonging to preeminent politicians going in and out — is a so-called ‘madrasa complex’ in the middle of Lahore.
Interestingly enough, last year, the Government of Punjab claimed it had taken over the Jamaat-ud-Dawa's famous Muridke Markaz and Lahore's headquarters of Masjid Al Qadsia in Chauburji — but none of the organisations ever left the place or stopped giving sermons there. Nor were they stopped from collecting money to finance their activities. Locals say that, after the banning of the JuD and its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniyat (FIF) by the Pakistan government in March 2019, the JuD has been collecting funds by directly approaching wealthy donors.
In order to avoid FATF scrutiny, the JuD has also resorted to door-to door sale of tea (Black Gold Chai). While selling the tea, the buyers are encouraged to pay more for the ‘cause of Kashmir’. And Kashmir has been the main focus of the activities of these 'banned' groups over the past two months.
‘Charity’ for Kashmir
At least two public meetings have been held in less than a month regarding Kashmir — the first was to discuss the formation and functioning of local ‘Kashmir Committees’. Following the instructions given by Hafiz Masood, brother of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed in a sermon calling for the unity of all Jamaat for the Kashmir cause, the local committees have been instructed to organise protests and street rallies every Friday.
And, of course, to collect money. Fund-raising has been organised in Gujranwala, events attended by prominent businessmen of the area, who are then urged to donate in support of the JuD's efforts in Kashmir, and to show solidarity for the Kashmiri people. And if somebody thinks all these meetings are for charity and social work, they should think again and stop being delusional.
Money Collected Is Not for Families, But For Kashmir ‘Solution’ — ‘Jihad, Jihad, Jihad’
The money collected by all these organisations, all of them on international terror lists, are not to support people, but to execute the only ‘solution’ that, according to Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, they have for Kashmir: “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad”. He has been saying it openly at public rallies and in Friday sermons, in recorded interviews and in TV shows. LeT has been getting people from across the border, training jihadis and managing lethal terror operations all over India. They have a global jihad agenda shared with the so-called ‘Deep State’ and they will not stop, despite any claims, their terror activities. With the blessings of the State, the ‘official’ one.
In fact, in September, Imran Khan awarded the ‘Ideal Student Award’ to a student of Jamia Al Dirasat Al Islamia, Karachi.
His 'ideal student' comes from an institute which is a front for JuD and is deeply involved in radicalisation and recruitment for the group. The world should stop playing with the Pantone palette of grey shades and acknowledge reality: there's only one colour for Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and his people, and that color is midnight black.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)