Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the Pakistan based chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), spoke to The Sunday Guardian a day after Pakistan origin American born terrorist and 26/11 Mumbai attack accused David Headley deposed that he was inspired by Saeed to wage jihad against India. Excerpts:
Q: David Headley has stated that he was inspired by you to wage “Jihad” against India. How did you inspire him?
A: There is ongoing propaganda in Indian media that David Headley has been attending my Friday sermons. They should know for a fact that thousands of people offer Friday prayers behind me, and I certainly don’t know all of them.
Q: In my earlier interview, you stated that you would like the Kashmir problem to be settled amicably but you recently expressed your anguish over the Pakistan Prime Minister being “soft” on India. Can you explain the reason for your anger against the Pakistani PM.
A: Nawaz Sharif is a soft spoken person, we are not angry at him. He is the Prime Minister of our country. We are only entitled to send out our advice. In fact, we reserve our anger for the Indian government that is not prepared to listen to Nawaz Sharif who had approached the UN General Assembly over Kashmir, and India did not like it. That means, even the most soft-spoken person like Nawaz Sharif is intolerable for you
Q: You also told me earlier that your statement on Pathankot was misquoted by the media. So what was your actual statement?
A: Kashmiri groups claimed responsibility of the Pathankot attack and openly declared before the world the fact that eight hundred-thousand Indian occupying-forces have subdued the rights of Kashmiris. And in order to let the world know of their plight and suffering, they have taken the responsibility of this attack as they continue to uphold their struggle for freedom. If they are able to reach Pathankot today, they can go anywhere else depending on how India treats them. Therefore, instead of finding new angles for propaganda, and presenting my words in a negative light to create a jingoistic environment, India should pull out its forces from Kashmir.
Q: What are your thoughts about the 26/11 Mumbai attack?
A: With reference to Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s highest courts have already given the verdict that no evidence links Jamat-ud-Dawah or any of its members with the attack. In fact, India has been unable to present any evidence in this regard. Only the media propaganda campaign has been launched to malign me. These are the decisions of the Pakistan Supreme Court. I am sad to see that India, a country that considers itself the world’s largest democracy, is not ready to accept the decision of Pakistan’s highest courts. If India is not ready to respect the decisions of our courts, how does it expect any of us to accept its false assertions?
Q: Don’t you feel that enough lives have been lost on both the sides over Kashmir?
A: Peace is exactly what we demand and we should move towards a peaceful solution. The key to peace remains in India’s hands. If India continues to keep its forces in the Valley — armed bunkers in every nook and corner of the Valley to terrorise innocent people — then how do you expect peace to prevail? If India is sincere, then it should pull out its forces. It is after this has been done that talks will prove fruitful and will lead to a solution regarding the Kashmir issue.
Q: Are you willing to inspire the youth or freedom fighters as you call them, to lay down their arms so that the age-old dispute between the two countries is settled?
A: We do not seek to initiate wars or pursue confrontation; neither are we any sort of warmongers. But India must cease all acts of violence, killings, torture, oppression and inflicting terrorism on the Kashmiri population. Then you may press for any such demands and they shall be accepted. Why else would Kashmiris raise their weapons? There would be no need to do such a thing. When they could not bear further pain and the world did not pay heed to their calls, they had to pick up weapons to defend themselves and the lives and honour of their mothers and sisters
Q: In our last interview, you appeared more as a mature political leader who is willing to walk the talk rather than a terrorist group leader who carries a reward on his head. Is the world going to see a new Hafiz Saeed?
A: I am still the same Hafiz Saeed. The fact of the matter is that I have been constantly maligned with baseless accusations and propaganda that was used to put a reward on my head. I’ve always stood up for peace. I have never called for violence nor did I ever take part in any terrorist activity. We do not seek war, but what we do is raise our voice against the Indian oppression and acts of cruelty. It does not go down well with them and therefore they’ve raised all that hue and cry against me.