Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Muhammad Hafiz Saeed, who carries a reward of $10 million on his head for his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, is attempting an image makeover through “charity work” done by Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD), an organisation he heads. Indian security officials are of the view Hafiz Saeed is using the platform to gain acceptance as a social worker and political leader in Pakistan and worldwide.
Last week, Saeed along with the chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin, caught people’s attention in Pakistan with his anti-India march named “Kashmir Caravan” that travelled from Lahore to Islamabad. The march held under the banner of JuD coincided with the “Black Day” that had been announced by the Pakistan government to express “solidarity” with Kashmiris.
Abdul Rehman, the social media head of JuD, told The Sunday Guardian that more than 2,000 buses and 4,000 four-wheelers were seen in the rally. “More than 20 buses carrying those who were supporting the Kashmiri cause came from Karachi, which is 1,500 km away, 20 came from Quetta, 300 from Lahore, 200 each from Faisalabad and Gujranwala,” he said.
Officials in India’s security establishment, who have been following Hafiz Saeed, said that the latter is now trying to promote himself as a “political representative” of the “oppressed Kashmiris” in Pakistan, as this is one issue which gets a lot of traction among the fundamentalists in Pakistan.
“The march happened in the middle of Islamabad in full public view with advance information. Can a terrorist carrying a million dollar bounty on his head do this without the patronage of government officials in Pakistan itself? There is a clear message that a certain section in the Pakistani government is propping him up as a popular voice to continue the disturbance in Kashmir. If you look at the statements that he has been making, it clearly means that he is standing up against the government of Pakistan. He cannot do that without the support of the Pakistan army. He also needs public support and the support of the traditional Islamic parties of Pakistan to stay out of prison in case Pakistan suddenly realises that he is a terrorist,” an official said.
While speaking in front a huge crowd, Saeed asked the Pakistani government to take a “strong decision” and to “reverse policies” concerning India. “He is speaking on behalf of the hardliners who do not want peace with India. His objective is to assume a voice to decide the internal policies of Pakistan,” the official added.