The Jama’at-ud-Da’wah leader has been convicted of financing terrorism. But who finances Hafiz Saeed?
by Massimo Introvigne
On April 8, Muhammad Hafiz Saeed, who was already in jail since July 17, 2019, for other charges, was sentenced by a special anti-terrorism court in Lahore, Pakistan, to a jail term of 33 years for “financing terrorism.” Saeed is 71 and, unless freed by one of the Pakistani amnesties, this means he will presumably die in jail.
There is little doubt that Saeed not only financed terrorism, but is a terrorist himself. He is a co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is listed as a terrorist organization both by the United States and the European Union, and was responsible among others for the bloody 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. The United States had placed a bounty of $10 million on his head.
In recent years, Saeed devoted most of his time to Jama’at-ud-Da’wah, the political organization he founded. Although widely regarded as the political branch of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Saeed claimed its aims were purely political and it did not support military operations. The Lahore court thought otherwise.
A particularly opaque area concerns the relationship between Saeed and al Qaeda. While the U.S. have suspected Saeed of being an al Qaeda affiliate, Pakistan believes that he in fact helped the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) to arrest or eliminate senior al Qaeda leaders.
Here precisely lie the problems not solved by the Lahore decision. The court established that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization, was financed by Saeed and his political group Jama’at-ud-Da’wah. The further question, however, is who finances Saeed and Jama’at-ud-Da’wah. This is a subject the court did not want to explore.
Saeed’s terrorist activity has mostly targeted India. His was almost a single-issue terrorist organization, focusing on Kashmir. Many are persuaded, in Pakistan and abroad, that Saeed has consistently been a tool of ISI, and ISI has financed and trained those in Saeed’s terror network.
Until these complicities, which reach out to the highest echelons of Pakistani politics, are investigated and exposed, the well-publicized trials of a few old terrorist leaders will not solve the problem, and terrorism will continue.