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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2643

“Hardened criminal” Hafeez Saeed “roams in Pak, raises India’s hackles

By Malladi Rama Rao in New Delhi
New Delhi, 16 September, (Asiantribune.com):

For the second time in his innings here as Pak envoy Abdul Basit has contributed to a “downslide” in the India-Pak relations by raising India’s hackles.

At a trade chamber meet on “Indo-Pak Economic Growth”, Monday, he spoke eloquently about bilateral trade prospects and declared that Islamabad was planning for the revival of dialogue process.

And then when asked about Hafeez Saeed, he replied in a matter of fact tone: “'Hafiz Saeed is a Pakistan national, he is free to roam around (in Pakistan)”.

Minutes later Indian Foreign Office reacted strongly.

It dimmed the prospect of Delhi- Islamabad dialogue and huge trade volumes about which Basit was sounding so confident. He had even stated that he was in close contact with a few private business houses “which are keen to tap Pakistani's coal reserves for India's fuel-starved power sector”.

Diplomatic observers are not surprised either at Baist’s assertion or Delhi’s reaction.

And this is for the second time Basit has contributed a flash point in India-Pak ties; the first was when he met separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders on the eve of Foreign Secretary level talks in August. Delhi had advised him not to meet the Hurriyat and yet he went ahead with his appointment. Reacting angrily, India cancelled the FS level talks.

While what the Pak high commissioner has said about the freedom Hafeez Saeed enjoys to roam around freely in the land of the pure is factually correct, Indian Foreign Office comment that the Lashkar –e-Toiba chief is a hardened criminal is equally factual.

Hafez Saeed stands accused by India and America as the master mind of the 26/11 attack on Indian financial capital, Mumbai in 2008. He has not been arrested despite massive evidence against Saeed and his group which was provided by India and the US as well. Washington has put him on the banned list.

Since he has not been arrested, Hafeez Saeed moves around Pakistan with unfettered freedom, ranting against India and the US. His latest theme is that India has released excess flood waters in common rivers into Pakistan and has thus caused massive floods in Punjab – his home province.

For him, the US is the eternal enemy though Washington is the biggest source of money and weapons to the Pak Army in the war on terrorism.

Said Syed Akbaruddin, Indian FO spokesman, “'Our views on Hafiz Saeed are very clear. He is evil mastermind of the attacks on Mumbai. He is one of the accused in an Indian court of killing on the streets of Mumbai. We have repeatedly asked Pakistan that he should be apprehended and taken to law and judicial process, alas he has never been arrested on account of 26/11”.'

He went on to say: “'Pakistan always says that information was not provided by India and because of this they are unable to take any action (against Saeed), my answer to this is that the 99 per cent of evidence in this case is in Pakistan, because the entire conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan, the planning for this dastardly act was done in Pakistan, financing of this was undertaken in Pakistan and the people who were involved all came from Pakistan. Therefore, it devolves on Pakistan to ensure that criminals like Hafiz Saeed are brought to books and justice is delivered”.

A US Senate Committee was told early this month that the LeT poses a serious threat to western interests and India as well even while Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as Pakistan Taliban remains a significant threat in Pakistan despite the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan.

“LeT also provides training to Pakistani and western militants, some of whom could plot terrorist attacks in the west without direction from LeT leadership”, the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs was told on Sept 10 during a hearing on "Cyber Security, Terrorism and Beyond: Addressing Evolving Threats to the Homeland”.

US National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) deputy director Nicholas Rasmussen told the Senators that LeT, TTP, the Haqqani network and other Pakistani and Afghan militant groups continue to pose a direct threat to US interests and its allies in the region, where these groups probably will remain focused.

NCTC is a US government agency responsible for national and international counterterrorism efforts. It monitors if any terrorist groups, networks, or individuals in Pakistan are actively pursuing or have decided to incorporate operations outside of South Asia as a strategy to achieve their objectives.

Elaborating on Lashkar-e-Taiba, Rasmussen said: “Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is against improving relations between India and Pakistan, and its leaders consistently speak out against India and the United States, accusing both countries of trying to destabilise Pakistan”.

The LeT had attacked western interests in South Asia in pursuit of its regional objectives, he said and recalled the targeting of hotels frequented by westerners during the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

According to him, the LeT leaders “almost certainly” recognise that an attack on the US would result in intense international backlash against Pakistan and “endanger the group's safe haven” in that country.

Yet, it has been providing training to Pakistani and western militants, he said amidst reports that LeT had provided training to ISIS militants at its camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan Punjab and PoK.

- Asian Tribune –

Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed.
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