As expected the house arrest of Lashkar-e-Tayiba boss, Hafiz Saeed came to an end. Immediately after a Pakistani review board ordered his release from house arrest, Saeed said that he and his followers will ensure that Kashmir is independent.
Disappointing, but on expected lines said a senior official in New Delhi. We will continue to exert pressure to bring the terrorist to justice, the officer also noted.
India has always maintained that the house arrest was a hogwash. It was more like protective than preventive custody.
What makes Saeed, the man with a $10 million bounty on his head, so powerful and why is Pakistan scared of acting against him? Despite all the proof and the heaps of dossiers handed out to Pakistan on Saeed's role in fuelling terrorism, nothing has been done.
India has maintained that Saeed enjoys the support of the Inter-Services Intelligence and his a free spirit in Pakistan. Looking at how the ISI has handled Saeed it is evident that he is one man they would not ever give up, as he holds the key to pushing Pakistan's policy against India.
Born at Sargodha (Punjab province of Pakistan) in 1950 to a Pakistani-Punjabi family, his hatred towards India started to build up when he lost 38 members of his family during the partition of India. His family was based out of Shimla and while migrating to Lahore his family members were killed in the riots.
He was very outspoken and his fiery speeches against India and the Kashmir issue made the Pakistan establishment sit up and take notice. Former Pakistan president General Zia-ul-Haq was the first to spot his abilities and appointed him as a member of the Council on Islamic Study. He also served as an Islamic teacher at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore.
In the 1980s, he left for Saudi Arabia for higher studies where he made his first contact with jihadis, who discussed the war in Afghanistan with him. Saeed was told to join one Professor Zafar Iqbal and asked to dedicate more time to joining the Warriors in Afghanistan against the Russians. To further this agenda Saeed floated the Markaz Dawa Wal Irshad with another member called Abdullah Azzam and a few youths.
The ISI which realised the potential of this group helped Saeed float the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in the 1990s. The primary intention of floating the Lashkar was the carry forward the battle at Kashmir. Saeed had become an inspirational figure, thanks to his oratory skills and this, in turn, helped the Lashkar pick up youth to take up jihad with ease. Saeed's anti-India remarks were an instant hit with the Pakistani youth and the establishment, and over the years, the Lashkar became a force to reckon with.
However, Saeed's war was not restricted to Kashmir alone. He realised that his group required to get more attention, and the best way to do this was to keep hitting key locations in India so that the world took notice.
Saeed probably is the only terrorist in Pakistan who has an unblemished record with the ISI. He is the man who is capable of carrying out the Pakistan agenda against India.
Moreover, he is much loved by the younger recruits who swear by him while taking up the path of Jihad. Indian officials say that the ISI cannot afford to lose him.
Acting tough on Saeed could either weaken the LeT, or the outfit could spin out of control. The ISI would not want something of this sort to happen to it, as it is the only outfit which blindly executes the Pakistan policy against India," says an officer.
Former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, C D Sahay says every group or leader in Pakistan has at least once been on the back burner due to an altercation with the ISI. However, this has not been so in the case of the Lashkar and Saeed.
Saeed had, in fact, helped the Jaish-e-Mohammad carry out the Parliament attack 2001.
After India put pressure on Pakistan, he was placed under house arrest. The next big attack staged by the Lashkar was in July 2006 when they triggered off the train blasts in Mumbai. He was kept under arrest for a month and later released after the Lahore high court cleared him. He was once again arrested, but only to be acquitted.
It was after the 26/11 attack, India made a formal appeal to the United Nations Security Council to put Saeed under the watch list. India, in its appeal, said that Saeed had stage-managed the attack and till date continues to be a key player against India. The appeal also stated that the LeT runs at least 2,500 offices to pursue its agenda against India.
He was placed under house arrest once again. However, the courts in Pakistan, while ordering his release, termed the arrest as unconstitutional. After this episode, there was an Interpol Red Corner alert against him, following which he was once again placed under house arrest. The court however cleared him while stating that one cannot brutalise the law in the name of terrorism.