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Pakistan Crackdown On Designated Terrorist Who Appeared With Palestinian Envoy

By Arshad Mehmood | The Media Line

January 3, 2018

Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali (CL) raises jointly hands with Hafiz Saeed (CR) and others during an anti-U.S. rally in Rawalpindi
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Islamabad takes action against Hafiz Muhammed Saeed’s Jama’at-ud-Da’wah

ISLAMABAD—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recalled Ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali after he caused a political firestorm by participating in a rally attended by Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, designated as a terrorist by the United States and other countries and international bodies. Washington placed a $10 million bounty on Saeed, co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba and head of its civilian arm Jama’at-ud-Da’wah (JUD), who allegedly masterminded the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 164 civilians, including six Americans.

The PA issued a statement calling Abu Ali’s appearance with Saeed at the demonstration—held against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—an “unintended mistake, but [one that is] not justified.” Abbas thereafter sent for the envoy in response to strong protestations by the Indian government to Islamabad and Ramallah.

India considers Saeed a wanted terrorist because of his association with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which also was implicated in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and the 2001 targeting of India’s parliament. Over the past decade, numerous Indian politicians have demanded that Saeed be handed over to New Delhi. Under pressure, Pakistan last January launched a crackdown against JUD, placing Saeed under house arrest. However, he was released in November after a Lahore court refused to extend his confinement.

The rally in question was organized by the Difa e Pakistan Council (DPC), a coalition of more than 40 political and religious parties—some of which are officially banned—headed by Maulana Sami ul Haq. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, ul Haq became known as the Father of Taliban due to his close ties with the group’s then-leader Mullah Umer. Hundreds of thousands of ul Haq’s students fought in the war and, after 9/11, many went on to form the Haqqani group which continues to be active in Afghanistan.

Speaking to The Media Line, Asif Khurshid, a spokesman for JUD, confirmed that the DPC had, in fact, organized the rally and invited the PA ambassador.

The DPC was formed in November 2011 following the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in U.S. airstrikes along the Afghan border. In response, Islamabad shut down NATO supply routes running through its territory but reopened them a few months later when then-U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton apologized.

In a bid to lower tensions, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its “support for the two-state solution, with east Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state,” while highlighting its rejection of President Trump’s initiative. A ministry spokesperson also downplayed the significance of Abu Ali’s presence at the rally, saying the PA ambassador previously participated in many similar events and that the one in question drew thousands of people from all walks of life and more than 50 speakers. He further stressed that United Nations sanctions on Saeed do not restrict his freedom of expression.

Nevertheless, Islamabad has since taken action against the JUD, with the country’s financial regulatory body on Monday announcing a ban on the organization’s collection of donations. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office revealed to The Media Line that the decision was made following a meeting of the high-powered National Executive Committee, attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other members of the federal government and intelligence community.

According to media reports, the move was prompted by a threat by the Financial Action Task Force—an international organization that combats money laundering and terrorist funding—to include Islamabad on a watch list for failing to crack down on illegal financing.

It also comes after President Trump tweeted that Washington had “foolishly” given Pakistan tens of billion dollars in the last 15 years, adding that Islamabad was providing “safe haven” to terrorists.

Pakistan’s defense minister denied the decision was the result of international pressure, claiming instead that it was part of ‘Operation Radul Fasaad’, launched in February last year by the Pakistani military to uproot terrorist cells.

For its part, JUD spokesperson Yahya Mujahid told Media Line that the ban would not be respected as it defies Supreme Court rulings allowing the group to freely continue welfare activities in Pakistan. Saeed has long denied any ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba and has thus vowed to challenge any constraints placed on the JUD.

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