Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the ostensibly charitable Jamaat-ud-Dawah, is currently confined to his house but support for his release is on the rise across Pakistan. Members of Dawah and Saeed’s supporters have protested against his confinement, dismissing evidence alleging his involvement in acts of terrorism in India and India-administered Kashmir. While the PMLN-led government’s decision to place him under house arrest has been criticized, it reached a boiling point after Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif suggested Saeed could pose a threat to Pakistan.
According to reports, Asif was in Germany when he committed virtual blasphemy by claiming “Hafiz Saeed can become a threat to society.” Internationally sanctioned, Saeed is accused of committing atrocities in India and Afghanistan. Two terrorists involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 164 people dead, Daud Gilani and Ajmal Kasab, have alleged that Saeed was personally involved in that act of international terrorism. The U.S. has even announced a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest. But the firebrand cleric remains Pakistan’s wealthiest philanthropist—his largesse earning him forgiveness for crimes, such as the reported operation of private courts in the country’s major cities, which would place anyone else behind bars.
Following Asif’s statement, Pakistan is experiencing a pro-Saeed earthquake. The dreaded Defense of Pakistan Council, which targets anyone critical of pro-jihad policies, has fired a broadside at Islamabad. A roll-call of those who would like Sharif ousted from office has joined in.
The critics protest that instead of “speculating” whether Saeed could become a threat, Asif should have highlighted the atrocities committed against Muslims in Kashmir. Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s former prime minister, Sardar Muhammad Atique, said Asif was appeasing India; while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Mahmoodur Rasheed claimed the Sharif government had become “defensive” about India and the U.S., adding that Asif sounded more like the defense minister of India than of Pakistan.