The Hafiz Factor of Pak Foreign policy

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed

Unlike other countries, Pakistan’s foreign policy hinges on the mercy of individuals. It is not politicians fiefdom. The Pak Army is playing a crucial role in moulding and executing Pak foreign policy and even they are using wanted terrorists like Hafiz Saeed to meet their objectives….reports Dr Sharif Ahmed

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed

Surprisingly there are two Foreign Offices in Pakistan. One in Islamabad, and the other operates from Punjab’s capital, Lahore. The latter is known for its venomous anti-India stance and owing allegiance to the Pak Army and ISI. The official Foreign Office talks of a negotiated settlement of what Pakistan calls the Kashmir problem; but the India-centric unofficial office rejects negotiations and advocates capturing Kashmir through ‘jihad’ in which it does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons. It says Pakistan is incomplete without Kashmir.


The extra-constitutional Foreign Office is headed by an individual designated as a terrorist by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in 2008 and who also carries a US reward of $10 million on his head.  He is Hafiz Saeed.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with top officers at a defence exhibition
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with top officers at a defence exhibition

Saeed, who follows the Ahl-e-Hadis faith, taught Islam at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore and then joined the US-led jihad against the former USSR troops in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.  As the war was coming to an end, Saeed established Markaz-e-Dawa-Wal-Irshad (MDI) along with some others. On a 200 acre land, under tight security, this centre frenetically preached jihad and boasted that Kashmir would be soon “liberated” and the map of the region would change.  Since then he has been using Kashmir for making himself important in the eyes of the Army/ISI and Pakistani war mongers. He built up Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as the military wing of the MDI.

The LeT grew up as a terrorist organisation.  In January 2002, it was banned by then President of Pakistan Gen Pervez Musharraf under pressure from the US which wanted him to control terrorist organisations in the country.  But the LeT, like other banned terrorist organisations, continued to operate in a different name: Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD).  Subsequently, Saeed flouted the ban by running the LeT and JuD as two separate entities.  The LeT/JuD staged the 2008 Mumbai carnage which killed 166 people.  The LeT/JuD was designated as a terrorist organisation.  Saeed and his fellow conspirators were named as terrorists by the UNSC.

Pakistan Pakistani army women soldiersNow for the public consumption Saeed says he has no relations with LeT. He likes to be known as the Chief of JuD while the Army is spending a lot of money on his projection as a humanitarian worker and educationist yet committed to jihad in Kashmir.  The media, including television channels, are free to report and interview him.  He is the richest “humanitarian worker” in Pakistan who has eclipsed Edhi’s (now dead) genuine relief network. He runs hospitals, schools, colleges and an Islamic University. He also runs outfits like Dara-e-Khidmat-i-Khalq, Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) and Tehrik-e-Tahafuz-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool to collect money. The monthly journal of DAWN, The Herald had reported in June 2006 that the ISI pays as much as $ 50,000-$ 60,000 a month to LeT/JuD.  In addition, it gets a grant from the Punjab government and fake Indian currency notes (FICN) from the ISI.  These are only a few of the sources of funding of the LeT/JuD.  Early this year, Pakistan-born terrorist and David Coleman had confirmed this in his testimony to a Mumbai court from the US via video link.  He said the ISI gave military and financial support to LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad of Masood Azhar.

 Pakistani policemen attend a passing out parade in southwest Pakistan's Quetta
Pakistani policemen attend a passing out parade in southwest Pakistan’s Quetta

Saeed is a blue eyed boy of the Army/ISI because he is the most glib-tongued talker on jihad and Kashmir and has the most poisonous tongue to speak against India and relations with it. In his public speeches, campaign and activities, Saeed essentially reflects as the Pak Army/ISI is always suspicious of Pak Foreign office and its officials. The Army/ISI does not approve of India-Pakistan contacts when a civilian government is in place in the country. Saeed also opposes any contact with India by a Pakistani civilian government.


How Saeed can sabotage an opportunity of India-Pak contacts was dramatised before the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad this year. First anti-India agitations were engineered on the excuse of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani is an encounter on July 8. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif angered India and all those who stood against terrorism, by calling him a martyr.  Wani could have been an understanding with Saeed.  Saeed himself revealed he called him before the encounter in which Wani was filled.  It should not be a farfetched guess that the Prime Minister called Wani a martyr under pressure of the Army/ISI to queer the pitch of the SAARC summit.

Therefore, Hafiz Saeed was not stopped from organising a countrywide anti-India demonstrations from his “Foreign Officer” in Lahore against the arrival of India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Islamabad for the annual Conference of SAARC Home Ministers. Saeed said the Pakistan Government would be adding insult to Kashmiris’ injuries by welcoming Rajnath Singh, who, he alleged, was responsible for the death of innocent Kashmiris.  But Saeed is responsible for these killings by masterminding the violence in Kashmir valley. A LeT militant Bahadur Ali from a village in Rawalpindi was captured by Indian security forces and told his interrogators in New Delhi that Saeed had motivated terrorists at a camp in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to slip into Kashmir to carry out terrorist attacks. It has been the old strategy of the Pakistan Army/ISI to use its local agents and cross-border terrorists to provoke security forces into reaction and then manufacture anti-India frenzy in the country. Saeed can take credit for contributing to the cancellation of SAARC summit in Islamabad at a time when the Pak Foreign Office is looking forward to access to Central Asian market, once the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) becomes operational.

Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif (C) looking at huge cache of weapons and ammunition recovered from terrorists during his visit to northwest Pakistan's Khyber Agency. At least 20 militants were killed and 18 others injured in an air-raid by Pakistani army in the country's northwestern tribal area of Khyber Agency
Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif (C) looking at huge cache of weapons and ammunition recovered from terrorists during his visit to northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Agency. At least 20 militants were killed and 18 others injured in an air-raid by Pakistani army in the country’s northwestern tribal area of Khyber Agency

As compared to Saeed’s modus operandi to influence Pakistan’s foreign relations through falsehood and terror, the Foreign Office faithfully disseminates the information from the Pak Army without any addition or subtraction. Saeed has no such limit.  He knows the mind of the Army/ISI that is enough: his campaign against India, the US and even Afghanistan is accordingly designed.  No questions are asked when he resorts to falsehood and blames India for almost all terrorist incidents in Pakistan including the attacks on the Peshawar Army Public School (APS) in December 2014 and on the Police Training School in Quetta in October this year.  The Nawaz Sharif government looks to the US for help but dares not restrain Saeed from regular anti-US fulminations.  Saeed alleges the US wants to weaken Pakistan’s economy and defence through its friendship with India. He ridicules the US reward of ten million on his head and claims that people love him and therefore, nobody has ever tried to get that reward.  He does not talk of the tight security provided to him and his ilk by the Army.

The irony is that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made bold references when he asked the Army to stop protecting non-state actors while on October 3, he was presiding over a national security meeting in the aftermath of surgical strikes by Indian Army across the LoC in Kashmir.

As reported by DAWN on October 6 that politicians present in that very meeting sharply criticised the Army for shielding the terrorists. In the wake of this report the Army shifted Hafiz Saeed and another terror mastermind Syed Salahuddin to a high security facility near Lahore. Utility of Hafiz Saeed to Pak military and intelligence establishment does not yet have any expiry date, till he spreads venom and jeopardises Pak Foreign Office’s attempt to find ways for understandings with Pakistan’s immediate neighbours.