Written by Divija Vaish, a grade 11 student
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the mastermind behind the 26/11 terror attacks on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, is not like any other terrorist you’ve heard about. For one, he doesn’t go around with big guns in his hand. Rather, he identifies himself as a “professor” of Islamic studies, with two Masters’ degrees from Lahore University.
Saeed does not trace his origin back to Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. Instead, he traces his origins back to a Gujjar family in Haryana, who shifted to Pakistan’s Punjab during the Partitions, and thirty-six of whom, according to him, were killed during this shift.
According to scholar Arif Jamal, author of the book ‘Call for Transnational Jihad’, about Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Saeed drew inspiration from the same Salafi sheikhs and groups in the Saudi Kingdom that propelled Al-Qaeda (a militant Islamist organisation) and Osama bin Laden (founder of Al-Qaeda), but unlike other pan-Islamist (an ideology calling for the unity of Muslim peoples worldwide on the basis of their shared Islamic identity) groups, Saeed’s organisations have never targeted Pakistan, and stayed within the lines drawn by its powerful military establishment.
Most of Saeed’s associates in the world of international jihad are either dead, missing or on the run, but Saeed has managed to evade UNSC identifications, American remunerations and Indian convictions for over a decade, all while making public appearances to address gatherings, give interviews and threaten attacks.
He has been arrested, charged and convicted, and then released by Pakistani courts on various terror-related charges, but could always continue his work at the helm of the LeT, and its many derivatives, all of which have been banned internationally. Saeed has been designated a terrorist by the UN and has a bounty of 10 million USD over his head, making him one of the most wanted criminals in the world.
However, Saeed has never been charged in Pakistan for the 26/11 attacks and continues to plead his innocence despite having incriminating evidence against him. Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist who survived the 26/11 attacks, gave an articulate description of Saeed and how it was Saeed’s speeches that motivated him for the attack. Kasab said that Saeed would himself visit their training camps to give them his blessings for the attacks, and while speaking about Saeed, Kasab would refer to him as “Amir”, meaning leader. David Headly, the American involvement in the 26/11 attacks, recognised Saeed “Sahib”, and called him his mentor ever since the two had met at a training camp in 2002.
In November this year, he was sentenced to ten years in prison but with his past record of repudiating court orders, people remain unsure of when he will actually be brought to justice.
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