Global headlines emanating from Pakistan suggest that Hafiz Saeed – the United Nations designated global terrorist – has been facing a tough time in Pakistan with recent reported clampdowns on terrorist networks. In reality, the hydra-headed terror network of Saeed has grown by leaps and bounds, under nearly four years of rule of Imran Khan.

Since the fall of Kabul, several intelligence inputs have been hinting at a growing nexus between Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiyaba (LeT) and the Afghan Taliban. An India Today visual investigation now establishes how this alliance was nurtured soon after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, by the erstwhile Imran Khan administration to disturb peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

Founded by Saeed, the proscribed terror outfit LeT has been camouflaged under its social front Jamat-ud-Dawa (JUD).

Pakistan continues to remain on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), facing constant pressure on Islamabad to take actions against terrorist networks.

Visuals of a gathering organized by Saeed’s outfit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa soon after the total capture of neighbouring Afghanistan by the Taliban, show top aides of Hafiz Saeed, political leader from Imran Khan’s party, the most known face from Afghan Taliban’s breeding ground Darul-Uloom-Haqqania and a common relative of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Asia Anrabi at one place.

Organised under the blessings of the establishment, the gathering witnessed a minor boy swearing the name of Hafiz Saeed, who vowed to pick up a Kalashnikov gun like his brothers who tried to infiltrate the borders and killed in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The prophecy of your and my leader, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, has come true and the Mujahids have defeated the United States in Afghanistan and now we will free Kashmir from India”, the minor boy at school-going age, can be heard saying. He soon revealed the names of two terrorists, Wasim and Waqas, who were allegedly killed in action earlier.

“Please pray to God that the sacrifice of my brothers is accepted and now I will pick up the fallen Kalashnikov of my brother Waqas”, the brainwashed boy is heard telling the gathering.

New Geelani On The Block

Soon after his speech, another person named Syed Mujahid Geelani, who identified himself as the grandson of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and nephew of another hardliner, Asia Andrabi, took to the stage and claimed political inheritance over the bloodshed.

“I am standing here as the successor of the senior-most member of the Geelani family, Syed Ali Geelani”.

He later claimed to be the one true successor of Asia Andrabi as well as to all the militants killed in Jammu and Kashmir that he identified as ‘martyrs’.

The Geelani scion emphasized the need to create violence in Jammu and Kashmir and added “only you people can make it happen. Freedom is never achieved with mere words and a pen. Freedom has to be achieved with guns, freedom is not served on a platter, freedom has to be snatched”.

University of Jihad Representation

The guest of honour at the JuD event buzzing with anti-India slogans was the most identified cleric – of Darul-Uloom-Haqqania Akora Khattak, better known as Pakistan’s University of Jihad.

Maulana Yousaf Shah addressed the gathering in the local language Pashto amid anti-India sloganeering from the crowd. The seminary is associated with Afghanistan’s top Taliban leaders and birthplace of the Taliban’s most-violent faction – the Haqqani Network.

According to the New York Times, the seminary has educated more Taliban leaders than any school in the world, who now control the administration, with key positions in the Afghanistan government.

The long list of alumni includes but is not limited to Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of the Taliban’s top military leaders and the new acting interior minister of Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi, foreign minister, and Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the higher education minister. By most accounts, clerics such as Maulana Shah hold significant control over the Haqqani faction of the Afghan Taliban.

Among Hafiz Saeed’s close aides who were seen at the gathering included Saifullah Khalid, Hafiz Saeed’s political right-hand man and President of Milli Muslim League, Pakistan, Qari Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh, JuD and LeT leader and Hafiz Abdur Rauf, head of JuD’s charity Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).

Both Yaqoob and Rauf have been sanctioned by India and the United States for their terror activities and links with LeT. Yaqoob was a member of LeT’s central advisory committee and was the leader of LeT’s foreign affairs department during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

According to the US government records, Sheikh closely worked with LeT’s international donors and was part of “the delegation that traveled to the Gulf on behalf of LET seeking support” before, in 2007. Rauf has worked as LeT’s Director of Humanitarian Relief – responsible for collection of funds through disguised charity networks. He later took over control of the FIF from Yaqoob.

Imran’s Open Patronage

Adding fuel to the fire was a mainstream politician from Imran Khan’s political party – Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who went to the extent of seeking martyrdom for himself and vowed open support for Hafiz Saeed’s outfit.

Arif Yousaf, a former Member of Provincial Assembly and a cabinet rank official from PTI announced from the dais “I seek martyrdom for myself in front of all of you, I am with you. Wherever the JuD needs my help, I will be there. May god help you succeed”.

Hafiz’s Conviction Farce?

Contrary to the mainstream reportage of the over 30-year sentence recently awarded to Saeed, India’s most wanted terrorist could soon walk free, taking advantage of the legal loopholes in the judgment.

Hafiz’s supposed 33-year jail term pronounced by the anti-terrorism court earlier this month is compartmentalized into at least eight separate convictions. The highest of them is five years.

According to the court order, all the sentences are supposed to run concurrently, reducing the total jail term Saeed is supposed to serve. But that’s not all; the court has also given the UN-designated global terrorist the benefits of Section 382-B of Pakistan’s CrPC.

Under this benefit clause, previous sham house-detentions, served by the 26/11 terror attacker, could compensate for a large chunk of the sentence awarded by the recent anti-terror court.

Under normal circumstances, the special legal benefit is not extended to convicts of heinous crimes, but this special courtesy has been extended in Hafiz Saeed’s case. As the power centres shift in Islamabad, it is yet to be seen if one of India’s most wanted terrorists walks free again.