Hafiz Saeed’s plea to remove name as terrorist rejected by UN

File photo: Hafiz Saeed a Master minder of  2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 164 civilians including 6 Americans.
File photo: Hafiz Saeed a Master minder of  2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 164 civilians including 6 Americans.

 NEW DELHI: The UN on Thursday rejected a Plea by Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed to delist his name from the list of international terrorists, giving a major boost to India’s campaign against cross-border terrorism. 

The Lashkar-e-Taiba chief is based in Pakistan and is close to the country’s military establishment. The Mumbai attack mastermind has been on the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee list since 2008.

 The UN rejection comes amid Delhi’s attempt to include Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, who is also based in Pakistan, in the same list. JeM owned responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama terror attack.

 Unlike Saeed, Azhar faces no travel ban and assets freeze despite JeM being a UN-designated terrorist outfit, mainly due to China’s refusal to back any proposal for a UNSC ban. 

After its attempts to mainstream Saeed in politics, Islamabad sought to help him get his name removed from the sanctions list by blocking a visit by the UN ombudsman to Pakistan, according to government sources. 

This was apparently to prevent Saeed from coming face-to-face with the ombudsman. 

Saeed ultimately did face the ombudsman, but only through a secure video conference. 

In his 32-page report, on the basis of which the UN rejected Saeed’s plea to delist him, the ombudsman mentioned that he had to cancel his air ticket to Pakistan after he was informed by the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to UN that he would not be issued a visa.

 Pakistan had requested the ombudsman to postpone his visit until early 2019.

 The ombudsman replied that it was not possible for him to delay beyond December 2018 under relevant provisions of resolution 2368 (2017). 

After he didn’t hear from Pakistan again on the issue, the ombudsman cancelled his visit. The visit was important for the UN to gather more information about activities of Saeed and his organisation. 

 After his video conference with Saeed, which was carried out with help from an interpreter, the ombudsman found there was enough evidence to provide a “reasonable and credible basis’’ for not delisting Saeed. 

In the video conference, Saeed is understood to have argued that he was freed by Pakistani courts. 

India countered, stating the Pakistani court which lifted his house arrest, did not and could not pronounce on whether Saeed posed a threat outside Pakistan. 

India managed to successfully convince the ombudsman that Saeed could not infer anything other than the “judicial exclusion’’ of him posing a threat to (peace and tranquillity) in Pakistan (and not outside). 

Indian officials have argued that Saeed’s role as a terrorist has not been examined by any court in Pakistan. “Pakistan had the option of opposing Saeed’s appeal but it didn’t. 

On the contrary, it tried to help him by blocking the ombudsman’s visit,’’ said an official source.

 While reports from Islamabad have suggested that Pakistan may drop its opposition to the fresh proposal introduced by the US, the UK and France for a ban on Azhar, the government remains unsure about support from both Pakistan and China.

 “The fact is that despite all the talk about there being a naya Pakistan under Imran Khan, Pakistan still tried to shield Saeed,’’ said a diplomatic source. 

After the Pulwama attack and the subsequent military conflict with India, Pakistan claimed to have launched a fresh crackdown on Saeed’s JuD and its front Falah-e-Insaniyat.

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