Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed cocked a snook at India on Thursday as he kicked off a controversial two-day national congregation ostensibly aimed at promoting religious tolerance in Pakistan, but which India perceives as a violation of global norms against terrorism.
Raking up the ongoing elections in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “Pakistanis and Kashmiris are blood brothers and they cannot be separated. The elections in Kashmir cannot be a substitute for plebiscite.”
Saeed, who is also the founder of the banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, told his supporters, “Efforts are being made to declare jihad terrorism.”
Earlier, Saeed’s aide and son-in-law Khalid Waleed told HT from Lahore, “What is India’s problem? We are spending from our own pocket and not from Narendra Modi’s pocket (on the event). What is 50 lakh, we are capable of spending crores.”
“Why is India crying like a baby? Anyway, we thank you for crying because that has given us publicity. Even those who did not know about our conference have now heard of it,” he added. “These are also the views of Saeed saab.”
Thousands travelled to Lahore in special trains for the event for which the terror group has spent 50 lakh Pakistani rupees, according to Pakistan’s railway spokesman.
The rally came a day after Saeed — who roams freely in Pakistan despite being a designated terrorist — obliquely threatened India on Twitter: “The national conference on 4 Dec is vital; all those who hold hostility for Pakistan will be given powerful blows #IjtimaJUD.”
Projecting himself as a unifier, he also tweeted that he had invited representatives from all political parties, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. The conference, he said, would “help dissolve the political destabilization and strife in the country”.
Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif, who heads the Punjab state, is said to have spent lavishly on the congregation. Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf also postponed its call to block Lahore on December 4 on the JuD leadership’s “request”.
The JuD has set up 70 registration camps to welcome people coming “in the thousands”, 20 dispensaries and 18 tent cities for the event, which will conclude after Friday prayers, Waleed said.
As many as 15,000 volunteers are performing security and administrative duties, he added.
(With PTI inputs)