Pakistan cannot ban the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) group led by 2008 Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed because it is a charitable and not terrorist organisation, Pakistan’s minister for defence production told HT in an exclusive interview Friday.
Rana Tanveer Hussain’s comments came a day after some media channels quoted unnamed Pakistani interior ministry sources as saying the government was likely to outlaw several terrorist groups, including the JuD and the Haqqani network.
“We are looking to ban terror organisations but the JuD is a charitable organisation and the government of Pakistan has no evidence against Hafiz Saeed or the JuD,” Hussain told HT over the phone from Islamabad.
Hussain drew a distinction between the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – banned as a terrorist organisation by Pakistan, India and the United States among other countries – and the JuD. Both India and the US say the LeT resurfaced as JuD after the ban.
“Lashkar is banned in Pakistan and we have not found any linkages between JuD and LeT,’’ Hussain said, adding Saeed had the right to address rallies as he was “not involved in any terrorist activity”.
India has repeatedly demanded that Saeed be restrained, but the 64-year-old LeT founder operates openly in Pakistan and leads a high-profile life despite the US government offering a $10 million bounty for his capture. “India or the US should give us evidence and we will consider it. The JuD does not have a military wing and they are only involved in preaching Islam and working in the education field.”
Hussain said he also supported the JuD chief’s call for liberating Kashmir. “Even I refer to Kashmir as our atoot ang (inalienable part). Tomorrow you will ask for a ban against me and against all Pakistanis who support the freedom struggle in Kashmir,” the minister said.
He denied pressure from the US and said his government was scrutinising terror groups, not because US secretary of state John Kerry raised the issue on his visit to Islamabad, but because of the Peshawar school attack.
Kerry emphasised on the need for action against the LeT while in Islamabad, but the minister said, “The JuD only pinches India, not Afghanistan or America. You can’t group it along with ISIS and al Qaeda.’’
“We have tried our best to improve relations with India but have had a bitter experience. We have a policy for peaceful relations but the talks must be fruitful and constructive. The firing along the border does not create conducive environment for talks.”