'Mastermind' of Mumbai attack preaches at mosque in Lahore
Come Friday prayers in Lahore, it is not hard to find the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed is neither in hiding nor in jail. The founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba is instead delivering a sermon to thousands of devoteees at the Jamia al-Qadsia mosque — one of the biggest in the city.
“God has promised to make Muslims a superpower if we follow the right path,” Mr Saeed told his followers, who listened in rapt silence.
Outside, policemen with machineguns stood guard and bearded security men frisked all those entering. “Our rulers are the slave of America and have sold their conscience for a few dollars,” continued the diminutive former university teacher, his long beard dyed red with henna.
Timothy Roemer, the US Ambassador in Delhi, backed Indian calls this week for Pakistan to bring Mr Saeed and six other Mumbai suspects to justice.
“We need to see actions and results from Pakistan,” he said after India handed Pakistan a seventh dossier of evidence on the Mumbai attacks.
Analysts say that the problem lies with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which backed Mr Saeed when he founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1990 to fight Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir. Under pressure from the US, Pakistan banned the group in 2002, but it continued to operate under the banner of Jamaat-ud Dawa, which Mr Saeed also founded and calls a charity organisation.
A UN Security Council resolution last December declared Jamaat-ud Dawa a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, forcing Pakistan to freeze its assets and jail many of its activists. Mr Saeed was put under house detention, but released after a few months when a court ruled that action against him and his group was illegal.
This week a Lahore court threw out two anti-terrorism cases against him. The court also found no evidence that Jamaat-ud Dawa was involved in terrorism, and it should be allowed to operate freely.
Pakistani officials say that they are serious about cracking down on militant groups, but there is not enough evidence to put Mr Saeed back on trial.