Pakistan Drops Terror Charges Against Alleged ’08 Mumbai Attack Mastermind

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
171016-IN-PK-attacks-620.jpg A Pakistani police officer escorts Hafiz Saeed (left), the alleged mastermind of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, after he was placed under house arrest, Jan. 30, 2017.

Indian government officials and security experts Monday condemned a move by Pakistani authorities to drop charges against the suspected mastermind of the deadly 2008 terror attack in Mumbai.

Pakistani national Hafiz Saeed, co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its off-shoot Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) has been under house arrest in Lahore since January and will likely be freed later this month. The Punjab government failed to present evidence against him under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) this weekend, a Pakistani home ministry official said.

The Federal Review Board, chaired by Pakistan Supreme Court justice Ejaz Afzal, on Saturday withdrew terrorism charges against Saeed following a plea from the country’s Punjab provincial government, paving the way for his likely release.

Saeed, who has been declared a globally designated terrorist by the United Nations, the United States and India, will remain under house arrest until at least Oct. 24 under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) act, the unnamed Pakistani official told reporters.

“His house arrest order which is valid until Oct. 24 could be extended under the MPO. The government will take a decision after reviewing the situation,” he said.

Saeed, 68, is accused of masterminding a series of shooting and bomb attacks that lasted four days across Mumbai – India’s financial hub – in November 2008, killing 166 people in the country’s third-deadliest terror assault. Saeed, identified by the U.S. as a globally designated terrorist in 2012 and who has a $10-million bounty on his head, repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attack.

Tarun Sethi, 35, who survived the shootout at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai’s main railway station, said he was upset by the development.

“I cannot describe the anger I feel knowing that the man who unleashed terror in our city – a trauma that the survivors have to bear for the rest of their lives – is still not locked up in a prison cell. Only a few months of house arrest for him. And now he might just be set free,” Sethi told BenarNews.

Sethi narrowly escaped being shot at the station, where about 60 people were killed in indiscriminate firing by two of the 10 suspected LeT members who targeted prominent locations of the city to inflict maximum damage.

“But to be honest, I am not surprised. I knew Pakistan would never take action against him,” Sethi said.

‘Duplicitous actions’

By withdrawing terror charges against Saeed, Pakistan has again shown its lack of will to fulfill its international obligation to act against proscribed terrorists, an Indian government official said.

“It is surprising that instead of prosecuting him for heading and directing a terrorist organization, Pakistan is simply putting him in a house arrest for maintenance of public law and order. Such duplicitous actions need condemnation from all quarters,” the Press Trust of India quoted an unnamed government source as saying.

Security analysts said India should not bank on Pakistan punishing Saeed, who was detained by Pakistani authorities for the fifth time since the Mumbai attack.

The dropping of terror charges against Saeed “reaffirms Pakistan’s policy of promoting terrorism,” Ajai Sahni of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management told BenarNews.

“Saeed’s detention was enacted only to deal with mounting international pressure, particularly from the U.S. Pakistan has never shown seriousness in acting against terrorists despite being presented with clinching evidence of their involvement in terror attacks on Indian soil,” Sahni said.

G.D. Bakshi, another New Delhi-based security analyst, seconded Sahni’s view.

“Pakistan has a well-choreographed drill to detain extremists operating from its soil whenever the international community mounts pressure on it to curb terrorism. Once the pressure goes away, they release them saying they have no evidence to hold them. It’s a pattern,” Bakshi told BenarNews.

“Instead of expecting Pakistan to book him, India needs to find a way to get hold of Saeed and bring him back to face trial,” he added.

Rohit Wadhwaney in New Delhi contributed to this report.


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