Tit For Tat: Pakistan Brings LeT Mentor Hafiz Saeed Back on TV
NEW DELHI: 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed is back on TV channels in Pakistan, signalling that Islamabad has relaxed the media ban imposed on the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah (JuD) chief.
Saeed has appeared on several TV programmes over the course of the last week, revving up the rhetoric on Kashmir. Saeed’s return to the TV screens comes at a time when relations between India and Pakistan dip to yet another low, with India struggling to restore law and order in Kashmir as protests continue following the killing of Hizb leader Burhan Wani.
Kashmir, unsurprisingly, was the point of attack for Saeed, with the JuD chief reportedly asking Pakistan to send its troops into Kashmir to “teach India a lesson.”
Speaking in Lahore, Saeed said, “This time the people in Kashmir are on streets. This protest has become a mass movement. All groups in Kashmir have united. All the wings of the Hurriyat have become one. The Muttahida Jihad Council and all other groups have come on to the same platform. Those who have died in Kashmir, their deaths will not be in vain."
In an event organised to express solidarity with Wani, Saeed said that he knew Wani was prepared to die for the cause. The JuD leader added that he had received a call from separatist leader Asiya Andrabi, as the latter was seeking Saeed’s help to “resolve the crisis in Kashmir.”
In a directly confrontational statement, Saeed demanded that India either accept Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's four-point formula on Kashmir and withdraw security forces from the Valley, or take the matter into the battlefield.
Addressing Pakistan Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, Saeed said, “After partition India sent its army forcibly to Jammu and Kashmir to which Quaid-i-Azam (Muhammad Ali Jinnah) told then (Pakistan) army chief to respond by sending forces too but he didn’t do so.” “I urge you (Gen Sharif to) follow the command and avenge the brutalities of Indian forces on Kashmiris,” he added.
The statements, along with Saeed’s media presence, indicate that a ban on the JuD leader that had been imposed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) in November last year seems to be lifted. PEMRA had restrained all Pakistani television channels from “all kinds of coverage of the JuD, its front Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) and about 60 other proscribed organisations and their leaders”.
PEMRA, thus far, seems to have not responded to Saeed’s return to the TV screens, indicating that the Nawaz Sharif government has silently lifted the ban. Previously, PEMRA had said that it would take legal action in case of non compliance of the said directive.
Saeed’s comments come as violence escalates in the Kashmir valley, taking the total number of those killed in clashes between protesters and security forces to 60. The situation has led to tensions between India and Pakistan, as Islamabad has made repeated statements on the violence in an attempt to internationalise the issue. India, on its part, maintains that Kashmir is an internal matter, and blames Pakistan for sowing discord in the troubled valley.
The tensions have cast a shadow over an upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meet, with Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley expected to skip a meeting of Saarc finance ministers in Islamabad next week. Two weeks ago, Home Minister Rajnath’s Singh had visited Islamabad to attend the Saarc interior ministers meeting amid protests on both sides.