Pakistani-born Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is a U.S.- and U.N.-designated terrorist. He is the founder and emir (leader) of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that strives to rid Kashmir of Indian influence and establish an Islamic state spanning Kashmir, Pakistan, and India.Jayshree Bajoria, “Profile: Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) (a.k.a. Lashkar e-Tayyiba, Lashkar e-Toiba; Lashkar-i-Taiba),” Washington Post, December 5, 2008, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/05/AR2008120501582.html;
“US puts $10m bounty on Lashkar-e-Taiba's Hafiz Saeed,” BBC News Online, April 3, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-17594018;
“Lashkar-e-Taiba,” Anti-Defamation League, accessed February 6, 2017, http://archive.adl.org/terrorism/symbols/lashkaretaiba.html;
“Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State, accessed February 7, 2017, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm. Saeed also heads a charity called Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)—an organization which the U.N. has placed on a terrorist blacklist of groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but has also been implicated by the Indian government for financing LeT attacks.Neil MacFarquhar, “India Wants Pakistani Group Added to U.N.’s Terrorism List,” New York Times, December 9, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/world/10nations.html?_r=0.; “Recruitment by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa,” United States Department of Justice, December 11, 2018, https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1135841/download.; “Seventeenth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolution 2161 (2014) concerning Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities,” United Nations Security Council, June 16, 2015, https://www.un.org/sc/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/N1509325_EN.pdf. Pakistani authorities arrested Saeed in July 2019 and he was subsequently found guilty of two terrorism-related charges in February 2020 and two charges of terrorism financing on November 2020.Salman Masood, “Accused Mastermind of Mumbai Attack Convicted of Links to Terrorism,” New York Times, February 12, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/world/asia/hafiz-saeed-mumbai-convicted.html; Mubasher Bukahri, “Hafiz Saeed found guilty on two more charges of terrorism financing,” Reuters, November 19, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/pakistan-court-militancy-financing-idINKBN27Z1SZ. Despite the previous sentences—in which he is to serve five and a half years imprisonment in total—on April 7, 2022, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced Saeed to an additional 31 years imprisonment for two cases related to terrorism financing. It is uncertain if all three sentences will be carried out concurrently.Mubasher Bukhari, “Pakistani court jails Islamist Hafiz Saeed for an extra 31 years,” Reuters, April 9, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistani-court-finds-hafiz-saeed-guilty-two-more-charges-terrorism-financing-2022-04-08/?utm_ ; Sukrut Khandekar, “Pakistan court sentences Islamist terrorist Hafiz Saeed to 31 years imprisonment,” Jurist, April 10, 2022, https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/04/pakistan-court-sentences-islamist-terrorist-hafiz-saeed-to-31-years-imprisonment/#.
Saeed’s family migrated from India to independent Pakistan during the partition of British India in the late 1940s. Raised in the Punjab province of Pakistan, Saeed received degrees in Islamic studies and engineering. He studied in Saudi Arabia while employed by General Zia-ul-Haq—Pakistan’s longest serving President.Neil Padukone, “The Next al-Qaeda? Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Future of Terrorism in South Asia,” World Affairs Journal, November/December 2011, http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/next-al-qaeda-lashkar-e-taiba-and-future-terrorism-south-asia.
Saeed was heavily influenced while living in Saudi Arabia. Encouraged by interactions with extremist clerics—including Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam—Saeed traveled to Afghanistan to fight against the invading Soviets. He founded LeT in Pakistan in 1990, according to the U.S. and Indian governments. At its inception, LeT trained volunteers to fight alongside the Taliban against Soviet forces.Neil Padukone, “The Next al-Qaeda? Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Future of Terrorism in South Asia,” World Affairs Journal, November/December 2011, http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/next-al-qaeda-lashkar-e-taiba-and-future-terrorism-south-asia.
Virulently anti-Indian and anti-American, Saeed is believed to have directed terrorist attacks in India.“US puts $10m bounty on Lashkar-e-Taiba's Hafiz Saeed,” BBC News Online, April 3, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-17594018;
“Lashkar-e-Taiba,” Anti-Defamation League, accessed February 6, 2017, http://archive.adl.org/terrorism/symbols/lashkaretaiba.html. The Indian and U.S. governments have worked to indict Saeed for his alleged role in multiple terrorist incidents, including plotting the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks in India. In support of India’s repeated requests for Saeed’s extradition, the U.S. State Department posted an offer in 2012 of up to $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s arrest or conviction.“US puts $10m bounty on Lashkar-e-Taiba's Hafiz Saeed,” BBC News Online, April 3, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-17594018/;
“Information that brings to justice… Hafiz Mohammad Saeed,” Department of State, accessed February 6, 2017, https://www.rewardsforjustice.net/english/hafiz_saeed.html#.
Pakistan has long allowed LeT members to operate within the country. However, since 2006, the Pakistani government has subjected Saeed to a series of house arrests and trials relating to a variety of criminal- and terrorism-related charges, including his alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.Staff Report, “Complete Profile of Hafiz Saeed,” Daily Times, April 7, 2012, http://archives.dailytimes.com.pk/national/07-Apr-2012/complete-profile-of-hafiz-saeed.
Saeed was placed under house arrest in September 2009, but was cleared of all charges one month later, allowing him to move freely in Pakistan until authorities reinstated his house arrest in January 2017 for disturbing peace and security.“Pakistan puts Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed under house arrest,” Hindustan Times (New Delhi), January 31, 2017, http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/mumbai-terror-attack-mastermind-hafiz-saeed-under-house-arrest-in-pakistan/story-jAdoYoe9I5Ck5f6mOstUrJ.html. Prior to January 2017, Saeed was featured in a number of interviews in Western and Pakistani media. In those interviews, Saeed focused attention on his charitable work.Saima Mohsin, “Islamist Leader, Who Offered Aid After Sandy, Speaks to CNN,” CNN, November 3, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/03/world/asia/pakistan-mumbai-suspect/;
Hanne Coudere and Aftab Chaudry, “Interview: Hafiz Muhammad Saeed,” Diplomat, June 4, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/interview-hafiz-muhammad-saeed/. Under Saeed’s leadership, LeT has partnered with aid organizations in Gaza.Ariel Ben Solomon, “Pakistani Terrorists Doing Charity in Gaza, Report Says,” Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Pakistani-terrorists-now-doing-charity-in-Gaza-384290.
Following Saeed’s January 2017 arrest, his charity, JuD, rebranded itself as Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK).Imtiaz Ahmad, “Hafiz Saeed’s JuD gets a new name with a Kashmir connection,” Hindustan Times (New Delhi), February 4, 2017, http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/hafiz-saeed-s-jud-gets-a-new-name-after-crackdown-by-pak-calls-itself-tehreek-azadi-jammu-and-kashmir/story-jScxjcTGfKab9o4AM0NkjL.html.
On November 24, 2017, Pakistani authorities announced that Saeed had been released from house arrest earlier in the week after the Lahore High Court concluded that there was “nothing tangible” in the evidence presented against him in a government request to extend his detention. The United States and India released statements criticizing the move.Jessica Donati, “U.S. Criticizes Pakistan for Freeing Terror Suspect From House Arrest,” Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-criticizes-pakistan-for-freeing-terror-suspect-from-house-arrest-1511567469; Sophia Saifi and Joe Sterling, “Accused Mumbai attack mastermind freed from house arrest in Pakistan,” CNN, November 24, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/24/asia/mumbai-suspect-freed/index.html; Asad Hashim, “Pakistan releases Hafiz Saeed from house arrest,” Al Jazeera, November 22, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/pakistan-releases-hafiz-saeed-house-arrest-171122113033590.html.
Pakistani authorities arrested Saeed on July 17, 2019, on terror financing charges. Nonetheless, critics of the Pakistani government believed that authorities arrested Saeed only because of a pending meeting between Pakistan’s prime minister and then-U.S. President Donald Trump, and Saeed would soon be released.Salman Masood and Jeffrey Gettleman, “Hafiz Saeed, Founder of Group Behind Mumbai Attacks, Is Arrested in Pakistan,” New York Times, July 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/17/world/asia/pakistan-hafiz-saeed-arrest.html. During their meeting on July 22, Trump requested Prime Minister Imran Khan prosecute Saeed.Suchitra Karthikeyan, “Donald Trump Exposes Pak Claim On JeM, LeT, Asks To Prosecute Hafiz Saeed During Imran Khan's Maiden US Visit. Details Here,” Republic, July 22, 2019, https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/politics/donald-trump-exposes-pak-claim-on-jem-let-asks-to-prosecute-hafiz-saeed-during-imran-khans-maiden-us-visit-details-here. On July 24, an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala ordered Saeed be remanded into custody for 14 days while investigation continued into his ties to terrorism. Saeed denied all charges against him.“Pakistan remands militant accused of Mumbai attacks for 14 days,” Reuters, July 24, 2019, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-pakistan-militant/pakistan-remands-militant-accused-of-mumbai-attacks-for-14-days-idUKKCN1UJ19H.
On December 11, 2019, a Pakistani antiterrorism court indicted Seed on terrorism financing charges for his association with JuD.Asad Hashim, “Pakistan's Hafiz Saeed indicted on 'terror financing',” Al Jazeera, December 11, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/pakistan-hafiz-saeed-indicted-terror-financing-191211080238184.html. On February 12, 2020, the Lahore High Court convicted Saeed on terrorism-related charges and sentenced him to two prison terms of five and a half years, which will run concurrently, and a $194 fine (30,000 rupees). Saeed was found guilty of having links with terrorist groups—specifically JuD. The conviction on February 12 was the first time Saeed had been sentenced. He was previously arrested and on several occasions put on house arrest.Salman Masood, “Accused Mastermind of Mumbai Attack Convicted of Links to Terrorism,” New York Times, February 12, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/world/asia/hafiz-saeed-mumbai-convicted.html.; “U.S. Praises Pakistan For Jailing Of Militant Accused Of Mumbai Attacks,” Radio Free Europe, February 13, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/us-praises-pakistan-jailing-mumbai-attack-militant/30431754.html.; Asad Hashim, “Pakistan court convicts Mumbai 'mastermind' in terrorism case,” Al Jazeera, February 12, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/pakistan-jails-mumbai-attacks-suspect-hafiz-saeed-lawyer-200212103850045.html. Saeed’s close aide, Malik Zafar Iqbal, was also given a similar sentence.“U.S. Praises Pakistan For Jailing Of Militant Accused Of Mumbai Attacks,” Radio Free Europe, February 13, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/us-praises-pakistan-jailing-mumbai-attack-militant/30431754.html. Saeed was sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison on two charges of terrorism financing on November 19, 2020. The sentences—five years each—will run concurrently with the previous two sentences handed down in February of 2020.Mubasher Bukahri, “Hafiz Saeed found guilty on two more charges of terrorism financing,” Reuters, November 19, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/pakistan-court-militancy-financing-idINKBN27Z1SZ.
Despite Saeed’s arrest and subsequent convictions, media sources reported that Saeed was not incarcerated in Lahore’s high-security Kot Lakhpat jail, but that he was mostly at home in protective custody and was even allowed to receive guests—including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the chief operational commander and the head of the LeT’s jihad wing. Allegedly, Lakhvi and Saeed were discussing ways in which to collect funds for jihad.Shishir Gupta, “Pak has quietly moved 26/11 attacks accused Hafiz Saeed out of jail. He is home: Intel,” Hindustan Times, November 26, 2020, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/lashkar-boss-hafiz-saeed-is-serving-time-at-home-imran-khan-govt-calls-it-a-jail/story-7EQLfCNVd7kt677zSB17yI.html. Although it was never confirmed if Saeed was in protective custody at his home, on June 23, 2021, a bomb was detonated outside of Saeed’s home in Lahore. The explosion killed three people and injured more than 10 others. Reports did not indicate whether Saeed was at home at the time of the explosion or if any individuals or groups were responsible for the attack.Ayesha Tanzeem, “Explosion Outside Pakistan Islamist Militant Group Leader’s Home Kills 3,” Voice of America, June 23, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/south-central-asia_explosion-outside-pakistan-islamist-militant-group-leaders-home-kills-3/6207358.html.
On April 7, 2022, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced Saeed to an additional 31 years imprisonment for two cases related to terrorism financing. The two criminal complaints were filed in 2019 under various sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997. However, given that Saeed’s two previous sentences are running concurrently, it is uncertain how much jail time Saeed will definitively serve. Additionally, reports have not clarified whether Saeed is currently incarcerated or serving protective leave from his home in Lahore.Mubasher Bukhari, “Pakistani court jails Islamist Hafiz Saeed for an extra 31 years,” Reuters, April 9, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistani-court-finds-hafiz-saeed-guilty-two-more-charges-terrorism-financing-2022-04-08/?utm_; Sukrut Khandekar, “Pakistan court sentences Islamist terrorist Hafiz Saeed to 31 years imprisonment,” Jurist, April 10, 2022, https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/04/pakistan-court-sentences-islamist-terrorist-hafiz-saeed-to-31-years-imprisonment/#.
- Extremist entity
- Type(s) of Organization:
- Insurgent, non-state actor, religious, terrorist, transnational, violent
- Ideologies and Affiliations:
- Islamist, jihadist, Salafist, Sunni, takfiri
- Founder and emir
Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of Pakistan’s largest militant Islamist organizations. The group has instigated terrorist attacks in Kashmir and collaborated with other militant groups, such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It is believed to be the only Islamist militant group in Pakistan to have expanded since 9/11.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Muhammad Saeed” pursuant to Executive Order 13224 on May 27, 2008.“Treasury Targets LET Leadership,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 27, 2008, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp996.aspx.
The United Nations placed sanctions on “Hafiz Muhammad Saeed” per resolution 1822 (2008) for his affiliations with “Lashkar-e-Tayyiba” and “Al Qaida.”“Narrative Summaries of Reasons for Listing,” United Nations, March 9, 2009, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/hafiz-muhammad-saeed.