NEW DELHI: The UN Security Council has refused to remove Lashkar-e-Taiba co-founder and mastermind of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, Hafiz Saeed, from its list of terrorists.
Saeed’s request to be delisted was vehemently opposed by New Delhi, which had provided reams of evidence indicting him, as well as by the US, UK and France, which is now the Security Council chair. “As expected, despite all its talk about countering terror, Pakistan had not raised any objection to Saeed’s appeal to lift the ban,” said one official in Delhi.
The decision comes days ahead of the UNSC hearing a fresh request to list Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar as a terrorist, moved by France after the February 14 suicide bomb attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir, in which 40 troopers were killed and many maimed.
Saeed’s lawyer, Haider Rasul Mirza, of the Pakistani law firm Mirza and Mirza, was apparently informed of the UN decision earlier this week.
The UNSC had listed Saeed and his Jammat--ud-Dawa (JuD) as terrorists in December 2008 after the Mumbai attack, in which 166 people were killed. However, while technically under house arrest, Saeed continued to roam free in Pakistan, giving virulent anti-India sermons. In 2017, his lawyers had filed an appeal to get the UN proscription lifted.
But the UN’s independent ombudsperson, Swiss federal Judge Daniel Kipfer Fasciati, tasked by the world body with examining all such requests, demurred after Pakistan denied visas to a UN team which was supposed to interview Saeed as part of the process. Subsequently, he informed Saeed's lawyer that "there was sufficient information to provide a reasonable and credible basis for continuing the listing," and that his recommendation was endorsed by the UN's Sanctions Committee.
“Given that several terrorist outfits-- banned both by the UN and Pakistan itself-- and their leaders continue to operate with impunity in Pakistan, this is just a symbolic victory, but it is a victory all the same,” said an Indian source. “Now we can only wait and see if Pakistan’s all-weather friend will continue to block the attempt to list Masood Azhar as a terrorist later this month.”