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Analysts in USA and India Not surprised by Release of Hafiz Saeed by Pakistan

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some US experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan's move was bound to happen - sooner or later.

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Hafiz Saeed has been released from jail by Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa group waves to supporters at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 24, 2017. VOA

Anti-terrorism analysts in Washington and New Delhi are critical of Pakistan’s decision to release a man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 160, but some say they are not surprised by the move. U.S. officials say Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist.

He was set free by Pakistani authorities after 11 months of house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday. Earlier last week, a judicial panel of Lahore High Court said there was not enough evidence to continue Saeed’s detention.

Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan
Supporters of Hafiz Saeed, head of Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, shower his car with rose petals as he leaves a court in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan’s move was bound to happen – sooner or later. “I see Saeed’s release as totally unsurprising. This is a story that’s played out multiple times in recent history: He is put under house arrest only to be released,” Michael Kugelman, a Washington-based South Asian analyst associated with the Woodrow Wilson Center told VOA.

“Pakistani legal authorities had said all along that there was not sufficient evidence to keep him detained, so it was just a matter of time before he was released,” Kugelman added.

Hafiz Saeed is the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa group (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat foundation (FIF), both of which have been declared terrorist organizations by the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is widely believed to be the front of Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) which was included into the U.N.’s terrorist groups list in 2005.

US ‘deeply concerned’

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Saeed should be arrested and charged for his crimes. “The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from the house arrest in Pakistan. LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens,” Nauert said.

Mumbai Terror Attack
FILE – People hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of a terrorist attack, in Mumbai, India, Nov. 29, 2008. The attack took a total of 160 lives. VOA

India, which alleges Saeed was mastermind of Mumbai carnage in 2008, has also reacted strongly to his release. India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said that a “self-confessed and U.N.-proscribed terrorist was being allowed to walk free and continue with his evil agenda.”

Some political analysts in India also seem to be agitated by Saeed’s release and say it will only further complicate the already strained relations between the two rival nations.

“His release only reinforces the popular belief in India that the Pakistani establishment is either not interested or it’s incapable of putting Saeed on trial in the Mumbai case,” Vinod Sharma, Delhi based political editor of the Hindustan Times told VOA. “In either case it increases the trust deficit between the two countries.”

Insufficient evidence, says Pakistan

Lawmakers in Pakistan dismiss the allegations and maintain India and the U.S. provided insufficient evidence to put Hafiz Saeed behind bars or declare him a terrorist.

“The criticism by the United States is wrong and India’s anger makes no sense as Pakistan is a democratic country where courts are powerful and work with full authority,” Abdul Qayyum, a prominent member of the ruling party PML-N told VOA. “Until and unless there is solid evidence against Hafiz Saeed, how can you arrest or punish him? We have strict rules for terrorists and we do not spare them at any cost,” Qayyum added.

Some experts on South Asian affairs point out that Hafiz Saeed’s release orders came out within days after the U.S. Congress removed a provision from the National Defense Authorization Act 2018 that delinks Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) from the Haqqani Network to reimburse Pakistan for its cooperation in the war on terror.

Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington called the amendment an “unfortunate move.” “It will give Pakistan a way to differentiate between good and bad terrorists and they will make less effort to satisfy the United States against the war on terror,” Tellis told VOA.

Aman Azhar of VOA’s Urdu Service contributed to this report.

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Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Areas Feature in New Political Map Released by Government

In a gazette notification, the government also enumerated the territories in Leh district as: "Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas, Tribal territory

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Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
The Ladakh UT consists of two districts -- Kargil and Leh -- while the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory comprises 20 districts. Pixabay

In the wake of the creation of separate Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the government on Saturday released a new political map of the Indian Union, with 28 States and nine Union Territories (UTs). Pakistan.

The new map denotes the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and surprisingly includes three districts — Muzaffarabad, Punch and Mirpur — which are under Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
New Political Map of India. PIB

The Ladakh UT consists of two districts — Kargil and Leh — while the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory comprises 20 districts.

In a gazette notification, the government also enumerated the territories in Leh district as: “Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas, Tribal territory and Leh and Ladakh, except the present territory of Kargil.”

Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
The new map denotes the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and surprisingly includes three districts — Muzaffarabad, Punch and Mirpur — which are under Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pixabay

The order was called the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Removal of Difficulties) Second Order, 2019.

The map of J&K UT comprises 20 districts, including Muzzarfarabad, Mirpur and the area of Poonch which are under PoK.

In 1947, the former Jammu and Kashmir state had 14 districts — Kathua, Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Anantnag, Baramulla, Poonch, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Leh and Ladakh, Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory.

On the recommendation of the Parliament, President Ram Nath Kovind effectively abrogated Article 370 from the Indian Constitution and issued the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, in August.

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On October 31, J&K ceased to exist as a state and was officially bifurcated into two UTs — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. (IANS)