Hafiz Muhammad Saeed: 'Do I look like a terrorist?' - By Robert Fisk
The banned Islamist militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba has been branded 'the next al-Qa'ida'. In a remarkable encounter in the Pakistani city of Lahore, the group's founder tells Robert Fisk he runs a charity, not a feared network which has Western targets in its sights
Independent, UK, 26 March 2010
For America, the European Union and India, he is the most wanted man in Pakistan, the founder and leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the "Army of the Righteous", blamed for the mass killing of 188 civilians, 54 of them women and children, in Mumbai in 2008, for three assaults on Delhi, for the deaths of 211 civilians in a 2005 train bombing also in Mumbai, and last month's suicide attack on Indians in Kabul.
His "army" has been banned as a "terrorist organisation" by the US, the EU, the UN Security Council, Russia, India, Pakistan and Australia. But when Hafiz Muhammad Saeed walks into the bedroom-cum-office of a small suburban house in Lahore, he is all smiles, a white cap on his head, his straggling black Salafist-style beard spreading over his white gown, urging me to eat the biscuits and apricot-topped cream-cake lying on the glass table between us.
He smiles; he occasionally laughs; he wearily takes off his thick-framed brown glasses and lays them on the bed; he talks of the need to "liberate" all of Kashmir, and he produces copious files to show me that the Lahore High Court could not prove he was a violent man, let alone the leader of the "Army of the Righteous". Indeed, he says, he is merely the leader of a charitable organisation, the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah – the "Group of Preaching" – one of the largest welfare NGOs in Pakistan, with 2,000 offices and a reputation as an earthquake and flood relief agency.
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