Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was born in a family of Sargodha, Punjab.As told by him, his father, Kamal-ud-Din, a farmer, along with his family started migrating from East Punjab and reached Pakistan in around four months in the autumn of 1947. His family lost 36 of its members when migrating from Hisar, Haryana (erstwhile Punjab) to Lahore during the Partition of India.
A major early influence on his life and ideology was his maternal uncle, and later father-in-law, Hafiz Abdullah Bahawalpuri, who was a famed theologian belonging to the Ahl-e-Hadith, a Wahhabi group considered the most extreme in its theological positions, who held that democracy was incompatible with Islam (which alienated him with Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami) and argued, on the importance of jihad, “that only in jihad does one offer one’s life in the way of Allah, which elevates it to a higher plane than merely fulfilling other religious responsibilities such as saying prayers and paying zakat, also entailing sacrifices and adjustments, but not at the scale evident in jihad” and “considered shahadat (martyrdom) to be the crux of jihad.”Bahawalpuri’s only son, Abdul Rehman Makki, is Saeed’s brother-in-law and has been described as “his close partner.”
General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq appointed Hafiz Muhammad Saeed to the Council on Islamic Ideology, and he later served as an Islamic Studies teacher at the University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan. He was sent to Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s by the university for higher studies where he met Saudi sheikhs who were taking part in the Soviet–Afghan War. They inspired him in taking an active role supporting the mujahideen in Afghanistan.During his studies at the King Saud University, where he was Gold Medalist for his academic performances as well as taught there, he came under the influence of Salafi scholars like Shaykh Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen and especially Shaykh Ibn Baz.
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed held two master’s degrees from the University of Punjab and a specialization in Islamic Studies and Arabic Language from King Saud University.
In 1987, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, along with Abdullah Azzam, founded Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad, a group with roots in the Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadis.
This organisation spawned the jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1990,with the help of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence officers.
Lashkar’s primary target is the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.He is also quoted as saying, “There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”
In 1994, Saeed visited the United States and “spoke at Islamic centres in Houston, Chicago and Boston”.
Pakistan took Saeed into custody on 21 December 2001 due to an Indian government assertion that he was involved in the 13 December 2001 attack on the Lok Sabha. He was held until 31 March 2002, released, then taken back into custody on 15 May. He was placed under house arrest on 31 October 2002 after his wife Maimoona Saeed sued the province of Punjab and the Pakistan federal government for what she claimed was an illegal detention.
After the July 11, 2006 Mumbai train bombings, the provincial government of Punjab, Pakistan arrested him on 9 August 2006 and kept him under house arrest but he was released on 28 August 2006 after a Lahore High Court order. He was arrested again on the same day by the provincial government and was kept in the Canal Rest House in Sheikhupura. He was finally released after the Lahore High Court order on 17 October 2006.
After the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, India submitted a formal request to the U.N. Security Council to put the group Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed on the list of individuals and organisations sanctioned by the United Nations for association with terrorism. India has accused the organisation and its leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, of being virtually interchangeable with Lashkar-e-Taiba. India said that the close links between the organisations, as well as the 2,500 offices and 11 seminaries that Jamaat-ud-Dawa maintains in Pakistan, “are of immediate concern with regard to their efforts to mobilise and orchestrate terrorist activities.”On 10 December 2008, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed denied a link between LeT and JuD in an interview with Pakistan’s Geo television stating that “no Lashkar-e-Taiba man is in Jamaat-ud-Dawa and I have never been a chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba.”
On 11 December 2008, Hafiz Muhammed Saeed was again placed under house arrest when the United Nations declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa to be an LeT front. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was held in house arrest under the Maintenance of Public Order law, which allows authorities to detain temporarily individuals deemed likely to create disorder,until early June 2009 when the Lahore High Court, deeming the containment to be unconstitutional, ordered Hafiz Muhammad Saeed to be released. India quickly expressed its disappointment with the decision.
On 6 July 2009, the Pakistani government filed an appeal of the court’s decision. Deputy Attorney General Shah Khawar told the Associated Press that “Hafiz Saeed at liberty is a security threat.”
On 25 August 2009, Interpol issued a red notice against Hafiz Saeed, along with Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, in response to Indian requests for his extradition.
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was again placed under house arrest by the Pakistani authorities in September 2009.
On 12 October 2009, the Lahore High Court quashed all cases against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and set him free. The court also notified that Jama’at-ud-Da’wah is not a banned organisation and can work freely in Pakistan. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, one of two judges hearing the case, observed “In the name of terrorism we cannot brutalise the law.”
Indian attempts at extradition
On 11 May 2011, in an effort to place pressure on Pakistan, India publicly revealed a list of its 50 most wanted fugitives hiding in Pakistan. India believes Hafiz Saeed is a fugitive, but the Indian arrest warrant had no influence in Pakistan and presently has no effect on Saeed’s movements within Pakistan. Following the Lahore High Court ruling, Saeed has been moving freely around the country. For many years, India has demanded that Saeed be handed over but there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.
Declaration as a terrorist by the United States
The United States declared two Lashkar-e-Tayyiba leaders – Nazir Ahmad Chaudhry and Muhammad Hussein Gill – specially designated global terrorists. The State Department also maintained LeT’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation and added the following aliases to its listing of LeT: Jama’at-ud-Dawa, Al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-i-Hurmat-i-Rasool, and Tehrik-i-Tahafuz Qibla Awwal. The Department of Treasury said that LeT was responsible for the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai which killed nearly 200 people. The group’s leader is Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who is listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
Cooperation with Islamabad
In keeping with Pakistani establishment’s wishes, Lashkar has been keeping focus on India and Saeed is among those who are thought to have helped Pakistan in capturing important al-Qaeda members like Abu Zubaydah.Senior Pakistani officials have said that Saeed is helping in de-radicalization and rehabilitation of former extremists and that security is being provided to him because he could be targeted by militants who disapprove of Saeed’s co-operation with Islamabad.
In April 2012, the United States announced a bounty of US$10 million on Hafeez Saeed, for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.Saeed stated that he had nothing to do with the Mumbai attacksand condemned them. When asked about the bounty, Saeed replied, “I am living my life in the open and the US can contact me whenever they want.”He subsequently stated that he was ready to face “any American court” to answer the charges and added that if Washington wanted to contact him they knew where he was. “This is a laughable, absurd announcement. Here I am in front of everyone, not hiding in a cave,” he said in a press conference.Saeed identified his leading role in the Difa-e-Pakistan council and US attempts to placate India as reasons behind the bounty.
Hafiz Saeed has criticised Pakistani leaders and has stated that they should aspire to be more like British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson. He had declared his admiration for the British Conservative Party along with several Tory MPs when he lodged a petition to the Lahore High Court calling for public officials in Pakistan to tone down their privileged lifestyles. According to The Daily Telegraph, Saeed wrote in the petition that while Pakistan’s political elite were ‘living like kings and princes in palatial government houses,’ Britain’s prime minister lived in a ‘four-bedroom flat.’ He added, ‘When the sun never set on the British Empire, the chief executive of that great country lived in the same house of a few marlas in a small street. That is truly Islamic, that is like following the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet.’
Speaking on the issue of arrest of separatist Kashmiri leader Masarat Alam by the Jammu and Kashmir government, Saeed said, “Jihad is the duty of an Islamic government… there is a government in Pakistan and it has always taken the stand that it is the right of Kashmiris to attain freedom. I say what our Army will do to secure the right of the Kashmiris is jihad… We extend help to Kashmiris alongside government… we call this jihad.”
Criticizing his anti-India comments, Indian Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi said, “People like Hafiz Saeed are unaware about teachings of Islam, jihad in Islam. They are killing innocent lives in Pakistan, children are being killed. They are using Pakistan for maligning another country. The Government of India should take strict action against it and I condemn his comments in clear and strong words.”
In January 2013, India’s then Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde released a statement on the alleged existence of Hindu terrorism as well as the existence of Hindu terror camps on Indian soil, being run and organised by the BJP and the RSS.As a result, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa welcomed Shinde’s statements and congratulated him for admitting the existence of Hindu terrorism. Hafiz Saeed demanded that the United States take serious notice of this statement by the Indian home minister regarding Hindu terrorist camps in India. “The US should now carry out drone attacks on these terror camps in India,” Saeed said.
In September 2014, Saeed accused India of “water terrorism”.Though there was flood crisis in India too, Saeed blamed India for flood crisis in Pakistan.In several tweets on social media he said, “Indian gov discharged water in rivers without notification & has given false information; an act of open mischief,” “India has used water to attack Pakistan, We are in state of War. India’s water aggression must be taken to the UN security council.”
Responding to a question about the nuclear warning issued by Indian authorities in Jammu and Kashmir after the 2013 India–Pakistan border incidents, Saeed said that in case of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, India should distribute nuclear safety pamphlets in Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta rather than in Kashmir.
Punjabi as national language
Hafiz Saeed has questioned Pakistan’s decision to adopt Urdu (only 8% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as a first language) as its national language in a country where the majority of people speak the Punjabi language. He advocated that Punjabi should be made the national language.