UN designated terrorist and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed is running the affairs of his banned Jamaat-ud Dawah (JuD) group from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail, where he recently played the role of an arbitrator in a high-profile case between the police and the family of a suspected ATM thief who died in police custody.
Salahuddin Ayubi, who was mentally challenged, died in police custody last month due to alleged torture after his arrest on charges of stealing money from an ATM. His death sparked outrage across the country.
Saeed, who has been in the high security jail since his arrest on July 17 on charges of terror financing, last week met the deceased man's family and convinced them to pardon the policemen involved in Ayubi's murder for the sake of Allah.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba founder also received assurance by the authorities of construction of a carpeted road and supply of gas to the village of the victim's family in Gujranwala at an accumulative cost of Rs 800 million to settle the dispute.
"Since some members of the family of Ayubi were the followers of Saeed, police arranged their 'special meeting' with him in jail. After listening to both sides, Saeed gave the victim's family three options - receive blood money from the accused policemen or pardon them in the name of Allah or pursue legal case against them. The family chose to pardon the policemen," a government official told PTI on Tuesday.
When the PTI contacted Ayubi's father Afzaal Ghumman, he confirmed that he and other family members pardoned the accused policemen on the wish' of the JuD chief.
"When we visited him (Saeed) in the jail last week, he gave us three choices. He said pardoning someone in the name of Allah is far superior act. So we chose to pardon the suspects," Ghumman said.
A Station House Officer, an inspector and some constables named in the case are currently on an interim bail.
The media focus on the case had forced the government to remove top police officers. The Chief Justice of Lahore High Court had ordered formation of a judicial commission to probe the matter.
The source also said that Saeed directed the Punjab government to establish a school, lay a gas network in their (victim's family) village Gorali, Gujranwala, some 80-km from Lahore, and rebuild a link road in return for the pardon.
"Interestingly, after Saeed's mediation, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar visited their village and assured provision of these facilities there at the earliest, he said.
The source further said this is perhaps one of the unique cases in the history of the country where a suspect facing terror financing charges settling the court matters of other suspects. "This shows how powerful this man (Saeed) is, he said.
In 2016, the government had launched a probe against the JuD for running a parallel judicial system in Punjab province.
The group was accused of settling matters among the people at its headquarters in Lahore, running a parallel judicial system.
The investigation, however, hit the snag and no legal action has been taken against any member of the JuD.
The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.
Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
According to officials, JuD has a vast network which includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance service. The JuD and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) have about 50,000 volunteers and hundreds of other paid workers.
In March 2019, Punjab police said that government seized control of 160 seminaries, 32 schools, two colleges, four hospitals, 178 ambulances and 153 dispensaries associated with the JuD and the FIF in province.
At least 56 seminaries and facilities being run by the JuD and FIF in southern Sindh province were also taken over by authorities in the same month.