India’s protest: Palestine recalls envoy from Pakistan after attending rally with Hafiz Saeed

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ISLAMABAD: The Palestinians have withdrawn their envoy to Pakistan after he appeared at a rally with a radical cleric linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Palestinian envoy Walid Abu Ali shared the stage with Hafiz Saeed, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement, at Friday’s rally, which was held to protest US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian ambassador Walid Abu Ali

The rally in Rawalpindi, attended by thousands, was organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council, an alliance of religious parties dominated by Saeed’s group. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is believed to be a front for Lashker-e-Taiba, a militant group that fights Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir, and which was blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
Saeed, the founder of Lashker-e-Taiba, is wanted by the US, which has offered a $10 million reward for his arrest, but Pakistan has refused extradition requests and allows him to operate relatively freely. He was recently placed under house arrest for 11 months but was released after a court ruled in his favor.
Saeed denies involvement in the 2008 attacks, and Pakistan says India has not provided enough evidence to charge him. US officials have long accused Pakistan of harboring extremists, allegations denied by Islamabad.

Palestinian ambassador Walid Abu Ali sits along with Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed at a rally in Rawalpindi.

Near-daily rallies have been held in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this month, a move seen as siding with the Jewish state against the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

English version of Palestinian statement

The rally in Rawalpindi, attended by thousands, was organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council, an alliance of religious parties dominated by Saeed’s group. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is believed to be a front for Lashker-e-Taiba, a militant group that fights Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir, and which was blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
India’s protest
In a statement Saturday addressed to India, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the envoy’s participation “in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism” was “an unintended mistake, but not justified.” It said the envoy has been recalled. India had lodged a protest with the Palestinians earlier Saturday, calling the envoy’s association with Saeed “unacceptable.” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry defended the envoy, saying it welcomed his “active participation in events organized to express solidarity with the people of Palestine.”

Palestinian ambassador Walid Abu Ali chatting with Hafiz Saeed at the rally.

India issued a strongly worded demarche after photos of Walid Abu Ali sharing the stage with Saeed and addressing the rally organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) were circulated on social media on Friday.
Barely hours after the Indian statement, a Palestinian official told Hindustan Times: “The ambassador has been recalled from Pakistan and asked to report to Ramallah.
Palestine is part of the world community and it is committed to fighting terrorism. This shouldn’t have happened.”
The Palestin-ian ambassador to India, Adnan Abu Al Haij, was quoted as saying that his government supported India “in its fight against terrorism” and had decided to call back its Pakistan envoy.
A statement in Arabic issued by the Palestinian foreign ministry said the envoy in Pakistan was recalled on the “direct instructions” of President Mahmoud Abbas. The envoy’s participation in the rally “in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism is an unintended mistake, but not justified”, it said.

Palestinian ambassador Walid Abu Ali addresses the rally while participants raise slogan of Allah-o-Akbar (God is great)

A statement issued by India’s external affairs ministry said the Palestinian side “conveyed deep regrets over the incident and assured the government of India that they are taking serious cognisance of their ambassador’s presence” at the rally. It said that the Palestinian side had conveyed that it “highly values its relationship with India and stands with us in the war against terrorism, and will not engage with those who commit acts of terror against India”.
The rally featured several jihadi leaders, including Saifullah Khalid of the Milli Muslim League, a political party formed by Saeed, and Abdul Rehman Makki of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) The event was attended by thousands, including members of the JuD. The DPC is a grouping of some 40 extremist and jihadi groups that was formed by Hafiz Saeed and other extremists in 2012. It has campaigned for long for snapping ties with India and the US.