The Bold Voice of J&K

Pakistan finally discovers a terrorist in Hafiz Saeed

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M. M Khajooria

‘The house arrest’ of Hafiz Syed in Pakistan, who had since graduated from a strategic asset to full time high value collaborator did raise some eye brows. However ,this is not the first time that he has been so detained. He was placed under house arrest in December 2008, days after the Mumbai terror attacks that he masterminded. He was again detained in September 2009.Both these arrests were cosmetic and under inter-national pressure . In both cases, the restrictions , for whatever these were worth lasted for only a short while. Since then he has been a darling of the ISI and enjoys close proximity to and patronage of the Pakistan Army Highcommand. Pakistan Government takes care of his security and he is a regular guest in ‘Aftar’ parties held in Corps Hqrs Army Officers’ Mess. He has also successfully crafted his own pretty large constituency and developed intimate rapport with the media not excluding the international media. He is the moving spirit of Diffah-i- Pakistan Council , a public platform for all politico-religious pro- Army groups. Recently, he floated Jammu and Kashmir Tehrek-i-Azadi , the political face of te terrorist combine which includes his own Lashkar-i-Toiba and the United Jihad Command whose titular head is Mohd Yusuf alias Syed Salah ud Din. So why this house arrest which Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor significantly described as ” a policy decision that the state took in [the] national interest” This not all. Surprise of surprises, Hafiz Saeed, the darling of Army HQRS wielding tremendous clout in the Government of Pakistan has been declared, yes, officially declared as a ‘Terrorist ‘and his name included in the 4th Schedule of the relevant Act? Why this hundred eighty degree turn?
Pakistan Government decision to immobilise Hafiz[i] Saeed was clearly the outcome of multiple pressures from home and abroad. Strong enough to bring the army leadership on board. As reported by Dawn newspaper , state policy on non-state actors was discussed in a high-level security meeting between civilian and military leadership. During the meeting it was decided that military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action. The consensus is stated to have emerged after in an unprecedented move, the civilian government informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan on Hafiz Saeed issue.
During a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs PML-N lawmaker Rana Muhammad Afzal maintained that “India has built such a case against us about the JuD chief that during the meeting on Kashmir, foreign delegates mention him [Hafiz Saeed] as the bone of contention between Pakistan and India” . Rana recalled a recent trip to France, where he had been tasked to explain the worsening situation in Kashmir, and said that the name of Hafiz Saeed was brought up time and again by foreign delegates “The efficacy of our foreign policy speaks for itself when we couldn’t curtail Hafiz Saeed”, he asserted
Then there is the crucial Chinese factor. “The last thing China wants as it pushes forward with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)” a Pak media report points out “is an India-Pakistan relationship on tenterhooks – not to mention on a war footing, as was the case for several weeks last year” This all makes good sense considering the high stakes of CPEC and Beijing as well as for Islamabad for whom “rapid and sustained progress on this project is a core strategic imperative.”
US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration may have decisively tilted the delicate balance. Action against Hafiz Saeeds’ may be seen as an effort by Pakistan to showcase its counter terrorism bonafides to the new US administration. The objective being to dissuade Trump from adding Pakistan to the list of countries that can’t send their citizens to the United States. Significantly, Trump’s Chief of Staff has indicated that Pakistan could be added to the list.
At another level, Pakistan COAS Gen . Bajwa is reportedly keen to ease tension on Indo-Pak borders , avoid cross border skirmishes and work for a state of non-belligerency between the two countries . This should enable him to quell the spiralling internal terrorism to which objective he accords highest priority. Unencumbered by active hostile engagement with India, he hopes to successfully fight back, what he perceives as an existential threat to his country from Global terror syndicates. The problem, according to knowledgeable sources has acquired extreme urgency after the ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attack on the Sufi Shrine of Shabaz Qualader in Sindh. If action against Hafiz Saeed can help achieve the prime objective, so be it.
[i] While the validity of the above factors in shaping the current Pak position can hardly be questioned, it is difficult to predict its durability. There are obvious imponderable in the situation. For instance, how will Trump’s Muslim policy play out and where will Pakistan fit into this? When and in what manner Pakistan Government may choose to facilitate Hafiz obtaining release through Judicial route hoodwink the Europeans pretending helplessness and innocence? The value that the political and army leaderships in Pakistan accord to Saeed as a key collaborator enjoying significant clout in sections of society which count is no secret. Powerful lobbies in government and the military still consider him indispensible for directing and promoting ” the struggle for independence in Kashmir”-Pakistan’s core strategic interest. The possibility of a change in Pak scenario and its consequent impact on the situation in Kashmir should therefore never be discounted. But the chances of an early change either in foreign policy paradigm or relief to Hafiz Saeed are remote, so we must be prepared to derive optimum advantage from the anticipated comparative lull on the borders and consequent enfeeblement of the cross border thrust particularly after removal of Hafiz Saeed from the scene. Swift but comprehensive, focused and decisive initiatives must be structured and implemented both at the ideological and operational fronts.

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