SPECIAL: Pakistan can’t afford to keep Hafiz Saeed in jail

Chief of Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed (C, front) leaves after being detained by police in eastern Pakistan's Lahore on early Jan. 31, 2017. Authorities in Pakistan have detained Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the group accused of planning the 2008 attacks in the Indian commercial center of Mumbai that had killed 166 people, the group's spokesman said Tuesday. (Xinhua/Sajjad) (lrz)

If the Army can release Mr Ehsanullah Ehsan who was responsible for terror attacks on the Peshawar Army Public School and Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousufzai, they will release Hafiz Muhammad Saeed also…. writes Kaliph Anaz

Qamar Javed Bajwa. (Photo: Twitter/@iamCOAS) by .
Qamar Javed Bajwa. (Photo: Twitter/@iamCOAS)

Finally, the cat’s out of the bag. The Pakistani army’s secret pact with Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Malala attacker, indicates the direction in which the wind will blow in Pakistan. If they can release Mr Ehsan who was responsible for terror attacks on the Peshawar Army Public School and Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousufzai, they will release Hafiz Muhammad Saeed also. But wait till the final decision of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the US peace deal with Afghanistan.

Ehsanullah was set free by the Pakistani security establishment in lieu of the information he provided against other Pakistani militants who have been recently killed. As per a pact between the Pakistani security establishment and Ehsanullah, after he surrendered before them under mysterious circumstances three years ago, the former Tehrik-i-Taliban spokesperson had agreed to give up his association with all militant groups in exchange of several benefits.

The Pakistan Army and ISI had promised not only to rebuild his destroyed house in his native village, but also committed to not subject him to any torture and instead give him a safe place and protection, One crore Pakistani rupees and permission to use a cell phone and internet.

What will be in offer for Hafiz Saeed who played a key role in formulating the foreign policy of Pakistan? According to reliable sources there are loopholes in the sentencing which allows the government to reduce the jail term to their convenience. Who is going to challenge the Army? General Qamar Javed Bajwa is firmly on saddle and he will call the shots. He will wait till the FATF decision and the Americans signing the deal with Afghan Taliban on February 29.

Once the deal is done and the US begins their pull out from the landlocked neighbour, he will start meddling on the border with India. For that purpose, he needs a powerful tool and Hafiz Saeed is the right one to fit the bill. Saeed’s credentials are useful for the general to foothold his position as the Master For All.

Ehsanullah Ehsan by .
Ehsanullah Ehsan

But people are closely watching the developments taking place at Pindi. If the Army can release Ehsanullah, the militant who is responsible for the killing of 140 people, most of them children at Army Public School in Peshwar on December 14, 2014, they will release Hafiz Saeed also.

The Army totally ignores the plight of parents who lost their children at the brutal attack. Dawn reported that families of the victims led by Shuhada APS Forum President Advocate Fazal Khan, staged a demonstration outside the Peshawar press club and shouted slogans against Ehsanullah’s escape.

“The news of escape has created a sense of deprivation among the APS victims How can a terrorist escape from a highly-guarded red zone area? It’s a good joke,” Khan was quoted as saying.
There are many others are on the same line of thinking. They are now aware about the game Army playing to fulfil their personal agenda. The junta wants to add more to their coffers and they don’t care about the common-man. But the media are watching. Dawn, the leading English newspaper, wrote an editorial after the Saeed sentencing, criticising the government for using religious militants to fulfil their diplomatic agendas. They are even letting wanted terrorists like Hafiz Saeed to launch own political parties and joining the sacred democratic process.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed

Hafiz Saeed is the founder of one of Pakistan’s largest militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and he has been wanted by India for years for the Mumbai attack which claimed 160 lives. He is designated as a global terrorist by both the UN and the US, which has a $10m bounty on his head. But he is a favourite for the Pakistan Army to achieve their goals, especially in Kashmir.

In 1987, Hafiz Saeed founded Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad. This organisation spawned the jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1990 when the Afghan war nearing its end. Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence played a key role and provided funds. Lashkar’s primary target is the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. He facilitates the transfer of a major portion of Islamist jihadis from Afghanistan to fight against Indian rule in disputed Kashmir. They turned a secular Azadi campaign to a pro-Pakistani Islamic Jihad.

“The fact is that using militant actors as tools of foreign policy is a failed strategy,” the Dawn said in its editorial on Friday. “This seems to be the understanding at the top in Islamabad. While world powers, including those who are now asking Pakistan to ‘do more’, were at one time proponents of using religious militants against state or non-state opponents, today they have publicly ditched this strategy.

“Moreover, using such proxies has brought nothing but problems for Pakistan, with the UN listing Hafiz Saeed as a terrorist. Besides involvement in foreign theatres, and the ensuing opprobrium this has brought Pakistan, the fact is that LeT/JuD fighters have also contributed to instability within the country. The organisation has maintained links with the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda, as well as with elements that evolved into the Punjabi Taliban. Considering these precedents, it can only be welcomed that Saeed has been sent to prison.

“Another major point that the conviction of the JuD chief raises is that, in Pakistan, militant groups are proscribed while their leaders and cadres continue to operate as per routine,” the newspaper added. “Perhaps the sentencing of Hafiz Saeed will help change this situation.

But the real plot is to hoodwink the international community. Without foreign assistance, Pakistan army can’t line their coffers. They are expecting a prominent role in the region once the US troops leaving Afghanistan. There will be hefty financial assistance and arms besides IMF support. But the FATF is putting a spike on their dreams. Remain in the Grey List and later on the Black List will make them a pariah. Significantly, Saeed’s conviction comes a week before the Paris-based FATF discusses Pakistan’s progress in curbing terror financing.

The whole world is watching. How committed the Pakistani regime on war against terror? They can no more fool the world with their tactics. It’s high time the general should realise the fact that the world is paying price for their failures. Whether it is in New York or London, the terror attacks always lead to a link in Pakistan. It is high time the officials wake up and take action. They can no more have their cakes and eat it too.

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