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Pak Struggles to Tame its Monster

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Frankenstein's monster on display at Manchester Day Parade 2016 - @C Mark Waugh

Hafiz Saeed, a creation of Pakistan’s establishment, is now threatening its democratic institutions. The country was ostracised by the international community for its decision to let the wanted terrorist from house arrest…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Frankenstein’s monster on display at Manchester Day Parade 2016 – @C Mark Waugh

In all probability, the Pakistan Government will again detain Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and take over his charity organisations to satisfy the visiting UNSC delegation.

Getting more than just a firm indication of this and the fact that the fledgling civilian government cannot defy a UN delegation that wants action against him, Saeed on January 24 approached the Lahore High Court to prevent his detention by the government that he says is meant to ‘appease’ the United States and India.

Whatever the action by the high court, it is more than clear that Saeed continues to be a thorn on the side of each government in Pakistan that has used him when needed and detained him under international pressure.

(WORLD SECTION) PAKISTAN-LAHORE-ANNIVERSARY-NUCLEAR
Hafiz Saeed addresses a rally in Lahore (File)

The Abbasi Government may discredit India and counter the pressures from the US, mainly for public consumption, but it cannot defy the UN that represents the overwhelming international concern and opinion.

So, on this score, even the sabre-rattling that Pakistan is engaged in with the US to fend off the latter’s increasing pressures, must stop when it comes to Hafiz Saeed. Indeed, he is the hot potato that the government must drop to ‘appease’ the UN and the world opinion.

Gone are the times when Pakistan would reject with disdain what India said while privately telling the Americans that Saeed is a “popular figure” among the people of Pakistan and cannot be punished.

Although the American hand is clearly behind the dispatching of the UNSC delegation, Mr Abbasi, who only the other day declared that “there are no proofs against Hafiz Saeed” enough to keep him under detention, must act.

The Abbasi Government, obviously under the army’s pressures built as part of the effort to counter the US, released Saeed from house detention last November as a kind of a bargaining chip.

But Saeed took full advantage of his release and thumbed his nose at the civilian government. He told a Friday congregation in Lahore that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was forced to step down because he had betrayed the Kashmiri cause.

PAKISTAN-LAHORE-MILITANT-LEADER-ARREST by .
Chief of Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed (C, front) leaves

Now, Kashmir is a knotty issue with national, ideological and international ramifications for Pakistan. By making such allegation, Saeed was casting aspersions on the Supreme Court under whose verdict Nawaz had to go and on the military whose hidden hand, since the military wants Nawaz weakened before the polls to ensure that he does not get a second term in the government.

It shows just how knotty the issue, which transcends national and ideological boundaries,

Hence, Hafiz Saeed is a hot potato that must be dropped. But the more important question is, how and for how long?

The government has kept announcing that it is contemplating taking over the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) charity body – yet another bargaining chip. It would now need to act decisively.

But a government which has recently lost its prime minister and is being run by his replacement who has one eye on the next election and the other on the court proceedings against his leader can hardly be expected to cope well with the calls for and warnings against a trial of Hafiz Saeed.

As Dawn newspaper put it in its editorial on January 24, 2018, “It is a long-overdue step that the state must take.” Abbasi made a bland announcement on this but gave no details other than “a firm commitment” of action.

The fight against extremism is fundamental to the security of Pakistan and its people. Extremism helps sustain an environment in which militant groups can recruit impressionable young men and women, and also helps normalise the role of non-state actors in society

Reading the writings on the wall right, the newspaper called JuD “so-called charities.”

The obstacle here is that while the LeT is banned by the UNSC, the US and by the past Pakistan Government, “its avatar the Jamaatud Dawa and its charity wing the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation are on the UNSC sanctions list, but not banned by Pakistan.

The editorial firmly opined that this action “must also be applied to the other two entities, currently under watch, in order to comply with UN stipulations.”

Militant bodies in Pakistan have for long survived and thrived by changing names or floating new bodies. Saeed who floated the two charities also disowned LeT connections. But the fig leaf is falling off.

“Despite attempts to create legally tenuous separations between banned militant networks and their various wings, there is little doubt that the FIF, JuD and LeT are closely connected,” Dawn said.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed

The US-UNSC pressures could expose the duplicity of the Pakistan Government that is trying to appease the Islamist extremists, with Saeed as their Godfather, who want to join the political mainstream and contest the elections this summer.

Sane opinion is growing that the government should not play footsy. It should nip any effort of the Milli Muslim League to register as a bona fide political party.

There is an inherent warning that the fight against extremism cannot begin to be fought if militant networks are allowed to operate under the guise of social work or legitimate political activity.

The fight against extremism is fundamental to the security of Pakistan and its people. Extremism helps sustain an environment in which militant groups can recruit impressionable young men and women, and also helps normalise the role of non-state actors in society.

It is absurd to suggest that groups that are ideologically opposed to the existence and constitutional foundations of the state and that endorse violence in circumstances of their own choosing continue to have a place in Pakistan’s polity in one form or the other.

Pakistan’s global credibility remains poor, including in bodies where Pakistan has legally binding obligations. That a UNSC delegation has had to come to Pakistan shows that the country is under watch and there serious misgivings about its role – notwithstanding its strenuous claims  about being ‘victim’ of terrorism and of waging “the world’s longest war against terrorism,” as an inarticulate Abbasi claimed the other day as part of the defiance against the US criticism.

Action against Saeed that will satisfy the UNSC and the world opinion may be the only way out for Pakistan.

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