By Khaled Ahmed
February 3, 2018
Islamabad-based security analyst Amir Rana wrote in Dawn (January 28): “Banned militant groups are continuously giving Pakistan diplomatic stress. It has been discussed at various high-level national forums that these groups have become a strategic burden for the country.”
In the first week of 2018, Pakistan barred Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) of Pakistan’s infamous Wahhabi leader, Hafiz Saeed, from collecting donations. Pakistan’s financial regulatory body, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), issued a notification prohibiting the collection of donations by the JuD, the front organisation of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, as also the around 300 educational institutions run by the JuD and the many private courts it was running in defiance of the writ of the state.
Did this happen after taking India into confidence? The Janjua-Doval Bangkok “national security” session was a “pre-scheduled meeting” and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was apparently aware of it. Did the two sides exchange views on what was about to happen to Saeed? The bilateral equation was at an all-time low after Prime Minister Narendra Modi thought Pakistan was plotting an electoral hijack of Gujarat from the BJP’s control. The Bangkok meeting had followed Modi’s “revelation”.
The world knew that Saeed was behind the Mumbai attacks. David Headley’s confessions had been published and the “rogue” elements had come out, offended with the Pakistan Army for “not doing enough”. Back home, the courts declared Saeed innocent of all charges of terrorism. The strongman, thought to have a private army of over 200,000 warriors on call, was too strong to even be asked to tone down his brazenly uncivilised Jihadi rhetoric. He ran his own courts in several cities and the state simply accepted them because Saeed was “useful” with his big-money charity in troubled areas in Sindh and Balochistan.
Such was the moral pressure that in 2017 Saeed was confined to his house but support for him was swelling around the country. His followers and members of JuD staged protests against his confinement and no one dared point to the evidence in circulation internationally about his involvement in acts of terrorism in Kashmir and the rest of India. A recent statement of partial acceptance made by Pakistan Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif has opened the floodgates of “orchestrated” castigation against the remnants of the Sharif government.
Reports say Asif was in Germany when he committed the blasphemy of saying that “Hafiz Saeed can become a threat to society”. The world and the United Nations accuse Saeed of committing atrocities in India and Afghanistan. The UN has him on its reward list of terrorists, but in Pakistan, he is the wealthiest philanthropist alive. His reported running of private courts in Pakistan was forgiven after the man who had sneaked on him was beaten up “mysteriously” inside the Lahore High Court precincts.
The dreaded Defence of Pakistan Council, which scares anyone critical of the policies of jihad, has fired a broadside at the government Asif serves. A roll-call of those who would like the Sharif government’s term in office to end prematurely has started. The stage is being set to oust the ruling PMLN. In Balochistan, Nawaz Sharif’s party was shaken on its uncertain throne by a no-confidence motion in the Assembly and was finally overthrown.
As if in lock-step, Chief Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (PK) Pervez Khattak attended a public meeting of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) containing religious personalities sanctioned by the UN for terrorism. The meeting was addressed via telephone by Saeed and PK strongman cleric, Maulana Samiul Haq — once suspected of having a hand in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto — whom the PK government not long ago rewarded with a Rs 300-million handout.
In September 2017, the Foreign Office followed up on the letter of Interior Ministry under Minister Ahsan Iqbal in answer to a query sent by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) about whether Saeed’s Milli Muslim League (MML) should be allowed to take part in the by-election. The Interior Ministry stated: “There is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jamaat-ud- Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are affiliates and ideologically of the same hue, and [therefore] the registration of the MML is not supported.” In 2008, the UN Security Council had added JuD to the banned list under Resolution 1267 as a “supporting agent of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba”.
What has been highlighted by a lame-duck PMLN government is the negative consequence of what is called “mainstreaming” by some elements of the state: Instead of de-radicalising the declared terrorists, the process further radicalises society and undermines the power of the state under the Constitution. The “indirect” and “implied” Chinese warning at the BRICS summit in 2017 seems to have been heeded.