By Shankar Roychowdhury
Nov 07, 2012
Hafiz Saeed is fully aware that India is not the US, and is both unable and unwilling to retaliate with violence of any kind
“Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done”
— George W. Bush, then US President, addressing a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate after 9/11
In a grandiloquent statement before a durbar of assembled media, Hafiz Saeed, head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an extremist group based in Pakistan, which has been declared a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, recently announced his readiness to send aid from the JuD to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, the monster Atlantic cyclone which recently devastated the eastern seaboard of the United States. His statement, however fantastic, has already gathered some positive benefits by way of media publicity. In another and interchangeable capacity, Saeed is also the head of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), another rabidly anti-American terrorist organisation, also headquartered in Pakistan, and has himself been notified as a terrorist by the same world body. Saeed reportedly resides in Pakistan at the JuD headquarters in Muridke in Punjab, where he lives openly under the protection of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.
His offer of assistance to the US is undoubtedly novel and unexpected and can be considered either incredibly crass, or incredibly cunning, the exact motivation behind which only time can bring out. Saeed can by no means be regarded as crass, though he would certainly fit well into the second category. The LeT and its doctrinally allied terrorist groups have always reviled the US as the Great Satan to be attacked at every opportunity and harmed in whatever manner possible so as to cause maximum damage and loss of life. There have been a number of such attempts, successful and unsuccessful, on American lives, properties and interests at home and abroad. Saeed was cynically exploiting the worldwide media impact of Sandy, to ridicule and cock a snook at the US. Not unsurprisingly, the US, the intended recipient, summarily rejected the impertinent offer definitely and without thanks.
Saeed also has what appears to be a sizeable following in India, where his philosophies of radical fundamentalism has given rise to terrorist derivatives, like the Indian Mujahideen, which have been responsible for bomb blasts in Pune, Hyderabad, New Delhi and elsewhere. He also ridicules India’s sensitivities by proclaiming that the LeT always helps those in distress, “even Hindus”. He is on totally safe ground here, because he is fully aware that India is not the US, and is both unable and unwilling to retaliate with violence of any kind against attacks by its enemies. In India, any speech, even remotely resembling that of the US President as a declaration of determination and intent after 9/11, would immediately be dubbed as recklessly provocative and communal even after the grimmest and most lethal incident of terrorism. Saeed and the LeT enjoy very substantial public support in Pakistan. India’s often vociferous Indo-Pakistan peace advocates should take careful note of these and other similar pronouncements by the Lashkar hierarchy — they indicate the true subterranean groundswell of public opinion in Pakistan which India must always keep in mind in its dealings with that country.
In India, Saeed should be a better-known hate figure than he is, because his organisation, the LeT, was the selected instrument of the ISI to execute the Mumbai attacks of November 26, 2008. However, India being India, the initial outburst of public anger and outrage at the perpetrators of 26/11 has long since died away, replaced by the customary apathy and incapability, camouflaged under lofty sentiments of forgiveness and turning the other cheek even to those who have caused the most grievous hurt to the nation and its people.
The previous exploits of the LeT in India include the long-forgotten massacres of 23 Kashmiri Pandits at Wandhama in the Kashmir Valley on January 25, 1998, and the Chittisinghpura killings of 35 Sikhs in March 2008, again in the Kashmir Valley, besides attacks on places of worship in Jammu, Ahmedabad and elsewhere.
The US is the world’s only remaining superpower now, if such labels are still applicable. This is something which many dispute, even amongst “the American people” if electoral rhetoric in that country are any indication. Nevertheless, America’s defiant response to the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack by an often caricatured and derided President was truly that of a country aware of its own strengths and conscious of its capabilities.
The rest, of course, is history. Words were followed by forceful action. A unilateral American intervention in Afghanistan immediately followed the presidential declaration in a hunt for Osama bin Laden who had been identified by uncorroborated American intelligence sources as the most likely perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks. The American mission was unsuccessful in fulfilling its mission at that time, for which the American forces have only their own general -ship to blame.
The hunt for Bin Laden finally ended with his elimination at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011. The US States Department has offered a bounty of $10 million for “information leading to the arrest of Hafiz Saeed”. This is hard to believe, with Saeed making open public appearances at large political and religious gatherings in all parts of Pakistan. Only Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al Qaeda, commands a higher price on his head. Is the hunt for the Lashkar leader on?
Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament