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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2680

Hafeez Saeed & his arrest: Pakistani version of Punch and Judy show

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

Hafeez Mohammed Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been arrested, released, re-arrested and will undoubtedly be released again. This is not the first time that Pakistan has played out this farcical cycle in order to balance the pulls of two diametrically opposite forces. To Gen Musharraf, men like Hafeez Saeed are ‘life-line’; they cannot be put behind bars for long.

LeT in whatever name it assumes at a given moment is important for Pakistan’s ‘low intensity’ war in the Kashmir valley and elsewhere in India. Lately there is an additional reason to be benevolent towards Hafeez Saeed. Like all other ‘banned’ groups, LeT had deputed one of its franchises to operate in the quake hit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir which was swarmed by foreign relief and charity organisations too. One of the British agencies thus transported to PoK was a Sikh organisation with which the LeT (or whatever it was called at that moment) worked closely. The purpose must have been to gauge the potential for revival of unrest in Punjab after the previous attempt by Pakistan had failed.

Hafeez Saeed is considered to be more ‘amenable’ to the ISI than others in the motley group of jehadi leaders in Pakistan. He also has become somewhat vulnerable to the establishment pressures after a split in the LeT’s direct descendent, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. These twists and turns in shady Pak groups do not lessen their menace or sinister designs. Their immediate aim may be to run over India, but they have all a larger ambitious goal of seeing the green crescent flying over all world capitals. Yet, they seem to command only peripheral attention in America.

The ‘arrest’ of Saeed is a burlesque similar to Islamabad’s ‘ban’ on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Hizb-ul- Mujahideen (HM), headed by Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and Syed Salahuddin respectively. Musharraf himself made the announcement of the ‘ban’ on these groups amidst much fanfare and international glare in two instalments—on January 12, 2002 and November 15, 2003. Nobody living in Pakistan or territory under its occupation would be allowed to indulge in terrorism, thundered the general for the satisfaction of Washington.

Yet, after an initial lull for tactical reasons, these Jehad-preaching outfits were back in business. All they had to do was change their names. Their cadres, infrastructure and assets were intact and their leaders were as free to spread their messages of hate and death at will as in the ‘good old days’ prior to 9/11.

The temporary ‘arrests’ of the terrorist leaders did not deter them at all because their incarceration meant only a brief restriction on their physical movement from the special but well-appointed houses where they were ‘detained’. With all the communication facilities, including satellite telephones, available to them, they could not have really complained about being ‘jailed’. They did not even complain about being asked to suspend operations in Kashmir because the instructions from the Pak GHQ were to lie low and wait for the heat (in the wake of 9/11) to disappear.

If Musharraf really meant to ban these jehadi/terrorists groups he would have done something more concrete like demolish their infrastructure and snap the long unholy alliance between these groups and the Pakistani intelligence agencies. That he would not do for the simple reason that in reality the Pakistani establishment, army in particular, shares a common hostile view against India and the need to keep the Jehad flag flying to annexe Kashmir. The fact that religious groups today command considerable clout in Pakistan has further strengthened the ties between the establishment and the jehadi/terrorist groups in Pakistan.

An interesting thing about the ‘arrest’ of Saeed and those of his ilk is that one of the ‘serious’ charges against them is that they are abusive of the president. These ISI pets run down Musharraf’s policy of ‘slavery to the Americans.’ That they spew much more venom against some perceived ‘enemies’ of Islam is not mentioned in the charge sheets. Hafeez Saeed and company regularly denounce Hindus and Jews as enemies of Islam and, hence, deserving of annihilation.

Despite orders to the contrary, the jehadi/terrorist outfits face no hurdles in carrying out all their activities, from collecting cash, distributing leaflets that preach the ‘virtues’ of waging a Jehad against India, to organising training camps in Punjab and PoK and making fiery speeches against the ‘enemies of Islam’, India in particular. Banners and posters listing telephone numbers of terrorist outfits, inviting would-be terrorists to join the camps, continue to flutter, though perhaps not so brazenly and extensively as in the past.

However, there has been one change in the training method of the jehadis. While earlier, large groups of 50 or so used to be trained at the camps run by terrorist groups, now they are trained in groups of 10 or less. Obviously, Pakistan thinks that such tiny presence of ‘pupils’ at a camp does not entitle it to be counted among the regular training camps for terrorist. After all, Pakistan has been flatly denying the accusations of India and Afghanistan that terrorist camps are still being run in Pakistan.

In collusion with his benefactors, Saeed lost no time in declaring that the LeT stands dissolved and he was heading a charity and social welfare organisation called Jamaat-ud-Dawa. This camouflage fools no one because he has not given up his jehadi agenda. By claiming a different orientation of the new outfit, Saeed wants to dodge any action that the government of Pakistan may be forced to initiate under American pressure. Meanwhile, Saeed has further expanded the base of the original LeT by opening a youth wing, called Tulba Jamaat-ul-Dawa that aims at recruiting college students. Saeed’s ‘business’ is prospering; it is growing with official blessings. Naturally, his arrests are nothing more than the Pakistani version of Punch and Judy show.

- Syndicate Features -

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