Is Islamabad sincere in its actions against the militant commander?
After years of dithering, Islamabad has finally been scared straight by the global anti-terrorist consensus and restrained—under Section 11-EEE(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1977—Hafiz Saeed, chief of the dreaded Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a metamorphosed Lashkar-e-Taiba that is reportedly still targeting U.S. forces inside Afghanistan. He’s unlikely to stay detained for very long; he has more money than any other religious leader and finances the Defense of Pakistan Council, which hits the road every time the government relaxes its stance on the “Kashmir dispute.”
Saeed has been put under house arrest at Lahore’s Masjid Qadisya, his headquarters, named insultingly for the town of Qadisiya, where the Arab Muslim army defeated Iran in the early days of the faith. He will likely be shifted to his Johar Town residence, where he lives in even more comfort. Last April, nothing came of the “discovery” that he had been running stealth courts across Pakistan in violation of the country’s Constitution, passing out judgments in 5,550 cases in Lahore alone. Pakistan is his empire on the basis of jihad, which the state continues to secretly endorse.
The U.N. dubbed Saeed a terrorist years ago and the U.S. has a $10 million bounty on his head, but Pakistan’s courts lack the resources to restrain or punish him for continuing to head jihadi outfits under ever-changing names. His violent rhetoric, often targeting India, is a persistent smear against Pakistan in the eyes of a world scared by militancy.
In 2008, 160 people were shot dead in Mumbai by militants who have confessed details that should have sufficed to hang Saeed, but Pakistan’s establishment enjoys his brainless anti-India rhetoric and has given him free rein to spread his tentacles. He is rumored to have 200,000 men deployed these days in Tharparkar and Balochistan “conquering” people that Pakistan doesn’t like. He heads the largest charity in Karachi, where he also runs a university in addition to thousands of schools and kindergartens all over Pakistan.
Details of Hafiz Saeed’s house arrest will soon reach a world now determined to demand action from Pakistan. Whether Islamabad can convince them of its sincerity could determine whether or not we will have to spend years in isolation.