By Arun Joshi
The Indian media’s excitement over a Pakistani anti-terrorism court sentencing 10 years imprisonment in two terror cases on Thursday is misplaced as it ignores the cold reality that this sentence has nothing to do with his role with the 26/11.
There are layers and layers within Pakistani system that operates under the control of the establishment, including the judiciary, and whatever they do or not do is directly related to their self-interests. A due care is taken by them not to abandon their strategic assets, because the establishment loves to have more of them to further their goals.
If any one of them is seen getting punished , it will deter the would be ideologues and terrorists. That would be a failure of their project of nursing and nurturing the assets whom they use as non- state actors to hide themselves in the crisis like situation that had arisen after the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008 .
Hafiz Saeed is not going to be in jail for the duration of the sentence announced by the Anti-Terrorism court, though at the moment he is in a Lahore jail. Soon there would be a fresh appeal against this ruling of the court and the whole sentence is likely to be upturned. This is the pattern that Pakistan has been following all along.
For the time being there could be only one solace for India that Hafiz Saeed who had masterminded the 26/ 11 which left 180 persons, including some foreign nationals dead, has been seen as a terrorist by Pakistan and punished for that.
It is very difficult, rather impossible in Pakistan to get anyone listed as terrorist, especially the one whom India blames for the terror attacks. It doesn’t matter to Pakistan whether the terrorists are UN designated or there is bounty of millions of dollars on them. That way, Pakistan establishment is quite thick-skinned.
At some point India can advance the argument that Hafiz Saeed has been acknowledged as a terrorist by Pakistani courts. Some kind of substance would be drawn from the fact that Pakistani court sentenced him for the acts of terror, hence once a terrorist, always a terrorist.
Before India plans to further its argument and its media plays out, mostly out of context victory for India in it, the whole background of Pakistan’s current position and its necessity for doing what it did vis-à-vis Hafiz Saeed, one of its biggest strategic assets against India, demands a thorough understanding.
In simple words, Pakistan has done it for its own compulsions. It is going to be scrutinised by the Financial Action Task Force for its work against the terrorists and their funding in February 2021, because it is still on the grey list of the international terror funding watchdog. Pakistan wants to come out of the list because any impression that it is again protecting terrorists would land it in bigger troubles.
FATF had asked Pakistan after its meeting in October 2020 that it should do more to earn reprieve from getting into the black list. In that eventuality, Pakistan would not be able to escape international sanctions. That will spell doom for its staggering economy.
There is something more that needs to be understood in this regard. For India, it is not even a baby step against terrorism and its operators in Pakistan.
Despite India having provided evidence-based dossier against Hafiz Saeed and his group Lashkar-e-Toiba, Pakistan did not take any concrete action against the perpetrators and masterminds of Mumbai terror attack. In response, Pakistan used its legal system to play a game of hide and seek. Whenever there is international pressure, the terrorists involved in 26/11 are sent to jail.
As the pressure eases with the time, they are out of jail. So, his sentence in the two terror cases on November 19, is not a commitment that Pakistan has shown against terrorism, it is more of a window dressing to showcase itself fighting terrorism .
The reality is that whenever Pakistan wants to punish the terrorists, the matter is referred to the military courts, where terrorists are sentenced and executed within days.
Pakistan had done this after the dastardly terror attack at Peshawar Army School in December 2014, when it chased and bombed the terror hideouts of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the terrorist group that it blamed for killing of 130 students and teachers. Few others were executed on orders of the specially set up military courts.
This punishment against Hafiz Saeed has two sides. One, if Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist in some cases in Pakistan, then how does Pakistan vouch for his innocence in Mumbai and other terror attacks in India. Second, when he is protected by the establishment there, it doesn’t matter whether he stays in a jail or out of it. His facilities and the terror operations are not going to stop. This is not any concrete step against terrorism in Pakistan.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
Read More from the Author: J&K Lens: Truth about Pakistan as terrorism hub exposed; Pak admits Pulwama attack after repeated denials