Why Pakistan wants to dump Hafiz Saeed now?

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Updated: February 21, 2017 1:52 PM

After years of remaining in denial over terror credentials of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Pakistan has finally said the international terrorist and Mumbai attacks mastermind is a threat to the country.

hafiz saeed, hafiz saeed pakistan, pakistan, let, jamaat-ud-dawah, jud, let, pakistan news, khwaja m asif, khwaja asif, hafiz saeed terrorist, donald trump, hafiz saeed arrest, hafiz saeed newsPakistan Defence Minister Khwaja M Asif says terrorist Hafiz Saeed is a threat to his country. (Reuters file)

After years of remaining in denial over terror credentials of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Pakistan has finally said the international terrorist and Mumbai attacks mastermind is a threat to the country. While addressing an international security conference in Munich on Monday, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khwaja Asif said, “Saeed can pose a serious threat to the society.” Asif also said that Saeed, who has been listed under an anti-terrorism law, was arrested recently “in the larger interest of the country.”

Action against Saeed has been a long standing demand of India. The terrorist not only masterminded 26/11 attacks in Mumbai but several other attacks in India as well. He is also believed to have been involved in Kashmir unrest last. Following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, Saeed had publicly organised a mock funeral for Wani in Pakistan.

Until recently, Pakistan failed to take any action against Saeed, even as India had provided a complete dossier on 26/11 attacks to the former. With the tacit support of Pakistani politicians, administration as well as the military, Saeed has openly spewed venom against India and did everything he could to disturb normalcy in Kashmir. According to several reports, Saeed is one of the most powerful persons in Pakistan and most of the country’s high and mighty projects him as a social worker who works for the “welfare” of people.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said recently, “Hafiz Saeed should definitely be freed. They are not terrorists, they run a very fine NGO, they contribute to relief activities in post earthquake and post floods periods in Pakistan. They run great welfare organisations.”

If Saeed is a “social worker” then why Pakistan has a sudden change of heart against him? Considering Pakistan’s history, it is unlikely that the country is yet serious about dealing with all terrorists operating from its land. It is doubtful if Pakistan has matured enough to distinguish between “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists” — the formers are those who spread terror against India and the latter are those who keep on carrying out terror attacks across Pakistan.

In February alone, Pakistan has been hit by at least eight terror attacks in which more than 100 people died. The latest was a suicide bombing on a famed Sufi shrine in Sindh province that killed 88 people.

In Pakistan’ list of “good terrorists” are Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Syed Salahuddin of Hizbul Mujahideen along with Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban etc. The “bad terrorists” are Jamatul Ahrar, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan and a number of other outfits. Interestingly, all of them were once raised by Pakistan’s Army and ISI.

Even as Asif has claimed that Saeed is threat to Pakistan, the nature of his arrest doesn’t show the the country is ready to give up distinguishing between “good” and “bad” terrorists. Instead of a proper jail, Saeed was placed under house arrest under the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) on January 30 in Lahore.

Earlier this month, the Jamaat-ud-Dawah founder was put on Exit Control List, barring him from leaving the country. Both these moves, however, appears to have been taken only to save Saeed in the wake of an unprecedented international pressure, especially after the inauguration of Donald Trump presidency in the US. Trump has vowed to wipe out all forms of Islamic terrorism from the “face of the Earth” and he would not ally with Pakistan unless the Islamic country give up its terrorists.

While it cannot be denied with certainty that Pakistan put Saeed under house arrest to deflect the world’s attention for the time being, it is also possible that Pakistani elites may have decided to get rid of Saeed to keep themselves afloat and relevant in the international arena.

But then, Why now?

The answers are apparent. Pakistan would never have mulled such move even under direct pressure from India. What the elites of the country may be fearing is a break up of their relationship with the US. Historically, their relationship has not been just about mutual ties but the huge aid the US has been pumping into Pakistan so that the country can fight against terror. It is just ironic that Pakistan ended up creating more terrorists than it killed.

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