After remaining in denial mode over Hafeez Saeed’s terrorist credentials, Pakistan in a surprise move, placed the terrorist mastermind under house arrest in January along with four other leaders of his LeT group.
Terrorist mastermind Hafiz Saeed, leader of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), was put under house arrest in Pakistan last month along with four other leaders of his group.
It seemed a surprise move by Pakistan which had always denied that Saeed was a terrorist. In fact, he was seen more as an ally by the civilian establishment as well as the military. Saeed is among the few terrorists in the world who are supported and defended publicly by the State.
As expected, theories and stories sprouted in different media outlets overnight, citing official sources, as to why Saeed was detained. One story said Pakistan was under pressure from the new US administration which wanted sanctions on the terrorist group for his financial dealings! Another said it was the Chinese pressure which forced the patrons to abandon Saeed. Similar stories abound. But all of them are nothing but pieces of an elaborate scam which the Pakistanis are past masters at.
History is always an interesting reference point in Pakistan where truth is manufactured with such regularity that reality has long been extinct. This is not the first time that Saeed has been detained. His terrorist group has been sanctioned several times since its birth in the jihadi terrain of Afghanistan in the late 80s. But, through all the detentions and sanctions, Saeed and LeT have only grown in strength in the Punjabi heartland of Pakistan.
In December 2001, a few days after the Indian Parliament attack in New Delhi and two months after the al Qaeda attack on the US, the Pakistan government had wilted under international pressure to force Saeed to shut shop. Like today, then too he was a loyal ally of the military and the State, and therefore was given the option to escape. The terrorist leader, already accused by India of carrying out several terrorist attacks, made a public address to say that he was giving up “jihad“ and concentrating on “charity“. He said he was changing his group’s name from Markaz-ud Dawa-wal Irshad to Jamaat-ud Dawa. That was his master stroke, in one go he became a benevolent charity giver. His move was roundly applauded by the Pakistani State and the civil society, including the media.
Another masterstroke of his, aided and abetted by the military, was to set up “shell“ organisations with different names and heads to make scrutiny and therefore sanctions difficult. In essence, after this “change of heart“, his terrorist empire had only grown, and now under the ruse of charity, he has set up ambulance services, dispensaries and other charities to not only strengthen this elaborate façade but also to offer his group, and Pakistan Army, the cloak of deniability of terrorist attacks which they would jointly plan and execute, like the Mumbai attack of 2008.
After the Mumbai attack, there was once again a greater outrage against LeT and Pakistan, and the pressure to take action against Saeed became so acute that he was put under house arrest. This `detention` was hailed by all and sundry as the “great turnabout“ by Pakistan; some experts called it “ a change of hearts“ and others thought that it would mean the end of LeT. All of these expert comments were either prompted or paid for , or borne out of ignorance. Saeed, of course, lived a cosy life in `detention`, enjoying all the homely comforts and even conjugal rights while during `detention`.
The truth came out after three months when the Lahore High Court threw out the detention order and set Saeed free. The court said the state failed to convince the court of any charges against Saeed. It was then realised that the so-called `transformed state` had charged Saeed under the Maintenance of Public Order, a prohibitory law under which no one can be detained for more than three months at the maximum.
The state of Pakistan did not press any criminal charges against Saeed. It should have charged Saeed under the tough anti-terrorism laws and put him on trial. The Pakistani excuse was that India had failed to provide convincing evidence against Saeed. It was a sham excuse—the terrorist group operated freely from Pakistan, Saeed and his cohorts planned, trained and armed the terrorists on the soil of Pakistan and there were obviously ample evidence to nail him and his group for the Mumbai attacks if the state was even half-hearted in its intent.
But Pakistan is a country which refused to arrest the persons who had killed one of its former Prime Ministers, Benazir Bhutto. In fact, a former military chief and President, Pervez Musharraf, one of the accused in the conspiracy, was allowed to escape the country by the army under a “medical cover“. A few weeks after this escape hwas spotted dancing away in a night club!
So when Saeed was set free by the high court, there was a sense of relief and jubilation in the state apparatus and without actually hailing the terrorist leader, everyone in Pakistan turned him into a victim of Indian machinations. There is no evidence against him, said the state functionaries and some of them even went to the extent of accusing India of masterminding the attack to besmirch Pakistan. Saeed came out of detention like a hero and his supporters held victory rallies across Punjab and other provinces.
And now the same charade is being played out; Saeed has been put under detention once again—which means he stays inside his house. Like in the past it works both ways, all in his favour.
He is under the protective custody, safe from any external attacks and second he becomes a hero again to the people who have been fed this canard for decades that India had been manufacturing the stories of terror. He is not charged under the anti-terrorism laws or any other criminal provisions and is therefore liable to be discharged by any court of law. The state of Pakistan is again making the old noises of India not giving enough evidence to prosecute Saeed as if its investigating agencies are not capable of investigating and gathering evidence of LeT and Saeed’s terrorist activities, and especially the Mumbai attack.
The stage is set for another drama, and the intended audience is the new US administration which has been making threatening noises. Saeed arrest, as in the past, is merely an act in the great con game played by the state of Pakistan to hoodwink the US and its allies.