PAKISTAN’S NEVER ENDING DRAMA OVER HAFIZ SAEED

A judicial review board of the Lahore High Court (LHC) in Pakistan has given the government two days to file charge-sheet against Jamat-Ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and his four associates who are under house arrest since January 31 this year. The JuD chief has filed a plea in the LHC against his detention and the next hearing is scheduled for October 19.

During the last date of hearing on October 10, the Lahore High Court had warned the Pakistan’s provincial Punjab government, which had put Saeed under preventive detention, to submit evidence in the case otherwise it would release Hafiz Saeed.

Saeed, a UN and US designated global terrorist with a US bounty of $10 Million on his head, along with his four associates, was put under house arrest under the Anti Terrorism Act 1997 of Pakistan after increasing pressure from the US and the international community.

The US, especially, warned that Pakistan would be put on the list of blacklisted countries in the International Cooperative Review Group (ICRG). That would have made it necessary for Pakistan to put a formal request each time it went about transacting any business through any of the international financial institutions. Then there was an additional pressure element from UN’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on terror funding which was reviewing Pakistan’s commitments.

Left with no other option, Pakistan had to put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest but it was always a reluctant move Pakistan’s actions prove, like it has always been in giving Hafiz Saeed a safe haven to operate.

Hafiz Saeed had adopted the name JuD after its terror outfit, Laskar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) that basically perpetrates terror in India, was banned by Pakistan on 14 January 2002 under international pressure after the UN Security Council’s Taliban-Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee banned LeT. However, it did not affect his activities, perpetrating terror and spewing venom against India including the November 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed over 156 including six American citizens and left scores injured.

After his name surfaced in December 2001 Parliament attack, Pakistan was forced to arrest him but he was soon set free. His detention after the multiple train bombing in Mumbai in July 2006, that killed over 200, lasted only for few weeks. The same chores was repeated after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks when Pakistan refused to press terror charges and withdrew its appeal against Saeed and the global terrorist and India’s most wanted was again a free, respectable Pakistani citizen even if India had named Saeed, JuD and LeT as masterminds and perpetrators behind the attack and had submitted many dossiers containing evidence against them, something that was even recognized the UN and the US.

Even if, in December 2008, the UN Security Council, under its Resolution 1267, imposed sanctions on JuD and Hafiz Saeed for supporting Al Qaeda and Taliban. All these years, it has been an unending drama of Hafiz Saeed being put under house arrest or detained cursorily before being set free.

And it seems the same is going to be repeated again. Like after the Mumbai 2008 attacks, Pakistan, this time, too has refused to level terror charges against Saeed. On October 14, Pakistan’s provincial Punjab government withdrew terror charges against Saeed and instead applied for detention of Saeed and his associates till October 24 under the milder Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO). It was the fifth extension of Saeed’s house arrest since January 31.

Now if the judicial review board doesn’t get convinced by the arguments of the authorities on why to detain Saeed for so long in spite of no serious charges being pressed against him, Hafiz Saeed may walk free after his detention expires on October 24 as authorities need judicial approval before extending the period of the detention.

Pakistan’s complicity also becomes clear from the fact that though Pakistan first detained Saeed and others for 90 days under the Anti Terrorism Act but later on switched to toothless laws on maintaining public order.

And going by the tough observations of the Lahore High Court that mere press clippings cannot be the ground for detaining a citizen for an extended period of time and that Pakistan does not seem to have substantial evidence against Saeed, it will be just a matter of time before Saeed is free, respectable Pakistani citizen again.

©SantoshChaubey

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