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Hafiz Saeed’s release

Updated November 26, 2017

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THE case of Hafiz Saeed continues to baffle and challenge in more ways than one.

The US has just asked Pakistan to rearrest the Jamaatud Dawa chief whose detention at home came to an end on Friday after a court refused to extend the period of his confinement. The US has asked the Pakistani government to charge him for “his crimes”, though the harshest response to his release has, unsurprisingly, come from India.

Hafiz Saeed, in his turn, is seemingly mindful of the value of putting greater pressure on the PML-N government which, to put it mildly, is faced with a quandary of its own.

Soon after his release, the Dawa chief touched upon his favourite, and a most sensitive, topic when he told a Friday congregation in Lahore that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was forced to step down because he had betrayed the Kashmiri cause. The latter is the original — and by no means unpopular — slogan of Hafiz Saeed and his now banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.

It shows just how knotty the issue, which transcends national and ideological boundaries, is. Deft handling is required by the authorities here, that must also investigate the serious allegations which led to his being designated a “terrorist individual” by the UN.

Violence can never be condoned and those resorting to it must be held accountable. But away from the calls for justice, the problem requires engagement with various parties from the US to India to outfits and institutions within this country. Not that anyone in Pakistan has ever been fully equipped to deal with all these elements at once but the government was perhaps better placed to address the question sometime ago.

A government which has recently lost its prime minister and is being run by his replacement who has one eye on the next election and the other on the court proceedings against his leader can hardly be expected to cope well with the calls for and warnings against a trial of Hafiz Saeed.

Which brings us to the salient point about the futility of repeating the exercise over and over again: Hafiz Saeed is put under house arrest and set free after a while. He is seen by the outside world, which demands his arrest, as having been ‘captured’. Is this impression all that is supposed to be achieved? Someone must think so.

Otherwise, the reruns of the arrest-and-release sequence make little sense.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2017