THE verdict on the terror financing cases involving Jamaatud Dawa supremo Hafiz Saeed on Wednesday is a major development as this country tries to dismantle the active militant infrastructure.
Saeed was, of course, the driving force behind Lashkar-e-Taiba — before dissociating from it when it was banned to go on to establish JuD. Formed as the US-backed Afghan jihad was winding down in the late 1980s, the Kashmir-centric Lashkar became one of the most violent and well-organised militant groups in South Asia.
The lawyer of the veteran jihadi leader, who along with an aide was convicted by an antiterrorism court, says they will appeal the judgement in the Lahore High Court.
Saeed’s counsel argues that his client was convicted for no other reason than due to FATF “pressure” ahead of its upcoming meeting. Whether FATF was a consideration, it does appear that there is a growing realisation in the government and security establishment that nurturing or ignoring such violent actors was a dangerous policy, and that the time had come to put an end to their activities.
The fact is that using militant actors as tools of foreign policy is a failed strategy. This seems to be the understanding at the top in Islamabad.
While world powers, including those who are now asking Pakistan to ‘do more’, were at one time proponents of using religious militants against state or non-state opponents, today they have publicly ditched this strategy.
Moreover, using such proxies has brought nothing but problems for Pakistan, with the UN listing Hafiz Saeed as a terrorist.
Besides involvement in foreign theatres, and the ensuing opprobrium this has brought Pakistan, the fact is that LeT/JuD fighters have also contributed to instability within the country. The organisation has maintained links with the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda, as well as with elements that evolved into the Punjabi Taliban. Considering these precedents, it can only be welcomed that Saeed has been sent to prison.
Another major point that the conviction of the JuD chief raises is that, in Pakistan, militant groups are proscribed while their leaders and cadres continue to operate as per routine.
Perhaps the sentencing of Hafiz Saeed will help change this situation.
For example, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Musharraf administration outlawed a host of jihadi and sectarian groups, but they continued to operate without hindrance and merely changed their names.
The fact is that this country’s jihadi infrastructure — built under Gen Ziaul Haq’s watch with American ‘guidance’ and Saudi money — should have been dismantled a long time ago.
While the mistakes of the past cannot be undone, a new course can surely be charted by ensuring that no armed groups espousing violence within or outside the country are allowed to operate in Pakistan. This will help improve the country’s standing externally, and help keep the peace domestically.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020