Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed is a haunted man these days. Every time he sits down to fine-tune his next hate speech against India, his hands tremble.
Even his dedicated group of jihadis have given up discussing exactly what sort of hoors they will meet once the hurly-burly’s done on Earth. Instead, they’re asking each other what is making their amir’s voice shake when he threatens the ‘padosi desh’ with hell fire and gunfire.
You would think everything the terror mastermind holds dear is at stake. Or, at least, his life is.
Before you think Navy SEALs have landed on his rooftop or that RAW is involved, here’s the truth and nothing but the truth (unlike Saeed’s contention that the JuD is a charitable organisation) – the 26/11 mastermind is afraid of Phantom.
No, not the ghost who walks, but the Bollywood film starring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif. Based on journalist Hussain Zaidi’s book Mumbai Avengers, it is a fictionalised account of Indian counter-terror agents entering Pakistan and killing the man responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. If you haven’t guessed already, the dead giveaway is that the filmi villain is called Haris Saeed.
Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif in a still from Kabir Khan's Phantom.
And Saeed – the man who has a $10 million bounty on his head, founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba and is constantly a part of India-Pakistan discussions regarding terror – is afraid, very, very afraid.
The sense that you are a part of a surreal dream which will not end well, begins when you realise a man branded a terrorist by India and the US can go to a court in Pakistan and request the film Phantom be banned.
"The film is about the 2008 Mumbai attack and global terrorism, implicating the JuD. Filthy propaganda has been done in the film against Pakistan under subject of the world terrorism," Saeed, the hate speech specialist, has alleged in court.
Saeed claimed the courts in Pakistan had already rejected India’s accusation about the involvement of the JuD and its leaders in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
His petition in court said: "Dialogues coming out of the lips of the different Indian actors and actresses will poison the minds of Pakistani public and will portray Hafiz Saeed as terrorist even though JuD has not been declared as a proscribed organisation."
And here’s the most telling line: "There is a direct threat to the life of the petitioner (Saeed) and his associates emanating from the content of the trailer of the film."
Is Saeed a keen reader of literature and afraid that, faced with his life’s work on screen, he would have a Lady Macbeth moment, "Out, out damn spots?" Or does he wants to give Pakistani cinema a fillip by keeping Bollywood at bay?
As it may be, some folks in Pakistan who are happy with the development and the possible banning of Phantom are peddlers of pirated DVDs and CDs.
They will do a roaring trade, just like they did with Baby (another film that dealt with capturing and bring back a Saeed-like terrorist), Ek Tha Tiger or Agent Vinod, all of which were banned in Pakistan.
And maybe, just maybe, Saeed is like many others in his country who rail against India in public but succumb to the many pleasures of Bollywood within the privacy of their homes.
Read: Salman Khan comes out in support of Kabir Khan over Phantom controversy
Read: Phantom, Bangistan and other films banned in Pakistan