Without stern action, Hafiz Saeed’s detention is only a State-sponsored holiday | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Without stern action, Hafiz Saeed’s detention is only a State-sponsored holiday

No one in India should take heart from Hafiz Saeed’s detention. Islamabad and Rawalpindi both have always safeguarded the LeT because it targets India. Until it is proven otherwise, assume Saeed’s is on yet another State-sponsored holiday to ensure he can remain an instrument of State-sponsored terror

editorials Updated: Mar 23, 2017 15:36 IST
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has been placed under house arrest nearly a half-dozen times starting since 2001
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has been placed under house arrest nearly a half-dozen times starting since 2001(Reuters)

Let us count the ways that Hafiz Saeed is detained by his government. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief has been placed under house arrest nearly a half-dozen times starting since 2001. The terrorist chieftain’s return to detention is just the latest such event, none of which have ever resulted in Saeed being prosecuted.

The real question is why Pakistan is going through these motions again. Traditionally, Saeed has had to pay faux penance only after a major terrorist attack against India, resulting in an international outcry which Islamabad feels necessary to appease. However, that does not seem to be the case now as the LeT has been relatively quiet on the external front.

The glass half-full explanation is that Pakistan is beginning to accept that the cost-benefit of supporting terrorist outfits like the LeT — the cost being pariah status around the world and rising militancy at home, versus the benefits bring an ability to anger but not substantially harm India — is now weighing heavily on the cost side. It would be nice to believe that is what the Pakistani defence minister meant when he said Saeed was being arrested in the “national interest”. If this is the case, then Pakistan should now begin dismantling the LeT’s network of training camps, seminaries, hospitals and financial assets. There is no evidence of such activity yet.

Read | Pakistan court asks authorities to respond to Hafiz Saeed’s petition challenging detention

The more likely, half-empty, explanation is a combination of other concerns. An external one is a desire to lower Pakistan’s terror profile at a time when the United States is ruled by a president who has sworn to “wipe radical Islam off the face of the earth” and even China is clamping down on its ethnic Muslim population. It would be nice to think that a more bellicose government in New Delhi also contributed. An upcoming United Nations debate on terrorism finance and a fear of Pakistan being blacklisted is also being cited, though the specific UN resolution would not require Saeed’s detention.

A domestic concern is Saeed’s sure but steady movement towards making the LeT, a terror organisation with a large welfare network attached, into a full-fledged political party. This could make the LeT a direct challenge to the present Pakistan establishment who would like to use the LeT to further their policies but would baulk at giving it a seat at the high table.

Read | Burden of proof against Masood Azhar not on India, Jaishankar tells China

Based on past practice, no one in India should take heart from Saeed’s detention. Islamabad and Rawalpindi both denounce the Tehreek-e-Taliban and its allies who wage war against the Pakistani State, but have always safeguarded the LeT because it targets India. Until it is proven otherwise, assume Saeed’s is on yet another State-sponsored holiday to ensure he can remain an instrument of State-sponsored terror.