The Lashkar-e-Taiba’s founder Hafeez Sayeed was put under house arrest in Lahore on Thursday. The Pakistani government also withdrew permission to Sayeed-headed Jamat-ud-Dawa (JD) to hold a rally.
Do these have anything to do with India’s concerns, as conveyed to Pakistan, at a recent meeting (in Dhaka) of the foreign secretaries of the two countries?
The Foreign Office here hasn’t yet carried out a full assessment to link the Musharraf dispensation’s action with the substance of the Dhaka interaction between Shyam Saran and his Pakistani counterpart, Riaz Mohammad Khan. But the arrest, albeit for a month, is noteworthy on two counts: Sayeed’s popularity in the wake of JD’s earthquake relief work in PoK and the fact that he’s on New Delhi’s list of men it wants extradited from Pakistan.
Responding to a question, a senior official admitted that the house arrest was — on the face of it — a step in the direction New Delhi had expected Pakistan to move to assuage popular Indian outrage over the Mumbai blasts and other terrorist strikes — in Jammu and Kashmir, Varanasi, Ayodhya, the RSS headquarters in Nagpur and the pre-Diwali explosions in Delhi.
It isn’t New Delhi’s reading that Pakistan disfavours continuation of the composite dialogue process. But the question often begging an answer is as to what concrete steps Islamabad has taken to keep the Indian public on the side of an uninterrupted bilateral engagement?
“To get the foreign secretary-level talks back on track, we need to see action on the ground against cross-border terror,” the official remarked. While the UPA regime continues to engage at levels other than that of foreign secretary, Islamabad must appreciate “our constraints in pursuing peace without popular support.”
However, in its anxiety to make Musharraf conscious of the Indian political environ — post Mumbai — New Delhi hasn’t lost sight of the General’s own domestic compulsions, arising out of his political isolation in the run-up to the Presidential poll he intends contesting.
Towards that end, it is reconciled to the idea of Pakistan making its actions against terror groups seem independent of Indian requests. The basic purpose, sources argue, is to overcome the “credibility gap” between what Musharraf has promised and delivered by way of containing cross border terrorism.
For its part, Islamabad claims that organisations like JD and Hizbul Mujahideen of Sayed Salauddin are under its close watch. But such assertions fly in the face of ministers sharing platforms with Salauddin who, like Hafeez Sayeed, is on the Indian list of the wanted.
In this backdrop, New Delhi’s reluctance to firm up dates for regular foreign secretary-level talks is, for Islamabad, a message loud and clear — the tolerance “threshold” on terrorism is determined by the people and not the government.
Pakistan's lip-sympathy in the wake of violence against innocent Indians does not help when investigations into various incidents converge on groups sheltered on its soil.