Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Business Recorder editorial Jan 31, 2017

Better late than never Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and four other leaders of the organisation have been placed under house arrest for three months. The JuD and its charity front, the Falah-i-Insaaniat Foundation (FIF), have been included in the second schedule and put on the watch list for six months under Section (1) 11EEE of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. The names of several JuD leaders have also been placed on the Exit Control List. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has revealed that the government is deciding the JuD’s fate, which had been on the watch list for several years. JuD had been listed by the UN’s sanctions committee, popularly known as the al Qaeda and Taliban sanctions committee, under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 since December 2008 and had been declared a terrorist organisation by the world body. The US State Department too had termed the JuD a “foreign terrorist organisation” in June 2014 and imposed head money of $ 10 million on Hafiz Saeed. Under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1267, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) was set up by the G-7 Group in 1989 to oversee the stoppage of money laundering globally, especially where it may pertain to terrorism funding. By taking action now against the JuD and its leader, Pakistan it appears has managed to prevent its relegation from the FATF’s white list to its grey, or even worse, negative list, a status equivalent to a state being perceived as complicit in terrorism funding. Not only have the five leaders of JuD been put under house arrest, all assets of the JuD and FIF have been frozen, their passports and arms licences cancelled, and a travel ban imposed. All concerned departments, including the State Bank of Pakistan, commercial banks, law enforcement agencies, Federal Bureau of Revenue, FIA and the provincial governments have been instructed to implement the order and report compliance. There remains the possibility that the JuD may be banned, but how much good that will do is questionable, given that the JuD emerged as the new avatar of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba when the going got rough for the latter. A ban may simply resurrect the JuD under some other banner, as in the past. The action against the JuD is much belated, but welcome. Better late than never, and best before Pakistan is subjected to sanctions for not proceeding against an organisation on international terrorist lists. However, some questions remain unanswered. Given that Hafiz Saeed is widely held responsible for the Mumbai attacks of 2008 in which 166 people were killed, why has it taken the authorities so long to move against him and his outfit? Is it the case that the establishment was providing him protection and succour, not to mention allowing the scandal of Mr Saeed having the free run of the country? This stance offended India and the US. Why now, after all these years of prevarication? The easiest and probably most accurate answer is US pressure, especially with the new ‘no nonsense’ US President Donald Trump in office. The other aspect of the affair is the way forward. If the past is any guide, Hafiz Saeed has been in preventive detention before, once in 2002 for several months under the Musharraf regime after the attack on the Indian parliament, and again after the Mumbai attacks in 2008. In both cases he was eventually released by the courts as the authorities had failed to present a viable case against him. In any case the preventive detention laws do not allow extensions of detention beyond 12 months. So the question arises whether, like in the past, Hafiz Saeed’s woes will end once the immediate pressure abates. If not, then what? Pakistan has suffered grievously over the years because of its mistaken policy of relying on armed proxies to project its interests in our neighbourhood. We have become isolated and perhaps even the butt of global incredulity over our defence of such proxies. The gambit may have been useful in the past, especially in the context of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but it is the height of shortsightedness to persist with a policy whose shelf life has long passed with changed circumstances. Pakistan must shed its proxy obsession if we are to co-exist with today’s world and find our rightful place in the sun.

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