American humorist Will Cuppy penned satirical sketches of historical figures and called the work The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. Of Nero, the infamous emperor, he wrote: “In some respects Nero was ahead of his time. He boiled his drinking water to remove the impurities and cooled it with unsanitary ice to put them back again.”
Cuppy could have been talking about US foreign policy.
We are all agreed that relations between the US and Pakistan have nosedived. We are also told that the US is very keen to put matters right. Some evidence — counting out the CIA, Raymond Davis’ running around, unilateral raids, US forces that can’t differentiate between Taliban hideouts and army posts but deliver deadly accurate fire, and Dana Rohrabacher — suggests that such may be the case.
So, why does the US, Nero-like, use unsanitary ice to put the impurities back?
Washington has put a bounty of $10 million on the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, announced by US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman in India, on April 2. Meanwhile, a US State Department spokeswoman is supposed to have told the media that the announcement has not been made at India’s behest. The process is internal. This, of course, explains adequately the timing and place of the announcement and those trying to find an India angle could go take a hike, thank you.
But leaving all else aside, including the broader strategic issue of US-Pakistan relations, and agreeing also that Hafiz Saeed may not be Mother Teresa’s brother, we still run into problems. Consider.
A bounty presupposes someone who is a fugitive from law, or having been sentenced is absconding or having served a term and on bail has jumped the bail. The Hafiz does not fall into any of these categories. Everyone knows where he lives, he makes regular public appearances, there is no criminal case against him either in Pakistan or the United States.
There is no indication, apart from an internal, inter-agency process in the US, that the US government has indicted the Hafiz and taken the case to the court of law where due process has determined the man’s guilt. There is also no indication that the Hafiz has been notified of any such legal case against him. For all practical purposes this is an ex parte announcement which, legally speaking, given the process and sans standard legalities, is bogus.
The announcement then is a violation of international law, diplomatic norms and the fundamental rights of a Pakistani citizen. In fact, the entire process is against the judicial norms of the US itself and could not be applied to a US citizen.
But let’s park this thought and rewind. Hafiz Saeed was listed by the United Nations as a terrorist. What did he do? He filed a delisting request through the focal point arguing that his enlistment is a violation of the right to due process and is an arbitrary action influenced by the Indian lobby.
He categorically denied any alleged association with al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and denounced the Mumbai attacks; challenged the veracity of the narrative summaries of reasons given by the Sanctions Committee; requested the Committee to delink the JuD from the LeT and issue a separate narrative of reasons, if any, with regards to JuD; argued that reliance on the allegations related to LeT and treating JuD as an alias is unfair and lacks reason and justification; declared that he is ready to confront the evidence related to the vague and conjectural allegations; stated that Courts in Pakistan have declared that there is no evidence of his involvement in Mumbai attacks or his connection with al Qaeda; apprised the focal group that JuD is not a proscribed organisation under Pakistani law.
Incidentally, the Hafiz’s representation was the first of its kind before the UN Focal Group. Since then the UN has changed the procedure and put an ombudsperson to deal with such matters. The Hafiz has instructed his counsels to approach the office of the ombudsperson for a de novo consideration of the delisting request which, I am told, is being finalised.
Meanwhile, two attempts by the government in Pakistan to put the Hafiz under confinement were quashed by the Lahore High Court for lack of evidence.
It is a legal truism that no person can be deemed guilty until due process has determined his culpability. The US action, which is executive in nature, flouts that benchmark and by targeting unilaterally a citizen of another state also signals that the United States’ internal, executive process is enough to override both the international law as well as the legal system of another state.
I am not sure if this approach is in any way conducive to stated efforts by the United States to improve relations with Pakistan.
It may be noted that this discussion has nothing to do with the guilt or otherwise of the Hafiz. He may be found guilty whereupon he must be punished as deemed by law. If the US has evidence that links the Hafiz to any terrorist acts, it must share that with Pakistan so the government can present a case against the Hafiz in a Pakistani court of law. The US has refused to bring itself under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court because the idea of a non-US court, even one mandated through a multilateral process remains anathema to the US. And yet, it finds its own internal, executive process to be enough to indict a citizen of another state.
Or perhaps the US is the ultimate reformer that likes all other states to be bound by multilateral treaty processes and international law but chooses to act unilaterally when desired so it can retain its freedom of action to shape the world according to its own interests.
Nero, Cuppy informs us, was also a reformer. He “renamed the month of April after himself, calling it Neroneus”. But, as Cuppy reminds us, “the idea never caught on because April is not Neroneus and there is no use pretending that it is.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.