Our government has recently put Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front Jamaat-ud-Dawa, under house arrest, officially termed ‘preventive detention’. The orders were issued a day before Pakistan’s deadline to respond to questions pertaining to JuD’s financial activities, posed by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, was to expire. This analysis seeks to contextualise these developments.
In Pakistan, a house arrest is more about politics and negotiation rather than legality in its nature of implementation. Both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan had been placed under house arrests whilst in opposition. The man who first confined Sharif to this following the 1999 coup was former president-general Pervez Musharraf; he himself was placed under house arrest in 2013. The actual act of placing an individual under house arrest is often both political and unofficial; it does not necessarily yield to the due process of law. And it is often temporary.
It is worth considering whether this recent clampdown on JuD can be connected to pressures and sanctions being exerted on Pakistan from the United States, as well as the change in military guard within our country, indicating a possible shift in policies pertaining to the likes of Hafiz Saeed, and attempts at civilising deteriorating relations with India since Pathankot. They remind us of the civil-military tussle in Pakistan not too long ago, with the former allegedly advising the latter to act on militants in order to avoid further regional and international isolation. To what extent this will amount to the prosecution of Hafiz Saeed, however, is questionable.
Saeed has been arrested under the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. The Fourth Schedule or Section 11-EEEE(1), that deals with preventive detention, stipulates that an individual (a ‘proscribed person’) may be detained by security forces for offences pertaining to terrorism for a period of up to ninety days (renewable for up to two years) while the subject is under inquiry. During this period, an inquiry may be conducted by a joint interrogation team (JIT), comprising members of security and intelligence agencies (Section 11-EEEE (2)). The Act makes no mention of a house arrest and, at the time of writing, there has been no JIT formed to conduct an inquiry on Hafiz Saeed.
Under the Second Schedule of the ATA (Section 11D), JuD has been put ‘under observation’ due to the implication that it may be ‘acting in a manner… concerned in terrorism’. The Second Schedule by itself does not ban the organisation. It does not even proscribe JuD, which means that its offices may not be sealed, it may not be stopped from publishing propagandist literature, and it may not be even stopped from holding public events, such as press conferences. JuD was classified as a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ by the US State Department in 2014.
News from Pakistan following the notification of the official orders for Saeed’s detention and JuD’s admission on a ‘watch list’ have reported the replacement of party flags with Pakistani flags on the official buildings of JuD — a gesture possibly symbolising how closely the group views itself as a representative of the Pakistani state and society.
This is not the first time Hafiz Saeed has been put under house arrest, nor is it the first instance of the government acting against JuD. Previously, Saeed has been under house arrests in 2002, 2006, and 2008, to recount a few. Finally, in 2009, the Lahore High Court cleared him of all charges due to ‘lack of evidence’. In 2012, the US government announced a bounty of 10 million USD for Saeed’s arrest.
At times, during Saeed’s previous house arrests, JuD offices and hospitals were shut down, especially after the 2008 attacks, when it was recognised by the United Nations as a front for LeT. Other allegations frequently levelled against JuD have been its supposed role in money laundering and terrorism financing, even though its supporters prefer to see JuD (and its front, Falah-e-Insaaniyat Foundation) as philanthropic entities engaged in social welfare. Indeed, members of FIF have been seen engaging in relief efforts across the country, from refugee camps in the northern areas, to flood-affected regions, down to the southern mega city of Karachi. There are also talks about JuD now adopting a new name to continue its operations.
Apparently, JuD’s status has been ‘under consideration’ by the Ministry of Interior since 2010-2011, and it has been listed under a UN Security Council resolution banning terrorist groups since 2008. One wonders why it took the government these many years to take ‘credible action’ against Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Hafiz Saeed, and what this gimmickry will amount to in the courts of law. In Pakistan’s domestic and international politicking, will appeasement of both extremist proxies and foreign donors once again trump peace and justice?
As you probably know, JuD has once again re-emerged under one of its previously used names, Tehreek-e-Azadi Jammu Kashmir (TAJK). And, on Kashmir Day (05 February) staged rallies in Karachi against India and Indian Hindus. Images from the rally depicted adolescent boys carrying toy guns, dressed for jihad, and banners and posters with the face of Hafiz Saeed were carried by the attendees. What sort of a ‘clampdown’ have state authorities been referring to, when they themselves are providing security for such demonstrations in the heart of the city?
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2017.