Hafiz Saeed is free, roll out the sweets - again
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision that Hafiz Saeed, head of the Islamic group accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, cannot be detained.
No surprises here. It’s the same old story with a familiar plot and the inevitable ending.
The court ruled that the evidence against Saeed was weak. That’s true because there’s very little teeth to legal actions taken against Saeed.
Pakistani authorizes have never filed criminal or terrorist charges against the leader of the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), a banned group now operating as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Instead, Saeed tends to get detained under the MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) law. In legal terms, that entails a limited detention period until a court ruling. In plain-speak, it’s a light rap on the knuckles for disorderly conduct.
This has happened before. In 2009 and 1996, Saeed was let go under MPO.
When it comes to cracking down on Saeed, Pakistan acts late – only when the international pressure gets almost unbearable. Then, the authorities do a spectacularly weak job. Nuisance offences see him in the dock for a couple of months until some court orders him free.
This is followed by the usual happy-ending scenes. The news is greeted by the usual shots of “Allah-u-Akbar". Saeed supporters then distribute the customary traditional, rather delicious-looking celebratory sweets. News photographs show grown men sporting heavy-duty, midriff-long Islamic beards happily gobbling the mithai, as those succulent sweets are called across the subcontinent.
Happiness on one side of the LOC -- or Line of Control separating Pakistan from India -- is invariably greeted with disgust on the other side. So the sight of mithai-chomping Saeed supporters will make stomachs turn in India – especially for the families of victims of the Mumbai attacks. The Indian government of course will officially express its disappointment and grumble about extradition requests and ample evidence.
Nothing ever changes in these parts...
A word about Saeed’s organizations: They tend to change with the shifting legal winds. This can get confusing, so I’ll try to simplify it.
In January 2002, after the US put the LeT on its terrorist list, thereby compelling then-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to ban the group, the LeT simply changed its name.
How was this done? Remarkably openly: overnight, the signboards of the group’s headquarters and various other centers across Pakistan were changed from Lashkar-e-Taiba to Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Easy does it...
So that’s the new name. Except there’s another sidling group called Falah-i-Insaniat.
Whatever the name, the groups do good business during a crisis. After the 2005 earthquake, victims could not get by without a little help from their friendly Jamaat man.
Falah-i-Insaniat is providing assistance to the millions displaced from the Pakistani army’s offensive in the Swat Valley. No doubt a substantial number of those displaced will find their calling with some wing of the group.
But that’s all the simplification I can provide. There’s the story of why the Pakistani authorities like Lashkar, but not Hakimullah Mehsud's Pakistani Taliban group. There’s also the yarn of why the Pakistani Taliban do NOT like Lashkar. But they’re long, complicated tales and we’ll save that for another time.