View: Hafiz Saeed’s sentencing in Pakistan no cause for celebration for India

Hasn’t been convicted of unleashing mayhem in India, but only for terror financing. That is akin to a psychopathic serial killer being sentenced for pick-pocketing

View: Hafiz Saeed’s sentencing in Pakistan no cause for celebration for India
BY: Avinash Mohananey

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the mastermind of Mumbai serial attacks and chief of terrorist organisations Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), has been sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years in two cases (five years in each case) by Lahore anti-terrorism court on November 19, 2020. It should not be a cause for celebration for Indian security agencies or comfort f or family members of victims of terror attacks carried out by these groups, including Mumbai attacks. He has not been convicted of unleashing mayhem in India, but only for terror financing. That is akin to a psychopathic serial killer being convicted and sentenced for pick-pocketing.

The Mumbai serial attacks took place on November 26, 2008, and on December 10, 2008, Hafiz Saeed and a few of his associates were placed in the sanctions list by the United Nations Security Council. This was only meant to pacify an angry India and discourage it from taking any punitive action against Pakistan. Any confrontation between the two countries would have given Pakistan an excuse to discontinue whatever little cooperation it was extending to the US and its allies in Afghanistan.


Matters rested there till the US President Trump decided to get out of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s access to the Taliban became crucial for the US for an honourable exit. The Americans needed some long-term, institutionalised arm-twisting mechanism to ensure Pakistan’s cooperation and controlling its mischief. Knowing its vulnerability on economic front and unending demand for economic bailouts by international funding agencies, the US decided to place the country on grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2018. FATF is a global watchdog against money laundering and terror financing.

This was done ahead of appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the US Special Advisor to Afghanistan later in September that year. By that time, Hafiz Saeed and his gang was basking in the glory of their several “successes” in India, notably Mumbai attacks. Terror cases relating to Mumbai attacks were not making any headway and the Pakistani army had ensured bail for those arrested under international pressure. Pakistan army’s effort to get JuD/LeT in national political mainstream in 2018 elections also fizzled out because of its dismal electoral performance.

So, when the pressure of FATF was mounted, Pakistan launched a two-pronged approach. Pakistan arrested its protégé, Hafiz Saeed, in July 2019 to showcase its “commitment” in dealing with terrorism. At the same time, to neutralise Indian allegations, Pakistan levelled serious accusations of India’s involvement in terrorism there. The recent release of dossier should be seen in that perspective. In that dossier, Pakistan even attributed attacks on India, where perpetrators have been caught and sentenced by Pakistani courts without prosecution charging them of operating at India’s behest. A notable example being killing of Army Public School children by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in Peshawar in December 2014, whose masterminds have been convicted and hanged.

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The present sentencing of Hafiz Saeed is his second one by the same court. Earlier, he was convicted and sentenced for 11 years on February 12, 2020, a week before the meeting of FATF in Paris. The FATF meeting was to consider Pakistan’s progress in implementing the action plan to address its international obligations on the twin issues of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

Pakistan’s case for getting out of FATF grey list is linked to the satisfactory outcome of the ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Doha (Qatar) and stability of the US-propped Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan. The US is aware that Ashraf Ghani government will not be able to confront rampaging Taliban without its help and hence the requirement to keep Pakistan on leash. Therefore, the US demands from Pakistan are unlikely to change even after the new US administration takes charge in January next year.

So, Hafiz Saeed will have to cool his heels in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore for some more time before his benefactors can get him out. However, the detention of LeT/JuD leaders should not change the perception of Indian security agencies about potential threat from these groups. As in the past, the leaders of the groups will continue to have access to their terror infrastructure through visitors.

It may also be kept in mind that Pakistan is not taking any action against Masood Azhar and his group Jaish-e-Mohammad. The group seems to be the new favourite of Pak military establishment against India.

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(The writer is a former Intelligence Bureau officer, who served in Pakistan)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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