By K.N. Pandita
Muslims of all hues aver that Islam is essentially democratic in action and in spirit. Democracy, among other attributes, means government for the people. But when an extremist religious organization like Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, of which Hafiz Saeed has been the founder and originator, takes upon itself cold blooded massacre of innocent human beings, then the Islam professed by such an organization is certainly not democratic. It is Theo-fascist.
The impending visit of Pakistan President Zardari to Ajmer on Sunday should not prompt the Indian government to feel hilarious over US’ placing a bounty of ten million US dollars on the head of Hafiz Saeed and bringing pressure on the visitor to handle the upcoming situation in Pak-US relations to the entire satisfaction of New Delhi. Policy planners in New Delhi have to understand that Hafiz Saeed, his organization and its vast supporters in Pakistan, are the enemies not only of India, US, Israel and other countries, but also and most importantly of democracy as the most acceptable form of government. He is the enemy of freedom of thought and expression; he is the enemy of freedom of worship and faith; he is the enemy of modern scientific civilization.
Pakistani civil society, including the elected government, is as much distressed by jihadism and religious extremism as by any other democratic and secular nation. But their problem is that this and other fundamentalist-terrorist outfits are overtly and covertly supported by the Pakistan Army and the ISI. In fact Pakistan Army considers them as the frontline defence against India. We need not retrace the bizarre story of Army and ISI jointly sponsoring such outfits in that country. The Taliban of Afghanistan is their creation. So are a variety of militant jihadi outfits like Lashkar-e Jhangvi or similar outfits under various names in Kashmir.
It has to be noted that though Hafiz Saeed is freely moving in the cities of Punjab and actually, as he says, is not “hiding in caves and mountains”, the decision of putting a prize on his head seems rather confusing. Why did not the US straightaway ask Islamabad to hand him over to the US authorities for bringing him to justice? The US has a case against him. Headley named him as his handler for planning Mumbai attack of November 2008 in which other than 160 Indians 6 American nationals were also killed. He has been instigating Pakistanis against Islamabad’s re-think of its closure of NATO supply line via Peshawar. He has been fomenting anti-US sentiment publicly in his mass rallies and television talks. He has been bringing pressure on Pakistan government to break its relationship with the US and has been openly lending his support to the newly formed Pakistan Defence Council. This Council has been formed by rabid Islamists and rank anti-American diehards like Aijazu’l Huqq, son of late President Ziau’l-Huqq, Fazlu’l-Rahman Khalil, of Ahl-e Sunnat wal Jamaat, and Abdullah Gul, the son of former ISI Chief General Hamid Gul. The Council has set forth nearly forty conditions which must be met by the US if resumption of the NATO supply line is accepted. It was formed after the cross border killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a mistaken attack at Salala and also for bringing pressure on Islamabad regime to ask the US stop drone attacks. It will be noted that Gilani government in Islamabad had taken a more realistic view of strained Indo-Pak relations and like its counterpart in India, wanted to reshape the entire gamut of relationship. The stalled bilateral talks have been resumed, the mood of giving India MFN status has set in, visa regime is to be made easier, trading facilities are under consideration and meetings between the leadership at the highest level are favourably worked out. For all these measures, even some voices are heard from the opposition benches in Pakistan Parliament asking why the government is become so soft towards India. It is in this background that we suggest that the impending visit of Pakistani President should not be mishandled and misused to put him under unnecessary pressure rather he should be allowed to make the best of it as a private visit. India’s interests lie in a friendly Pakistan on her west and not a Pakistan torn by internal disorder and reeling under the sword of the jihadis. Pakistan is as much a victim of jihadism of sources like Hafiz Saeed. Like India she too is faced with an intrepid enemy of democracy. The US’ step of putting a bounty of ten million dollars on the head of Hafiz Saeed has to be seen in this overarching scenario.
We know that Hafiz Saeed is moving in open and not hiding in caves. As such there is the pertinent question of the need of putting the prize. The reason becomes clear from what has been stated above. After the Osama episode, the US has no doubts that Pakistan’s ISI and Army are playing a double role. There is every possibility of these agencies providing a safe cover/haven to Hafiz Saeed. He is privy to their can of worms and they would not let him fall in the hands of those against whom they have been conspiring schematically.
This is a crucial moment for Indian think tanks on foreign policy as well. The entire game, one may infer, is going the Osama bin Laden way. A price was placed on Osama’s head apart from intensive efforts of finding out his whereabouts. Finally the bet succeeded, and somebody whether in the Pakistan intelligence establishment or the army or the civilian government came forward with extraordinarily precise information that took the entire mission to its logical conclusion. In the same way the present situation vis-à-vis Hafiz Saeed and his immediate colleagues is developing fast and to a definite direction. The US knows which side of its cake is buttered. It wants two things to happen in Pakistan; uproot terrorist-fundamentalist structure to help Pakistan strengthen the roots of democracy, and secondly see to it that the NATO supply route is kept open, come what may.
That the ten million bounty on Saeed’s head is India-related or Mumbai carnage related is only a distant corollary of the fundamental proposition. This is war on the enemies of democracy. All democracies will support it at the end of the day. India is the largest democracy in the world. Let us not forget that.