Pakistan’s detention of Hafiz Saeed

In the latest dramatic twist to ongoing measures against Jamat-u-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed,  Pakistan has cancelled the licenses of 44 weapons issued to  Saeed and other members of his organisations, citing security reasons. The steps, Punjab government said,  are in line with the government’s action against Saeed and his organisations – the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falaha-e-Insanyat (FIF).

On January 30, the government had put Saeed and four other leaders of his organizations under house arrest in Lahore for a period of 90 days. Saeed and 37 members of JuD and FIF have also been placed on the Exit Control List, barring them from leaving the country. These are extraordinary measures and would have been unthinkable before Pakistan decided to place Saeed under house arrest. The action is believed to have been taken in anticipation of the pressure from the new US administration headed by the president Donald Trump. In response to this crackdown,  Dawa has renamed itself as the Tehreek  Azadi Jammu and Kashmir. 

New Delhi has already sought a credible action against Saeed whom it sees responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attack which killed 169 people.  In a recent statement India   termed the latest action against Dawa chief as a test  of Pakistan’s seriousness towards eradicating India-centric militant outfits from its soil. Islamabad, however, took offense at the statement  stating that India was involved in fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.  The bottomline is that the two countries  are in no way nearer to dialogue even while now more than ever before Pakistan has decided to take on its Kashmir oriented militant groups. The absence of bilateral engagement bodes ill for the situation the region. It is a fraught state of affairs considering the unpredictable turn the world has taken  following the election of Trump as US president.  There is no telling as yet as to how Trump will deal with the region, particularly with India and Pakistan.  However the broad indications are that US, India ties will improve under Trump’s presidency and Pakistan might face more pressure to act against the extremist groups operating from its soil. US might also egg on the two countries to talk but also put onus on Pakistan to make a conducive atmosphere for it.  

The situation  is likely to  generate its own complications which hardly bode well for the dialogue. However a sustainable engagement between the two countries is only possible if the will for it is displayed by the two countries and it is made immune to the forces who attempt to derail it.  But as things stand no such will exists. In the interest of the sustainable peace and prosperity in the region, it is time the two nations do summon this will. 

One can again hope that the new developments in Pakistan will help in the improvement of the relations. And if and when  they are normalized,  they should be informed by an ambition to fundamentally alter the existing state of affairs, which has been of a perpetual distrust and an entrenched animosity.   But to state the obvious, this will not be easy to accomplish. It will require a drawn peace process undistracted by the shenanigans of the spoilers. The best way out is to get back to the talks and work in good faith towards the settlement of all the bilateral issues, including Kashmir.  This is the best anti-dote not only to the lingering animosity between the two nations but also to the persisting violence by the state and non-state groups.    

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