Monday, Feb 06, 2023

Taking terror to task

Pakistan must stop offering specious alibis against prosecuting Hafiz Saeed.

Hafiz Saeed was the brain behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist captured during the 26/11 terror strike, acknowledged meeting Hafiz Saeed in a training camp in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, where he and other terrorists were given commando training.

The US state department formerly has designated Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a foreign terrorist organisation. However, after the original designation, the LeT repeatedly changed its name in an effort to avoid sanctions. More specifically, the LeT created the Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD) as a front organisation for the preaching of Islam, politics, and “social work”. Consequently, the US state department placed the Hafiz Saeed-run JuD in the list of banned foreign terrorist organisations and designated Hafiz Saeed as a global terrorist. In 2012, the US offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to his arrest. Despite these measures, Hafiz Saeed roams freely in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s abject failure to proceed against Hafiz is sought to be justified on two grounds. Firstly, the difficulty of proceeding under preventive detention laws in the absence of evidence which can withstand strict judicial scrutiny. Secondly, according to Pakistan’s criminal jurisprudence, guilt has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and there is a paucity of requisite evidence for Hafiz’s arrest and conviction.

Apart from the legal untenability of these excuses, the critical point is that Section 153-A of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 is conveniently ignored. This section inter alia prohibits any person from making speeches which promote or incite feelings of enmity or hatred or ill-will between different communities and countries on grounds of religion or any other ground. Hafiz Saeed is neither preaching Islam nor is he a person who is engaged in social work as Pakistani authorities would have us believe.

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There is ample incontrovertible evidence of Hafiz Saeed regularly spewing venom with great gusto against India and its citizens with impunity. Pakistan authorities are surely aware of the same and perhaps they are not unhappy about it. I do not favour Pakistan-bashing and believe that there is no option but dialogue between the two nuclear-armed countries. However, Pakistan’s alibi for not prosecuting Hafiz Saeed is specious. It raises serious doubts about Pakistan’s sincerity about having friendly relations with India because the people of India find it impossible to accept Pakistan’s favoured hospitable treatment of Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Is Hafiz Saeed more important to Pakistan than friendly relations with India? The ball lies in Pakistan’s court.

The writer is former attorney general of India

First published on: 27-10-2014 at 02:15 IST
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