Hafiz Saeed – Dismal Soft Power Failure? What Next!

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(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

The use of “Soft Power”, particularly by India, has dismally failed to rein in or neutralize Hafiz Saeed. Any amount of furor in the media or “Chest Drumming” is wasted effort.

Hafiz Saeed is the “strategic asset” of Pakistan. Let none have doubts on it. At the behest of the ISI and Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed is waging the “Proxy War” against India.  Add to it, he has also aided Pakistan in capturing important al-Qaeda members like Abu Zubaydah, besides de-radicalization and rehabilitation of former extremists. His house arrest is, therefore, time-tested tactical ploy of Pakistan.

Let me recount in brief Hafiz Saied’s profile: co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Amir of banned Jama’at-ud-Da’wah (Party of the Faith) (JUD), as well as  Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (The Foundation for the Welfare of Humanity) and its latest transformation to Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK).

Hafiz Saied’s background does not lend itself to retraction from his avowed “Jihad” or Holy War against India and anti-America tirade. Forging peace in South Asia, therefore, is utopian hope.

Let me trace in outline his profile. One, Hafiz Saeed was born in a Gujjar family in Sargodha, Punjab to migrants from Hissar in Haryana during the partition of India in 1947. His family lost 36 of its members during the migration. No wonder, his thirst for seeking revenge against India.

Two, Zia-ul-Haq appointed Hafiz Saeed to the Council on Islamic Ideology. He has two master’s degrees’ University of Punjab and specialization in Islamic Studies and Arabic Language from King Saud University. Whilst pursuing studies in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, Hafiz Saeed met Saudi Sheikhs, who motivated him take active part in the Soviet-Afghan war by aiding Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

Three, in 1987, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, along with Abdullah Azzam, founded Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad, a group with roots in the Jamait Ahl-e-Hadis. In 1990, LeT was founded by him with the support of the ISI. He espoused “Jihad” or Holy War in J & K: “There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”

Four, in 1994, Saeed visited the U. S. and “spoke at Islamic centers in Houston, Chicago and Boston”. He maintains 2,500 offices and 11 seminaries to mobilize and orchestrate terrorist activities.

Five, Hafiz Saeed is the mastermind of terror strikes against the Indian Parliament in December 2001, Mumbai train bombings in 2006 and Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 that left 166 dead including several Americans. His psyche imbibed by “Jihad” is driven by religious fervor.

Next, the record of arrests, house arrests and releases makes a mockery of UN, U.S. and Indian authorities.  They include: post terror strike against the Indian Parliament in December 2001 in March, May and October 2002; post 2006 Mumbai train bombings in August 2006; post 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, released in August 2009 and rearrested in September 2009; and in the latest arrests includes Hafiz Saeed with four of his deputies.

On 25 August 2009, Interpol issued a Red corner notice against Hafiz Saeed, along with Rehman Lakhvi, in response to Indian requests for his extradition. Yet, Hafiz Saeed roams around freely.

Hafiz Saeed is listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267. The U. S. has declared LeT’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and added the following aliases to its listing of LeT: Jama’at-ud-Dawa, Al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-i-Hurmat-i-Rasool, and Tehrik-i-Tahafuz Qibla Awwal.  Two LeT leaders – Nazir Ahmad Chaudhry and Muhammad Hussein Gill –specially designated as global terrorists.

On 11 May 2011, India publicly revealed a list of its 50 most wanted fugitives hiding in Pakistan. In April 2012, the U. S. announced a bounty of US$10 million on Hafiz Saeed, for his role in 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

In September 2014, Saeed accused India of “water terrorism” blaming India for flood crisis in Pakistan. In several tweets on social media he said, “Indian Government discharged water in rivers without notification.” “India has used water to attack Pakistan; we are in state of War.”

As per latest media reports, Hafiz Saeed blames Trump for his “house arrest”. Saeed released a video statement where he blamed international pressure and Trump’s close ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his arrest.

All over again, Pakistan has placed Hafiz Saeed under house arrest – only a strategic ploy to fool outsiders. As per Pakistani insiders, the arrest is a win-win decision: “The Chinese are going to be happy, for we don’t have to embarrass them anymore. The Americans will be happy that we’ve finally heard them out. The Indians will lose a major excuse to complain about us to the rest of the world.”

However, Michael Kugelman, Wilson Center in Washington, “It’s doubtful Trump actively pressured Pakistan to rein in Hafiz Saeed, but it’s likely Pakistan’s detention of Saeed was done with Trump in mind.”. “We can read the house arrest, at least in part, as an effort by Pakistan to showcase its counterterrorism bonafides to the new U.S. administration, and to dissuade Trump from adding Pakistan to the list of countries that can’t send their citizens to the United States for 90 days. Trump’s chief of staff has suggested Pakistan could be added to the list.”

Thus, Pakistan can ill afford to neutralize Hafiz Saeed without attracting backlash from Islamist fundamentalists. In reality, it is the U.S. threat of adding Pakistan to the list countries “banned” from entering the U. S. that has forced Pakistan to revert to its old game of “House Arrest” of Hafiz
Saeed with all the five-star facilities along with Z-security cover – temporary strategic retreat.

Viewed in the above background, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif intent to normalize relations with arch-rival India and neighbor Afghanistan is yet another bogey and fraud. As per Nawaz Sharif latest claim, “J & K remains the Core issue” that must be resolved. So, Hafiz Saeed, its strategic asset, has only be shelved temporarily into background. As and when vital, Hafiz Saeed will be made active.

The alternative, therefore, is to neutralize Hafiz Saeed by the use of “Hard Power”, particularly by the U.S. with the use of drones or by other high-tech surgical strike. It is only way out. India too must explore the feasibility of “Hard Options” instead of looking over the shoulders for others to do it.

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