Islamabad seems to have no interest in mending ties and the release of Hafiz Saeed is just one more indicator.
The order to release of Hafiz Saeed, a key Pakistani figure heading a leading anti-India terrorist outfit, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the progenitor of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, from detention on Wednesday is likely to push India-Pakistan relations into deeper freeze. Pakistan’s judicial institutions have a well-documented history of kowtowing to that country’s military establishment. In this case, the judiciary apparently turned down the plea of the executive to extend the terrorist leader’s detention by a further three months.
The terror mastermind has been in detention since January this year. But in this time his outfit has been allowed to set up a political party to enable it to contest elections.
This is extraordinary for someone whose outfit is indubitably responsible for the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, which killed at least 166 persons. In light of that he was put on the UN list of international terrorists, and the US, separately, offered a $10 million reward for information on his whereabouts.
That bounty surely doesn’t constitute a serious effort on Washington’s part to have the JuD founder and LeT chief brought to justice. If the US was earnest, it had the leverage with Pakistan to have the terrorist brought to book. Even after the US reward was announced, the top terrorist conducted his activities in plain sight, including addressing public meetings. In retrospect it seems that announcing a reward for information on the JuD chief’s whereabouts was meant to keep India in good humour as the US trying to deepen its ties with New Delhi.
As regards the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, Pakistan has stonewalled every Indian effort — on the administrative and judicial plane — to have the perpetrators and their mentors brought to justice on the plea of sufficient evidence not being available to satisfy the Pakistani courts, which of course heeds only the ISI and the Pakistani military.
This has ensured a travesty of justice. It is clear that no effort will be forthcoming from Islamabad to nab the anti-India terrorists. India-Pakistan ties plummeted after the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase in January 2016, and since then Islamabad has rejected every reasonable diplomatic move to mend relations. Indeed, Indian diplomacy was sought to be thwarted by the kidnapping of an Indian businessman and former naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, from Iran in order to develop the Pakistani counter-narrative that it was India which was engaging in terrorism plots against Pakistan. Mr Jadhav was charged with espionage and terror plotting, and remains on death row.
Islamabad seems to have no interest in mending ties and the release of Hafiz Saeed is just one more indicator. It may be prudent to take steps to protect Indian interests against terrorist actions in Afghanistan and the Chabahar port area in Iran.