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Explaining Hafiz Saeed’s recent engagements

Many on Twitter noted that LeT/JuD chief Hafiz Saeed delivered a lecture at an event sponsored by a student group from Lahore’s University of Engineering and Technology (UET).  He also subsequently addressed a public rally in Islamabad and attended a ceremony to hand over ambulances to a district’s emergency services unit, an event at which Islamabad’s Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police was present.

Yet, none of this is news.  Hafiz Saeed is not in hiding — like Osama bin Laden was — nor has he been found guilty of any crime by Pakistan.  Saeed isn’t holed up in a cave.  His Markaz-e-Taiba complex in Muridke is spread across 200 acres, and has been a recipient of generous grants from the Government of Punjab.  When the United States announced a bounty on Hafiz Saeed in 2012, Saeed taunted the U.S. with a challenge: “catch me if you can.”

But this isn’t just bravado.  Hafiz Saeed benefits greatly from his carefully cultivated image as a mujahid, an indispensable asset of the Pakistani security establishment against India, a public figure and philanthropist.  His Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), ostensibly a charitable wing of JuD, has assisted in rescue and rehabilitation efforts during calamities in Pakistan (such as the 2005 earthquake, or after the many regular bouts of flooding).

In many circumstances, the FIF is reported to have arrived even before the state’s emergency services to provide aid to those in need.  Taken as a whole, this puts Saeed in a different category from the run-of-the-mill jihadi who might be used by the state to do its bidding and then disposed if and when no longer needed.

Historically, Hafiz Saeed’s public engagements and outreach have served two primary, if often related, purposes: to rally public opinion in favor of a nationalist cause favored by the army, or to pressure the incumbent civilian government on issues pertaining to Pakistan’s fragile civil-military relations.

These recent engagements come at a time when there is turmoil in the relationship between Nawaz Sharif’s government and the army, led by Gen. Raheel Sharif, on multiple axes: relations with India, domestic counter-terrorism and corruption.  On April 13, 2016, Hafiz Saeed was interviewed in Nawa-i-waqt by the decidedly right-leaning columnist Fazal Hussain Awan, where he spoke at length on one of the areas of contention between the government and army: India.

Excerpts from Mr. Awan’s op-ed and the interview with Hafiz Saeed follow:

India has accused Pakistan of being involved in the 2016 attacks in Pathankot and the 2007 (sic) attacks in Mumbai.  According to India, Jamaat ud-Dawa’s chief Hafiz Saeed and his associates were responsible for the Mumbai attacks, while Jaish-e-Mohammad’s leader Maulana Masood Azhar was accused of carrying out the attacks in Pathankot.  India approached the UN on both occasions and the UN, under the influence of Indian propaganda, proscribed the Jamaat ud-Dawah and Hafiz Saeed.

The Zardari government also arrested Hafiz Saeed and his associates.  Then Interior Minister Rehman Malik moved the case to the Supreme Court, which, after deliberation, found Hafiz Saeed innocent.  India was outraged at the verdict and protested, but there is no higher authority than the Supreme Court to which the case can be referred in Pakistan.

India reacted in a similar manner to the attack in Pathankot.  Having accused Maulana Masood Azhar, India took its case to the UN.  However, because of Pakistan’s active diplomacy at the UN and China’s assistance, India’s attempts to proscribe Masood Azhar were defeated.  On Mumbai, the Pakistan Peoples Party reacted defensively which led to JuD’s leadership coming under India’s diplomatic assault.

Thanks to China’s active intervention, the attempt to proscribe Masood Azhar was vetoed.  However, India continues to demand Pakistani action on Hafiz Saeed despite the fact that the Supreme Court has found him not guilty and has allowed him to continue to lead his life as a free citizen of the country.

I have no personal connection with Hafiz sahib, but was able to meet with him through some acquaintances I have in his media team.  Both Yahya Mujahid [LeT/JuD spokesman] and Muhammad Irshad [JuD media person?] were present at the meeting. During our conversation, Hafiz Saeed talked to us about the most difficult moments of his life.

“I was a student at Punjab University when unrest broke out in East Pakistan,” Saeed sahib told us.  “India entered the conflict, supported the Mukti Bahini, and with the aid of the West, defeated Pakistan in 1971.  Approximately 93,000 Pakistan Army troops were taken prisoners of war by India.  I was unable to sleep or eat for several days.”

“It is then that I came to the realization that until we avenge the defeat and until India is degraded and destroyed, neither Pakistan nor its Islamic values can be saved.  I decided then that India must pay the price for the fall of Dhaka.”

Hafiz Saeed said that terrorists and their sponsors are being apprehended in Pakistan and that the capture of Kulbhushan Yadav has exposed R&AW’s network in Pakistan.  According to Saeed, “India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the ‘mastermind’ of terrorism in Pakistan and yet Pakistan’s leaders are apprehensive about holding him accountable.”

Saeed despairs that Pakistan’s politicians are no longer interested in the Kashmir cause and instead blindly tow the line of the West.  Yet on Kashmir, Saeed reposes his faith in the Pakistan Army.  He says that the Pakistan Army is sincere in its commitment to the Kashmir cause, as are the people of Pakistan. The Kashmir issue can be resolved if Pakistan’s politicians display the same level of commitment.

Speaking on Pakistan’s ideology [Nazaria Pakistan], Hafiz Saeed says “I’m not a great fan of cricket, but when India lost to the West Indies, there was a lot of joy in Pakistan.  In fact, more sweets are distributed in Occupied Kashmir than even in Pakistan on such occasions. The slogan ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’ resonates from Srinagar to Jawaharlal University in Delhi.  This is a testament to Pakistan’s enduring ideology and the Two Nation Theory.” [وائے وقت]


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Urdunama: RAWalpindi

So what else is new?  Pakistan claims India’s intelligence agency R&AW is involved in terrorism in Pakistan.  Pakistan’s news media outlets — described often as “vibrant” and “independent” — have very dutifully carried stories of R&AW’s alleged involvement, without asking for evidence to be shared.   Security agencies involved in operations against the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in Karachi have apparently unearthed evidence of a R&AW hand.  Karachi Police’s SSP Malir Rao Anwar claimed that two MQM members arrested on April 30, 2015 had been “sent to India for training.”

The embattled MQM founder Altaf Hussain implied in a fiery speech that he would seek the help of R&AW.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of listening to (or worse, watching) Mr. Hussain’s speeches would know that there’s very little if any merit or credibility to anything he says.  But his comments drew the ire of the Pakistani military establishment, following which Mr. Hussain was forced to backtrack and underscore his credentials as a bona fide hub ul-watni.

Since then, R&AW’s “involvement” in Pakistan was explicitly called out at the Corps Commanders Conference, while Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khuwaja Asif claimed that R&AW had been formed to “wipe Pakistan off the map of the world.”

We now hear of a list being in circulation, purportedly compiled by Pakistan’s security agencies, of individuals and organizations collaborating with R&AW against whom operations are imminent (h/t @smitaprakash).  The following is an excerpt from the piece published in Ummat:

Pakistan’s military establishment has formally accused India’s intelligence agency RAW of being involved in acts of terrorism in Pakistan only after accumulating sufficient evidence to support its claim.  According to a credible source, a list of important individuals and NGOs with links to RAW has been compiled and operations against these individuals and NGOs are expected to commence soon.  ISI has painstakingly pieced together evidence from within the country, as well as from Afghanistan and neighboring countries.  It was only after this information was then shared with the Corps Commanders that a decision to conduct operations against RAW and its agents was taken.

According to sources, Gen. Sharif was not in favor of operations that could result in Pakistan having to redirect forces currently battling terrorists in one part of the country to the Indian border.  However, through the ISI and other agencies, he has compiled considerable evidence of several organizations and individuals cooperating with the enemy.  After sharing this information with army leadership, a decision for a major operation against such forces has been taken.

Army leadership has taken the civilian government into confidence and has the concurrence of the provincial governments of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa.  According to available information, RAW is involved in terrorism in Balochistan and in Karachi and has been using various agencies, NGOs and charitable organizations to further its goals.  These organizations are involved in spreading hatred and instability within Pakistan.

In one instance, intelligence agencies gave the impression that they were not aware of the activities of a key RAW agent who had arrived via London to Karachi ostensibly to conduct religious activities.  However, intelligence agencies had in fact known of his intended arrival in Karachi as soon as he left Delhi.   Intelligence agencies then allowed this individual to operate freely within Pakistan so that evidence of his activities and contacts could be collected.

Intelligence agencies will soon launch a “grand operation” against such individuals and organizations.  According to our source, 43 such NGOs and 25 individuals have been identified in Balochistan.  The ongoing operations in Karachi against the MQM have provided law enforcement agencies with indisputable evidence of MQM’s collaboration with RAW.  Additionally, ostensibly trustworthy individuals and organizations have also been identified as having received funds from RAW.  According to the source, these planned operations have nothing to do with India approaching the UN on the issue of Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

Security agencies intend to target RAW’s assets in Pakistan by themselves and if necessary, may present available evidence to international courts.  Available evidence shows India to be a significant sponsor of violence; however, evidence also suggests that some other countries are involved in terrorism inside Pakistan, including those that claim to be friends of Pakistan. [امّت]


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A Statement of Intent

Reviewing Mr. Modi’s visit to the U.S. and U.S.-India security cooperation.

To say that Mr. Modi’s first visit to the U.S. as prime minister attracted considerable attention from India’s media would be the understatement of the year.  New York City and Washington, D.C. were abound with media personalities, politicians, and supporters and protesters alike.  In his four-day visit to the U.S., Mr. Modi attended and addressed the United Nations General Assembly, met with business and political leaders, addressed a large rally at New York’s historic Madison Square Garden, co-authored an opinion piece in the Washington Post with U.S. President Barack Obama, and held formal consultations with Mr. Obama and members of his administration.

However, despite the pomp and circumstance, formal consultations between Mr. Modi’s contingent and the Obama administration did not yield substantive results in defense and security.  The India-U.S. Defence Framework, which is due to expire in 2015, is still in the process of being negotiated between the two governments and has not yet been renewed.  The U.S.-India Joint Statement merely signaled a general desire to renew the framework, while also committing to expand political-military dialog to include defense licensing and cooperation.

No new defense deals were signed during the visit.  Although the sale of Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and Apache attack helicopters are being discussed between India and the U.S., the negotiations are clearly not a point where the deal could be signed.  Further, surprisingly little was mentioned on U.S.-India cooperation in a post-2014 Afghanistan, even as the U.S. and NATO concluded security agreements on force levels with the new unity government in Kabul.

The departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is a cause for concern for India and has direct national security implications.  India’s previous government shied away from arming and equipping Afghanistan’s armed forces, but positions of old need not preclude the new government from working with the U.S. to identify areas where India can substantively contribute to securing Afghanistan.

None of this necessarily means that Mr. Modi’s visit was a failure.  It is clear that Mr. Modi views relations with the U.S. as being vital to India’s security and progress and that he has a vision for future cooperation between the two countries.  However, Mr. Modi has only been in office for four months; it will take him and his government time to translate vision into action.  But if the India-U.S. Joint Declaration is anything to go by, it serves as positive statement of intent for future cooperation between the U.S. and India.

The statement reaffirms the commitment to fully implement the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, and specifically addresses the need for further dialog on the issue of supplier-side liability — where India is a victim of its own self-inflicted wounds — paving the way for U.S.-built nuclear plants in India.

The renewed commitment to cooperate on disrupting terrorist groups is also a positive.  Contrary to some media reports, this was not the first India-U.S. joint statement signaling an intent to cooperate against terror groups (including Lashkar-e-Taiba), nor was it the first joint statement to call on Pakistan to bring those responsible for 26/11 to justice.  Indeed previous joint statements by Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Obama articulated similar objectives.

This was, however, the first time that other criminal and terrorist groups – ISIL, al-Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company and the Haqqani Network – were specifically called out.  It bodes well for future India-U.S. anti-terrorism cooperation that the U.S. Department of Treasury today announced further sanctions against Fazl ur-Rehman, leader of the Harakat ul-Mujahideen, and against two Pakistani individuals for providing financial support to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

While previous joint statements had quite generally alluded to the need to promote freedom of navigation in accordance with UNCLOS, this was the first time that the South China Sea was specifically referenced, as were the calls to resolve territorial and maritime disputes through “peaceful means.”  A less-hesitant articulation on the part of India is welcome, since China doesn’t seem particularly placated by the weak and deliberately-vague positions of old anyway.

India is also faced with tremendous human security challenges as the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies target ISIL positions in Syria and Iraq.  Indeed, despite the thousands evacuated earlier this year, many Indian citizens still continue to reside in Iraq (including some potentially illegally) and are vulnerable to being trapped in areas of active conflict or held hostage by ISIL.  In this regard, the stated intention to cooperate on responding to the needs of those stranded in conflict zones is encouraging.

The U.S.-India joint statement was also unusually strong on Iran, calling on it to comply with UNSC-imposed obligations and cooperate fully with the IAEA.  One wonders what the Iranians make of the language in the joint statement and Mr. Modi’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday.  Perhaps some quiet diplomacy is needed with the Iranians.

Ultimately, the joint statement augurs well for U.S.-India ties, but operationalizing many of the commitments outlined in the statement will require sustained political stewardship at the highest levels of government in New Delhi and Washington, D.C.  It should serve as a warning to both governments that similarly visionary statements left much unrealized as a result of both the Obama administration’s preoccupation with domestic issues as well as the UPA’s feckless and ineffectual leadership.

In order to overcome the possibility of a relapse, Richard Fontaine’s policy brief for the Center for a New American Society recommends that each government designate a “high-level relationship owner,” suggesting that the U.S. vice president or a senior cabinet-level official for the U.S., and the National Security Advisor for India could play such a role.  It is a recommendation worthy of consideration in New Delhi and D.C.


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Getting India’s priorities right

Does it matter if Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan are called off?

The government of India has cancelled the proposed Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan as a result of Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, meeting with Hurriyat leaders.  The meetings took place apparently despite Indian warnings to Mr. Basit that Pakistan could choose to engage in dialog with either India or the separatists, but not with both.  It is possible that new red lines are being drawn on what India considers unacceptable engagement by Pakistani politicians and diplomats.  Reaction to India’s response has been mixed; some have called it an overreaction, while others believe India’s response was justified.

But whether India’s decision was an overreaction or a justified response is of no real relevance.  India and Pakistan hold such divergent and irreconcilable positions on Kashmir that a resolution seems almost next to impossible as things stand today.  For India this matters little, as a status-quoist state in a position of advantage in every area of contention vis-à-vis Pakistan on Kashmir.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has a problem.  As Christine Fair rightly notes in her book Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, Pakistan is “revisionist, or anti-status quo, in that it desires to bring all of the disputed territory of Kashmir under its control, including the portion currently governed by India.”  Pakistan’s problem though, is that there exists a significant and ever-increasing disparity between its ends and means.  Its military campaigns to wrest Jammu and Kashmir from India have failed with increasing decisiveness in each successive attempt.  India has also successfully thwarted – though at a significant cost – Pakistan’s sub-conventional war in Jammu & Kashmir.

In short, Pakistan’s attempts at resolving the Kashmir dispute through violent means have failed.  Pakistan is therefore left with the only option of negotiation through diplomacy.  But Pakistan’s leaders, present and past, have built a narrative around J&K that allows no scope for nuance, negotiation or compromise.  The resulting public sentiment in Pakistan is that it is unlikely to be satisfied with anything short of India handing Kashmir over to Pakistan on a silver platter.  And that is hardly going to happen.

It doesn’t matter how many whitepapers and non-papers are written and circulated about potential solutions to J&K.  Optimism about their viability isn’t shared by many beyond the confines of Track-II moots in which they are enthusiastically presented.  Ultimately, Pakistan cannot demand anything less than a total surrender of Jammu & Kashmir and India cannot (and will not) give Pakistan what it wants.

This is not at all to advocate a total cessation of dialog with Pakistan.  There is benefit to be derived from continued dialog on ancillary issues such as liberalizing trade and visa regimes.  As far as one can tell, India has only cancelled FS-level talks scheduled for August 25 in Islamabad, not shut the door on future opportunities for talks between the two governments.

Indeed, even as news of the cancelled August 25 talks hogged the limelight, state-run gas utilities from India and Pakistan appear to be in advanced talks for exporting gas from India to Pakistan via a pipeline from Jalandhar to Lahore.  Operationalizing such a project would be significant, considering our troubled histories.  India can continue to pursue these and other pragmatic initiatives with Pakistan, but there are more pressing foreign policy matters that demand India’s attention than its western neighbor.

For India, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority but a national security threat, given its continued use of terrorism against the Indian homeland and Indian interests abroad.  Dealing with such a threat requires a different set of objectives, actors and intended outcomes.  Currently, those actors do not reside in the Ministry of External Affairs, but in other ministries and agencies of the Indian government.  If India is to expend significant time and effort on Pakistan, it will be better served if they are spent in the pursuit of means to mitigate the threats to India’s national security emanating from that country.

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