Nawaz Sharif’s claims of zero tolerance on terrorism have zero credibility.
India’s civil society and its political leaders across all hues shared the grief of ordinary Pakistanis after the barbaric attack in Peshawar where 132 school children were massacred by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. In the days following the brutal attack, former Pakistani DG-ISI Hameed Gul, former army chief Pervez Musharraf and Jamaat ud-Dawah’s amir Hafiz Saeed blamed India for the attack even though the TTP had already accepted responsibility. Jamaat ud-Dawah — the “charity organization” — then held a Ghazwah-e-Hind conference barely a week after the Peshawar tragedy; its loud banner threatened to exterminate India.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a televised address to his country, proclaimed that the “Peshawar atrocity has changed Pakistan…history will never forgive us if we do not eliminate the curse of terrorism.” He announced a 20-point National Plan of Action against terrorism which envisaged, among other things, zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab.
Right off the bat, the Sharif government found itself having to explain to India and to the rest of the world how Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operational chief, Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who had allegedly been cooling his heels in prison for having orchestrated the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, was about to be released on bail. The Sharif government has since had to apply the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) ordinance to effectively prevent Lakhvi’s release.
Many in India have quite rightly been skeptical of some news reports that Pakistan was planning to ban the Jamaat ud-Dawah. Many will remember that Pakistan had claimed that it had “banned” the JuD one month after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, so it is not clear how it is now contemplating banning an already-banned organization. We know from Hafiz Saeed’s public appearances, his keynote addresses — of all places — in Lahore’s High Court, and the magazines and literature his organization is able to freely distribute, that neither he nor the JuD are proscribed in Pakistan.
But let’s not take my word for it, let’s just hear it from a Pakistani government official. Enter stage right, Pakistan’s Minister for Defense Production, Rana Tanveer Hussain who spake thus on Jan 17:
JuD is a charitable organisation and the government of Pakistan has no evidence against Hafiz Saeed or the JuD…The JuD does not have a military wing and they are only involved in preaching Islam and working in the education field…The JuD only pinches India, not Afghanistan or America. You can’t group it along with ISIS and al Qaeda. [The Hindustan Times]
So the JuD is a “charitable organization” that “pinches” India? What sort of charitable organization “pinches” other countries? If we had to be charitable, we would say that Mr. Hussain was being naive.
And “pinches”? Pakistan’s historical euphemism to refer to the India-specific terrorists it bred was “freedom fighters.” Apparently there’s been a change in nomenclature. These freedom fighters are now “pinchers.”
But Mr. Hussain’s story is, as the Brits would say, total codswallop.
UN Security Council Resolution 1267 (under the “al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee”) proscribed the LeT (QEL 118.05) and declared the JuD to be its front organization (the UN also sanctioned Hafiz Saeed). As a UN member state, Pakistan ultimately must comply with these resolutions. The U.S. Department of State also added Jamaat ud-Dawah (along with al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool and others) as aliases of the already-proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba. Hafiz Saeed himself has been on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list for quite a while.
Incidentally, Mr. Hussain’s sophistry converges with Hafiz Saeed’s. In an interview with the Urdu daily Ummat in 2012, Hafiz Saeed claimed he had nothing to do with Lashkar-e-Taiba and that the LeT was a Kashmiri group:
1990-91 saw the birth of organized “armed resistance” against India’s occupation [of Kashmir]. Among the organizations fighting India’s occupation was a group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). This organization and its setup was based exclusively in Kashmir. There was never any relationship between the JuD and the LeT, nor was any leader of the JuD ever the head of the LeT. But a section of India’s media has consistently spread propaganda alleging that I am the leader of the LeT. [روزنامہ امّت]
Very interesting. Perhaps Hafiz Saeed thinks the world has forgotten, for example, his editorial in “ud-Dawah” magazine (one of the five monthly publications of Markaz ud-Dawah wal-Irshad, the predecessor of the JuD) in May 2001 protesting the U.S.’s designation of the LeT as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Saeed wrote in that editorial:
We believe that the U.S.’s designation of Lashkar-e-Taiba as a terrorist organization will have no impact on us. But we say that if the U.S. thinks we are a terrorist organization, let them place their evidence in front of the public. We have repeatedly told the U.S. that it is welcome to present whatever evidence it has against Lashkar-e-Taiba in an independent international forum.
We now reiterate our appeal. We will prove to the world who the real terrorists are — India, the U.S., Russia and Israel, or the mujahideen. [Editorial, Majallah ud-Dawah, May 2001]
To be fair, Hafiz Saeed spins so many stories on a daily basis, he’d be hard-pressed to keep up with them all. And as for Prime Minister Sharif, his “zero tolerance” on terrorism has zero credibility.